Richard III of England

"Richard of Gloucester" redirects here. For the grandson of George V of the United Kingdom, see Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester.
"Richard III" redirects here. For the play by Shakespeare, see Richard III (play). For other uses, see Richard III (disambiguation).
Richard III

The earliest surviving portrait of Richard (c. 1520, after a lost original), formerly belonging to the Paston family
(Society of Antiquaries, London)
King of England (more...)
Reign 26 June 1483 – 22 August 1485
Coronation 6 July 1483
Predecessor Edward V
Successor Henry VII
Born (1452-10-02)2 October 1452
Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire
Died 22 August 1485(1485-08-22) (aged 32)
Bosworth Field, Leicestershire
Burial Greyfriars, Leicester (originally)
Leicester Cathedral (re-interred, 26 March 2015)
Consort Anne Neville
Issue Edward of Middleham
John of Gloucester (illegitimate)
Katherine (illegitimate)
House York
Father Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York
Mother Cecily Neville
Religion Roman Catholic
English Royalty
House of York
Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke
Richard III

Richard III (2 October 1452 – 22 August 1485) was King of England from 1483 until his death in 1485, at the age of 32, 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, marked the end of the Middle Ages in England. He is the subject of the historical play Richard III by William Shakespeare.

When his brother King Edward IV died in April 1483, Richard was named Lord Protector of the realm for Edward's son and successor, the 12-year-old 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 own brother Richard of Shrewsbury 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 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[1] and Richard's former ally, Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham;[2] but the revolt collapsed. In August 1485, Henry Tudor and his uncle, Jasper Tudor, led a second rebellion. Henry Tudor landed in southern Wales with a small contingent of French troops and marched through his birthplace, Pembrokeshire, recruiting soldiers. Henry's force engaged Richard's army and defeated it at the Battle of Bosworth Field in Leicestershire. Richard was struck down in the conflict, making him the last English king to die in battle on home soil and the first since Harold II was killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Henry then ascended to the throne as Henry VII.

After the battle Richard's corpse was taken to Leicester and buried without pomp.[3] His original tomb monument is believed to have been removed during the Reformation, and his remains were lost for more than five centuries, believed to have been thrown into the River Soar.[4] In 2012, an archaeological excavation was commissioned by the Richard III Society on a city council car park on the site once occupied by Greyfriars Priory Church.[5][6] The University of Leicester identified the skeleton found in the excavation as that of Richard III as a result of radiocarbon dating, comparison with contemporary reports of his appearance, and comparison of his mitochondrial DNA with that of two matrilineal descendants of Richard III's eldest sister, Anne of York.[7][8][9] Richard's remains were reburied in Leicester Cathedral on 26 March 2015.[10]


Richard was born on 2 October 1452[11] at Fotheringhay Castle, the twelfth of thirteen children of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville at the beginning of what has traditionally been labelled the "Wars of the Roses," a period of "three or four decades of political instability and periodic open civil war in the second half of the fifteenth century,"[12] between supporters of Richard's father (a potential claimant to the throne of King Henry VI from birth)[13]—"Yorkists"—in opposition to the regime of Henry VI and his Queen Margaret of Anjou,[14] and those loyal to the crown ("Lancastrians").[15] When his father and the Nevilles were forced to flee to Ludlow in 1459, Richard and his older brother George (later Duke of Clarence), were placed in the custody of the Duchess of Buckingham, and the Archbishop of Canterbury.[16]

When his father and elder brother Edmund, Earl of Rutland, were killed at the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December 1460, Richard, who was eight years old, and George were sent by his mother, the Duchess of York, to the Low Countries.[17] 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 June 1461. At this time Richard was named Duke of Gloucester and made a Knight of the Garter and Knight of the Bath; he was involved in the rough politics of the Wars of the Roses from an early age (for example, 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.[18]

Richard spent several years during 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), who took care of his knightly training: in autumn 1465 King Edward granted the earl £1000 for the expenses of his younger brother’s tutelage.[19] With some interruptions, Richard stayed at Middleham either from late 1461 until early 1465, when he was twelve[20] or from 1465 until his coming of age in 1468 when he turned sixteen.[21] While at Warwick's estate, he probably met Francis Lovell, a strong supporter later in his life, and Warwick's younger daughter, his future wife Anne Neville.[22]

It is possible that even at this early stage Warwick was considering the king’s brothers as strategic matches for his daughters, Isabel and Anne: young aristocrats were often sent to be raised in the households of their intended future partners,[23] as had been the case for the young dukes’ father, Richard of York.[24] As the relationship between the king and Warwick became strained, Edward IV opposed the match.[25] During Warwick’s lifetime, George was the only royal brother to marry one of his daughters, the eldest, Isabel, on 12 July 1469, without the king's permission. George joined his father-in-law's revolt against the king,[26] while Richard remained loyal to Edward, even though rumour coupled Richard’s name with Anne Neville until August 1469.[27]

Richard and Edward were forced to flee to Burgundy in October 1470 after Warwick defected to the side of the former Lancastrian Queen Margaret of Anjou, and for a second time Richard was forced to seek refuge in the Low Countries, which were part of the realm of the Duchy of Burgundy. In 1468, Richard's sister Margaret had married Charles the Bold, the Duke of Burgundy, and the brothers could expect a welcome there. Although only eighteen years old, Richard played crucial roles in the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury[28] that resulted in Edward's restoration to the throne in spring 1471.

