Friday, April 19, 2024

10 Things You May Not Know About the Young Richard III


Dear readers, I hope you understand my difficulty in deciding whether to study 19th century history or be drawn back into medieval times. Perhaps you feel the same way and enjoy historical wanderings? I hope so, because today I have a brilliant guest. If you loved Plantagenet Princess Tudor Queen, you won't want to miss this article from author Wendy Johnson! Also, can we talk about the gorgeous cover art for her new novel, The Traitor's Son?! Read on to learn a few new things about the man people are still arguing about 500 years after his death, King Richard III.

Welcome, Wendy!

~ Samantha

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10 Things You May Not Know About the Young Richard III

Guest Post by Wendy Johnson

  1. Born in 1452, Richard was the eighth son and eleventh child(!) born to his parents, Richard Duke of York and Cecily Neville, but only the fourth son to survive infancy. His eldest sibling, Anne, later Duchess of Exeter, was born in 1439 and the youngest, Ursula, born three years after Richard, sadly died aged three in 1458.


  2. Richard was born in the same year as Leonardo da Vinci. Other famous people born around the same time include explorers, John Cabot and Christopher Columbus, and the artists, Hieronymous Bosch and Filippino Lippi.

  3. The name Richard occurs many times within the family of York. The young Richard of Gloucester could boast four Richards amongst his close relatives – his father, Richard, duke of York; his grandfather, Richard, earl of Cambridge; his uncle, Richard, earl of Salisbury, and his illustrious cousin, Richard, earl of Warwick. He later went on to become the uncle of two further Richards: his nephew, Richard, duke of York (son of his brother Edward IV) and Richard of Clarence (the infant son of his brother, George).

  4. In the Middle Ages, the youngest sons of the nobility were often inducted into the Church. As Richard is known to have been fluent in Latin, some have speculated that his parents initially intended an ecclesiastical career for him. Following his father’s death at the Battle of Wakefield (1460) and his brother’s accession to the crown as Edward IV (1461), it may have been felt that, family dynamics having changed, Richard’s life should remain a secular one and for the boy to undergo military training with a view to supporting his king in the years ahead.

    Representation of Richard's Garter Plaque from
    'The College of King Richard III at Middleham' by Joyce Melhuish.
    Drawing by Isolde Wigram.
     

  5. Richard was awarded the Order of the Bath in 1461, shortly before his brother’s coronation, and invested as a Knight of the Garter in 1466. His Garter plaque can still be seen above his allotted stall on the south side of St. George’s Chapel Windsor.

  6. Richard spent much of his early childhood in the company of his elder brother, George, and their sister, Margaret. Once Edward IV assumed the throne, he awarded his young siblings the Palace of Placentia (later known as Greenwich) as their principal residence. In which case it is reasonable to assume that Richard developed a closer bond with George and Margaret than he did with Edward, who was over ten years his senior.

  7. Richard appears to have been in the habit of signing his books. His signature can be found within an anthology of Romances and Old Testament stories, which exists in a collection at Longleat House. This anthology contains an assortment of writings: Lydgate’s Siege of Thebes; two stories from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; the popular medieval romance Ipomedon; and stories from the Old Testament. Experts have speculated, from the dialects and spelling used in its creation, that the Chaucerian and Lydgate sections were written in the north of England, Ipomedon in the Midlands, and the Old Testament section in the south. It has been further concluded that, although the components of the anthology may have been created separately and then stitched together, it is possible they were commissioned as a whole, and collated in northern England, or the Midlands. (A. F. Sutton and L. Viser-Fuchs, ‘Richard III’s Books II’ The Ricardian Vol. Vll, Nos. 95 and 97 (1986/87) pp. 327-332, 371-378) As the estates of Richard’s tutor, Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, lay in both these areas, it is entirely possible that the item was fashioned specifically for the young Richard as a gift from the earl. Richard’s florid signature ‘R. Gloucestre’ and the motto ‘tant le desieree’ (‘I have longed for it so much’) in the chivalric romance Ipomedon is certainly suggestive of an idealistic teenager, keen to enjoy tales of the perfect knight and to proudly inscribe his ownership upon its pages.

