Fourteen eighty-five, MCDLXXXV, was a year of upheaval.
August 22, 1485 effectively marked the end of the War of the Roses. According to our modern Julian calendar, it was a Monday.
The war, or wars, was a series of dynastic battles fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal family, the House of Plantagenet. The two competing houses? Lancaster and York. The ultimate prize was the throne of England.
On the 22nd, two opposing forces, led by Richard III, King of England, and Henry Tudor, who succeeded Richard as King Henry VII, met at Bosworth Field.
Richard and his allies lost, ending Plantagenet rule over England. Richard died during the battle.
Richard’s remains were found last year and confirmed by DNA testing. Now a debate about where to re-bury him rages in Britain.
The reputation of Richard III was hardly helped by William Shakespeare – and Laurence Olivier’s portrayal of him on screen and stage – but the Royal family retains a tender concern for him, even today. Last week the Duke of Gloucester, as patron of The Richard III Society, held a meeting at Kensington Palace attended by the Rt Rev Timothy Stevens, the Bishop of Leicester, Jennifer, Lady Gretton, Leicestershire’s Lord Lieutenant, and Dr Philip Stone, the society’s chairman. “The Duke wants to ensure that the remains are treated with the utmost respect,” Stone tells me. “He wants to see them properly interred.”
I first learned about Richard III while watching Ian McKellen portray him in a film adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.
Later, the drama program chair at my college, Ted Desel, helped better acquaint me with Shakespeare. I chose to study the opening of Richard III in preparation for an audition.
Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smooth’d his wrinkled front . . .
Besides Richard, other notables who died during the battle were John Howard, the 1st Duke of Norfolk, Richard Ratcliffe, a supporter of Richard III, and William Brandon, a supporter of Henry VII. William Catesby, a supporter of Richard III, was executed three days later.