RICHARD III SOCIETY
LIFE OF RICHARD III
Richard was born at Fotheringhay, in Northamptonshire, England, on the 2nd October, 1452. He was the youngest surviving son of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, and his wife, Cecily Neville. Richard spent his early years at Fotheringhay Castle, and later at Middleham, under the care and tutelage of his cousin, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, also known as “the Kingmaker”. When he was still a child, his family, the House of York, engaged in the long and bloody conflict against the House of Lancaster for control of the crown, known as the Wars of the Roses.
In December, 1460, Richard lost his father, an uncle and a brother in a battle at Wakefield. However, in February 1461, his brother, Edward, scored an impressive victory against King Henry VI and his Lancastrian supporters at the battle of Towton; and in March that year he became Edward IV. Richard was granted the title of Duke of Gloucester. When he was old enough, Richard assumed the rights and responsibilities of his status, distinguishing himself in battle, particularly against the Scots, and was subsequently appointed Lord of the North.
His role in the campaign against Scotland had increased Richard’s prominence and power. Following a decisive Yorkist victory over the Lancastrians at Tewkesbury, Richard married Anne Neville, the younger daughter of the Earl of Warwick, on the 12th July 1472. They had only one child, a son called Edward.
Edward IV ruled from 1461 until 1470, and again from 1471 until his death in 1483. His twelve-year old son, Edward, succeeded as Edward V. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was named Lord Protector. Edward and his brother were moved into the Tower of London, which was a palace as well as a prison. In June that year their parents’ marriage was declared invalid, thus making the two princes illegitimate. Their uncle, Richard, consequently became the heir apparent.
Following a sermon preached at St. Paul’s Cross, which declared Edward IV’s children illegitimate and his brother, Richard, the rightful king, the nobles and commons convened, and a petition was drawn up asking Richard to assume the throne. He accepted, and was crowned at Westminster Abbey on the 6th July, 1483. His son, Edward, was created Prince of Wales in York Minster on the 8th September that year, following his parents’ royal progress across England.
In the following April, according to the Croyland Chronicler, “Edward was seized with an illness of but short duration, and died at Middleham Castle in the year of our Lord 1484. On hearing this news at Nottingham, where they were then residing, you might have seen his father and mother in a state almost bordering on madness by reason of their sudden grief.” Edward’s sudden death left Richard without a legitimate heir; he later appointed his nephew, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, his heir and successor. Richard’s grief was further compounded when his wife, Anne, died on the 16th March, 1485. Her funeral was “most pompous and magnificent”, and “she lies interred near the altar at Westminster”.
Effigy of Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales, Sheriff Hutton
Contemporary illumination (Rous Roll) of
Richard III, his queen Anne Neville,
and their son Edward, the Prince of Wales.