Queen praises recognition of Richard III reburial

The coffin of Richard III is carried by the military bearer party during a reburial service at Leicester Cathedral. Picture: PA

The coffin of Richard III is carried by the military bearer party during a reburial service at Leicester Cathedral. Picture: PA

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THE Queen has praised the reburial of Richard III, saying the country had recognised a moment of “great national significance” was at hand.

In a moving service 530 years after Richard’s death at Bosworth Field, the king’s mortal remains were reinterred at Leicester Cathedral yesterday, witnessed by descendants of that battle.

The coffin of Richard III is carried by the military bearer party during a reburial service at Leicester Cathedral. Picture: PA

The coffin of Richard III is carried by the military bearer party during a reburial service at Leicester Cathedral. Picture: PA

In front of 700 people, including actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Lindsay, who had both played the much-maligned king in Shakespeare, an Army guard of honour bore the king aloft to his final resting place.

There, in the ambulatory of the 800-year-old cathedral site, presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the golden-coloured oak coffin was carefully lowered into place.

It marked the end of a remarkable journey which had seen the king lying in a forgotten and unremarkable grave under a council car park for more than five centuries.

In a foreword to the order of service, the Queen said she recognised the “great national and international significance” of Richard’s reburial.

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch reading 'Richard' by Carol Ann Duffy during the service. Picture: PA

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch reading 'Richard' by Carol Ann Duffy during the service. Picture: PA

“Today, we recognise a king who lived through turbulent times and whose Christian faith sustained him in life and death.”

The Queen also expressed her wish that Richard, slain at 32 in August 1485, would “now lie in peace in the city of Leicester in the heart of England”.

The final chapter of the Plantagenet king’s story unfolded in a solemn and reflective service, and the Countess of Wessex, attending alongside with the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, was among many wearing black.

Also watching was Philippa Langley, an Edinburgh-based writer, who had campaigned for years to mount a dig in the spot where the old king was eventually discovered by University of Leicester archaeologists.

The coffin had lain in repose inside the cathedral since a procession on Monday, attended by 35,000 people, through Leicester and its surrounding countryside.

The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, delivered the sermon for the last Yorkist king who, he said, seemed to have “stepped from the pages of history into the fullest glare of the world’s attention”.

He said the world had been captivated by Richard’s story, sparked by the “astonishing discovery” of his remains in the ruins of Greyfriars church long lost under a council car park.

“Whether we are Ricardians or Shakespeareans, whether we see through the eyes of Olivier, McKellen or Cumberbatch, whether we recognise a warrior or a scholarly pious thinker, today we come to accord this King, this child of God, and these mortal remains, the dignity and honour denied them in death,” he said.

Mr Cumberbatch - himself a distant cousin of Richard’s - read a specially-commissioned 14-line poem by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy. “Grant me the carving of my name,” he read. “These relics, bless.”

Afterwards, Ms Langley said the events of this week had been “a long time coming”. “The history books will now need re-writing,” she said. “We now know where King Richard is buried.”

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