KING RICHARD III : A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!
Richard III, Scene IV. (William Shakespeare)
Richard III (1452-1485), of the House Of York, was the last Plantagenet king of England. He died at the Battle Of Bosworth Field, ending the War(s) Of The Roses, and was the subject of a play by William Shakespeare.
Ascension To Throne
Richard’s brother King Edward IV died in 1483. The King’s son Edward was 12 years old and so not ready to be crowned king.
Richard served as Lord Protector for Edward until his coronation. Before that could happen, however, Edward’s father’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was declared invalid and hence his children, Edward and his brother (Richard of Shrewsbury), by her deemed illegitimate.
Strangely the Lord Protector had installed these two brothers in the Tower of London and, after they had not been seen for some time, rumours began they had been murdered at his behest.
Given that by this time he had been crowned King – he was next in line after the two princes – this was not unsurprising. Thus began the legend of the Two Princes In The Tower.
The first rebellion against Richard’s rule was led by the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, Henry Stafford. Although portrayed later as a lone malcontent who had fallen out with his former friend the King, he acted at the behest of much of Edward IV’s supporters and Yorkist support base who had become disallusioned with Richard’s rule.
This first rebellion was defeated but the second, led by Henry Tudor, but supported by Buckingham was more successful.
Henry landed in Wales and marched east through Pembrokeshire to meet Richard’s forces.
This took place in the Battle Of Bosworth field in modern day Leicestershire; Richard was defeated and he himself was killed.
The New King: Henry VII
Henry Tudor became Henry VII and married Elizabeth Of York – the 2 Princes in the Tower’s sister – thus ending the Wars of The Roses and uniting the Kingdom.
Between them Elizabeth and Henry founded one of the most famous royal dynasties in British History: the Tudors. Their son, Henry VIII, is one of England’s most famous Kings and their granddaughter, Elizabeth I, one of the most successful monarchs (although the less said about one of their other grandchildren, Bloody Mary, the better).
Richard’s Remains Found
It was long believed that Richard’s remains had been exhumed from wherever he had been buried and thrown into the River Soar during the Reformation.
However, a 2012 excavation – under an office car park on the site of an old church – led to the discover of his skeleton. These were confirmed as Richard III’s by DNA testing of known descendants of his family.
He is now buried in Leicester cathedral, much to the chagrin of the people of Yorkshire – the modern day equivalent to the House of York – who wanted him buried in York Minster.
Much of our impressions of Richard III stem from Shakespeare’s portrayal of him in his play of the same name. Shakespeare depicted a cruel child killer with wizened features and a hunchback.
Most of this was Tudor propaganda – the play was written under the reign of Henry Tudor’s granddaughter, Elizabeth I – but one part was true: medical study of Richard’s skeleton revealed that he did indeed suffer from a severe curvature of the spine, and hence his depiction as a hunchback was probably realistic.
This is part of a series on the Kings and Queens of England.