Richard III Born on 02 October 1452 in a Yorkist castle in Northamptonshire, England, Richard III was the youngest son of Richard, the 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville. Richard’s childhood was one of turmoil and tragedy. The family was forced to flee their Lancasterian rivals several times during the Wars of The Roses. Due to their opposition to the reign of Henry VI, the family faced constant dangers. Richard’s father and older brother Edmund both died at the Battle of Wakefield when Richard was 8, forcing the remainder of the family into exile in Holland. They returned to England the following year when Richard’s elder brother was proclaimed King Edward IV and Richard was given the title Duke of Gloucester. As the Wars of The Roses continued Edward would be deposed, regain the throne and murder Henry VI, who was imprisoned in The Tower of London. During these events Richard became one of his brothers most trusted allies. As a result it was no surprise that when he suddenly fell ill in April 1483, that Edward IV named his brother Protector of his son and heir, 12 year old Prince Edward. The Princes in The Tower When Edward IV died at age 40 on 09 April 1483, his son became King Edward V and Richard was officially given the title Lord Protector of England. His job was to manage young king Edward until he reached adulthood and could reign in his own right, and to arrange for the coronation of the young king. While plans for the coronation were underway, Richard declared that the king’s residence would be in The Tower of London and that he would be joined by his younger brother nine year old Richard, Duke of York. In spite of the negative connotations associated with The Tower, there is nothing overtly sinister in this decision as The Tower did house a royal residence. However, events began to take an ominous turn when, three days before the coronation of Edward V on 19 June 1483, Richard declared the brothers illegitimate and thus voided their claim to the throne. He was proclaimed king Richard III and was hastily crowned on 26 June 1483. For a time the young princes would be observed playing on the grounds of The Tower, then they could occasionally be seen looking out the windows, but all sightings ceased by the end of Summer 1483. Rumors began to be whispered that Richard was responsible for whatever caused the disappearance of the boys. Reign During his brief reign, Richard established a Council of the North, which helped centralize the governing of England. He also established a Court of Requests that provided a route for poor people to seek redress in the complex and costly English legal system. Had his reign been longer and had his legacy not been stained by the disappearance of his nephews, Richard III might have been viewed by history as a benevolent monarch. Bosworth Field Henry Tudor landed in Wales and began raising troop for an invasion of England, when Richard heard the news he raised his own army and marched to meet Henry. By the time the two armies arrived at a field to the south of the small village of Market Bosworth, Henry commanded an army of about 4000 men. Richard commanded a larger army (perhaps 8000 men strong) and a better position. On the eve of the battle some sources say that Richard was elated at the prospect of finally eliminating Henry who had posed a threat since his coronation in 1483, but other sources say that Richard was deeply troubled and spent a restless night. At the start of the battle the advantage belonged to Richard who’s archers slowed Henry’s advance. In order to capitalize on this Richard ordered his infantry to advance, but the segments of his army commanded by Sir William Stanley and the Earl of Northumberland refused the order saying they could not cross a marsh. This inaction cost Richard his numeric advantage and may have been more the result of Stanley and Northumberland’s personal feeling for Richard than the conditions of the battlefield that day. Lord Stanley was married to Lady Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry Tudor. Richard then spotted Henry’s personal red banner and lead a small advance in hopes of cutting off the head of the Tudor snake. Richard struck down two of Henry’s best knights and made it to within reach of Henry himself when he was unhorsed and apparently lost his helmet. He was surrounded by Henry’s men and in spite of being wounded fought bravely until he received a wound that punctured the base of his skull. He is said to have died yelling “treason, treason.” Richard III was the last English king to fall in battle. He was stripped and his corpse was tied over the back of a horse that transported it to Leicester where it was displayed for a short time before being buried at Greyfriars Church. It had long been thought that his bones were thrown into a nearby river in the mid 1500s. Legacy Richard has been viewed as amongst the worst of English kings. His legacy was cemented by Shakespeare who portrayed him as a brooding, hunchbacked king with a murderous heart. Various groups in the 20th Century have sought to rescue his reputation arguing that he has been the victim more of bad press than poor character and that his alleged deformities were a fiction invented by the Tudors. Both sides of the debate have taken a black and white view of Richard III, with his supporters not being willing to see any evil in him and his critics ignoring what good he sought to do. The truth seem to be that Richard was a complex man who often felt cornered and reacted in whatever way he thought necessary to preserve his position and life. Discovery of His Remains In 2012 the University of Leicester joined the Richard III Society in an attempt to locate Richard’s grave. Richard’s skeleton was located under a parking lot that was once the site of the Greyfriars Church. Interestingly, the parking spots were lettered rather than numbered and Richard was discovered under parking spot “R.” Examination of his remains revealed that Richard suffered from a severe curvature of the spine, giving credence to the traditional view of a deformed king. His bones also bore wounds consistent with the traditional accounts of his death at Bosworth Field. On 26 March 2015 his remains were reburied at Leicester Cathedral, making his the only medieval English king who’s burial can be watched on video. Fate of the Princes One of the controversies that presists about Richard is his role in the fate of his nephews, Edward and Richard. Various theories have been put forward to explain what happened to them. The predominant one is that they were killed in the Summer of 1483 on orders of Richard himself. This theory seems credible for several reasons. Richard had the motive of removing rivals to his reign and he had access to the Princes. The discovery of two skeletons buried under a stairway in The Tower is thought by some to point to Richard’s guilt as well, although this is debatable. After Richard, the next person to have a motive for wanting the Princes out of the way would be Henry VII. If, when he took the throne in 1485 Henry discovered that the two boys were still alive in The Tower, they would have claim to the throne before him and he would have every reason to want them dead. However, in Henry’s favor the Princes had not been seen for two years when he arrived in London. There are also suggestions that the Princes died of disease during Richard’s reign, that Richard sent them into exile and even that Prince Richard somehow escaped and lived into adulthood. Unless a discovery as shocking and unlikely as that of the discovery of Richard is someday made, we will probably never know for sure what the fate of the Princes was, but it does seem that Richard had the strongest motive and best access and as such is probably guilty of ordering their death. A Silver Groat of Richard III The following coin is a silver Groat of Richard III. The coins of Richard III are amongst the most sought after of all medieval coins, they are seldom seen and bring high prices for even mediocre examples, so I was very happy to have the opportunity to add this example to my collection. This groat is Spink-2158, it was minted in London and bears the second Sun & Rose mintmark, this style of mintmark was used from 21 July 1483 until sometime in June 1484. At this time the London Mint was located inside The Tower of London, so it is possible this coin was in The Tower at the same time the Princes were! It has been graded AU-50 by PCGS.