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Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Richard III of England


Richard was born on October 2, 1452 at Fotheringhay Castle, the twelfth of thirteen children of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville.

Late 16th-century portrait, housed in the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Young Richard was a sickly, stunted baby. He was bought up at Fotheringhay Castle and saw his parents only rarely. He grew up pious and cultured.

His father and elder brother Edmund, Earl of Rutland, were killed by their rival house the Lancastrians at the Battle of Wakefield on December 30, 1460. Richard, who was eight years old, and his brother George were sent by his mother, the Duchess of York, to the Low Countries.

They returned to England a few months later and participated in the coronation of Richard's eldest brother as King Edward IV in June 1461.

Richard spent much of his childhood at the 12th century Middleham Castle in Wensleydale, Yorkshire, under the tutelage of his cousin Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick (also known as Warwick the Kingmaker), who took care of his courtly education. He received instruction in Chivalry, Etiquette, Law, Latin, Mathematics, Music and Religion. Richard later made his married home.

The ruins of Middleham Castle By CJW 

Warwick was instrumental in deposing Henry VI and replacing him with Richard's eldest brother, Edward.

Richard was forced to flee overseas along with his older brother Edward IV in October 1470 after Warwick defected to the side of the former Lancastrian Queen Margaret of Anjou, and for a second time Richard was forced to seek refuge in the Low Countries.

Richard played crucial roles in the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury that resulted in Edward's restoration to the throne the following spring.


When Richard was living at Warwick's estate, he developed a deep affection for another child in the household, Warwick's daughter Anne.

Anne married Edward of Westminster, son of Henry VI. Following his death at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471, she disappears from the records for a while, her whereabouts unknown.

Richard is said to have found Anne working as a scullery maid in a London chophouse and "rescued" her; but this has never been substantiated by historians.

Following the decisive Yorkist victory over the Lancastrians at the Battle of Tewkesbury, Richard married the widowed Anne Neville on July 12, 1472 when she was 16-years-old.

Stained glass depiction of Richard and Anne Neville in Cardiff Castle

According to Shakespeare Richard III, our protagonist, then Richard Duke of Gloucester, proposed to the widowed Anne Neville as she accompanied the corpse of her husband through the streets. Even 500 years ago biopics did not adhere to the facts.

After he married Anne Neville, Richard returned to his favorite residence, Middleham where he led a life of a rich and powerful country Lord. His wife Anne's dowry made him the biggest landowner in England.

Anne bore Richard one son, Edward Plantagenet (also known as Edward of Middleham, 1473 – April 9, 1484). He died not long after being invested with the title of Prince of Wales.

Contemporary illumination (Rous Roll, 1483) of Richard III, Anne Neville & their son Edward

Richard had two illegitimate children as well, John of Gloucester and a daughter named Kathryn.)

The same year as Richard lost his son, Anne fell terminally ill. She died during an eclipse of the sun.
Meanwhile, Richard began to court his niece Elizabeth of York in preparation for his wife's death. The people were shocked, so Richard withdrew.


In 1470 Richard was appointed Chief Justice of Wales which meant he was virtually the Ruler of Wales.

A skilled and courageous soldier, Richard at first distinguished himself the same year when he suppressed a Welsh revolt and retook Cardigan and Carmarthen Castles.

When Edward mounted a swift and decisive campaign to regain the Crown through combat it is believed that his 18-year-old brother Richard was his principal lieutenant. Richard held the vanguard for Edward at the Battle of Tewkesbury deployed against the Lancastrian vanguard under the Duke of Somerset on May 4, 1471

Edward Prince of Wales fell in the battle of Tewksbury, which decimated the Lancastrian forces, ushering in years of Yorkist supremacy and the reign of King Edward IV. The Lancastrian king, Henry VI, who was a prisoner in the Tower of London, died or was murdered shortly after the battle.

In the early 1480s, war with Scotland was looming. Richard was placed in charge of a campaign in Scotland by his brother where he captured Edinburgh without the loss of a single man whereupon he sued for peace. Richard was widely acclaimed for the success of his campaign.

On the death of Edward IV, on April 9, 1483, his twelve-year-old son, Edward V, succeeded him. His uncle Richard was named Lord Protector of the Realm.

