Biography: King Richard III

mw05304(Born October 2, 1452- Died August 22, 1485). Son of Richard 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville. Married to Anne Neville. Father of Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales.
Richard III is one of the most controversial kings in English history. His death at the Battle of Bosworth Field led to the beginning of the Tudor Dynasty.

Richard III was born to Richard 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville on October 2, 1452 at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire. Many believed that it was a difficult birth. What we do know from historical records is that he might have been breeched born, which means that he was born upside down, which might have led to his physical deformities. From what we do know from examining his skeleton is that he had scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine.

Richard’s father was one of the most important men in all of England. He was a loyal follower to King Henry VI and when Henry VI had his bouts of mental illness, it was Richard Duke of York who would become the Lord Protector. York’s enemy was Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset, who was an ally of Margaret of Anjou; York had Somerset arrested during his protectorate but when the king recovered, Somerset was released and all of York’s reforms were reversed. York decided to face off against Somerset at the First Battle of St. Albans in 1455, where Somerset was killed. This was the first major battle in The Wars of the Roses. Margaret of Anjou never trusted York, especially when the king decided to name York and his sons the next heir to the throne, dismissing his son Edward of Westminster. Margaret of Anjou formed the Lancastrian army to face off against York and his ally Richard Neville Earl of Warwick.

It would be on December 30, 1460 when Richard’s life would radically change. This was the day when his father and eldest brother Edmund Earl of Rutland both died at the Battle of Wakefield. As the next Duke of York, Richard’s brother Edward was left the task of avenging their father’s death, with the help of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Edward did so at the Battle of Towton on March 29, 1461. This battle would ultimately lead to Edward being crowned king on June 28, 1461. Around the same time, Richard was declared Duke of Gloucester and made a Knight of the Garter and Knight of the Bath.

With this new title and his brother being King of England, Richard’s home life changed greatly. He moved to the castle of Middleham, home of Richard Neville Earl of Warwick, where he continued his education for at least four years. This was where he became friends with Francis Lovell and Robert Percy, two of his closest allied; he would also meet his future wife, Anne Neville, the daughter of the Earl of Warwick, here. Richard would leave Warwick’s household in 1468.
Warwick and Richard’s brother Edward IV were close since Warwick helped Edward become king. That was until Warwick found out that Edward had married Elizabeth Woodville instead of marrying the French princess that Warwick had in mind in order to create an English- French alliance. This was seen as an act of betrayal by not only Warwick, but the other lords of the court since it meant that Elizabeth’s family members would have a chance to marry well, thus allowing her family to move up in society. Around this time, Warwick was trying to arrange marriages for his daughters Anne and Isabel to George Duke of Clarence and Richard Duke of Gloucester, the brothers of the king. Edward did not approve of this idea at all.

Warwick decided to marry his daughter Isabel to George Duke of Clarence in July 1469, and Warwick tried to put George on the throne instead of Edward, which angered Edward IV and Parliament. Warwick took his family and his son-in-law George to France where Warwick reconciled with Margaret of Anjou. In order to cement their new alliance in order to get Henry VI back on the throne, Warwick had Anne marry Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, on December 13, 1470, making Anne Neville Princess of Wales. Their marriage would not last long.

During this time, Richard stayed loyal to his brother Edward and when Warwick came back in October 1470, Richard and Edward fled to Burgundy. They came back in March 1471. On April 14, 1471 at the Battle of Barnet, Warwick was killed. A few weeks later, on May 4, 1471 at the battle of Tewkesbury, Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, was killed and Henry VI was placed in the Tower. On May 21, 1471, King Henry VI was murdered. It is unknown who killed him, but many suspect that it was under the orders of King Edward IV. Some believe that Richard may have had a hand in this murder, but there is no evidence to either support or deny this claim.

Anne Neville was now a very powerful widow and there were again talks about her marrying Richard Duke of Gloucester. This made George Duke of Clarence nervous since he didn’t want to share the Warwick inheritance with his brother. George treated Anne like she was his ward and opposed her getting married. The story goes that George made Anne dress as a maid and hid her in a London shop, but Richard found her and escorted her to sanctuary at the Church of St Martin’s le Grand. George and Richard would feud about the lands that belonged to Anne and Isabel’s mother Anne Beauchamp. Edward resolved the matter by splitting the inheritance between the two sisters. This paved the way for Anne and Richard to be married, probably in the spring of 1472.

George would cause more trouble for Edward. Isabel died on December 22, 1476. Though it is believed that Isabel died of either consumption or childbed fever , George was convinced she had been poisoned by one of her ladies-in-waiting, Ankarette Twynyho, whom, as a consequence, he had judicially murdered in April 1477 right after her trial. The same year, George was eligible for Mary Duchess of Burgundy’s hand, but when Edward refused the marriage suit, George left court.

