By Belinda Goldsmith
LONDON (Reuters) - More than five centuries after he went down fighting, medieval monarch Richard III is in the middle of another battle - this time over where in England his newly discovered remains should be re-buried.
The Plantagenet Alliance, which includes Richard's distant descendants, has asked England's High Court to rule on plans to re-bury their ancestor's remains in Leicester, the city where they were found two years ago under a municipal car park.
The alliance says the Ministry of Justice was "unreasonable" to give permission to Leicester to bury him in its cathedral and argues the decision on the final resting place of the last Plantagenet king should have been a matter of public consultation.
"It matters what happens when you identify the only king since 1066 whose remains were not identified," the alliance's counsel Gerard Clarke told the court on Thursday.
"It should not be left to chance, whim, or commercial interest," he said in the first of two days of hearings on the complaint. The court is due to rule in several weeks.
The discovery of the skeleton of Richard, whose death effectively ended the Wars of the Roses, was one of the most remarkable English archaeological finds in recent times.
Leicester University archaeologists found the remains close to the site of the 1485 Battle of Bosworth where he was killed, the last English king to die in battle.
Leicester city council has unveiled plans for a 4 million pound ($6.6 million) visitors' center around the find.
But the Plantagenet Alliance wants to see him buried in York, his northern powerbase during his 26-month reign, and started its legal action last year.
Leicester's plans for "a tourist attraction should not trump the process" of proper decision-making, Clarke said.
About 100 people took part in a march through York last year in support of the city's claims to the king.
James Eadie, counsel for the Ministry of Justice, said the government was under no statutory duty to consult on the matter.
"The remains would be just as available for remembrance if they were in Leicester, York, or Westminster Abbey," he added.
The Wars of the Roses were named after the heraldic badges of the two rival dynasties: the white rose of the House of York and the red rose of Lancaster.
They were a dynastic struggle between rival Plantagenet factions that lasted for about 30 years until Richard's defeat by Henry Tudor, who took the throne as Henry VII.
Richard III is a controversial figure in English history, seen by some as a monster who murdered his own nephews to take the throne and by others as unfairly maligned by his enemies.
William Shakespeare, writing in the reign of Tudor Queen Elizabeth I, depicted him as a power-crazed hunchback.
(Editing by Alison Williams)
- Richard III
- Leicester city council