Richard III:
The Making of a Legend

Murph, Roxane C. Richard III: The Making of a Legend. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1977, reprinted 1984. Copyright © 1977, Roxane C. Murph; used with permission. Permission to reproduce from this electronic edition in accordance with the Fair Use provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976 is hereby given, provided that no alterations are made to the text and that this notice appears as part of the reproduction. Two chapters are published on this Web site: taken together, they constitute an introductory biography of Richard III. Scanning and HTML coding by Cheryl Rothwell.

The Struggle for the Crown

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York.

Richard III I.i.
The controversy surrounding Richard III has centered on several events, namely the deaths of Edward of Lancaster, Henry VI, George of Clarence, and the princes in the Tower. Somewhat less controversial, but still the source of much disagreement, were the deaths of Richard's wife, Anne Neville, Anthony Woodville, and Lord Hastings. Many of the facts concerning these deaths are clouded in uncertainty and for this reason speculation about Richard's role in them has flourished. Before turning to an examination and comparison of the various views expounded by writers of history and fiction, a brief review of the known facts concerning the life and career of Richard III might prove useful.[1]

Richard was born on October 2, 1452, at Fotheringhay Castle. He was the twelfth of thirteen children born to Richard, Duke of York, and his wife, Cicely Neville, and the youngest of the seven who survived infancy. In this family of large, fair, healthy children the dark, undersized, sickly Richard must have seemed like a changeling. During the seven years he lived at Fotheringhay Richard had the company only of his brother George, who was three years his senior, and his sister Margaret, who was six years older than he. Edward and Edmund, the two oldest boys, lived at Ludlow Castle in the Welsh Marches, while Anne and Elizabeth, the older girls, were being trained in other noble households according to the custom of the day. The children saw their parents only rarely.[2]

Richard grew up in unstable and dangerous period in English history. The old feudal system of loyalty based on land tenure was crumbling and a new power, based on the system of "livery and maintenance," was taking its place. In return for the "good-lordship" of a powerful magnate, a retainer promised his services in peace and war. Thus, the lord had armed men when he needed them and the retainer received protection against his enemies, wages in some cases, and, all too frequently, immunity from punishment by law. It was common practice during the fifteenth century for powerful lords to threaten or bribe juries to find in their favor. It was the sworn duty of the monarch to see that justice was done, but during the reign of Henry VI this oath had little meaning. Henry had frequent periods of madness and the court was dominated by his beautiful and high-spirited wife, Margaret of Anjou. She protected her partisans and persecuted those whom she believed to be against her. She treated Richard's father, the Duke of York, as her chief enemy and so turned him into one.[3]

During the spring and summer of 1459 it was apparent that the queen intended an all-out war against the Yorkists. The Duke of York, fearing that Fotheringhay was no longer safe, moved Margaret, George, and Richard to Ludlow, a large, strongly fortified castle belonging to his family. It was there that Richard met his two oldest brothers for the first time. Edward, Earl of March was seventeen and Edmund, Earl of Rutland, was sixteen.[4]

Followers of York gathered that summer at Ludlow in preparation for the attack they felt certain would come. In October they learned that the king's army was at Coventry and was marching toward Ludlow. The Yorkists sent Henry a petition assuring him of their loyalty. He responded by promising pardon to all who would desert the Yorkist cause.[5]

The duke's armies camped on Ludford Meadows and prepared for battle. On the night of October 12 the best and most experienced of the Yorkist troops, the Calais garrison led by Andrew Trollope, deserted to the king, taking with them the Yorkist battle plans. The duke and his sons, Edward and Edmund, and the Earl of Salisbury and his son, the Earl of Warwick, fled to safety. The duchess and her two younger boys remained behind and threw themselves on the king's mercy. They reckoned without Queen Margaret's fury. After the royal army had looted the castle and pillaged the town of Ludlow as if it were enemy territory, the duchess and her sons were taken to Coventry. York, Warwick, and Salisbury were attainted by parliament and their estates declared forfeit.[6]

Meanwhile, the Duke of York and Edmund had sailed for Ireland where the Irish and Anglo-Irish rallied to their support. Indeed, the Irish were so loyal that they executed any man brave, or foolish, enough to bring a royal writ for York's arrest.[7] Warwick, Salisbury, and Edward had escaped to Calais which, fortunately for them, had remained true to its captain, Warwick.[8] Edward, concerned for the safety of his two younger brothers, wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury to ask him to look after them. As a result, the boys were taken into the Archbishop's household where they remained from early 1460 until September of that year, when they rejoined their mother.[9]

On June 26, 1460, Warwick, Edward, and Salisbury landed with two thousand troops at Sandwich and went directly to London. They were welcomed by the city magistrates who lent them one thousand pounds, whereupon they marched north to meet the king's army, which was encamped south of Northampton. The treachery of some of the king's soldiers enabled the Yorkists to capture the king, who was then conducted to London in state. Following the establishment of a new government under firm Yorkist control, the Duchess of York, accompanied by George and Richard, arrived in London but the duchess soon left to join her husband who had landed in Chester. George and Richard, however, remained in London and not a day went by without a visit from Edward. It is quite likely that this loving attention from his older brother during this unsettled period in his life can explain Richard's lifelong devotion and loyalty to Edward.[10]

On October 10, the Duke of York returned to London. He went directly to Westminster where the lords were assembled, placed his hand on the throne, and announced that he had come to claim it by hereditary right. All of the peers, including Warwick and Edward, were shocked and dismayed by this action.[11]They wanted York to reform the government, not to seize the crown. Finally, after much legal debate, King Henry agreed that if he were permitted to keep the crown for life, the Duke of York would be his heir and would be named Protector.[12] This action disinherited Queen Margaret's son, something she would not countenance.

The infuriated queen fled north where she raised an army by offering the Scots the border town of Berwick-on-Tweed in return for their aid.[13] The Yorkists, meanwhile, began to assembled their own armies and Edward went into Wales to raise men. The Duke of York and the Earl of Salisbury marched off to Yorkshire, leaving Warwick in London to run the government. On December 30, in violation of a Christmas truce agreed to by both sides, the Lancastrian army attacked the Yorkists outside Sandal Castle near Wakefield. York, his son Edmund, and Salisbury were slain and their heads were taken to York and nailed up over the Micklegate Bar. Margaret, never one to leave well enough alone, had the duke's head adorned with a paper crown.[14]

By the death of his father, Edward became the Yorkist claimant to the throne. In February 1461, at Mortimer's Cross, he defeated a large Lancastrian army but, a few days later, at the second battle of St. Albans, Warwick was routed by the queen who succeeded in rescuing her husband from Yorkist hands. The queen's forces followed the fleeing Yorkists to London, pillaging as they went.[15] The Duchess of York, fearing for the lives of her two young sons should the Lancastrian army take the city, sent them to Burgundy where they were welcomed and royally treated by Duke Philip.[16]

London, however, held out against the Lancastrians, and when Edward entered the city on March 4, he was enthusiastically proclaimed king.[17] Thereupon, Margaret and her army fled northward, pursued by the Yorkists. On March 29, Palm Sunday, in a late but fierce snowstorm, the two armies met at Towton. In a bloody battle the outnumbered Yorkists completely defeated the Lancastrian army.[18] Henry, Margaret and their son fled into Scotland.

When the news of the Yorkist victory reached Burgundy in mid-April, George and Richard were escorted to Calais by a guard of honor. From there they went to the Palace of Shene (Richmond) where their brother, King Edward IV, waited to greet them. Richard was not quite nine years old, yet in his brief lifetime he had experienced great danger and misfortune -- the loss of his father, a brother and an uncle, and virtual imprisonment and exile. Now, under the protection of his handsome, gifted brother, fortune for the first time appeared to smile on him.

