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Richard III

Richard III

Richard III (1452-1485), last Yorkist king of England, reigned from 1483 to 1485 during the Wars of the Roses. He is generally considered a usurper and is suspected of the murder of Edward V and his brother.

Born on Oct. 2, 1452, at Fotheringhay Castle, Richd was the eleventh child and youngest son of Richard, Duke of York, and Cecily Neville. His father's 1454 and 1460 regencies for Henry VI caused Lancastrian opposition that brought York to his death in the Battle of Wakefield (Dec. 30, 1460). Richard and his brother George were fugitives until their 18-year old brother gained the throne as Edward IV in 1461. Thereafter George became a disloyal Duke of Clarence and Richard an able Duke of Gloucester. Richard shared command in the Yorkist victories at Barnet (April 14, 1471) and Tewkesbury (May 4).

Richard's 1472 marriage to 16-year-old Anne Neville caused disputes with Clarence, husband of Anne's older sister Isabella Neville, over the division of the estates of their late father, the Earl of Warwick. Clarence's treasonable habits led him to challenge the legitimacy of the King and his children, whereupon Edward's Parliament attained Clarence as "incorrigible," resulting in his execution in 1478 and the disinheritance of his son, Edward of Warwick. This reduced the contention for influence to a rivalry between Richard and the Woodville relatives of Edward's queen.

His Regency

The April 9, 1483, deathbed will of Edward IV left his 12-year-old heir, Edward V, to the regency and protectorship of Richard; yet the late king's children, treasure, and ships were in Woodville custody. At Middleham Castle in Yorkshire, Richard learned from Lord Hastings of the queen mother's attempts to dominate the council and of the preparations of Anthony Woodville, Lord Rivers, for bringing the new king from Wales to London with an escort of 2,000 men. Richard added the Duke of Buckingham's troops to his own, confronted the King at Stony Stratford on April 30, and persuaded Edward V to accept the arrest of Rivers and other leaders of the royal escort. Richard and Buckingham accompanied Edward to London House, while the queen mother and her other children sought sanctuary at Westminster.

As protector, Richard retained most government officials but moved to gain control of Woodville-held ships and forts. Buckingham's council motion removed Edward V to the Tower on May 19, 1483, "until his coronation," and on June 10, Richard wrote to the city of York for armed help against adherents of the queen mother. At a June 13 council in the Tower, Richard had Hastings killed, John Morton and former Chancellor Rotherham imprisoned, and Lord Stanley confined to quarters. A royal herald explained this to Londoners as suppression of a plot against the Protector and denounced the immoral liaison of Hastings and Jane Shore.

Accession to the Throne

On June 16, 1483, Richard invested Westminster with troops, and Queen Mother Elizabeth allowed 9-year-old Richard of York to join his brother in the Tower. Then commenced the "Richard for King" movement. From June 22 to 25, several meetings about London heard Buckingham and others claim the illegitimacy of Edward V and his brother and the need for the Protector to assume the crown. Richard was persuaded to occupy the throne on June 26, and on July 6 he was crowned with unusual ceremony as Richard III. Numerous pardons were given, although the June 25 execution of Lord Rivers, Lord Richard Grey, and Sir Thomas Vaughan showed little mercy for the Woodvilles. These deaths, the uncertain fate of the princes in the Tower, and the confinement of Clarence's son, Edward of Warwick, were evidence of at least some legal and moral confusion surrounding the new king.

In July, Richard commenced a royal progress through western and northern England, culminating in the September 8 ceremonies at York investing his only legitimate son, 10-year-old Edward, as Prince of Wales. At Lincoln on October 11, Richard learned that Buckingham was preparing a revolt in support of the exiled Henry Tudor on the claim that the princes in the Tower were dead by Richard's orders. Richard collected troops that dispersed Buckingham's forces and drove off Henry in October 1483. For this rebellion the duke was executed, but many of the rebels were pardoned.

