Two large-scale rebellions rose against Richard. The first, in 1483, was led by staunch opponents of Edward IV and, most notably, Richard's own 'kingmaker', Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham. The revolt collapsed and Buckingham was executed at Salisbury, near the Bull's Head Inn. However, in 1485, another rebellion arose against Richard, headed by Henry Tudor, 2nd Earl of Richmond (later King Henry VII) and his uncle Jasper. The rebels landed troops and Richard fell in the Battle of Bosworth Field, then known as Redemore or Dadlington Field, as the last Plantagenet king and the last English king to die in battle.
At the time of the death of his father and older brother Edmund at the Battle of Wakefield, Richard, who was still a boy, was taken into the care of Warwick. While Richard was at Warwick's estate, he developed a close friendship with Francis Lovell, a friendship that would remain strong for the rest of his life. Another child in the household was Warwick's daughter Anne Neville, whom Richard would later marry.
Richard controlled the north of England until Edward IV's death.There and especially in the city of York, he was regarded with much love and affection. In 1482 Richard recaptured Berwick-upon-Tweed from the Scots, and his administration was regarded as fair and just, endowing universities and making grants to the church.
On the death of Edward IV, on 9 April 1483, the late King's sons (Richard's young nephews), King Edward V, aged 12, and Richard of Shrewsbury, 1st Duke of York, aged 9, were next in the order of succession. Richard, however, had the king's guardian, Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers (brother of Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV's Queen Consort) and other advisors arrested and taken to Pontefract Castle, where they were later executed, allegedly for planning to assassinate Edward V. He then took Edward and his younger brother to the Tower of London.
On 22 June 1483, outside St Paul's Cathedral, a statement was read out on behalf of Richard declaring for the first time that he was taking the throne for himself on the grounds that Edward IV's marriage had been illegitimate and that, in consequence, the true heir to the throne was Richard and not Edward V. This proclamation was then supported by a bill passed by Parliament on the evidence of a bishop who testified to having married Edward to Lady Eleanor Butler, who was still living when Edward married Elizabeth Woodville.
Although Richard III is popularly supposed to have killed Edward V and his brother, there is some controversy among historians about the actual circumstances of the boys' deaths: see Princes in the Tower for full coverage, and possible reasons for the support for Richard's accession.
Richard's naked body was then paraded through the streets before being buried at Greyfriars Church, Leicester. According to one tradition, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries his body was thrown into the nearby River Soar, although other evidence suggests that this may not be the case and that his burial site may currently be under a car park in Leicester. There is currently a memorial plaque on the site of the Cathedral where he may have once been buried.
According to another tradition, Richard consulted a seer in the town of Leicester before the battle and the seer foretold that "where your spur should strike on the ride into battle, your head shall be broken on the return." On the ride into battle his spur struck the bridge stone of the Bow Bridge; legend has it that, as his corpse was being carried from the battle over the back of a horse, his head struck the same stone and was broken open.
Richard and Anne had one son, Edward Plantagenet (also known as Edward of Middleham, 1473 – 9 April 1484), who died not long after being created Prince of Wales. Richard also had a number of illegitimate children, including John of Gloucester (1470-1491),executed by King Henry VIII, and a daughter named Katharine (d.1487) who married William Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke. It has been thought that their mother may have been one Katherine Haute, who is mentioned in household records. Both of these children survived Richard. Neither apparently left any descendants. The mysterious Richard Plantagenet is also a possible offspring of Richard III as is Richard the Master- Builder .
At the time of his last stand against the Lancastrians, Richard was a widower without a legitimate son. After his son's death, he had initially named his nephew, Edward, Earl of Warwick, Clarence's young son and the nephew of Queen Anne Neville, as his heir. After Anne's death, however, Richard named as his heir another nephew, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, the son of his older sister Elizabeth.
Richard's Council of the North greatly improved conditions for northern England, as commoners of that region were formerly without any substantial economic activity independent of London. Its descendant position was Secretary of State for the Northern Department.
The Richard III Society was established in the 20th century and has gathered considerable research material about his life and reign. Its aim is summed up by its Patron, the present Richard, Duke of Gloucester:
"… the purpose and indeed the strength of the Richard III Society derive from the belief that the truth is more powerful than lies - a faith that even after all these centuries the truth is important. It is proof of our sense of civilised values that something as esoteric and as fragile as reputation is worth campaigning for."
The American Branch of the Richard III Society carries out its own review of all the suspects in the case of Richard III, in the on-line library "Whodunit?".
The Society of Friends of King Richard III was also set up in the 20th century in order to rehabilitate Richard and to honour his memory. The society is based in the city of York, where following his death in 1485 it was proclaimed, that "King Richard, late reigning mercifully over us, was.... piteously slain and murdered, to the great heaviness of this city".
Richard III was found not guilty in a mock trial presided over by three Justices of the United States Supreme Court in 1997. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen G. Breyer, in a 3-0 decision, ruled that the prosecution had not met the burden of proof that "it was more likely than not" that the Princes in the Tower had been murdered; that the bones found in 1674 in the Tower were those of the Princes; and that Richard III had ordered or was complicitous in their deaths.
Horace Walpole, Josephine Tey and Valerie Anand are among writers who have argued strongly that King Richard was innocent of the death of the Princes. Sharon Kay Penman, in her historical novel The Sunne in Splendour, also portrays Richard III as a just and honest ruler and attributes the death of the Little Princes to the Duke of Buckingham.
Richard III appears in the 2002 List of "100 Great Britons" (sponsored by the BBC and voted for by the public), alongside such others as David Beckham and Johnny Rotten. The BBC History Magazine lists him under "doubtful entrants, based on special interest lobbying or 'cult' status", and comments: "On the list owing to the Ricardian lobby, but a minor monarch".
In spite of having died aged only 32, he is often depicted as being considerably older. Basil Rathbone and Peter Cook were both 46 when they played him, Laurence Olivier was 48, Vincent Price was 51, and Ian McKellen was 56.