On June 27 George and Richard, newly created Knights of the Bath, took part in the coronation of the new king. Edward named George as the Duke of Clarence and Richard as Duke of Gloucester, and both boys were made Knights of the Garter.

The age of nine was none too soon to begin the customary period of apprenticeship in the household of a great noble in order to learn all the knightly accomplishments. The king had decided that his brother Richard should enter the household of the richest and most powerful nobleman in England, his cousin the Earl of Warwick. Late in the year 1461 Richard went to the earl's great castle of Middleham in Wensleydale to begin his training.[19] It was there that he met Robert Percy and Francis Lovell who were also being schooled in Warwick's household. These two youngsters became Richard's closest friends and remained, to the end of their lives, his staunchest supporters.[20] The boys all lived together and received instruction in Latin, law, mathematics, music, religion, and the code of chivalric behavior and etiquette. Each day they practiced riding, hunting, and the use of arms. In the evening they were taught to sing, dance, and play musical instruments. Richard worked diligently on all of his lessons, but his greatest effort was directed toward developing skill in the use of weapons.[21]

During the next few years the king heaped honors and lands on his two brothers. At the age of twelve Richard was appointed Commissioner of Array for nine counties and charged with levying troops to clear Northumberland of Lancastrians. George, although he was three years older than Richard, was not considered sufficiently mature for this responsibility, a fact which infuriated him. This, and other incidents of this period which indicated Edward's favoritism to Richard, may have marked the beginning of the hostility which George later displayed toward both his brothers.[22]

In September 1464, Edward announced his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, a Lancastrian widow and the mother of two young sons.[23] The marriage, which had been performed in great secrecy months before, was to have serious and far-reaching consequences. Warwick had been negotiating a French marriage for the king and felt publicly humiliated by the king's action. This caused a breach between the two strong-minded men. Warwick, who had helped his cousin Edward seize the throne, assumed he would be the power behind it. Edward, however, intended to rule in fact as well as name.

The strained relations between the king and kingmaker probably accounted for Edward's order, in the spring of 1465, that Richard be removed from Middleham.[24] Richard spent the next five years at Westminster in a court dominated by the relatives of the queen. The members of the Woodville clan were numerous, aggressive, and greedy, and it was not long before they had secured for themselves the greatest offices and the richest marriages in the kingdom.[25]The queen's sister Katherine was married to the Duke of Buckingham who was a dozen or more years her junior, while her twenty-year-old brother John captured the heart and hand of the eighty-year-old Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. It is not surprising that the queen and her family earned the enmity of the old nobility.

The resentment of Warwick, the head of the powerful Neville family, took a positive and dangerous form. He attempted to win the king's two brothers over to his side. Although Richard was no doubt flattered by the attentions showered on him, he recognized Warwick's treasonable intent and remained loyal to the King. Warwick had more success with George. In 1469, against the express command of the king, George of Clarence married Warwick's daughter, Isobel Neville, in a hurried and secret ceremony at Calais.[26] When they returned to England, Warwick gathered an army, captured the king, and executed several of the royal adherents, including the queen's father, her brother John, and the earls of Pembroke and Devon.[27]

Where was Richard during this period? Apparently the Nevilles considered him of such little ability and importance that he was not detained with his brother. When the king learned, however, that Richard and Lord Hastings had managed to raise armies to come to his rescue, he secretly summoned his Council to join him at Pontefract where he was being held prisoner. When the Council and the loyal armies appeared, Edward coolly informed his captors that these men had come to accompany him to London and he intended to go with them.[28]

This rescue caused the king to appreciate more fully the loyalty and ability of yis youngest brother. On his return to London, Edward rewarded Richard by appointing him Constable of England for life. This was an extremely powerful position and carried with it great responsibility. The Constable, as President of the Court of Chivalry and Courts Martial, could determine and punish acts of treason.[29]

Richard was also appointed Chief Justice of North Wales for life, and it was in this position that he undertook his first independent military command. He quickly suppressed a Welsh rebellion and recaptured the castles of Cardigan and Carmathen. Early in 1470 Richard became Chief Justice of South Wales, which meant he was the virtual ruler of Wales. He thus displaced Warwick who had taken these offices for himself at the time he held the king captive.[30]

Despite a show of reconciliation between Warwick and the king, the Nevilles continued to instigate rebellion. When papers captured from rebels after a skirmish proved that Warwick planned to place Clarence on the throne, Edward took immediate action. Warwick and Clarence were proclaimed traitors and John Neville, the only member of his family who had remained loyal to the king, was deprived of the earldom of Northumberland. The title of Earl of Northumberland was restored to Henry Percy, a Lancastrian sympathizer.[31] This was a rash action on Edward's part, and one for which Richard would pay dearly.

Richard, who had been in Wales when the rebellion started, set out with an army to aid his brother. Warwick and Clarence, realizing full well that they would not win against the combined armies of Richard of Gloucester and the king, gathered together their wives, Warwick's younger daughter Anne, and several hundred adherents, and fled to the protection of Louis XI of France.[32]

King Edward, who knew his brother George and cousin Warwick well, realized that they would not give up the fight so easily and he began preparations for the defense of his kingdom. He sent Richard to the Midlands to raise levies and maintain order. At the same time the king deprived the Nevilles of the Wardenship of the West Marches and conferred the office on Richard, who he felt confident could ensure the loyalty of Yorkshire.[33]

Meanwhile, Warwick had not been idle. Through the mediation of his patron, Louis of France, the "Universal Spider," Warwick had become reconciled with Margaret of Anjou. In return for Warwick's promise to restore Henry VI to the throne, Margaret had consented to the marriage of her son Edward to Warwick's daughter, Anne Neville. The marriage was not to be solemnized, however, until Warwick had fulfilled his part of the agreement.[34] Clarence, who had gained nothing by this agreement, was offered a consolation prize. He was to inherit the throne if Anne and Edward produced no heirs.

On September 13, 1470, Warwick landed in England where he was joined by his brother, the Marquis of Montagu, formerly the Earl of Northumberland. When Edward learned of Montagu's defection, he and some of his followers. including Richard, Hastings, and Rivers fled to Burgundy.[35] They took with them only the clothes on their backs and thus, for the second time in his life, Richard found himself dependent on the charity of the Duke of Burgundy. Charles the Bold, the son of Philip the Good, was the husband of Edward and Richard's sister, Margaret. Charles, a descendant of John of Gaunt, was at heart a Lancastrian. Political necessity, however, had turned him into a Yorkist. He was at war with Louis XI and he knew that a Lancastrian king of England would not lift a hand to help him. He must, therefore, give Edward the aid he needed to regain his throne.

Although Warwick had made good his promise to restore Henry to the throne, Margaret remained in France with her son and Anne Neville, until she could be sure that England was once more safely Lancastrian. Yorkist hopes had been kept alive, on the other hand, by the birth of a son to Elizabeth Woodville, who was then in sanctuary at Westminster.[36]

In March 1471 Edward returned to England. He met with no resistance as he marched toward London, possibly because he declared that he had come only to reclaim his dukedom.[37] As he neared the city, however, he dropped this pretense and many loyal Yorkists joined his ranks. Even George of Clarence, either out of pique at Warwick or a belated sense of family loyalty, came over to his brother's side with the army he had raised to fight him.[38] London welcomed Edward and supplied his army. A few days later the king marched out of London to meet the kingmaker in battle. With the Yorkist army rode the erstwhile king, Henry VI.[39]

On Easter Sunday, April 14, 1471, at the Battle of Barnet, Warwick's army was annihilated and he and his brother Montagu were slain.[40] The nineteen-year-old Richard of Gloucester commanded the right wing of his brother's victorious army. Three weeks later the royal forces, with Richard in command of the left wing, crushed the Lancastrians once and for all. On May 4, at Tewkesbury, Margaret's army was totally destroyed and her son Edward lay among the dead.[41]

On May 21 the king entered London in a triumphal procession led by his brother Richard. Accompanying the royal train were Edward's prisoner, Margaret of Anjou, and Clarence's ward, Anne Neville. That evening, according to the official version, Henry VI died in the Tower of "pure displeasure and melancholy." [42]There is no doubt that his death was a judicial murder ordered by the king. The destruction of the legitimate Lancastrian line enabled Edward IV to enjoy comparative peace for the rest of his reign.

