History

Portrait of Richard III by an unknown artist (National Portrait Gallery)

King Richard III

Richard was the last Yorkist king of England, whose death at the Battle of Bosworth effectively ended the Wars of the Roses. He has become infamous because of the disappearance of his young nephews - the Princes in the Tower - and through William Shakespeare's play 'Richard III'.


In 2012, archaeologists began excavating beneath a carpark in Leicester, hoping to find Richard’s final resting place. The search captured the public’s imagination and the remains subsequently found were confirmed as those of Richard.


Photo: Portrait of Richard III by an unknown artist. (National Portrait Gallery)

More information about: King Richard III

Richard was born on 2 October 1452 at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire. His father was Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York and his mother Cecily Neville. Richard had a claim to the English throne through both parents. We now know that Richard had a curvature of the spine, but the withered arm and limp of legend are almost certainly either fabrications or greatly exaggerated.

Wars of the Roses

His father's conflict with Henry VI was a major cause of the Wars of the Roses, which dominated Richard's early life. His father and older brother died at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460. In 1461, Richard's brother, Edward, became Edward IV and created him Duke of Gloucester. In 1470, Edward and Richard were exiled when Henry VI was briefly restored to the throne. The following year, they returned to England and Richard contributed to the Yorkist victories at Barnet and Tewkesbury which restored Edward to the throne.

The Princes in the Tower and seizure of the throne

When Edward died in April 1483, Richard was named as protector of the realm for Edward's son and successor, the 12-year-old Edward V. As the new king travelled to London from Ludlow, Richard met him and escorted him to the capital, where he was lodged in the Tower of London. Edward V's brother later joined him there.

A publicity campaign was mounted condemning Edward IV's marriage to the boys' mother, Elizabeth Woodville, as invalid and their children illegitimate. On 25 June, an assembly of lords and commoners endorsed these claims. The following day, Richard III officially began his reign. He was crowned in July. The two young princes disappeared in August and were widely rumoured to have been murdered by Richard.

The beginning of the end

A rebellion raised in October by the Duke of Buckingham, Richard's former ally, quickly collapsed. However, Buckingham's defection, along with his supporters, eroded Richard's power and support among the aristocracy and gentry.

Death of a warrior king

In August 1485, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, who was a Lancastrian claimant to the throne living in France, landed in South Wales. He marched east and engaged Richard in battle on Bosworth Field in Leicestershire on 22 August. Although Richard possessed superior numbers, several of his key lieutenants defected. Refusing to flee, Richard was killed in battle and Henry Tudor took the throne as Henry VII.

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