Richard III of England

John Florens | Jun 16, 2024

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Richard III of England (2 October 1452 - 22 August 1485) of the House of York was King of England from 1483 to 1485. He was the youngest son and twelfth of the thirteen children of Richard of York and his wife, Cecily Neville. Richard III was the last king of the York branch and the last king of the House of Plantagenets, and his death at the Battle of Bosworth, the last battle of the War of the Roses, marked the end of the medieval era in England. Richard III is the protagonist in a play by William Shakespeare.

His elder brother Edward IV of England died in April 1483 and Richard was appointed guardian and protector of the heir, Edward V of England. The proceedings for the coronation of the new king began on 22 June 1483, but before they were completed, the marriage of Edward V's parents was declared invalid, so Edward IV's children did not inherit the throne. On the following day the reign of Richard III began, and he was crowned on 6 July 1483. Edward V and his younger brother Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, disappeared after August, and rumours spread that they had been murdered by their uncle.

In the reign of Richard III there were two major revolutions. The first took place in October 1483 by fanatical former allies of Edward IV, including Richard III's former ally, Henry Stafford 2nd Duke of Buckingham, but was crushed. The second rebellion was led by Henry Tudor and his uncle Jasper Tudor in August 1485, when Henry Tudor landed in south Wales with a small French force and marched through his native Pembrokeshire recruiting warriors.

Henry Tudor defeated Richard III's army at the Battle of Bosworth in Leicestershire, in which Richard III was killed and went down in history as the last English king to fall in battle. Subsequently, Henry Tudor ascended the English throne as Henry VII. Richard III's body was taken to Leicester and buried without a procession. His burial site was destroyed at the Reformation, his remains were lost for more than five centuries, and many believed they were thrown into the River Soar. In 2012 an archaeological expedition investigated the area around the Greyfriars' church. The University of Leicester discovered a skeleton and the results of radiocarbon dating were compared with mitochondrial DNA from descendants of his older sister Anne of York, Duchess of Exeter and this skeleton was identified by the university as Richard III. Richard III's remains were reburied in Leicester Cathedral on 26 March 2015.


Richard III was born when the famous War of the Roses broke out, a period of "three or four decades of political instability and intermittent civil war in the second half of the 15th century". The conflict was between the House of York, led by Richard's father, Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, and the House of Lancaster, represented by Henry VI of England and his wife Margaret of Anjou. Richard and his elder brother George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence entered the company of the Duchess of Buckingham and the Archbishop of Canterbury when his father and the Nevilles escaped to Ludlow (1459).

His father and his elder brother Edmond, Earl of Rutland, were killed at the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December 1460, when Richard, who was only 8 years old, and his brother George were taken to safety by their mother in the Netherlands. They returned to England after the House of Lancaster's defeat at the Battle of Taughton and attended the coronation of their elder brother Edward IV of England in June 1461. At the same time, young Richard became Duke of Gloucester, a member of the Order of Pericorn and the Order of Bath. He participated in the War of the Roses from a very young age and became an independent commander at the age of 17. Richard spent some of his childhood at Middletham Castle in Yorkshire under the guardianship of his cousin Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, who trained him in the equestrian arts, and in the autumn of 1465 his elder brother Edward gave the Earl £1,000 for the costs of guardianship. Richard stayed at Middlemarch Castle from late 1461 until early 1465 when he was 12 years old, or from 1465 to 1468 at the age of 16. During his time in the county of Warwick he met Francis Lovell, who would later become one of his most fanatical followers, and the Earl of Warwick's youngest daughter and future wife, Anne Neville. Warwick looked with interest on the marriage of his daughters to the king's brothers, and it was then customary to send young princes to grow up in the households of friendly noblemen, and the same had been done earlier with their father Richard of York. When Warwick came into tension with King Edward IV, the latter opposed the marriages. During Warwick's lifetime only George married Warwick's daughter Isabella Neville, Duchess of Clarence, on 12 July 1469, and rebelled against his brother along with his father-in-law. Richard remained loyal to Edward IV, although many rumours suggested that he had had relations with Anne Neville before August 1469.

Edward and Richard were forced to flee to Burgundy in October 1470, when Warwick broke away and allied himself with the former Queen Margaret of Anjou, and for the second time Richard was forced to seek refuge in the Netherlands, then part of the Duchy of Burgundy. In 1468, their sister Margaret of York had married Charles of Burgundy, and so the two brothers were welcome in Burgundy. Although Richard was only 18 years old, he took an active part in the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury which brought about Edward's restoration to the throne in the spring of 1471. Richard suffered in his youth from scoliosis. Upon the discovery of his skeleton (2014), osteoarchaeologist Dr Joe Appleby of the University of Archaeological Studies, Leicester, attempted 3D imaging, whereupon he concluded that the scoliosis, although it appeared to be dramatic in form, probably did not cause such an extent of bodily deformity that it could not be covered by dress.