In the months after Tewkesbury the grateful king heaped yet more honors upon his youngest brother. Richard, restored to his positions as Constable and Admiral of England, was also given Warwick's former office of Great Chamberlain and was made Steward of the Duchy of Lancaster beyond Trent. Because Richard had great affection for the north country and the king needed a man of proven military ability to deal with the constant troubles on the Scottish border, Richard fell heir to all of the estates and power in that region that had formerly belonged to Warwick. Included in the gift were the castles of Middleham and Sheriff Hutton. The Duke of Gloucester thus became the greatest magnate in the north, with authority over the Earl of Northumberland.[43]

Before leaving for the north to wage a campaign against the Scots, Richard secured the king's permission to marry Anne Neville. There had been a deep affection between the two young people since their childhood days at Middleham and since Anne's betrothed, Edward of Lancaster, was now dead, she was free to marry Richard. Upon the successful completion of the Scottish campaign he returned to London to claim his bride. Anne was in the custody of her brother-in-law Clarence who had no intention of sharing the Warwick inheritance with Richard. He therefore refused to give up his charge, despite a warning from the king not to interfere between the lovers. He claimed, when pressed, that Anne had disappeared and that he neither knew nor cared where she had gone. After weeks of diligent search Gloucester finally discovered Anne working as a kitchenmaid in the home of a retainer of the Duke of Clarence. Richard took her at once to the sanctuary of St. Martin le Grande where she would be safe from Clarence and from Richard too, if she so desired.[44]

For several months the king's two brothers engaged in a bitter dispute over the questions of the Warwick inheritance and Anne's guardianship. Richard was quite willing to accept Anne even without her inheritance and so the matter was finally settled. Richard was to keep Middleham and certain other of Warwick's Yorkshire estates and Clarence was to get the rest of the vast inheritance.[45]

As soon as the property settlement had been reached, Anne Neville came out of sanctuary. Without waiting for the papal dispensation usual in marriages within this degree of consanguinity [Richard's mother and Warwick's father were brother and sister, thus Richard and Warwick were first cousins and Richard and Anne were first cousins, once removed], Anne and Richard were married in the spring of 1472, and they returned immediately to their childhood home of Middleham.[46] There, in 1473, Anne was delivered of their only child, Edward.

Following his marriage Richard extended his protection to other members of the Neville family. His mother-in-law, stripped of her lands by her husband's attainder, came out of sanctuary at Beaulieu Abbey and went to live in a home which Richard provided for her. He helped to secure the release of George Neville who had been imprisoned for conspiracy and provided an annuity for Warwick's sister, the Countess of Oxford, despite the fact that her husband was actively working to overthrow the Yorkist king.[47]

In answer to the king's summons, Richard returned to London in the spring of 1475. Edward had decided to invade France, reconquer the territories lost by Henry VI and make good the English claim to the French throne.[48] The money for the venture was raised by benevolence, the army by indentures.[49] The Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester were each ordered to bring into the field one hundred and twenty men-at-arms and one thousand archers. So eager were the men of Yorkshire to wear Richard's badge of the White Boar that he was able to enlist at least three hundred more men than he had contracted for.[50]

The invasion was a fiasco. Edward's allies deserted him and he was forced to accept the French king's offer of peace. This decision, although favored by most of the English councillors who had been handsomely bribed by Louis, was bitterly opposed by the Duke of Gloucester. He saw the Treaty of Pequigny, under which Edward was to receive a large French annuity for life, as a humiliating defeat for England. Richard was the only member of the royal party to refuse the French king's bribe,[51] which increased his popularity in England but earned him the undying enmity of France.

Upon his return to England, Richard retired once more to Yorkshire. Early in 1477 Edward summoned him to London to discuss the crisis which had arisen with the death of Duke Charles of Burgundy. Clarence, a recent widower, suggested that he be permitted to marry Charles's heir, Mary, in order to protect the English interest in Burgundy. Edward, however, did not intend to see his shallow, ambitious brother become the ruler of the richest duchy in Europe, and so he refused to allow the marriage.[52] Clarence reacted to this snub with almost insane fury. He arrested and executed two of his late wife's servants on false charges, armed his retainers, and publicly accused the king of trying to destroy him.[53] For years Edward had endured with remarkable restraint Clarence's ambition, disloyalty, and even his treason, but this time his unstable brother had gone a step too far. In order to bolster his own claim to the throne, Clarence had spread the story that Edward was the off spring of an adulterous union between the Duchess of York and an unknown archer. If this were not enough, he cast doubt as well on the validity of Edward's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville.[54]

Richard, who had returned to Yorkshire early in the year, hastened back to London when he learned that Clarence had been arrested, charged with treason, and sent to the Tower. He pleaded with Edward to spare Clarence's life, but the Woodvilles, pressing from the other side, persuaded the king not to yield.[55]

On January 16, 1478, parliament met to try Clarence on the charge of high treason. Edward was the sole accuser and only Clarence spoke in his own defense. On February 7 the High Steward passed the death sentence but Edward vacillated until, on February 18, the Speaker of the Commons petitioned the Lords to carry out the sentence.[56] That same day Clarence was executed, by drowning, according to the story current at the time, in a butt of his favorite malmsey wine.[57] Richard did not profit from his brother's death. He merely regained the office of Great Chamberlain which he had given up to Clarence fifteen years earlier, and Richard's son Edward was given the title and dignity of Earl of Salisbury.[58]

Throughout these turbulent years Richard had spent most of his time in the north, traditionally the unruliest part of the kingdom, and he had succeeded in making himself popular by his wise and firm rule. He returned there immediately after Clarence's execution and in the next four years he visited London only twice--once in 1480 to see his sister Margaret who had come from Burgundy to visit her family, and again in 1481 to advise the king about the war with Scotland. At Middleham he led the life typical of a rich and powerful country lord. He delegated much of the judicial work connected with his two most important national offices, Constable and Admiral of England, to experienced judges, but he held many lesser offices as well. None kept him busier than the position of Warden of the West Marches, which included supervisory authority over the East and Middle Marches under the Wardenship of the Earl of Northumberland. Despite the truce with the Scots, there were frequent armed attacks from across the border and Richard spent much of his time seeing to it that the frontier fortresses were garrisoned, provisioned, and repaired. He established a standard of excellence for the Warden of the Marches which his successors found difficult to maintain.[59]

The Council for the Marches, the Warden's advisory body, acted also as a court of appeal for poor tenants who were otherwise at the mercy of powerful lords. Any man, from the lowliest peasant to the greatest lord, could ask and receive justice from the Warden and his Council. In order to maintain a harmonious relationship with Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, whose family had previously been lords of the North, Richard used him as an assistant in judicial cases and in the affairs of the City of York, as well as appointing him second-in-command in the wars against the Scots. Percy, however, was no more satisfied with second best than Clarence had been, and he never became a devoted adherent of the Duke of Gloucester.

Richard was never too busy to attend to problems brought to his attention by the citizens of York, and his concern for their welfare earned him their wholehearted devotion. He was asked to settle important questions, such as disputed elections, as well as lesser problems such as ordering the removal of the fishgarths which impeded transportation and reduced the number of fish the poor were able to catch.[60] Richard's interest in and support of the city was deeply appreciated by the citizens who remained his faithful and outspoken adherents well into the Tudor period.

