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530 Years After Death, Richard III To Be Reburied In Leicester

Richard III can finally be laid to rest. Well, next spring anyway.

A British court on Friday ruled that plans to rebury the 15th century king in Leicester can proceed. His remains had been found beneath a parking lot in that city in 2012.

Richard — the last British king killed in battle — died near Leicester in 1485 and was buried in a long-since-demolished church in that city. A set of bones that matched contemporary accounts of scoliosis and injury were confirmed by University of Leicester researchers as the king's through DNA tests and bone analysis.

A group of descendants of Richard's family — he had no direct heirs — had sued to block his reinterment in Leicester. They wanted him buried in York, where his royal roots were, rather than near where he happened to die in battle.

They argued the government had not consulted widely enough with his living relatives.

"We believe that the proposed location of Leicester is wholly inappropriate for the burial of King Richard III, who had no connections with the town beyond his horrific death, bodily despoliation and appalling burial in a foreshortened grave," a group of descendants called the Plantagenet Alliance argued on its website.

But the Royal Courts of Justice found that there "was no direct evidence of any definitive wishes expressed by Richard III as to his place of burial." The justices added that it would be impractical to consult with his descendants, who might number in the millions.

There is no "legitimate expectation" that the king's "collateral descendants would be consulted after centuries in relation to an exhumed historical figure," they wrote.

Richard will now be buried in Leicester Cathedral, near where his bones were found. The cathedral has set aside more than a million pounds to give him a proper burial in a raised tomb.

There was applause at the cathedral when the court's decision was announced by Tim Stevens, the Bishop of Leicester, The Guardian reports.

"I am delighted that Leicester Cathedral can now proceed with its plans to give King Richard III a dignified burial here in the city," Leicester Mayor Peter Soulsby said in a statement. "With the support of the city council and the University of Leicester, the cathedral is now planning for the king's reinterment to take place in the spring of next year."

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Alan Greenblatt has been covering politics and government in Washington and around the country for 20 years. He came to NPR as a digital reporter in 2010, writing about a wide range of topics, including elections, housing economics, natural disasters and same-sex marriage.
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