Family relationships

Richard on 12 July 1472, after the House of York's victory over the House of Lancaster at the Battle of Tewkesbury, married Anne Neville (Anne's second marriage), younger daughter of the Earl of Warwick. Warwick, in order to ratify the alliance with the House of Lancaster, had in the late 1470s married Anne to Edward of Westminster, son of Henry VI. Edward of Westminster fell at the Battle of Tewkesbury on 4 May 1471, while Warwick had fallen at the Battle of Barnet on 14 April 1471. Richard's marriage plans brought him into sharp conflict with his brother George. A letter from the nobleman John Paston on 17 February 1472 makes it clear that George was strongly disturbed by the marriage, which he accepted with great distress and with the phrase 'he may have my dear sister-in-law but they will live for nothing'. The cause was the inheritance of Anne and her elder sister Isabella, Clarence's wife (1469), as Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, had married Anne Beauchamp, had a large inheritance, and as he had no son he had to bequeath it to his daughters. The Chronicle of Croyland states that Richard proceeded to the marriage on the condition that the marriage of the Earl of Gloucester to Anne Neville should bring to the duke such lands of the earl as the arbiters should decide, the remainder passing to the Duke of Clarence.

Paston's letter notes that the marriage had been agreed in February 1472, and to gain his brother George's consent Richard gave up most of the Earl of Warwick's lands, such as Warwick County and Salisbury County, and handed them over to Clarence. Richard held only the confiscated counties of Neville from the summer of 1471: Penrith, Hatton's Serifee and Middlemarch, in the latter of which he established his household. The necessary papal dispensation for the marriage is dated 22 April 1472. The English historian Michael Hicks (b. 1949) states that there was a major kinship problem because the sister of the bride had married the brother of the groom, so they were related in the first degree. A similar case was when Henry VIII of England married Catherine of Aragon, widow of his elder brother Arthur of Wales. Catherine had declared that her marriage to Arthur had ended, and Richard's case would only be the same if he married George's widow rather than her sister. Richard and Anne's marriage was never declared invalid in the 13 years they lived together, both secularly and legally. In June 1473 Richard persuaded his mother-in-law to come to live with them at Middlemarch, and in the same year he lost much of his property by royal claim, but without expressing his displeasure. John Paston in a letter of November 1473 writes that the king aimed to put his younger brothers in their place by acting as a catalyst between them.

Parliament was convened in early 1474 and Edward IV tried to reconcile his brothers, and protected Richard from George's doubts about the legality of his marriage by introducing a provision that if the marriage was deemed invalid by the Church, he could have a second, legal marriage, this time to Anne. The following year Edward granted Richard the Neville lands in the north of England, which had previously belonged to Anne's cousin George Neville. At this point it appears that the king favoured Richard at Clarence's expense, which brought about the latter's intense resentment, and he rebelled (1477). Edward further forbade him to marry Mary of Burgundy, stepdaughter of their sister Margaret, after the death of Isabella Neville, despite Margaret's agreement. There is no doubt about Richard's subsequent involvement in George's conviction and execution for treason.


Richard became Duke of Gloucester on 1 November 1461, and on 12 August 1462 he took large tracts of land in northern England, including Richmond in Yorkshire and Pembroke in Wales, and won the confiscated lands of John de Vere, Earl of Oxford in East Anglia. In 1462, on his birthday, he became Constable of Gloucester and of the castle of Corfe, military governor of England, France and Aquitaine, and the richest and most powerful man in England. On 17 October 1469 he took the title of Constable of England, and in November he replaced William Hastings, 1st Baron of Hastings, as judge of North Wales. In the following year (1470) he was appointed Grand Elector and Chancellor of Wales. His other important offices were: life High Sheriff of Cumberland and hereditary Keeper of the West Marches. Two months later, on 14 July, he won the High Sheriffships of Hatton and Middlemarch in Yorkshire and Penrith in Cumberland. The acquisition of Middletham was his great desire but when he came of age he gave it up and spent most of his time at Barnard Castle and Pontefract.


In the latter part of Edward IV's reign Richard showed strong loyalty to the king, unlike George of Clarence who rebelled with his father-in-law the Earl of Warwick in the late 1460s. Edward and Richard left Kings Lynn in two ships and arrived in the Low Countries, Edward at Marsdeep, and Richard at Zeeland. And they left England with such great haste that Edward was obliged to give up his fur coat to pass the toll, while Richard borrowed three pounds from the bailiff of Zeeland. They remained in Bruges with Louis of Grotuse, who was the Burgundian envoy to Edward's court. Their son-in-law Charles of Burgundy refused to help them at first and only did so when Louis XI of France declared war on Burgundy, at which point he gave them £2,000, 36 ships and 1,200 men and they left for England on 11 March 1471. A storm forced the ships on 14 March to take refuge on the coast of Holderness in Yorkshire. The city of Hull denied them entry, but Edward entered York on the same grounds that Henry IV of England had previously used when he wanted to dethrone his cousin Richard II of England, when he had claimed to be claiming the Duchy of York rather than the crown. Edward IV's attempts to regain the throne gave Richard a great opportunity to show his military prowess.

Military campaigns

Edward IV began his campaign to regain the throne of England when he regained the support of his brother, George of Clarence. Richard is believed to have been his principal lieutenant, and many of Edward's followers came in Richard's company, such as Sir James Harrington and Sir William Parr, who brought 600 armed men to Doncaster. Richard was commander of the advance guard at the battle of Barnet on 14 April 1471, in which he overwhelmed the Duke of Exeter's side with his forces, though the extent to which his leadership was significant may be the result of exaggeration. His house suffered considerable losses at that time, which shows that he himself was in the midst of the battle. A contemporary source states that he led Edward's vanguard at the battle of Tewkesbury on 4 May 1471 against the vanguard of the House of Lancaster led by Edmond Beaufort, 4th Duke of Somerset. Two days after the battle, Richard, as England's Constable, together with his close friend John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, presided over a trial that condemned many Lancaster leaders.

