Richard III of England

Richard III of England

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Richard III of England ruled as king from 1483 to 1485 CE. Apr-Jun 1483 CE), the son of Edward IV of England (r. 1461-1470 CE & 1471-1483 CE) in mysterious circumstances. The young Edward V and his brother Richard were imprisoned in the Tower of London by their uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester who was their guardian as Protector of the Realm. The Princes in the Tower, as they became known, were never seen again. Duke Richard made himself king in 1483 CE but, widely accused of murdering his nephews and unable to unite his barons behind the Crown, his reign would be short and troubled. The dynastic squabbles between the houses of York and Lancaster known to history as the Wars of the Roses (1455-1487 CE) finally came to an end, in terms of major events, with Richard's death at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 CE. Henry Tudor, a distant relation of Edward III of England (r. 1327-1377 CE) and victor at Bosworth Field, would become King Henry VII (r. 1485-1509 CE). The Plantagenet line of kings, which had started with Henry II of England (r. 1154-1189 CE), was finally ended and the new Tudor Dynasty began.

Early Life & Family

Richard was born on 2 October 1452 CE at Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire, the son of Richard, Duke of York (1411-1460 CE) and Cecily Neville (1415-1495 CE). His older brothers included Edward who would become Edward IV of England and George, Duke of Clarence (l. 1449-1478 CE). Richard lived in exile in Burgundy after his father's death in 1460 CE. When he returned to England the next year he lived with the family of the Earl of Warwick at Middleham Castle in the north of England.

With Henry VI murdered, his queen imprisoned & his son killed in battle, it looked like the Yorks had won the Wars of the Roses.

On 12 July 1472 CE Richard married Anne Neville (l. 1456-1485 CE), the daughter of the Earl of Warwick and widow of Henry VI of England's son, Edward, Prince of Wales (l. 1453-1471 CE). This union meant that Richard acquired a sizeable chunk of the dead Earl of Warwick's estates. The couple had one son, Edward of Middleham, born in 1473 CE (or 1476 CE) and made Prince of Wales in 1483 CE.

Wars of the Roses

In 1453 CE Henry VI of England (1422-1461 CE & 1470-1471 CE) suffered his first episode of insanity which made him so incapable of ruling that Richard, Duke of York was nominated as Protector of the Realm, in effect, regent, in March 1454 CE. The Duke of York was ambitious to become king and he did have a legitimate, if distant, claim to the throne as the great-grandson of Edward III of England and the nephew of the Earl of March who himself had claimed he was the legitimate heir to Richard II of England (r. 1377-1399 CE). Thus, a rivalry began between the house of York and that of Lancaster, of which King Henry VI was a member, a rivalry that became known as the Wars of the Roses.

Richard might have had the king in his pocket but he still had the formidable obstacle of Henry's wife Queen Margaret (d. 1482 CE) and she led an army to victory against him at the Battle of Ludford Bridge on 12 October 1459 CE. The Duke of York fled to Ireland while Parliament, the 1459 CE 'Parliament of Devils', identified him as a traitor and disinherited his heirs. Richard's son Edward then took up the cause with his chief ally Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick (1428-71 CE), the pair defeating Queen Margaret's army at Northampton on 10 July 1460 CE and then capturing King Henry. The Duke of York was thus able to return from Ireland and he persuaded Henry, who was now in the Tower of London, to name him as the official heir to the throne, a decision ratified by the Act of Accord of 24 October. However, at the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December 1460 CE the Duke of York was killed and his army defeated by Henry VI loyalists led, once again, by the queen.

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Richard, Duke of Gloucester, had shown himself an able commander & his loyalty to his brother Edward IV was resolute through turbulent times.

The Duke of York's son, now Edward of York, took up the Yorkist mantle from 1460 CE. Following his victory at the Battle of Towton on 29 March 1461 CE, Edward was crowned Edward IV on 28 June 1461 CE. There would be a brief interruption when his old ally the Earl of Warwick reinstated Henry VI in 1470 CE and Edward was obliged to flee in exile to France, accompanied by his brother Richard. Edward would soon win back his throne, though, again on the battlefield, this time at Barnet on 14 April 1471 CE. Henry VI was then murdered in the Tower of London on 21 May 1471 CE. With Henry's young heir, Prince Edward, killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury on 4 May 1471 CE and Queen Margaret imprisoned, it looked like the Yorks had finally won the Wars of the Roses.

Duke of Gloucester

In 1472 CE Edward made his brother Richard the Duke of Gloucester in thanks for his successful command of divisions at the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury the year before. This was in addition to Richard's other titles of Constable and Lord High Admiral (bestowed in 1471 CE). Richard had shown himself an able commander and his loyalty to his brother was resolute throughout the turbulent times of the Wars of the Roses.

As lord of vast estates, Richard showed himself a fine administrator and he was popular with both his peers and subjects. Richard was also surprisingly pious, the duke giving an endowment to Queen's College, Cambridge so that prayers might be said for his fallen comrades at Barnet and Tewkesbury. Richard was interested in architecture and donated to both state and religious institutions, a trend he would continue as king, notably establishing the Royal College of Arms in 1484 CE which looked after all matters of medieval heraldry and which still continues to function today. Richard's own heraldic device was a white boar.

