By Simon Caldwell
Catholic News Service
MANCHESTER, England — In one of the most fascinating archaeological finds in recent times, a skeleton found under a parking lot in the central English city of Leicester has been confirmed by DNA tests as that to King Richard III, the monarch depicted by William Shakespeare as a devious hunchback uttering the memorable line: “Now is the winter of our discontent ….”
Richard was slain during the Battle of Bosworth Field Aug. 22, 1485, and his body was given a prompt burial under a Franciscan friary, which was later suppressed and demolished.
Bosworth had the effect of bringing the War of the Roses to a close, ending a long conflict between the Houses of Lancaster and York and ushering in a new era because it also brought the victor to the English throne as Henry VII, the first monarch of the Tudor dynasty.
Plans are afoot to bury the remains of Richard in Leicester’s Anglican cathedral, and these have been met with indignation by some Catholics who believe that, because Richard was a Catholic (all of England was in the 15th century), he should be buried in a Catholic church using Catholic rites.
An e-petition has now been lodged on the British government website, a facility to allow the public to raise matters of concern. The petition points out that Richard was never a member of the Church of England and claims that the Anglican Church was an invention of the son of the “man responsible for his death and ignominious burial.”
This claim, however, is historically inaccurate. King Henry VIII did not create the Church of England but took the Catholic Church in England into schism: He would happily persecute both Catholics who asserted papal primacy and Protestants who denied the Real Presence. The Church of England, as it continues to exist, was created by his second daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, in the settlement originating from1558.
Richard was probably a double child-killer, responsible for the murders of Princes Edward and Richard, the rightful heirs to the throne, and burying their bodies under the steps of the White Tower, the central keep of the Tower of London.
And that’s why many Catholics feel that Anglicans are more than welcome to Richard’s remains.