One of the most difficult things we discussed in the Liturgical Team meetings was how to provide a narrative for the week of services at Leicester Cathedral to reinter King Richard III. There are many different units responsible for the remains of Richard III and we were charged with creating services for the moment Richard III’s remains were passed from the University and Council into the hands of Leicester Cathedral. In our earliest meetings, we struggled to find a coherent model for the week. At first, we thought about having the Reinterment ceremony in the morning and then a celebratory service in the afternoon. However, we soon realised the mood of these two events would be difficult to manage in one day, not to mention the logistics of visitors, guests and getting the tomb sealed after the Reinterment. We settled on separate-day events for the day when the remains of Richard III are received by the cathedral; when he is reinterred and for the celebratory service. This is what we came up with:
- Reception: Today at 5.45pm. This will mark the moment the remains of King Richard are received by Leicester Cathedral. The horse-driven hearse will accompany the remains to Leicester Cathedral where they will be received by the Dean with a service of Compline.
- Repose: Monday-Wednesday morning. The remains of Richard III are available for people to pay their respects. During this time, there will be a special service for the Richard III society, morning and evening prayer will continue as normal, and there will be additional prayers and sermons.
- Reinterment: Thursday 26 March. When Richard III is reburied. The cathedral will then close while the tomb is sealed.
- Reveal: Friday 27 March. When the new tomb holding Richard III is ‘revealed’ for the first time. A celebratory service of Morning Prayer will accompany this.
The medieval rite of reburial I found allows the usual pattern of prayer to continue in the presence of the human remains to be re-interred. The medieval order of service began in the evening with prayers (and this is reflected in the Compline/Reception service). Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and daily Eucharist will continue while King Richard’s remains are in repose (just as they did in medieval times). Then, the medieval rite calls for the remains to be buried in a service reflecting Lauds (similar to our Morning Prayer) and this will happen in the service of Reinterment on Thursday morning. The week will conclude with a somewhat elaborate form of Midday Prayer on Friday. I hope you enjoy watching the events: it has been an enormous pleasure to be involved and I am certainly very excited!