Edward IV's reign saw much more stability and a booming economy thanks to a peace treaty with France and the encouragement of cross-Channel trade. A peace treaty was signed with Louis XI of France (1461-1483 CE) in March 1475 CE after Edward and the Duke of Gloucester had led a large army to France. Another success was a sortie into Scotland in 1482 CE, led by the Duke of Gloucester, which occupied Edinburgh for a time. The campaign won back control of Berwick for the English Crown.

All was not well in England, though, and cracks soon began to appear in the relationship between the king and his brothers. Richard was not convinced that peace with France was the best policy and then, in February 1478 CE, the third brother, George, Duke of Clarence, was imprisoned and executed on charges of treason. Richard perhaps felt that Edward's wife, Elizabeth Woodville (l. c. 1437-1492 CE), was to blame for dividing the York family and favouring her own relatives. After this episode, Richard concentrated on his land in the north of England and stayed away from the royal court in London. Still, the Scottish campaign gained Edward's gratitude and Richard was made Warden of the West March by parliament in 1483 CE and given sovereign powers over that territory.

The Princes in the Tower

Edward IV turned out to be rather too fond of his favourite foods and wines as he reached middle age, and he became seriously overweight. The king died, perhaps of a stroke, at Westminster on 9 April 1483 CE, aged just 40. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Edward, then only 12 years old (b. 1470 CE). Too young to rule on his own, Edward IV had already nominated his regent, the boy's uncle Richard, who was now given the impressive title of Lord High Protector of the Realm.

In May, Edward V and his younger brother Richard (b. 1473 CE) were imprisoned in the Tower of London where they became known as the 'Princes in the Tower'. The boys were never seen outside the castle again. According to later historians and Tudor propaganda, the boys were put there and murdered by Richard. This is also the view of William Shakespeare (1564-1616 CE) in his famous play Richard III. What we do know is that the two princes did spend time in the Tower - which was not merely a prison for important figures but a royal residence - and that they were seen by witnesses playing in the gardens there. Richard may have confined them there to forestall Queen Elizabeth's plan to hold an early coronation for Edward in June. A coronation could well have meant Richard's title and function as Protector of the Realm was withdrawn.

The supposed murder of the Princes in the Tower resulted in the finger of suspicion pointing at Richard.

The duke's first tactic was to discredit the legitimacy of the two princes by claiming that Edward IV had already been tied by a marriage agreement to one Lady Eleanor Butler, daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury before he married Elizabeth Woodville. The late king's promiscuity was well known, and this at least allowed enough doubt in the case that Parliament declared Edward V and his younger brother illegitimate. Consequently, Edward was deposed on 25 June 1483 CE and Richard was nominated as the legitimate heir to the throne. The Duke of Gloucester, aged 30, was then crowned king on 6 July 1483 CE in Westminster Abbey, thereby becoming Richard III.

Then, sometime in the late summer of 1483 CE, the princes disappeared from the Tower and history, their obvious murder resulting in the finger of suspicion pointing at Richard. Curiously, Richard had been on duty in the Tower of London the night of Henry VI's murder and he was suspected of having done many other dark deeds to progress his career. Nevertheless, the deaths of the princes still remains a mystery. As a footnote to this grizzly episode, two skeletons of youths were discovered in a chest buried near the White Tower when the forebuilding was demolished in 1674 CE and these remains, identified then as the two princes, were reinterred in Westminster Abbey. The remains were re-examined in 1933 CE and confirmed as young males of similar age to the princes. Whoever killed the boys, Richard undoubtedly had most to gain by their deaths. Edward V was certainly the unlucky 13th king in the Plantagenet line.

Henry Tudor

There were some voices of protest, even from Yorkist supporters, regarding Richard's cavalier attitude to royal succession but these were dealt with in time-honoured fashion via land confiscation and executions. However, trouble of a much greater significance was stirring. The Lancastrians were weak, but the family had not gone away entirely, and they were now led by the exiled Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond (b. 1457 CE). Henry was, through the illegitimate Beaufort line, a descendant of John of Gaunt, a son of Edward III. It was not much of a royal connection but it was the best the Lancastrians could hope for after Henry VI had left no surviving heir.

Henry Tudor allied himself with the alienated Woodvilles, such powerful lords as the Duke of Buckingham who were not happy with Richard's distribution of estates, and anyone else keen to see Richard III receive his just deserts. These allies included the new king across the Channel, Charles VIII of France (r. 1483-1498 CE). The first move by the rebels proved premature and poorly planned so that Henry's invasion fleet was put off by bad weather and Buckingham was captured and executed in November 1483 CE.

The next twist in the Wars of the Roses was the death of Edward, Richard III's son and heir on 9 April 1484 CE, and once more the Lancastrians saw a glimmer of opportunity. Richard was dealt another blow in March 1485 CE when his queen, Anne Neville, died after a long illness. The king's detractors spread rumours that Anne had been murdered - presumably by a slow-working poison - so that Richard could be free to marry the eldest daughter of Edward IV, his own niece, and so prevent Henry Tudor from doing so and strengthening his own royal links.

