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August 22nd 1485: King Richard III dies

On this day in 1485, King Richard III of England died during the Battle of Bosworth Field, making him the last English monarch to die in battle. Before ascending to the throne, Richard served as protector of the realm for his nephew, the 12 year old King Edward V. Supposedly to protect him before his coronation, Richard had the young king and his brother lodged in the royal palace of the Tower of London. However, Edward’s claim to the throne was declared invalid and Richard claimed the throne for himself. Soon after Richard’s coronation in July 1483, ‘the Princes in the Tower’ mysteriously disappeared, leading many to believe Richard had them killed to consolidate his claim to the throne. Richard’s reign, and indeed much of that of his predecessors, was dominated by the Wars of the Roses. These wars for the throne were fought during the mid to late fifteenth century between the houses of Lancaster and York, rival factions of the royal House of Plantagenet. Richard III was a Yorkist and contributed to many of his house’s early victories in the conflict, helping ensure his brother and then his nephew’s reign. However, Richard III was destined to become the last king of both the House of York and the Plantagenet dynasty itself. He was defeated and killed by the forces of Lancastrian Henry Tudor in the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22nd August 1485, ending the Wars of the Roses and allowing Henry to become King and begin the rule of the Tudors. Richard III was buried unceremoniously at Grey Friars Church, and his remains were lost for centuries, until an excavation in 2012 found his skeleton under a car park in the city of Leicester. The subsequent renewed interest in Richard III, so maligned by William Shakespeare in the eponymous play as a murderer and “poisonous bunch-back’d toad”, was partly shaped by revisionist attempts to emphasise the positive aspects of his reign and character. In 2015, 530 years after his death, King Richard III was reburied in Leicester in a ceremony as befit a king.