Richard III of England
|The earliest surviving portrait of Richard (c. 1520, after a lost original), formerly belonging to the Paston family
(Society of Antiquaries, London)
|Reign||26 June 1483 – 22 August 1485|
|Coronation||6 July 1483|
|House||House of York|
|Father||Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York|
|Mother||Cecily Neville, Duchess of York|
2 October 1452|
Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire
|Died||22 August 1485
Bosworth Field, Leicestershire
|Burial||Greyfriars, Leicester (reburial proposed to be Leicester Cathedral in 2014)|
|House of York|
|Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke|
Richard III (2 October 1452 – 22 August 1485) was King of England for two years, from 1483 until his death in 1485 in the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat at Bosworth Field, the last decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, symbolises the end of the Middle Ages in England. He is the subject of the play Richard III 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 young king travelled to London from Ludlow, Richard met and escorted him to lodgings in the Tower of London where Edward V's brother Richard joined him shortly afterwards. Arrangements were made for Edward's coronation on 22 June 1483, but before the young king could be crowned, his father's marriage to his mother Elizabeth Woodville was declared invalid, making their children illegitimate and ineligible for the throne. On 25 June, an assembly of lords and commoners endorsed the claims. The following day, Richard III began his reign, and he was crowned on 6 July 1483. The young princes were not seen in public after August, and a number of accusations circulated that the boys had been murdered on Richard's orders, giving rise to the legend of the Princes in the Tower.
There were two major rebellions against Richard. The first, in October 1483, was led by staunch allies of Edward IV and also by Richard's former ally, Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, his first cousin once removed. The revolt collapsed and Stafford was executed at Salisbury near the Bull's Head Inn. In August 1485, another rebellion against Richard was led by Henry Tudor and his uncle, Jasper Tudor. Henry Tudor landed in southern Wales with a small contingent of French troops, and then marched through his birthplace, Pembrokeshire, recruiting more soldiers. Henry's force engaged Richard's army and defeated it at the Battle of Bosworth Field in Leicestershire. Richard was struck down in this conflict, making him the last English king to die in battle as well as the only one to have been killed on home soil since Harold II was killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
Richard III's remains received burial without pomp, but the original tomb is believed to have been destroyed during the Reformation, and the remains were lost for more than five centuries. In 2012, an archaeological excavation was conducted on a city council car park using ground-penetrating radar on the site once occupied by Greyfriars, Leicester. The University of Leicester confirmed on 4 February 2013 that a skeleton found in the excavation was, beyond reasonable doubt, that of Richard III. This conclusion was based on a combination of evidence from radiocarbon dating, comparison with contemporary reports of his appearance, and a comparison of his mitochondrial DNA with that of two matrilineal descendants of Richard III's eldest sister, Anne of York.
- 1 Childhood
- 2 Marriage and family relationships
- 3 Reign of Edward IV
- 4 Accession
- 5 Rebellion of 1483
- 6 Death at the Battle of Bosworth Field
- 7 Succession
- 8 Legacy
- 9 Reputation
- 10 Discovery of remains
- 11 Titles, styles and honours
- 12 Arms
- 13 Ancestry
- 14 See also
- 15 References
- 16 Bibliography
- 17 Further reading
- 18 External links
Richard was born at Fotheringhay Castle, the twelfth of the thirteen children of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York (a strong claimant to the throne of King Henry VI), and Cecily Neville. Richard spent several years of his childhood at Middleham Castle in Wensleydale, Yorkshire, 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, which 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, Earl of Rutland, at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460, Richard, who was eight years old, was sent by his mother, the Duchess of York, to the Low Countries, 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 in 1461. 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 twelve. During his adolescence, he developed idiopathic scoliosis.
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 eleven. By the age of seventeen, he had an independent command.
Richard, along with his brother Edward the King, fled to Burgundy in October 1470 after Warwick defected to the side of Margaret of Anjou. So, for a second time, Richard was forced to seek refuge in the Low Countries, which were then part of the realm of the Duchy of Burgundy; in 1468, Richard's sister Margaret had become the wife of Charles the Bold, the Duke of Burgundy, and the brothers could expect a welcome there. Although only 18 years old, Richard played crucial roles in the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury that resulted in Edward's restoration to the throne in spring 1471.
Marriage and family relationships
Following a decisive Yorkist victory over the Lancastrians at the Battle of Tewkesbury, Richard married Anne Neville, the younger daughter of the Earl of Warwick, on 12 July 1472. Anne's first husband was Edward of Westminster, son of Henry VI, who died at Tewkesbury. Richard and Anne had first met when he was taken into her father's household at Middleham Castle on the death of his own father in 1460. Richard's marriage plans brought him into conflict with his brother George: John Paston’s letter of 17 February 1472 makes it clear that George was not happy about the marriage but grudgingly accepted it on the basis that "he may well have my Lady his sister-in-law, but they shall part no livelihood". The reason was the inheritance Anne shared with her elder sister Isabel, whom George had married in 1469. It was not only the earldom that was at stake; Richard Neville had inherited it as a result of his marriage to Anne de Beauchamp, who was still alive (and outlived both her daughters) and was technically the owner of the substantial Beauchamp estates, her own father having left no male heirs.