Government & Administration

Meanwhile, Richard had been attempting to cement his kingship by travelling extensively around his kingdom, and in July 1484 CE he created the Council of the North which had full powers to govern that region in the king's name. Another new body was the Council of Requests and Supplications, created to give poor people greater access to the justice system. The king also made the collection of royal incomes more efficient, one of the problems Edward IV had been advised to deal with urgently. Finally, Richard encouraged the only Parliament he called, in January 1484 CE, to enact new laws which sought to reduce corruption by local officials and courts, end the practice of forced loans and make the selection of jurors a stricter process. All of these measures indicate the king may have developed into a good one for his people if he were given time. Unfortunately, time was not on Richard's side as Henry Tudor now made his gamble for the throne.

Bosworth Field & Death

On 8 August 1485 CE, the Wars of the Roses reached boiling point when Henry Tudor landed with an army of French mercenaries at Milford Haven in South Wales, a force perhaps no bigger than 5,000 men. Henry's army swelled in numbers as it marched to face the king's army at Bosworth Field in Leicestershire on 22 August 1485 CE. Richard, although commanding an army of some 8,000-12,000 men, was, at the last moment, deserted by some of his key allies, and the Earl of Northumberland even refused to engage his troops until he had a clear idea which side was going to win the day. Nevertheless, the king fought bravely and perhaps a little foolishly in his efforts to kill Henry Tudor with his own sword. Richard, although managing to strike down Henry's standard-bearer, had his horse cut from under him - hence, Shakespeare's famous line "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" (Act 5, Scene IV) - and the king was killed. Richard was the last English monarch to fall on the battlefield. The dead king's body was displayed naked except for a piece of cloth in the Church of Saint Mary in Newarke near the battleground and then buried at Greyfriars Abbey, Leicester.

Richard III has gone down in history as possibly England's most villainous and despised king. A large contribution to this dark portrait was Shakespeare's Richard III where the king is an unprincipled hunchback and given lines like "I am determined to prove a villain" (Act 1, Scene 1) and "Thus I clothe my naked villany. With odds old ends stol'n forth of holy writ, And seem a saint when most I play the devil" (Act 1, Scene 3). The king is even visited by a long succession of ghosts, the restless spirits of all the significant people Richard had supposedly killed.

The Tudor historians also put it about that Richard was favoured by the Devil, which explained why he came out of his mother's womb feet first, was born with teeth already, had a couple of fingers missing and developed a taste for murder. These stories do not match Richard's contemporary portraits or the trust and goodwill extended to him by Edward IV and many of the people who were governed by him in the north of England. Finally, it is a possibility that the Princes of the Tower episode, Richard's most infamous crime, were actually still alive after the Battle of Bosworth Field and it was Henry Tudor who had them killed. Certainly, if Edward V had been still alive then he would have been a serious obstacle to Henry's claim to be king.

The victorious Henry Tudor, according to legend, was given Richard's crown, found by Lord Stanley beneath a hawthorn bush at Bosworth Field. The new king was crowned Henry VII of England (r. 1485-1509 CE) on 30 October 1485 CE and, marrying Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV in 1486 CE, the two rival houses were finally united and a new one created: the Tudors. The battles of the Wars of the Roses were (almost) over, half the English barons had been killed in the process, but England was at last united as it left the Middle Ages and headed into the modern era.

Richard III was not quite finished with the history books, though. In 2012 CE archaeologists in Leicester excavated the site where they believed the ruins of Greyfriars Abbey were now buried. Digging down from what was on the surface a car park, they revealed a skeleton which was male, had many marks of sword or dagger injuries and, most intriguingly, had suffered from curvature of the spine. Curiously, the skeleton, found beneath the choir of the ruined friary, had been directly below a reserved parking space in the modern-day car park on which was marked the letter R. Researchers at the University of Leicester conducted DNA testing and confirmed that, with a probability of 99.9%, this was the skeleton of Richard III. The remains were eventually reinterred in a new purpose-built tomb in Leicester Cathedral.

Exhumation and reburial of Richard III of England

The remains of Richard III, the last English king killed in battle, were discovered within the site of the former Grey Friars Priory in Leicester, England, in September 2012. Following extensive anthropological and genetic testing, the remains were ultimately reinterred at Leicester Cathedral on 26 March 2015.

Richard III, the final ruler of the Plantagenet dynasty, was killed on 22 August 1485 in the Battle of Bosworth Field, the last significant battle of the Wars of the Roses. His body was taken to Greyfriars Friary in Leicester, where it was buried in a crude grave in the friary church. Following the friary's dissolution in 1538 and subsequent demolition, Richard's tomb was lost. An erroneous account arose that Richard's bones had been thrown into the River Soar at the nearby Bow Bridge.

