King Richard

King Richard III of England
British history

7th august 2014

Richard III – The Story

This page is about the discovery of the remains of King Richard III, here in Leicester.

Who was Richard III?

Richard was the last King of the Plantagenet dynasty and the last king of the House of York. He lived in the fifteenth century, from 1452 to 1485, in what we call the Middle Ages. He reigned for only two years, being killed at the Battle of Bosworth, the final battle in the Wars of the Roses, a date regarded as being the end of the Middle Ages. Richard reigned as King of England for only two years (from 1483 to 1485.)

The Battle of Bosworth took place on the 22nd August 1485

He is also known as Richard Plantagenet and was a member of the House of York. The Wars of the Roses, as we now call it, was fought between the two dynastic houses of Lancaster and York. Those of Richard’s time would have called it the ‘Cousins Wars’ because it was fought between members of the York and Lancaster families.

Richard’s brother was King Edward the fourth. When Edward died in 1483, Richard was named Lord Protector. His role was to protect Edward, 12 year old son of the late king. Richard placed Edward and his brother Richard (who was 9) in lodgings the Tower of London, as was the custom for kings prior to their coronation.

In 1483, Richard of Gloucester was crowed King of England, becoming Richard III, instead of the young Prince Edward.

The Princes in the Tower.

The two young princes – Edward and Richard – were not seen again after 1483. It was rumoured that the young princes had been murdered, some accusing Richard of being behind this. It is not clear that the two boys in the Tower of London (a royal residence) were in fact both the sons of Edward IV. Some claim that one of them was switched with a boy of similar age.

The young Prince Edward is referred to as Edward V (the fifth), and his brother as The Duke of York, the sons of King Edward IV (the fourth.) There is no historic evidence that the princes were in fact murdered and their bones have never been found, conclusively. There is no record of a funeral. Some historians claim that the Princes posed a threat to Richard III’s claim to the throne. No formal accusation was ever made against Richard III for the (assumed) death of the two Princes. The fate of the boys remains a mystery.

When their uncle Richard, the Yorkist King was killed at Bosworth, Henry Tudor, the Lancastrian, claimed the throne of England and became Henry the Seventh.

Richard III’s life

Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was born in 1452, in Northamptonshire. His father was Richard Plantagenet, the third Duke of York, a contender to the throne taken by King Henry VI. His mother was Cecily Neville, daughter of Richard Neville and Alice Montacute. She was a cousin of Richard of Gloucester.

The young Richard spent some of his childhood at Middleham Castle in Yorkshire, being tutored by the Earl of Warwick (known as ‘the kingmaker’). Also living at the Castle Living was Anne Neville, the Earl of Warwick’s daughter, who would later marry Richard.

Richard’s wife Lady Anne Neville was crowned with him at his coronation at Westminster Abbey in 1483. Their son, Edward, was made Prince of Wales in a ceremony held at York; the only son of Richard III, he died at the age of ten in 1484.

Richard III’s death

Richard III died in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field, just south of the presentday town of Market Bosworth in Leicestershire.
The battle was fought between the Yorkist army (whose emblem was the white rose) led by Richard and that led by Henry Tudor (whose emblem was the red rose.) It was the last battle in the Wars of the Roses and led to the rise of the Tudor Dynasty that included Henry the Eighth and Elizabeth the First. Followuing his victory at Bosworth, Henry became King Henry VII, the first monarch of the Tudor dynasty.

Henry Tudor, who has been exiled to France, gathered an army and he and his men landed in Milford Haven in Wales in August, 1485. Richard gathered his army together and they assembled in Leicester on August 20th. Richard arrived in Leicester shoertly before the battle and it is said that he stayed at an Inn, then called The white Boar. Richard’s battle emblem depicted a white boar. In previous visits to Leicester, he had stayed at Leicester Castle but at the time the building had not been in a good state of repair.

