Richard III 'Crookback' Plantagenet
- Born: 26 Jun 1452, Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire, England
- Marriage: Anne Neville
- Died: 22 Aug 1485, Bosworth, Leicestershire, England at age 33
- Buried: Grey Friars Abbey, Leicestershire, England
Richard III (2 October 1452 - 22 August 1485) was the King of England from 1483 until his death and the last king from the House of York. After the death of his (alleged half -) brother King Edward IV, Richard briefly governed as a regent for Edward's son King Edward V with the title of Lord Protector, but he placed Edward and his brother Richard in the Tower (whether for their protection or to imprison them is subject to controversy) and acquired the throne for himself (crowned on 6 July 1483). A rebellion rose against Richard and he fell in the Battle of Bosworth Field, then known as Redmore or Dadlington Field, as the last Plantagenet king and the last English king to die in battle, when he faced Henry Tudor, 2nd Earl of Richmond (later King Henry VII). William Shakespeare's play Richard III has made his name particularly infamous.
Richard was born at Fotheringay Castle, the fourth surviving son of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York (who had been a strong claimant to the throne of King Henry VI) and Cecily Neville. The withered arm, limp, and crooked back of legend are most likely fabrications, asserted primarily by Thomas More in his questionable history, which made a deep impression upon Shakespeare.
Richard spent much of his childhood at Middleham Castle in Wensleydale, under the tutelage of his uncle Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick. He was involved in ongoing battles between different alliances of the House of Lancaster and the House of York factions during the last half of the 15th Century. At the time of his father's death at the Battle of Wakefield, Richard was still a boy, and at that time he was taken into the care of Warwick, known to history as "The Kingmaker" because of his strong influence on the course of the Wars of the Roses. Warwick was instrumental in deposing Henry VI and replacing him with Richard's eldest brother, Edward. While Richard was at Warwick's estate, he developed a close friendship with Francis Lovell, a friendship that would remain strong for the rest of his life. Another child in the household was Warwick's daughter Anne Neville, whom Richard would later marry.
Following the decisive Yorkist victory over the Lancastrians at the Battle of Tewkesbury, Richard married the widowed Anne Neville, younger daughter of the late Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick. Anne's first husband had been Edward of Westminster, son of Henry VI. Following his death at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471, she disappears from the records for a while, her whereabouts unknown. It is popularly believed that she had fallen under the control of George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence, who had an interest in preventing her from marrying again, because it gave him full control over the joint inheritance of Anne and her elder sister Isabella Neville, Duchess of Clarence, George's wife. Richard is said to have found Anne working as a scullery maid in a London chophouse and "rescued" her; but the truth is not known. Their marriage took place on 12 July 1472. However, because of the estates and lands at issue, it is far from clear that he actually loved her, although he was seen to have wept openly at her funeral in 1485.
Richard and Anne had one son, Edward Plantagenet (also known as Edward of Middleham, 1473 - 9 April 1484), who died not long after being created Prince of Wales. Richard also had a number of illegitimate children, including John of Gloucester and a daughter named Katharine-married to William Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke. It has been thought that their mother may have been one Katherine Haute, who is mentioned in household records. Both of these children survived Richard.
Reign of Edward IV
During the reign of his brother, King Edward IV, Richard demonstrated his loyalty as well as his skill as a military commander. He was rewarded with large estates in Northern England, and given the title Duke of Gloucester and the position of Governor of the North, becoming the richest and most powerful noble in England and a loyal aide to Edward IV. By contrast the other surviving brother, George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence, was executed by Edward for treason.
Richard continued to control the north of England until Edward's death. In 1482 Richard recaptured Berwick-upon-Tweed from the Scots, and was noted as being fair and just, endowing universities and making grants to the church.
On the death of King Edward IV, on 9 April 1483, the late King's sons (Richard's young nephews), King Edward V, aged 12, and Richard of Shrewsbury, 1st Duke of York, aged 9, were considered to be next in the order of succession. Appointed Lord Protector of the Realm in his brother's will, Richard was aware of a danger that the Woodvilles would isolate him and would use their influence over Edward V to consolidate their power at Richard's expense.
When the boy King's retinue was on its way from Wales to London, for his coronation, Richard and Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham joined them at Northampton. He had the king's guardian, Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, (brother of Elizabeth Woodville, Edward's Queen Consort) and other advisors arrested and taken to Pontefract Castle, allegedly for planning to assassinate Edward V. Richard then took Edward to stay at the Tower of London (then a royal palace), a move widely supported since much of the country distrusted the former queen's family. Richard called himself Lord Protector and was also made Chief Councillor (head of government).