During his adolescence, Richard developed idiopathic scoliosis.[29] In 2014 the osteoarchaeologist Dr Jo Appleby, of Leicester University's School of Archaeology and Ancient History, imaged the spinal column and reconstructed a model using 3D printing, and concluded that though the spinal scoliosis looked dramatic, it probably did not cause any major physical deformity that could not be disguised by clothing.[30][31]

Marriage and family relationships

Contemporary illumination (Rous Roll, 1483) of Richard III, his queen Anne Neville whom he married in 1472, and their son Edward the Prince of Wales

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.[32] By the end of 1470 Anne had previously been wedded to Edward of Westminster, only son of Henry VI, to seal her father's allegiance with the Lancastrian party.[33] Edward died at the Battle of Tewkesbury on 4 May 1471,[34] while Warwick had died at the Battle of Barnet on 14 April 1471.[35] Richard's marriage plans brought him into conflict with his brother George.[36] 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".[37] 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 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.[38]

The Croyland Chronicle records that Richard agreed to a prenuptial 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".[39]

The date of Paston’s letter suggests the marriage was still being negotiated in February 1472. In order to win his brother George’s final consent to the marriage, Richard renounced most of Warwick’s land and property including the earldoms of Warwick (which the Kingmaker had held in his wife’s right) and Salisbury and surrendered to Clarence the office of Great Chamberlain of England,[40] while he retained Neville’s forfeit estates he had already been granted in the summer of 1471:[41][42] Penrith, Sheriff Hutton and Middleham, where he later established his marital household.[43]

Stained glass depiction of Richard and Anne Neville in Cardiff Castle

The requisite Papal dispensation was obtained dated 22 April 1472.[44] Michael Hicks has suggested that the terms of the dispensation deliberately understated the degrees of consanguinity between the couple, and the marriage was therefore illegal on the ground of first degree consanguinity following George's marriage to Anne's sister Isabel.[45] First degree consanguinity applied in the case of Henry VIII and his brother's widow Catherine of Aragon. In their case the papal dispensation was obtained after Catherine declared the first marriage had not been consummated.[46] In Richard's case, there would have been first degree consanguinity if Richard had sought to marry Isabel (in case of widowhood) after she had married his brother George, but no such consanguinity applied for Anne and Richard. Richard's marriage to Anne was never declared null, and it was public to everyone including secular and canon lawyers for 13 years.[47]

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,[48] 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 atween them".[49]

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".[50] The doubts cast by Clarence on the validity of Richard and Anne's marriage were addressed by a clause protecting their rights in the event they were divorced (i.e. of their marriage being declared null and void by the Church) and then legally remarried to each other, and also protected Richard's rights while waiting for such a valid second marriage with Anne.[51] 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.[52] 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.[53] There is no evidence of Richard's involvement in George's subsequent conviction and execution on a charge of treason.[54]

Reign of Edward IV

Estates and titles

The ruins of the twelfth century castle at Middleham in Wensleydale where Richard was raised

Richard was granted the Duchy of Gloucester on 1 November 1461,[55] 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 John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, in East Anglia. In 1462, on his birthday, he was made Constable of Gloucester and Corfe Castles and Admiral of England, Ireland and Aquitaine[56] 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.[57] 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 March.[58] 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.[59] It is possible that the grant of Middleham seconded Richard's personal wishes.[60] However, any personal attachment he may have felt to Middleham was likely mitigated in his adulthood, as surviving records demonstrate he spent less time there than at Barnard Castle and Pontefract.[61]

Exile and return

During the latter part of the reign of Edward IV, Richard demonstrated his loyalty,[62] in contrast to their brother George, who had allied himself with Warwick through the 1460s, and threw in his lot with the earl when the latter rebelled at the end of the decade.[63] Following Warwick's 1470 rebellion, in which he made peace with Margaret of Anjou and promised the restoration of Henry VI to the English throne, Richard, William, Lord Hastings and Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers escaped capture at Doncaster by Warwick's brother, Lord Montague.[64] On 2 October they sailed from King's Lynn in two ships; Edward landed at Marsdiep and Richard at Zeeland.[65] It was 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 Richard borrowed three pounds from Zeeland's town-bailiff.[66] They were attainted by Warwick's only Parliament on 26 November.[67] They resided in Bruges with Louis de Gruthuse, who had been the Burgundian Ambassador to Edward's court,[68] but it was not until Louis XI of France declared war on Burgundy that Charles, Duke of Burgundy, assisted their return,[69] providing, along with the Hanseatic merchants, £20,000, 36 ships and 1200 men. They departed Flushing for England on 11 March 1471.[70] Warwick's arrest of local sympathisers prevented them from landing in Yorkist East Anglia and on 14 March, after being separated in a storm, their ships ran ashore at Holderness.[71] 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.[72][73] It was in Edward's attempt to regain his throne that Gloucester began to demonstrate his skill as a military commander.[74]

1471 military campaign

Once Edward had regained the support of Clarence, he mounted a swift and decisive campaign to regain the Crown through combat;[75] it is believed that Richard was his principal lieutenant[76] as some of the king's earliest support came from members of Richard's affinity, including Sir James Harrington[77] and Sir William Parr, who brought 600 men-at-arms to them at Doncaster.[78] He may have led the vanguard at the Battle of Barnet, in his first command, on 14 April 1471, where he outflanked the Duke of Exeter's wing,[79] although the degree to which his command was fundamental may have been exaggerated.[80] That his personal household sustained losses indicates he was in the thick of the fighting.[81] A contemporary source is clear about his holding the vanguard for Edward at Tewkesbury,[82] deployed against the Lancastrian vanguard under the Duke of Somerset on 4 May 1471,[83] and his role two days later, as Constable of England, sitting alongside John Howard as Earl Marshal, in the trial and sentencing of leading Lancastrians captured after the battle.[84]

