When the University of Leicester decoded “R” in “Parking”, and found the bones of Richard III beneath, they wot not what they had done.
In essence, both Leicester and York have sniffed an opportunity to bring in the tourists (in the case of York, not too many more in high season, pur-leeze!).
Yesterday the competing MPs (Hugh Bayley for York, Jon Ashworth for Leicester, both Labour) had their little theatrical contretemps. And Tanya Gold, depping for Anne Treneman, was sketching that for The Times, and seriously booting Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary in the process:
Hugh Bayley, the Labour member for York Central, wants to know whether the [Justice] department will meet representatives from York and Leicester to discuss the “reburial of the mortal remains of Richard III”. (He was Duke of York, so Bayley may consider him a ghostly constituent).
The real Chris Grayling emits a classic Grayling sentence; it is the equivalent of being on the telephone and putting someone on hold. “Arrangements for the meeting,” he says, “were put on hold in light of litigation brought by the Plantagenet Alliance Limited.”
Bayley understands the reason for delay; there has been quite a long delay in burying Richard III already (528 years). “It is self-evident to me that a decision about the burial of a former head of state of this country should be taken by the government of the day not delegated to archaeologists at Leicester university!”
This creates noise; Speaker Bercow intervenes, in the style of a character from The Tudors. “Can I appeal to the House for a degree of calm and restraint? We are discussing the burial of the mortal remains of a former monarch.”
Jon Ashworth, Labour, shouts, “I am the member for Leicester! His remains should be buried in Leicester!”
Some expert on parliamentary protocol may be able to explain why this is a function for Grayling and Justice. It’s beyond me.
What worried me there was that the (usually-admirable) Hugh Bayley seemed to imply dear, dead Dicky had been air-drying these last 528 years. Perhaps something like the tribal practices of the Dakotas:
In truth, the remains of Richard III have lain undisturbed, uncelebrated, and uncontested, in good English earth, all these centuries.
Yes, it was passing nice to have a small historical mystery sorted.
What ensued between two cities and cathedrals, squabbling over a bit of commercial gain and small kudos, is depressingly modern English.