Richard claimed the throne from his nephew on the grounds that Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York were illegitimate. On June 25, 1483, an assembly of Lords and commoners endorsed the claims.


The following day, Richard III began his reign, and he was crowned on July 6, 1483. As King he promoted English interests abroad and involved himself in domestic reform.

Richard III placed the late king's young son Edward V in the Tower of London for his protection. Together with his brother, Richard, Duke of York, Edward was never seen again. It was suspected that Richard murdered them.

There were two major rebellions against Richard. The first, in October 1483, was led by staunch allies of Edward IV and Richard's former ally, Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, but the king swiftly put down the revolt.

The second in 1485 was more serious when Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, the head of the rival House of Lancaster, landed at Milford Haven, Wales. Richard hastened to meet him at Bosworth Field. The ensuing battle led to his defeat and death.

The name of Richard's horse at Bosworth was "White Surrey". The English king named him "The Wall".


Despite the callous way he treated the princes in the tower, Richard III was a pious man. The king held to the current general belief of his time that any sin, however terrible (even murdering princes), if bought before the Catholic sacrament of penance could be absolved.

Richard was reputed to have celebrated Mass at St James' Church in nearby Sutton Cheney before his downfall at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Then, before he went into battle, the king consulted prayers in a specially composed Book of Hours, a devotional manuscript.


William Shakespeare portrayed Richard as a limping hunchback but it is thought that his withered arm, limp, were complete fabrications. It is likely that apart from a deformed shoulder he was pretty normal looking, short, dark and stocky.

The earliest surviving portrait of Richard (c. 1520,

If Richard did have a disability, it may have been the result of a bout of polio as a small child. It is said that he used a crutch in early youth, but sometimes stubbornly refused it for fear of looking "weak", and had abandoned it entirely by age ten.

Alternatively other historians believe that during his adolescence, Richard developed idiopathic scoliosis, a medical condition in which a person's spine has a sideways curve. The spinal scoliosis probably did not cause any major physical deformity that could not be disguised by clothing.


In August 1485, Henry Tudor, the head of the House of Lancaster, landed in southern Wales with a small contingent of French troops and marched through his birthplace.  Richard hastened to meet him near the village of Market Bosworth, 12 miles west of Leicester.

According to local tradition in Leicester Richard went to see a seer in the town before heading off for the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485 to meet Henry Tudor's Lancastrian forces. She told him "where your spur should strike on the ride into battle, your head shall be broken on the return". On the ride into battle Richard spur struck the bridge stone of the Bow Bridge; as he was being carried back over the back of a horse his head struck the same stone and was broken open.

At the ensuing Battle of Bosworth Richard was abandoned by the Lords William Stanley and Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland, severely depleted his army's strength. His friends urged him to flee but the determined Richard fought on furiously. The king was forced into a swamp unhorsed and was hacked at by Welsh pikemen. As he fell mortally wounded, his crown was picked up and placed on Henry's head.

The death of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, an 18th-century illustration

Richard was the last English King to die on the battlefield.

The late king’s body was slung on a horse and taken to Leicester. It is said that Richard's body was dragged naked through the streets before being buried at Greyfriars Church, Leicester. Richard was the only king not to be buried in a tomb fit for a monarch since William the Conqueror.

Greyfriars church was demolished during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Richard's body was rediscovered in 2012 by archaeologists digging in what is now a car park.

Tudor succeeded Richard to become Henry VII, and cemented the succession by marrying the Yorkist heir, Elizabeth of York.

Richard's defeat at Bosworth Field was the last decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, marking the end of the Middle Ages in England.

He is the subject of the 1593 historical play Richard III by William Shakespeare. The famous fictional portrayal of him was as a physically deformed Machiavellian villain, committing numerous murders in order to claw his way to power.

In 1956 Shakespeare's Richard III was filmed with Laurence Olivier as the hunchbacked king and Clare Bloom played Lady Anne. The movie won a BAFTA for best film and Olivier won best actor.

In 1995 an updated version was filmed with Ian Mckellan as a Fascist ruler set in 1930s Britain. (Kirsten Scott-Thomas played Anne).

Scholars believe that the nursery rhyme “Humpty Dumpty” was originally written to mock a nobleman who fell from favor with Richard.

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