1475 invasion of France

At least in part resentful of the French king's previous support of his Lancastrian opponents, and possibly in support of his brother-in-law Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, Edward went to parliament in October 1472 for funding a military campaign,[85] and eventually landed in Calais on 4 July 1475.[86] Gloucester's was the largest private contingent of his army.[87] Although well known to have publicly been against the eventual treaty signed with Louis XI at Picquigny (and absent from the negotiations, in which one of his rank would have been expected to take a leading role),[88] he acted as Edward's witness when the king instructed his delegates to the French court,[89] and received 'some very fine presents' from Louis on a visit to the French king at Amiens.[90] In refusing other gifts, which included 'pensions' in the guise of 'tribute', he was joined only by Cardinal Bourchier.[91] He supposedly disapproved of Edward's policy of personally benefitting—politically and financially—from a campaign paid for out of a parliamentary grant, and hence out of public funds.[88] Any military prowess was therefore not to be revealed further until the last years of Edward's reign.[92]

Council of the North

Richard controlled the north of England until Edward IV's death.[93] There, and especially in the city of York, he was highly regarded;[94] although it has been questioned whether this view was reciprocated by Richard.[95] 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. Kendall and later historians have suggested that this was with the intention of making Richard the Lord of the North;[96] Peter Booth, however, has argued that "instead of allowing his brother the Duke of Gloucester carte blanche, [Edward] restricted his influence by using his own agent, Sir William Parr."[97] Richard served as its first Lord President from 1472 until his accession to the throne.[98] On his accession, he made his nephew John de la Pole, 1st Earl of Lincoln, president and formally institutionalised it as an offshoot of the royal Council; all its letters and judgements were issued on behalf of the king and in his name.[99] The council had a budget of 2000 marks per annum (approximately £1320) 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.[100]

War with Scotland

Richard's increasing role in the north from the mid-1470s to some extent explains his withdrawal from the royal court. He had been Warden of the West March on the Scottish border since 10 September 1470,[101] and again from May 1471; he used Penrith as a base while 'taking effectual measures' against the Scots, and 'enjoyed the revenues of the estates' of the Forest of Cumberland while doing so.[102] It was at the same time that the duke was appointed sheriff of Cumberland five consecutive years, being described as 'of Penrith Castle' in 1478.[103] By 1480, war with Scotland was looming; 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.[104] Richard 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. Richard witnessed the treaty with Alexander, Duke of Albany, brother of the Scottish king James III.[105] Northumberland, Stanley, Dorset, Sir Edward Woodville, and Richard 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 Richard,[106] it was the last time that the Royal Burgh of Berwick changed hands between the two realms.[107]


Silver groat of Richard III
(York Museums Trust)
Detail from the Rous Roll (1483) showing Richard with a sword in his right hand, an orb and cross in his left, a white boar (his heraldic badge) at his feet, framed by the crests and helms of England, Ireland, Wales, Gascony-Guyenne, France and St Edward[108]

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 Realm and he quickly moved to keep the queen from exercising power. At William Hastings' urging, Richard assumed his role and left his base in Yorkshire for London.[109] As previously agreed, on 29 April Richard, who was joined on the route by his cousin the Duke of Buckingham, met the Dowager Queen Elizabeth's brother Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers at Northampton while he was escorting Edward at the Queen's request to London with an armed escort of 2000 men while Richard and Buckingham's joint escort was of 600 men.[110] However, the young king himself had been sent further south to Stony Stratford. At first convivial, Richard had Earl Rivers, his nephew Richard Grey and his associate Thomas Vaughan arrested. They were taken to Pontefract Castle, where they were executed on 25 June on the charge of treason against the Lord Protector after appearing before a tribunal led by Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland. Rivers appointed Richard as executor of his will.[111]

After having Lord Rivers arrested, the two dukes moved to Stony Stratford where Richard informed the young king of a plot aimed at denying him his role as Protector whose perpetrators had been dealt with.[112] He proceeded to escort the young king to London where they entered on 4 May displaying the carriages of weapons Earl Rivers had taken with his 2000 men army. Richard first accommodated Edward in the Bishop's apartments, then, on the Duke of Buckingham's suggestion, in the Royal Apartments of the Tower of London where kings customarily awaited their coronation.[113] On hearing the news of her brother's arrest on 30 April, the Dowager Queen fled to sanctuary in Westminster Abbey together with her son by her first marriage Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset, her five daughters and her youngest son Richard, Duke of York.[114] On 16 June Elizabeth Woodville agreed to hand over the younger prince to the Archbishop of Canterbury so that he might attend his brother Edward's coronation, still planned for 22 June.[115]

On 10/11 June Richard wrote to Ralph, Lord Neville, the City of York and others asking for their support against "the Queen, her blood adherents and affinity" whom he suspected of plotting his murder.[116] 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, acting as a go-between. According to Thomas More, Hastings was taken out of the Council chambers and summarily executed in the courtyard, while others, like Lord Thomas Stanley and bishop Morton, were arrested.[117] Hastings was not attainted and Richard sealed an indenture that placed Hastings' widow Katherine directly under his own protection.[118] John Morton, Bishop of Ely, one of those arrested, was released into the custody of Buckingham before the latter's rebellion.[119]

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 memoires of French diplomat Philippe de Commines as Robert Stillington, the Bishop of Bath and Wells.[120] On 22 June 1483, a sermon was preached outside Old St. Paul's Cathedral declaring Edward's children bastards and Richard the rightful king.[121] Shortly after, the citizens of London, both nobles and commons, convened and drew up a petition asking Richard to assume the throne.[122] 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.[123]

The princes, who were presumably still lodged in the Royal Residence of the Tower of London at the time of Richard's coronation, disappeared from sight after the summer of 1483.[124] Although Richard III has been accused of having Edward and his brother killed, there is debate about their actual fate.[125]

Richard and his wife Anne endowed King's College and Queens' College at Cambridge University, and made grants to the church.[126] He planned the establishment of a large chantry chapel in York Minster, with over one hundred priests.[127] Richard also founded the College of Arms.[128]

Rebellion of 1483

For more details on this topic, see Buckingham's rebellion.

