RICHARD III (1452–1485), king of England, the eleventh child of Richard, duke of York [q. v.], by Cicely, daughter of Ralph Neville, first earl of Westmorland [q. v.], was born at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire on 2 Oct. 1452. At the time of his birth the court of Henry VI stood in fear of his father’s pretension to the crown, and civil war was brewing. He was just seven years old when, owing to his father’s hasty flight from Ludlow (October 1459), his mother, with her two youngest sons—namely, George and himself—was taken in Ludlow Castle and handed over by Henry VI to the keeping of her sister Anne, duchess of Buckingham. But next year Henry himself fell into the hands of the Yorkists at the battle of Northampton (10 July 1460), so that the Duchess of York recovered her freedom. She brought her sons George and Richard to London in September, and lodged them in John Paston’s house. The duke, her husband, was killed five months later at the battle of Wakefield (30 Dec. 1460), and when, shortly afterwards, the Lancastrians won also the second battle of St. Albans (17 Feb. 1461), it seemed as if London lay at their mercy. The duchess accordingly sent her two youngest sons by sea to Utrecht for safety; but they were soon recalled by their elder brother, who had not only caused himself to be proclaimed king, as Edward IV, but had succeeded in securing his throne by the decisive victory of Towton (29 March 1461). They returned in April.
Out of a family of eight sons and four daughters only three sons and three daughters of the Duchess of York now survived. Edward was crowned at Westminster on 28 June, and created his brother George Duke of Clarence and Richard Duke of Gloucester. They were also made knights of the Bath at the Tower of London just before the ceremony (Anstis, Observations Introductory, Coll. of Authorities, p. 30). Edward then appointed Clarence lieutenant of Ireland, and Gloucester, though he was only nine years old, admiral of the sea. He also gave liberal grants to each, and to Richard, among other things, the fee-farm of the town of Gloucester, the constableship of Corfe Castle, the manor of Kingston Lacy, which belonged to the duchy of Lancaster, the castle, county, and honour of Richmond in Yorkshire, and the county, honour, and lordship of Pembroke. A few years later, Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, ‘the kingmaker,’ whose disaffection to Edward IV was beginning, tried to seduce both these younger brothers from their allegiance, and carried them down with him to Cambridge; but Richard remained steadfast to Edward, although Clarence proved disloyal. About the beginning of 1466 Richard was elected a knight of the Garter (Anstis, Register of the Garter, p. 181), and in the same year he was at the banquet at the enthronement of Archbishop George Neville [q. v.] of York (Leland, Collectanea, vi. 3). In 1468 he had a grant of the castle and manor of Farley in Somerset and the manors of Heytesbury and Teffont in Wiltshire, which had belonged to Robert, lord Hungerford, and of the manor and town of Bedminster, which had belonged to Henry, duke of Somerset. In 1469 he accompanied his brother Edward into Norfolk just before the breaking out of Robin of Redesdale’s rebellion [see Robin], and probably went with him against the rebels. In October, when Edward IV had escaped from his temporary detention by Warwick in Yorkshire, Richard entered London in his company, and was immediately afterwards (17 Oct.) appointed constable of England for life and chief justiciar of South Wales. Next year (1470), on 26 Aug., he was further appointed warden of the west marches against Scotland (Rymer, xi. 658, 1st edit.). A month later Richard accompanied Edward in his flight to Holland, and shared his exile till the following March (1471). Sailing back with him from Flushing, he assisted him in the recovery of his kingdom. During the voyage, indeed, their ships were separated by a storm, and Richard, with a company of three hundred men, landed four miles from Ravenspur, where his brother landed; but they soon joined forces, and when Edward, pretending that he was merely come to claim his duchy of York, was allowed to enter York peacefully without his army, he at first left the latter at three bowshots’ distance under Richard’s command. Presently the city was persuaded to admit the forces for twelve hours; but when some of the citizens, doubting Edward’s good faith, insisted on his going to the minster to make oath that he would not claim the crown, Richard proposed to the Earl of Rivers to kill the recorder and Martin De la Mere if the condition were insisted on. Edward, however, succeeded in getting his forces away without any act of violence.
