richardIII


You thought there couldn’t be a law and religion angle to today’s news—-fascinating for us history nerds—-that archaeologists have discovered the mortal remains of Richard III  beneath a parking lot in Leicester ? Think again. Plans are underway to re-inter the bones in the city’s Anglican Cathedral. Not so fast, say some: the hunchback king wasn’t a Protestant, but a Catholic, and he requires a Catholic burial. In fact, as Shakespeare fans know, Richard died at Bosworth Field (“A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”), defending his throne from Henry Tudor. Henry went on to reign as Henry VII;  his son, Henry VIII, broke with Rome. As  The Tablet’s  blog  argued this morning , “Had Richard prevailed at the Battle of Bosworth Field, there would have been no Henry VII, therefore no Henry VIII and no Reformation. England today might still be a Catholic country.” Think of it: no Reformation, no Established Church, no Archbishop Laud, no Puritans, no Great Migration — no Massachusetts! — and no Establishment Clause. Surely there’s a law review article in there somewhere.

Leicester Cathedral seems to know it’s facing a sensitive situation. A Catholic priest is keeping watch over Richard’s remains (as is an Anglican, I believe), and the cathedral is  planning a “multifaith” burial ceremony . Personally, I’m not sure why English Catholics are so keen to claim Richard, anyway. They must be forgetting the  nephews in the Tower .

Mark Movsesian is Director of the Center for Law and Religion at St. John’s University.

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