|Richard III (1452 –1485) – a much maligned King?
Lazy Trout 15th Apr 2013. Based on Wikipedia and the Richard III society website
1. To set the scene let’s consider earlier times……
Henry VI (1421 – 1471) was King of England from 1422 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471. Henry was the only child and heir of King Henry V. He succeeded to the throne at the age of nine months as King of England on 31 August 1422 when his father died, thus making him the youngest person ever to succeed to the English throne.
Until 1437, his realm was governed by regents. Contemporaneous accounts described him as peaceful and pious, not suited for the dynastic wars, known as the Wars of the Roses, which were to commence during his reign. His periods of insanity and his inherent benevolence eventually required his wife, Margaret of Anjou, to assume control of his kingdom, which contributed to his own downfall, the collapse of the House of Lancaster, and the rise of the House of York.
After a violent struggle between the houses of Lancaster and York, during which the Duke of York was killed by Margaret's forces on 30 December 1460, Henry was deposed and imprisoned on 4 March 1461 by the Duke of York's son, Edward of York, who became king, as Edward IV.
He married Elizabeth Woodville – a Lancastrian secretly in 1463, much to the distaste of his close friends who wanted him to form an alliance with France by marriage.
Queen Margaret, exiled in Scotland and later in France, was determined to win back the throne on behalf of her husband and son. By herself, there was little she could do. However, eventually Edward IV had a falling-out with two of his main supporters: Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, and his own younger brother George, Duke of Clarence. At the urging of King Louis XI of France they formed a secret alliance with Margaret. After marrying his daughter to Henry and Margaret's son, Edward of Westminster, Warwick returned to England, forced Edward IV into exile, and restored Henry VI to the throne on 30 October 1470.
Henry's return to the throne lasted less than six months. Warwick soon overreached himself by declaring war on Burgundy, whose ruler responded by giving Edward IV the assistance he needed to win back his throne by force. Edward IV returned to England in early 1471, after which he was reconciled with Clarence and killed Warwick at the Battle of Barnet. The Yorkists won a final decisive victory at the Battle of Tewkesbury on 4 May 1471, where Henry's son Edward was killed.
Henry was imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he died during the night of 21/22 May 1471.
2. Richard Plantagenet was born on 2 October 1452 at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire, the youngest son of Richard, Duke of York. On accession to the throne King Edward IV assumed responsibility for the upbringing of his younger siblings who had hitherto experienced an unsettled childhood. Richard was created duke of Gloucester at the age of eight and entered the household of his cousin, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, to begin his education as a nobleman.
Richard accompanied Edward into exile and on their return to England in 1471 the eighteen-year-old duke was given command of the vanguard at the Battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury. These battles were resounding Yorkist victories and both Warwick and the Lancastrian heir, Prince Edward of Wales, were killed.
King Edward Richard many of Warwick's forfeited estates and the following year the duke married Warwick's younger daughter Anne, who was the widow of Prince Edward who was killed at Tewkesbury.
The couple took up residence in the north of England, which King Edward effectively entrusted to his brother, and Richard was created Warden of the West Marches of Scotland. Richard took his duties seriously and held the north against any Scottish incursions. In 1476, Duchess Anne gave birth to their only child, who became known as Edward of Middleham.
3. On 9 April 1483 King Edward died, a few days short of his forty-first birthday. There had been no time to prepare for a transition of power and the heir, another Edward, was twelve years old. Factions were immediately formed, each believing that they had an important role to play in the government of England
At the time of his father's death, the new king was at Ludlow and was called to London by his mother. Richard was informed and journeyed south. He arrested some allies of the Queen on his way and the Queen moved to Westminster Abbey for sanctuary with her family.
On 16 June the young king's brother, Richard, Duke of York left sanctuary in Westminster Abbey and joined his brother in the royal apartments at the Tower. Shortly after it was declared that King Edward IV's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was illegal. This was because of a pre-contract of marriage between Edward IV and Lady Eleanor Butler and the clandestine nature of the king's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. The children of the marriage were declared illegitimate, and therefore barred from succession to the throne of England. Within four days Richard was acclaimed king of England.
4.The young princes were not seen in public after August, and a number of accusations circulated that the boys had been murdered on Richard's orders, giving rise to the legend of the Princes in the Tower. Their fate remains an enduring mystery, but historians and contemporary popular opinion agree that the princes may have been murdered in the Tower. There is no record of a funeral.
In 1674, the skeletons of two children were discovered under the staircase leading to the chapel, during the course of renovations to the White Tower. At that time, these were believed to have been the remains of the two princes, and on the orders of Charles II the remains were reburied in Westminster Abbey. In 1933, the grave was opened to see if modern science could cast any light on the issues, and the skeletons were determined to be those of two young children, one aged around seven to eleven and the other around eleven to thirteen.
5. There were two major rebellions against Richard. The first, in October 1483, was led by staunch allies of Edward IV and also by Richard's former ally, Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, his first cousin once removed. The revolt collapsed and Stafford was executed at Salisbury near the Bull's Head Inn. In August 1485, another rebellion against Richard was led by Henry Tudor and his uncle, Jasper Tudor. Henry Tudor landed in his birthplace, Pembrokeshire, with a small contingent of French troops, and marched through Wales recruiting foot soldiers and skilled archers. Richard died during the Battle of Bosworth Field, the last English king to die in battle (and the only one to die in battle on English soil since Harold II at the Battle of Hastings in 1066).
6. Richard's Council of the North, derived from his ducal council, greatly improved conditions for Northern England, as commoners of that region were formerly without any substantial economic activity independent of London. Its descendant position was Secretary of State for the Northern Department.
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. He also introduced bail in January 1484, to protect suspected felons from imprisonment before trial and to protect their property from seizure during that time. He founded the College of Arms in 1484, he banned restrictions on the printing and sale of books, and he ordered the translation of the written Laws and Statutes from the traditional French into English.
7. 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" After his death, Richard's image was tarnished by propaganda fostered by his Tudor successors (who sought to legitimise their claim to the throne), culminating in the famous 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.
Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up
Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other:
8. Now to modern times. Richard is in the limelight again. On 25 August 2012 Philippa Langley's quest for the lost grave of Richard III finally came to fruition!
9 More controversy where should Richard be reburied?