John Morton, Bishop of Ely and later Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VII, is considered by some to be an important source of the Tudor propaganda against Richard III. According to Sir Thomas More's History, which may be based in part on Morton's accounts, Lord Hastings (a regular visitor to the young Edward V in the Tower of London) was arrested for alleged treason on 13 June 1483 at a meeting of the Royal Council, at the Tower. A few minutes later, he was beheaded on Tower Green, a clear violation of his rights (i.e., execution without due process) as a Peer guaranteed under Magna Carta. It has been argued that Hastings, whose execution was the first recorded at the Tower of London, was indeed arrested on 13 June, but later formally charged with treason, tried, convicted and sentenced, and legally executed on 18 June; no record of such proceedings survives. Edward's younger brother, Richard, was removed to the Tower on 16 June, with his mother's consent.
It is thought that Hastings had allied himself with the Queen Dowager because of the rise in influence of Buckingham and what he saw as Richard's usurpation of the throne. Morton claimed to have been in the council room when Hastings was arrested, and may have been one of several men who were detained for participating in the conspiracy with Hastings.
Three other members of the alleged conspiracy - the queen's brother Lord Rivers, her second son Richard Grey, and another chamberlain Sir Thomas Vaughan - were also convicted and executed elsewhere. Jane (or Elizabeth) Shore, who had been a mistress of King Edward IV, and then of his step-son Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset (who avoided prosecution in the conspiracy by going into sanctuary at Westminster with his mother), and was now Hastings's mistress, was convicted of only lesser offences and was made to do public penance and briefly imprisoned.
John Morton is also thought to be the source of other accusations against Richard, notably
* the murder of Henry VI
* the "private execution" of his brother George, Duke of Clarence
* the murder of his wife's first husband, Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales
* forcing his wife, Anne Neville, to marry him against her will
* killing his wife so he could marry his niece, Elizabeth of York
* accusing Jane Shore and Elizabeth Woodville of witchcraft in withering his arm
* being illegitimate himself
Each of these stories first appears in writing either in Sir Thomas More's The History of King Richard III, believed by some to be based on Morton's account, or on the writings of someone else who had heard the stories. (Historians are divided on the issue of Morton's importance as a source, some pointing out that More's own father was an Edwardian loyalist and well-connected in the government of the City of London.) The question of whether these stories were true was not of great interest to either Morton or More, history then still being regarded as a branch of literature. It was customary for histories to also serve as propaganda on both sides, to support and strengthen one's patron's cause. Not only that, but Morton, having been arrested by Richard III, had fled to exile in Flanders. He only returned when Henry VII was on the throne and was quickly promoted.
On June 22, 1483, outside St Paul's Cathedral, a statement was read out on behalf of Richard declaring for the first time that he was taking the throne for himself. When the members of Parliament met on June 25, it apparently heard evidence from a priest that he had conducted a marriage or betrothal between Edward IV and one Lady Eleanor Talbot (or Butler) before his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. Since even a betrothal was a legally binding "pre-contract" in the customs of the time, Edward IV's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville had been bigamous, therefore all their children were illegitimate. Some of the proceedings of that Parliamentary session survive in a document known as Titulus Regius, which Parliament issued some months later explaining its actions and of which a single copy escaped the destruction of all copies of the Titulus Regius later ordered by Henry VII. The identity of the priest in question - thought to have been Edward IV's sometime Chancellor, Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells - is known from only one source, the French political commentator, Philippe de Commines. Titulus Regius also cited two further grounds upon which Edward IV's marriage had been invalid, namely that it was made "in a profane place" and that it was made "without the assent of the Lords".
Despite rumours that Richard's claims were true, evidence was lacking, and until recently it has generally been accepted that Richard's chief motive for taking the crown was that he felt that his own power and wealth would be threatened under Edward V, who was presumably sympathetic to his Woodville relatives. A recently-published theory claims that it was Edward IV who was illegitimate -see was Edward illegitimate? for details - but hard evidence is lacking.
Richard's three elder brothers were all dead. His elder brother George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence had been attainted in connection with a treason charge, meaning that his children Margaret and Edward, Earl of Warwick were also removed from the line of succession - although they were not personally accused of treason and had been given other honors.
