Castle, Castle History

Richard Plantagenet, Warden of the West Marches of Scotland

As King Richard III, there seems to be an altogether different man compared to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, Governor of the North, Constable of England – and all other manner of titles bestowed upon him before ascending to the throne.

Richard is noted as both a loyal and skilled commander in battle, and was chiefly involved in defending the North from Scottish invasion, with a number of key successes to his name that earned him responsibility of the North, he fulfilled his duties well as Warden of the West Marches of Scotland. His cousin, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (often referred to by historians as “the kingmaker”) was responsible for his noble upbringing. A year after the Earl of Warwick’s death, his daughter Anne Neville was married to Richard in 1472, explaining Penrith castle’s final change of hands.

It is perfectly plausible that the future king had strong ties in the North, while undertaking his duties he is reported to have rarely left his estates, and that the people loved him.

During and prior to ascending to the throne, many of Richards actions come under serious doubt and question;

In 1483, Richards brother King Edward IV died, perhaps of pneumonia or typhoid (although poison does remain a possibility), he named Richard Plantagenet ‘Protector’ before his death.

Before his ascension, there were a number of executions against people accused of plotting to murder Richard, among them, Queen Elizabeth’s brother Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, Richard Grey (the Queens half-brother), and Thomas Vaughan (the king’s chamberlain). Once Richard III ascended, Baron Hastings was also executed for the same crime of plotting to murder Richard.

The Princes in the Tower – Although never fully proven, had the sons of Richard Plantagenet’s brother Edward IV been murdered, Richard appears to remain the chief suspect. Richard was supposed to be the protectorate of both princes, who were summoned to the Tower of London upon their fathers death for their own safety. Although the sons were declared illegitimate in parliament in 1483, allowing their uncle Richard Plantagenet to become king, they had both seemingly, mysteriously disappeared during the summer of that year. During renovations to the White tower in 1674, the skeletons of two children were found under a staircase leading to the chapel.

Death of Anne Neville in 1485 – While I have found this rarely mentioned, during his reign Richard III was accused of poisoning his wife, and intending to marry his niece Elizabeth of York,  a claim which he disputed in a public speech. It is more likely that Anne died from tuberculosis, just as their only son Edward had merely a year earlier.

For my project, my main concerns are Richard’s behaviour before he became king – all the controversial actions he took happened after his brothers death, at which moment Richard left Penrith and his estates behind and moved swiftly to London. I am aware that during his reign he exercised power over various barons throughout the country, including a number of “sudden executions” – although this was not uncommon for a King of England and appears to be a necessity for the job.




  1. Pingback: The Gatehouse at Penrith « Rebuilding Penrith Castle - January 5, 2011

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