Richard III - 1483-1485
According to popular belief the most villainous King in English history was a hunchback who plotted all his life to become King. This relentless pursuit of the crown was done at any cost, even it seems down to the murder of the royal princes, the sons of Edward IV.
Richard was the brother of King Edward IV and, like him, descended from Edward III through Edmund Duke of York. He was, therefore, in line for the crown with only the young princes standing in his way, although Parliament had already chosen him on his brother's death.
In the eyes of the nobles he waseminently suitable. He had proved to be courageous, distinguishing himself during the Battle of Barnet, in which Warwick the Kingmaker had been killed, protecting his brother's right to the throne.
As a reward he had received the Neville estate and other royal rights in the north of England. He had also fought against the Scots and recovered the border town of Berwick. This was well thought of by his contemporaries.
As King he immediately set about improving the administration of the north by setting up a special council. He also created a bail system for defendants in court cases, and abolished the custom of obligatory gifts for the monarchy, which went under the name of Benevolence.
His reign was too short for much to be achieved, and in 1485 he had to face a challenge from the Tudors. The Tudors were led by Henry, son of Margaret Beaufort who was the granddaughter of John of Gaunt, who tried to claim the English throne. Richard rode into battle at Bosworth wearing the royal crown, but was defeated and killed. The crown, which had fallen off his head, was placed on that of Henry Tudor who became Henry VII. The much maligned Richard's body was left on the field of battle.
It is true to say that most of the Tudor writers elaborated Richard's ugliness and evil character. It was once said that he had spent two years in his mother's womb and, after a difficult birth, had emerged with hair down to his shoulders, and a full set of teeth!
He was a brave soldier, an able administrator and an extremely cultured man. If his kingship had not been contested he might have achieved much.
Key Events during the Reign of Richard III
1483 - Richard succeeds his brother Edward IV after confining his two nephews, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, in the Tower of London. The Duke of Buckingham, an ally of Richard, rebels against the King but is captured and executed (October). Foundation of the College of Arms.
1484 - Death of Richard's son Edward, Prince of Wales (9 April). Richard creates the council of the North for better administration of the North of England. This survives until its abolition by Parliament in 1641.
Abolition of benevolences — the compulsory gifts from individuals to the monarch. A bail system was ntroduced for defendants in court cases. Parliamentary statutes written down in English for the first time.
Richard orders the body of Henry VI to be removed from Chertsey Abbey to St George's Chapel, Windsor (August).
1485 - Death of Queen Anne (16 March). Henry Tudor lands at Milford Haven with 1800 French troops (7 August). Richard is killed and his army defeated at the Battle of Bosworth Field.