On July 6, 1483, Richard was crowned at Westminster Abbey. Except for three earls not old enough to participate and a few lesser nobles, the entire peerage attended his coronation. He was the last Plantagenet king.
Richard was known as a devout man and an efficient administrator. However, he was a Yorkist and heirless, and had ruthlessly removed the Woodvilles and their allies; he was therefore vulnerable to political opposition. His apparently loyal supporter, Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, turned against him and was executed late in 1483.
Richard's enemies united against him. According to local tradition in Leicester Richard went to see a seer in the town before heading off for the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485 to meet Lancastrian forces led by Henry Tudor. She told him "where your spur should strike on the ride into battle, your head shall be broken on the return". On the ride into battle his spur struck the bridge stone of the Bow Bridge; as he was being carried back over the back of a horse his head struck the same stone and was broken open. Tudor succeeded Richard to become Henry VII, and cemented the succession by marrying the Yorkist heir, Elizabeth of York. Legends notwithstanding, Richard was abandoned at Bosworth by the Lords William Stanley and Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland, Stanley switching sides, which severely depleted his army's strength.
It is said that Richard's naked body was paraded through the streets before being buried at Greyfriars Church, Leicester. According to one tradition, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries his body was thrown into the nearby River Soar, although other evidence suggests that this may not be the case and that his burial site may currently be under a car park in Leicester. There is currently a memorial plaque on the site of the Cathedral where he may have once been buried. Skeletal remains recovered from the Soar and initially believed to be Richard's were later found to be those of an Anglo-Saxon warrior who died nearly 500 years before Richard was killed. This conclusion was made through both radiocarbon dating and the size of the body and the thickness of the bones. Richard is described in contemporary accounts as being rather short and slim. The greater probability is that despite the Dissolution, Richard's remains still are buried at the original site whereas the tombstone has been destroyed (see link below).
By the time of his last stand against the Lancastrians, he 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 also 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, as his heir.
If Edward IV's illegitimacy is accepted, the heirs of George, Duke of Clarence would be the heirs of the House of York and of England, according to the strict application of the Laws of Inheritance. This is Michael Abney-Hastings, 14th Earl of Loudoun (b.1942, formerly Lord Mauchline) who lives in Jerilderie, Australia. It should be noted that both the attainder of Clarence (by Edward IV) and that of James Francis Edward Stuart (by Queen Anne) would be invalid if neither presiding Monarch was rightful, for the attainders would then have no proper valid Royal Assent.
The law governing succession in Great Britain is the Act of Settlement 1701, under which Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom is the legal heir. This act is presently recognized in the United Kingdom as part of the fundamental basis of constitutional law. It should however be recognised that the Act of Settlement is itself subject to the need for Royal Assent as outlined above.
Richard's Council of the North greatly improved conditions for Northern England, as commoners of that region were formerly without any susbtantial economic activity independent of London. In the wake of the Neville family's Kingmaker and the Council's founding, they became powerful enough to return to open revolts a la Jorvik times. From the Pilgrimage of Grace, the Province of Maryland and Jacobitism as united forces in the Catholic Reformation, the people were initially Tory and also courted the Irish in immigration after Catholic Emancipation. Its descendant position the Secretary of State for the Northern Department, provided a rebirthing in Northern Britain that hadn't existed since the time of the Vikings and sparked the Scottish Enlightenment. The Industrial Revolution in the UK was largely a product of these beginnings.
Since his death, Richard III has become one of England's most controversial kings. Modern historians recognise the damage done to his reputation by "historians" of the next reign, and particularly by William Shakespeare. Among other things, Richard was represented as physically malformed, which in those days was accepted as evidence of an evil character. However, it has been demonstrated that he could not have carried out most of the crimes attributed to him. The major exception is the question of whether he was responsible for the deaths of his nephews, the "Princes in the Tower".
The Society of Friends of King Richard III (membership approximately 5,000 in 2005) was set up during the 20th century in order to rehabilitate Richard and to honor his memory. This Society is based in Richard's own city of York, where following his death in 1485 it was proclaimed, that "King Richard, late reigning mercifully over us, was.... piteously slain and murdered, to the great heaviness of this city". The Society possesses a good database of books and archive material.