In April 1484 Edward, Prince of Wales, died, leaving Richard with no successor who would have a clear title and the ability to continue the compacts of feudal loyalty beyond the King's lifetime. Richard eventually selected as his heir the Earl of Lincoln, son of the Duke of Suffolk and Richard's sister Elizabeth.

As Queen Anne declined with tuberculosis in 1484, Richard seems to have considered the possibility of a second marriage, to his niece, Elizabeth of York, already the object of Henry Tudor's political affections. However, Anne's death on March 16, 1485, started the canard that Richard had poisoned her in order to be free to marry again. Richard publicly denied all intention of marriage to his niece and sent her from the court.

On Aug. 7, 1485, Henry Tudor landed at Milford Haven with 2,000 men and gained swift support from his fellow Welshmen. From Nottingham, Richard ordered an array of troops, and on August 22 the opposing forces met at Bosworth Field. Richard led a charge on Henry's bodyguard in the hope of slaying his rival but was himself killed by Lord Stanley's soldiers. The victor was proclaimed King Henry VII, and Richard's corpse was stripped and carried on horseback to exposure at Leicester and burial at the Grey Friars.

Further Reading

The biography by Paul Murray Kendall, Richard the Third (1955), provides a thoughtful interpretation and comprehensive bibliography. Also useful is Sir Clements Markham, Richard III: His Life and Character (1906; repr. 1968). James Gairdner, Richard III (1898), is a fair appraisal, accurate in its use of sources. The biography attributed to Sir Thomas More in 1513, The History of King Richard III (1963), inspired much of the Tudor propaganda on Richard as "royal monster." Recommended general political histories for the period are E. F. Jacob, The Fifteenth Century (1961); S.B. Chrimes, Lancastrians, Yorkists and Henry VII (1964); J. R. Lander, The Wars of the Roses (1966); and A. L. Rowse, Bosworth Field (1966). □

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Richard III

Richard III (1452–85), king of England (1483–5). Richard is one of England's most controversial figures, immortalized as evil personified by Shakespeare, sanctified by a society dedicated to clearing his name. Born at Fotheringhay (Northants), he was the youngest son of Richard of York and Cecily Neville. He was still a child when his brother Edward IV became king. Stalwartly loyal to his brother, he shared in the triumph of 1471, distinguishing himself on the field of Barnet. He was handsomely rewarded by Edward IV who granted him the Neville estates and royal offices in the north of England. With these, and Warwick's daughter Anne as his duchess, he made himself even more powerful in the north than the Kingmaker. In 1480 he led the war against Scotland, secured the recovery of Berwick in 1482, and was rewarded early in 1483 with the grant of a county palatine in Cumberland.

In April 1483 Richard's future was put in doubt by the death of his brother. By a series of palace coups, he seized power, first at the end of April to secure himself as protector of the realm in the minority of his nephew Edward V and secondly in June to make himself king. He was crowned on 6 July. In September his enemies in the southern counties raised rebellion in the name of Henry Tudor. Even though they were joined by the duke of Buckingham they were easily dispersed. Richard reigned for two further years in a climate of intensifying crisis as, with French support, Henry Tudor planned to invade England. The two finally came to blows on 22 August 1485 near Bosworth in Leicestershire. Although he fought courageously, Richard was overwhelmed and killed in the mêlée. He was buried at the Greyfriars, Leicester. Fifty years later, when the friary was dissolved, his remains were discarded.

Almost every aspect of Richard's career is controversial. Loyal to Edward IV before 1483, he is seen by many to have devoted his energies to the well-being of the north. But it has also been argued that he was single-mindedly pursuing his own aggrandizement. The coup of 1483 is interpreted as justifiable self-preservation, a skilfully executed usurpation, or a sequence of ill-considered reactions. Some maintain he was shocked to discover his nephews were bastards; others that he made up the story to justify his usurpation. His reign has been seen as a valiant attempt to administer justice impartially, or as tyranny in which his northern retainers occupied the south. On the one hand he was genuinely pious, on the other hand he was a cynical hypocrite.