In 1482, after years of unproductive and halfhearted attempts to settle the Scottish problem, the king decided on war as the final solution. Edward's health, which had deteriorated after years of dissipation and riotous living, prevented him from taking an active role in the fighting, and Richard was given complete charge of the campaign.[61] He regained Berwick-on-Tweed which had been ceded to Scotland years before by Margaret of Anjou, and he captured Edinburgh without the loss of a single man. The Scots thereupon sued for peace, and Richard returned in triumph to London in January 1483 for the opening of parliament. He was wildly acclaimed for the success of the campaign.[62]

The parliament showed its gratitude to Richard in a tangible way by granting him what was, in effect, a practically autonomous palatinate in Cumberland County and the Scots Marches. The grants included the permanent Wardenship of the West Marches and many lands, manors, and perquisites.[63]

The change which Richard found in his brother during this visit left him profoundly disturbed. Edward had grown fat and lazy and he seemed to live only for pleasure. Richard, whose outlook on life was puritanical compared to Edward's, no doubt blamed the influence of the loose-living Woodvilles and Lord Hastings for his brother's decline. He had no way of knowing when he left London to return home in February 1483 that he would never see his brother again.

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About the Author:
Roxane C. Murph is immediate past chairman of the American Branch of the Richard III Society. She is also the author of The Wars of the Roses in Fiction (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995) and the editor of Richard and Anne: A Play in Two Acts by Maxwell Anderson (Jefferson NC and London: McFarland Publishing, 1995).


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Notes
[1] For the account which follows the author has relied heavily on Richard the Third by Paul Murray Kendall (New York: Doubleday, 1956). For other good surveys of the period see also The Fifteenth Century by E. F. Jacob (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961) and Richard the Third by James Gairdner (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1898).
[2] Kendall, Richard III, p. 29.

[3] Ibid., pp. 29-31.

[4] Ibid., p. 34.

[5] Ibid., p. 36.

[6] Hearne's Fragment in Chronicles of the White Rose of York ed. by J. C. Giles(London: James Bohn, 1843), pp. 5-6.

[7] Kendall, Richard III, p. 37.

[8] Ibid., pp. 37-38.

[9] Ibid., p. 39.

[10] Ibid., pp. 39- 40.

[11] See the statements of two contemporaries, William Wyrcester andWhethamstede, as quoted in Chronicles of the White Rose of York, p. lxxx.

[12] Ibid., pp. lxxxi-lxxxii.

[13] Kendall, Richard III, p. 42.

[14] For the quote from Wyrcester, see Chronicles of the White Rose of York,p. lxxxiii.

[15] Ingulph's Chronicle of the Abbey of Croyland, ed. and transl. by Henry T. Riley(London: Henry G. Bohn, 1854), pp. 421- 422.

[16] Kendall, Richard III, p. 44.

[17] Croyland Chronicle, p. 424.

[18] Ibid., pp. 425-426.

[19] Kendall, Richard III, p. 49.

[20] Ibid., p. 51.

[21] Ibid., p. 52.

[22] Ibid., pp. 55-56.

[23] Croyland Chronicle, pp. 439-440.

[24] Kendall, Richard III, pp. 58- 59.

[25] Croyland Chronicle, p. 445.

[26] Hearne's Fragment in Chronicles of the White Rose of York, p. 23.

[27] Ibid., p. 25.

[28] Kendall, Richard III, pp. 87- 88.

[29] Ibid., p. 89.

[30] Ibid., pp. 90- 91.

[31] Ibid., pp. 94- 95.

[32] Hearne's Fragment in Chronicles of the White Rose of York, pp. 26-27.

[33] Kendall, Richard III, p. 98.

[34] "The Manner and Guiding of the Earl of Warwick at Angers" in Ellis's Original Letters, second series, Vol. 1 (London: Harding & Lepard, 1827), pp. 132-135.

[35] Croyland Chronicle, p. 462.

[36] Ibid., p. 463.

[37] Historie of the Arrivall of Edward IV. in England, and the finall recoverye of his kingdomes from Henry VI., ed. by John Bruce (London: Camden Society, 1838),p. 4.

[38] Ibid., pp. 10- 11.

[39] Ibid., p. 18.

[40] Ibid., p. 20.

[41] Ibid., p. 30.

[42] Ibid., p. 38.

[43] Kendall, Richard III, pp. 124-125.

[44] Croyland Chronicle, pp. 469-470.

[45] Ibid., p. 470.

[46] Kendall, Richard III, p. 127.

[47] Ibid., p. 130.

[48] Phillippe de Commynes, The Memoirs of Phillippe de Commynes, ed. by Samuel Kinser, transl. by Isabelle Cazeaux (2 vols., Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1969), I, p. 264.

[49] Croyland Chronicle, p. 471.

[50] Kendall, Richard III, pp. 133-134.

[51] Commynes, Memoirs, I, p. 282.

[52] Croyland Chronicle, p. 478.

[53] Kendall, Richard III, pp. 145-146.

[54] Ibid., p. 146.

[55] Ibid. , p. 147.

[56] Croyland Chronicle, pp. 479-480.

[57] Dominic Mancini, The Usurpation of Richard the Third, ed. by C. A. J.Armstrong (2nd ed., Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), p. 63.

[58] Kendall, Richard III, p. 149.

[59] James Gairdner, Richard the Third (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1898), p. 42.

[60] Kendall, Richard III, pp. 158-159.

[61] Croyland Chronicle, p. 481.

[62] Kendall, Richard III, p. 170.

[63] Ibid., p. 176.

The Short Reign of Richard III

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

King Henry IV, Pt 11. I.
On April 9, 1483, three weeks before his 41st birthday, Edward IV died.[1] A day or two prior to his death he had added a codicil to his will naming his brother Richard Protector and Defensor of the Realm and giving into his care his young son, soon to be King Edward V.[2] Before his death Edward had sought to reconcile the warring factions in his court. He realized that when he was gone each side would attempt to gain control of the young king, and a civil war could well be the result. Therefore, in a dramatic deathbed scene, he asked Lord Hastings and the queen's son, the Marquis of Dorset, to clasp hands and swear love and friendship to each other.[3] The reconciliation remained in effect until the king drew his last breath.

Richard, who was at Middleham, did not learn of his brother's death for nearly a week. Even then, the news came, not from the queen or the council, but in a frantic note from Hastings, the Lord Chamberlain, who informed Richard of his appointment as Protector and urged him to secure the person of the young king and come to London with an armed escort as soon as possible.[4]

The new king, the twelve-year-old Edward, had been living for many years at Ludlow Castle on the Welsh Marches under the care of his maternal uncle Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers. There he ruled through a council whose titular head was the Bishop of Worcester but which was dominated by the Woodvilles and their adherents.

As soon as Richard learned of his brother's death, he wrote to Rivers to inquire when, and by what route, the young king would be brought to London, in order that they might meet and enter the city together. Richard waited in vain for official notification from London of his brother's death and his own appointment as Protector. Nevertheless, he wrote to the queen to express his condolences and to pledge his loyalty to the new king. Alarmed by a second letter from Hastings, which informed him that, contrary to custom, the Woodvilles were taking over the government and had with difficulty been persuaded to confine the king's escort to two thousand armed men, Richard wrote to the council.[5] He reminded the members that according to law, custom, and his brother's will, he was Protector of the Realm and cautioned that no action could be taken in council contrary to any of these.[6] The law to which Richard referred would today be called "recognized precedent" since no laws of the time governed either the succession or the formation of a regency.[7] This council itself was, strictly speaking, no longer a legal body since the king's council, made up of advisors appointed by him, died with the king, just as parliament did. This did not, however, prevent the queen from attempting to use the council to seize power for herself and her family.

