On this side of the Channel, the organization of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral – the word etiquette would be more accurate – surprises more than one. But who was the last British monarch to have a Catholic funeral in a country that quickly gained a foothold in the Protestant Reformation after the reign of Henry VIII?
The answer is simple, as England’s last Catholic king, Richard III, was killed by Henry Tudor, who succeeded him as Henry VIII, before splitting the country in two over heresy.
However, this would make a 500-year time-lapse… because in 2015 an English monarch was able to benefit from a Catholic funeral, and in the most official way in the world.
The Renaissance humanist Polydor Vergil testifies that when he died at the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485, Richard III’s naked body was “hung by both hands and feet” on a horse. He was buried without ceremony in a Franciscan convent near Leicester.
Her tomb was later lost during the closure of religious convents ordered by Henry VIII.
Five centuries later, in 2012, a body was discovered under a car park in the conurbation of Leicester: the identification of the remains was correct and it was indeed Richard III. Then a new problem arises: what should be buried for the dead king?
For some, the cathedral – Anglican since the Reformation – Leicester is the best place: impossible for Catholics, Richard III was born and died in the faith of the Roman Church.
The case went to the High Court of England, which ruled in favor of the Protestant cathedral in 2014.
No matter, on March 23, 2015, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and Catholic Primate of England, celebrated a solemn prayer for the dead monarch at Holy Cross Church in Leicester, in which he recalls the virtue of piety. It co-operated in him with the warlike zeal of the men of his time.
It was the last funeral of a King of England on his land in the Catholic rite: let’s pray that a future British King will find the faith of St. Edward and the unity of the Church.
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