Richard’s Life

Richard’s Life

Many details of Richard’s life are well-known and summarised on the Society’s website. The following are some facts relevant to our suggested projects.

His elder brother became King Edward IV when Richard was eight years old and, between the ages of eleven and fourteen  he would have been undergoing training as a knight and a prince.

Richard then lived in the household of his cousin, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, (the Kingmaker), part of the time at Middleham Castle, N. Yorks, where he met Anne Neville, later his wife and queen.

Richard read and spoke several languages: Norman-French, Latin and Middle English and as king he encouraged the use of English in public life.

By the age of eighteen, he had become a skilled knight and fought with distinction in two battles (Barnet and Tewkesbury) which restored his brother to the throne.

He enjoyed and encouraged arts such as music, song, dance, architecture & drawing. His wife-to-be would have learned domestic management: food, clothing, fashion & needlework. They owned books of history and tales of adventure.

Both Richard and Anne, like virtually everyone in England at the time were baptised into the Catholic Church and lived a far more religious life than most people today.

As right-hand man to his brother, and especially when he was the king, Richard travelled extensively around England and into Scotland and France to keep the peace and uphold the law.

Controversies concerning Richard

The Princes in the Tower

For over five centuries Richard has been blamed for the murder of his nephews, Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury, the sons of King Edward IV.

The Richard III Society’s view is that there is no material evidence which explains what happened to these two boys: they simply disappear from the historical record in the summer of 1483. Rumours, begun as soon as the Princes disappeared from public view, spread and persisted long after Richard’s death, encouraged by Tudor propaganda.  The fate of the two boys is one of the great mysteries of British history.

Philippa Langley heads The Missing Princes Project (TMPP) with the aim of uncovering documentary evidence that might explain what happened to the Princes. Meanwhile, the Society keeps an open mind about Richard’s role in their disappearance.

Battle of Bosworth

Richard was killed in August 1485 leading a cavalry charge at Bosworth Field, Leicestershire at the age of thirty two after a reign of just over two years. He was defending his crown against a largely mercenary French army hired by Henry Tudor, a distant cousin.

After the battle his body was stripped naked, desecrated, placed on public display and then left for monks to bury. When found, his skeleton appeared to have been left in the same place for over five and a quarter centuries although the grave’s location had been forgotten.

Shakespeare’s Richard III

Shakespeare wrote his play over a century after Richard’s death. He would have used several sources to inform the plot but also shaped the narrative to flatter the reigning Tudor dynasty. The result is a great work of dramatic art, but not of reliable history.

This article from a Director of the Shakespeare Institute compares the play with the historical record.

Reading

Two books which describe Richard’s life at the same age as KS3 pupils are

Richard. The Young King to Be by Josephine Wilkinson (Amberley Publishing, 2009)

Richard III. I was there by Stuart Hill (Scholastic Publishing, 2014)