Shortly afterwards, at Banbury, Richard assisted in the reconciliation between his brother Edward and Clarence. In the two battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury (14 April and 4 May) he commanded Edward’s vanguard, and displayed both skill and valour. After the latter engagement he and the Duke of Norfolk, as constable and marshal of England, passed sentence on Somerset and other fugitives who had received King Edward’s pardon after taking refuge in the abbey, and they were beheaded in the town. This was a serious function for a lad in his nineteenth year. Yet it is also reported, and perhaps truly, that he and Clarence butchered young Edward, prince of Wales, after the battle, and a fortnight later that he murdered the unhappy Henry VI in the Tower of London. On 3 July following, although no regular parliament seems to have been assembled, the lords met in the parliament chamber at Westminster, and each severally took an oath to Edward’s eldest son, recognising him as prince of Wales and successor to the throne. After the spiritual lords the names of Clarence and Gloucester headed those of the temporal (Rotuli Parliamentorum, vi. 234). Edward rewarded Richard’s fidelity by large additional grants of lands and offices. He made him great chamberlain of England (which office he resigned a year later in favour of Clarence) and steward of the lands of the duchy of Lancaster beyond Trent; and he bestowed on him the confiscated possessions of the Earl of Oxford and other Lancastrians. He also gave him (14 July 1471) the castles of Middleham and Sheriff-Hutton in Yorkshire, and Penrith in Cumberland—a portion of the lands of Warwick the Kingmaker. Warwick had left two daughters, of whom Clarence had already married the elder, and Richard now proposed to marry the younger, named Anne [see Anne, 1456–1485]. She had been betrothed to the late—probably murdered—prince of Wales, but she seems to have had no great objection to marry his reputed murderer. Clarence, however, who had kept his sister-in-law hitherto in a state of pupilage (she was not yet fifteen), opposed the marriage, and particularly objected to divide his father-in-law’s inheritance. He hid the young lady from his brother’s eyes, but Richard discovered her in London disguised as a kitchenmaid, and placed her in the sanctuary of St. Martin’s-le-Grand for security. On this a vehement dispute took place between the brothers, who each supported his own claim before the king with an ability that astonished even lawyers; and, though the king decided that Richard should have Anne, with a certain portion of Warwick’s property, an ill-will that threatened at times to come to blows endured for years between the two [see Plantagenet, George].
In September 1471 Richard is said to have caused the bastard Falconbridge to be beheaded in Yorkshire [see Fauconberg, Thomas, the Bastard of]. But probably there is some mistake here. The bastard had commanded Warwick’s fleet and bombarded London while Edward was in the west country, but had submitted to Richard at Sandwich on 26 May; and Richard took him to Middleham apparently as a prisoner on parole (Wavrin-Dupont, iii. 145; cf. Ramsay, ii. 387, n. 3, from which it would seem that ‘Merlan’ must be Middleham); but as the bastard afterwards attempted to escape, hoping, as it was believed, to have found shipping somewhere, he forfeited his claim to mercy. He was captured at Southampton, and probably executed there. In 1473 the widowed Countess of Warwick, who had been in Beaulieu sanctuary in Hampshire since her husband’s death, at length came out, and was conveyed by Sir James Tyrell [q. v.] into the north. She seems to have been anxious to throw herself upon Richard’s protection, and Clarence was believed to have objected to her removal. The king, according to a letter of that date, restored to her all her patrimonial property, the lands of the Beauchamps; but she granted it to Richard, with whom she had found a home, probably at Middleham. The whole of her property, however, alike inheritance and jointure, was divided between him and Clarence by an act of parliament in May 1474, her own rights being set aside just as if she were dead, and Richard kept her as a prisoner while he lived.
Richard continued to receive new grants from the crown. In 1471 he was made justiciar of North Wales; in 1472 warden of the royal forests north of Trent. In 1474 a further portion of Lord Hungerford’s lands was bestowed on him, and in 1475 some of those of the Earl of Oxford and Sir Thomas de la Launde. After receiving his share of Warwick’s property he resided chiefly in Yorkshire, and mostly at Middleham, though he had an official residence at Pomfret as steward of the duchy of Lancaster.
In 1475, when Edward invaded France and made an inglorious peace with Louis XI, without striking a blow, Richard was displeased and stood aloof from the interview at Picquigny; but, when the matter was settled, he paid a visit of courtesy to Louis at Amiens, and received from him presents of plate and horses (Comines, bk. iv. ch. x.). It does not appear that he was directly responsible for the death of his brother Clarence in 1478, which Sir Thomas More says he openly opposed; but a suspicion prevailed that he had helped indirectly to bring it about. Three days before the duke suffered Richard’s son was created Earl of Salisbury—a second title which had belonged to Clarence—and three days after the event Richard himself obtained licenses from the king to erect two considerable religious establishments, each presided over by a dean, the one at Barnard Castle and the other at Middleham, for the souls of himself and his wife after their decease, as well as of his father, brothers, and sisters.