In October 1472 Edward IV asked the parliament for new grants for war with France, arguing that Louis XI was hostile to him and that he was supporting his son-in-law Charles of Burgundy. The English camped on 4 July 1475 at Calais, where Richard was in command of the largest body of the army. Richard, although opposed to any peaceful treaty with the French, met Louis XI at Picini as Edward's representative and received some gifts from the French king at Amiens. He refused more gifts from Louis such as granting pensions under the disguised name of allowances, and joined Cardinal Thomas Bursier. Edward IV refused to continue the wars with the French when Parliament refused to give him resources, and the last years of his life were peaceful.

Richard controlled the whole of northern England until Edward's death. Edward IV created the Council of the North (1472), a separate parliamentary body to control the economy and defence in the north. The American historian Paul Kendall (1911-1973) and later historians are in favour of the view that Edward's aim was to make Richard Lord of the North. British historian Peter Booth, however, notes that Edward had not left Richard unchecked in the north of England, but under the control of Sir William Parr (1434-1483). Richard from 1472 until his accession to the throne was Lord Speaker of all Houses of Parliament. When he became king he placed his nephew John de la Paul, 1st Earl of Lincoln, as chairman of the royal council for the purpose of issuing royal decrees. The Council had an annual budget of 2,000 marks, issuing "Regulations" from July of that year, and meeting at least once every three months. Its responsibilities were centred around Yorkshire in north-east England with the aim of keeping the peace and punishing outlaws.

War with Scotland

Richard's important role in the north from the mid-1470s explains his departure from the royal court, when he became Keeper of West March on the Scottish border on 10 September 1470, and again in May 1471. He used Penrith as a base, took harsh measures against the Scots, and appropriated all the revenues from the lands of the Cumberland Forest. At the same time he was appointed sheriff of Cumberland, and for five consecutive years he had his seat at Penrith Castle (1478). War with Scotland broke out by 1480, and on 12 May of that year he was appointed Lieutenant-General of the North (a post created especially for the occasion), as fears of a Scottish attack became intense. Louis XI of France, according to a French chronicler of the time, allied himself with Scotland in order to wage war against the English Richard called upon the recruits of the northern border regions to defend the kingdom and planned to repel the raids with the Earl of Northumberland (Northumberland), and when James III of Scotland declared war in November 1480, he was granted 10 by King Edward IV. 000 pounds to organise his army. James failed to defeat the English who had since 1482 had the support of the Scottish king's brother, Alexander Stuart, Duke of Albany. The English allies with 20,000 men captured the town of Berwick on the River Tweed, but the castle of the same name held out until 24 August 1482, when Richard recaptured Berwick from the Scots. The great victory is credited more to the civil strife of the Scots than to Richard's skill, and Berwick was the last time that hands changed hands between the two kingdoms.

King of England

Edward IV died on 9 April 1483 and was succeeded by his 12-year-old son Edward V of England, with Richard as guardian and viceroy, and Richard, on the advice of William Hastings, left Yorkshire for London. Richard and his cousin the Duke of Buckingham's cousin met Queen Elizabeth's brother Anthony Woodville, Earl of Rivers at Northampton. At the queen's request the Earl of Rivers accompanied the young king to London with 2,000 men, while Richard and Buckingham's escort consisted of 600 men. The young king went south to Stratford, where Richard captured the Earl of Rivers, his nephew Richard Grey and Thomas Vaughan (1410-1483) and took them to Pontefract Castle. The men were executed for treason against Richard's guardian, after a trial presided over by Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland. After the execution, Richard and Buckingham moved to Stratford to meet the young king, where Richard informed his nephew of the conspiracy against him to deprive him of the title of guardian, and of the punishment of the conspirators. Richard escorted the young king to London with 2,000 armed men, where he was first taken to the bishop's apartments, and then at Buckingham's suggestion moved to the Tower of London, where the kings awaited their coronation. On hearing the news on 30 April of her brother's arrest the former queen fled to Westminster Abbey, where she was joined by her son by her first marriage, Thomas Gray, 1st Marquess of Dorset, her five daughters and her youngest son Richard, Duke of York.

Richard wrote on 10 June to Ralph and the Lord of Neville asking for protection because the queen was planning to assassinate him. At an assembly held on 13 June at the Tower of London, Richard accused Hastings of conspiring against him with Woodville and Jane Shore (1445-1527), Hastings' mistress, and Thomas Gray of collaboration. Thomas More reports that Hastings was taken to the council and then executed while others such as Thomas Stanley and John Morton, Bishop of Ely, were arrested. Richard by decree placed Hastings' widow Catherine under his protection, while Bishop Morton was placed in her escort. Elizabeth agreed on 16 June to deliver the Duke of York to the Archbishop of Canterbury to be present at his brother's coronation on 22 June. A clergyman is said to have informed Richard that Edward IV's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was illegal because he had previously married Eleanor Butler without a divorce, therefore his children were bastards. The information as reported in his memoirs by the French diplomat Philip de Comin was given by Robert Stillington (1420-1491), Bishop of Bath and Wales. In a sermon outside St Paul's Cathedral on 22 June, a priest declared that Edward IV's children were illegitimate and Richard was the legitimate king. Londoners, nobles and burghers petitioned for Richard to ascend the throne, who accepted on 26 June and was crowned king on 6 July at Westminster Abbey. The title of King of England was granted to Richard in January 1484 by the Parliament of England.