In 1483, a conspiracy arose among a number of disaffected gentry, many of whom had been supporters of Edward IV and the 'whole Yorkist establishment.'[129] The conspiracy was nominally led by Richard's former ally and first cousin once removed Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, although it had begun as a Woodville-Beaufort conspiracy (being 'well under way' by the time of the duke's involvement).[130] Indeed, Davies has suggested that it was 'only the subsequent parliamentary attainder that placed Buckingham at the centre of events,' in order to blame a single disaffected magnate motivated by greed, rather than 'the embarrassing truth' that those opposing Richard were actually 'overwhelmingly Edwardian loyalists'.[131] It is possible that they planned to depose Richard III and place Edward V back on the throne, and that when rumours arose that Edward and his brother were dead, Buckingham proposed that Henry Tudor should return from exile, take the throne and marry Elizabeth of York, elder sister of the Tower Princes. However, it has also been pointed out that as this narrative stems from Richard's own parliament of 1484, it should probably be treated 'with caution.'[132] For his part, Buckingham raised a substantial force from his estates in Wales and the Marches.[133] Henry, in exile in Brittany, enjoyed the support of the Breton treasurer Pierre Landais, who hoped Buckingham's victory would cement an alliance between Brittany and England.[134]

Some of Henry Tudor's ships ran into a storm and were forced to return to Brittany or Normandy,[135] while Henry himself anchored off Plymouth for a week before learning of Buckingham's failure.[136] 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 either turned in by a retainer for the bounty Richard had put on his head, or was discovered in hiding with him.[137] He was convicted of treason and beheaded in Salisbury,[138] near the Bull's Head Inn, on 2 November. His widow, Catherine Woodville, later married Jasper Tudor, the uncle of Henry Tudor, who was in the process of organising another rebellion.[131]

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.[139] The French government, recalling Richard'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

Memorial to Richard III until 2015 in the choir of Leicester Cathedral

On 22 August 1485, Richard met the outnumbered forces of Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Richard rode a white courser.[140] The size of Richard's army has been estimated at 8000, Henry's at 5000, but exact numbers are not known; all that can be said is that the Royal army 'substantially' outnumbered Tudor's.[141] The traditional view of the king's famous cries of "Treason!"[142] before falling was that during the battle Richard was abandoned by Lord Stanley (made Earl of Derby in October),[143] 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.[144] Indeed, the physical confines behind the crest of Ambion Hill, combined with a difficulty of communications, probably physically hampered any attempt he made to join the fray.[145] Despite appearing "a pillar of the Ricardian regime", and his previous loyalty to Edward IV,[146] Lord Stanley's wife, Lady Margaret Beaufort, was Henry Tudor's mother,[147] and Stanley's inaction, combined with his brother's entering the battle on Tudor's behalf was fundamental to Richard's defeat.[148] The death of John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, his close companion, may have had a demoralising effect on Richard and his men. Either way, Richard led a cavalry charge deep into the enemy ranks in an attempt to end the battle quickly by striking at Henry Tudor himself.[149]

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

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.[150] 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.[151] It was said that the blows were so violent that the king's helmet was driven into his skull.[152] The contemporary Welsh poet Guto'r Glyn implies a leading Welsh Lancastrian Rhys ap Thomas, or one of his men, killed the king, writing that he "killed the boar, shaved his head".[151][153][154] The identification in 2013 of King Richard's body shows that the skeleton had 11 wounds, eight of them to the skull, clearly inflicted in battle and suggesting he had lost his helmet.[155] Professor Guy Rutty, from the University of Leicester, said: "The most likely injuries to have caused the king's death are the two to the inferior aspect of the skull—a large sharp force trauma possibly from a sword or staff weapon, such as a halberd or bill, and a penetrating injury from the tip of an edged weapon."[156] The skull showed that a blade had hacked away part of the rear of the skull. Richard III was the last English king to be killed in battle.[157]

Polydore Vergil, Henry Tudor's official historian, recorded that "King Richard, alone, was killed fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies".[158] Richard's naked body was then carried back to Leicester tied to a horse, and early sources strongly suggest that it was displayed in the collegiate Church of the Annunciation of Our Lady of the Newarke,[159] prior to being buried at Greyfriars Church in Leicester.[160] In 1495, Henry VII paid £50 for a marble and alabaster monument.[160] According to a discredited tradition, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, his body was thrown into the River Soar,[161] although other evidence suggests that a memorial stone was visible in 1612, in a garden built on the site of Greyfriars.[160] The exact location was then lost, owing to more than 400 years of subsequent development,[162] until archaeological investigations in 2012 (see the Discovery of remains section) revealed the site of the garden and Greyfriars church. There was a memorial ledger stone in the choir of the cathedral, since replaced by the tomb of the king, and a stone plaque on Bow Bridge where tradition had falsely suggested that his remains had been 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 in the city; 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.[163]

Henry Tudor succeeded Richard to become Henry VII and sought to cement the succession by marrying the Yorkist heiress Elizabeth of York, Edward IV's daughter and Richard III's niece.[164]


Richard and Anne had one son, born between 1474 and 1476,[165][166] Edward of Middleham, who was created Earl of Salisbury on 15 February 1478.[167] He died in April 1484, after being created Prince of Wales on 8 September the previous year, and only two months after formally being declared heir apparent.[168] Richard also had two acknowledged illegitimate children: John of Gloucester (also known as "John of Pontefract"), who was appointed Captain of Calais in 1485, and Katherine Plantagenet who married William Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, in 1484. Neither their birth dates nor the names of their mothers are documented, but since Katherine was old enough to be wedded in 1484 (age of consent was 12) and John was old enough to be knighted in September 1483 in York Minster (when his half brother Edward, Richard's only legitimate heir, was invested Prince of Wales) and to be made Captain of Calais in March 1485, most historians agree that they were fathered during Richard's teen years.[169][170] There is no trace of infidelity on Richard's part after his marriage to Anne Neville in 1472, when he was around 20,[171] hence the suggestion by A.L. Rowse that Gloucester 'had no interest in sex.'[172]

