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RICHARD III

Richard III was born in 1452. He was the brother of Edward IV.

In 1471 Henry VI was murdered. Richard may have been present at the murder.

In 1483 Richard became Lord Protector for his nephew, Edward V, and took the throne. Edward V and his younger brother Richard were imprisoned in the Tower of London, where they died, possibly murdered. Because of this Richard gained a reputation as a cruel tyrant, a reputation which he may not have deserved. He gave generously to schools, colleges and the Church. Although he is often portrayed as a hunchback, there is no contemporary evidence for this. If he did have a deformity, it was not very noticeable.

In 1485 he died at the battle of Bosworth Field.

In around 1591, William Shakespeare wrote a historical drama about Richard III. The play portrays the ruthless pursuit of the crown by the hunchback Richard of Gloucester. When the king, Edward IV, is close to death, Richard starts to claw his way to the throne by having his brother murdered and then cynically marrying the Prince of Wales's widow Anne. When Edward dies, Richard eliminates his opponents one by one, is proclaimed king and decrees the death of his young nephews, the Princes in the Tower. Eventually, however, his enemies - led by Henry Tudor - defeat him at Bosworth. Some of the best-known lines from Richard III are: 'My horse, my horse, my kingdom for a horse!' and 'Now is the winter of our discontent/Made glorious summer by this sun of York.' Richard III completed the series of plays begun with the Henry VI dramas, giving a vivid account of 63 turbulent years of English history.

The actor Antony Sher created a menacing Richard III in the Royal Shakespeare Company's 1984-5 production of the play. Sher exaggerated Richard's hunched back to symbolise his moral deformity, and played him as a cripple, dragging himself about on crutches. The costume enhanced the spidery silhouette.

The Richard III Society was set up in 1924 to try to restore the king's reputation which the members maintain Shakespeare had distorted and unfairly destroyed.



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