Of the lordship of Barnard Castle, Richard had held one moiety in right of his wife till the death of Clarence, when the other moiety fell to him also. On the same day (21 Feb.) on which he obtained these licenses he was again appointed to the office of great chamberlain of England, which he had before resigned in Clarence’s favour. Not long after, he was made admiral of England, Ireland, and Aquitaine. On 12 May 1480 he was appointed the king’s lieutenant-general in the north, in anticipation of a Scottish invasion, and in June a commission was directed to him and others to raise troops in Yorkshire (Rymer, xii. 115, 117). In September he had to punish a Scottish raid into Northumberland, but he was back again at Sheriff-Hutton in October (Plumpton Corresp. p. 40, Camden Soc.; Davies, York Records, pp. 106, 108). On 12 June 1482 he was appointed to command an army against Scotland. He began the campaign by taking the town of Berwick, and, leaving a force to besiege the castle, marched on to Edinburgh. He was accompanied by Alexander, duke of Albany, whom Edward IV had promised to make king of Scotland. His progress was aided by Angus ‘Bell the Cat’ [see Douglas, Archibald, fifth Earl of Angus]. After the Scottish nobles at Lauder took their king (James III) into their own keeping, Richard enabled Albany to make terms for his pardon, and having exacted an important bond from the town of Edinburgh, he obtained on his return the surrender of Berwick Castle.
A campaign so successful won for him the thanks of parliament, which met in January 1483. He had also been for some years warden of the west marches, and had brought the borders into such admirable subjection that, in reward for his services, parliament made the extraordinary provision that that wardenship should descend to his heirs male, with the possession of Carlisle and various lands in Cumberland, and such adjoining districts of Scotland as they should be able to conquer (Rotuli Parl. vi. 197, 204).
On 9 April following Edward IV died at Westminster, leaving to Richard the care of his family and kingdom during the minority of his eldest son Edward, then in his thirteenth year. Lord Hastings sent Richard notice of the event, and he immediately repaired to York, where he held a funeral service for his brother, and called on all the neighbouring gentry to swear allegiance to Edward V, himself setting the example. Meanwhile the queen-dowager and her relatives had likewise sent word to young Edward, who was then at Ludlow, and whom they wished to come up to London with a strong escort; but Lord Hastings said if the company were dangerously large he would retire to Calais, of which place he was governor. Hastings was not the only one suspicious of the Woodvilles or Wydevilles, the queen dowager’s family. When Richard reached Northampton on the 29th, the young king had gone as far as Stony Stratford, ten miles farther on; but his uncle, Lord Rivers, and his uterine brother, Lord Richard Grey, rode back to Northampton to salute Gloucester in his name. The Duke of Buckingham also arrived there, and he and Gloucester supped together with Rivers and Grey. But after supper the two dukes held an interview apart, and next morning, having secured the keys of the inn, and seized Rivers and Grey, and some others, went on to Stony Stratford, and brought the young king back to Northampton, telling him that his maternal relatives had a design to seize the government by force. The poor boy-king burst into tears, but the tale was very generally believed, when the dukes, on the way to London, exhibited the ‘barrels of harness’ seized in the possession of his escort. Moreover, the Woodville party had done some questionable things in London, and had meant to have crowned the lad on 4 May—almost as soon as he could well have arrived, even if his course had been uninterrupted. As it was, he only reached London that very day, in company with his uncle, Gloucester, and the Duke of Buckingham. His mother, meanwhile, hearing what had occurred, had withdrawn herself in great haste into the sanctuary at Westminster, which adjoined the palace, getting a breach made in the walls, to remove her furniture, and took with her her second son, Richard, duke of York, and her five daughters.