The Croyland Chronicle records that Richard agreed to a pre-nuptial contract in the following terms: "the marriage of the Duke of Gloucester with Anne before-named was to take place, and he was to have such and so much of the earl's lands as should be agreed upon between them through the mediation of arbitrators; while all the rest were to remain in the possession of the Duke of Clarence".
The date of Paston’s letter suggests the marriage was still being negotiated in February 1472, and the requisite Papal dispensation was not obtained until 22 April. It has been suggested that the terms of the dispensation deliberately understated the degrees of consanguinity between the couple, and the marriage was therefore illegal.
In June 1473, Richard persuaded his mother-in-law to leave sanctuary and come to live under his protection at Middleham. Later in the year, under the terms of the 1473 Act of Resumption, George lost some of the property he held under royal grant, and made no secret of his displeasure. John Paston's letter of November 1473 says that the king planned to put both his younger brothers in their place by acting as "a stifler between them".
Early in 1474, Parliament assembled and King Edward attempted to reconcile his brothers by stating that both men, and their wives, would enjoy the Warwick inheritance just as if the Countess of Warwick "was naturally dead", but at the same time it was specified that, in the event of a divorce, Richard would continue to own Anne's property. The following year, Richard was rewarded with all the Neville lands in the north of England, at the expense of Anne's cousin, George Neville. From this point, George seems to have fallen steadily out of King Edward's favour, his discontent coming to a head in 1477 when, following Isabel's death, he was denied the opportunity to marry Mary of Burgundy, the stepdaughter of his sister Margaret, even though Margaret approved the proposed match. There is no evidence of Richard's involvement in George's subsequent conviction and execution on a charge of treason.
Reign of Edward IV
Estates and titles
Richard was granted the dukedom of Gloucester on 1 November 1461, and on 12 August the next year was awarded large estates in northern England, including the Lordships of Richmond in Yorkshire, and Pembroke in Wales. He gained the forfeited lands of the Lancastrian de Vere, Earl of Oxford, in East Anglia. In 1462, on his birthday, he was made Constable of Gloucester and Corfe Castles and appointed 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 Wales. On 18 May 1471, Richard was named Great Chamberlain and Lord High Admiral of England. Other positions followed: High Sheriff of Cumberland for life, Lieutenant of the North and Commander-in Chief against the Scots and hereditary Warden of the West Marches. Two months later, on 14 July, he gained the Lordships of the strongholds Sheriff Hutton and Middleham in Yorkshire and Penrith in Cumberland, which had belonged to Warwick the Kingmaker.
Exile and return
During the latter part of the reign of Edward IV, Richard demonstrated his loyalty, and his skill as a military commander. Following the Earl of Warwick's rebellion of 1470, in which he made peace with Margaret of Anjou and promised the restoration of Henry VI to the English throne, Gloucester, William, Lord Hastings and Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers escaped capture at Olney by Warwick's brother, Lord Montagu. On 2 October they sailed from King's Lynn in two ships; Edward landed at Marsdiep and Gloucester at Zeeland. It is said that, having left England in such haste as to possess almost nothing, Edward was forced to pay their passage with his fur cloak; certainly Gloucester borrowed three pounds from Zeeland's town-bailiff. They were attainted by Warwick's only Parliament on 26 November. They resided in Bruges with Louis de Gruthuse, who had been the Burgundian Ambassador to Edward's court, but it was not until Louis XI of France declared war on Burgundy that Charles, Duke of Burgundy, assisted their return, providing 36 ships and 1200 men. They departed Flushing for England on 11 March 1471. Storms prevented them from landing in Yorkist-sympathetic East Anglia and on 14 March they ran ashore at Holderness. The town of Hull refused him entry, and Edward gained entry to York by using the same claim as Henry of Bolingbroke had before deposing Richard II in 1399; viz, that he was merely reclaiming the Dukedom of York rather than the crown.
1471 military campaign
Once Edward had regained the support of Clarence, he mounted a swift and decisive campaign to regain the Crown through combat; it is believed that Gloucester was his principal lieutenant; some of the king's earliest support came from members of Gloucester's affinity, Sir James Harrington and William Parr, who brought 600 men-at-arms to them at Doncaster. He may have led the vanguard at the Battle of Barnet, in his first command, on 14 April 1471, where he successfully outflanked the Duke of Exeter's wing, although the degree to which his command was fundamental may have been exaggerated. That his personal household sustained losses indicates he was in the thick of the fighting. A contemporary source is clear about his holding the vanguard for Edward at Tewkesbury, deployed against the Lancastrian vanguard under the Duke of Somerset on 4 May, and his role, as Constable of England, sitting alongside John Howard as Earl Marshal, in the trial and sentencing of leading Lancastrians captured after the battle.
