26 Mar 2015

Richard III: it’s all about the relic, the tourism, the cachet and the cash.

So as I make my way to that prime global tourist destination (Leicester) a telling tale comes my way.

One of those responsible some time back for handling the appointment of the new Bishop of Leicester before all the current skeletal-based hullabaloo, made the following observation.

Trouble is, he noted, the latest incoming mitre-man was not exactly heading to Premier League C of E turf. Leicester Cathedral… doesn’t even sound right. You know what we really need, he said, why yes – a relic.


Mix one poky JCB and an urban carpark, stir well, simmer with the local uni and some guy handy with the carbon data kit, sprinkle some rellies of Dead Dick from across the globe, then simmer carefully before bringing to the boil with York.

Yes York. Serious Premier League Cathedral. So much so it’s too hifalutin even to be called one. It’s achieved the ultimate: minsterdom.

York, beloved of tourists doing londonstratfordyorkedinburgh and bye bye. Beloved by Olde Dead Eye Dick no doubt and – this we know – he was beloved by York in return.

In fact the only Richard III-Leicester connection was that he had the worst day of his life there.

A Welshman planted his halberd so hard into the king’s helmet at Bosworth Field, the metal smashed his skull and the rest was all naked corpse-humiliation and Tudor triumphalism.

So no – logic suggests Leicester is about the last place he’d want to be laid to rest.

And still less in some fest called Anglicanism, all cooked up by the spooky Tudors because one of them couldn’t get Rome to endorse regal domestic crime.

Call that a church? Call this a service? Richard of York will be in a grave alright – spinning in it eternally whilst yearning for a lift up the nearby M1 to get home at last.

If I were on the cathedral staff (unlikely I grant you) I’d have Rent-an-Exorcist on speed-dial.

But all that brouhaha  misses the point.

It ain’t about history or religion. It is all about the relic, the tourism, the cachet and the cash.

That’s why the austerity-pushed council blew a quarter of a mill in legal fees alone to get the bones in deep where many argue they don’t belong. Probably it will be cash well spent in the long-run. You speculate to accumulate in the relics game you know.

Not without irony though, that the C of E is suddenly waist-deep in the stuff of late-medieval Catholicism: a relic!!

Lourdes – who would have thought it?

Cachet and cash. So they are stretching it over a week. The order of service today runs to twelve pages! It’ll take three hours for what some people think is the wrong church to lay him to eternal unrest, the wrong way in the wrong city. Maybe that’s why they need so long – to try and make it work.

The great and the good and the top Archbishop of the wrong church will officiate in a ceremony the length of which would make Fidel Castro blench.

Benedict Cumberbatch will read a poet laureate ode in a festival of faux-traditional kitch and whaddya know?

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch arrives with Canon Michael Harrison for the reinterment service of King Richard III at Leicester Cathedral

He turns out to be a distant relly of Dem Bones, sixteen times removed. Aw, bless…

We should not – as you may gather if you’ve come this far – take it too seriously.

It’s about the tourist dollar and Leics needs those far more than York ever will with its Romans, railway museum, walls, Castle Museum, Shambles, Yorvik and and and and….even the Park and Ride’s worth a stopover in York.

And hell, Richard III – don’t say this too loudly in Micklegate – wasn’t even born in Yorkshire come to that.

Then there was that murky business with the lads in The Tower – just what went on, on Richard’s watch that August? They need to get a digger into that place alright…

Maybe Leicester is welcome to the man who may in fact have been the bastard and not the Princes.

So, enjoy the absurdist froth that still has two days of nonsense to run. Because before this Leicester only seems to have had one famous son (no not you Gary Lineker) and who was he?

Why our old friend Thomas Cook. And what did he bring to the party? Yup – the invention of mass tourism.

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