St Michael’s has a tangible musical connection with the events surrounding the finding of the mortal remains of King Richard III, the Richard III Society and the Reinterment ceremonies in Leicester this week.
St Michael’s choir member and composer, Graham Keitch’s anthem “In Memoriam Ricardus Rex” was sung during the Requiem Mass for King Richard III at the Catholic Holy Cross Priory Church in Leicester on Monday. It has been good to see most religious commentators emphasizing the many strands of continuity with the medieval English church, as we also try to in our website’s History Timeline.
“In memoriam; Ricardus Rex was composed shortly after the discovery of the king’s body under a car park in Leicester in 2012. It’s an unaccompanied choir setting of words inspired by Richard’s Book of Hours and his motto. The text, which can be read in full below, is taken mostly from the Psalms of David and other passages from the Bible. The opening words reflect the harsh reality of being a monarch in Richard’s time – O Lord, how many are my foes! This is followed by texts which speak of loyalty and, from Psalm 3, bravery and trust in God. The first part of the motet concludes by quoting from Richard’s own prayer – Bring me before you, living God – words that convey a sense of preparedness and readiness to allow destiny to run its course and accept God’s will.
“The text moves on to celebrate God’s kingdom. From Psalm 103 – The Lord has established his throne in the heavens and His kingdom rules over all. The words of thanksgiving that follow express a desire to live in peace with one another and with those that exercise authority over us – kings and rulers. As mortals, our lives are fragile and temporary as acknowledged in Psalm 103 – For he knows our frame – to dust we shall return. The motet closes with words from Psalm 4, chosen to acknowledge the Society’s efforts in helping to recover the king’s body so that he may be laid to rest as appropriate for an English monarch – In peace I will lie down and sleep.” Performed here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBt0EUJG7oc
In memoriam; Ricardus Rex
O Lord, how many are my foes!
Loyalty binds me.
Friends are forever.
Many are rising against me.
I am not afraid of ten thousand people
who have set themselves against me.
Bring me before you, living God.
The Lord has established
His throne in the heavens
and His kingdom rules over all.
Lord, hear our prayer and thanksgiving
for all people, kings and rulers,
that we may lead a peaceful life.
For He knows our frame.
To dust we shall return.
In peace I will lie down and sleep.
Also, from the Leicester Mercury:-
“Hundreds of worshippers pray for the soul of King Richard III at Holy Cross Priory.”
At least 700 people attended a requiem mass for Richard III yesterday at the Holy Cross Priory church. It was celebrated by Cardinal Archbishop Vincent Nichols wearing vestments dating back to the time of the Plantagenet king slain in 1485.
Civic dignitaries including the Lord Lieutenant Jennifer Lady Gretton and the Lord Mayor of Leicester John Thomas were among the congregation. The Bishop of Leicester, Rt Rev Tim Stevens, and the Dean of Leicester, Very Rev David Montieth were also present as were representatives of other churches and faiths.
The mass for the repose of the king’s soul was celebrated three days before he is re-interred at Leicester Cathedral. Cardinal Nichols said it was a Catholic duty to pray for the souls for all who have died, “commending them to the love and mercy of God.”
He said: “Richard was a man of anxious devotion who kept and marked his own book of prayers and who must have attended Mass throughout his life. “Richard was not a man of peace. The times in which he lived and the role into which he was born did not permit that. But now we pray for his eternal peace.
“We offer this holy mass that even while his remains are lying in the Cathedral nearby, his soul is united with God in the glory of heaven there to await the final resurrection of all things in Christ.”
The music was selected from a range of composers from across the British Isles including William Byrd and from the plainsong tradition, which characterizes the daily life and prayer of the Dominican friars of Holy Cross Priory. Singing was led by the choir of St Barnabas Cathedral, Nottingham, the choir of Holy Cross Priory and the choir of English Martyrs Catholic School, Leicester.
Prayers that Richard III may rest in peace, the unity of all Christians, the Queen and for all who have died in warfare were led by pupils from St Paul’s Catholic School, Leicester. Pupils from Holy Cross Primary school presented the wine and bread for the communion.
The prior of Holy Cross the Very Rev Fr David Rocks OP thanked everyone who had made the service possible. He said: “Leicester is in the centre of England and we work together as a community, churches, faiths, universities and organisations.”
Monsignor Thomas McGovern, Diocesan Administrator of the Diocese of Nottingham, said: “It is fitting that, after 530 years, Richard III’s mortal remains are once again laid to rest, this time in Leicester Cathedral, the mediaeval Catholic parish church of Leicester, not far from where they were first buried by the Franciscan friars after the Battle of Bosworth.
“Just as Mass would have been offered for the repose of his soul by the priests who buried him, we do him the same service tonight, asking Almighty God to receive him into the kingdom of heaven with his sins forgiven. May he rest in peace.”
Cathedral Church of St Martin, Leicester.