A search for Richard's body began in August 2012, initiated by the Looking for Richard project with the support of the Richard III Society. The archaeological excavation was led by the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, working in partnership with Leicester City Council. On the first day a human skeleton belonging to a man in his thirties was uncovered showing signs of severe injuries. The skeleton, which had several unusual physical features, most notably scoliosis, a severe curvature of the back, was exhumed to allow scientific analysis. Examination showed that the man had probably been killed either by a blow from a large bladed weapon, probably a halberd, which cut off the back of his skull and exposed the brain, or by a sword thrust that penetrated all the way through the brain. Other wounds on the skeleton had probably occurred after death as "humiliation injuries", inflicted as a form of posthumous revenge.

The age of the bones at death matched that of Richard when he was killed they were dated to about the period of his death and were mostly consistent with physical descriptions of the king. Preliminary DNA analysis showed that mitochondrial DNA extracted from the bones matched that of two matrilineal descendants, one 17th-generation and the other 19th-generation, of Richard's sister Anne of York. Taking these findings into account along with other historical, scientific and archaeological evidence, the University of Leicester announced on 4 February 2013 that it had concluded beyond reasonable doubt that the skeleton was that of Richard III.

As a condition of being allowed to disinter the skeleton, the archaeologists agreed that, if Richard were found, his remains would be reburied in Leicester Cathedral. A controversy arose as to whether an alternative reburial site, York Minster or Westminster Abbey, would be more suitable. A legal challenge confirmed there were no public law grounds for the courts to be involved in that decision. Reinterment took place in Leicester on 26 March 2015, during a televised memorial service held in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and senior members of other Christian denominations.

A Short History

Several figures play prominently into the story The Duke of Buckingham, Margaret Beaufort, Henry Tudor, and Elizabeth Woodville. Edward and Richard were Elizabeth Woodville’s sons, and she would not have wanted them harmed, although she might have arranged for them to be smuggled out of the country. There is not any evidence to that effect. She most likely harbored doubts that Richard had anything to with the boy’s disappearance as she released her daughters into his custody. No mother would release children to a known killer. Henry Tudor was exiled in Brittany and had not set foot in England in seventeen years. He wanted the throne, so he could have hatched a plot that would have removed the boys and placed blame on Richard.

The Duke of Buckingham was a close friend and advisor of Richard, who also was Constable of England. He was also the nephew of Margaret Beaufort and cousin to Henry Tudor. Margaret Beaufort was the mother of Henry Tudor, who, through her father, had a claim to the English throne. Margaret had spent years working on getting her son back to England and placed on the throne. She had everything to gain from the prince’s deaths. During Richard’s reign, Margaret was arrested and charged with treason. She managed to evade execution, being placed under house arrest in her husband’s care, and loss of her wealth and titles. Releasing Margaret to her husband was like giving the enemy more ammunition to shoot at your own troops. Margaret continued to scheme to bring her son back to England.

Richard III of England

Richard III of England was the king of England and he belonged to the royal family. At that time there were a lot of fights among people in order to gain power. These fights were for increasing the territory of a country and also among royal people in order to get more superior positions. Many good people in the royal family were killed and ruined in this race of getting crown and power. Richard III of England also got the power and crown by force and in the end it was taken from him by force.

Richard III of England has done different types of tasks during his short term kingdom. It is also said that Richard III of England was famous for killing his relatives. Many people say that he killed his nephews in order to remain in power and hold the crown for more years. He was not sure that his reign is not that long however he tried his best to remove all obstacles in his way so that he can hold power and crown for many years to come. His act of killing his nephews got a lot of fame and popularity and became a main cause of his popularity.

Richard III of England became king in the year of 1483 and he got the crown by the use of power. His kingdom continued till his death in 1485 during a fight. Duration of his kingdom was for only two years in which he tried his best to increase his power and increase the duration of his kingdom. He has also done a lot of tasks for poor people. He was trying to make lives easier for poor people. However he got the crown by force therefore he had many opponents.

At that time there were no specific rules for transfer of power among the royal families. Members in the royal families were using different methods in order to remove all the obstacles in the way to get power and crown. This lead to the killing of many people in royal families due to which an established legislation was made to make sure that the transfer of power could become steady and without issues.

Richard III of England died during battle of Bosworth. It is also said that he was attacked and stabbed in the head. He got many wounds in his skull due to which he died. An old era ended with the death of Richard III of England and a new era began.

Medical conditions
Richard III of England had some problems in his body. His spine was curved to one side due to which he was not able to stand normally like other people. His movements were not limited by his appearance was different from others due to this problem in his spine. However his medical conditions were not so severe, as he got the highest positions in the royal family. He tried to fight with his medical conditions and worked harder to gain more power in royal family. Researchers completed a detailed analysis of the body of Richard III of England and found these details which revealed some issues with his spine and physical many years after his death.

E ngland’s last Plantagenet King was laid to rest after 530 years. The only monarch since the Norman Conquest not to be buried in a royal tomb, King Richard III was interred with the full panoply of royal honors in Leicester Cathedral. For five centuries, his human remains lay unmarked, unnoticed and forgotten only yards across the cathedral yard under what was a civic parking lot.