Shortly after Richard had written to the queen and the council, he received a letter from the Duke of Buckingham who was then in residence at his castle at Brecon in South Wales. Buckingham offered the Protector his support and the service of one thousand armed men. Richard accepted the offer of support, but asked the duke to bring only three hundred men, the same number he, himself, planned to bring.[8] Before starting on his journey south, Richard personally administered to all his retainers and the magistrates of the City of York, an oath of allegiance to the new king.[9] On April 20 he set out with his party. It was arranged that he and Buckingham would meet Rivers and the king at Northampton on April 29.

The news which Richard received en route was not reassuring. Hastings reported from London that the queen's faction, ignoring Richard's appointment as Protector, had gone ahead with plans for an immediate coronation.[10] Once the king was crowned a Protector would, of course, be unnecessary, and the Woodvilles could rule through the child king.

The Woodvilles were taking a desperate gamble in order to hold on to power. They were hated by the old nobility and the commons for their greed and arrogance and, unless they were able to retain their hold over the new king, they could not hope to survive. To do this they must, at all costs, prevent the Protectorship under Richard of Gloucester.

The Woodvilles' maneuvers to maintain their position had begun as soon it became apparent that Edward IV was dying. They were strongly entrenched in the council, for it included among its members the Marquis of Dorset, the queen's elder son by her first marriage, and three of her brothers -- Lionel, Bishop of Salisbury, Sir Edward Woodville, and Anthony, Earl Rivers. In addition, members of the upper clergy whom Edward had protected against a rising tide of anti-clericalism which had swept the country, could be counted on for support. Moreover, Dorset, as Constable of the Tower, controlled both the treasure and the armaments of the kingdom, and Rivers controlled the young king.[11]

The queen's first move in the power struggle was taken while Richard was en route to Northampton. She called the council together and secured approval for a proposal that a fleet be put together under the command of Sir Edward Woodville, ostensibly for the purpose of fighting off French privateers who were harrying English shipping.[12] Without waiting for permission from the council, Dorset gave his uncle, Sir Edward, part of the royal treasure and divided the rest between himself and his mother. He and the queen then appointed a commission, made up of members of the family and their adherents, to collect the tax which had been levied by the last parliament.[13] All of these actions were illegal, but Dorset finally overreached himself when he proposed that the coronation be held on May 4.[14] Had the Woodvilles succeeded in their attempt to have the coronation over and done with before the Protector reached London they would have been firmly entrenched in power, for the king, the Tower, the treasure, the fleet, and the council -- in short, the whole apparatus of the government -- would have been securely in their hands.

The queen's next move encountered some resistance from the council, for many of the members were becoming thoroughly alarmed by the actions of the Woodvilles. When the council attempted to define the powers of the Protector, the queen's faction claimed that the title carried with it no more than first place on the council and even that position was to last only until the coronation. Some members, however, reminded the queen that the council itself had no power at all to decide the matter. It was at this point that Richard's letter reached the council and it served to gain him the support of all except those committed to the Woodvilles. Dorset openly asserted that if Richard gained ascendency over the king, neither the Woodvilles nor their friends would be safe. As a result, the council voted to deprive the Protector of any power. Dorset thereupon wrote confidently to Earl Rivers instructing him to be sure that he and the king reached London by May 1.[15]

When Richard arrived at Northampton on April 29, the king had already passed through the town and was lodged at Stony Stratford, fourteen miles further along the road to London. Rivers assured Richard that the move had been necessary because Northampton had insufficient accommodations for the party. Rivers, however, planned to stay the night in Northampton and, when later that same day Buckingham arrived, the three noblemen spent a seemingly friendly evening together. The hour was late when Rivers retired to his inn and, when he had gone, Richard and Buckingham discussed their plans.

The following morning Rivers awoke to find his inn surrounded by armed men wearing Gloucester's badge of the White Boar. Guards had been posted along the road to Stony Stratford to intercept any messages he might try to send, and before Richard and Buckingham departed they placed Rivers under arrest.[16] When the two dukes reached Stony Stratford the king and his escort were mounted and ready to leave. At the king's side were an old retainer, Sir Thomas Vaughn, and Lord Richard Grey, the queen's younger son by her first marriage. Richard ordered the arrest of Grey and Vaughn and excused his action to the angry and astonished young king, explaining that these two, and others of the queen-mother's faction, had hastened his father's death by encouraging him in his excesses, thus ruining his health. He also charged that they had plotted to circumvent Edward IV's will by depriving Richard, first of the Protectorship, and ultimately of his life.[17] Thereupon, Richard dismissed the king's escort and conducted his nephew back to Northampton. All of the king's Woodville attendants were replaced by men loyal to the Protector, following which Richard sent an explanation of his actions to the Lords and the magistrates of London. Woodville adherents also raced to London with the news of what had happened to their well-laid plans.[18]

When Dorset learned of the events at Northampton, he tried desperately but unsuccessfully, to rally the support of the Lords to raise a force to take the young king away from the Protector. When this attempt failed, he, his mother, her brother Lionel, Bishop of Salisbury, her five young daughters, and her son Richard, Duke of York, went hastily to the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey.[19] They took with them not only their share of the treasure but much of the late king's furniture, plate, jewels, and tapestries. The queen was in such a panic to save her possessions that she ordered a wall in the sanctuary broken through in order to get them in more quickly.[20]

The council voiced approval of the actions Richard had taken in regard to the young king, and on May 4, the royal party entered London to be greeted with great enthusiasm by the mayor, aldermen, and thousands of cheering citizens. The king was conducted to the palace of the Bishop of London where the Lords were assembled to pay him homage, and Richard went to Crosby's Place, his London home. Thus ended the day which the Woodvilles had chosen for the coronation of Edward V.

Richard's first task was to restore orderly government. He called a council which included many Woodville adherents. It was, in fact, composed of substantially the same membership as the one which had preceded it. The new council, acting in accordance with the late king's will, proclaimed Richard Protector and Defensor of the Realm.[21]

Richard, in turn, promised to be guided by council decisions. At the suggestion of Buckingham, the council decided to move the king to the royal apartments in the Tower and set June 24 as the coronation day.[22] Summonses were sent for a parliament to convene on the day following the coronation. The council also agreed to propose to parliament that the Protectorship be continued until the king came of age in order to forestall the formation of factions which might seek to control the young king.[23]

One of Richard's first acts as Protector was to offer a pardon to all soldiers and sailors who would desert Edward Woodville and proclaim their loyalty to the new regime. Most of them accepted the offer, but Woodville himself escaped to Brittany with a large share of the treasure. This money was eventually turned over to Henry Tudor and it helped to finance his invasion in 1485.[24]

Buckingham quickly emerged as one of the most powerful and influential members of the council, overshadowing men such as Hastings and Stanley who had served under Edward IV. His rapid elevation to power caused jealousy which in turn led to intrigue between Hastings and the Woodvilles and, eventually, to Hastings' death. Richard, of course, appreciated Buckingham's loyal support, but he may have been first drawn to him by the resemblance to George of Clarence, Richard's late brother. Another mark in Buckingham's favor was the fact that he had come to court in the new reign and was, therefore, uninvolved in the entanglements and intrigues of the late reign. Richard was, no doubt, aware that Buckingham's bitter hatred of the Woodvilles, caused by his forced marriage to Katherine Woodville in his early adolescence, was a prime factor in his decision to join ranks with the Protector. Whatever the reasons, for the next few months Buckingham was Richard's most ardent and outspoken supporter. "He created, he was, the party of the Protector."[25]

Richard's fear that factions might form within the council proved well-founded. To counter Buckingham's rising influence, Hastings and his friends, including Rotherham, Morton, and Stanley, began meeting secretly and intriguing with the queen, using as their go-between Jane Shore, the mistress of the late king and more recently of Hastings and Dorset. Apparently they planned to end the Protectorship and restore the Woodvilles to power.[26] Had they succeeded, the Hastings-Woodville faction would have been able to rule through the young king, and the position, possibly even the life, of the Protector would have been in jeopardy.