Richard seems to have been recognised by the council, even before his arrival in London, as protector of the king and kingdom. The young king, who was at first lodged in the bishop of London’s palace by St. Paul’s, was soon transferred to the royal apartments in the Tower. A new day—22 June—was fixed for the coronation, and parliament was summoned to meet three days later. Archbishop Rotherham of York was deprived of the great seal, and Dr. Russell, bishop of Lincoln, was made chancellor in his place. The Woodville influence was quite subverted. The queen’s brother, Lionel, bishop of Salisbury, was in the sanctuary along with her, and the property of her son, the Marquis of Dorset, who, as constable of the Tower, had fitted out a fleet with money and arms from that fortress, was everywhere confiscated. On 9 June the Protector held a council, which sat from ten to two o’clock, and it was significantly noted that no communication was held with the queen. Next day Richard wrote to the mayor and corporation of York, requesting them to send up at once as many armed men as they could get together, to protect him and the Duke of Buckingham against an alleged conspiracy of the queen’s adherents.
The fact seems to be that some of the council, especially Hastings, who had hitherto opposed the Woodvilles, were beginning to be more apprehensive of Richard’s ambition than of theirs. Conferences took place at St. Paul’s and elsewhere as to how to get the king out of Richard’s power; while the protector himself held private consultations with his more confidential friends at Crosby’s Place in Bishopsgate Street, and for a time deserted the regular council in the Tower. On 13 June, however, he appeared there. He was very urbane, asked Morton, bishop of Ely, for strawberries from his garden in Holborn [see Morton, John, 1420?–1500], and, after opening the business, begged leave of temporary absence. An hour later he returned, with a strangely altered demeanour, and inquired what punishment they deserved who had conspired against his life. He accused the queen as a sorceress who, with Jane Shore as her accomplice, had wasted his body ‘by their sorcery and witchcraft,’ in proof of which he bared his left arm to the council, shrunk and withered, as, according to Sir Thomas More, who relates the story, ‘it was never other.’ Hastings answered that if they had so done they deserved heinous punishment. ‘What!’ said the Protector, ‘dost thou serve me with ifs and with ands? I tell thee they have done it, and that I will make good on thy body, traitor!’ Then he struck his fist violently upon the council table. Armed men rushed in and arrested Hastings and Lord Stanley, Bishop Morton and Archbishop Rotherham. Hastings was borne off to immediate execution on Tower Green, the Protector swearing that he would not dine till he had seen his head off. Then Richard sent for some of the leading citizens, before whom he and Buckingham appeared in rusty armour which they had hastily put on, and told them they had just escaped a plot to assassinate them in the council chamber. A proclamation was also put out to that effect, rather too neatly written, as some observed, to give it credit, for it seemed to have been prepared beforehand. Richard then seized the property of Jane Shore, and, by bringing her before the bishop of London’s court as a woman of loose life, caused her to do penance in the streets with a lighted taper. His object, perhaps, was to punish her for some political intrigue, but the patience with which she underwent her penance attracted general sympathy. Then followed, at Pomfret, on 25 June, the execution, apparently by command of the Earl of Northumberland, but without any legal trial, of Earl Rivers, Lord Richard Grey, and Sir Thomas Vaughan, who had been taken at Stony Stratford.
Meanwhile there was intense agitation in London. Westminster was full of armed men, and Richard was expecting more from Yorkshire, yet three days after the execution of Hastings, Archbishop Bourchier somehow persuaded the queen to deliver up her second son, the Duke of York, out of sanctuary, to keep company with his brother in the Tower. The coronation was now deferred until 2 Nov., and on Sunday, 22 June, when it was to have taken place, Dr. Shaw, at St. Paul’s Cross, preached a sermon, in which he intimated that the children of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville were illegitimate, and that the crown belonged by right to the Protector. Nor was this all, for the preacher further insinuated that Edward IV himself was a bastard, which he must have been authorised to do by Richard, to the dishonour of his own mother. Further, it had been arranged that Richard was to pass by during the sermon, but he arrived rather late, and when the preacher, returning to the subject, said, ‘This is his father’s own figure,’ the crowd, already deeply shocked, made no response.
