Bring Out the Bodies and Move ‘Em: Some Modest Proposals

Henry VI’s resting place at Windsor. But maybe not for long . . .

Over the last few weeks, the topic of where Richard III (if the remains at Leicester prove to be his) should be reburied has been the subject of intense (and rather emotional) debate, centering around where the king would have preferred to have been buried. My modest proposal  on Facebook that he be divided up in truly medieval style–one quarter at Leicester, one quarter at York, one quarter at Fotheringhay, one quarter at Westminister, and the head awarded to the highest-bidding Ricardian–was, sadly, not heeded by the authorities, so the debate still rages.

It will not be until December, as I understand, that the testing on the remains at Leicester will be completed, so there’s plenty of time to determine where the presumed Richard III will have his final resting place. So in the meantime, why not offer another candidate for reburial? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Henry VI.

(First, you might say that as an American, it is really none of my business where the British government buries its dead monarchs. I beg to differ. As an American, it is my First Amendment right to express an opinion on anything I want. So sit back and drink your tea and listen.)

Henry VI, in case you might have forgotten, died in the Tower, supposedly of “sheer displeasure and melancholy” but most likely with the assistance of an agent of Edward IV, on the evening of May 21, 1471, hours after the return of the triumphant Yorkist king to London. He was buried at Chertsey Abbey. Later, Richard III ordered that he be moved to St. George’s Chapel at Windsor, where he remains today.

Now, St. George’s Chapel is a perfectly respectable resting place for a former king, but it doesn’t seem to have been where Henry himself wanted to rest. According to later depositions, Henry went to Westminster Abbey in the presence of witnesses and scouted out possible burial spots, even going so far as to pace out the distance himself with “his own feet.” So since we know Henry wanted to be buried at Westminster, why shouldn’t we right this centuries-old wrong and put the man in his preferred resting spot?

In fact,  I think it’s time the entire Lancastrian royal family was reunited.  Prince Edward, Henry’s son, fell at the battle of Tewkesbury and was buried in the abbey there. He has been made to spend eternity staring up at the Yorkist emblem of the Sun in Splendor, which really seems unfair for the young man to have to go through. Oh, sure, it’s a beautiful abbey and all, and he has the Despensers and the Duke of Clarence to keep him company, but doesn’t a man’s feelings count for anything?

And what of Margaret of Anjou? Having lived her last years in obscurity, she was buried at Angers, where no trace of her tomb remains. It’s true that she asked in her will to be buried by her parents at Angers, but that’s before she realized that later generations might be so accommodating of her true last wishes. Let’s bring Margaret back to her menfolk!

And speaking of the Woodvilles (OK, we weren’t, but on this blog we always speak of the Woodvilles at some point), Anthony Woodville made it clear in his will that he wanted to be buried at Westminster, at least before he found out that he was to be executed at Pontefract. Since Richard didn’t bother to give him a proper trial in front of his peers, can’t we at least set things a little right by giving Anthony the burial of his dreams? (Especially if Richard himself gets to be moved to York.)

And speaking of the Tudors (because it’s always fun to speak of the Tudors), think of all those poor souls executed at the Tower, some on very dubious grounds. Imagine the excitement if Anne Boleyn was brought up and reburied! Maybe we could take her to Windsor, where Henry VIII is buried with Jane Seymour, just to irritate Great Harry. (After all, with Henry VI moved to Westminster, there will be some room at Windsor for Anne.)

So what are we waiting for? Let’s start digging!

16 thoughts on “Bring Out the Bodies and Move ‘Em: Some Modest Proposals”

  1. Whilst I attend the carol service at St Peter ad Vincula every Christmas and it is a beautiful place for those who rest there, the idea of Anne being re-interred at Windsor next to Henry and Jane has got me smirking!!

    And although your proposal to ‘quarter’ Richard may be tongue-in-cheek, it definitely has a certain sense…

  2. Love the post, Susan…saw a tweet this a.m. via Telegraph that if the remains are Richard he’ll be buried in the Leicester Cathedral; evidently it’s been decided….lots of cheering, evidently by the locals.