Richard was aware of what was going on and the danger the conspirators presented to his position. On June 10, he wrote to the magistrates of York asking them to send as many armed men as they could spare to assist him against "the Queen, her blood adherents, and affinity, which have intended, and daily doth intend, to murder and utterly destroy us and our cousin the duke of Buckingham, and the old royal blood of this realm.[27] The city sent three hundred men, who did not reach London, however, until after Richard's coronation.

On June 13, the council met in the Tower. Richard opened the meeting with the announcement that a conspiracy against the government had been discovered. He accused the queen and her followers, including Jane Shore, Stanley, Morton, Rotherham, and Hastings of complicity in the plot. Hastings denied the charge, but the four men were arrested and Hastings was taken at once to the Tower green and summarily executed.[28]

A herald was sent through the city to read a proclamation justifying the Protector's action. Hastings, Richard charged, had been involved in a plot against the Protector and Buckingham, and his immediate execution was necessary in order to prevent any attempt to rescue him. It seems remarkable that the execution, without a trial, of a man as popular as Hastings raised no protest among the citizens. It is quite likely, however, that many Londoners were already convinced that Richard intended to take the crown.[29]

Richard took Hastings' widow under his protection and permitted her to keep all of her husband's property. Possibly this was Richard's way of atoning for an act he may have deeply regretted.[30] Stanley and Rotherham, however, were imprisoned only briefly, and were later restored to the council. At Buckingham's request, Morton was placed in his charge and sent to Brecon Castle in Wales. On June 25, at Pontefract, Rivers, Grey, and Vaughn were executed for treason, thus ending Richard hoped, all danger of further Woodville intrigue.[31]

Most of the council members had supported Richard's actions with regard to Hastings and the other conspirators, and they now acceded to his request that Elizabeth Woodville and her children be asked to leave sanctuary. Even if she refused, her younger son was to be brought out to join his brother and to attend the coronation. The council agreed with Buckingham, who argued that since the children had done no wrong they had no need of sanctuary. On June 16, a delegation from the council, headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, went to Westminster and persuaded the reluctant queen to give up her son. Prince Richard thereupon joined his brother in the Tower.[32]

In London, where the council had again postponed the coronation, there were rumors that Edward V would lose his crown before long. The reason for the postponement was the startling news, imparted to Richard and some members of the council by Bishop Stillington of Bath and Wells, to the effect that prior to the Woodville marriage the late king had made a pre-contract of marriage with Dame Eleanor Butler, daughter of the Earl of Shrewesbury. [33] If true, this made the Woodville marriage invalid in the eyes of the church and made the children of the marriage illegitimate. Although such pre-contracts were frequently set aside, and it is unknown what, if any, evidence Stillington produced to prove his claim, Richard accepted the story. The history of Clarence's trial and execution, and Stillington's subsequent arrest, have led several historians to suggest that Clarence knew the secret and was put to death at the insistence of the Woodvilles in order to protect their position.[34]

On Sunday, June 22, at Paul's Cross, Friar Ralph Shaa, the brother of the Mayor of London, preached a sermon, taking for his text, "Bastard slips shall not take root." He told the congregation of the pre-contract and declared the Duke of Gloucester to be the true heir to the throne. In other parts of the city other preachers, acting on instructions from the Duke of Buckingham, even went so far as to impugn the legitimacy of Edward IV himself. This scandalous accusation had been levied years before by Clarence, when he had aimed at the throne, but there is no evidence to show that Richard condoned this attack on his mother's reputation. The fact that he moved into his mother's house at this time rather tends to prove the opposite.[35]

On Monday following Dr. Shaa's sermon, the Duke of Buckingham addressed the assembled Lords and on Tuesday he spoke to the magistrates and chief citizens of London at the Guildhall. The crown, he told both groups, belonged rightfully to Richard of Gloucester. On Wednesday, June 25, a parliament in fact, if not in name, met at Westminster and drew up a petition in which they reviewed the charges relating to the pre-contract and the illegitimacy of Edward's children and implored Richard to take the throne. Their petition was unanimously approved and was formally presented to Richard at Baynard's Castle on the following day. After a show of reluctance, he accepted the petition and the crown. The whole assembly then repaired to Westminster where Richard seated himself on the marble chair of the King's Bench and, on that day, he began his reign. On July 6, in a magnificent ceremony, Richard and Anne were crowned in Westminster Abbey, with virtually every peer and leading citizen in attendance. [36]

Two weeks after the coronation the new king and queen set out on progress throughout the kingdom, accompanied by many bishops, lords, judges, and household officials, but no armed men. At Gloucester, they were joined by Buckingham, who had remained in London and was now on his way to Brecon. It was to be the last meeting between the king and his chief supporter.[37]

When Richard reached Lincoln early in October he learned, to his great surprise and dismay, that Buckingham had revolted against him. The uprising had begun in the southern and southwestern counties as a Lancastrian and Woodville attempt to put Edward V back on the throne. By the time Buckingham reached Brecon, plans for the rebellion had already been laid. Apprised of the plot, and flattered by the astute Bishop Morton, the duke quickly became involved in the treason.[38] It is quite possible that Morton may have convinced Buckingham, who was descended from Thomas of Woodstock, the youngest son of Edward III, that he had a chance to claim the throne for himself. On the other hand, Morton may have persuaded Buckingham to play the king-maker once more by supporting the claim of Henry Tudor. If Morton adopted the latter course, he no doubt argued persuasively that Tudor's chances of winning the crown were greater than Buckingham's since Henry's mother had great Lancastrian support and his promise to marry Elizabeth of York would gain him the aid and friendship of the Woodvilles and many disaffected Yorkists.[39]

For reasons known only to himself, Buckingham agreed to lend his support to Tudor's cause. The leaders of the revolt already in progress were informed that they could count on the help of Buckingham and his large band of armed retainers. Within days, however, Buckingham and Morton were able to turn the focus of the rebellion from Edward V to Henry Tudor by informing the rebels that both the erstwhile young king and his brother had been put to death in an unknown manner.[40] Whether the two boys were indeed dead at this time is a point of much debate.

On October 15 Richard issued a proclamation declaring Buckingham a traitor and instructing his subjects to take up arms against him. The proclamation forbade any man to injure the person or possessions of any of Buckingham's followers who remained loyal to the king. This worked to the advantage of Lord Stanley, whose wife, the mother of Henry Tudor, was deeply involved in the rebellion, but who chose at this time to remain personally loyal to the king.[41] It was fortunate for Stanley that he did, for the rebellion was a disaster from the moment Buckingham assumed leadership of it. Buckingham's troops, many of whom had been forced to join his army against their will, deserted in large numbers.[42] He was attacked during the march through Wales by bands of men loyal to the king. It was the weather, however, which proved his undoing. A great storm, known to this day as Buckingham's Great Water, arose and washed out roads, bridges, and fields. Morton, sensing that disaster impended, deserted the duke and fled to Flanders to await a better opportunity.[43]

Buckingham, no doubt realizing that he had been used and discarded by the bishop, donned rough work clothes and fled to Shropshire where he sought refuge in the home of a retainer. The enormous price on Buckingham's head put too great a strain on the loyalty of his retainer and Buckingham was turned over to agents of the king. He was brought to Salisbury where, hysterical with fear, he related all the details of the plot and begged for an interview with Richard. His request was denied and on November 2, in the market square, the would-be kingmaker was beheaded.[44] When Henry Tudor, whose fleet was anchored off Plymouth, learned of the fate of Buckingham and the rebellion, he returned to France.[45]

