You thought there couldnt be a law and religion angle to todays 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 citys Anglican Cathedral. Not so fast, say some: the hunchback king wasnt 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 Tablets 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 theres a law review article in there somewhere.
Leicester Cathedral seems to know its facing a sensitive situation. A Catholic priest is keeping watch over Richards remains (as is an Anglican, I believe), and the cathedral is planning a multifaith burial ceremony . Personally, Im 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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