British Heritage readers have been following the story with me since the remarkable discovery of Richard III’s bones by a University of Leicester Archaeological team in August 2012. The next spring we went up to North Yorkshire to tell the back-story of this controversial and much-maligned monarchy in his home base as Lord of the North.

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Originally a Roman settlement, Leicester evolved over the centuries from medieval county town to working class industrial center. It gained city status and a cathedral in the early 20th century. Today Leicester is a multi-cultural metropolis of 330,000 known for the diversity of its population and eight commonly-spoken languages. Leicester’s ethnic communities have united in pride and enthusiasm at the city’s newfound celebrity and the fame garnered by its university.
Since my first visit to interview the University of Leicester team who made the discovery of Richard’s bones years ago, the central city precincts surrounding Leicester Cathedral have been transformed with civic work in preparation for King Richard’s reburial and for the expected food of visitors from around the world to follow.

Visitor Center

Center stage in Leicester’s urban renewal is the new Richard III Visitor Center. Just across the beautifully landscaped pedestrian square from Leicester Cathedral, the center is brightly conceived and beautifully presented, recounting the story of Richard III’s life and death as well as the fate of his remains and their serendipitous, unlikely discovery and identification. All this leads to the starring gallery—built around and over the grave where Richard’s bones lay.

Richard III Visitor Center Leicester

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Finding the King

Finding the body of King Richard III goes down as one of the great archaeological discovery stories of all time. In addition, their identification solves one of the great mysteries of British history. The attention this story has received in the media and the public interest it has generated are well-deserved.

Philippa Langley and the Richard III Society that championed the dig deserve their bows as well. Richard Buckley, lead archaeologist on the project was given an OBE, and celebrity has come also to osteologist Jo Appleby and geneticist Turi King who dusted off and identified the skeleton as the last Yorkist king.

The Remains of King Richard III

Mystery remains

Finally, Richard III rests in his royal tomb in Leicester Cathedral. Leicester has a sparkling new center-city district. It also has what the tired east Midlands city lacked—a major new tourist attraction.

The benefits to Leicester will be ongoing, and much appreciated by its people. How ironic that the reviled monarch whose battle-hacked body was so unceremoniously dumped and ultimately forgotten in Leicester should in the end convey such bounty to the city.

While the buzz surrounding King Richard III inevitably declines, the controversies over his character, his reign and, most dramatically, his imputed complicity in the famed, unsolved murder in the Tower of the young princes (sons of his brother, King Edward IV) remain. Richard’s notoriety and celebrity will not be forgotten. The lynch pin of his reputation lies in that greatest of English murder mysteries.

Will it ever be solved? Thus far, despite many theories and arguments, the mysterious disappearance of Princes Edward (King Edward V) and Richard has evaded resolution. Historians concur that it may never be a closed case. Until then, Richard of York may have an appropriate royal tomb, but is not likely to rest in peace.

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Visiting Leicester

By train, it takes just over an hour with frequent service from London St. Pancras.
By car, allow closer to two hours drive from London. Take the M1 north to Junction 21, then follow the A5460 into the city center.

King Richard III

Richard III is perhaps most well-known now due to the discovery of his remains in a car park in Leicester.

He was however an important figure in England’s medieval monarchy: brother to Edward IV, he usurped his own nephew, Edward V and took the crown as his own, only to be killed two years later at the Battle of Bosworth, bringing an end to the infamous dynastic battle known as the War of the Roses.

His death marked a significant milestone for the monarchy, the last in a long line of king’s fighting for the House of York.

Born in October 1452 at Fotheringhay Castle, he was the eleventh child of Richard, Duke of York, and his wife, Cecily Neville.

As a child he fell under the influence of his cousin, the Earl of Warwick who would guide and tutor him in his training as a knight. The earl would later become known as “the Kingmaker” for his involvement in the power struggles emerging out of the War of the Roses.

Meanwhile, his father and his elder brother, Edmund had been killed at the Battle of Wakefield in December 1460, leaving Richard and his other brother George to be sent away to the continent.

As the War of the Roses initiated changing fortunes for both the Houses of York and Lancaster, Richard found himself returning to his homeland after a Yorkist victory was secured at the Battle of Towton.

With his father killed in battle, his older brother Edward assumed the crown and Richard attended his coronation on the 28th June 1461, witnessing his brother become King Edward IV of England, whilst Richard was given the title Duke of Gloucester.

With Edward now in power, the Earl of Warwick began to strategize, arranging for his daughters advantageous marriages. In time however, the relationship between Edward IV and Warwick the Kingmaker soured, leading George, who had married Warwick’s daughter Isabel, to side with his new father-in-law whilst Richard favoured his brother, the king, Edward IV.

Now the family divisions between brothers became clear: following Warwick’s allegiance to Margaret of Anjou, the queen of the House of Lancaster, Richard and Edward were forced to flee to the continent in October 1470.

They were welcomed to a safe haven in Burgundy by their sister, Margaret, who was married to the Duke of Burgundy.

Only a year later, Edward would return and reclaim his crown after the victories fought at Barnet and Tewkesbury. Young Richard would prove instrumental despite being only eighteen years of age.