The two young princes, although they were in the Tower of London at the time of Richard III's coronation, mysteriously disappeared in the summer of 1483. Richard III was universally accused of murdering Edward and his little brother, but as later sources such as Shakespeare's plays show, there are big questions. Many sources describe other suspects as murderers, such as the Earl of Buckingham or Henry Tudor. Richard and Anne after their coronation embarked on tours throughout the country to meet their subjects. On the trip they founded the "King's College" and the "Queen's College" at Cambridge University and made donations to the church. Richard then planned to establish a large chapel at York Minster with more than 100 priests, and also founded the 'College of Arms'.

Rebellion of the Duke of Buckingham

In 1483 a new rebellion against Richard III by disaffected nobles, former supporters of Edward IV and the House of York, followed. The conspiracy began as a Woodville and Beaufort alliance led by Richard III's former ally, Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham. The British historian Cliff Davis (b. 1939), in supporting Richard, notes that "only the next Parliament brought Buckingham into the centre of events" and the nobles were moved by "self-interest to restore Edward's family to power". It is obvious that they wanted to depose Richard III and restore Edward V, but because rumours circulated that Edward and his younger brother had been murdered by Richard, Buckingham planned to bring Henry Tudor from exile and marry him to Elizabeth of York, Edward IV's eldest daughter. He stresses, however, that the information comes from the Parliament of 1484 so it should be treated with caution. Buckingham raised an army from his lands in Wales and March, and Henry Tudor, who was in Brittany, had the support of the British treasurer Pierre Lunde, who wanted Buckingham to be defeated in order to advance the alliance between England and Brittany.

Henry Tudor's ships fell in a storm and returned to Brittany, and Henry stayed a week in Plymouth until he learned of the crash of the Buckingham. Buckingham's army was swept away in the storm and trapped by Richard III's forces, and he tried to escape but was captured. Buckingham was convicted of treason and beheaded on 2 November at Salisbury, and his widow Catherine Woodville married Jasper Tudor, Henry Tudor's uncle, and organised a new rebellion. Richard III offered military support to the weak Pierre Lunde, viceroy of Francis II of Brittany, in exchange for Henry Tudor. Henry escaped to Paris and was received by the Regent Anne of France, who offered him troops to attack England (1485). The French government reminded Richard of the Treaty of Picchini, his refusal to accept a French pension, and that he had no interest in hosting an enemy in France.

Battle of Bosworth

Richard met the outnumbered forces of Henry Tudor on 22 August 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field, riding a white horse. The size of Richard's army is estimated at 8,000 men and Henry's at 5,000, but the exact numbers are not known, and it is certain that the royal forces were larger. The king's cry of "Treason!" just before his fall shows that he was deserted by Sir William Stanley and Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland. The role of the Earl of Northumberland is unclear, as his position was behind the King's line and he could not advance without royal progress. The difficulty of advancing the army through natural obstacles and the inability to communicate had a really significant contribution to the failure. Stanley's Lord Stanley's wife Margaret Beaufort, despite being a former follower of Edward IV, was the mother of Henry Tudor, and Stanley's inaction in battle and his brother's involvement with Tudor's side played a large part in the defeat. The death of John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, Richard III's closest associate, brought great disappointment to the king, who decided to make a cavalry charge deep into the enemy lines with the aim of capturing Henry Tudor himself and bringing the battle to a speedy conclusion.

According to the sources, Richard III fought very bravely, threw Sir John Chane, a champion horseman, from his horse, and then killed Henry Tudor's standard-bearer, Sir William Brandon (1456-1485), with his sword when he intervened to save Chane. Then, within a sword's length of Henry Tudor, Richard III was surrounded by William Stanley's men and killed. Burgundian chronicler Jean Molinet reports that a Welsh archer tore Richard's skull open with an axe while his horse was stuck in the mud on the ground. The blow was so violent that his helmet was stuck to his skull. The contemporary Welsh poet Guto'r Glynn reports that Reece ap Thomas, a Welsh follower of the House of Lancaster or one of his men, killed the king, writing "he killed the boar, shaved his head". Identification of Richard's skeleton (2013) shows that he received 11 blows, 8 to the skull, and lost his helmet. Professor Guy Ruthie from the University of Leicester said "the most likely blows that caused the king's death were to the lower part of the skull from a sword or other personal weapon and a wound to the edge from a knife". The skull had a blade wound to the back, and Richard III was the last English king to fall in battle.