Above all looms the controversy over his crimes. He is probably to be found not guilty of the murder of Edward at Tewkesbury, of manipulating the destruction of Clarence, of poisoning his queen; probably a party to the murder of Henry VI; and not proven on the princes in the Tower. Henry VII and the duke of Buckingham have been proposed as alternative culprits. Yet the fact remains that the boys were widely believed to be dead by the middle of September 1483 and Richard himself was believed by contemporaries to have been responsible. The belief that he had destroyed innocent children may have had a bearing on his failure to hold the throne.

It is almost impossible to get to the bottom of all these controversies; partly because insufficient evidence has survived; partly because so much is coloured by propaganda (that put out by Richard himself as much as that generated by Henry VII); partly because he divided opinion sharply in his day; and partly because over 500 years the stories of Richard III have taken on their own independent life. Thus Richard III has become a literary figure. This was so from the very beginning, for the supposed peculiarities of his birth and the hunchback, for which he is renowned, were but inventions to signify evil. Indeed were it not for the fascination of the stories, the only failed usurper of the 15th cent., who reigned but for two years and a bit, would have scarcely troubled the scorers.

Anthony James Pollard

Bibliography

Horrox, R. E. , Richard III (Cambridge, 1989);
Pollard, A. J. , Richard III and the Princes in the Tower (Stroud, 1991);
Ross, C. D. , Richard III (1981).

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Richard III

Richard III, 1452–85, king of England (1483–85), younger brother of Edward IV. Created duke of Gloucester at Edward's coronation (1461), he served his brother faithfully during Edward's lifetime—fighting at Barnet and Tewkesbury and later invading Scotland. On the death (Apr., 1483) of the king, Edward's eldest son, then only 12 years old, was proclaimed king as Edward V.

Richard, aided by Henry Stafford, 2d duke of Buckingham, seized custody of the young king from Edward IV's widow, Elizabeth Woodville, and her relatives, and was able to assume the protectorship. Soon afterward, apparently suspecting a conspiracy against himself, he arrested and summarily executed Lord Hastings, a leading member of the council. He followed this provocative move by having Parliament declare his brother's children illegitimate. Edward V and his brother were placed in the Tower of London, where they were almost certainly murdered. This was probably done on Richard's orders, though the evidence is inconclusive, and historians have suggested several other figures of the time who might have instigated the killing of the princes.

Richard had himself crowned king in July, 1483. A rebellion broke out in Oct., 1483, led by Richard's erstwhile supporter Buckingham, in favor of Henry Tudor (later Henry VII). This revolt collapsed, and Buckingham was executed. In 1485, however, Henry landed in Wales, defeated and killed Richard in the battle of Bosworth Field, and ascended the throne. Richard's remains were rediscovered in 2012 in Leicester, and later (2015) reinterred in the cathedral there.

Despite his usurpation of the throne, Richard was not the total villain that tradition has made him. His evil reputation, perpetuated by Shakespeare's Richard III, was shaped at least in part by the efforts of Tudor propagandists to justify Henry VII's own usurpation. Richard was the last of the Yorkist kings, and, in retrospect, his death ended the Wars of the Roses.

See biographies by P. Kendall (1955, repr. 1972), C. Ross (1982), and R. Horrox (1989); E. F. Jacob, The Fifteenth Century (1961).

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Richard III

Richard III (1452–85) King of England (1483–85). As Duke of Gloucester, he ably supported his brother, Edward IV, in n England. When Edward died, Richard became protector and had the young King Edward V declared illegitimate and took the throne himself. Edward and his younger brother, the ‘Princes in the Tower’, subsequently disappeared. Richard's numerous enemies supported the invasion of Henry Tudor (Henry VII) in 1485. Richard's death at the battle of Bosworth Field ended the Wars of the Roses.

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Richard III

Richard III. Play by Shakespeare (1593) for which incidental mus. was composed by Edward German (1889). Mus. for film of play comp. by Walton, 1955. Sym.-poem by Smetana, 1858. The nickname ‘ Richard III’ was given to the young Richard Strauss in Ger., indicating that although he was regarded as a successor to Wagner, there could be no Richard II.

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