|The earliest surviving portrait of Richard (c. 1520, after a lost original), formerly belonging the Paston family (Society of Antiquaries, London).|
|Reign||26 June 1483 – 22 August 1485 (2 years, 57 days)|
|Coronation||6 July 1483|
|Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales|
|House||House of York|
|Father||Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York|
|Born||2 October 1452
Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire
|Died||22 August 1485 (aged 32)
Bosworth Field, Leicestershire
|Burial||Greyfriars (Franciscan Friary), Leicester|
Richard III (2 October 1452 – 22 August 1485) was King of England for two years, from 1483 until his death. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat at the Battle of Bosworth Field was the decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses and is sometimes regarded as the end of the Middle Ages in England. He is the central character of a well-known play by William Shakespeare.
When his brother Edward IV died in April 1483, Richard was named Lord protector of the realm for Edward's son and successor, the 12-year-old King Edward V. As the new king travelled to London from Ludlow, Richard met him and escorted him to London where he was lodged in the Tower. Edward V's brother Richard later joined him there.
A publicity campaign was mounted condemning Edward IV's marriage to the boys' mother, Elizabeth Woodville as invalid and making their children illegitimate and ineligible for the throne. On 25 June an assembly of lords and commoners endorsed these claims. The following day Richard III officially began his reign. He was crowned in July. The two young princes disappeared in August and there were a number of accusations that the boys were murdered by Richard.
There were two major rebellions against Richard. The first, in 1483, was led by staunch opponents of Edward IV and most notably Richard's ally, Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham. The revolt collapsed and Buckingham was executed at Salisbury near the Bull's Head Inn. In 1485 there was another rebellion against Richard, headed by Henry Tudor, 2nd Earl of Richmond (later King Henry VII) and his uncle Jasper. The rebels landed troops, comprised mainly of mercenaries, and Richard fell in the Battle of Bosworth Field, the last English king to die in battle.
Richard was born at Fotheringhay Castle, the eighth and youngest child, and fourth surviving son of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York (who was a strong claimant to the throne of King Henry VI) and Cecily Neville. Richard spent several influential years of his childhood at Middleham Castle in Wensleydale, under the tutelage of his cousin Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick (later known as the "Kingmaker" because of his role in the Wars of the Roses). While Richard was at Warwick's estate, he developed a close friendship with Francis Lovell, a friendship that would remain strong for the rest of his life. Another child in the household was Warwick's daughter Anne Neville, whom Richard would later marry.
At the time of the death of his father and older brother Edmund at the Battle of Wakefield, Richard, who was eight years old, was sent by his mother, the Duchess of York, to the Low Countries, beyond the reach of Henry VI's vengeful Queen, Margaret of Anjou. He was accompanied by his elder brother George (later Duke of Clarence). They returned to England following the defeat of the Lancastrians at the Battle of Towton, and participated in the coronation of Richard's eldest brother as King Edward IV. At this time, Richard was named Duke of Gloucester as well as being made a Knight of the Garter and a Knight of the Bath. Richard was then sent to Warwick's estate at Middleham for his knightly training. With some interruptions, Richard stayed at Middleham until early 1465, when he was 12.
Richard became involved in the rough politics of the Wars of the Roses at an early age. Edward appointed him the sole Commissioner of Array for the Western Counties in 1464, when he was 11. By the age of 17, he had an independent command.
At a second time in his youth Richard was forced to seek refuge in the Low Countries which were part of the realm of the Duchy of Burgundy. His sister Margaret had become the wife of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy in 1468. Richard along with his brother, the King, fled to Burgundy in October 1470 after Warwick defected to the side of Margaret of Anjou. Only 18 years old, Richard played crucial roles in two battles which resulted in Edward's restoration to the throne in spring 1471 — Barnet and Tewkesbury.
|House of York|
|Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke|
|Anne of York, Duchess of Exeter|
|Edmund, Earl of Rutland|
|Elizabeth of York, Duchess of Suffolk|
|Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy|
|George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence|
|Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales|
During the reign of Edward IV, Richard demonstrated his loyalty and skill as a military commander. He was rewarded with large estates in northern England, and appointed as Governor of the North, becoming the richest and most powerful noble in England. On 17 October 1469, he was made Constable of England. In November he replaced William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings as Chief Justice of North Wales. The following year, he was appointed Chief Steward and Chamberlain of South Wales. On 18 May 1471, Richard was named Great Chamberlain and Lord High Admiral of England. In contrast, their other surviving brother, George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence, fell out with Edward and was executed for treason.