    Domtoren, Utrecht.
    The Bishop's Palace was a refuge for Richard in 1461


  8. Richard spent two periods of his early life as a refugee. At the age of eight, following his father’s defeat at the Battle of Wakefield, he was sent for safety to the Low Countries (modern-day Netherlands), in the company of his elder brother, George. Both boys remained in exile for two months until their brother, Edward, won the crown at the Battle of Towton in March 1461. Less than ten years later, Richard and the king were forced to flee English shores when their cousin, the Earl of Warwick rebelled. Once again, Richard found himself in the Low Countries, this time housed at The Hague and later in Bruges, before returning to England prior to the Battle of Barnet.

  9. The Battle of Barnet, fought on 14th April 1471, was Richard’s first full scale military encounter. Surprisingly, for a novice in the arts of war, he was commissioned by King Edward to lead the vanguard – the foremost division of any medieval armed force, entrusted with the task of leading the army into battle.

  10. Richard lost at least two of his close attendants and friends at the Battle of Barnet, on Easter Day 1471. In July 1477, he drew up an indenture at Queen’s College, Cambridge where, in exchange for an endowment for four fellowships, the recipients would pray for, amongst others, the souls of ‘Thomas Par (sic) and John Milewater…which were slain in his service’. The fact that Parr and Milewater were interred together in the Chapel of St. Francis, at the Church of the Greyfriars, London, may possibly suggest they were buried - and their obsequies overseen - by their master Richard of Gloucester. The wording on their ledger stone, describing them as ‘valiant squires of the lord Richard, duke of Gloucester’ and the fact that they ‘died on sacred Easter Day at Barnet’ further suggests a kind intervention by their benevolent master.

Read more about the young Richard III in The Traitor's Son, which Philippa Langley described as "Exquisitely written. An evocative and thoughtful retelling of the early life of Richard III."

Caught between a king and a kingmaker, young Richard Plantagenet knows he’ll have to choose...

1461: Richard Duke of York, King by Right, has been branded a traitor and slain by his Lancastrian foes. For his eight-year-old son—Richard Plantagenet—England has become a dangerous place.

As the boy grapples with grief and uncertainty, his elder brother, Edward, defeats the enemy and claims the throne. Dazzled by his glorious sibling, young Richard soon discovers that imperfections lurk beneath his brother's majestic fa├žade. Enter Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick—cousin, tutor, luminary—whose life has given him everything but that which he truly craves: a son. A filial bond forms between man and boy as they fill the void in each other’s lives. Yet, when treachery tears their world asunder, Richard faces an agonizing dilemma: pledge allegiance to Edward—his blood brother and king—or to Warwick, the father figure who has shaped his life and affections.

Painfully trapped between duty and devotion, Richard faces a grim reality: whatever he decides will mean a fight to the death.

In The Traitor’s Son, Wendy Johnson masterfully weaves a tapestry of loyalty, love, and sacrifice against the backdrop of England's turbulent history. Through the eyes of a young Richard III, readers are transported into a world where every choice is fraught with peril, and the bonds of kinship are tested to their limits. As Richard Plantagenet navigates the explosive tensions within his own family, readers are swept along on a journey of intrigue and passion that will leave them spellbound until the final page.


Wendy has a lifelong passion for medieval history, its people, and for bringing their incredible stories to life. Her specific areas of interest are the fifteenth century, the Wars of the Roses, and Richard III in particular. She enjoys narratives which immerse the reader in the past, and tries faithfully to recreate the later Middle Ages within in her own writing. She has contributed to a number of historical anthologies and was a runner up in the Woman and Home Short Story Competition 2008.

A member of the Richard III Society since 1986, Wendy is also a founder member of Philippa Langley’s Looking for Richard Project, which located the king’s lost grave in 2012. She co-authored Finding Richard III: the Official Account of Research by the Retrieval and Reburial Project in 2014, and in 2019 received the Richard III Society’s Robert Hamblin Award.

THE TRAITOR’S SON, volume one in a Richard III trilogy, is Wendy’s debut novel and she is currently working on the sequel.


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