The life of King Richard III of England

Princes in the Tower
The Meeting of Edward V (1470-1483) and his Brother Richard, Duke of York (1473-1483) contemplated by King Richard III by James Northcote. Credit: National Trust Images/Derrick E. Witty

2022 marks the 10 year anniversary since the uncovering of the remains of King Richard III of England. We look back at his life and the discovery of his body…

Words: Millie Sykes

The life of King Richard III of England

Richard was born in 1452 and was the brother of King Edward IV, the first Yorkist king. He governed the north of England during his brother’s reign and married Lady Anne Neville.

The Princes in the Tower and Richard becoming King.

King Edward IV passed away in 1483 and his sons were not yet old enough to take the throne. Richard was named Lord Protector of the realm with the responsibility of looking after Edward’s eldest son, 12 year old Edward V.

It was customary at the time for heirs to live in The Tower of London while awaiting their coronation. The young prince Edward V and his nine year old brother, Richard, were moved into the tower by their uncle Richard.

Before the coronation could happen, it was discovered that Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was apparently invalid and hence the young princes were illegitimate heirs, and their uncle Richard was instead proclaimed King.

By the end of the summer of 1483 there were no further sightings of either of the Princes and rumours took flight that Richard had had them murdered in order to secure his place on the throne.

King Richard III of England
King Richard III of England

Reign and death

King Richard III‘s very short reign was from 1483 to 1485. During this time there was anger amongst people and discussions that Henry Tudor should marry Edward IV’s daughter and be on the throne.

Richard was unable to fully quell the doubters and the exiled Henry Tudor returned from France and built an army of supporters among the disaffected nobles.

Battle of Bosworth

In the summer of 1485 a battle erupted between Richard’s forces and Henry’s. King Richard III was killed on the battle field and Henry Tudor took the crown for himself.

King Richard III of England
Battle of Bosworth

The discovery of his body

King Richard III of England was buried unceremoniously in Leicester in 1485 and his remains were discovered 10 years ago. In 2012, a search began for the remains of King Richard III and they were found beneath a modern city centre car park.

The remains were confirmed to be his based on mitochondrial DNA evidence, soil analysis, and dental tests. His spine revealed signs of scoliosis and the remains showed the substantial injuries he obtained during his final battle.

The reinterment

In 2015, the remains of King Richard III of England were given a second burial at Leicester Cathedral. A service took place which 200 people attended to see King Richard III finally and respectfully laid to rest.

The archbishop, spiritual leader of the Church of England, said a prayer before the burial. Actor Benedict Cumberbatch, a distant relation of the king, read a poem by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

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