Richard III (Dictionary of World Biography: Renaissance)
Article abstract: England’s most maligned monarch, Richard III, in his attempt to restore order and dynastic stability to a nation torn by three decades of civil war by first serving his brother, Edward IV, loyally and then by accepting the throne himself, fell victim to the intrigues of those who were jealous of his loyalty and abilities and who coveted the Crown.
Richard Plantagenet was born on October 2, 1452, at Fotheringay Castle, the youngest of nine children of Richard, Duke of York, and Cicely (née Neville), Duchess of York. He had two sisters—Anne, Duchess of Exeter, and Margaret (later Duchess of Burgundy)—and three brothers—Edmund, Earl of Rutland, Edward (later Edward IV), and George (later Duke of Clarence)—who survived to adulthood. Young Richard’s father had a claim to the throne, which was then occupied by the third king of the House of Lancaster, Henry VI. Although Richard, Duke of York, secretly aspired to the throne, he made no formal claim until 1459, four years after the outbreak of the dynastic struggle between the houses of York and Lancaster known as the Wars of the Roses. In the 1450’s, young Richard was nothing more than a junior cadet of a leading aristocratic family. None would have anticipated that within three decades he would become England’s most controversial monarch.
Richard’s attitudes and actions throughout his life were determined by the violence and chaos which became endemic among the great noble families during the Wars of the Roses, lasting from 1455 until Richard’s death thirty years later. The immediate background of the wars can be traced to the mental incapacitation of Henry VI in the summer of 1453. Henry’s wife, Margaret of Anjou, to whom a son, the future Edward, Prince of Wales, was born in October, 1453, desired a regency for herself. Richard of York was named protector, however, and served capably until Henry regained his sanity in 1455. Then, under the influence of York’s enemies, the restored king not only demanded and secured the duke’s resignation but also threatened his life. It was at this time that the Duke of York and his supporters, chiefly his cousin Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, rose in rebellion. The first phase of the Wars of the Roses was decided at the Battle of St. Albans. Henry was defeated and taken prisoner by Richard, but the Duke of York did not take the throne, remaining temporarily satisfied to control the government indirectly. Queen Margaret was displeased, however, with York’s unofficial supremacy. Determined that her son should eventually succeed his father, she made her move in late 1460. At the Battle of Wakefield, on December 30, 1460, the Yorkists suffered a seemingly disastrous defeat. The Duke of York and his oldest surviving son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, were killed. Warwick did not arrive from France fast enough to save his cousin, and the Lancastrians had regained unchallenged control.
The revival of Lancastrian power did not, however, last long. The leadership of the Yorkist cause was now assumed by the dead duke’s oldest surviving son and Richard’s oldest brother, Edward. Joining his forces with those of Warwick, Edward defeated the Lancastrian forces at Towton Moor on March 29, 1461. Henry VI and Queen Margaret fled, and Edward of York marched on London, claiming the throne as Edward IV by right of descent from Edward III. Soon after his coronation in June, 1461, his brothers George and Richard were admitted to the Order of the Garter. At this time also George was created Duke of Clarence and Richard Duke of Gloucester.
The first years of Edward’s reign went well, and primarily with the aid of Warwick, he succeeded in restoring order to the realm. In 1463, Queen Margaret again raised the standard of revolt for the House of Lancaster. Again defeated, she fled with her son Edward into exile in France. Henry VI was captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London. At this point, Richard was only eleven years old. Already in his short life he had witnessed extreme violence and had been its indirect victim. His father and brother and various relatives and friends had been killed in battle or executed, and he had been forced into exile with his mother. The impressionable boy had learned that immorality and duplicity were rewarded often with success. Soon, he himself was to play a leading role in the tumultuous course of events.
Little is known about Richard’s life during the 1460’s. He, his brother Clarence, and his unmarried sister Margaret probably were quartered at the royal palace at Greenwich from 1461 to 1465. From 1465 until at least 1468, Richard alone was placed in the custody of the Earl of Warwick, then the most powerful magnate in England with extensive landholdings throughout England and especially in the north. Richard spent those years at Warwick’s castles of Middleham and Sheriff Hutton, where he became acquainted with his future wife, Warwick’s younger daughter, Anne Neville (the Duke of Clarence married Warwick’s older daughter, Isabel), and with one of his closest lifelong friends and supporters, Francis, Lord Lovell. Richard also became acquainted at this time with many of the northern noblemen and gentry who were attached to Warwick. Through marriage, Richard would later become Warwick’s principal heir in the north, and this region became his base of popularity and power. His connections there were later helpful in his securing the throne and in his brief reign.