The Italian official historian of Henry Tudor, Polydor Virgil (circa 1470-1555) notes that "King Richard was killed fighting alone against all his enemies". His naked body was taken to Leicester tied to a horse and early sources record that he appeared at the Church of the Annunciation in Newark before being buried in the Greyfriars' church in Leicester. Henry VII paid £50 to have a marble and alabaster monument made to him. Tradition has it that at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries his body was thrown into the River Soar, and another tradition has it that a stone was visible in 1612 in a garden on the side of Greyfriars Abbey. The exact location was not known for more than 400 years, until 2012 when archaeological excavations found the garden and the Grayfriars' church. There was a large stone in the choir of the cathedral before it was replaced by the king's tomb and a stone in Bow Bridge (Arched Bridge), where tradition incorrectly states that his body was thrown into the river. Another tradition states that a prophet shortly before the battle told Richard "when your horse's spur is broken in battle your head will be broken on the return". His spur broke on the stone of Bow Bridge, and when his body was then carried on the horse's back his head was broken by the same stone. Henry Tudor succeeded Richard as Henry VII of England, having married Elizabeth of York, niece of Richard III.


Richard and Anne had a son, Edward of Middlemarch, born between 1474 and 1476, and the county of Salisbury was created for him on 15 February 1478. Edward of Middlemarch died in April 1484, having been made Prince of Wales on 8 September 1483 and proclaimed heir to the throne two months earlier. Richard III had two other illegitimate children, John of Gloucester who was appointed governor of Calais (1485), and Catherine Plantagenet who married William Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke (1484). Neither their mothers' names nor the dates on which they were born are known, but the fact that Catherine was of marriageable age in 1484 and John was of age to be crowned a knight at York Minster (1483) and become governor of Calais (1485) suggest that they were illegitimate children of Richard from his teens. There is no evidence of Richard III's infidelity to his lawful wife Anne Neville, whom he married when he was 20.

British historian Michael Hicks (b. 1948) and British historian Josephine Wilkinson state that Catherine's mother was most likely Catherine Watt, on the basis that Richard III gave her an annual salary of 100 shillings in 1477. The Watt family was related to the Woodvilles through Elizabeth Woodville's marriage to William Watt, and one of their children was Richard Watt, Housekeeper to the princely household. Their daughter Alice married Sir John Fogg, and their offspring was Catherine Parr, sixth wife of Henry VIII of England. They suggested that John's mother was probably Alice Burgh, as Richard visited Pontefract in 1471, April and October 1473 and early March 1474 for a week. On 1 March 1474 he granted Alice Burgh a life grant of £20 a year to 'meet her needs', and later accepted another grant for her role as nurse to the Duke of Clarence's son Edward of Warwick, and continued to give her a grant when he became king. British historian John Ashdown-Hill (1948-2018) suggests that John's conception took place in the summer of 1467, when Richard III was invited by John Howard, and the child born in 1468 was named after his friend and follower. And Richard himself records that John, when he was appointed by him governor of Calais on 11 March 1485, was still a boy, and not yet 21 years of age, and probably did not become governor on his 17th birthday.

Richard's two illegitimate children survived him, but died without offspring and their fate after Richard's fall at Bosworth is unknown. John accepted an annual salary of £20 from Henry VII but there are no records of him after 1487 and he was probably executed in 1499 with no sources except George Buck's account a century later. Catherine died before the coronation of her cousin Catherine of York on 25 November 1487, her husband Sir William Herbert being recorded as a widower on the same date. Catherine's tomb is in London in the parish church of St James Garlickith between Skinner Street and Upper Thames Street. The mysterious Richard Plantagenet or "Richard the Old" mentioned by Francis Peck may have been an illegitimate son of Richard III or one of the lost Princes of the Tower, and died in 1550. At the time of the last stand against the Lancasters Richard was a widower with a legitimate son; after the death of both his son he named his nephew Edward of Warwick, son of Clarence and nephew of Queen Anne Neville, as his heir. After Anne's death, Richard changed his mind and named John de la Paul, Earl of Lincoln, son of his sister Elizabeth of York, as his successor. He negotiated with John II of Portugal to marry John to his sister Joan, a pious woman who had rejected many suitors because of her great religious piety.


Richard's 'Council of the North' was one of the greatest administrative innovations, and Richard became president of the council when Edward IV came to the throne and was the king's replacement in his absence. In April 1484 he became part of the central royal council with John de la Paul, Earl of Lincoln, as chairman, and his seat was Chantal Castle, Wakefield. The council greatly improved the situation in the north of England, kept the peace, punished criminals and resolved territorial disputes. The transfer of provincial government to the control of the central government was described as "the king's most trusted move", which was maintained until 1641. In December 1483 Richard III established the 'Court of Requests', in which poor people who could not afford lawyers voiced their grievances. In January 1484, he improved bail to protect suspected criminals from detention and their property from confiscation. He established the "College of Arms" (1484), prohibited restrictions on the printing and sale of books, and ordered the translation of all written laws from French into English.

It banned arbitrary charity by criminalizing the withholding from a purchaser of land of a portion of land that had been allocated to someone else. It required the publication of land sales and specified the qualifications of owners for juries. It made new commercial protectionist laws prohibiting the sale of wine and oil by fraud and the collection of lots by fraud. The death of Richard III ended the Plantagenet dynasty that had reigned in England since the accession of Henry II (1154). The last male descendant was Richard's nephew Edward, Earl of Warwick, son of the Duke of Clarence, who was executed by Henry VII (1499). The only surviving male line is that of Beaufort, now represented by Henry Somerset, 12th Duke of Beaufort, which line of Beaufort has been excluded from the English throne by Henry IV.