Council of the North
Richard controlled the north of England until Edward IV's death. There, and especially in the city of York, he was highly regarded. Edward IV set up the Council of the North as an administrative body in 1472 to improve government control and economic prosperity and benefit the whole of Northern England, not necessarily with the intention of making Gloucester the Lord of the North as has been suggested by Kendall and later historians; indeed 'instead of allowing his brother the Duke of Gloucester carte blanche, [Edward] restricted his influence by using his own agent, Sir William Parr.' Richard served as its first Lord President from 1472 until his accession to the throne. On his accession, he made his nephew John de la Pole, 1st Earl of Lincoln, president and formally institutionalised it as an off-shoot of the Royal Council; all its letters and judgements were issued on behalf of the king and in his name. The council had a budget of 2,000 marks per annum (approximately £1,320) and had issued "Regulations" by July of that year: councillors to act impartially and declare vested interests, and to meet at least every three months. Its main focus of operations was Yorkshire and the north-east, and its primary responsibilities were land disputes, keeping of the king's peace, and punishing lawbreakers.
War with Scotland
Gloucester's increasing role in the north from the mid-1470s to some extent explains his withdrawal from the Royal Court. War with Scotland was looming by 1480. On 12 May that year he was appointed Lieutenant-General of the North (a position created for the occasion) as fears of a Scottish invasion grew. Louis XI of France had attempted to negotiate a military alliance with Scotland (in the tradition of the "Auld Alliance"), with the aim of attacking England, according to a contemporary French chronicler. Gloucester had the authority to summon the Border Levies and issue Commissions of Array to repel the Border raids. Together with the Earl of Northumberland he launched counter-raids, and when the king and council formally declared war in November 1480, he was granted £10,000 for wages. The king failed to arrive to lead the English army and the result was intermittent skirmishing until early 1482. Gloucester witnessed the treaty with James, Duke of Albany, brother of the Scottish king James III. Northumberland, Stanley, Dorset, Sir Edward Woodvillle, and Gloucester with approximately 20,000 men took the town of Berwick almost immediately. The castle held until 24 August 1482, when Richard recaptured Berwick-upon-Tweed from the Kingdom of Scotland. Although it is debatable whether the English victory was due more to internal Scottish divisions rather than any outstanding military prowess by Gloucester, it was the last time that the Royal Burgh changed hands between the two realms.
On the death of Edward IV, on 9 April 1483, his twelve-year-old son, Edward V, succeeded him. Richard was named Lord Protector of the young king and moved to keep the queen's family from exercising power. The Duke of Buckingham met him with an armed escort at Northampton. Elizabeth's brother Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, and others were arrested and taken to Pontefract Castle, where they were later executed, without trial but after a tribunal before Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland, after being accused of planning to assassinate Richard. Baron Hastings had advised Richard to take Edward and Edward's younger brother, nine-year-old Richard, Duke of York, to the Tower of London, and Richard did so.
At a council meeting on 13 June at the Tower of London, Richard accused Hastings and others of having conspired against him with the Woodvilles, with Jane Shore, lover to both Hastings and Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset, acting as a go-between. Hastings was summarily executed, while others were arrested. Hastings was not attainted and Richard sealed an indenture that placed Hastings' widow Katherine directly under his own protection. John Morton, Bishop of Ely, one of those arrested, was released into the custody of Buckingham before the latter's rebellion.
A clergyman is said to have informed Richard that Edward IV's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was invalid because of Edward's earlier union with Eleanor Butler, making Edward V and his siblings illegitimate. The identity of the informant is known only through the Mémoires of French diplomat Philippe de Commines as Robert Stillington, the Bishop of Bath and Wells. On 22 June 1483, a sermon was preached outside Old St. Paul's Cathedral declaring Edward's children bastards and Richard the rightful king. Shortly after, the citizens of London, both nobles and commons, convened and drew up a petition asking Richard to assume the throne. He accepted on 26 June and was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 6 July 1483. His title to the throne was confirmed by Parliament in January 1484 by the document Titulus Regius.
The princes, presumably still lodged in the Tower of London, the Royal Residence, disappeared from sight. Although Richard III has been accused of having Edward and his brother killed, there is debate about their actual fate.
Richard and his wife Anne endowed King's College and Queens' College at Cambridge University, and made grants to the church. He planned the establishment of a large chantry chapel in York Minster, with over one hundred priests. Richard also founded the College of Arms.
Rebellion of 1483
In 1483, a conspiracy arose among a number of disaffected gentry, many of whom were supporters of Edward IV. The conspiracy was led by Richard's former ally Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham. They planned to depose Richard III and place Edward V back on the throne. When rumours arose that Edward and his brother were dead, Buckingham intervened, proposing that Henry Tudor should return from exile, take the throne and marry Elizabeth of York, older sister of the Tower Princes. For his part, Buckingham raised a substantial force from his estates in Wales and the Marches. Henry, in exile in Brittany, enjoyed the support of the Breton prime-minister Pierre Landais, who hoped Buckingham's victory would cement an alliance between Brittany and England.
Henry Tudor's ships ran into a storm and had to return to Brittany. Buckingham's army was troubled by the same storm and deserted when Richard's forces came against them. Buckingham tried to escape in disguise, but was turned in for the bounty Richard had put on his head. He was convicted of treason and beheaded in Salisbury on 2 November. His widow, Catherine Woodville, would later marry Jasper Tudor, the uncle of Henry Tudor, who was in the process of organising another rebellion.