The Richard III Society (membership approximately 4,000) was also set up during the 20th century and has gathered considerable research material about his life and reign. Its members hold events, raise monuments and attempt to preserve the king's memory. They have proved their enthusiasm for Richard III and his memory by continuing to function despite having a committee composed entirely of southerners and Londoners, in full knowledge of the fact that Richard III absolutely disliked southerners and Londerners and would have replaced every one of them with northerners, as indeed it is well documented that he did, with some energy, during his own government. More controversially, however, this Society has also adopted as its Patron a lineal descendant of Henry VII (the present Duke of Gloucester), while Michael Hastings, Richard's present day heir and a lineal descendant of Clarence, and his family remain controversially disinherited from the true crown of England. However their database is impressive and its value to the historical research community is considerable.
Richard appears in the 2002 List of "100 Great Britons" (sponsored by the BBC and voted for by the public), alongside such others as David Beckham, Aleister Crowley, and Johnny Rotten. The BBC History Magazine lists him under "doubtful entrants, based on special interest lobbying or 'cult' status", and comments: "On the list due to the Ricardian lobby, but a minor monarch".
Fiction about Richard III
The foremost work of fiction regarding Richard III is, of course, the eponymous play by William Shakespeare. See the separate article for details.
A lasting mystery surrounding the accession of Richard was the disappearance and presumed death of Richard's nephews, known as the Princes in the Tower. One of the most readable accounts of the evidence on all sides of the question is Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time, written in 1951 (when some of the sources now available had not yet come to light). Another extremely rich view of the reign of Edward IV and Richard III is The Sunne in Splendor, by Sharon Kay Penman. An award-winning novel published in 2003, The Rose of York: Love & War by Sandra Worth, also presents the account of Richard III from the Ricardian viewpoint. Worth argues that Richard III's contribution to shaping a just society by improvements to the legal system was buried by the Tudors because it conflicted with the image of a villainous and hated monarch that they wished to present in their attempt to minimize hostility towards their regime.
The American Branch of the Richard III Society carries out its own review of all the suspects in the case of Richard III, in "Whodunit?" in the online library at http://www.r3.org/bookcase/whodunit.html (external link).
Another fictional representation is the 1939 film Tower of London, where Basil Rathbone is Richard and Boris Karloff his evil henchman. Interestingly, while this Richard is clearly the monster of Tudor legend, most of his deformity appears to be transferred to Mort, who almost resembles "Igor" of Frankenstein legends!
Additionally, a secret history of Richard III is presented in the British sitcom Blackadder.
Source material on all aspects of Richard's reign is neatly and impartially brought together by Keith Dockray in Richard III: A Reader in History (Sutton, 1988).
* The Trial of Richard III by Richard Drewett & Mark Redhead (ISBN 0862991986)
* Royal Blood by Bertram Fields (ISBN 006039269X)
* Richard III: The Road to Bosworth Field by Peter Hammond & Anne Sutton (ISBN 009466160X)
* Richard the Third by Michael Hicks (Tempus, 2001) (ISBN 0752423029)
* Richard III: A Study in Service by Rosemary Horrox (ISBN 0521407265)
* Richard III and the North edited by Rosemary Horrox (ISBN 0859580660)
* Richard III: The Great Debate edited by Paul Murray Kendall (ISBN 0393003108)
* Richard the Third by Paul Murray Kendall (ISBN 0393007855)
* The Betrayal of Richard III by V.B. Lamb (ISBN 086299778X)
* Richard III and the Princes in the Tower by A.J. Pollard (ISBN 0312067151)
* Good King Richard? by Jeremy Potter (ISBN 0094646309)
* Richard III by Charles Ross (Methuen, 1981) (ISBN 0413295303)
* Richard III: England's Black Legend by Desmond Seward (ISBN 0140266348)
* The Coronation of Richard III by Anne Sutton & Peter Hammond (ISBN 0904387752)
* Richard III's Books by Anne Sutton & Livia VIsser-Fuchs (ISBN 0750914068)
* The Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir (ISBN 0345391780)
* Joan of Arc and Richard III by Charles Wood (ISBN 019506951X)
* History of the English Speaking Peoples by Winston Churchill, Vol. 1, The Birth of Britain
Richard married Anne Neville, daughter of Richard 'kingmaker' Neville and Unknown. (Anne Neville was born on 11 Jun 1456 in Warwick Castle, Warwick, Warwickshire, England, died on 16 Mar 1485 in Westminster, London, Middlesex, England and was buried in Westminster Abbey, Westminster, Middlesex, England.)