The first glimpse of how Richard III could be reburied has been revealed, with the service to be shaped by the scholarly detective work of an Oxford University academic.
Alexandra Buckle, from St Anne’s and St Hilda’s colleges, has reconstructed how an authentic medieval reburial service should be conducted.
Dr Buckle, an expert in medieval music and liturgical adviser to the committee planning the reburial, has found the only known surviving description of the prayers and music used for reburying medieval aristocrats.
Reburial was a major event in the 15th Century. Dr Buckle says she was surprised to find how widespread it was.
Her research has shown that reburials had their own separate service, different from an ordinary funeral.
This service provides an evocative picture of the medieval world, full of pomp and piety, with prayers that the dry bones being reinterred would be spared the wrathful judgement of God.
Dr Buckle says that this template for a reburial service is a way of finally giving Richard III a fitting send-off, in a form that would have closely resembled the prayers used when he reburied his own father.
Richard seemed to be a religious man, his devotional books have survived with his own notes in the margin. And Dr Buckle believes he would have expected such a religious service.
“We know Richard III had a very meagre night-time burial, probably just a basic requiem. He was covered in wounds, probably not embalmed.
“There may have been a shroud, but there is no trace of it, or he may have been buried naked, as it shows how rushed this was.”
His body was treated with little dignity after his defeat in battle and his burial place was neglected for many centuries.
“This will give him the funeral he never had,” she says.
“And the focus should be on how he is buried, not just where.”