After the Yorkist’s defeat, the story goes, the landlord of the White Boar repainted the sign to show a blue boar and renamed the building The Blue Boar Inn, also changing the name of the street in which it stood to Blue Boar Lane. Blue was a colour associated with the House of Lancaster.The building stood in Highcross Street, near to where the Travel Lodge hotel now stands. The Blue Boar Inn, once the principal Inn of Leicester in the 16th century, was demolished in 1836.

The two armies met near to Market Bosworth. The Yorkists were defeated and their king was killed. Richard’s corpse was stripped naked and taken, strapped on a horse, back to Leicester, where the king’s body was exhibited for two days to prove to people that he had died, before being buried in the Church of the Greyfriars in a plain, unmarked tomb. The location of the tomb was eventually lost. The Church was destroyed during the reformation and the masonry plundered by local builders, so that it was lost for over five hundred years.

The discovery of Richard’s bones

Richard’s bones were discovered, buried beneath the car park of the Social Services building in the centre of Leicester. The archaeological dig that unearthed the bones was said to be the biggest archaeological discovery of recent times.

On 4 February 2013, it was announced that DNA testing had conclusively identified (“beyond reasonable doubt”) that the bones unearthed in the Leicester car park were in fact those of Richard.

After his death, the King’s body was brought to Leicester, so that the victor of the battle, who became Henry VII, could allow the people to see that the king was in fact dead. Richard had been crowned King of England in 1483 but his claim to the throne was seen as contentious by many powerful barons. Henry Tudor organised a rebellion against the king and it was this that led to the Battle of Bosworth Field where Richard’s was killed and his army defeated.

Eventually, Richard (sometimes called ‘the warrior king’) was buried in the church of the Greyfriars Monastery, which is where his bones were found in 2013, 528 years later. He was the last English King to die in battle. During his life he was said to be a skilled military commander.

In 1471 Richard claimed the Dukedom of York. It was because he was the Duke of York that the city made a claim to become the rightful resting place of Richard’s remains, rather than Leicester.

25th April 2014

New director takes over at King Richard III visitor centre

A MAN who was part of the team responsible for marketing Alton Towers’ world-famous theme park is bringing his tourism expertise to Leicester’s new King Richard III Visitor Centre.

Iain Gordon, who previously spent eight years in marketing and operations at the hugely-popular Staffordshire theme park, has been appointed as the director of the King Richard III Visitor Centre Trust.

The trust is responsible for the new exhibition, entitled Dynasty, Death and Discovery, which will tell King Richard III’s fascinating story when it opens its doors this summer.

The visitor centre is currently being developed in the dramatic former Alderman Newton’s School building, opposite Leicester Cathedral and overlooking the grave where King Richard’s remains were discovered in August 2012.

Former Leicester University graduate Iain has also previously worked for two years as general manager of Snibston Discovery Park in Coalville, and eight years managing outdoor education centres for young people including one at Alton Castle, near the Alton Towers theme park.

The King Richard III Visitor Centre will tell the story of the king’s life and times, his reign and his death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, using a stunning array of interactive exhibits and displays.

Visitors will also be taken through the extraordinary story of the science, forensics and archaeology behind his rediscovery, while a quieter, contemplative area will allow visitors to see the gravesite at the long-gone medieval Greyfriars church. The visitor centre is due to open in summer 2014, as a key part in the wider Cathedral Quarter, facing onto the new Cathedral. [Souce: Leicester City Council]

23rd January 2014

Stained glass window will commemorate King Richard III

A LIFE-sized stained glass window depicting King Richard III and his family is being created by a local artist for the forthcoming new visitor centre telling the story of the king’s life and death.

The dramatic stained glass window, by Leicester artist Brad Cooke, will portay the king along with his wife Anne Neville and their son Edward. It will be one of the centrepieces at the King Richard III visitor centre in St Martin’s Place, which is due to open in July 2014.

Knighton-based Brad, who runs a specialist stained glass and glazing firm, is currently in the process of designing the stunning window, followed by about six to eight weeks of painstaking work to turn the sketches into the finished product.