Richard showed great clemency to most of the rebels. Ten of the leaders were executed but many of the others were pardoned. Lady Stanley was deprived of her titles and estates which were given to her husband and she herself was placed in her lord's custody. Both Stanley and Northumberland profited greatly from the confiscated estates of the Duke of Buckingham.[46]

On January 23, 1484, two months after the collapse of Buckingham's rebellion, Richard's only parliament convened at Westminster. Chancellor Russell delivered the opening address. In addition to the Titulus Regis, which confirmed the act of the previous parliament settling the crown on Richard,[47] this parliament passed several important pieces of legislation. Benevolences were made illegal and the legal machinery of government was reformed in order to protect the ordinary citizen. These acts, passed at the request of the king and his council, earned for Richard the support of the commons. The nobility and gentry, who had for years been using the law to overawe and prey on the lower classes, were alienated by Richard's insistence on reform. One interesting and probably noncontroversial act passed in this reign strictly regulated the activities of foreign merchants in England. At Richard's request a clause was inserted which exempted any foreigner engaged in the printing, binding, or selling of books. This was the first piece of legislation in England which protected and fostered the art of printing.[48]

Early in March 1484, after Richard had sworn publicly to protect and find suitable husbands for them, the five daughters of Elizabeth Woodville came out of sanctuary.[49] It is probable, though not certain, that Elizabeth joined them. She was given a pension of seven hundred marks a year and each of her daughters was provided with a small dowry. Elizabeth wrote to her son Dorset, who was in Brittany, telling him it was safe for him to return to England. He did, indeed, attempt to return but was captured by agents of Henry Tudor and taken to Paris.[50] Obviously at this time the Woodvilles felt that they had nothing to fear from King Richard.

In April 1484 the royal couple's only child, Edward, Prince of Wales, died at Middleham Castle.[51] Although he had been sickly from birth, his death was a blow from which his parents never fully recovered. On August 21, Richard appointed his nephew, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, as Lieutenant of Ireland, a position traditionally given by the Yorkist kings to the heir apparent.[52]

On March 11, 1485, Anne Neville died, probably of tuberculosis. Almost immediately rumors circulated to the effect that the king planned to marry his niece Elizabeth and that he may have hurried his wife into her grave. It is possible that some people believed that Richard would make Elizabeth his wife in order to undercut Henry Tudor whose bid for Yorkist support was based on his promise to marry the young heiress. At the urging of his councillors, Richard appeared before the magistrates of London and the Lords and firmly denied that there was any truth in the slander, charging that it was the work of Tudor's agents.[53]

Henry Tudor, encouraged by the promise of French aid, had already begun serious preparations for his invasion. Richard, realizing the gravity of the situation, made plans for the defense of his realm. He sent a fleet to guard the Channel and reinforced the defenses of the towns. Commissions of Array were sent to all the counties.[54]

Lord Stanley, stepfather to Henry Tudor, now began his maneuvers, designed to assure his place on the winning side, whichever it turned out to be. He asked the king's permission to return to his estates so that he would be in a better position to raise support for the king in case of an invasion. The Stanleys had a long history of treason to both Lancaster and York but had always managed not only to avoid the usual consequences of treason but also to reap great rewards in the bargain. Richard, who was well aware of Stanley's record and character, agreed to the request. To conciliate his councillors, however, he sent for Stanley's son, Lord Strange, to act as his father's deputy and as surety for his father's loyalty.[55]

On Sunday, August 7, 1485, Henry Tudor landed with his army at Milford Haven in South Wales.[56] His soldiers were, for the great part, criminals released from the jails of Normandy on the condition that they accompany Tudor to England.[57] Their generals were Henry's uncle, Jasper Tudor, the Lancastrian Earl of Pembroke, and John, Earl of Oxford. Henry Tudor had never fought a battle in his life.[58]

Tudor, who had chosen for his banner the red dragon of Cadwallader, picked up some support from the Welsh who saw him as a new King Arthur come to claim his and their rightful place as rulers of England. He won the support of the leading chieftain of Wales, Rhys ap Thomas. by promising him the lieutenantship of Wales for life.[59] This greatly strengthened his cause, but his hopes of a general uprising in his favor proved to be unfounded.

When Richard learned of the invasion, he instructed his captains to join him at Leicester. Lord Stanley, upon being ordered to meet the king at Nottingham, sent word that he was suffering from the sweating sickness and was therefore unable to obey the summons. Lord Strange, captured during an attempted escape, admitted that his uncle, Sir William Stanley, planned to betray the king. He insisted, however, that his father intended no treason, and wrote to Lord Stanley begging him to join the king with his retainers.[60]

The Stanleys were not Richard's only source of worry. He learned that the Earl of Northumberland, the Commissioner of Array for the East Riding, had failed to summon the men of York, possibly because he resented their loyalty to Richard. When the magistrates of York were apprised of the situation, they sent eighty men to aid the king.[61]

On August 19, having learned that Tudor's army was marching toward Leicester, Richard turned south from Nottingham with his forces. He was joined by the Duke of Norfolk, but the Earl of Northumberland and his army lagged behind. To the west lay the armies of the Stanleys, and bringing up the rear was the rag-tag collection of French criminals and Welshmen marching under the banner of Henry Tudor. En route, a secret meeting took place at Atherstone, during which the Stanleys promised Henry Tudor that they would aid him in the coming battle, throwing in their forces when they felt the time was right. Henry fully realized, however, that if Richard's army seemed to be winning, the Stanleys would not hesitate to support the king. He never forgave them for their equivocation.[62]

Late in the day of August 20, Northumberland and his army reached Leicester. His men, he told Richard, were exhausted after their long march and would do better service in the rear, rather than in the thick of the fighting. Richard no doubt knew that he could not count on Percy. All his life Percy had resented the power Richard held over the men of the north -- power that had been exercised by the Percy family for generations and which they felt was rightfully theirs. In deed, it is quite probable that Percy had already secured a pardon from Henry Tudor in the hope that Henry would be victorious and would, in return for such support, restore the Percies to a position of power in the north.[63]

On August 22, on Redmore Plain a few miles outside the little town of Market Bosworth, the king addressed his troops. His sleep had been disturbed by dreams, and those around him noted that he was paler than usual. No matter who won the field that day, he told his men, the England that they knew would be destroyed. If Tudor won, he would crush the supporters of the House of York and rule by fear. If Richard won, he too would rule by force since his attempts to win loyalty by fairness and kindness had failed. The absence of a chaplain to say mass before the battle was intentional, the king declared. If their quarrel were God's, no prayers were needed; if not, their prayers were idle blasphemy. [64]

Richard then sent a last message to Lord Stanley, ordering him to join the royal army if he valued his son's life. Stanley replied that he had other sons and for the present was not inclined to join the king. In a burst of anger, Richard ordered the immediate execution of Strange, but thought better of it and decided instead to keep him under close guard.[65]

As Richard prepared to go into battle some members of his household begged him not to wear the crown which would mark him out for destruction by the enemy. He replied that he would live and die King of England. Then, surrounded by his knights and esquires of the body, he rode out to join battle with the Welsh challenger.[66]

Henry Tudor had probably five thousand men in the field, of which two thousand were French. Lord Stanley's force numbered between thirty-five hundred and four thousand, and his brother, Sir William, had about twenty-five hundred men under his command. Richard's army was about twice as large as Tudors, but smaller than the combined Tudor-Stanley forces. Three thousand of Richard's nine thousand men were under the command of Northumberland and so took no part in the fighting.[67]