On the Tuesday following (24 June) the Duke of Buckingham, with some other lords and knights, addressed the citizens at the Guildhall in an eloquent speech in favour of Richard’s claims. The citizens remaining dumb, the recorder was instructed to ask if they would have Richard for their king, and a few at the end of the hall cried, ‘King Richard!’ Next day, the 25th, was that for which parliament had been summoned, and, though a supersedeas had been received at York to countermand the sending up of representatives, there was certainly something like a parliamentary assembly that day in London. A roll was brought in declaring Richard to be rightful king, on the ground that Edward’s marriage with Elizabeth Woodville was invalid, Edward having, it was asserted, made a precontract of matrimony with Dame Eleanor Butler, ‘daughter of the old Earl of Shrewsbury.’ Moreover, it was insisted that that marriage had led to grave inconveniences. Besides, Edward himself had been born abroad, at Rouen, and his brother Clarence at Dublin. Richard alone of the brothers was the true-born Englishman. On these grounds a deputation was sent to him at Baynard’s Castle, asking him to assume the crown. Buckingham was spokesman, and Richard, with feigned reluctance, accepted the honour. Next day, accompanied by a number of the nobles, he went to Westminster, and seated himself in the marble chair. From that day (26 June) he dated the commencement of his reign.
Immediately afterwards Sir Richard Radcliffe [q. v.], who had carried out the executions at Pomfret, came up with the Yorkshire bands written for by Richard to protect himself against the queen-dowager. They came up very ill accoutred in rusty armour, and were joined by others from Wales—a force, despite the sneers of the citizens, sufficient to keep London quiet till the coronation. It took place at Westminster on Sunday, 6 July. Two days before the king had proceeded in state down the river to the Tower, and liberated Lord Stanley and Archbishop Rotherham from their confinement; the next day there were pageants, and the coronation itself was conducted with particular splendour, the newly pardoned Stanley carrying the mace as lord high constable. The success of the usurpation, however, at once produced a changed feeling among the nobility, and Richard, we are told, lost the hearts of many who would have fought to the death for him as Protector. Strangely enough, even Buckingham was disaffected, and Bishop Morton, having been committed to his custody, flattered his vanity by the suggestion that he would have been a better ruler than Richard. Thoughts of supplanting Richard certainly seem to have occurred to him, and the murder which soon after followed of the dethroned Edward V and his brother must have stimulated them all the more; but they were presently laid aside in favour of a project to assist Henry, earl of Richmond, to the crown [see Henry VII].
The secret order for the death of the two young princes seems to have been given by Richard when on a royal progress which he made just after his coronation. He went first by Windsor and Reading to Oxford, where he met with a noble reception, and spent two days visiting the colleges; then to Woodstock, where he won popularity by disafforesting some land that his brother Edward had annexed to Whichwood Forest; then on to Gloucester, and to Worcester. Each of these towns offered him a gift of money to defray his expenses, as London itself had done before; but he gracefully declined, saying he would rather have their hearts than their money. At Warwick, which he reached next, he received the Duke of Albany and an embassy from Spain. He then went on through Coventry, Leicester, and Nottingham to York, which he reached on 29 Aug. There he stayed several days, and on 8 Sept. he and his queen [see Anne, 1456–1485] walked through the streets with crowns on their heads, and his son Edward was created prince of Wales.
During this progress the princes were at first kept in close custody within the Tower, so that little was known about them, and conspiracies began to be formed for their liberation. There was also a project for conveying some of their sisters in disguise beyond sea, to prevent which a force of armed men was laid round the abbey and its neighbourhood. Cabals against Richard spread all over the southern counties, and it was given out that Buckingham would lead the movement. But the news speedily followed that the two young princes were dead. How they had been cut off no one knew, but no one doubted that it was a murder. Buckingham then, at the suggestion of Morton, opened communications with Richmond in Brittany, who was to invade England in aid of a general insurrection, to take place all over the southern counties and in Wales simultaneously on 18 Oct. The secret, however, leaked out. The Duke of Norfolk wrote from London on the 10th for aid to put down disturbances in Kent, and Richard himself, who had reached Lincoln on the 11th, wrote from thence to York for a body of men to meet him at Leicester on the 21st to help him to subdue Buckingham. On the 23rd he issued a proclamation offering rewards for the apprehension of Buckingham, Dorset, and the other leaders, and inveighing against the rebels as subverters of morality, pointing particularly to the dissolute life of Dorset, who had now taken Jane Shore into his keeping.
The rebellion, however, was defeated not by arms, but by stormy weather. An unusual flood swelled the Severn, and Buckingham could not get out of Wales, the bridges being destroyed to stop his progress. Provisions ran short, and his followers deserted. At last he himself fled northwards in disguise into Shropshire, where he was betrayed and delivered up by a retainer. He was brought before Richard, who had come south with an army as far as Salisbury on 2 Nov., and, after being examined, was sent to summary execution. Meanwhile the storm had also frustrated the invasion of Richmond, and the whole rebellion collapsed. The king was received in triumph at Exeter, and returned to London before the end of November.