There are countless sources, contemporary or later, that describe in detail the reign of Richard III. These include "The Chronicles of Croyland", Dominic Mancini's account, "Memoirs of Comyn", James Gairder's "Paston Letters", Robert Fabian's "Chronicles of Robert Fabian", and many other records such as letters from Richard himself. Most sources are in question because the authors had not lived in England or known him personally.

The historian John Rouse (1411-1491), who lived during Richard's reign, describes him as a 'good lord', 'protector of his people' and with a 'great heart'. The Italian observer Dominic Mancini reports to Angelo Cato, Archbishop of Vienna, that Richard had a good reputation and that 'his private life had aroused the admiration of all'. Richard III had special ties with the city of York, so much so that when they heard there of his death at the Battle of Bosworth, the city council expressed their regret, despite the fact that he would face the wrath of the victor.

In his lifetime he was even attacked in the north (1482), where a man was accused of insulting the Duke of Gloucester by saying that he "did nothing but show his teeth" in the city of York. In 1484 the resentment took the form of satire, and the only surviving work is William Collingburn's (1435-1484) 'The Cat, the Rat, Lovel the Dog, all rule England under one Pig' (July 1484). The satirical work was pinned to the door of St. Paul's Cathedral and referred to the king and his advisers, William Catesby, Richard Ratcliffe and Francis, Viscount Lovell. Richard III pressed the London lords on 30 March 1485 to condemn all accusations against him that he had poisoned Queen Anne and intended to marry his niece Elizabeth, and ordered the Sheriff of London to imprison anyone who spread such rumours. The same orders were given throughout the kingdom and in the city of York as found in the city records of 5 April 1485, with instructions to ban evil rumours and satirical writings. In his physical appearance he was described as having one shoulder higher than the other but no other physical deformity was found.

The English historian John Stowe (1524

Historical references

British historian John Roos (ca. 1411

Polydorus Virgil and Thomas More expand on this by presenting Richard's physical abnormalities as an indication of his deformed mind, and More describes him as 'small in stature with deformed limbs and hard in appearance'. Polydorus Virgil writes that he was 'deformed in appearance with one shoulder higher than the other'. The two historians portray Richard as irrational and flattering, constantly plotting the downfall of his enemies. His positive qualities were his wit and bravery, echoed by Shakespeare, who describes him as "curved, tepid, and loose-handed". Richard III's reputation as a legislator was very good; William Camden notes (1605) that Richard, though "a fickle character, made good laws". Sir Francis Bacon in the same length writes that "he was a very good legislator especially for the common people". Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (1473-1530) recalls (1525) that the Mayor of London and many other men "paid not many bad taxes by virtue of good legislation". Richard III's image among 18th and 19th century historians was a miserable one, and David Hume writes that he 'used his wisdom to hide his wickedness and inhumanity'. Hume criticizes historians who excuse him for "not being a legitimate king and needing great cruelty to legitimize his power" by writing that his arbitrary exercise of power increased instability. The most important 19th-century biographer of Richard III, James Gairder (1828-1912), who examined him with a neutral eye, concludes that Shakespeare and More, though they wrote many exaggerations, were generally right.

Besides enemies, Richard III had many supporters, such as George Buck, a descendant of one of his followers, who completed the work on his life in 1619. Buck attacked the "extravagant absurdities and fantastic scandals" from Tudor followers, dismissing everything they attributed to him about murders and physical abnormalities. Buck relied on a letter written by Elizabeth of York asking to marry the king, and Buck's book was made public (1646) but the letter was never found. Documents have been found in Portuguese archives showing that after Queen Anne's death Richard III sent envoys to Portugal to negotiate a double marriage, the first between himself and the king's sister Joan, who was of Lancaster descent, and the second between Elizabeth of York and Emmanuel I of Portugal. The most fanatical of Richard III's followers was Horace Walpole, and in his Historical Doubts about the Life and Reign of King Richard III (1768) he denies all murders and emphasises that all Richard's actions were done in good faith. Walpole further disputes Richard's physical abnormalities, acknowledges only a slight curvature of the shoulders, and in his views on terrorism writes that it was impossible for him to have committed all the crimes of which he is accused. Another great defender of Richard III was the explorer and writer Sir Clemens Markham who in his work Richard III: his life and character (1905) responds to the work of Geirder. Markham states that Henry VII killed the two little princes and that the other alleged evidence was only propaganda. Alfred Legg in his play "The Hated King" (1885) finally writes that Richard was a "great soul" whose inaction gave enemies the opportunity to accuse him. Many historians in the 20th century see Richard's actions as a natural result of the unstable times in which he lived. The English historian Charles Ross (1924-1986) writes "the late 15th century was a very cruel and violent time especially among the upper classes, full of wars, famine and disease, against this background we cannot charge Richard with the accusations of Shakespeare and others, it was common behaviour for his time". Richard III's followers founded the "White Knight Society" to improve his reputation, while other writers continued to call him a cruel and violent king and "responsible for the murder of his nieces and nephews".