Richard made overtures to Landais, offering military support for Landais's weak regime under Duke Francis II of Brittany in exchange for Henry. Henry fled to Paris, where he secured support from the French regent Anne of Beaujeu, who supplied troops for an invasion in 1485. The French Government, recalling Gloucester's effective disowning of the Treaty of Picquigny and refusal to accept the accompanying French pension, would not have welcomed the accession of one known to be unfriendly to France.
Death at the Battle of Bosworth Field
On 22 August 1485, Richard met the outnumbered forces of Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Richard rode a white courser. The size of Richard's army has been estimated at 8,000, Henry's at 5,000, but exact numbers are not known. The traditional view of the king's famous cries of "Treason!" before falling was that during the battle Richard was abandoned by Baron Stanley (made Earl of Derby in October), Sir William Stanley, and Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland. However, the role of Northumberland is unclear; his position was with the reserve — behind the king's line — and he could not easily have moved forward without a general royal advance, which did not take place. Despite his apparent affiliation with Richard, Baron Stanley's wife, Lady Margaret Beaufort, was Henry Tudor's mother. Switching sides by the Stanleys severely depleted the strength of Richard's army and affected the outcome of the battle. The death of John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, his close companion, had a demoralising effect on Richard and his men. Perhaps in realisation of its implications, Richard led an impromptu cavalry charge deep into the enemy ranks in an attempt to end the battle quickly by striking at Henry Tudor himself.
Accounts note that King Richard fought bravely and ably during this manoeuvre, unhorsing Sir John Cheyne, a well-known jousting champion, killing Henry's standard bearer Sir William Brandon and coming within a sword's length of Henry Tudor before being surrounded by Sir William Stanley's men and killed. The Burgundian chronicler Jean Molinet says that a Welshman struck the death-blow with a halberd while Richard's horse was stuck in the marshy ground. It was said that the blows were so violent that the king's helmet was driven into his skull. The contemporary Welsh poet Guto'r Glyn implies the leading Welsh Lancastrian Rhys ap Thomas, or one of his men, killed the king, writing that he "killed the boar, shaved his head". The identification in 2013 of King Richard's body shows that the skeleton had 10 wounds, eight of them to the head, clearly inflicted in battle and suggesting he had lost his helmet. The skull showed that a blade had hacked away part of the rear of the skull. King Richard III was the last English king to be killed in battle.
Polydore Vergil, Henry Tudor's official historian, recorded 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, before being buried at Greyfriars Church in Leicester. In 1495, Henry VII paid £50 for a marble and alabaster monument. According to a discredited tradition, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, his body was thrown into the 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 was then lost, owing to more than 400 years of subsequent development, until archaeological investigations in 2012 (see the Discovery of remains section) revealed the site of the garden and Greyfriars church. There is a memorial ledger stone in the choir of the cathedral and a stone plaque on the bridge where tradition had suggested his remains were thrown into the river.
According to another tradition, Richard consulted a seer in 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 Bow Bridge; legend states that as his corpse was carried from the battle over the back of a horse, his head struck the same stone and was broken open.
Richard and Anne had one son, born in 1473, Edward of Middleham, who died in April 1484 not long after being created Prince of Wales. Richard also had two acknowledged illegitimate children: John of Gloucester, also known as "John of Pontefract", and a daughter Katherine who married William Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, in 1484. Michael Hicks and Josephine Wilkinson have suggested that Katherine'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. Their daughter, Alice, married Sir John Fogge; they were ancestors to queen consort Catherine Parr, sixth wife of King Henry VIII. 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 Richard's illegitimate children survived him, but they seem to have died without issue. John may have been executed in 1499, though no record of this exists, beyond an assertion by George Buck over a century later. Katherine apparently died before her cousin Elizabeth of York's coronation on 25 November 1487. The mysterious Richard Plantagenet is also a possible illegitimate child of Richard III and is sometimes referred to as "Richard the Master-Builder". He died in 1550.
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, however, Richard named 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 Council of the North, derived from his ducal council, 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.
In December 1483, Richard instituted what later became known as the Court of Requests, a court to which poor people who could not afford legal representation could apply for their grievances to be heard. He also introduced bail in January 1484, to protect suspected felons from imprisonment before trial and to protect their property from seizure during that time. He founded the College of Arms in 1484, he banned restrictions on the printing and sale of books, and he ordered the translation of the written Laws and Statutes from the traditional French into English.
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 legitimate male Plantagenet, Edward, Earl of Warwick (son of Richard III's brother Clarence), was executed by Henry VII in 1499. However, a direct but illegitimate male line still exists today, with the current Duke of Beaufort.
In 1834, Richard Lawrence, an English immigrant in America, came under the delusion that he was Richard III and that the US government owed him a large sum of money. Lawrence would later attempt but fail to assassinate US President Andrew Jackson.