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.[173] 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.[174][175] John Ashdown-Hill has suggested that John was conceived during Richard's first solo expedition to the eastern counties in the summer of 1467 at the invitation of John Howard and that the boy was born in 1468 and named after his friend and supporter. Richard himself noted John was still a minor (not being yet 21) when he issued the royal patent appointing him Captain of Calais on 11 March 1485, possibly on his seventeenth birthday.[176]

Both of Richard's illegitimate children survived him, but they seem to have died without issue and their fate after Richard's demise at Bosworth is not certain. John received a £20 annuity from Henry VII, but there are no mentions of him in contemporary records after 1487 (the year of the Battle of Stoke Field). He may have been executed in 1499, though no record of this exists beyond an assertion by George Buck over a century later.[177] Katherine apparently died before her cousin Elizabeth of York's coronation on 25 November 1487, since her husband Sir William Herbert is described as a widower by that time.[176][178] Katherine's burial place was located in the London parish church of St James Garlickhithe,[179] between Skinner's Lane and Upper Thames Street.[180] The mysterious Richard Plantagenet, who was first mentioned in Francis Peck's Desiderata Curiosa (a two-volume miscellany published 1732–1735) was said to be a possible illegitimate child of Richard III and is sometimes referred to as "Richard the Master-Builder" or "Richard of Eastwell", but it has also been suggested he could have been Richard, Duke of York, one of the missing Princes in the Tower.[181] He died in 1550.[182]

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 elder 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.[183]


Richard's Council of the North, described as his 'one major institutional innovation,' derived from his ducal council following his own viceregal appointment by Edward IV; when Richard himself became king, he maintained the same conciliar structure in his absence.[184] It officially became part of the royal council machinery under the presidency of John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln in April 1484, based at Sandal Castle in Wakefield.[99] It is considered to have greatly improved conditions for northern England, as it was, in theory at least, intended to keep the peace and punish law breakers, as well as resolving land disputes.[100] Bringing regional governance directly under the control of central government, it has been described as the king's 'most enduring monument,' surviving unchanged until 1641.[100]

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.[185] He also improved bail in January 1484, to protect suspected felons from imprisonment before trial and to protect their property from seizure during that time.[186][187] He founded the College of Arms in 1484,[188] he banned restrictions on the printing and sale of books,[189] and he ordered the translation of the written Laws and Statutes from the traditional French into English.[190] He ended the arbitrary benevolences (a device by which Edward IV raised funds),[191] made it punishable to conceal from a buyer of land that a part of the property had already been disposed of to somebody else,[192] required that land sales be published,[192] laid down property qualifications for jurors, restricted the abusive Courts of Piepowders,[193] regulated cloth sales,[194] instituted certain forms of trade protectionism,[195][196] prohibited the sale of wine and oil in fraudulent measure,[196] and prohibited fraudulent collection of clergy dues,[196] among others. Churchill implies he improved the law of trusts.[197]

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.[198] The last legitimate male Plantagenet, Richard's nephew, Edward, Earl of Warwick (son of Richard III's brother Clarence), was executed by Henry VII in 1499.[199] However, a direct but illegitimate male line still exists today, with the current Duke of Beaufort.[200]


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

There are numerous contemporary, or near-contemporary, sources of information about the reign of Richard III.[201] 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, including a few letters by Richard himself. 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.[202]

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".[203][204] In relating to his master Angelo Catho, Archbishop of Vienne,[205] on the events that led to Richard's accession to the throne of England, the Italian observer Mancini in 1483 reported that the Duke of Gloucester enjoyed good reputation for both "his private life and public activities" that "powerfully attracted the esteem of strangers".[206] His bond to the City of York in particular was such that on hearing of Richard's demise at the battle of Bosworth the City Council officially deplored the King's death, at the risk of facing the victor's wrath.[207] During his lifetime he was nonetheless the subject of attacks. Even in the North in 1482 a man was prosecuted for offences against the Duke of Gloucester, saying he did 'nothing but grin at' the city of York. In 1484 the discreditory actions took the form of hostile placards, the only surviving one being William Collingbourne's lampoon of July 1484 "The Cat, the Rat, and Lovell the Dog, all rule England under a Hog" which was pinned to the door of St. Paul's Cathedral and referred to the King himself (the Hog) and his most trusted councilors William Catesby, Richard Ratcliffe and Francis Viscount Lovell.[208] On 30 March 1485 Richard felt forced to summon the Lords and London City Councillors to publicly deny the rumours that he had poisoned Queen Anne and that he had planned a marriage to his niece Elizabeth,[209] at the same time ordering the Sheriff of London to imprison anyone spreading such slanders.[210] The same orders were issued throughout the realm, including York where the royal pronouncement recorded in the City Records dates 5 April 1485 and carries specific instructions to suppress seditious talk and remove and destroy evidently hostile placards unread.[211][212]

As for Richard's physical appearance, most contemporary descriptions bear out the evidence that Richard had no noticeable bodily deformity. John Stow talked to old men who, remembering him, said "that he was of bodily shape comely enough, only of low stature"[213] and a German traveller, Nicolas von Poppelau, who spent ten days in Richard's household in May 1484, describes him as "three fingers taller than himself...much more lean, with delicate arms and legs and also a great heart."[214] Six years after Richard's death, in 1491, a schoolmaster named William Burton, on hearing a defence of Richard, launched into a diatribe, accusing the dead King of being 'a hypocrite and a crookback...who was deservedly buried in a ditch like a dog.'[215]

