GROWING calls for Richard III to be re-interred in what some believe is his spiritual “home” have been served a crippling blow – with York Minster saying he should stay in Leicester.

Thousands of people have backed a campaign to see the long-dead monarch buried in the Minster following the discovery of his body under a Leicester car-park.

More than 11,000 signed an on-line petition calling for his reburial there instead of Leicester Cathedral and their calls were echoed by local tourism bosses, council chiefs and even an MP.

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But York Minster – whose Dean, the Very Reverend Vivienne Faull, was until recently Dean of Leicester – has ended its silence on the matter and in a carefully-worded statement said the remains should stay in the Midlands.

“The Chapter of York understands the strong feeling of some people in York and Yorkshire that Richard III is significant to the history of the county and that therefore his body ought to be returned,” it said.

“However, the recent verification of the identity of his remains follows a significant period in which Leicester and Leicestershire gained a sense of Richard belonging there, at least in death.

“It was Leicester Franciscans who gave him burial, and the cathedral has a major memorial to his memory at its heart. When the possibility of an excavation of the Greyfriars site began, it was agreed from the start that any remains found would be reinterred in Leicester.”

It went on: “Since the news of the finding last year local people, like the people of York, have expressed a very strong wish that Richard, who has been with them since 1485, should stay in their keeping.

“The Chapter supports the terms of the Ministry of Justice licence and the wish of Chapter of Leicester that Richard should be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral.

“The Chapter of York commends Richard to Leicester's care and to the cathedral community's prayers.”

The Ministry of Justice, which licensed the exhumation, has also given Leicester’s case a boost by saying that, as the licence holder, a final decision was up to the city’s university.

However City of York Council leader responded: “Whilst we acknowledge the sensitivities and delicacy of this matter, we have a duty to reflect the voice of the people of York, King Richard III’s descendants and academic opinion.

“As a council we have sent written representation to the Crown and the Ministry of Justice and we await their response.

“Whatever the outcome we would want a lasting memorial to this last Yorkist monarch in his spiritual home.”