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A British postal stamp from 2008 depicting Richard III

Richard III: Biography

Image Credit: Sergey Goryachev / | Above: A British postal stamp from 2008 depicting Richard III

Richard III, portrayed by Shakespeare as a hunchback tyrant, is now famous for being the King in the car park after his remains were discovered in Leicester in 2012.

Richard was born on 2 October 1452 at Fortheringay Castle in Northamptonshire. His father was Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, and his mother was Cecily Neville - both of whom had a claim to the throne.

His father's battle to take over the throne from Henry VI, who was often indisposed due to illness, possibly mental, was one of the main causes of the Wars of the Roses.

After his father's death at the battle of Wakefield in 1460, Richard was taken into the care of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, known as the 'King Maker'. Warwick was instrumental in deposing Henry VI and replacing him with Richard's eldest brother, Edward in 1461.

During the reign of his brother, Edward IV, Richard demonstrated his loyalty, as well as his prodigious skill as a military commander, and was rewarded with the title Duke of Gloucester in 1461, and the position of Governor of the North in 1469. Citizens in the north loved Richard, who was seen as just and fair as well as a good military leader.

Richard married the widowed Anne Neville, daughter of the late Earl of Warwick. They had one son, Edward Plantagenet, but he died young.

On the death of Edward IV in 1483, Richard was entrusted with the role of protector to the king's sons, his young nephews. He took them into custody at the Tower of London, where they disappeared later that year. It has been claimed that the boys were murdered by their uncle although there is nothing but circumstantial evidence to support this theory and although bones have been discovered in the Tower the bodies have never been identified. Around the time that the princes went missing Richard accepted the throne himself, after Parliament declared the two boys to be illegitimate.

Richard then charged the supporters of the young princes with treason and had them executed. They included Richard Grey and Edward V's chamberlain, Sir Thomas Vaughn.

However, this is only one theory behind the disappearance of the 'Princes in the Tower' as Richard apparently had no reason to kill them due to the fact they were illegitimate, as their father had never been married to their mother Elizabeth Woodville.

Richard was the last Plantagenet king. By the time of his last stand against the Lancastrians, he was a widower without a legitimate son. After his son's death, he had initially named his nephew, Edward, Earl of Warwick, Clarence's young son and also the nephew of Queen Anne Neville, as his heir. After Anne's death, however, Richard named John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, as his heir.

In 1483, a rebellion started to arise among disaffected gentry, many of whom had been supporters of Edward IV as they believed his son should be king, in particular Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham.

His enemies united against him and persuaded Henry Tudor - who only had a claim to the throne through his mother - to return to England to become king.

Richard was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485, by Lancastrian forces led by Henry Tudor. He is the last English king to have died in battle.

One of the most popular depictions of Richard III is that of a hunchback with a withered arm and limp, which are most likely to be fabrications of William Shakespeare in his eponymous play and the result of Tudor propaganda.

Arguably the best-known adaptation of the play is the 1955 version directed by Sir Laurence Olivier who also starred in the main role.

On 4 February 2013, the Universtity of Leicester confirmed that remains unearthed under a car park in Leicester in 2012 were those of Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England. This historical discovery proved that Richard suffered from severe scoliosis of the spine and so may have had one shoulder visibly higher than another, but neither of his arms were deformed and there is no evidence that he would have limped.

The recovery of his skull made it possible for scientists to create a facial reconstruction of Richard III.

Richard died from a mortal wound to the back of his head sustained on the battlefield. It was announced that his remains will be re-interred in Leicester Cathedral in 2014.