Whilst not as robust as his brothers, his training as a knight held him in good stead and he became a strong fighting force.

He engaged in conflict at both Barnet and Tewkesbury, witnessing the downfall of Warwick the Kingmaker and his brother, and finally enacting defeat on the Lancastrian forces and restoring Edward to the throne.

With his brother restored as King Edward IV, Richard married Anne Neville, who also happened to be the youngest daughter of the Earl of Warwick. This was to be her second marriage, her first having ended at the Battle of Barnet as her husband, Edward of Westminster, a Lancastrian, had been killed in battle.

Richard III and his wife Anne Neville

Now married to Richard, this betrothal would secure Richard’s position as one of the greatest landowners in the country, controlling large swathes of the north of England. With such substantial financial gain came great responsibility. Richard once again rose to the occasion, handling the administration of the region as an intelligent tactician.

This was enhanced by his positive and fruitful Scottish campaign in 1482, proving himself as a leader and military figure.

Whilst carrying no official title from the region, his service as “Lord of the North” proved highly successful, demonstrating his ability to handle responsibilities separate from his monarchical brother who had a growing reputation for immorality.

Edward IV at this point was suffering from an increasingly poor reputation, with many seeing his court as dissolute and corrupt. As king he had many mistresses and had even had his brother, George, Duke of Clarence charged with treason and murdered in 1478.

Richard meanwhile was keen to distance himself from his brother’s unfavourable reputation whilst still remaining increasingly suspicious of Edward’s wife, Elizabeth Woodville and her extended relations.

Richard believed that Elizabeth held great sway over the king’s decisions, even suspecting her influence in the murder of his brother, George, Duke of Clarence.

In 1483, such a context of mistrust and suspicion reared its head when Edward IV unexpectedly died, leaving two sons and five daughters. His eldest son was the heir to the throne and was destined to become Edward V.

Edward had already made arrangements, entrusting his son’s welfare with Richard who was appointed as “Lord Protector”. This would mark the beginning of a power struggle between Richard and the Woodvilles over Edward V and his ascendancy to the throne.

The Woodvilles, including Earl Rivers, young Edward V’s uncle, had a strong influence on his upbringing and were keen to overturn Richard’s role as Protector and instead set up a Regency Council making Edward V king immediately, whilst the power remained with them.

For Richard, such influence from Elizabeth Woodville and her extended family was unacceptable and thus he hatched a plan that would secure the fate of the Yorkist throne with himself, whilst young Edward V who was only twelve years old, would become collateral damage.

In the coming weeks, in the lead up to Edward V’s coronation, Richard intercepted the royal party, forcing them to disperse and issuing the arrest of Earl Rivers and Edward’s eldest half-brother. Both ended up being executed.

With the help of the intervention of Richard, parliament announced that Edward and his younger siblings were illegitimate, leaving Richard as the new rightful heir to the throne.

Edward V, despite all protestations, was accompanied by Richard personally to the Tower of London, only to be later joined by his younger brother. The two boys, who became known as the “Princes in the Tower” were never seen again, presumed murdered. Richard had successfully usurped his nephew to become King of England in 1483.

The Princes in the Tower, Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York

Richard was crowned, alongside his wife Anne, on 6th July 1483, marking the beginning of a turbulent two year reign.

After only a year on the throne, his only son Edward died in July 1483, leaving Richard with no natural heirs and thus, opening up speculation and attempts to claim the throne.

Meanwhile, embroiled in the grief for her son, Queen Anne also passed away at the Palace of Westminster at only twenty-eight years of age.

Richard, having lost his son and heir, chose to nominate John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln as his successor. Such a nomination led the Lancastrian forces to choose their own representative for the succession: Henry Tudor.

In his two years as reigning monarch, Richard would have to face threats and challenges to his position as king, with Henry Tudor posing the most effective opposition, keen to bring an end to Richard’s reign and the House of York.

Another leading figure in revolt also included one of his former allies, Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham.

Only two months after his coronation, Richard faced a revolt by the Duke of Buckingham which, fortunately for the king, was easily suppressed.

Two years later however, Henry Tudor looked to pose a more serious threat, when he and his uncle Jasper Tudor arrived in south Wales with a large force made up of French troops.

This newly gathered army marched through the area, increasing momentum and gaining new recruits as they went.

Finally, the confrontation with Richard was set to play out on Bosworth Field in August 1485. This epic battle would finally bring an end to the ongoing dynastic battle which had defined this period of English history.

Richard was prepared to fight and hastily brought together a large army which intercepted Henry Tudor’s army near Market Bosworth.

The Battle of Bosworth

Another important figure in this battle was Henry’s stepfather, Lord Thomas Stanley who held the crucial power of deciding which side he would support. In the end he defected his support from Richard and changed his allegiance to Henry Tudor, taking with him around 7,000 fighters.

This was a critical moment for Richard as the battle would define his future as king.

Richard’s army still outnumbered Henry’s men and he chose to lead his forces under the command of the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Northumberland whilst Henry Tudor chose the experienced Earl of Oxford who subsequently forced Norfolk’s men back across the battlefield.

