1. Richard III was king of England for two turbulent years. He is best known for being accused of murdering his nephews to protect his throne. Born in England on October 2, 1452, Richard III served as king of England for only two years, but his reign was one of the most historic and turbulent. He is credited with the responsibility for several murders, including those of his nephews Edward and Richard, and of Henry VI. Shakespeare portrayed him as a tyrannical ruler in his play, King Richard III, but modern scholars have pointed to evidence that Richard III was a successful leader. He died in England in 1485.
Born in Northamptonshire, England, on October 2, 1452, King Richard III remains one of England's most infamous rulers. Modern scholars, however, question how much his bad reputation is true and how much is myth. Richard arrived into this world with little expectation that he would win fame or claim power. He was the youngest surviving son of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, and his wife, Cecily Neville. It is thought that Richard spent his early years at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire.
Richard III was a child when his family, the House of York, engaged in battle against the Lancastrians for control of the country. This long and bloody civil conflict is known as the War of the Roses. Richard lost his father, an uncle and one of his brothers in December 1460 battling for the crown. Another brother, Edward IV, scored an impressive victory against King Henry VI, and his Lancastrian supporters the following February.
When Edward IV officially took power in March 1461, young Richard became a prince. He was also granted the title "Duke of Gloucester." When he was old enough, Richard assumed the rights and responsibilities with his noble status.
In 1469, the War of the Roses resumed with Richard's brother losing power in 1470. King Henry VI resumed his reign only briefly, however. Edward IV was back on the throne the following year. His loyalty to his brother Edward during this time brought Richard great rewards, including lands that once belonged to those who rose up against the king. He also was able to marry Anne Neville, the daughter of the earl of Warwick, and gain a share of her substantial wealth. Richard and Anne only had one child together, a son named Edward, around 1476.
In the early 1480s, Richard III distinguished himself in battle. He helped his brother invade Scotland and received an area of Cumberland and the right to other lands for his efforts. His role in the campaign against Scotland had increased Richard III's prominence and power.
Rise and Fall of King Richard III
When King Edward IV died in 1483, his oldest son took power as Edward V—the new king was only 12 years old at the time. As his uncle, Richard III wrestled control from his nephew in May 1483. He had himself appointed the king's lord protector, which allowed him to run the government.
Richard also set into motion other plans to ensure that he could usurp the crown. Both Edward V and his younger brother Richard were taken into Richard III's custody. The two boys were imprisoned in the Tower of London where they spent the remainder of their days. Lord Hastings, a trusted adviser to King Edward IV, was executed on charges of treason. On July 6, 1483, Richard III officially became the country's new king.
Despite his hard-fought efforts, Richard III only enjoyed a brief stint as monarch. He did make some attempts to ease tensions with the Lancastrians, allowing the relocation of Henry VI's remains to St. George's Chapel. He also sought to improve relations with Scotland by agreeing to a ceasefire. Despite his efforts, however, Richard III still found himself fighting hard against his adversaries to hold on to the crown. On August 22, 1485, he lost his life in the Battle of Bosworth; he was defeated by Henry Tudor, who would later become King Henry VII.
Over the years, Richard III has been portrayed as a brutal, cold-hearted villain. William Shakespeare wrote an entire play about this allegedly hunch-backed monarch: King Richard III. Since then, many famous actors have played him on stage and in films, including Laurence Olivier and Al Pacino.
In September 2012, a team of archaeologists from Leicester University uncovered a body believed by some to be the remains of Richard III. The skeleton was uncovered at the former site of the Grey Friars church in Leicester, where Richard III was reportedly buried. The church had been destroyed in the 1530s, and the site had been a car parking lot in recent times.
The recovered skeleton showed two remarkable similarities to Richard III. The deceased had died of a head injury received in battle and had "spinal abnormalities," according to a Reuters report. DNA samples were taken from the remains to be compared against a known descendant of Richard III's sister. In February 2013, the DNA results were revealed and verified the archaeological team's suspicions: The remains did, in fact, belong to Richard III.
2. The Wars of the Roses were a series of dynastic wars for the throne of England. They were fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet, the houses of Lancaster and York. They were fought in several sporadic episodes between 1455 and 1487, although there was related fighting before and after this period. The conflict resulted from social and financial troubles that followed the Hundred Years' War, combined with the mental infirmity and weak rule of Henry VI, which revived interest in the alternative claim to the throne of Richard, Duke of York.
3. In August 1485 King Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth, and buried by the Grey Friars, a Franciscan Holy order, in their friary church.
In August 2012, Leicester City Council, the University of Leicester, and the Richard III Society began a search underneath a car park in Leicester, to find King Richard III’s remains and the Grey Friars Church.
This coincided with the 527th anniversary of the date King Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth. Five months after the dig began, the University of Leicester confirmed a skeleton unearthed by archaeologists was in fact Richard III.
Although the well-known local story was that King Richard’s bones were thrown into the river by a mob at the time of the Reformation, in recent times, a number of researchers began to put the case for the remains still being buried in the Greyfriars area of Leicester, including David Baldwin, a University of Leicester tutor. In the years following this theory was advanced by historian John Ashdown-Hill, who together with researcher Philippa Langley, proposed a more precise location for his whereabouts: the north end of a city council car park at Greyfriars, the offices of its Social Services department.
Fast forward to Spring 2011 and Philippa Langley, of the Richard III Society, approached Leicester City Council and the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) in the hope that they would carry out an excavation of the Greyfriars Social Services car park site. Everyone was enthusiastic. Although the chance of finding Richard III were minute, ULAS were keen to find the old Greyfriars Church. With the help of University funding and an International Appeal by the Richard III Society that saved the search for the king, the dig eventually got the go ahead in summer 2012.
In August 2012, the careful process of excavation began. In the days that followed the archaeologists uncovered not only the old Greyfriars church, but a skeleton with battle wounds and a curved spine.
The skeleton was exhumed and the process of formal identification began. Experts from the University of Leicester used DNA sampling to link the skeleton to Richard III’s descendants. Carbon dating of the bones dated them to 1455-1540, which coincides with Richard III’s death. Furthermore the bones were identified to be of a man between late 20s or early 30s and Richard III died aged 32.
After careful scientific examination, the University announced in February 2013 that the skeleton found was indeed Richard III.
Examining the skeleton gave the University a new insight into the life and death of Richard III, for instance, he was portrayed by some Tudor historians, with a political “axe to grind”, as being “deformed”; although the curved spine on the skeleton does show he had Scoliosis, he did not have a withered arm or other details attributed to him in some characterizations.
King Richard III will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral, which is located just 100 steps away from the visitor center, in March 2015.