Richard's death encouraged the furtherance of this later negative image by his Tudor successors due to the fact that it helped to legitimise Henry VII's seizure of the throne.[216] The Richard III Society contends that this means that 'a lot of what people thought they knew about Richard III was pretty much propaganda and myth building.'[217] The Tudor characterisation culminated in the famous fictional 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; Shakespeare's intention perhaps being to use Richard III as a vehicle for creating his own Marlowesque protagonist.[218] Rous himself, in his History of the Kings of England, written during Henry VII's reign, initiated the process. He reversed his earlier position,[219] 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".[220] Rous also attributes the murder of Henry VI to Richard, and claims that he poisoned his own wife.[221] Jeremy Potter, a former Chair of the Richard III Society, claims that 'At the bar of history Richard III continues to be guilty because it is impossible to prove him innocent. The Tudors ride high in popular esteem.'[222]

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".[204] Vergil also says he was "deformed of body ... one shoulder higher than the right".[204] 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.[223][224] 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".[225]

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".[226] Francis Bacon also states that he was "a good lawmaker for the ease and solace of the common people".[227] In 1525, Cardinal Wolsey upbraided the aldermen and Mayor of London for relying on a statute of Richard to avoid paying an extorted tax (benevolence) but received the reply 'although he did evil, yet in his time were many good acts made.'[228][229]

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.[230] 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.[231]

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.[232] Though the book was published in 1646, Elizabeth's supposed letter was never produced. Documents which later emerged from the Portuguese Royal archives show that after Queen Anne's death, Richard's ambassadors were sent on a formal errand to negotiate a double marriage between Richard and the Portuguese King's sister Joana,[233] of Lancastrian descent,[234] and between Elizabeth of York and Joana's cousin Duke Manuel (later King of Portugal).[176]

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.[235] However, he retracted his views in 1793 after the Terror, stating he now believed that Richard could have committed the crimes he was charged with,[236] although Pollard observes that this retraction is frequently overlooked by later admirers of Richard.[237] 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.[238] An intermediate 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.[239]

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".[240] 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.

In culture

Cover of the 1594 quarto of The True Tragedy of Richard III.

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.[241] 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.[241] 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. Ben Jonson is also known to have written a play Richard Crookback in 1602, but it was never published and nothing is known about its portrayal of the king.[242]

Marjorie Bowen's 1929 novel Dickon set the trend for pro-Ricardian literature.[243] Particularly influential was The Daughter of Time (1951) by Josephine Tey.[244] in which a modern detective concludes that Richard III is innocent in the death of the Princes. Other novelists such as Valerie Anand in the novel Crown of Roses (1989) 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.[245] 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.[246] A sympathetic portrayal of Richard III is given in The Founding, the first volume in The Morland Dynasty series by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles.[247]

One film adaptation of Shakespeare's play Richard III is the 1955 version directed and produced by Laurence Olivier, who also played the lead role.[248] Also notable are the 1995 film version starring Ian McKellen, set in a fictional 1930s fascist England,[249] and Looking for Richard, a 1996 documentary film directed by Al Pacino, who plays the title character as well as himself.[250] The play has been adapted for television on several occasions.

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. The search for Richard III was led by Philippa Langley[251] [252][253] [254][255] of the Society's Looking For Richard Project[256][257][258] with the archaeological work 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.[259][260] 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.[261]

Site of Greyfriars Church, Leicester, shown superimposed over a modern map of the area. The skeleton of Richard III was recovered in September 2012 from the centre of the choir, shown by a small blue dot.

On 5 September 2012, the excavators announced that they had identified Greyfriars church[262] 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.[263] A human skeleton was found beneath the Church's choir.[264]

Improbably, the excavators found the remains in the first location in which they dug at the car park. Coincidentally, they lay almost directly under a roughly painted 'R' on the bitumen. This had existed since the early 2000s to signify a reserved parking space.[265][266][267]

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[268] higher than the other (to what extent depended 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, which is most likely to have been 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 would have been the cause of death. Dr Jo Appleby, the osteo-archaeologist who excavated the skeleton, concurred and described the latter as "a mortal battlefield wound in the back of the skull". The base of the skull also presented another fatal wound in which a bladed weapon had been thrust through it, leaving behind a jagged hole. Closer examination of the interior of the skull revealed a mark opposite this wound, showing that the blade penetrated to a depth of 10.5 cm.[269] In total, the skeleton presented 10 wounds: 4 minor injuries on the top of the skull, 1 dagger blow on the cheekbone, 1 cut on the lower jaw, 2 fatal injuries on the base of the skull, 1 cut on a rib bone, and 1 final wound on the King's pelvis, most probably inflicted after death. It is generally accepted that postmortem, Richard's naked body was tied to the back of a horse, with his arms slung over one side and his legs and buttocks over the other. This presented a very opportunistic target for onlookers, and the angle of the blow on the pelvis suggests that one of them stabbed Richard's right buttock with substantial force, as the cut extends from the back all the way to the front of the pelvic bone and was most probably an act of humiliation. It is also possible that Richard suffered other injuries which left no trace on the skeleton.[270][271][272]

In 2004, the British historian John Ashdown-Hill had used genealogical research to trace matrilineal descendants of Anne of York, Richard's elder sister.[273] 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.[274][275] 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.[176] 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.[276][277][278][279]

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,[280] 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.[281] 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;[282] 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 were, 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 probably 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, but a judicial review on that decision delayed the reinterment for a year.[283] A museum to Richard III was opened in July 2014 in the Victorian school buildings next to the Greyfriars grave site.[8][280][284][285]

