King Richard III of England and the Wars of the Roses

The 15th century was among the most tumultuous of the millennium for the English monarchy. Much of the latter half of that century was dominated by the fight for the throne that erupted within the house of Plantagenet. Fought between the York and Lancaster branches of the family, the 32-year clash came to be known as the Wars of the Roses, opens a new window, so named because of the symbols of the two family lines: York’s white rose and Lancaster’s red. The English throne changed hands five times in that 32-year span as the Yorkists and Lancastrians alternately wrested control of the country. King Richard III, a Yorkist, was the final king of the house of Plantagenet.

Richard, opens a new window was born in Northamptonshire on October 2, 1452, and was the younger brother of King Edward IV. Richard had been a loyal supporter of his brother throughout Edward’s struggle to claim and keep the throne. Upon Edward’s death in April of 1483, Richard assumed the guardianship of Edward’s son and heir, Edward V, as well as control of England as the young king’s protector. Within a matter of months, however, Richard was named by Parliament as the rightful heir to the throne as Richard III. Richard imprisoned Edward V and his brother in the Tower of London, where they disappeared permanently from public view and died under undetermined circumstances. Popular belief, both at the time and in subsequent centuries, has held that Richard had them murdered, although there is no conclusive proof. Richard was crowned on July 6 of that year.

His roughly two-year reign came to an end in the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485, at the hands of Henry, Earl of Richmond. Henry, a Lancastrian, claimed the throne upon Richard’s battlefield death, becoming King Henry VII. He married Elizabeth of York the following year, thus uniting the two fighting branches of the house of Plantagenet and giving rise to a new royal dynasty: the house of Tudor.

Richard III’s life and controversial ascension to the throne have made him a popular and widely studied figure in English history. Generally, Richard III has been condemned as a ruthless and scheming figure, thanks to negative biographical portrayals including Shakespeare’s eponymous play. However, more recent researchers have attempted to clarify the historical record and demonstrate the lack of conclusive evidence and the existence of other viable suspects in the crimes and misdeeds for which Richard has been blamed. Renewed interest in the historically maligned monarch surged in 2012, when the University of Leicester, opens a new window, the Leicester City Council, and members of the Richard III Society conducted an excavation as part of the Looking for Richard Project. The team successfully located and identified the king’s remains, which had been buried in the Greyfriars Church in Leicester shortly after his death. The church was demolished during the reign of King Henry VIII; the site was eventually paved over in the creation of a parking lot.

If you are interested in learning more about King Richard III and the Wars of the Roses, or if historical fiction set in those times is of interest to you, be sure to take a look at what the St. Tammany Parish Library has to offer! Below is a list of just some of the resources available in our collections. Additionally, the list includes external resources about Richard III and the search for his remains.

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King Richard III of England and the Wars of the Roses

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