Richard controlled the north of England until Edward IV's death. There, and especially in the city of York, he was regarded with much love and affection.. He raised the churches at Middleham and Barnard Castle to collegiate status. In 1482 Richard recaptured Berwick-upon-Tweed from the Scots, and his administration was regarded as fair and just.
On the death of Edward IV, on 9 April 1483, the late King's sons (Richard's nephews), Edward V, aged 12, and Richard, Duke of York, aged 9, were next in the order of succession. Richard was named Lord Protector of the young king and as such he quickly moved to keep the family of the Queen mother from exercising power. Elizabeth's brother Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers and others were arrested and taken to Pontefract Castle, where they were later executed under the accusation of having planning to assassinate the young king. Heeding the advice of his friend, Baron Hastings, he then took Edward and his younger brother to the Tower of London.
Shortly afterward, he issued a death sentence against Hastings, who had entered into a conspiracy with the Woodvilles against him, at the instigation of Hastings' mistress Jane Shore whose other lover was Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset. Hastings was beheaded on 13 June 1483 at the Tower of London, making his the first execution ever performed there. Hastings was not attainted, however, and Richard sealed an indenture which placed his widow Katherine directly under his protection.
On 22 June 1483, outside St. Paul's Cathedral, a statement was read out on behalf of Richard declaring that Edward IV's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was illegitimate and that, in consequence, Richard, not his nephew, was the rightful king.
Parliament then passed the Titulus Regius in support of Richard, on the evidence of a bishop who testified to having married Edward IV to Lady Eleanor Butler, who was still living when Edward married Elizabeth Woodville. On 6 July 1483, Richard was crowned at Westminster Abbey.
The young princes were never seen again. Although Richard III is widely believed to have killed Edward V and his brother, there is considerable controversy about the actual circumstances of the boys' deaths: see Princes in the Tower.
Richard and his wife Anne endowed King's College and Queens' College, Cambridge, and made grants to the church. He planned the establishment of a large chantry chapel in York Minster, with over one hundred priests.
On 22 August 1485, Richard met the outnumbered Lancastrian forces of Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was astride his white courser. The size of Richard's army has been estimated at 8,000, Henry's at 5,000, but exact numbers cannot be known. During the battle Richard was abandoned by Lord Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, Sir William Stanley, and Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland. The switching of sides by the Stanleys severely depleted the strength of Richard's army and had a material effect on the outcome of the battle. Also the death of John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, his close companion, appears to have had a demoralising effect on Richard and his men. Accounts note that Richard fought bravely and ably during the battle, unhorsing Sir John Cheney, a well-known jousting champion, killing Henry's standard bearer Sir William Brandon and nearly reaching Henry himself before being finally surrounded and killed. Tradition holds that his final words were "treason, treason, treason, treason, treason".
Polydore Vergil, Henry Tudor's official historian, would later record that "King Richard, alone, was killed fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies". Richard's naked body was then exposed, possibly in the collegiate foundation of the Annunciation of Our Lady, and hanged by Henry Tudor, now King Henry VII, before being buried at Greyfriars Church, Leicester. In 1495 Henry VII paid £50 for a marble and alabaster monument. According to one tradition, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries his body was thrown into the nearby River Soar, although other evidence suggests that a memorial stone was visible in 1612, in a garden built on the site of Greyfriars. The exact location is now lost due to over 500 years of subsequent development. There is currently a memorial plaque on the site of the Cathedral where he may have once been buried.
According to another tradition, Richard consulted a seer in the town of Leicester before the battle who foretold that "where your spur should strike on the ride into battle, your head shall be broken on the return." On the ride into battle his spur struck the bridge stone of the Bow Bridge; legend has it that, as his corpse was being carried from the battle over the back of a horse, his head struck the same stone and was broken open.
