A reader disagrees with me:
Richard was a medieval Catholic Christian, not a modern Roman Catholic. Would he have agreed with Trent on transubstantiation or justification? Would he have agreed with the first Vatican council about papal infallibility or with the second Vatican council on religious freedom? Would Richard recognize an English-language service—held in a multi-purpose room with guitars strumming—as the Mass?
We will never know what Richard would think of these changes. But attacking the Church of England for changes since the Middle Ages begs the question because it assumes that Roman Catholicism is a constant, consistent, and never-changing fortress of unerring orthodoxy. It’s a nice fable that warms the hearts of paleo-Catholics, but it just isn’t true.
He was an English king. Bury him in the Church of England.
He was an English king when Catholicism was thriving in England, when England was one of the most devout Catholic countries in Europe. The Church of England was instituted by the dynasty, the Tudors, that killed him off – the son of the man whose warriors killed him! Fuck that and fuck them. And I say that in the spirit of Shakespeare’s Richard. Another writes:
Funny that the first email I would feel moved to send you would be about reburying someone who has been dead for 500 years, but here goes:
I understand the feeling that he should be buried in a Catholic church. I also understand Leicester’s desire for him to be reburied in their cathedral (the pilgrims it will bring!). But I find myself sad for him that he will not be reinterred where he wanted to be laid to rest, in York Minster. That was and is the great church of his home, where the people always loved him. When he died it was a Catholic cathedral and 500 years later… well, no one is talking about moving the Venerable Bede or St. Cuthbert just because Durham Cathedral has become Anglican.
I think in many ways for those who are dead, and who have, according to their beliefs, moved on to better or worse permanent places, the place where their earthly body rests should be, as much as can be ascertained, where their earthly selves wanted their body to rest. After all, as a famous Catholic once said, “God will know his own.”
Stop slandering Richard III! How do you know he killed the princes in the tower? How do you know they were not killed by the Duke of Buckingham to foment rebellion and bring in Henry Tudor to take the crown? Shakespeare was a playwright, not a historian. He based his play on a biography by Thomas More, a man who never knew Richard III and was influenced by Tudor propaganda. And since everyone was a Catholic in 1485, the denomination of the church where he gets reinterred is irrelevant.
You do realize – surely you must! – that Shakespeare’s “Richard III” is nothing but Tudor propaganda intended to destroy the reputation of the last Plantagenet king and Henry Tudor’s (Henry VII) #1 rival. For all that your post (with Ian McKellan doing justice to Shakespeare, if not Richard himself) is well thought out, with a point we agree on (that Richard was indeed a Catholic, as the Henry VIII had not yet been born to instigate all that religious drivel that we won’t go into now), your words seem to focus on the literary character of “Richard III,” and ignores the HISTORICAL Richard (“Dickon”?), who was, in fact, quite a progressive fellow. Read up! I did, when I was in high school, and I ended up having a semi-crush on him, so that the discovery and identification of his bones recently is sort of like a “reunion” … with the so-obvious curvature of his spine somehow much more poignant and real in death than any live actor of that Shakespearean character could ever portray …
I’m sure you’re quite familiar with the fascinating array of historical disputes involving Richard III (was he a disfigured weakling or a stout warrior? Did he usurp his nephew’s throne, or were Tudor allies behind the plot to invalidate his older brother’s marriage?) but some readers may be confused by your reference to Shakespeare’s play as “Tudor propaganda”. Since Richard is in the news, you ought to take the opportunity to direct your readers to Josephine Tey’s absorbing 1951 account of the mysteries surrounding his reign, The Daughter of Time. Until reading it, I – like most Americans, I think – had no idea who the Princes in the Tower were, and only knew Richard as the guy who would trade his kingdom for a horse.
(Cartoon created by Dish reader James MacLeod, used with permission)