Who was Richard III? Where was his body found?

The Meeting of Edward V (1470-1483) and his Brother Richard, Duke of York (1473-1483) contemplated by King Richard III by James Northcote
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

Richard III was caricatured by Shakespeare and accused of killing his nephews, while his remains were found under a car park in Leicester. He reigned from 1483-1485

King Richard III may well be the most demonised figure in the history of the British royal family. He was caricatured as a hunchback by Shakespeare. He was thought to have killed his two nephews, the ‘Princes in the Tower’. And his remains were recently and rather unceremoniously discovered under a car park in Leicester. 

His reputation was set following the death of his brother, King Edward IV, on 9 April 1483. Richard was named Lord Protector of the Realm to look after the heir apparent,
his 12-year-old nephew. Ruling as Edward V, he was first installed, as was customary, in the Tower of London, and joined later by his nine-year-old brother, Richard, Duke of York, while he awaited coronation. 

Informed his brother’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was apparently invalid – and hence the young princes were illegible heirs – Richard had Parliament declare this officially so that he could assume the throne. By the end of the summer, however, the two princes had vanished and rumours spread. 

King Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth
King Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth. Credit: Shutterstock

In the October, the second Duke of Buckingham led an initially unsuccessful rebellion on behalf of the House of Tudor. However, Richard was unable to fully quell the doubters. The exiled Henry Tudor returned from France and built an army of supporters among the disaffected nobles. Richard set about intercepting Henry’s troops in Leicestershire, but was slain at the Battle of Bosworth Field in the summer of 1485. And so ended the last major conflict in what became known as the War of the Roses, a 30-year civil war fought between the houses of Lancaster (Henry Tudor) and York (Richard III). Henry married Elizabeth of York, the Yorkist heir with the strongest claim to the throne. In doing so, he ushered in the Tudor dynasty. 

Key dates

  • 1484 – Printer William Caxton publishes the first English translation of Aesop’s Fables
  • 1485 – The Yeoman Warders (more commonly known as the Beefeaters) are founded

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