Northumberland would prove ineffectual as well, and sensing that action needed to be taken Richard charged with his men across the battlefield with the aim of killing his contender and declaring victory. Such a plan however sadly did not materialise for Richard who found himself surrounded by Lord Stanley and his men, resulting in his death on the battlefield.

Richard’s death marked the end of the House of York. Significantly he was also the last English king to die in battle.

Meanwhile, a new king and a new dynasty was going to make a name for itself: the Tudors.

Jessica Brain is a freelance writer specialising in history. Based in Kent and a lover of all things historical.

Rise and Fall of King Richard III

When King Edward IV died in 1483, his oldest son took power as Edward V — the new king was only 12 years old at the time. As his uncle, Richard III wrestled control from his nephew in May 1483. He had himself appointed the king&aposs lord protector, which allowed him to run the government.

Richard also set into motion other plans to ensure that he could usurp the crown. Both Edward V and his younger brother Richard were taken into Richard III&aposs custody. The two boys were imprisoned in the Tower of London where they spent the remainder of their days. Lord Hastings, a trusted adviser to King Edward IV, was executed on charges of treason. On July 6, 1483, Richard III officially became the country&aposs new king.

Despite his hard-fought efforts, Richard III only enjoyed a brief stint as monarch. He did make some attempts to ease tensions with the Lancastrians, allowing the relocation of Henry VI&aposs remains to St. George&aposs Chapel. He also sought to improve relations with Scotland by agreeing to a ceasefire. Despite his efforts, however, Richard III still found himself fighting hard against his adversaries to hold on to the crown. On August 22, 1485, he lost his life in the Battle of Bosworth he was defeated by Henry Tudor, who would later become King Henry VII.

Over the years, Richard III has been portrayed as a brutal, cold-hearted villain. Shakespeare wrote an entire play about this allegedly hunch-backed monarch: King Richard III. Since then, many famous actors have played him on stage and in films, including Laurence Olivier and Al Pacino.

Richard III: Discovery and identification

In August 2012, the University of Leicester in collaboration with the Richard III Society and Leicester City Council, began one of the most ambitious archaeological projects ever attempted: no less than a search for the lost grave of King Richard III. The last English king to die in battle.

Incredibly, the excavation uncovered not only the friary of Grey Friars but also a battle-scarred skeleton with spinal curvature. On 4 February 2013, the University announced to the world's press that these were the remains of King Richard III.

Read about the background to the search, the discovery and identification of the remains - and the implications for our understanding of history.

Our expertise: Solving the 500-year-old mystery of Richard III's remains

Overview of the Grey Friars project

Richard III’s body was buried with little ceremony in the church of the Franciscan friars in Leicester. The friary was dissolved and the grave lost until 2012.

Richard III and Leicester

Richard III visited Leicester often, both as a boy and as Duke of Gloucester. Learn more about his connections with the city.

Discovering the remains

More about the excavation to find the remains of Richard III - from pinpointing potential locations and the digging of the trenches, to locating the remains and preserving the grave.

7. He Trained To Be A Warrior

Richard III was born the 11th child of the Duke of York. Now he was the second brother of the King of England. That’s a big difference. Edward sent young Richard to live with his greatest ally: Richard Neville, the infamous Kingmaker who helped multiple men claim England’s crown during the Wars of the Roses. The Kingmaker was nearly as ruthless as Edward himself, and the King charged him with training Richard as a knight.

This time with the Kingmaker shaped the man Richard became—for more than one reason.

The White Queen (2013), BBC

Have we completely misinterpreted Shakespeare’s Richard III?

Many of Shakespeare's plays have been taken as works of historical fact, but we may have been deceived for the past 400 years – particularly in the case of Richard III. Shakespeare's original audience, argues Matthew Lewis, would have recognised the leading character as representing a more contemporary figure.

This competition is now closed

Published: August 22, 2020 at 3:00 am

William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of King Richard the Third is a masterpiece: the depiction of evil that dares us to like the villain and question, as we laugh along with his jokes, why we find such a man attractive.

The play is believed to have been written in around 1593 and its political context gives it a wider meaning. Queen Elizabeth I was ageing and obviously not going to produce an heir. The question of the succession grew like a weed, untended by all (at least in public), yet the identity of the next monarch was of huge importance to the entire country. Religious tensions ran high and the swings between the Protestant Edward VI, the Catholic Mary I and the Protestant Elizabeth I were still causing turmoil 60 years after Henry VIII’s reformation.

William Shakespeare is believed by some to have been a devout Catholic all of his life, hiding his faith and working for sponsors such as the earls of Essex and Southampton, whose sympathies were also with the old faith. Opposed to those keen for a return to Catholicism was the powerful Cecil family. William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, had been Elizabeth’s constant supporter and advisor throughout her reign and was, by the early 1590s, as old age crept up on him, paving the way for his son to take on the same role. The Cecils favoured a Protestant succession by James VI of Scotland. It is against this backdrop that Shakespeare wrote his play and his real villain may have been a very contemporary player.