The Welsh accounts state that Sir Wyllyam Gardynyr killed King Richard III with a poleaxe. The Welsh account reads, "Richard’s horse was trapped in the marsh where he was slain by one of Rhys Thomas’ men, a commoner named Wyllyam Gardynyr."
Richard III was the last English king to be killed in battle. (Only one other was so killed, Harold Godwinson.)
Following the decisive Yorkist victory over the Lancastrians at the Battle of Tewkesbury, Richard had married the younger daughter of the Earl of Warwick, Anne Neville on 12 July 1472. Anne's first husband had been Edward of Westminster, son of Henry VI.
Richard and Anne had one son, Edward of Middleham, who died not long after being created Prince of Wales. Richard also had two acknowledged illegitimate children: John of Gloucester, also known as 'John of Pontefract', executed by King Henry VII, and a daughter Katherine (d. before 1487) who married William Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke in 1483. Michael Hicks and Josephine Wilkinson have suggested that Katharine's mother may have been Katherine Haute, on the basis of the grant of an annual payment of 100 shillings made to her in 1477. The Haute family was related to the Woodvilles through the marriage of Elizabeth Woodville's aunt, Joan Woodville to Sir William Haute. One of their children was Richard Haute, Controller of the Prince's Household. They also suggest that John's mother may have been Alice Burgh. Richard visited Pontefract from 1471, in April and October 1473, and in early March 1474 for a week. On 1 March 1474 he granted Alice Burgh £20 a year for life "for certain special causes and considerations". She later received another allowance, apparently for being engaged as nurse for Clarence's son, Edward of Warwick. Richard continued her annuity when he became king.
Both of his illegitimate children survived Richard, but seem to have died without issue. The mysterious Richard Plantagenet is also a possible illegitimate offspring of Richard III and is sometimes referred to as "Richard the Master- Builder".
At the time of his last stand against the Lancastrians, Richard was a widower without a legitimate son. After his son's death, he had initially named his nephew, Edward, Earl of Warwick, Clarence's young son and the nephew of Queen Anne Neville, as his heir. After Anne's death, Richard named as his heir another nephew, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, the son of his older sister Elizabeth. However, he was also negotiating with John II of Portugal to marry his sister, Joanna, a pious young woman who had already turned down several suitors because of her preference for the religious life.
Richard's death at Bosworth resulted in the end of the Plantagenet dynasty, which had ruled England since the succession of Henry II in 1154. The last male Plantagenet, Edward, Earl of Warwick (son of Richard III's brother Clarence) was executed by Henry VII in 1499.
Richard's Council of the North greatly improved conditions for Northern England, as commoners of that region were formerly without any substantial economic activity independent of London. Its descendant position was Secretary of State for the Northern Department.
Much that was previously considered fact about Richard III has been rejected by modern historians. For example, Richard was represented by Tudor writers as being physically deformed, which was regarded as evidence of an evil character. However, the withered arm, limp and crooked back of legend are nowadays believed to be fabrications; the questionable history attributed to Thomas More made a deep impression upon William Shakespeare, and was long taken as the authoritative history of events. Shakespeare made Richard the subject of his play Richard III, which portrayed him negatively.
The Richard III Society was established in the 20th century and has gathered considerable research material about his life and reign. Its aim is summed up by its patron, the present Richard, Duke of Gloucester:
"… the purpose and indeed the strength of the Richard III Society derive from the belief that the truth is more powerful than lies - a faith that even after all these centuries the truth is important. It is proof of our sense of civilised values that something as esoteric and as fragile as reputation is worth campaigning for."
The Society of Friends of King Richard III was also set up in the 20th century in order to rehabilitate Richard's reputation and to honour his memory. The society is based in the city of York, where following his death in 1485 it was proclaimed, "King Richard, late reigning mercifully over us, was.... piteously slain and murdered, to the great heaviness of this city."
Richard III was found not guilty in a mock trial presided over by three justices of the United States Supreme Court in 1997. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen G. Breyer, in a 3-0 decision, ruled that the prosecution had not met the burden of proof that "it was more likely than not" that the Princes in the Tower had been murdered; that the bones found in 1674 in the Tower were those of the princes; or that Richard III had ordered or was complicit in their deaths.