Parliament had been summoned for 6 Nov., but owing to the rebellion it was put off, and met on 23 Jan. 1484. The king’s title was confirmed, his son declared heir-apparent, and the leading lords and gentlemen of the household called to swear to the succession. An act of attainder was passed against a hundred persons concerned in the rebellion, and some good laws were enacted, among which was one for the abolition of ‘benevolences.’ On 1 March Richard signed a declaration before the lords spiritual and temporal, and the lord mayor and aldermen of London, that if his nieces would come out of sanctuary, he would put them in surety of their lives and persons, and marry them to ‘gentlemen born,’ giving also a pension for life to their mother, whom he called ‘dame Elizabeth Grey.’ The object was clearly to prevent any of the daughters being conveyed abroad and married to Richmond. The offer was accepted, and the ladies came out of sanctuary. On 10 March Richard issued a remarkable circular to the bishops, urging them to repress and punish immorality. About the same time numerous commissions of muster and array were issued to meet the danger of invasion. After the parliament the king visited Cambridge, and went on to Nottingham, where he received news of the death of his only legitimate son, so recently named heir-apparent. He continued his progress to York, Middleham, and Durham, returning to Westminster for a short time in August, when he caused Henry VI’s body to be removed from Chertsey to Windsor. Shortly afterwards he went to Nottingham to receive a Scottish embassy in September. Nottingham from this time was his principal residence—apparently as a central position where he might receive news from any quarter of invasion, of which he stood in constant dread. Towards the close of the year he issued a proclamation for the punishment of lying rumours and seditious writings, and Colyngbourne, a Wiltshire gentleman, who seems to have been one of the first promoters of Richmond’s attempted invasion the year before, suffered the hideous death of a traitor on Tower Hill, not more, it was thought, for that than for a well-known rhyme aimed at the king and his three leading councillors.
On 7 Dec. the chancellor was instructed to prepare a proclamation against Richmond and his adherents. On the 18th commissioners were directed to inquire in Surrey, Hertfordshire, and Middlesex what number of armed men could be got ready on a sudden alarm. But the king kept a particularly gay Christmas at Westminster, and his eldest niece, the intended bride of his rival, danced at court in apparel exactly similar to that of his own queen—a fact which gave rise to strange surmises. On Twelfth night following (6 Jan. 1485) he walked with the crown on his head in Westminster Hall. But on that very day he received information from beyond sea that his enemies would certainly attempt an invasion in the following summer. To meet this he was driven to the expedient of a forced loan, too much like the benevolences that he had condemned in parliament, and this increased his unpopularity. Further, he seemed to have contemplated somehow getting rid of his queen, of whose barrenness he complained to Archbishop Rotherham and others, and marrying his niece Elizabeth. The queen actually died on 16 March—the day of an eclipse of the sun—and the talk about his intention was so strong that it dismayed for a time the Earl of Richmond in France; but the idea met with such opposition that he was obliged to deny publicly that he had ever entertained it. He sent Elizabeth to Sheriff-Hutton, where also he kept his brother Clarence’s son Edward, earl of Warwick [q. v.] After his own son’s death he had proclaimed the latter heir-apparent. But he now set him aside in favour of his other nephew, John, earl of Lincoln, the son of his sister Elizabeth by the Duke of Suffolk. He left London in the spring, and was at Nottingham again in June. He put Lord Lovel in command of a fleet at Southampton. On 22 June commissions of array were issued to every county, with orders for every one to be ready at an hour’s warning, and next day the proclamation of December against Richmond and his adherents was renewed. Richmond, however, landed at Milford Haven on 7 or 8 Aug., and, notwithstanding some alarms of opposition, succeeded easily in about a week in reaching Shrewsbury, with a considerable accession made to his forces by Welsh chieftains whom Richard had too much trusted.
Richard was collecting an army at Nottingham, but the troops had not all come together. Among others he had required the presence of Lord Stanley out of Lancashire, but Stanley sent an excuse that he was ill of the sweating sickness. His son, Lord Strange, at the same time endeavoured to escape from the court, but being taken, confessed that he and his uncle, Sir William Stanley, had been in communication with the enemy. The young man, however, throwing himself on the king’s mercy, offered the strongest assurances that his father at least would shortly bring his forces to Richard’s aid. Richard took care to keep him safe as a hostage.
