Royal (re)burials

It is definitely funeral time. Not only was the reburial on 26 May of King Peter II, Queen Alexandra and Queen Maria of Yugoslavia announced. Also former King Norodom Sihanouk was finally buried, and after finding the body of King Richard III of England they are now fighting about it where he is supposed to be reburied.

Norodom Sihanouk, King-Father of Cambodia died already on 15 October 2012 at Beijing, China. A four-day mourning period was announced from 1 to 4 February 2013 on the occasion of his funeral. These days were declared a public holiday without music, dance and alcohol. The former king’s remains were brought to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, shortly after his death and enbalmed. Since he had been lying in state at the Royal Palace. Many people gathered in Cambodia’s capital city to mourn their King. The one kilometer long funeral procession through the streets of Phnom Penh was held on Friday 1 February. The golden coffin was transported on a gilded chariot and was followed by the present King Norodom Sihamoni, and the former King’s wife Queen Norodom Monineath. Also courtiers marched in the procession carrying the royal regalia. The cremation took place at the Preah Meru field on Monday 4 February, and was only attended by members of the royal family and key dignitaries. On 6 February, following Buddhist traditions, food offerings were made to 32 monks representing elements of the human body. Three urns with his ashes were placed at the Royal Palace on 7 February 2013, while another part of the ashes were scattered near the confluence of the four rivers in Phnom Penh (Chaktomuk) already on Tuesday. One of the deceased sons, Prince Norodom Yuvaneath, led the delegation onto a ceremonial boat from which the ashes were scattered in to the water. The golden urn was placed near the remains of his daughter Kunthea Buppha, who died aged three. A video of the events can be seen here.

On 4 February the University of Leicester, Great Britain, could finally confirm that the skeleton they had found underneath a council car park in Leicester was from King Richard III of England (1452-1485). After the death of his brother King Edward IV in 1483 Richard was named Lord Protector for Edward’s son and successor King Edward V. However Richard put away him and his younger brother Richard in the Tower of London. He had the marriage of his brother to Elizabeth Woodville declared invalid and was crowned King of England himself. After his death in the battle of Bosworth Field the not too popular king was hastily buried at the Greyfriars Franciscan monastery in Leicester, that was demolished in the late 1530s.

Finally in August 2012 the University of Leicester in collaboration with the Richard III Society and Leicester City Council began a dig on the site of the Greyfriars Church. Soon not only the remains of the church were found, but also a battle-scarred skeleton. No coffin was found with the body. The DNA from the skeleton, as was announced during a press conference on 4 February 2013, matched two of Richard III’s maternal line relatives. Richard III is likely to have died of two fatal injuries to the skull. For more information see: http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/media-centre/richard-iii

Probably very fitting for a King who lost his life in a battle, there is now a small battle going on where the King is to be buried. It is planned to rebury him in Leicester Cathedral, probably in 2014. The preparations have already begun. That would also be in accordance with the exhumation licence issued by the Ministry of Justice. However because of his strong links to York – he was a member of the House of York – others wish him to be buried at York Minster. It is also said that would be according to the wish of the King himself. However York Minster itself has announced it “understands the strong feeling of some people in York and Yorkshire that Richard III is significant to the history of the county and that therefore his body ought to be returned. However, the recent verification of the identity of his remains follows a significant period in which Leicester and Leicestershire gained a sense of Richard belonging there, at least in death.”

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