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Richard III

by Rebecca Parkinson

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To explore the life of Richard III.

Preparation and materials


  1. Display Images 1 and 2.

    Ask the children if they can guess who the person in the pictures is.

    While they are thinking, ask them to study the pictures carefully – are they photographs, drawings or paintings? 

    Explain that Image 1 is the earliest surviving portrait of a particular king and Image 2 is another portrait of the same king. Then tell them that the king’s name is Richard. 

    Richard was born in October 1452 and he is known as Richard III because there had been two other kings before him who were also called Richard.

  2. Ask the children to work out how long ago it is since Richard III was born. 

    Explain that, during the past few years, King Richard has been in the news a great deal. Ask the children why they think, after more than 500 years, King Richard could suddenly be appearing on television!

  3. Point out that, before you explain why there is currently a lot of interest in King Richard, you want to tell them a bit about his life. 

    As mentioned, Richard was born in 1452. At the time, there was a lot of unrest between two branches of the same family – the House of York and the House of Lancaster. Both these families were descended from King Edward III and both of them believed that their branch of the family should rule the country. 

    Each family had a special symbol. The symbol for the House of York was a white rose and for the House of Lancaster it was a red rose. 

    Display Images 3 and 4.

    In May 1455, fighting began between these two houses. Because of the rose symbols, the fighting became known as the ‘War of the Roses’. The War of the Roses continued for around 30 years.

  4. Following the death of their father, Richard’s older brother, Edward, became king – Edward IV. Edward went on to have two sons, but, following his death in 1483, Richard was made ‘protector of the realm’ because Edward’s eldest son was only 12 years old and not yet old enough to become king himself. 

    What happened next is not known for certain. Some historians believe that Richard III desperately wanted to be the king and so locked his nephews in the Tower of London, from where they mysteriously disappeared! Others believe that Richard was not responsible for the disappearances. Whatever the truth, Richard III was crowned king in July 1483.

    In August 1485, a man named Henry Tudor, who was from the House of Lancaster, engaged Richard and the House of York in battle at a place called Bosworth in Leicestershire. King Richard was killed during this battle, which became known as the Battle of Bosworth. Henry Tudor became the new king – Henry VII.

  5. Ask the children, ‘Have you ever heard of a man called Shakespeare?’

    Explain that Shakespeare was born in 1564 and he is a famous writer. During his life, he wrote many plays that are still popular today. One of these plays is called Richard III. Shakespeare’s play is one reason Richard III is so well known.

  6. Ask, ‘Do you know what an “archaeologist” is?’ 

    Explain that archaeologists are people who ‘excavate’ (dig up) sites so they can find out more about human history by studying the ‘artefacts’ (objects) found and other remains.

    Explain that, a few years ago, in 2012, some archaeologists were digging in a car park in Leicester when they found a skeleton. It was known that many years before there had been a church where the car park was now and it was thought that the church had been the burial site for King Richard III. 

    Display Images 5 and 6.

    When the skeleton was examined, it was found that it had a curved spine, which, it was known, was a condition Richard III had suffered from. Scientists carried out special tests on the bones until they were eventually certain that it was, without doubt, the skeleton of King Richard!

  7. Following the discovery of Richard III’s body, it was felt that he should be given a proper burial – not remain in the car park! After a lot of discussion, it was decided that Richard III should be reburied in Leicester. On 26 March 2015, King Richard will be ‘laid to rest’ in Leicester Cathedral – only a short distance from where he died in battle. A special circular route has been planned for King Richard to travel from the University of Leicester, where his skeleton has been kept safe and studied, to near where he was killed during the Battle of Bosworth, then back to Leicester to the cathedral.

    Display Image 7. 

    The public will then have the opportunity to go and see King Richard’s skeleton before his reburial on Thursday 26 March.

  8. Today, we have learned about King Richard III, who lived over 600 years ago. 

    Finding out about people from the past is fascinating, but we must also remember that we are part of history that is being made today! 

    We may not be famous, we may still be young, but the choices we make today and the way we behave can make a big difference to people’s lives. Ask the children to offer examples of this. They may mention how wasting electricity could create environmental problems for future generations or being unkind to someone could make them self-conscious and shy, for example.

Time for reflection

How we behave and the choices we make today can affect people in the future. Pause for a moment and think about what you could do today to make someone’s future better.

Mention the examples given by the children during the discussion in the ‘Assembly’, Step 8.


Dear Lord,
Thank you for history that goes back thousands of years.
Thank you, too, that right now we are making little bits of the history of the world.
Please help us to play our part in making the world a better place.
Please help us to always remember that all of us can make things better.


‘Make me a channel of your peace’ (Come and Praise, 147)

Publication date: March 2015   (Vol.17 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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