Richard III: The Crooked King

Portrait of Richard III, c.1580-c.1610, commissioned by Ralph Sheldon
Lisby, via Flickr

How could a king disappear for hundreds of years? Katy Blake and Mike Procter share the story of Richard III.

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Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Katy Blake.

Voice 2 

And I’m Mike Procter. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

More than five centuries ago, two armies fought a great battle. The battle ended years of civil war in England. On one side of the battle field was the army of King Richard III. On the other side was the army of Henry Tudor. Henry wanted to become king.

Voice 2 

During the battle, King Richard saw a chance to kill Henry. Richard rode his horse quickly toward Henry.  He killed many of Henry’s soldiers. But then, King Richard’s horse became stuck in the wet battlefield. The king fell. He fought hard, but there were too many enemy soldiers around him. The soldiers crushed Richard’s head and killed him. Later, they carried his dead body through the streets for all the people to see.

Voice 1 

Religious leaders finally buried Richard’s body in a nearby church. But years later the church was destroyed. And Richard’s body was forgotten. Today’s Spotlight is on the recent discovery of Richard III’s body. This news about his death has caused many people to look again at his life.

Voice 2 

Richard III was the last king of England to die in battle. His body did not receive honour. He was not buried in Westminster Abbey, the great Christian church in London where many English kings are buried. He was also not buried where he wanted to be. Richard wanted to be buried at his family home near the ancient city of York. Instead King Richard was buried in the city of Leicester, near the battle field where he died. And there he lay, forgotten.

Voice 1 

Hundreds of years went by. The church building had been destroyed long ago. The city around Richard’s body had changed. No one knew where his bones were. Then, in 2012, a team of experts began a new search.  These archaeologists were looking for the body of King Richard. But they were not looking in a place that would honour a king. The team was digging under a car park, a place where people leave their cars.

Voice 2 

Soon, the team found human bones. Immediately, they thought it was King Richard. They thought this because the skeleton’s spine was unusual.  This bone in the middle of a human’s back is usually straight. However, the spine they found was bent or crooked. And history books had long told of how King Richard’s spine was crooked.

Voice 1 

The archaeologists wanted to be sure it was King Richard. So, they performed many tests on the skeleton. Many things proved that the bones were Richard III’s, including DNA tests.

Voice 2 

However, many people believed it was Richard just because of the reports about the crooked spine. For hundreds of years, people had remembered Richard for this. Artists painted pictures of Richard with one of his shoulders higher than the other. And writers told stories of ‘crooked’ Richard. However, crooked has another meaning too. For example, people say that criminals are crooked. This means that their character is not straight and honest.

Voice 1 

Many people say that Richard III was a crooked king - both in the way he looked and in his character. This is how England's greatest writer, William Shakespeare, described King Richard. Over 400 years ago, Shakespeare wrote a famous play about Richard III. At this time, many people believed that a disability was a sign of evil. So Shakespeare made Richard even more disabled in his play. His character did not just have a crooked back. He also had an arm that did not work. In the play, Richard also murdered his brother. And he made secret plans to steal power.

Voice 2 

Shakespeare’s play is not historically true. However, his work has shaped many people’s opinions of King Richard III. Shakespeare wrote his drama when the granddaughter of Henry Tudor ruled England. And here is the problem. Most of our information about Richard III comes from people who supported Henry Tudor and his family.

Voice 1 

There is another famous story about Richard’s crooked character. This is not a story from literature. It is a mysterious story from history. But no one knows the full truth. It is the story of ‘The Princes in the Tower.

Voice 2 

Richard's older brother, Edward, had been king before him. He died, but his two sons were too young to rule the country. So Richard took his brother's place. He was supposed to protect the young boys from their enemies. He was supposed to take care of the country, until his oldest nephew could rule.

Voice 1 

But the boy princes disappeared. They were never seen again. Richard became king instead. Followers of Henry Tudor said Richard killed his brother’s sons. Others believe that Richard cared for the boys, but that Henry had them killed when he became king. However, what exactly happened is still a mystery today.

Voice 2 

We do know some facts about Richard. Richard lived in a dangerous time. Powerful men spent much time plotting against each other. And he did have many of his strongest enemies killed.

Voice 1 

But other facts do not match the stories about Richard’s crooked character. While his brother Edward was king, Richard was loyal to him. As a soldier, he fought for Edward in many battles. Richard also had a loving relationship with his wife and his own son.

Voice 2 

We also know that his people loved Richard. He gave money to universities and churches. He did many things to help the poor. This does not seem like the kind of person who would murder his brother’s children!

Voice 1 

We may never know the truth about Richard III. The history of his life seems to be crooked too! However, like all people, Richard was probably a mix of good and evil. This is exactly what Philippa Langley believes. Langley is a film writer. She has long believed that Richard was not as evil as many people think. She is part of an organization that defends Richard’s character. And she was one of the people responsible for finding Richard’s body. Langley hopes the discovery will create discussion about his life. Langley told the New York Times newspaper,

Voice 3 

“The truth will turn out to be somewhere in between. Richard III was a man of his time. But what we know of him does not equal him being a vicious man and a purely evil killer. Now, we may be able to finally discover who the real Richard is.”