Edward was convinced that George was aiming at his throne after three of George’s men were tried for treason and were executed. George was thrown into prison, and in January 1478 the king unfolded the charges against his brother to the parliament. He had slandered the king; had received oaths of allegiance to himself and his heirs and had prepared for a new rebellion. Both Houses of Parliament passed the bill of attainder, and the sentence of death was announced. It is said that Edward gave his brother a choice on how he would die and George said that he would like to be drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine. What we do know is that George Duke of Clarence was executed in private in February 1478.

After George’s execution, Richard left court to take care of things in northern England. He conducted a few campaigns against James III of Scotland in 1482, which resulted in England regaining possession of Berwick, as well as the English advancing into Edinburgh. Richard was seen by his peers as a wise and strong general who ruled northern England and was granted palatine powers in the west in March 1483. Two months later, Richard’s world would change forever.

On April 9, 1483 Edward IV died and his son Edward V became king, Richard was named Lord Protector. On April 29, as previously agreed, Richard and his cousin, the Duke of Buckingham, met Queen Elizabeth’s brother, Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, at Northampton. At the queen’s request, Earl Rivers was escorting the young king to London with an armed escort of 2000 men, while Richard and Buckingham’s joint escort was 600 men. The young king himself had been sent to Stony Stratford. 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 June 25 on the charge of treason against the Lord Protector after appearing before a tribunal led by Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland. Richard took the young king under his protection, escorted him to London, and placed him in the Tower for his protection. After hearing about what had happened, the dowager queen Elizabeth Woodville took her children, including her daughters and her youngest son Richard Duke of York, and fled to sanctuary in Westminster Abbey.

At a council meeting on June 13 at the Tower of London, Richard accused William Hastings and others of having conspired against him with the Woodvilles. Hastings, once a loyal supporter of Richard and a staunch opponent of the Woodvilles, was executed without trial. On June 16, the dowager queen agreed to hand over the Duke of York to the Archbishop of Canterbury so that he might attend his brother Edward’s coronation. Richard was said to have been informed with information that Edward V was illegitimate because Edward IV had entered into a previous marriage contract. On June 22nd, the day which was supposed to be Edward V’s coronation, Dr. Ralph Shaa gave a sermon at Old St. Paul’s Cathedral declaring that Edward IV’s children, the young king, his brother and sisters, were illegitimate. On June 25, Parliament agreed that Edward V was illegitimate and the following day, June 26, Richard was proclaimed king. His joint coronation with his wife Anne Neville would occur on July 6, 1483, and his title was confirmed in an act of Parliament called the Titulus Regius, which was passed in January 1484.

We do not know what happened to the Princes in the Tower, Edward V and Richard Duke of York. They disappeared from sight after the summer of 1483, which has led many to speculate that Richard III had them murdered. At this point we cannot confirm or deny this theory. We don’t even know if they were murdered at all. It still remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in history.

Although secure on the throne, Richard had to deal with some rebellions. The main rebellion came from his once loyal supporter Henry Stafford, duke of Buckingham. Buckingham decided to support the Woodvilles, Henry Tudor and his mother Margaret Beaufort to have Henry Tudor replace Richard III as king of England.

A widespread plot was soon formed, but Richard had early warning, and on October 15, 1483, he issued a proclamation against Buckingham. Buckingham, as arranged, prepared to enter England with a large force of Welshmen. Buckingham’s troops were stopped by a massive flood on the Severn and he himself took refuge with a follower, Ralph Bannister, at Lacon Hall. Bannister betrayed him for a large reward, and on the November 1, 1483, Buckingham was brought to the king at Salisbury. Buckingham never saw Richard III and right after his trial on November 2, 1483, a Sunday, he was beheaded in the courtyard between the Blue Boar Inn and the Sarcen’s Head Inn near the marketplace at Salisbury.

Richard was actual a very good ruler. He treated his subjects fairly and was highly regarded as a monarch by the English and his European counterparts. He was a pious man and was a staunch supporter of the church. In April 1484, Richard’s only legitimate son, Edward of Middleham, died, leaving Richard and Anne devastated. On March 16, 1485, Anne Neville died of possibly tuberculosis. There were rumors that Richard was trying to marry his niece Elizabeth of York and he had poisoned Anne to do so, but there is no evidence to prove these rumors.

Henry Tudor was able to make it to England in August 1485. Richard faced off against Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth Field, on August 22, 1485. Richard’s army outnumbered Henry’s by quite a bit. Richard divided his army, which outnumbered Henry’s, into three groups. One was assigned to the Duke of Norfolk and another to the Earl of Northumberland. Henry kept most of his force together and placed it under the command of the experienced Earl of Oxford. Richard’s vanguard, commanded by Norfolk, attacked but struggled against Oxford’s men, and some of Norfolk’s troops fled the field. Northumberland took no action when signaled to assist his king, so Richard gambled everything on a charge across the battlefield to kill Henry and end the fight. Seeing the King’s knights separated from his army, the Stanleys intervened; Sir William Stanley led his men to Henry’s aid, surrounding and killing Richard. Richard’s body was stripped naked and it was carried on a pack horse to the Greyfriars Church in Leicester. His remains were found in 2012 under a parking lot in Leicester and he was reburied at Leicester Cathedral on March 26, 2015.

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