LONDON — A new War of the Roses is brewing over the remains of King Richard III.
England’s Leicester Cathedral revealed details Wednesday of plans to rebury the 15th-century English monarch — while a rival cathedral in the city of York said it had received hate mail, and a lawmaker appealed for both sides to keep calm.
York Minster said it had been sent “a number of letters about Richard III, (and) a small number of these have been abusive.” The cathedral said the letters had been passed to its security team.
Officials in York want Richard buried in the northern English city because of its strong ties to the king, who belonged to the House of York and spent much of his childhood in the county of Yorkshire.
Richard’s skeleton was found last year under a parking lot in Leicester, central England. He died nearby in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field, the final engagement in a fight for the crown known as the Wars of the Roses.
Leicester Cathedral — which has government permission to inter the remains — released design guidelines Wednesday for the king’s reburial. The plans include a memorial of “simple dignity” marked by a ledger stone, a decorated slab in the cathedral floor.
Cathedral officials said they hoped to begin work on the tomb in January and hold the reburial and a memorial service in May 2014.
The design may disappoint the late king’s fans in the Richard III Society, who have argued for a grander tomb. But the cathedral’s acting dean, Canon Barry Naylor, said the proposed location of the ledger stone was in the chancel, “the place of highest honor in the cathedral.”
The plans for a modest monument reflect Richard’s status as a divisive figure, more than 500 years after his death. He was vilified by his Tudor successors as a usurper who supplanted his two young nephews on the throne and had them murdered in the Tower of London.
Others claim he was a forward-thinking ruler who laid some of the foundations of modern justice, including the bail system.
Leicester Cathedral’s document noted, diplomatically, that “Richard III should be recognized as a significant figure in English history with a complex story which includes both laudable and problematic elements.”
It said the burial site should offer “opportunities for prayer and reflection (that) focus on themes of sin and redemption, justice and peace.”
Peace has not broken out in the battle between Leicester and York over the king’s remains — and the predicted tourist income they would bring. York has not given up hope of nabbing the king’s remains, and plans a campaign of events to celebrate Richard and his ties to the city. It has attracted more than 25,000 signatures on a petition calling for Richard to be buried there. Leicester’s petition has just under 8,000 names.
Still, David Tredinnick, the lawmaker representing Bosworth, said that “the overwhelming opinion in the county of Leicestershire is that King Richard III should be buried close to where he has lain for more than 500 years.”
“I hope that, in the end, he finds himself at peace in Leicester Cathedral,” Tredinnick said during a parliamentary debate Tuesday on the late king’s fate.
York lawmaker Hugh Bayley called for independent arbitration to settle the competing claims of York, Leicester and London’s Westminster Abbey, the resting place of many British monarchs.
He said that, like York Minster officials, he had received “inflammatory” letters and emails on the subject — but he hoped cooler heads would prevail.
“I would say to everybody: calm down,” Bayley said. “Let us all respect the memory of a former king of our country, and let us discuss, in a dignified and sober way, where his remains should finally be put to rest.
“We do not want to reignite the Wars of the Roses.”