The proposal to have King Richard buried in Leicester attracted some controversy. Those who challenged the decision included fifteen 'collateral [non-direct] descendants' of Richard,[286] represented by the Plantagenet Alliance, who believe that the body should be reburied in York, as they claim the king wished.[286] 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.[286] 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".[287] The Plantagenet Alliance, and the supporting fifteen 'collateral [non-direct] descendants', also faced 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.[286] A ruling in May 2014 decreed that there are "no public law grounds for the Court interfering with the decisions in question".[288] The remains were taken to Leicester Cathedral on 22 March 2015 and reinterred on 26 March.[289]

On 5 February 2013 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".[290] On 11 February 2014 the University of Leicester announced the project to sequence the entire genome of Richard III and one of his living relatives, Michael Ibsen, whose mitochondrial DNA confirmed the identification of the excavated remains. Richard III thus became the first ancient person of known historical identity to have their genome sequenced.[291]

In November 2014, the results of the testing were announced, confirming that the maternal side was as previously thought.[292] The paternal side, however, demonstrated some variance from what had been expected, with the DNA showing no links to the purported descendants of Richard's great-great-grandfather Edward III of England through Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort.[293] This could be the result of misattributed paternity that does not reflect the accepted genealogies between Richard and Edward III or between Edward III and the 5th Duke of Beaufort.[293][294]

Reburial and tomb

Tomb of Richard III

In 1485, following his death in battle against Henry Tudor at Bosworth Field, Richard III's body was buried in Greyfriars Church in Leicester.[295]

Following the discoveries of Richard's remains in 2012, it was decided that they should be reburied at Leicester Cathedral,[296][297] despite feelings in some quarters that he should have been reburied in York Minster.[298] His remains were carried in procession to the cathedral on 22 March 2015, and reburied on 26 March 2015[299] at a religious re-burial service at which both the Right Reverend Tim Stevens, the Bishop of Leicester, and the Most Reverend Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, officiated. The British Royal Family was represented by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and the Countess of Wessex. The actor Benedict Cumberbatch, a distant relation of the king, read a poem by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.[10][300]

His cathedral tomb was designed by the architects van Heningen and Haward. The tombstone is deeply incised with a cross, and consists of a rectangular block of white Swaledale fossil stone, quarried in North Yorkshire. It sits on a low plinth made of dark Kilkenny marble and incised with Richard’s name, dates and motto. The plinth also carries his coat of arms in pietra dura.[301] The remains of Richard III are in a lead-lined coffin,[302] inside an outer English oak coffin crafted by Michael Ibsen, a direct descendant of Richard's sister Anne of York, and laid in a brick-lined vault below the floor, and below the plinth and tombstone.[301] The original 2010 raised tomb design had been proposed by Langley`s "Looking For Richard Project" and fully funded by members of the Richard III Society. The proposal was publicly launched by the Society on 13 February 2013 but rejected by Leicester Cathedral in favour of a memorial slab.[303][304][305] However, following a public outcry, the Cathedral changed its position and on 18 July 2013 announced its agreement to give King Richard III a raised tomb monument.[306][307]

Titles, styles and honours

Bronze boar mount thought to have been worn by a supporter of Richard III[308]

On 1 November 1461, Richard gained the title of Duke of Gloucester; in late 1461, he was invested as a Knight of the Garter.[309] 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 Norfolk, be not too bold,
For Dickon, thy master, is bought and sold." [310]


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, supported by a blue boar.[311][312] As sovereign, he used the arms of the kingdom undifferenced, supported by a white boar and a lion.[312] His motto was Loyaulte me lie, "Loyalty binds me"; and his personal device was a white boar.


