We second-tier cities need to stick together. The likes of Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh can look after themselves. But those of us with smaller populations and less economic clout need to show a bit of solidarity.
And, at the moment, our allies in the East Midlands need support. Leicester is currently fighting to keep the remains of King Richard III out of the grasping hands of York – and Stoke should back them against the Yorkist grave-robbers.
It was the historical find of the century: a King of England unceremoniously dug up from grotty council car-park in Leicester.
Yet at the tail-end of last summer, that is exactly what happened when archaeologists from Leicester University were busy excavating the ruins of the lost medieval Grey Frairs Church, long thought to be the resting place of Richard III, buried deep beneath the concrete.
So one can only imagine their excitement when a coffin was unearthed containing a battle-scarred skeleton and a curved spine. Then, on the 4th of February this year, the world’s press gathered in Leicester to watch agog as scientists confirmed the astonishing discovery using DNA.
As with so much English legend, it is through Shakespeare that we have come to know King Richard. Famously, he was portrayed as a scheming, treacherous, self-pitying thug, cursed by the fates with a hunchback and a “rudely stamp’d, deformed unfinsh’d” appearance. And while the bard was something of an in-house propagandist for the Tudors, there is no disputing the turbulence of his reign.
It ended abruptly at the Battle of Bosworth Moor on August 22nd 1485, where Richard became the last English monarch to die on the battlefield. His horse slain, Richard, in Shakespeare’s version of events, marches across the battlefield to seek Henry Tudor, his rival for the crown, with the immortal line “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse”.
His death, beaten across the head by Lancastrian swordsmen, signalled the end of the War of the Roses, one of the bloodiest chapters of our island story.
But of course it is the allegations of child-murder that have really cememented Richard’s reputation for evil. Appointed Lord Protector of his nephew and heir to the throne, Edward V, Richard supposedly had the young prince, alongside his young brother Richard, taken to the Tower of London in 1483. They were never seen again and Richard assumed the throne.
So, after the initial excitement of the find, came the question of what to do with the remains. At first, there was talk that as a King of England, Richard should be accorded full a state funeral before taking up his spot in the traditional resting place of monarchs, Westminster Abbey. But Buckingham Palace soon quashed that scheme.
So, the obvious conclusion was for Leicester to house King Richard. As is usually the case with such finds, the archeologists themselves – Leicester University – were given a big say in deciding the location of the interment. Naturally, they chose their home town’s splendid Cathedral, which, after receiving the green light from the Government, has begun a £1m buildings programme to accommodate the tomb.
But then York intervened, claiming ownership of their ancestor. ‘The Plantagenet Alliance’, a Yorkist sect which claims a distant lineage to the King himself, succeeded in getting the decision sent to a judicial review amid cries of ‘bring him home’.
Now York is one of the oldest settlements in the British Isles, and is a city not wanting for beauty or high class public history projects. There is no doubt that Richard would be well looked after there.
But their problem is that the history simply does not stack up. Indeed, there is only hazy evidence to suggest that Richard spent part of his childhood there, at Middleham Castle. But he was born at Fotheringay Castle, Northampton and almost certainly spent most of his adult life in London. He may have been a Yorkist. But he was no Yorkshireman.
But what we can be sure of is that King Richard III died only a stones throw away from Leicester, at Bosworth. He has spent 527 years there and his nearest relative, Michael Ibsen, who provided the DNA that confirmed the skeleton’s authenticity – is reportedly happy for him to say another 500 if he likes.
So King Richard needs to stay in Leicester. York has more than enough medieval history to be getting on with, and Leicester could do with some Plantagenet tourism. We have seen how the Staffordshire Hoard worked for us: York should drop this judicial review nonsense and leave the King in Leicester.