The Tragedy of King Richard the Third is replete with demonstrable errors of fact, chronology and geography. The first edition reversed the locations of Northampton and Stony Stratford to allow Richard to ambush the party of Edward V (one of the princes in the Tower) party rather than have them travel beyond the meeting place. Early in the play Richard tells his audience “I’ll marry Warwick’s youngest daughter./ What, though I kill’d her husband and her father?’” Accounts of both the battle of Barnet (April 1471) and the battle of Tewkesbury (May 1471) make it almost certain neither Warwick nor Edward of Westminster was killed by Richard.

The ending of the play is also misinterpreted. The infamous “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!” is often mistaken for a cowardly plea to flee the field. Read in context, it is in fact Richard demanding a fresh horse to re-enter the fray and seek out Richmond (Henry Tudor). Even Shakespeare did not deny Richard his valiant end.

Shakespeare’s Richard delights in arranging the murder of his brother Clarence by their other brother Edward IV through trickery when in fact Edward’s execution of Clarence was believed by contemporaries to have driven a wedge between them that kept Richard away from Edward’s court. The seed of this misdirection is sown much earlier in the cycle of history plays too. In Henry VI, Part II Richard kills the Duke of Somerset at the battle of St Albans in 1455, when in fact he was just two-and-a-half years old.

The revelation at the beginning of the play that King Edward fears a prophesy that ‘G’ will disinherit his sons is perhaps another signpost to misdirection. Edward and Richard’s brother George, Duke of Clarence tells Richard “He hearkens after prophecies and dreams./ And from the cross-row plucks the letter G./ And says a wizard told him that by G/ His issue disinherited should be./ And, for my name of George begins with G./ It follows in his thought that I am he.”

George is therefore assumed to be the threat, ignoring the fact the Richard’s title, Duke of Gloucester, also marks him as a ‘G’. Before Clarence arrives, Richard appears to know of the prophesy and that George will be the target of Edward’s fear, suggesting that he had a hand in the trick and that a thin veil is being drawn over the obvious within the play. The true villain is slipping past unseen as signs are misread or ignored.

The language of the play’s famous opening soliloquy is interesting in the context of when it was written. In autumn 1592, Thomas Nashe’s play Summer’s Last Will and Testament was first performed in Croydon. Narrated by the ghost of Will Summer, Henry VIII’s famous court jester, it tells the story of the seasons and their adherents. Summer is king but lacks an heir, lamenting “Had I some issue to sit on my throne,/ My grief would die, death should not hear me grone”.

Summer adopts Autumn as his heir but Winter will then follow – and his rule is not to be looked forward to. When Richard tells us “Now is the winter of our discontent/ Made glorious summer by this sun of York” it is perhaps not, at least not only, a clever reference to Edward IV’s badge of the sunne in splendour.

Elizabeth I, great-granddaughter of Edward IV, could be the “sun of York”, and this might explain the use of “sun” rather than “son”. Using Nashe’s allegory, Elizabeth is made summer by her lack of an heir that allows winter, his real villain, in during the autumn of her reign. The very first word of the play might be a hint that Shakespeare expected his audience to understand that the relevance of the play is very much “Now”.

Richard was able to perform this role for Shakespeare because of his unique position as a figure who could be abused but who also provided the moral tale and political parallels the playwright needed. The Yorkist family of Edward IV were direct ancestors of Elizabeth I and attacking them would have been a very bad move. Richard stood outside this protection. By imbuing Richard with the deeds of his father at St Albans, there is a link between the actions and sins of father and son, the son eventually causing the catastrophic downfall of his house. Here, Shakespeare returns to the father and son team now leading England toward a disaster – the Cecils.

I suspect that Shakespeare meant his audience to recognise, in the play’s Richard III character, Robert Cecil, William’s son – and that in the 1590s they would very clearly have done so. Motley’s History of the Netherlands (published in 1888) described Robert’s appearance in 1588 as “A slight, crooked, hump-backed young gentleman, dwarfish in stature” and later remarked on the “massive dissimulation” that would “constitute a portion of his own character”. Robert Cecil had kyphosis – in Shakespeare’s crude parlance, a hunchback – and a reputation for dissimulation. I imagine Shakespeare’s first audience nudging each other as Richard hobbled onto the stage and whispering that it was plainly Robert Cecil.

The warnings of the play are clear: Richard upturns the natural order, supplanting a rightful heir for his own gain, and Shakespeare’s Catholic sponsors may well have viewed Cecil in the same light as he planned a Protestant succession. We almost like Richard, and we are supposed to. Elizabeth called Robert Cecil her “little imp” and showed him great favour. Richard tells us that he is “determined to prove a villain” and Shakespeare was warning his audience that Robert Cecil similarly used a veil of amiability to hide his dangerous intentions.

Robert Cecil got his Protestant succession. William Shakespeare became a legend. Richard III entered the collective consciousness as a villain. Perhaps it was by accident and the time has come to look more closely at the man rather than the myth.

Matthew Lewis is the author of Richard, Duke of York: King by Right (Amberley Publishing, 2016)

Watch the video: Richard II: The Original Royal Highness. Richard II. Real Royalty with Foxy Games


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