There are numerous contemporary, or near-contemporary, sources of information about the reign of Richard III. These include the Croyland Chronicle, Commines' Mémoires, the report of Dominic Mancini, the Paston Letters, the Chronicles of Robert Fabyan and numerous court and official records. However, the debate about Richard's true character and motives continues, both because of the subjectivity of many of the written sources, reflecting the generally partisan nature of writers of this period, and because of the fact that none was written by men with an intimate knowledge of Richard, even if they had met him in person.
During Richard's reign, the historian John Rous praised him as a "good lord" who punished "oppressors of the commons", adding that he had "a great heart". After his death, Richard's image was tarnished by propaganda fostered by his Tudor successors (who sought to legitimise their claim to the throne), culminating in the famous portrayal of him in Shakespeare's play Richard III as a physically deformed machiavellian villain, albeit courageous and witty, cheerfully committing numerous murders in order to claw his way to power. Rous himself, in his History of the Kings of England, written during Henry VII's reign, initiated the process. He reversed his earlier position, and now portrayed Richard as a freakish individual who was born with teeth and shoulder-length hair after having been in his mother's womb for two years. His body was stunted and distorted, with one shoulder higher than the other, and he was "slight in body and weak in strength". Rous also attributes the murder of Henry VI to Richard, and claims that he poisoned his own wife.
Polydore Vergil and Thomas More expanded on this portrayal, emphasising Richard's outward physical deformities as a sign of his inwardly twisted mind. More describes him as "little of stature, ill-featured of limbs, crook-backed ... hard-favoured of visage". Vergil also says he was "deformed of body ... one shoulder higher than the right". Both emphasise that Richard was devious and flattering, while planning the downfall of both his enemies and supposed friends. Richard's good qualities were his cleverness and bravery. All these characteristics are repeated by Shakespeare, who portrays him as having a hunch, a limp and a withered arm. With regard to the "hunch", the second quarto edition of Richard III (1598) used the term "hunched-backed" but in the First Folio edition (1623) it became "bunch-backed".
Richard's reputation as a promoter of legal fairness persisted, however. William Camden in his Remains Concerning Britain (1605) states that Richard, "albeit he lived wickedly, made good laws". Francis Bacon also states that he was "a good lawmaker for the ease and solace of the common people".
Despite this, the image of Richard as a ruthless power-grabber remained dominant in the 18th and 19th centuries. David Hume described him as a man who used dissimulation to conceal "his fierce and savage nature" and who had "abandoned all principles of honour and humanity". Hume acknowledges that some historians have argued "that he was well qualified for government, had he legally obtained it; and that he committed no crimes but such as were necessary to procure him possession of the crown", but he dismisses this view on the grounds that Richard's exercise of arbitrary power encouraged instability. The most important late 19th-century biographer of the king was James Gairdner, who also wrote the entry on Richard in the Dictionary of National Biography. Gairdner stated that he had begun to study Richard with a neutral viewpoint, but became convinced that Shakespeare and More were essentially correct in their view of the king, despite some exaggerations.
Richard was not without his defenders, the first of whom was George Buck, a descendant of one of the king's supporters, whose life of Richard was completed in 1619. Buck attacked the "improbable imputations and strange and spiteful scandals" related by Tudor writers, including the alleged deformities and murders. He located lost archival material, including the Titulus Regius, but also claimed to have seen a letter written by Elizabeth of York, according to which Elizabeth sought to marry the king. The book was published in 1646.
The most significant of Richard's defenders was Horace Walpole. In Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard the Third (1768), Walpole disputed all the alleged murders and argued that Richard may have acted in good faith. He also argued that any physical abnormality was probably no more than a minor distortion of the shoulders. Other defenders of Richard include the noted explorer Clements Markham, whose Richard III: His Life and Character (1905) replied to the work of Gairdner. He argued that Henry VII killed the princes and that evidence of other "crimes" was nothing more than rumour and propaganda. A relatively balanced view was provided by Alfred Legge in The Unpopular King (1885). Legge argued that Richard's "greatness of soul" was eventually "warped and dwarfed" by the ingratitude of others.
Twentieth-century historians were less inclined to moral judgement, seeing Richard's actions as a product of the unstable times. In the words of Charles Ross, "the later fifteenth century in England is now seen as a ruthless and violent age as concerns the upper ranks of society, full of private feuds, intimidation, land-hunger, and litigiousness, and consideration of Richard's life and career against this background has tended to remove him from the lonely pinnacle of Villainy Incarnate on which Shakespeare had placed him. Like most men, he was conditioned by the standards of his age". The Richard III Society, founded in 1924 as "The Fellowship of the White Boar", is the oldest of several groups dedicated to improving his reputation.
Apart from Shakespeare, Richard appears in many other works of literature. Two other plays of the Elizabethan era predated Shakespeare's work. The Latin-language drama Richardus Tertius (first known performance in 1580) by Thomas Legge is believed to be the first history play written in England. The anonymous play The True Tragedy of Richard III (c.1590), performed in the same decade as Shakespeare's work, was probably an influence on Shakespeare. Neither of the two plays places any emphasis on Richard's physical appearance, though the True Tragedy briefly mentions that he is "A man ill shaped, crooked backed, lame armed" adding that he is "valiantly minded, but tyrannous in authority". Both portray him as a man motivated by personal ambition, who uses everyone around him to get his way.
