Thursday, 7 February 2013

Small-Town Richard III

The Church of England, desperately out of touch as always, is spending all its energy today debating women and banking, and failing to make any comment on the real concerns of modern people, such as the reburial of kings – a subject which, to be honest, should play right to our strengths. 

Let us deal first of all with the question of the right kind of church to host Richard III’s reinterment. It is, obviously, quite right that he should have a Catholic service: a Church of England one, in other words.

The pretentions of non-conformists, even Papist ones, cannot be admitted. If the king had died in his bed he would have been buried by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and thus must he be reburied. Loyalty binds us. We are not inflexible, however: as a compromise we will be happy for the service to be of Ordinariate rite.

Having fixed the manner of the funeral (and now that we have admitted the principle that one may have a second funeral, it will not be very long before we allow gays to be buried) it remains to decide the place. Various possibilities have been mooted: Leicester Cathedral, the nearest place of dignity; Westminster Abbey, traditional for kings; York Minster, for his royal house and dukedom. To these candidates we should certainly add Fotheringhay, Gloucester, Middleham in Richmondshire and Durham, and doubtless others which will occur to our readers.

The answer, true to the traditions of the Church of England, must be all of them. To make a clear decision would be offensive to those sites not chosen, and happily it is in accordance with medieval royal tradition that the viscera of the king should be buried apart from his other remains.

Of course, with the interval of years only Richard’s bones remain, and it will therefore be a simple and unmessy exercise to send portions of His Majesty’s body to all the places who feel they have a claim on him. There they can be set up in local churches, with proper precautions against the abuse of the relics by the detestably enormous Papist community, to be properly venerated with pure Protestant zeal as a fresh expression of erastianism.

When this is a success, it could be extended by reusing the bodies of other monarchs. We can think of no possible reason why Her Majesty would not be happy to set the ball rolling by allowing her late father to be distributed to places significant to his reign. 

With careful selection of royal remains there could eventually be, say, one royal shrine per deanery. In this way the benefits of tourist income from the monarchy could be extended beyond London and the South East to benefit the North (which would have been dear to Richard III’s heart) and the whole country, as well as parts of the diocese of Europe (William III). The international dimension could end up being the most significant, and we hope to see some day ECUSA covenant to receive the remains of George III.

It will be protested that all this could be quite a complicated and costly project, and the erection of the number of proper shrines required might over-tax the faculty process. An alternative Fresh Expression presents itself, however, which will also be a properly medieval solution, and which may commend itself to the piety of those who do not think everybody should be constantly dug up.

Let there be built anew, by public subscription, a second church over the site of Richard’s burial. This should be under Coptic jurisdiction so as to avoid arguments, and fully equipped with facilities for cafe church, Plantagenet Memorial Skateboarding Park, and all other amenities of the modern worship centre. Even the apparently inauspicious car-park location will be an advantage. A car park is a very useful feature that many medieval churches were short-sightedly built without, and the congregations will doubtless be large for the daily sung ecumenical State Services.

Confident  that this proposal will excite the public imagination, we are opening the subscription today. Cheques should be sent to Boaring Church Project, Plumstead Rectory, Lancashire (ahem!), etc etc.

No comments:

Post a Comment