Discussion between a radio presenter and the Bishop of Leicester about a person who has been dead 530 years
Presenter: “Is he forgiven, Bishop?”
Bishop “Of course he is forgiven. As we all ultimately are.” (or words to that effect, not sure of exact quote)
They were talking, of course, about King Richard III who is to re-buried in Leicester Cathedral on Thursday. About 35,000 people lined the route to the Cathedral y’day, via the Battle of Bosworth site, and thousands are queuing for hours today to view the coffin.
What do you make of this?
No shortage of interpretations and opinions floating about I’m sure: for me it seems to highlight what a peculiar and conflicted place contemporary England can be.
All in all a rather strange and eccentric mish-mash of sentiment, fuzzy theology, contemporary campaigns to recover the last Plantagenet King’s unjustly tarred reputation (had you heard of a whole movement of ‘Ricardians’?), historical tourism and search for English identity.
Sentiment: – people throwing white roses on the coffin: a sense of grief; some sort of emotional connection to a long dead king.
Fuzzy theology: as quote above. The Bishop seems to be advocating some form of ultimate reconciliation. The sub-text you pick up from wider coverage is that the Established Church’s assumed role is to baptise and bury everyone regardless of life and evidence of faith. For those holding to this sort of ecclesiology, normally then final judgement would be left in the hands of God’s grace and justice. But the Bishop is pushing this further: it appears that God’s role is to love and accept all since that is what he does? I wonder how Justin Welby who is officiating on Thursday will put things.
Contemporary politics: I don’t know enough about English history to get how and why rehabilitating Richard III is so significant to a lot of people .. anyone help me here?
Historical tourism: as always in our ‘economist’ society, just under the surface is a barely concealed delight at the fantastic financial boon the finding of Richard III’s body will be, and is already, for Leicester. There is a whole tourist industry in the process of formation.
English Identity: every day English news and media is dominated by immigration, UK Muslim insurgents going to Syria to join ISIS, the loyalties and identity of the UK’s Muslin population; fear of Islamic insurgence and terrorism on UK soil etc etc. This sits starkly side by side with the Richard III story. I wonder if the fascination with Richard III is a sort of reassertion of English identity – a reconnection to the past in the face of a much more internally complex, global and uncertain future?
Comments, as ever, welcome.