Monday, 29 June 2015

Fascinating Facts: Richard III

    Richard III is the king whose body was dug up in a car park and was recently reburied with great pomp and ceremony.
    He is also the king to whom Shakespeare gave the famous words, “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”
    The discovery of his skeleton settled once and for all the long-debated question of whether he really had a hump back, or it was just an invention of Shakespeare. The skeleton's spine was indeed twisted. I saw a TV documentary where they found a young man whose spine was twisted in exactly the same way, and proved that he could be formidable on horseback, but handicapped on foot. So Shakespeare's cry was indeed feasible.

    Fascinating Facts: Richard III [1483-1485]
  • Richard was the brother of Edward IV, who named him Protector of his son and heir, who was only 12 when Edward died.
  • Richard had kept in the background during Edward's reign, but had served him well. He was thrust into the limelight and a grave situation which tested his judgement and strength of character to the limit.
  • Edward had married a commoner, Elizabeth Woodville, and the Queen and her family tried to take advantage of the power vacuum and seize the throne. Richard captured the prince and took the throne himself to keep them out.
  • He was crowned on 6 July 1483, with the support of Parliament and most of the nobles.
  • His nephews were locked in the Tower of London and disappeared, and some of the Woodvilles and their supporters were executed, but opposition continued, especially after Richard's only son Edward died in 1484.
  • Opposition coalesced around Henry Tudor, who was descended from John of Gaunt.

  • When his wife Anne died, rumour accused him of poisoning her to make way for another who would bear him children, though he swore he was innocent. An eclipse of the sun on the day she died was seen as a bad omen.
  • In August of 1485 Henry Tudor landed in Milford Haven with an army. Henry had never been in a battle and his force was smaller than Richard's, so Richard was expected to win, but the Earl of Northumberland and Lord Thomas Stanley held their forces back, waiting to see which was the winning side.
  • Richard was fearless in leading a charge and captured Henry's banner, but was cut down.
  • His body was shown no respect, and was stripped and put on display for two days, until it was decomposing. Henry wanted no rumours that Richard was not dead.
  • All his good deeds were forgotten, and people like Thomas Moore and Shakespeare transformed him into an evil freak.
Richard was the last of the Plantagenet kings, in a long line back to Henry II, so I will end this series here.

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