See also


  1. Ross, Charles (1981). Richard III. Eyre Methuen. p. 105
  2. Horrox, R. (1989) Richard III: A Study in Service, Cambridge, p. 132; Buckingham was an exception amongst the rebels as, far from being a previous favourite, he 'had been refused any political role by Edward IV.'
  3. Ashdown-Hill, The Last Days of Richard III, p. 94 citing Polydore Vergil's "Historia Regum Angliae"
  4. Baldwin, David (1986). "King Richard's Grave in Leicester" (PDF). Leicester Archaeological and Historical Society. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  5. Langley and Jones, Philippa & Michael (2013). The King`s Grave: The Search for Richard III. John Murray. pp. 11–29, 240–8.
  6. Carson, Annette (ed) (2014). Finding Richard III: The Official Account. Imprimis Imprimatur. pp. 38–52, 71–81, including back cover.
  7. Kennedy, Maev (4 February 2013). "Richard III: DNA confirms twisted bones belong to king". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  8. 1 2 "Richard III dig: DNA confirms bones are king". BBC News. 4 February 2013. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  9. Fricker, Martin (5 February 2013). "Edinburgh-based writer reveals how her intuition led archaeologists to remains of King Richard III". Daily Record and Sunday Mail. Retrieved 5 February 2013.
  10. 1 2 "Richard III: Leicester Cathedral reburial service for king" (26 March 2015). BBC. 15 May 2015.
  11. Ross, Richard III, p. 3
  12. Pollard, A. J. The Wars of the Roses. London 201., p. 15
  13. Johnson, P. A., Duke Richard of York Oxford 1988, p. 27
  14. Pollard, A. J. "'Yorkists (act. c.1450–1471)'". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  15. Griffiths, R. A. "Lancastrians (act. 1455–1461)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press. Retrieved 27 November 2014.
  16. Fraser, Antonia (2000). A Royal History of England-- The Wars of the Roses I. Los Angeles: University of California Berkeley Los Angeles. p. 90. ISBN 9780520228023.
  17. Kendall, Paul Murray (1956). Richard the Third. W. W. Norton., pp. 41–42
  18. Kendall, Richard the Third, p. 40
  19. Tellers’ Roll, Mich. 5 Edw. IV (no. 36), m. 2; quoted by Scofield, I, p. 216, note 6
  20. Kendall, Richard the Third, pp. 34–44, 74
  21. Baldwin, David (2012). Richard III. pp. 36–37, 240 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.
    • Ross, C. D. (1974). Edward IV. Trowbridge , UK. p. 8; 'It is a fair presumption that here Richard, in his formative years, made the acquaintance of his future wife, Warwick's younger daughter, Anne.'
  22. Licence, Amy (2013). Anne Neville: Richard III's Tragic Queen. Stroud, UK: Amberley. p. 63
    1. Kendall|Kendall, Richard the Third, pp. 16–17.
  23. Kendall, Richard the Third p. 68
  24. Hicks, M. A. (1980). False, Fleeting, Perjur'd Clarence: George, Duke of Clarence (1449–1478). Gloucester: Alan Sutton. p. 45
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  298. Gray, Richard (16 March 2015). "Richard III sealed inside a lead-lined coffin made by his closest living relative ahead of his burial next week". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  299. Hubball, Louise (13 February 2013). "A tomb fit for a king has been designed for Richard III". BBC News. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  300. Warzynski, Peter (12 March 2013). "Richard III: Tomb design does not meet Leicester Cathedral's criteria". Leicester Mercury.
  301. Warzynski, Peter (14 March 2013). "Richard III: Stone slab to mark final resting place of king, says Leicester Cathedral". Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  302. "Richard III: Give king tomb, not slab, says online poll". Leicester Mercury. 14 March 2013. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 29 May 2016 via wayback machine.
  303. "Richard III will be buried in a raised tomb not slab, says Leicester Cathedral - Leicester Mercury". Leicester Mercury.
  304. "Boar mount belonging to Richard III detected". The Daily Telegraph. London. 3 December 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  305. Kendall, Richard the Third p. 44. 'By early February 1462 a helm, crest and sword marked his stall ... in the Chapel of St. George.'
  306. Grant, N., The Howards of Norfolk, Littlehampton 1972, p. 15
  307. Francois R. Velde. "Marks of Cadency in the British Royal Family". Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  308. 1 2 Brunet, Alexander (1889). The Regal Armorie of Great Britain. London: Henry Kent. p. 202.


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Further reading

  • Carson, Annette. Richard III: The Maligned King (The History Press, 2009) (ISBN 978-0752452081)
  • Dockray, Keith. Richard III: A Sourcebook (Sutton, 1997) (ISBN 0-75-091479-3)
  • Dockray, Keith & Hammond, Peter W. Richard III: From Contemporary Chronicles, Letters and Records (Fonthill Media; Revised edition, 2013) (ISBN 978-1781553138)
  • Drewett, Richard & Redhead, Mark. The Trial of Richard III (Sutton Publishing Ltd, 1984) (ISBN 978-0862991982)
  • Fields, Bertram. Royal Blood: Richard III and the Mystery of the Princes (HarperCollins, 1998) (ISBN 0-06-039269-X)
  • Greyfriars Research Team with Maev Kennedy and Foxhall, Lin. The Bones of a King: Richard III Rediscovered (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015) (ISBN 978-1118783146)
  • Hammond, Peter W. & Sutton, Anne. Richard III: The Road to Bosworth Field (Constable, 1985) (ISBN 0-09-466160-X)
  • Hancock, Peter A. Richard III and the Murder in the Tower (The History Press, 2011, reprint edition) (ISBN 978-0752457970)
  • Horrox, Rosemary. Richard III and the North of England (ed) (University of Hull, 1986) (ISBN 0-859-58031-8)
  • Jones, Michael & Langley, Philippa. The King's Grave: The Discovery of Richard III's Lost Burial Place (St. Martin's Press, 2013) (ISBN 978-1250044105)
  • Kendall, Paul Murray. Richard III: The Great Debate (W. W. Norton, 1992) (ISBN 0-393-00310-8)
  • Lamb, V. B. The Betrayal of Richard III (Coram, London, 1959; reprint A. Sutton, 1991) (ISBN 0-86299-778-X)
  • Pollard, A. J. Richard III and the Princes in the Tower (St Martin's Press, 1991) (ISBN 0-312-06715-1)
  • Potter, Jeremy. Good King Richard? (Constable, 1983) (ISBN 0-09-464630-9)
  • Seward, Desmond. Richard III: England's Black Legend (Penguin Books, 1997) (ISBN 0-140-26634-8)
  • Sutton, Anne & Hammond, Peter W. The Coronation of Richard III: The Extant Documents (St Martin's Press, 1984) (ISBN 0-312-16979-5)
  • Sutton, Anne & Visser-Fuchs, Livia. Richard III's Books (Sutton, 1997) (ISBN 0-7509-1406-8)
  • Sutton, Anne. Richard III’s Parliament (The Richard III Society)
  • Weir, Alison. The Princes in the Tower (Ballantine Books, 1995) (ISBN 0-3453-9178-0)
  • Wood, Charles T. Joan of Arc and Richard III: sex, saints, and government in the Middle Ages (Oxford University Press) (ISBN 0-19-506951-X)
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Richard III of England.
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Richard III of England
Cadet branch of the House of Plantagenet
Born: 2 October 1452 Died: 22 August 1485
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Edward V
King of England
Lord of Ireland

Succeeded by
Henry VII
Military offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Kent
Lord High Admiral
Succeeded by
The Earl of Warwick
Preceded by
The Earl of Warwick
Lord High Admiral
Succeeded by
The Duke of Norfolk
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl Rivers
Lord High Constable
Succeeded by
The Earl of Oxford
Preceded by
The Earl of Oxford
Lord High Constable
Succeeded by
The Duke of Buckingham
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