Background to the Coronation of King Richard III and Anne Neville

The North Face of Westminster abbey
The North Front of Westminster Abbey

Today in 1483, Westminster Abbey saw the crowning of the last Plantagenet King, Richard III.

It was a remarkable coronation, and was celebrated with much pomp and ceremony. It also happened quickly, and up until a few months before, couldn’t have been foreseen by many.

Even Richard himself must have thought of how the twists of fate had led him to that moment.

This is a brief, high level background to the events that led to Richard becoming King, and is by no means a full account.

The purpose of this blog is to give the reader an idea of how the 4th son of a claimant to the throne of England became King.

The full story is a long one, dear reader, and is destined for another day!

Background

The  Society of Antiquaries portrait of King Richard III, thought to be a good likeness.
The Society of Antiquaries portrait of King Richard III, thought to be a good likeness.

Richard Plantagenet, the 4th son of Richard, the 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville was the youngest of a large family.

He was born at Fotheringhay Castle in 1452,  a few years before the dynastic clash of The War of the Roses and an extremely unsettled period in English history.

Richard, Duke of York was descended from the third son of Edward III and he had a claim to the throne, after Henry VI.

Richard's brother, King Edward IV
Richard’s brother, King Edward IV

Richard, Duke of York, and Richard’s eldest brother Edmund were killed fighting for his right to the succession in 1460, and it was Richard’s other brother Edward, Earl of March continued on the cause.

Edward defeated the Lancastrian army and Henry VI in the Battle of Towton and was crowned King Edward IV in 1461.

Richard was 10 years younger than Edward, and once he became King, Richard, now created the Duke of Gloucester was by his side, supporting him in all his endeavors to govern and retain his throne.

The early part of Edward’s reign was dominated by Lancastrian rebellion, and Richard was alongside Edward at two crucial battles, Barnet, and at Tewkesbury where he conducted himself admirably and held the vanguard.

Richard's signature as Duke of Gloucester
Richard’s signature as Duke of Gloucester

Richard valued loyalty highly, and adopted Loyaulte Me Lie (Loyalty Binds Me) as his personal motto whilst Duke of Gloucester, which served him well during the majority of Edward’s reign where he was the Lord of the North, maintaining the crown’s interests based in Yorkshire. He governed fairly, and was much respected by the city of York and the surrounding territories.

Middleham Castle, one of Richard's great castles in the North
Middleham Castle, one of Richard’s great castles in the North

Richard and Edward seemed to have had a mostly amicable relationship which survived trials and tribulations, such as Edward’s exile to Flanders in 1470, and the execution of their brother George, The Duke of Clarence.

Everything changed on the 9th of April, 1483 when Edward unexpectedly died, leaving the kingdom to his 12 year old son Prince Edward, with Richard as Lord Protector until Edward was to come of age.

The Royal Coat of Arms of Richard III
The Royal Coat of Arms of Richard III

The initial plan was to crown Edward, however it is said that evidence came to light from Bishop Stillington of Wells that Edward IV had been pre-contracted in marriage to Eleanor Butler before his marriage to his Queen, Elizabeth Woodville.

This meant that Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth was invalid and therefore their children were illegitimate making it not possible for Prince Edward or his brother Richard to inherit the throne.

In late June 1483, the citizens of  London drew up a petition asking Richard to assume the throne for which he accepted, and his right to the throne was confirmed by Parliament in January 1484 by the document Titulus Regius.

Richard and his wife Anne’s coronation was held on July 6th, 1483 and it was a grand affair. All the major nobles in England attended, and Anne was crowned by her husband’s side. It was a rarity for a joint coronation to be held, with it occurring just 3 times before.

Richard, Anne and their son Edward depicted in a window at the Church of Saints Mary and Alkelda, Middleham
Richard, Anne and their son Edward depicted in a window at the Church of Saints Mary and Alkelda, Middleham

Further reading

For excellent blogs on the coronation itself, I thoroughly recommend:

mattlewisauthor.wordpress.com and murreyandblue.wordpress.com

 References
murreyandblue.wordpress.com
mattlewisauthor.wordpress.com
mattlewisauthor.wordpress.com/tag/robert-stillington/
edwardv1483.com
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4 thoughts on “Background to the Coronation of King Richard III and Anne Neville

    1. Hello Susan, it is said that he claimed to have been a witness to the pre-contract between Edward IV and Lady Eleanor Butler and presented his evidence to a Parliamentary committee who believed in it enough to declare the the sons of Edward illegitimate. I can’t find anything that says the evidence still exists – there are so many aspects of Richard’s accession that are impossible to prove and remains a controversy. I found this quite interesting: http://edwardv1483.com/index.php?p=1_16_The-Alleged-Precontract

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