King Richard III of England Found Facts and Fiction
This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series British Monarchs
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King Richard III Found in Leicester but how do we know the facts from the fiction

First published in 2012, this post will be updated shortly.

King Richard III In Leicester England in a Car Park, it maybe British archaeologists have just made a remarkable find, distinguishing skeletal features and the presence of an arrow in the back, can this be King Richard III born 1452 who died as the result of wounds sustained at  the Battle of Bosworth in 1485? His reign is famous, but merged with myth fact and fiction what do we really know about this much maligned King. He ruled for just  two years between 1483-1485, how amazing that we all remember him so far on…But what of the truth, is our historic memory based on later texts and the fiction of Shakespeare rather than the evidence of contemporary sources…

Who was  King Richard III?

  • He was the 4th son  of Richard of York born  October 2, 1452, at Fothering Gay Castle
  • 1461 Created Duke of Gloucester , soon after his eldest brother had been made King Edward IV
  • He was loyal to his brother as King, unlike his brother George, the Duke of Clarence
  • Married well to Anne NEVILLE, and obtained the northern half of Warwick as an inheritance ( via relationship to Richard Neville.)
  • On the strength of this wealth he held the commanding position of being Edward’s Lieutenant in the North.
  • 1482 commanded the invasion of Scotland and recapture of Berwick.
  • Feb 1483 he was empowered to keep whatever he could conquer in South-West scotland.
  • He was to this point fairly unremarkable, over-bearing and acquisitive but so were most of the nobles and aristocracy he was not as the modern memory wrongly focuses the schemer and murderer that Shakespeare portrays or was he? What really happened to the Princes in the Tower?

But after his brother’s death Richard emerges as a different character

It maybe this period that defines Richard III’s reign. His brother died in April 1483 and it is then that the troubles begin…

  • 30 April 1483 he was forestalling the Woodville Conspiracy against himself and arrested Anthony Woodville (Earl Rivers.)
  • He took possession of Edward V, his brother’s young heir and was subsequently appointed Protector, the virtual King.
  • 26 June 1483 Edward V was deposed as boy King and Richard seized the throne and was proclaimed King. Those inclined to justify Richard’s actions cite that he only took this action on learning that Edward and his other sibblings were illegitimate, others suggest the illegitimacy was a device of political convenience and connivance orchestrated by Richard.
  • Certainly Richard was ruthless exercising summary execution on Rivers and Hastings who were the main obstacles to his assuming power and the crown in particular. The further obstacle was the young Edward and his brother, the mystery remains unresolved but they were certainly detained in the tower and Richard appears to have made no effort to prove they were still alive. So either by delegation or direct authorisation  it is quite likely he was responsible not only for their imprisonment but the death of his own nephews. It is by this act that his moral authority was certainly undermined.
  • Buckingham’s Rebellion saw many former servants of Edward IV risk life and property by joining the rebellion, given only months earlier many of them had worked with Richard in curtailing the activities of the rebellion of Woodville it suggests RIchard’s rule was not popular even with those who hadpart secured his Crown.
  • Richard also rewarded those loyal to him with lands in the North, reinforcing the imression that his was a northern regime imposed upon the reluctant southerners.

Was the Murder of the Princes Richard’s Great Mistake?

It maybe that similar to Henry and Thomas a Beckett, Richard had his own ‘who will rid me of these princes moment’ but he certainly lost any moral authority when it became clear the Princes must be dead. Richard had maintained an image of taking the moral high-ground, a ‘god-fearing’ king who had been against the immorality of his elder brother’s reign, but how could this be so if he had by word or deed murdered his brother’s sons?

  • The death of his nephews, ‘the Princes in the Tower’ created the environment in which attention shifted the focus to a previously in significant exile Henry Tudor (who would become Henry VII.)
  • All matters and events rapidly turned for the worse for Richard, both his only legitimate son and his wife died closely together in1484/1485 and he was forced to deny the rumour that he had also been responsible for his wife’s death as he tried to make way to marry his niece in order re-assert his own line of succession.
  • Henry returned to England and was challenging his authority, Richard had managed to raise enough forces to outnumber Henry Tudor’s mainly French Army initially but at Bosworth the balance changed.
  • Arguably his malfeasance was causing his own undoing now, many of his followers failed to engage in the battle at Bosworth, they stood by or actively joined forces with Henry. He died in the fray of the battle, reported buried afterwards at a church near the priory of Greyfriars in modern Leicester.
Today being 12th September 2012we learn that a skeleton has been found with spinal curvature likely to have created the distinguishing feature of one shoulder higher than the other, in a Car Park, now the lab work will take the story forward. The arrow in the back with the curved spine seems to provide the circumstantial evidence but we need more than that…DNA from a 17th generation relative is going to be compared with that of the skeleton, certainly intriguing. h
There has been much debate amongst historians as to the nature of Richard the III and the relative rights and wrongs of what he did or didn’t do, but it will be interesting to see what if this is indeed the King we do with his remains in due course. Hero or Criminal? The moral dilemma of where to rest the bones of a British King, what a dilemma…But let’s get the evidence first.
Updates overdue and under review Nov 2014: Ref AJRM.

 

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