Novelists Horace Walpole, Josephine Tey and Valerie Anand are among writers who have argued that Richard III was innocent of death of the Princes. Sharon Kay Penman, in her historical novel The Sunne in Splendour, also portrays Richard III as a just and honest ruler and attributes the death of the Princes to the Duke of Buckingham. In the mystery novel The Murders of Richard III by Elizabeth Peters (1974) the central plot revolves around the debate whether Richard III was guilty of these as well as other crimes. A sympathetic portrayal of Richard III is given in The Founding, the first volume in The Morland Dynasty, a series of historical novels by author Cynthia Harrod-Eagles.
Perhaps the best known film adaptation of Shakespeare's play Richard III is the 1955 version directed and produced by Sir Laurence Olivier, who also played the lead role. Also notable is the 1995 film version starring Sir Ian McKellen, set in a fictional 1930s fascist England, and Looking for Richard, a 1996 documentary film directed by Al Pacino, who plays the title character as well as himself. In the BBC series based on Shakespeare's history plays, An Age of Kings, Paul Daneman played Richard.
In spite of having died at the age of 32, Richard is often depicted as being considerably older. Basil Rathbone and Peter Cook were both 46 when they played him, Laurence Olivier was 48 (in his 1955 film), Vincent Price was 51, Ian McKellen was 56, and Pacino also 56, in his 1996 film (although Pacino was 39 when he played him on Broadway in 1979 and Olivier was 37 when he played him on-stage in 1944). Ron Cook, then 35, in the 1983 BBC Shakespeare production of the play, was closest in age, and bore some facial resemblance to the Society of Antiquaries portrait.
In a play within a play in Neil Simon's 1977 film The Goodbye Girl, Richard Dreyfuss reluctantly portrays Richard as overtly homosexual at the insistence of an avant-garde director. Dreyfuss' performance won him the 1978 Academy Award for Best Actor.
In the television comedy series The Black Adder, Richard III is portrayed by Peter Cook in an alternative version of history as a doting, kindly man who treats the princes in the tower with affection. He is unintentionally killed by Edmund, the titular "Black Adder" (Rowan Atkinson). His death leads, not to the crowning of Henry Tudor, but to the rule of Richard IV, who in the television series has grown up to be Edmund's father.
In March-April 2002, actor-director Kenneth Branagh starred at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield as Richard III.
On 1 November 1461, Richard gained the title of Duke of Gloucester; sometime before 4 February 1466, he was invested as a Knight of the Garter. Following the death of King Edward IV, he was made Lord Protector of England. Richard held this office from 30 April 1483 to 26 June 1483 when he made himself king of the realm. As King of England, Richard was styled Ricardus Tertius, Rex Angliae et Franciae et Dominus Hiberniae.
Informally, he may have been known as "Dickon", according to a sixteenth-century legend of a note, warning of treachery, that was sent to the Duke of Norfolk on the eve of Bosworth: "Jack of Norffolke be not to bolde,/For Dyckon thy maister is bought and solde". 
As Duke of Gloucester, Richard had use of the coat of arms of the kingdom, differenced by a label argent of three points ermine, on each point canton gules. As sovereign, he had use of the arms of the kingdom undifferenced. His motto was "Loyaulte me lie," "Loyalty binds me"; and his personal device was a white boar.
Shield as King of England
|Ancestors of Richard III of England|
Source material on all aspects of Richard's reign is neatly and impartially brought together by Keith Dockray in Richard III: A Reader in History (Sutton, 1988).
Richard III of England
Cadet branch of the House of PlantagenetBorn: 2 October 1452 Died: 22 August 1485
|King of England
Lord of Ireland
1483 – 1485
The Earl of Kent
|Lord High Admiral
1462 – 1470
The Earl of Warwick
The Earl of Warwick
|Lord High Admiral
1471 – 1483
The Duke of Norfolk
|Peerage of England|
|New creation||Duke of Gloucester
1461 – 1483
|Merged in crown|
Richard III (Richard of York, Duke of Gloucester, 1452-10-02 - 1485-08-22) was a king of England during the Wars of the Roses. A well known fictional account of his short reign is depicted in William Shakespeare's play Richard III.