In addition to Shakespeare, Richard appears in many other literary works, two of which preceded Shakespeare's plays. Thomas Legg's Latin drama Richardus Tertius (1580) is believed to have been the first literary play of this kind in England. The anonymous play "The True Tragedy of Richard III" (1590), written in Shakespeare's time, seems to have been strongly influenced by Shakespeare himself. Neither of these two plays emphasizes Richard's physical flaws, although The True Tragedy of Richard III does at one point write that he was "slightly hunched and blunt", adding that he was "violent and tyrannical", and both emphasize his personal ambitions. Ben Johnson wrote Richard the Hunchback (1602) but it was not published and nothing is known of his description of the king.

The British writer Marjorie Bowen (1885-1952) laid the foundations for literature related to the time of Richard III with her novel Deacon (1929). The Scottish author Josephine Tay (1896-1952)'s The Daughter of the Age (1947) created a sensation by writing that Richard III was innocent of the deaths of the two little princesses. Other writers give different interpretations, such as the British author Valerie Anand (b. 1937) in her novel Crown of Roses (1989), and the American historical novelist Sharon Kay Penman (b. 1945) in her work Plenty of Sunshine, where she blames the death of the two little princesses on the Duke of Buckingham. The American writer Elizabeth Peters (1927-2013) in her The Murders of Richard III (1974) examines the possibility that Richard III was responsible for the murder of the princes, as well as other crimes. A sympathetic view of Richard is given by the British author Cynthia Harrod-Eagles (b. 1948) in Foundation (1980), the first volume of her Dynasty of the Morlands. A film adaptation of Shakespeare's Richard III, produced and directed by Laurence Olivier, in which he played the leading role, was made in 1955. Another major adaptation of the play was the film of the same name starring Ian McKellen (1995), set in a fictional fascist England in the 1930s. Al Pacino directed and starred in the documentary film In Search of Richard III (1996), which was shown on television several times.

Archaeological investigations

On 24 August 2012 the University of Leicester, Leicester City Council and the Richard III Society decided to make a concerted effort to discover and examine the skeleton of Richard III. The administration of the operation was entrusted to the Leicester Archaeological Service under the direction of Philippa Langley. The first objective was the discovery of the church of the Greyfriars of Leicester in which Richard was hastily buried without a funeral procession (1485), a church demolished by Henry VIII. Based on old maps and a series of fixed topographical points the location of the church was identified under a modern car garage.

The team officially announced on 5 September 2012 that they had discovered the Greyfriars' church, and two days later announced that they had found Robert Herrick's garden, where a 17th-century monument to Richard III is recorded. A human skeleton was found under the church choir. The archaeologists found the skeleton very easily in the first place they excavated, and which coincidentally was found under an engraved "R" symbol in the tarmac, an engraving made in the year 2000 to indicate that the area is a parking lot. On 12 September it was announced that the skeleton belonged to Richard III for three reasons: it was under the church choir, it belonged to an adult male, and it had a slight curvature of the shoulders. The skeleton also had an arrow in the spine and extensive damage to the skull from a blow from a scaled weapon, probably a sword. The base of the skull had a large hole indicating an axe blow, and Dr. Stuart Hamilton stated that it is impossible that this blow left the brain alive and was therefore the cause of death. Archaeologists who examined the skull concluded that it was "mortally wounded in the battlefield at the back of the skull." Detailed examination of the inside of the skull showed that it had a jagged hole, and the blade had entered the skull to a depth of 10.5 cm. Richard III's skeleton had a total of 10 blows: 4 light injuries to the top of the skull, a knife wound to the cheekbones, 1 cut to the lower jaw, 2 fatal blows to the base of the skull, 1 cut to the rib bone and a wound to the pelvis, which occurred after his death. It is apparent that they dragged his body tied behind a horse with the arms tied around his legs. It clearly appears that his buttocks were hit with great force as the blow extended from the eye to the front of the pelvic bone, and he received other blows that left no trace on the skeleton.

British historian John Ashdown-Hill (1949-2018) used genealogical searches to find descendants of Anne of York, older sister of Richard of York. One British woman, Joy Ibsen, who emigrated to Canada after World War II, was a 16th generation descendant of Richard III through his sister. Joey Ibsen's mitochondrial DNA after testing belonged to subgroup "J", the same subgroup as Richard's DNA. Joey Ibsen died in 2008, and her son Michael Ibsen gave oral samples on 24 August 2012 to a research team, and the sample was compared to other DNA samples found in excavations at Richard's wider burial site. The University of Leicester on 4 February 2013 confirmed definitively that the skeleton belonged to Richard III thanks to analysis of mitochondrial DNA, dental examination and physical defects in the skeleton. The team announced that the arrowhead found with his body was of Roman date and was probably in the tomb when he was buried, and that the skull was crushed by a scaled weapon, resulting in a natural instantaneous death, and it is unlikely that he was wearing his helmet at the time of his death. The team discovered many nematode eggs (parasitic worms) around the king's burial site, and the conclusion after analysis was that these eggs came from an infection that Richard had during his lifetime, and were not related to litter that later fell on the site. The mayor of Leicester announced that the skeleton would be reburied in Leicester Cathedral in early 2014 but investigations delayed the burial for about a year. A museum dedicated to Richard III was opened in July 2014 in the Victorian school buildings next to Grayfriars Cathedral,the original burial site.