Marjorie Bowen's 1929 novel Dickon set the trend for pro-Ricardian literature. Particularly influential was The Daughter of Time (1951) by Josephine Tey, in which a modern detective concludes that Richard III is innocent in the death of the Princes. Other novelists such as Valerie Anand have also offered alternative versions to the theory that he murdered them. Sharon Kay Penman, in her historical novel The Sunne in Splendour, 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 as to whether Richard III was guilty of these and other crimes. A sympathetic portrayal of Richard III is given in The Founding, the first volume in The Morland Dynasty series by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. A Rose for the Crown, by Anne Easter Smith, is about Kate Haute who is portrayed as the mother of Richard's illegitimate children. Other sympathetic fictional portraits of Richard III include Michael Tyler-Whittle's 1970 novel Richard III, The Last Plantagenet.
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 are 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 1960 BBC series based on Shakespeare's history plays, An Age of Kings, Paul Daneman played Richard.
Richard's career is also the subject of the 1939 film Tower of London, in which he is played by Basil Rathbone. The film was later remade by Roger Corman in 1962, starring Vincent Price as Richard (Price had played Clarence in the earlier version). Richard is a thorough-paced villain in both versions. Neither film owes much to the Shakespeare play, but the 1962 Corman version has similarities to Macbeth, complete with paradoxical prophesies, and visions of bloodied ghosts. Unusually, Richard's wife Anne is portrayed, like Lady Macbeth, as an ally, egging him on in his evil plans.
Despite his having died at the age of 32, Richard is often depicted as being considerably older: Basil Rathbone, in Tower of London, and Peter Cook, in the TV series Blackadder, were both 46 when they played him, Laurence Olivier was 47 (in his 1955 film), Vincent Price was 51, Ian McKellen was 56 as was Pacino 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. However, Shakespeare had portrayed Richard as being much older than he actually was, in order to show him participating in events that happened before he was born.
Discovery of remains
On 24 August 2012, the University of Leicester and Leicester City Council, in association with the Richard III Society, announced that they had joined forces to begin a search for the remains of King Richard. Originally instigated by Philippa Langley of the Society's Looking For Richard Project and led by University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS), experts set out to locate the lost site of the former Greyfriars Church (demolished during Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries), and to discover whether his remains were still interred there. By comparing fixed points between maps in a historical sequence, the search located the Church of the Grey Friars, where Richard's body had been hastily buried without pomp in 1485, its foundations identifiable beneath a modern-day city centre car park.
On 5 September 2012 the excavators announced that they had identified Greyfriars church and two days later that they had identified the location of Robert Herrick's garden, where the memorial to Richard III stood in the early 17th century. A human skeleton was found beneath the Church's choir.
On 12 September it was announced that the skeleton discovered during the search might be that of Richard III. Several reasons were given: the body was of an adult male; it was buried beneath the choir of the church; and there was severe scoliosis of the spine, possibly making one shoulder higher than the other (to what extent would depend on the severity of the condition). Additionally, there was an object that appeared to be an arrowhead embedded in the spine; and there were perimortem injuries to the skull. These included a relatively shallow orifice, most likely caused by a rondel dagger and a scooping depression to the skull, inflicted by a bladed weapon, most probably a sword. Additionally, the bottom of the skull presented a gaping hole, where a halberd had cut away and entered it. Forensic pathologist, Dr Stuart Hamilton stated that this injury would have left the King's brain visible and most certainly have been the cause of death. Dr Jo Appleby, the osteoarchaeologist who excavated the skeleton, concurred and described the latter as "a mortal battlefield wound in the back of the skull". In total, the skeleton presented 10 wounds.
In 2004 the British historian John Ashdown-Hill had used genealogical research to trace matrilineal descendants of Anne of York, Richard's elder sister. A British-born woman who emigrated to Canada after the Second World War, Joy Ibsen (née Brown), was found to be a 16th-generation great-niece of the king in the same direct maternal line. Joy Ibsen's mitochondrial DNA was tested and belongs to mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup J, which by deduction, should also be the mitochondrial DNA haplogroup of Richard III. Joy Ibsen died in 2008. Her son Michael Ibsen gave a mouth-swab sample to the research team on 24 August 2012. His mitochondrial DNA passed down the direct maternal line was compared to samples from the human remains found at the excavation site and used to identify King Richard.
