Richard III

Richard III (1452-1485) of England. The last of the Plantagenets, and last English King to be killed on a battlefield in Leicestershire.

Richard Plantagenet III (Duke of Gloucester) was the younger brother of King Edward IV. As a child he was sent by his father (Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York) to be brought up by the most powerful nobleman in England, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick .It was during his education at the Earl’s castle in Wenslydale that Richard not only received instruction in the arts and sciences but also in chivalry, weaponry and warfare. Richard married Anne Neville which gave him great power in the North. As a result this made him enemies with the Woodvilles, who were allies with his brother, King Edward IV.

richard iii
Richard III (1452-1485)

In 1483, Edward IV died, Richard’s young nephew, Edward V, should have been proclaimed King although he was only 12. Richard didn’t trust Edward’s relatives, especially Elizabeth Woodville whom he feared was conspiring against him. Just before Edward’s coronation, Richard usurped the throne and made himself protector in the young Edward’s place. Richard then took Edward and his younger brother, also called Richard, to the royal apartments at the Tower of London. They were never seen or heard of again. In the summer of 1483, Richard declared himself Richard III, rightful King of England.

Richard had alliance and support from the people in the North of England. The southerners distrusted him, especially after the disappearance of the two princes. This resentment was becoming dangerous for him due to the warring factions between the Houses of York and Lancaster. It was to be made even greater when, in 1485, Henry Tudor returned from exile in France. Henry was a direct descendant of John of Gaunt, one of Edward III’s younger sons, so had a strong claim to the throne. Richard supported his claim by arguing that Henry’s grandfather Owen Tudor, was not of high birth. Therefore should not produce a line of kings and so Henry had no real right to rule.

Death of Richard III

22nd August 1485, Richard met the outnumbered forces of Henry Tudor in a field just out of Market Bosworth. This would be known as the Battle of Bosworth. During the battle Richard led a cavalry charge deep into the enemy ranks. An attempt to end the battle quickly by striking at Henry Tudor. Richard fought bravely and ably during this manoeuvre, unhorsing Sir John Cheyne, a well-known jousting champion. He had killed Henry’s standard bearer (Sir William Brandon), and came within a sword’s length of Henry Tudor, before being surrounded by Sir William Stanley’s men.

Richard was struck down and killed in this conflict. He was the last English King to die in battle, and the only King to be killed on home soil. Richard’s naked body was then exposed on the back of a horse on the battlefield. His body started on the journey all the way to Leicester, before being buried at Greyfriars Church in Leicester.

The Discovery of Richard III remains

24th August 2012, The University of Leicester and Leicester City Council, in association with Philippa Langley from the Richard III Society, announced that they had joined forces. This was to begin a search for the remains of Richard III.

Experts set out to locate the lost site of the former Greyfriars Church. It was demolished during King Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, and to discover whether his remains were still interred there. By comparing fixed points between maps in a historical sequence, the search located the Church of the Grey Friars. The location where Richard’s body had been hastily buried without pomp in 1485. Its foundations identifiable beneath a modern-day city centre car park.

the remains of richard III
The remains of Richard III

5th September 2012, the excavators announced that they had identified Greyfriars church. Two days later that they had found a human skeleton.

12th September 2012, it was announced that the skeleton discovered during the search might be that of Richard III.

4th February 2013, the University of Leicester confirmed that the skeleton was beyond reasonable doubt that of Richard III.

There were numerous wounds on the body, and a part of the skull had been sliced off with a bladed weapon. It was most likely to be a halibut, this would have caused rapid death. The team concluded that it is unlikely that the king was wearing a helmet in his last moments.

The Mayor of Leicester announced that Richard III skeleton would be re-interred at Leicester Cathedral in early 2015.

richard III tome at leicester cathedral
Richard III tome at Leicester Cathedral