In the midst of the battle, a messenger pointed out to Richard a figure on horseback, motionless on a hill. Above his head waved the banner of the red dragon of Cadwallader and surrounding him were about two hundred and fifty armed men. Quickly Richard decided to take the one desperate chance which must end in brilliant victory or disastrous defeat.[68] If he and the men of his household could cross in front of Sir William Stanley's much larger force, he would have a chance to reach Tudor and destroy him and his cause with one blow. The terrible news that Norfolk and Lord Ferrers had been killed reached Richard and he spied a messenger from Tudor, hurrying to inform Lord Stanley of their deaths. Northumberland refused to obey when the king ordered him to move in to support the royal forces and Richard knew that his only chance for survival lay in Tudor's death.[69]

Rejecting Catesby's plea to flee while there was yet time, Richard and his household knights mounted their horses. Richard gripped his battle axe, signalled his trumpeters, and he and his men started slowly down the hill. At the bottom they broke into a gallop. Past the Stanley lines they rode, straight toward the ranks of the Tudor guards. Richard first encountered huge Sir John Cheney, felled him with his axe, and pushed on toward the pretender. Tudor recoiled from the sight of the slight, menacing figure slashing with his battle axe through the guards.[70] Richard reached William Brandon, Henry's standard bearer, and struck him down. Just as Richard and his knights reached their target, the troops of Sir William Stanley bore down on them. Part of the king's men turned to meet the cavalry charge, and Richard and the rest of his men pressed on toward Tudor. Suddenly, his men began to fall about him, hacked by the weapons of their enemies. "Treason! Treason" cried the king as he pressed on toward his rival. With all his household knights dead or wounded, he fought on until the blows of a dozen weapons smashed and hacked at him through his armor and beat him down to the ground.[71]

After the battle, according to legend, Sir William Stanley retrieved Richard's golden crown from under a bramble bush and placed it on the head of Henry Tudor. Richard's naked body, crusted with blood from his many wounds and with a felon's halter around the neck, was slung across the back of a horse and taken to Leicester.[72] For two days the body lay at the Grey Friars, exposed for all to see, until the friars finally received permission to bury it in an unmarked grave. Years later, Henry VII allotted the sum of ten pounds and one shilling to raise a modest tomb for the man he had displaced. At the dissolution of the monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII, Richard's tomb was destroyed and his remains were thrown into the River Soar.[73]

There are the essential facts concerning the life and reign of Richard III. But a mere recounting of the facts leaves several important questions unanswered. What became of the princes in the Tower? Were they murdered and, if so, who was responsible for the crime? Must Richard take, or share, responsibility for the deaths of Edward of Lancaster, Henry VI, Clarence, and his wife Anne? What sort of man was Richard, physically, emotionally, and mentally? Many different theories have been suggested to answer each of these questions over the past five hundred years. Some of them show great imagination, and an equally great ignorance of the facts. In many cases, the answers are based on the writers' own interpretation or selection of the facts. [Ed. Note: In later chapters Murph explores the techniques vy which many historians and authors attempted to resolve the questions concerning Richard III and his reign, and their underlying motivations.]

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About the Author:
Roxane C. Murph is immediate past chairman of the American Branch of the Richard III Society. She is also the author of The Wars of the Roses in Fiction (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995) and the editor of Richard and Anne: A Play in Two Acts by Maxwell Anderson (Jefferson NC and London: McFarland Publishing, 1995).
Notes
[1] Croyland Chronicle, p. 483.

[2] Ibid., p. 484.

[3] Sir Thomas More, The History of King Richard III, in The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, ed. by Richard S. Sylvester, vol. II (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963), p. 13.

[4] Mancini, The Usurpation of Richard III, pp. 71, 73.

[5] Croyland Chronicle, p. 485.

[6] Mancini, The Usurpation of Richard III, p. 73.

[7] Kendall, Richard III, p. 73.

[8] Ibid., p. 195.

[9] Croyland Chronicle, p. 486.

[10] Kendall, Richard III, p. 196.

[11] Ibid., pp. 197- 198.

[12] Ibid., p. 200.

[13] Ibid., p. 201.

[14] Mancini, The Usurpation of Richard III, p. 73.

[15] Kendall, Richard III, p. 203.

[16] Croyland Chronicle, p. 486.

[17] Ibid., p. 487.

[18] Kendall, Richard III, p. 212.

[19] Croyland Chronicle, pp. 486- 487.

[20] More, History of King Richard III, p. 21.

[21] Croyland Chronicle, pp. 487- 488.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Kendall, Richard III, p. 235.

[24] Ibid., pp. 223-224.

[25] This is Kendall's analysis of Buckingham's influence and position during the Protectorship. See ibid., pp. 227-228.

[26] Kendall, Richard III, p. 243.

[27] York Records as quoted by Kendall, Richard III, p. 245.

[28] Croyland Chronicle, p. 488.

[29] Kendall, Richard III, p. 449.

[30] Ibid., p. 250.

[31] Croyland Chronicle. p. 489.

[32] Ibid., pp. 488-489.

[33] Ibid., p. 489.

[34] Kendall, Richard III, pp. 259-260. See also Gairdner, Richard III, pp. 91-92, and Sharon Turner, The History of England During the Middle Ages, vol. III (3rd ed., London: Longman, Rees, et al., 1830), pp. 326-327.

[35] Kendall, Richard III, pp. 263- 264.

[36] Croyland Chronicle, pp. 489- 490.

[37] Kendall, Richard III, p. 302.

[38] Croyland Chronicle, pp. 490- 491.

[39] Kendall, Richard III, p. 320.

[40] Croyland Chronicle, p. 491.

[41] Kendall, Richard III, p. 324.

[42] Polydore Vergil, English History, ed. by Sir Henry Ellis (London: Camden Society, 1844), p. 199.

[43] Ibid., p. 200.

[44] Croyland Chronicle, p. 492.

[45] Ibid., p. 495.

[46] Vergil, English History, p. 204.

[47] Croyland Chronicle, p. 495.

[48] Kendall, Richard III, p. 343.

[49] Croyland Chronicle, p. 496.

[50] Vergil, English History, pp. 210, 214.

[51] Croyland Chronicle, p. 496.

[52] Kendall, Richard III, pp. 349- 350.

[53] Croyland Chronicle, pp. 499- 500.

[54] Ibid., p. 497.

[55] Ibid., p. 501.

[56] Vergil, English History, p. 216.

[57] William Hutton, The Battle of Bosworth Field, ed. and with additions by J. Nichols (2nd ed., London: Nichols, Son, and Bentley, 1813), pp. 25-27.

[58] Ibid., pp. 83-84.

[59] Vergil, English History, p. 217.

[60] Croyland Chronicle, pp. 501- 502.

[61] Kendall, Richard III, pp. 420- 421.

[62] Vergil, English History, pp. 222- 223.

[63] Kendall, Richard III, p. 427. See.also Albert Makinson, "The Road to Bosworth Field," History Today, vol. 13, no. 4 (April 1963), in which the author discusses the possibility that the mechanics of the battle, and Northumberland's position in the rear, made it impossible for him to come to Richard's aid in time (p. 247). The fact that Northumberland submitted quickly to Henry, however, suggests both the possibility of treachery and that the outcome of the battle did not displease Northumberland (p. 249).

[64] Croyland Chronicle, p. 503.

[65] Kendall, Richard III, pp. 433- 434.

[66] Ibid., p. 434.

[67] Ibid., pp. 435-436. Hutton in Bosworth Field gives as the figures: Henry, more than 7000; Lord Stanley, 5000; Sir William Stanley, 3000; and Richard, 12,000 (p. 75).

[68] Hutton, Bosworth Field, pp. 107- 108.

[69] Kendall, Richard III, pp. 439- 440.

[70] Hutton, Bosworth Field, p. 111.

[71] Vergil, English History, p. 224.

[72] Croyland Chronicle, p. 504.

[73] Kendall, Richard III, p. 553.

 
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