On 4 February 2013, the University of Leicester confirmed that the skeleton was beyond reasonable doubt that of King Richard III. This conclusion was based on mitochondrial DNA evidence, soil analysis, and dental tests (there were some molars missing as a result of caries), as well as physical characteristics of the skeleton which are highly consistent with contemporary accounts of Richard's appearance. The team announced that the "arrowhead" discovered with the body was a Roman-era nail, probably disturbed when the body was first interred. However, there were numerous perimortem wounds on the body, and part of the skull had been sliced off with a bladed weapon; this would have caused rapid death. The team concluded that it is unlikely that the king was wearing a helmet in his last moments. Soil taken from the Plantagenet King's remains was found to contain microscopic roundworm eggs. Several eggs were found in samples taken from the pelvis, where the king's intestines would have been, but not from the skull and only very small numbers were identified in soil surrounding the grave. The findings suggest that the higher concentration of eggs in the pelvic area most likely arose from a roundworm infection the King suffered in his life, rather than from human waste dumped in the area at a later date, researchers said. The Mayor of Leicester announced that the king's skeleton would be re-interred at Leicester Cathedral in early 2014, and by the same date a museum to Richard III will be opened in the Victorian school buildings next to the grave site.
The proposal to have King Richard buried in Leicester has attracted some controversy. Those who have challenged the decision include fifteen 'collateral [non-direct] descendants' of Richard, represented by the Plantagenet Alliance, who believe that the body should be reburied in York, as they claim the king wished. In August 2013, they filed a court case in order to contest Leicester's claim to re-inter the body within its cathedral, and propose the body be buried in York instead. However, Michael Ibsen, who gave the DNA sample that identified the king, gave his support to Leicester's claim to re-inter the body in their cathedral. On 20 August, a judge ruled that the opponents had the legal standing to contest his burial in Leicester Cathedral, despite a clause in the contract which had authorized the excavations requiring his burial there. He urged the parties, though, to settle out of court in order to "avoid embarking on the Wars of the Roses, Part Two". The Plantagenet Alliance, and the supporting fifteen 'collateral [non-direct] descendants', also face the challenge that 'Basic maths shows Richard, who had no surviving children but five siblings, could have millions of "collateral" descendants' and they don't represent 'the only people who can speak on behalf of him', as one member claimed.
On 5 February, Professor Caroline Wilkinson of the University of Dundee conducted a forensic facial reconstruction of Richard III, commissioned by the Richard III Society, based on 3D mappings of his skull. The face is described as "warm, young, earnest and rather serious".
Titles, styles and honours
On 1 November 1461, Richard gained the title of Duke of Gloucester; in late 1461, 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 to 26 June 1483, when he made himself king of the realm. As King of England, Richard was styled Dei Gratia Rex Angliae et Franciae et Dominus Hiberniae (by the Grace of God, King of England and France and Lord of Ireland).
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 used the Royal Arms of England quartered with the Royal Arms of France, differenced by a label argent of three points ermine, on each point a canton gules. As sovereign, he used the arms of the kingdom undifferenced. His motto was Loyaulte me lie, "Loyalty binds me"; and his personal device was a white boar.
|Ancestors of Richard III of England|
- Richard III Museum, York
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- "Spine". The search for Richard III – completed. University of Leicester. Retrieved 5 February 2013. "A very pronounced curve in the spine was visible when the body was first uncovered, evidence of scoliosis which may have meant that Richard's right shoulder was noticeably higher than his left....The type of scoliosis seen here is known as idiopathic adolescent onset scoliosis. The word idiopathic means that the reason for its development is not entirely clear, although there is probably a genetic component. The term adolescent onset indicates that the deformity wasn't present at birth, but developed after the age of ten. It is quite possible that the scoliosis would have been progressive..."
- Kendall, p. 40
- Kendall, pp. 87–89
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- J. Kincross (1988) The Battlefields of Britain, London, p. 89, ISBN 0882544837
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- Phillipe de Commynes, cited in Ross, Edward IV, p. 278
- Ross, Richard III, p. 143 n.53: However, Ross cites a letter from Edward IV in May 1480, the letter of appointment to his position as Lieutenant-General referred to his 'proven capacity in the arts of war'
- Ross, Richard III, pp. 44–47
- Kendall, pp. 162–63
- Kendall, pp. 209–210.
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- "Sir Rhys ap Thomas". Castlewales.com. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
- Kendall, p. 368.
- David Baldwin (1986). "King Richard's Grave in Leicester". Transactions (Leicester: Leicester Archaeological and Historical Society) 60: 21–22. Retrieved 18 April 2009.
- "'Strong evidence' Richard III's body has been found – with a curved spine". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
- David Baldwin (1986). "King Richard's Grave in Leicester". Transactions (Leicester: Leicester Archaeological and Historical Society) 60: 24. Retrieved 18 April 2009.
- "Legends about the Battle of Bosworth". Richard III Society — American Branch Web Site. Richard III Society. Archived from the original on 2006-07-25. Retrieved 5 July 2009.
- Roger Lockyer (1993) Tudor and Stuart Britain 1471–1714, Saint Martin's Press, 2nd. ed.
- Gerald Page. The Lineage and Ancestry of H.R.H. Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Vol. I
- Michael Hicks (2006). Anne Neville, Queen to Richard III (Tempus, Stroud), pp. 156–158
- Josephine Wilkinson (2008) Richard the Young King to Be, Amberley, pp. 228–229, 253–254, ISBN ISBN 978-1-84868-513-0
- Chris Given Wilson, Alice Curteis (1984) The royal bastards of medieval England, Routledge, p. 161, ISBN 0710200250.