During the 1460’s, relations between Edward IV and Warwick began to sour. Warwick, who had played a key role in advancing the Yorkist cause, assumed the right to advise the king unofficially and direct his policy. One of his major goals was to arrange a fortuitous marriage alliance for the young Edward in order to establish greater stability for the House of York’s dynastic future. Several royal alliances were considered, but Edward, strong-willed, impetuous, and amorous, secretly married an Englishwoman of his own choosing, Elizabeth Woodville, the daughter of Richard Woodville, Baron Rivers, a former Lancastrian ally, and the widow of Sir John Grey, a Lancastrian retainer who had been killed at St. Albans. Edward kept his marriage, which was to doom his dynasty, secret for several months. When he was finally forced to reveal it to Warwick, the latter was incensed, as were many of Edward’s other supporters who resented his marriage into a Lancastrian family, and who were especially alienated by the preferments the king showed to members of his wife’s family. In 1468, Warwick and his supporters, which a year later came to include his new son-in-law, Edward’s brother the Duke of Clarence, struck against the king. Taken by surprise at Northampton, Edward was imprisoned at Middleham. Warwick thus acquired the nickname “the Kingmaker,” for he had two kings as prisoner: Edward at Middleham and Henry in the Tower. Although Warwick soon restored Edward to his throne, the king, infuriated by Warwick’s execution of his wife’s father and brother, refused to accept permanent subservience to the earl. In March, 1470, Warwick was accused of treason. The earl escaped to France, taking Clarence with him. Joining forces with Queen Margaret and her son Edward of Lancaster, and aided by a subsidy from Louis XI of France, Warwick planned to return to England, restore Henry VI to the throne, and marry his daughter Anne (later Richard III’s wife) to Edward of Lancaster. They then crossed the Channel to England in September, 1470, raised the banner of rebellion against Edward, and forced him to flee across the Channel to his ally, his brother-in-law the Duke of Burgundy, taking with him his loyal younger brother, Richard of Gloucester.
While abroad, Richard began to play an active role in the affairs of his family and the realm. In his late teens, those physical features distorted by later pro-Tudor detractors, especially by William Shakespeare, had developed. Physically, he resembled his father. Darker and shorter than Edward and George, who had inherited the Neville fairness and height, Richard was not the deformed “crookback” as he was later portrayed in order to enhance his villainy. Perhaps one arm and shoulder were larger than the other, but this was probably more because of its use with a sword in the practice of the martial arts than because of a deformity. Richard was held in exceptionally high regard by his brother Edward because of his loyalty, martial abilities, and intelligence. In March, 1471, Edward and Richard set sail for England. Within three months the king and his younger brother had met Warwick in battle at Barnet, where the mighty earl was killed, and had defeated the main Lancastrian army at Tewkesbury, where Edward of Lancaster was slain. Most of the Lancastrians were killed at Tewkesbury. A few escaped, however, including the young Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, who was later to become Richard’s most inveterate foe. Edward IV now resumed the throne, and soon after, Henry VI died in the Tower under mysterious circumstances. In the summer of 1471, it appeared that the last Lancastrian threat had been removed, and England looked forward to many years of peace and enlightened rule by its young king. The Duke of Clarence had been temporarily reconciled with the king, and Richard was rewarded by the king for his loyalty and services at Barnet and Tewkesbury. Richard received large grants of land and offices and was married in 1472 to Edward of Lancaster’s young widow and the companion of his youth, Warwick’s daughter Anne Neville.
The marriage to Anne brought to Richard half of the Warwick inheritance. The Duke of Clarence, however, resented having to split the inheritance with his brother. The estrangement that had already developed between the brothers as a result of Clarence’s treachery toward Edward widened and was never to be resolved. As a result, historians have been unable to determine the extent of Richard’s involvement in Clarence’s conviction on the...
(The entire section is 4111 words.)
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Richard III (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Article abstract: Military significance: Richard III’s army was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth by the forces of his opponent, Henry Tudor, who eventually became Henry VII.
Richard III, son of the duke of York and brother to King Edward IV, helped pierce the Lancastrian lines at Tewkesbury in 1471. He played a principal role in the successful English campaign in Scotland in 1481, although a settlement between the English and Scottish monarchs erased his conquests. When Edward IV died in 1483, Richard became protector of England. Although his mission was to guarantee the rule of his youthful nephew, Edward V, his true aim was the throne itself. Using the suspicion that Edward IV’s marriage to the...
(The entire section is 275 words.)