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Rise of Richard III Plantagenate

On this day, the infamous Richard III took the throne of England after usurping power from his nephew Edward V. This coup was widely controversial during the time with many seeing Richard III’s actions as unjust and a power grab. among those who believed this was William Shakespeare who would immortalize Richard III in his name-sake play where he would be portrayed as a mortally dubious and ambitious lord.

Who Was Richard III?

Richard III was born on October 2, 1452, and served as both the last king from the House of York and the Plantagenet dynasty. He reigned as King of England from 1483 until he died in 1485. Richard was born at Fotheringhay Castle, being the youngest son of Richard, Duke of York, and Cecily Neville.

At the time, England was being ravaged by the War of the Roses, a civil war waged across the country by the Houses of York and Lancaster. This was due to both parties having blood ties to the Plantagenet dynasty. Richard’s family was deeply involved in these wars, as both his father and elder brother Edmund were killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460.

Richard’s elder brother, Edward IV, ascended to the throne in 1461, and Richard became a loyal supporter. He demonstrated his military prowess in several battles, including the decisive Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. His loyalty and competence earned him the title Duke of Gloucester and significant estates in the north of England.

However, the sudden death of Edward IV in April 1483 set off a chain of events that led to Richard’s rise to power. Edward IV’s eldest son and heir, Edward V, was only 12 years old. This meant he could not rule on his own and required a regeant. 

To ensure the stability of the kingdom, Richard was named Protector of the Realm and served as Edward’s guardian. This position granted him considerable power and Richard took advantage of it to begin consolidating his position.

He had Edward housed in the Tower of London. This was a place used to house and torture criminals, but Richard claimed it was for his protection. His next move was to declare Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was invalid, rendering their children illegitimate and unfit for the throne. On June 26, 1483, Richard was proclaimed king as Richard III. His coronation took place on July 6, 1483.

Richard III’s reign was short but eventful. He attempted to establish himself as a fair and just ruler. He introduced legal reforms, including the protection of landowners from wrongful property seizure and the promotion of the use of bail for those accused of crimes. Richard also aimed to improve the administration of the north of England, his stronghold.

However, his reign was far from peaceful as many people rebelled against him. His rule was never secure as his removal of Edward V and Richard of York was common knowledge and cast a shadow over his legitimacy. Many believed that Richard III had him murdered, though there was no conclusive proof of this.

Richard’s greatest challenge came from Henry Tudor, a Lancastrian claimant to the throne. Henry gathered support from disaffected nobles and foreign allies, and on August 22, 1485, their forces clashed at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Richard fought valiantly but was ultimately defeated and killed in the battle, marking the end of the Plantagenet dynasty.

Henry Tudor ascended to the throne as Henry VII, establishing the Tudor dynasty and marrying Elizabeth of York, uniting the warring houses of York and Lancaster. Richard III’s body was buried without pomp in Greyfriars Church in Leicester, where it remained lost for over five centuries until its rediscovery in 2012.

“Conscience is but a word that cowards use, Devised at first to keep the strong in awe.”

-Willaim Shakespere in Richard III
richard III letter

Richard III Short-Lived Reign and Legacy

Despite his efforts to establish himself as a fair ruler, Richard III reign was marked by constant challenges to his authority. His legal reforms and attempts to strengthen northern England did little to quell the suspicions and hostility that surrounded his rule. The most significant threat came from Henry Tudor, who capitalized on the widespread discontent to rally support against Richard.

The climactic Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 saw Richard III’s forces defeated and Richard himself killed, ending the Plantagenet dynasty. Henry Tudor’s subsequent ascension as Henry VII marked the beginning of the Tudor era and a new chapter in English history. Richard III’s body lay undiscovered for centuries until its remarkable rediscovery in 2012, prompting renewed interest in his life and reign.

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