The Anglican Puzzle and the Burying-place of Richard III

Andrew Sullivan is annoyed that Richard III is to be buried in an Anglican church. After all, living before the Reformation, he must have been a Catholic; why bury him in a Protestant church?

Well, that’s one way to look at it. But it’s not the only way.

Institutionally, the Church of England maintained its continuity through the Henrician reformation, the Marian counter-reformation, the Edwardian counter-counter-reformation, and all the changes of doctrinal and disciplinary “line” to which the Vicar of Bray had to adapt himself. Justin Welby is – and the Archbishop of Westminster is not – the successor of Thomas Becket.

Of course Richard would not have allowed himself to be called Supreme Governor of the Church of England, but neither would he have allowed the Papacy to choose English bishops; that’s what the Statute of Provisors was designed to prevent.

The Church of England has always claimed to be the English branch of the one undivided Catholic Church. Sometimes that viewpoint has expressed itself in persecution. But it has also expressed itself in generosity. Thomas More, John Henry Newman, and George Fox are all venerated as Saints of the Church of England.

Whether Richard Plantagenet is buried in Leiscester Cathedral, York Minster, or Westminster Abbey, he will be buried in what he would have regarded as consecrated ground. That couldn’t be true were he buried in any Roman Catholic church in England.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.