The last burial

The proposal to have Richard III resurrected in Leicester Cathedral met with opposition, as the Plantagenet Alliance, who claimed to be descendants of the dynasty, demanded that the burial take place in York Cathedral as they wished. In August 1483 at a meeting they directly challenged the Mayor of Leicester's decision to bury the King in Leicester. His descendant Michael Ibsen, who used himself in the inquiries and therefore had the first say, requested that he be resurrected in Leicester Cathedral. A judge said on 20 August that Richard's burial in Leicester Cathedral was the necessary legal clause to allow the excavations to proceed and asked the opposing sides to keep calm so that the matter did not end up in a modern version of the 'War of the Roses'. The Plantagenet Alliance had the additional major problem that none of Richard III's children survived and there were no descendants in their time who could have been the prime mover for the place where his resurrection would take place. The King's remains were taken to Leicester Cathedral on 22 March 2015, and the re-interment took place on 26 March. British anthropologist Caroline Wilkinson (b. 1965) of the University of Dundee, on 5 February 2013, was commissioned to create the face of Richard III based on a 3D representation of his skeleton, described as "warm, young and serious". The University of Leicester announced on 11 February 2014 the genome of Richard III and that the mitochondrial DNA of Michael Ibsen's descendant was used for the research, and Richard III is the first ancient king to be identified by genome. In November 2014 it was announced that the maternal DNA line was fully accepted. The paternal line presented many problems, it did not appear to be a descendant of Edward III of England's great-grandfather, whose DNA was found in his most famous descendant Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort. This suggests that there may be some errors in the two family trees, the first between Edward III and Richard III, and the second between Edward III and Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort.

After his death at the Battle of Bosworth, Richard III was buried in the Greyfriars' church in Leicester. After the discovery of Richard III's skeleton (2012) it was decided to bury him in Leicester Cathedral despite the harsh opposition of his supporters who wanted it to be in York Minster. His remains were carried in a magnificent procession that set off for the cathedral on 22 March 2015, and the burial took place on 26 March 2015, the procession being attended by Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, and Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury. The British Royal Family was represented by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and the Countess of Wessex. Actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who claims to be a distant relative and played the King in the British Channel 4 television series 'The Hollow Crown', read a poem by award-winning Scottish poet and writer Anne Duffy (born 1955). His cathedral tomb was designed by the architects van Heiningen and Howard, the white stone at the top of a rectangular form was deeply engraved with a cross and was made of Swaledale marble in North Yorkshire. The stone sits on top of another rectangular lower and wider plinth of black marble from Kilkenny, engraved with Richard's name, dates and symbols. Richard III's remains were placed in a lead-lined coffin made of oak by Michael Ibsen, and placed in a vaulted tomb beneath the plinth and stone. The original design for the tomb was proposed in 2010 by the group "Searching for Richard" and funded by the Members of the Richard III Society, but was rejected on 13 February 2013 by Leicester Cathedral. Following the public outcry, the cathedral backed down and agreed to the construction of a burial monument over the grave of Richard III.


Richard took the title of Duke of Gloucester on 1 November 1461, and in late 1461 he became a member of the "Order of the Pericnemis". On the death of Edward IV he became Lord Protector of England, holding the office from 30 April to 26 June 1483, when he became King. Richard III as king used the title 'by the grace of God King of England and France and Lord of Ireland'. Richard III was known as 'Deacon' according to a legend circulating in the 16th century, for a warning he had heard shortly before the Battle of Bosworth that he would be betrayed by the Duke of Norfolk:

"James of Norfolk can no longer be trusted, Deacon his master bought and sold."


As Duke of Gloucester, Richard III used the royal symbols of England crossed with the royal symbols of France, except for a label at the top with three stripes, each with three ermines, the whole symbol being supported by a white boar. As king he used the royal symbols of England supported by a lion and a white boar. His motto was "Faith binds me" and his symbol was the white boar.


  1. Richard III of England
  2. Ριχάρδος Γ΄ της Αγγλίας
  3. ^ "From November 1461 until 1465 all references to Richard place him in locations south of the river Trent. It may have been partly to appease Warwick's injured feelings towards the rising influence of the king's new Woodville in-laws that he was given the honour of taking Richard into his household to complete his education, probably at some time in 1465".[12]
  4. 1,00 1,01 1,02 1,03 1,04 1,05 1,06 1,07 1,08 1,09 1,10 «Kindred Britain»
  5. 3,0 3,1 3,2 3,3 Darryl Roger Lundy: (Αγγλικά) The Peerage.
  6. «The Complete Peerage, V. Eardley of Spalding to Goojerat» 1926. σελ. 737-741.
  7. Ross, Richard III, p. 3
  8. ^ Le foto dello scheletro di Riccardo III, su
  9. ^ Il duca di York, Riccardo Plantageneto era aspirante al trono d'Inghilterra, in quanto inglese e figlio di Anna Mortimer, la figlia di Ruggero Mortimer, l'erede al trono designato dal re Riccardo II
  10. który był również jego pasierbem, jako że Stanley był mężem Małgorzaty Beaufort, matki Henryka
  11. BBC: Richard III dig: DNA confirms bones are King’s. 2013-02-04. [dostęp 2013-02-05]. (ang.).; Reuters: After 500 years, Richard III's bones yield their secret. 2013-02-04. [dostęp 2013-02-05].
  12. była to jego jedyna rola filmowa
  13. pierwotnie rolę Buckinghama miał otrzymać Orson Welles

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