A Brief History of King Richard III

Tom Cropper

4 mins

18 Mar 2015

King Richard III only ruled for two years, between 1483 and 1485, but he remains one of the highest profile Kings of England.

From beyond the grave, Richard’s profile received another boost in 2012 as historians from the University of Leicester, Leicester City Council and the Richard III Society discovered his final resting place under a council car park where he had been buried within the foundations of the long since demolished Greyfriars church.


The Plantagenets

Richard Plantagenet and Cecily Neville were Richard III parents. He was born in Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire on 2 October 1452. Richard was one of 13 great-great-grandchildren of Edward III. This lineage was used for the House of York to lay claim to the crown at the time of the War of the Roses.

Interestingly, across the Pennines, the House of Lancaster was also descended from Edward III through another route.


Middleham Castle in Yorkshire

Part of Richard’s childhood years were spent at Middleham Castle in Yorkshire. Richard received training from an early age to become a knight and it paid off later on the battlefield as he was considered to be a fine swordsman and jouster who could compete with the most talented in the field.

Edward IV and His Sons


Edward receiving his wife to be

Richard’s older brother Edward ruled as King Edward IV between 1461 and 1470 before being unseated and then again from 1471 until his death in 1483. Edward was succeeded that year by his 12-year-old son who became Edward V, but in June his parents marriage was discovered to be invalid leading to his removal. This made his uncle Richard the next in line, which led to a quick coronation and the 12-year-old Edward wasn’t seen again.

It is unclear what happened to the young Edward and his brother, but many believe that Richard had them murdered to ensure there were no blockages to his ascendance to the throne.

The Fighting King


Richard depicted in the Battle of Bosworth

Richard and his army defeated a rebellion during October of 1483. Two years later in 1485, Richard led his army to Bosworth in Leicestershire to battle Henry Tudor, who was busy shaping a claim to the throne as a result of his dubious claim he was a descendent of Edward III.

Despite fighting well in the Bosworth Field and securing some significant results with his 8,000 men, Richard was surrounded by a mob from the 5,000-strong opposing army who were said to have beaten him so hard his helmet entered his skull, resulting in his death.

Richard III is famed for being the last English King to be killed on a battlefield and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty who ruled England for more than 200 years. His death not only bought an end to the family rule but it also ended the Wars of the Roses as Henry Tudor was named King Henry VII.

Confusion Over Richard’s Burial


The excavation in a Leicester car park

Confusion over Richard’s final resting place was a result of a number of issues. Soon after his death, Richard III’s body was taken back to Leicester to be put on public display before being passed to some Franciscan friars to perform a burial.

Henry VIII followed his dad Henry Tudor to the throne and decided on the dissolution of monasteries, which led to the disappearance of the friary where Richard had been buried, with no documentation of his whereabouts.

Final Resting Place


Leicester Cathedral

The remains of Richard III were finally found in the Leicester City Council car park during September 2012.

He was re-interned on 26 March 2015 at Leicester Cathedral in a service overseen by Cardinal Vincent Nichols. As England’s last king to die in battle, he was be treated with a visit to the place of his falling in Bosworth, from where the cortege will make its way to the cathedral with his remains in an oak, lead-lined coffin.