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Alan Harris. The producer was Nick Mangeolles. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, ‘Richard III: the Crooked King.’

Voice 1 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


Is it important to honor leaders even hundreds of years after they have died? Why or why not?


Luis Piedra's avatar
Luis Piedra
said on March 26, 2013

Hi all
Only with the time be known the real story of King Ricardo III.
Thanks Spotlight

Avatar Spotlight
said on March 27, 2013

For an action, Richard ‘s loyal may tell good things and his enemies told bad things about him . That is reason why Shakespeare’s drama has been shaped a evil Richard III in many people’s opinion. We have not known about the truth until we have proof about him !

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Little Lion
said on March 30, 2013

I belive that the one who is in love with his wife and his children can not be a murder purposely. And I belive that Richard III be a good man with a goodness of character. But he lived in the dangerous time when power was the most valuable and important thing. And, maybe, he was be killed by his own good character. And, when he was a loser, everything about him was written by the winer, of course, it must be bad. The winner need the support of people who trusted in Richard before. That’s life.

hellokitty's avatar
said on May 14, 2014

It is so difficult that to know who was Richard III. But many people says that Richard loved his family. I think it is so difficult such man to be evil. So I think Richard was good king, but people made him evil because that time was dangerous.

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said on May 14, 2014

a certain man said “a history is always written by the winning side”  So some people are described bad, other people are described good. As a result, Richard the 3rd had lost. So he was discribed bad. Of course in that, there is fact. but of course in that, there is a part of an error description. Therefore we can not rate people bad or good.

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 16, 2014

I saw a movie about King Richard III several years ago, but the film wasn’t probably created according to the historical truth. However, nobody knows what the reality was. King Richard’s powerful character involves two diverse elements, goodness and cruelty that is why his person is so interesting, mysterious, inexplicable. May the researchers discover the new important facts clearing King Richard’s life.
Thanks for excellent program!

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 17, 2014

If Richard is a good king, unfortunately for him was be died in the wet battle field and his body did not honor. But we did not know whether he killed his brother’s sons or not. IF he did, after that he sorrowed and sorry and wanted to do good things for his sins. That displayed he did many good things to the poors. Although When a man did a bad thing after that he came back with good works then we can accept and honor him. I think Richard III is a good king.

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Janeth Moh
said on May 06, 2015

In my opinion, is common to emit opinions or criteria whether remarkable or crooked leader. However if we believe in good leaders according our ideology, to honor them, means to practice their teachings. Therefore, will be important to honor notable leaders while we can apply their examples in order being a good person.

Avatar Spotlight
said on June 02, 2016

We are all not perfect persons. We try much to get better every day. We do beautiful good things and keep away from not good things. Beautiful good things exist. Beautiful good things bring the life beautiful good things. Not good things affect the life negatively. We respect beautiful good things. We respect our precious dignity. We may succeed in the life. We may fail in the life. Beautiful good things exist. We are better when we try much to perfect ourselves every day.

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on June 04, 2016

I think that sanctification of historical leaders is mestike but we must respect thim and their role in national history (positive and negative, good and evil) bacause they are a part of it.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on June 06, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Monday 06, June 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Katy Blake, Miker procter, Alan Harris, and nick Mangeolles:

First of all, I want to thank you to bring us readers and learners of English more one great article. Thanks!
Yes, It is. Because these leaders were importants to the history of the nation so they deserve the honour to be honored independent of the time.

Your regards,
Severino Ramos

Avatar Spotlight
said on June 06, 2016

Hello friends. Each country has its own ancestral histories of kings and leaders. Some of them had ruled and had left a great mark.

Is very important to know our history.

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Mai Lan
said on June 24, 2017

I must say that this website is really useful, than most others. People can not only learn English but also gain much more knowledge about the world around them. As a English learner, I really like this method. But I have some suggestions that I myself consider will help improve this website. When I listen to the poscast, it seems a bit slow and I can hear every ending sound very clearly. However, when it comes to everyday life, people will speak a bit quicker and there are also many important exam like Ielts, Toefl,... that required a higher level of listening ability so I think we should advance it a bit to suit more English level. It would also be better if the important phrases in the transcript are highlighted . Those are my suggestions, I just want to give the program some advice so that it can benefits both sides. Thank you very much for reading, I am so appreciate that !

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hermit peter
said on June 25, 2017

currently nobody know Rechard 3rd is bad or good. but i can confirm that he did not control fully England at that time. 1st, after his death, no loyal person to him buried him according to his wish. 2nd, if he gave poor people so many thing and gave money to university and church, why his reputation got so evil after his death? it’s unreasonable.