The Northamptonshire castle where a famous English king was born

Richard III was born in Northants 568 years ago today

By Phoebe Radford
Friday, 2nd October 2020, 7:00 am
Richard III was born at Fotheringhay Castle 568 years ago today
Richard III was born at Fotheringhay Castle 568 years ago today

Did you know one of England's most famous kings was born in Northamptonshire?

Richard III's local connection to Leicester is well known after his remains were discovered below a car park in 2012, but did you know he was born in East Northamptonshire on October 2, 1452, 568 years ago.

Richard III reigned as King of England for two years (1483-85) during the War of the Roses before he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field and Henry VII became king, marking the start of the Tudor era.

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Richard III is one of England's best-known kings

But not many people know Richard was from Northamptonshire. Phil Stone, member of The Richard III Society, said: "Richard was born in Fotheringhay Castle and it is said he was baptised in the church.

"The church is just a few hundred yards from the castle, but Richard was born in October when it is cold and wet, so I imagine he was probably baptised in the castle chapel.

"We don't know how much of his early life was spent there, at the age of seven he was certainly out at Ludlow with his mother. At the time, Cecily (his mother), George (his brother) and Richard were taken prisoner by the Lancasters.

"But he almost certainly spent five or six years at Fotheringhay."

It is thought Richard III was baptised at Fotheringhay Church

Fotheringhay was one of three castles that belonged to the House of York. Richard III was the youngest surviving son of Richard, Duke of York, who felt he had a claim to the throne as the House was a branch of the English Royal House of Plantagenet.

The York's claim to the throne sparked the War of the Roses, a series of civil wars between the House of York and the House of Lancaster.

In 1460, when Richard III would have been just eight-years-old, Richard, Duke of York, was killed in one of these wars. He died in the Battle of Wakefield along with his son Edmund and Richard's last recorded visit to Fotheringhay was after this battle.

Mr Stone said: "He was at Fotheringhay in 1476 because he led the cortege that brought the remains of his father and brother from Wakefield."

Fotheringhay Castle is in ruins now. This mound is where it once stood.

His older brother Edward, who was Richard, Duke of York's heir and the new claimant to the throne, wanted their remains to be buried in the family's mausoleum at Fotheringhay.

Mr Stone said: "We know Richard III was there, certainly. They had a great ceremony with all the trimmings.

"There was an enormous number of candles and a silver gilded angel over Richard of York's coffin bearing the crown saying Richard had been king by right.

"There's no significant evidence that he ever visited Fotheringhay as king. It's not impossible, he may well have popped in on occasion."

An artist's impression of what Fotheringhay Castle might have looked like.

Richard became king in 1483. His older brother Edward IV died and the crown passed to his 12-year-old son, Edward V, and Richard was named Lord Protector.

Edward V and his siblings were declared illegitimate in the summer because they were the children of Edward IV's second wife. Shortly after, Richard III was declared king and crowned on July 6.

Edward V and his brother, also called Richard, commonly referred to as the two princes, were last seen in the summer of 1483 at the Tower of London and Richard III has become infamous because a Shakespeare play suggested he had killed them.

The Richard III Society is dedicated to uncovering evidence to more fairly assess Richard III's legacy and Mr Stone said: "There's no great evidence that Richard killed the boys. We know they were no longer seen but that doesn't mean they were dead. Were they farmed off to some other family? Were they living under assumed names?

"For Richard to have killed them doesn't make sense. He had them declared bastards because of his brother's bigamous marriage and technically he was next in line to the throne, but that didn't stop uprisings in Edward V's name.

"If Richard had killed them, they should have been displayed to tell everybody there was no point in a rebellion. He could have lied and said they died of fever, but he never did that."

The Richard III Society funds research into the king and hopes to give Richard a fairer historical assessment after plays by Shakespeare turned him into a notorious evil king.

For more information, you can visit the society's website here.

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