Richard, 1st Duke of York

Born: August 17, 1473

Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England

Died: 1483?

Tower Hamlets, London, England (Age c. 10)

Richard in History

The short history of Richard, Duke of York can be briefly told. He was the second son of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, and although his rewards were not as significant as those of his elder brother, he certainly reaped the benefits of being a king's son. Even before he was a year old, he was created Duke of York and the following year was made a Knight of the Garter. In 1475 it was proposed that Richard should marry Anne Mowbray, heiress to the Duke of Norfolk. The duke died the following year, and after the marriage finally took place in 1478, Richard was created Duke and Norfolk and Earl of Nottingham by right of his wife (who would die at a young age in 1481).

As we can clearly see, Richard's life went swimmingly until the death of his father in 1483. After Edward IV's death, his eldest son ascended the throne as Edward V. The reign, however, would be short lived. Gloucester proclaimed himself protector of the realm (since the new king was still a minor) went on a rampage, executing a number of his Woodville enemies. He confiscated Edward V and postponed his coronation. The queen mother took her younger son into sanctuary, but was eventually persuaded to allow him to be by his brother in the tower so that may await his coronation ceremony, as was tradition. Soon after these events, Gloucester spread the word that both Edward V and Richard were illegitimate because of Edward IV's betrothal to another woman before he had married Queen Elizabeth. He then had himself crowned as Richard III. Nothing proof positive is known about the fates of Edward IV's two sons. Although it seems as if the "princes of the tower" (as they have come to be known), simply disappeared, it is hard to assume that they were not treacherously murdered by their Uncle Gloucester. Richard was on pace for a storied career but was not destined to live past the age of ten. About fifteen years later, during the reign of Richard III's successor, Henry VII, a man named Perkin Warbeck emerged, claiming to be the Duke of York. His statement was false of course, and he was captured and ultimately executed.

Richard in Shakespeare

Appears in: Richard III

The young Duke of York appears in only a single scene of Richard III where he is brought before his brother (the new King Edward V) after being released from sanctuary. After the boys' uncle Richard takes the throne for himself, he orders one James Tyrrell to murder his nephews, which he does. York and his brother later appear as ghosts, wishing death to Richard III and victory to the future Henry VII. In reality, it is still unknown what actually happened to the princes in the tower, but their murder by Tyrrell, under Richard III's orders, has been widely accepted by many historians, and Tyrrell actually confessed to the murders just before his own execution in 1502 for a separate crime. Many historians, though, have disregarded the confession, since it was obtained under torture.


Horrox, Rosemary. ‘Richard, duke of York and duke of Norfolk (1473–1483)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 8 Dec 2009]

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