Sir I say I pray you that ye fail me not at this time in my great need, as ye will that I show you my good lordship in that matter that ye labour to me for.
My Lord Nevill, I recommend me to you as heartily as I can; and as ever ye love me and your own weal and security, and this realm, that ye come to me with that ye may take, defensibly arrayed, in all the haste that is possible, and that ye give credence to Richard Ratcliffe, this bearer, whom I now do send to you, instructed with all my mind and intent.
And, my Lord, do me now good service, as ye have always before done, and I trust now so to remember you as shall be the making of you and yours. And God send you good fortunes.
Written at London, 11th day of June, with the hand of your heartily loving cousin and master,
I have seen the letters you have sent me by Buckingham herald, whereby I understand that you want my friendship in good form and manner, which contents me well enough; for I have no intention of breaking such truces as have previously been concluded between the late King of most noble memory, my brother, and you for as long as they still have to run. Nevertheless, the merchants of this my kingdom of England, seeing the great provocation your subjects have given them in seizing ships and merchandise and other goods, are fearful of venturing to go to Bordeaux and other places under your rule until they are assured by you that they can surely and safely carry on trade in all the places subject to your sway, according to the rights established by the aforesaid truces. Therefore, in order that my subjects and merchants may not find themselves deceived as a result of this present ambiguous situation, I pray you that by my servant this bearer, one of the grooms of my stable, you will let me know in writing your full intentions, at the same time informing me if there is anything I can do for you in order that I may do it with a good heart. And farewell to you, Monsieur mon cousin.
|King Richard III of England|
|By the Grace of God, King of England|
and France and Lord of Ireland
20 June 1483 - 22 August 14852 yrs 2 months 2 days
|Coronation||6 July 1483|
|Born||2 October 1452|
|Birthplace||Fotheringay Castle, England|
|Died||22 August 1485|
|Place of death||Bosworth Field, Leicestershire, England|
Greyfriars Abbey, Leicestershire, England|
body was dug up and lost during
the Dissolution of the Monasteries
|Consort||Anne Neville (c. 1456-1485)|
Edward, Prince of Wales|
|Father||Richard, Duke of York (1411-1460)|
|Mother||Cecily Neville (1415-1495)|
Richard was the youngest son of Richard, Duke of York. He had three elder brothers, Edward, Edmund and George. Richard, Duke of York, and his second son, Edmund, were both killed in battle during the Wars of the Roses. The eldest son, Edward, was a very good soldier, and won the throne of England in battle against the reigning king, King Henry VI. Edward then became King Edward IV of England and his two brothers, George and Richard, became very powerful men.
Richard married Anne Neville, whose father had once been a friend of the family. Richard and Anne had known each other since they were children, but Anne had been taken to France, where she had married the Prince of Wales, the son of Henry VI. When the Prince of Wales was killed in battle, Anne became a widow, and soon she was married to Richard, even though he had been her husband's enemy. Richard and Anne lived at Middleham Castle in the north of England. They had one son, who was named Edward after Richard's brother, King Edward. Richard quarrelled frequently with his brother George, who was married to Anne's sister, Isabel. George was a trouble-maker, and he made his brother, King Edward, so angry that he was put in prison, where he died.
King Edward married a woman called Elizabeth Woodville, who had a big family. Soon her family were very rich, and were taking all the powerful positions in the country. Edward and Elizabeth had several children, including two sons, who were named Edward and Richard.
When King Edward died, his elder son Edward should have been the next king, but he was still a boy. Richard had been asked by his brother the king to look after the two boys. He was worried that the new young king would not be able to rule the country properly. He was also worried that the Woodville family would soon be telling the king what to do and ruling the country for themselves.
Richard took the throne from his nephew, Edward V, and sent Edward and his brother to the Tower of London. They were both probably murdered. At the time, many people believed that King Richard had ordered them to be killed, but no one is really sure what happened to them.
There has been a lot of discussion, over many years, about whether Richard III was a good king or a bad king. During his reign, which lasted only two years, he was very popular in parts of the country, especially the north of England (where he was born). However, there were enough people who hated him to make sure that his enemies were able to raise a big army against him and defeat him in battle.