03/15/2013 11:20 am ET

Richard III Burial Plans Inspire Hate Mail; Descendants Furious, Supporters Threaten Dean Of York

Police are investigating what has become a surprisingly bitter dispute over where Richard III's recently identified remains should be interred.

The 15th-century monarch, immortalized as a villain of Shakespearian lore, was identified in February thanks to DNA tests conducted by experts at the University of Leicester in England.

Following scientific confirmation, Richard III's final resting place was planned for Leicester Cathedral, near the parking lot where the twisted skeleton was found. But this decision was greeted with frustration by a group of Richard's distant relatives and supporters, who have demanded the skeleton be buried in York, about 100 miles north of the city of Leicester.

Richard III was the last king of the House of York and would have preferred that location for his "spiritual home," argue descendants of the former king. British media this week published the relatives' opinions in an open letter.

Signed by nine of the king's great-nephews and nieces, the letter reads, in part:

We, the under-named, do hereby most respectfully demand that the remains of King Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England and our mutual ancestor, be returned to the city of York for formal, ceremonial reburial.

We believe that such an interment was the desire of King Richard in life and we have written this statement so that his wishes may be fully recognised and upheld. King Richard III was the last King of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty which had ruled England since the succession of King Henry II in 1154.

The Dean of York, the Very Rev. Vivienne Faull, did not object to Leicester Cathedral's burial plans, a fact that further enraged Yorkist supporters. Some have even suggested Faull was biased because she was once the Dean of rival Leicester Cathedral, according to The Telegraph.

Adding to the debate, York politician Julian Sturdy complained that burial decision seemed to have been a "sort of finders-keepers agreement” made behind closed doors, reported to the York Press.

But Labour MP Hugh Bayley pleaded for calm. During a debate in Westminster Hall, Bayley reminded listeners that Richard III died during the first War of the Roses -- a struggle for the English throne fought between the royal houses of Lancaster and York -- and cautioned against kickstarting a similar conflict over the former monarch's burial.

“I received many letters and emails from members of the public about this, supporting burial in York," Bayley went on to say, as quoted by the Yorkshire Post. "Most are thoughtful and well argued and based on scientific facts but some are frankly inflammatory and talking yesterday to the Dean of York, some that she has received at the minster are so extreme that she has referred the correspondence to the police.

The Associated Press reported that Leicester Cathedral has already released its plan for Richard III's final resting place, which will include a "simple" but "dignified" ledger stone and decorated slab. Work on the tomb could begin in January, with a memorial service in May of 2014.