The completed window, which will be about 2.8m high and 2.3m wide, is likely to be lit from behind and will feature prominently as part of a display telling the story of the king’s life and the Plantagenet royal dynasty.

The commission came about after Brad contacted Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby offering his services to create a suitable item of artwork. Brad said: “I do a lot of work around the area restoring Victorian front doors, as well as restoration work on some stained glass at Leicester Cathedral, but a big commission like this isn’t something that comes along every day. The window is expected to be completed in May. [Source: LCC]

3rd September 2013

New boards will highlight city’s historic links to King Richard III

Leicester’s historic links with King Richard III will be brought to life by a series of new interpretation boards. The boards, placed at 10 city locations including the Guildhall, Leicester Castle and the Magazine Gateway, will be officially unveiled by city mayor Peter Soulsby on September 4th.

They will accompany a new Richard III walking trail, launched this week. It guides visitors on a circular route around Leicester, taking in all of the new interpretation boards and pointing out further sites of interest such as Leicester Cathedral, the site of the new Richard III visitor centre and the Richard III statue.

City mayor Peter Soulsby said: “I’m delighted to be unveiling these new boards, which represent another step in our ambitious campaign to tell the story of Leicester. From the historic Bow Bridge to the dig site at Greyfriars, these panels are a rich source of information which I am sure will capture the interest of visitors and locals alike.

“Combined with the new walking trail, these interpretation boards help us to re-imagine Richard III’s final days while highlighting some of Leicester’s fantastic heritage buildings and pointing out locations of historical interest that might otherwise remain hidden.”

The boards will be located at the Magazine Gateway, in the Newarke; the Guildhall, the church of St Mary De Castro, Trinity Hospital and the Turret Gateway, which is also in the Newarke. They will also be at the site of the Blue Boar Inn, in Highcross Street – now Leicester Travelodge – and at the Bow Bridge, Leicester Castle, the site of Greyfriars Friary and the site of the Church of the Annunciation, which is now the Hawthorn Building at De Montfort University. The first board will be unveiled at the Magazine Gateway on September 4th, with the others put into place on September 5th and 6th. The walking trail brochure will be available from the Guildhall and the Visit Leicester centre in Gallowtree Gate. The brochure costs 50p. More information and a free downloadable version of the walking trail can be found at – to download the trail, click on ‘Leicester’s search for a King’. [Source: Leicester City Council]

16th August

Challenge to burial location

The BBC TV news reported today that distant relatives of Richard II have been granted a judicial review over where his remains should be interred.

The Mayor of Leicester hopes that they will be buried in Leicester Cathedral and plans have already been drawn up for a tomb to be constructed there following a government decision in May.

The Plantagenet Alliance are campaigning for the city of York to be the king’s final resting place.

A judge today decided that there is a duty to consult widely about where the remains should be finally laid to rest.
9th August

Season of events heralds anniversary of King Richard’s death

A SEASON of historical events is due to take place this month [August] to commemorate the anniversary of the death in battle of King Richard III.

The king – known as the Last Plantagenet – was slain at Bosworth Field in Leicestershire on August 22, 1485, bringing to an end the Wars of the Roses and marking the start of the Tudor era.

His body was brought back to Leicester, where it lay buried and lost for over 500 years before being dramatically rediscovered in 2012 in a project involving the University of Leicester, Leicester City Council and the Richard III Society.

Now, as the first joint anniversaries of both his death and his rediscovery approach, a series of events will take place at key sites across the city and county. The commemorations will combine colourful celebrations of King Richard’s life and times, with solemn remembrance of his death and burial.

Young visitors to Leicester’s Guildhall can take part in a medieval fun day, featuring knights, castles and princesses, on Thursday, August 15, from 11am to 3pm. Visitors can make swords, shields and medieval princesses’ hats, taking inspiration from the Richard III exhibition which is on display at the same venue.

Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre will host the 528th anniversary re-enactment weekend, bringing to life the sights and sounds of the tumultuous clash between the Lancastrian and Yorkist forces which cost King Richard his life and the crown of England. It takes place on August 17 and 18, from 10am to 5pm daily, and also includes guided walks, displays and activities. Pre-booking is recommended, and can be done by calling 01455 290429.

Leicester’s Newarke Houses Museum will host a talk by Robert Gregory exploring King Richard III’s connections to Leicester, both in life and death. It takes place on Sunday, August 18, from 2pm.

Commemorations will take place on the actual anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth itself. On Thursday, August 22, a rose-laying ceremony in memory of the those killed at Bosworth will take place at Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre’s sundial, at 11am. It will give an opportunity for visitors to remember those who lost their lives on the battlefield and to reflect on the impact of war and battles throughout history.

In the afternoon, Leicester Cathedral Precincts will host a family afternoon of events from 3pm to 5pm, including entertainment by puppeteer Bill Brookman and medieval recorder players. The event is free to attend. Later that evening, the cathedral will host a commemorative choral evensong, from 5.30pm, marking the anniversary of King Richard’s death.

Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “This year’s commemorations of the Battle of Bosworth have taken on an extra significance given the extraordinary work over the last 12 months which has discovered and identified the remains of the Last Plantagenet king here in the city. “While visitors are rightly fascinated by the story of his life and times, the details we now know about his death and burial are worthy of more solemn reflection, and the tone of these commemorations strikes the correct balance.” According to tradition, King Richard’s body was brought back to Leicester where it was put on public display before being buried in the Greyfriars church on August 25, 1485.

Last year, the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) excavations at the site of the lost church first uncovered remains, which later were identified as those of King Richard III, on August 25 – the 527th anniversary of his burial. The dig for Richard III was led by the University of Leicester, working with Leicester City Council and in association with the Richard III Society. The originator of the search was Phillipa Langley of the Richard III Society. [Source: Leicester City Council]

8th August 2013

King Richard III visitor centre plans approved

PLANS have been approved for the creation of a new King Richard III visitor centre in the heart of Leicester’s Old Town.

Proposals to transform the former Alderman Newton’s School building at St Martin’s Place into a stunning new permanent exhibition and visitor experience telling the story of King Richard’s life, death and rediscovery, were approved at a meeting of Leicester City Council’s planning and development and control committee on Wednesday, August 7.

The £4million project will transform both the inside and outside of the Victorian Gothic building to create two floors of exhibition space and a new covered area allowing visitors access to the grave in which Richard’s remains were discovered last summer.

Designs also include a new courtyard garden, glass entrance hall, viewing balcony, cafe and visitor entry from Peacock Lane. The stunning 150-year-old former Alderman Newton School building, which is right next to the Greyfriars grave site, was purchased by the city council last year with a view to breathing new life into the building as a King Richard III visitor experience.

Architects Maber and design company Studio MB were appointed to the project to turn the derelict former grammar school into the dazzling visitor centre. Three new creative specialists with extensive backgrounds in heritage and tourism projects were also appointed. The completed visitor centre is scheduled to be opened in time for the planned re interment of King Richard’s remains at Leicester Cathedral, just across the road in Peacock Lane, in spring 2014. Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “I am very pleased that these stunning designs to bring new life to this beautiful old building has been approved, and work can now progress on creating a very fitting visitor experience telling the story of King Richard.” [Source: Leicester City Council]

10th July 2013

Play explores Richard’s reputation

A NEW play taking to the stage in Leicester will examine whether or not King Richard III deserves his dastardly reputation. The production, entitled ‘R-3: Hunchback or Hero?’ delves into the history books to try to understand the mind of the man, whom history portrays as a scheming, deformed villain responsible for the murder of his two young nephews in the Tower of London. Inspired by the new evidence unearthed by the discovery of King Richard’s remains in 2012, the play will re-examine the man and the myths surrounding him.
The performance is a one-man show, using some of Shakespeare’s text but also challenging the traditional Tudor view of the much maligned monarch, as well as bringing Richard to life to answer his accusers and re-write his reputation for the history books. R-3: Hunchback or Hero? will run at the Mayor’s Parlors in Leicester Guildhall from from July 15 to August 4.