- Allen Andrews (2000) Kings of England and Scotland, Marshall Cavendish, p. 90, ISBN 1854357239.
- Barrie Williams (March 1983). "The Portuguese Connection and the Significance of the 'Holy Princess'". The Ricardian 6 (90).
- Hannes Kleineke (2007). "Richard III and the Origins of the Court of Requests". The Ricardian XVII: 22–32.
- Anne Sutton, Richard III’s Parliament, The Richard III Society
- The history of the Royal Heralds and the College of Arms, College of Arms
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- "Richard III Society, American Branch: "Back to Basics: A Series for Newer Members", Issue 9 – June 1994". R3.org. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
- Alison Hanham (1975) Richard III and his early historians 1483–1535, Oxford
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- Eliza Mackintosh, "Remains of King Richard III identified", The Washington Post, 4 February 2013. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
- To Prove a Villain – The Real Richard III. Royal National Theatre
- Shakespeare, Henry VI part 3, Act III, Scene 2, lines 1645–50:
Why, love forswore me in my mother's womb:
And, for I should not deal in her soft laws,
She did corrupt frail nature with some bribe,
To shrink mine arm up like a wither'd shrub;
To make an envious mountain on my back,
Where sits deformity to mock my body;
To shape my legs of an unequal size.
- From Richard III: "foul hunch-back'd toad" Clemen, Wolfgang (1977). Development of Shakespeare's Imagery. p. 51. ISBN 978-0416857306. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
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- John F. Burns, DNA could cleanse a king besmirched, International Herald Tribune, 24 September 2012, p. 4
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- Richard III by David Baldwin (Amberley Publishing, 2012) (ISBN 978-1-4456-0182-3) 
- Richard III: A Sourcebook by Keith Dockray (Sutton, 1997) (ISBN 0-75-091479-3)
- The Trial of Richard III by Richard Drewett & Mark Redhead (author) (Sutton Publishing Ltd, 1984) (ISBN 978-0862991982)
- Royal Blood: Richard III and the Mystery of the Princes by Bertram Fields (HarperCollins, 1998) (ISBN 0-06-039269-X)
- Richard III: The Road to Bosworth Field by Peter W. Hammond & Anne Sutton (Constable, 1985) (ISBN 0-09-466160-X)
- Richard the Third by Michael Hicks (Tempus, 2001) (ISBN 0-7524-2302-9)
- Richard III and the North of England by Rosemary Horrox (ed) (University of Hull, 1986) (ISBN 0-859-58031-8)
- Richard III: A Study in Service by Rosemary Horrox (Cambridge University Press, 1991) (ISBN 0-521-40726-5)
- Bosworth 1485: Psychology of a Battle by Michael K. Jones (Tempus, 2002) (ISBN 0-7524-2334-7),
- Richard III: The Great Debate edited by Paul Murray Kendall (W. W. Norton, 1992) (ISBN 0-393-00310-8)
- The Betrayal of Richard III by V. B. Lamb (Coram, London, 1959; reprint A. Sutton, 1991) (ISBN 0-86299-778-X)
- Richard III and the Princes in the Tower by A. J. Pollard (St Martin's Press, 1991) (ISBN 0-312-06715-1)
- Good King Richard? by Jeremy Potter (Constable, 1983) (ISBN 0-09-464630-9)
- Richard III: England's Black Legend by Desmond Seward (Penguin Books, 1997) (ISBN 0-140-26634-8)
- The Coronation of Richard III: The Extant Documents by Anne F. Sutton & Peter W. Hammond (St Martin's Press, 1984) (ISBN 0-312-16979-5)
- Richard III's Books by Anne F Sutton & Livia Visser-Fuchs (Sutton, 1997) (ISBN 0-7509-1406-8)
- The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir (Ballantine Books, 1995) (ISBN 0-3453-9178-0)
- Joan of Arc and Richard III: sex, saints, and government in the Middle Ages by Charles T. Wood (Oxford University Press) (ISBN 0-19-506951-X)
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Richard III of England|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Richard III of England.|
- Facial reconstruction of Richard III (BBC website)
- Richard III Society-Extensive online library of sources and secondary works
- Richard III of England on the Open Directory Project
- The Wars of the Roses Information on Richard and Bosworth
- BBC.co.uk about his final resting place
- Richard III Chronology World History Database[dead link]
- Illustrated history of King Richard III
- Portraits of Richard III, with commentary by Pamela Tudor-Craig
- BBC: The excavation of Richard III's coffin
- ULAS: The Greyfriars Project
- article: scoliosis
- BBC Richard III: The twisted bones that reveal a king
- Richard III Society, American Branch—includes links to online editions of many primary texts and secondary sources
Richard III of England
Cadet branch of the House of PlantagenetBorn: 2 October 1452 Died: 22 August 1485
|King of England
Lord of Ireland
The Earl of Kent
|Lord High Admiral
The Earl of Warwick
The Earl of Warwick
|Lord High Admiral
The Duke of Norfolk
The Earl Rivers
|Lord High Constable
The Earl of Oxford
The Earl of Oxford
|Lord High Constable
The Duke of Buckingham