  3. Well, they saw when one disturbs the dead, the ghosts will get all upset and start haunting. Could be quite a Halloween!

  4. Sending Anne to Windsor sounds good as long as Katherine Howard gets to go with her. Actually, why not dig up George and Jane Boleyn as well and make a family visit of it? (And I asked this question on Anne Boleyn Files but to increase the chances of getting an answer I’ll ask here too: what happens to the skeleton if it *isn’t* Richard’s? Presumably they won’t just throw in the river).

  5. Do you think Mary and Elizabeth really like being that close together? Maybe they would prefer to be moved too.

  6. The Earl of Warwick wanted to be buried in the Beauchamp chapel and got Bisham instead. Of course, in his case, it’d require a dedicated open-ended hunt for his bones, but it’ll be worth it in the end. His very presence would add some dignity to Tussaud’s Warwick Castle Experience. I can just imagine a redfaced spectre bellowing at the great unwashed in his very best Brian Blessed voice.

  7. I very much doubt Richard would wish to remain buried in Leicester and the Bishop and the Council are only interested in the potential revenue.

    It is clear Richard wanted to be buried in York – he even sent up a chantry in York Minster for that very purpose and even I think he should be buried there.

    It’s not set in stone yet so come on you Ricardians and good citizens of York set up an e-petition to make clear your – and his – wishes to the Government

  8. They should bury him in Stratford-Upon-Avon next to his greatest publicist, WIlliam Shakespeare.

    After all, if Will hadn’t immortalize the original Tricky Dick as one of the world’s Greatest Villains, few people would care these days.

  9. Can’t help laughing at your suggestion for the burialof Richard – although I gather Leicester has won the battle – and rightly so – bury him where he fell, so to speak, and near where he was originally laid to rest. Just think of the tourism boom it will bring to Leicester. It would be THE meeting place for Ricardians. Any suggestion that he be buried in Westminster Abbey is just so wrong – too near to his little nephews. I expect if it’s not Richard he’ll still be buried there anyway, as a casualty of Bosworth.

    Leave Anne Boleyn where she is – I wouldn’t want her re-buried anywhere near Henry VIII! And there is nothing left of Catherine Howard, I gather, as Henry ordered her remains to be buried in quicklime. It always make me rather happy to think of Henry and Jane merely placed in the royal vault, with no elaborate tomb – crushing blow for his ego:>

  10. Maybe that’s why Henry haunts Windsor – Prince Charles claims to have seen his ghost.

    I gather it was James 1st who put Mary and Elizabeth together, whilst he himself is buried within the tomb of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.

  11. That’s what worries me Anerje the fact that Leicester is only in interested in raking in the shekels – they couldn’t give a monkey’s about Richard himself

    And how do you think they’re going to rake in those shekels – by portraying Richard as a good king much maligned? You should hear what gets trotted out in the Tower. Enough to make any self-respecting Ricardian demand their money back.

    You really think that any self respecting Ricardian would want Richard to be buried anywhere but York or for that matter even be seen dead in Leicester? Oh puh-leeeeeeeeease.

  12. I’m afraid Trish I’m an anti-Ricardian – I always vote at least 5 times at the Tower:> All churches etc make money from who is buried within for their upkeep. As Richard died in Leicester, let Leicester keep him.

  13. All this moving about because Richard may have been found could end up confusing every student in the United Kingdom by having to re-learn where all the monarchs are buired. For their sake,let’s leave well enough alone and let them rest where they are. By now they are use to it and may not want to leave – after all, they have their ghostly duties down pat by now and think of how much trouble they would have to go through learning a new ghostly routine. So, RIP all those whose bones rest in places unexpected and all those who rest undiscovered and lost.

  14. Great post, Susan! I’ve made my feelings on this one clear several times. Richard has lain in Leicester for many centuries, and it’s only respectable to leave him there. Personally, I would feel deeply uncomfortable with Ricardians making this into a political issue and taking “ownership” of the remains. The reaction to this discovery, in general, has been wildly over the top.

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