The play, by Centre Five Productions, is coming to Leicester following a highly-successful run in London year. Historian and writer John Ashdown-Hill, whose book The Last Days of Richard III inspired last year’s dig for the last Plantagenet’s grave, said: “If you should get the chance to see it, I would strongly recommend doing so. It is certain to inspire both thoughts and feelings.”
4th February 2013

Bones set to tell story of royal remains

Archaeologists are set to tell the world the results of their tests on the bones found under a car park in Leicester, in a programme to be broadcast this evening by Channel Four. The programme will include a reconstruction of the king’s face, allowing comparison to portraits.

Many experts appear to be confident that the bones are those of the king who was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. This is based on a preliminary examination of the bones.

Today the results of DNA tests might give us the final proof that many people are hoping for that these bones are in fact those of the last of the Plantagenet kings, whose death saw the end to the war of the roses.

DNA testing was developed by researchers at the University of Leicester.

Interest in this story is world wide, placing Leicester on the International map in many western countries. Images of the skull found in the excavations has been released. The archaeology is being lead by a team at the University of Leicester.

Part of the process by which the bones are to be verified involved obtaining DNA samples from a current day descendent, a man who lives in Canada.

Commenting in History Extra, Tracy Borman said ‘Richard III is one of the most controversial figures in history. Demonised by the Tudors (and Shakespeare in particular) as a crook-backed murderer, he has since been at least partially rehabilitated by the likes of the Richard III Society. But the debate continues to rage amongst historians today.’

If the find is confirmed, it will finally put to rest the legend that the bones were dug up in the Middle Ages and thrown into the river Soar.

A press conference is being held at 10 am and is being broadcast live by BBC Radio Leicester.

Once the remains have been fully examined, they are to be interred in Leicester Cathedral. A plaque commemorating the king has been in place in the church for many years.

The press conference has attracted media from all over the world, reports Radio Leicester.

Tourist chiefs foresee a Richard III experience offering a “whole day out for the family”, turning both county and city into a money-earning theme park.

Vice Chancellor says this is a “research adventure”, bringing together a wide range of disciplines.

Richard was buried in the Greyfriars Monastery, which is where the car park now stands. The bones that were found showed signs that suggested they were those of Richard III. The skeleton was in good condition and showed curvature of the spine. It was been buried in a shroud rather than a coffin.

The bones were subject to radio carbon dating that suggested that they could be traced back to around 1485.

The skeleton confirmed to be those of a male, late 20s to late 30s and with a slender build. There was curvature of the spine. These findings are consistent with what is known about the dead king.

The skull shows a wound at the base of the skull, made with a bladed weapon. Most likely cause of death.

Other wounds are consistent with warfare injuries or by attacks that took place after death – post-mortem defilement.

Richard’s naked body is reputed to have been thrown on a horse before being taken back to Leicester.

“Taken as a whole the skeletal evidence confirms that this is likely to be Richard III” said Dr. Jo Appleby.

Prof. Kevin Shurer looked into the genealogical work that lead to the discovery of the king’s living descendents including Michael Ibsen.

This allowed DNA from the skeleton to be compared with that of living descendents.

Dr. Turi King, the project’s geneticist, said that DNA had been extracted from the remains but it is too early to confirm a match.

There is a DNA match between the family of RichardIII and the bones from the excavation, pointing to these being indeed the remains of the king.

About this page

The story of Richard III and the discovery of his bones under a Leicester Park was featured in Arts in Leicester magazine from 2013 onwards.

Originally on the Historic Buildings page, we developed so much copy on this subject that we decided to devote a whole page to this subject, as part of the Architecture section of the old magazine.

See also:

#Date set of re-interment

#Heritage news

#Richard III centre to open

#Leicester to bury king

#Richard III