The intelligence that Henry had reached Shrewsbury struck Richard with dismay. He had heard of his landing, and yet had deferred for one day setting out against him, as the 15th was the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady. But hearing next that Henry had reached Lichfield, he set out for Leicester, his army drawn out in long array, with the baggage in the middle, he himself following on a great white courser with his bodyguard. His frowning countenance in this day’s march was noted. He reached Leicester at sunset on the 20th, and marched out again on the morning of the 21st, at the head of a larger army, it was thought, than had ever before been seen in England. He wore his crown upon his head, and encamped at night at a spot some little way south of Market Bosworth. His adversary that same night encamped within three miles of him, and early on the 22nd both parties prepared for battle. Richard rose in the twilight, pale and haggard, disturbed, as he admitted, by fearful dreams, and said the issue of that day’s conflict would be disastrous for England, whichever party prevailed. He summoned Lord Stanley, who had approached within a short distance of either camp, to join him at once. Stanley refused, and Richard ordered his son Strange to be at once beheaded; but the execution of the order was deferred in the preparation for battle. Richard occupied Ambien Hill, and there was a marsh between him and the enemy, along the side of which Henry led his men, leaving it to the right as a protection. But when he had passed it Richard ordered the attack, and a shower of arrows on either side began the engagement, backed up by some volleys of cannon from that of Henry. The armies then came to close quarters, and the Stanleys, both Lord Stanley and Sir William, joined Henry openly. Richard, finding his followers half-hearted, dashed over the hill against his antagonist in person, killed William Brandon, his standard-bearer, and threw to the ground Sir John Cheney, a man of great strength. Henry, however, maintained his own against him, till the coming up of Sir William Stanley changed the fortune of the day, and Richard was surrounded and killed.
After the battle his dead body was carried to Leicester, trussed across a horse’s back, behind a pursuivant, and with a halter round the neck. After two days’ public exposure it was buried there at the Grey Friars. But some years later Henry VII erected a fine tomb for him, with an effigy in alabaster, which was destroyed within fifty years after it was built, at the dissolution of the monasteries (Excerpta Historica, p. 105).
That Richard was an undersized, humpbacked man, with his left shoulder, as More tells us, higher than the right, has always been the tradition; and though doubts have been cast on his deformity, there is an interesting record of a petty squabble at York within six years after his death, in which he was called ‘an hypocrite and a crouchback.’ But the deformity could scarcely have been very marked in one who performed such feats upon the battlefield, nor does it appear distinctly in any contemporary portrait, though there are not a few. Of these several are of the same type, and perhaps by the same artist, as those in the royal collection at Windsor and the National Portrait Gallery. They exhibit an anxious-looking face, with features capable, no doubt, of very varied expression, but scarcely the look of transparent malice and deceit attributed to him by Polydore Vergil, or the warlike, hard-favoured visage with which he is credited by Sir Thomas More.
[More’s Hist. of Richard III; Polydore Vergil’s Historia Anglica; Hall’s Chron.; Fabyan’s Chron.; Hist. Croylandensis Continuatio in Fulman. The above are the original literary sources of information, to which may be added for details, W. Wyrcester, Annales; Fragment relating to Edward IV, at end of Th. Sprotti Chronica, ed. Hearne; Three Fifteenth-Century Chronicles, Warkworth’s Chron., Plumpton Correspondence, Documents relating to the Collegiate Church of Middleham, and Restoration of King Edward IV, all published by the Camden Soc.; Jehan de Wavrin’s Anchiennes Cronicques, ed. Dupont; Paston Letters, ed. Gairdner; Devon’s Issue Rolls; Davies’s York Records; Calendarium Rotulorum Patentium (Record Comm.); Report IX of Deputy Keeper of Public Records; Dugdale’s Baronage, and Sandford’s Genealogical Hist.; Archæologia, lv. 159 sq. Of more modern biographies and criticisms it is important to note Buck’s Richard III in Kennett’s Complete Hist. of England, Walpole’s Historic Doubts (1768), Gairdner’s Life and Reign of Richard III, Legge’s The Unpopular King, and Ramsay’s York and Lancaster. Buck, Walpole, and Legge, together with Miss Halstead, whose two volumes on Richard III are now rather out of date, plead for a more favourable view of Richard’s character.]
Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 48
Richard III by James Gairdner