Richard Plantagenet or Richard of Eastwell (? 1469 – 22 December 1550) was a reclusive bricklayer who was claimed to be a son of Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England.
According to Francis Peck's Desiderata Curiosa (a two-volume miscellany published 1732–1735), Richard boarded with a Latin schoolmaster until he was 15 or 16. He did not know who his real parents were, but was visited four times a year by a mysterious gentleman who paid for his upkeep. This person once took him to a "fine, great house" where Richard met a man in a "star and garter" who treated him kindly. At the age of 16, the gentleman took the boy to see King Richard III at his encampment just before the battle of Bosworth. The King informed the boy that he was his son, and told him to watch the battle from a safe vantage point. The king told the boy that, if he won, he would acknowledge him as his son. If he lost, he told the boy to forever conceal his identity. King Richard was killed in the battle, and the boy fled to London. He was apprenticed to a bricklayer, but kept up the Latin he had learned by reading during his work.
Around 1546 the bricklayer, by then a very old man, was working on Eastwell Place for Sir Thomas Moyle. Moyle discovered Richard reading and, having been told his story, offered him stewardship of the house's kitchens. Richard was used to seclusion and declined the offer. Instead, he asked to build a one-room house on Moyle's estate and live there until he died. This request was granted. A building called "Plantagenet Cottage" still stands on the site of the original.
The record of Richard's burial was re-discovered in the parish registers around Michaelmas 1720. Heneage Finch, 5th Earl of Winchilsea, came across it when researching his own family. He passed it on, along with family tradition of his story, to Thomas Brett, L.L.D. Brett communicated it in a letter to William Warren, L.L.D., president of Trinity Hall, who in turn passed it on to Peck.
The burial record in the Eastwell Parish Register is a 1598 transcript of the original and is dated 22 December 1550. The handwriting is consistent and not considered a forgery. The register entry reads: "Rychard Plantagenet was buryed on the 22. daye of December, anno ut supra. Ex registro de Eastwell, sub anno 1550."
In 1861, John Heneage Jesse published his Memoirs of King Richard III. He states:
Anciently, when any person of noble family was interred at Eastwell, it was the custom to affix a special mark against the name of the deceased in the register of burials. The fact is a significant one, that this aristocratic symbol is prefixed to the name of Richard Plantagenet. At Eastwell, his story still excites curiosity and interest ... A well in Eastwell Park still bears his name; tradition points to an uninscribed tomb in Eastwell churchyard as his last resting place; and, lastly, the very handwriting which, more than three centuries ago, recorded his interment, is still in existence.
A rubble-stone tomb with modern pointing, within the floor plan of the now ruined church of St Mary's, Eastwell, has a plaque with the following words:
Reputed to be the tomb of Richard Plantagenet, 22. December 1550
Although his name is inscribed on one of the tombs, the grave is that of Sir Walter Moyle, who died in 1480. The church, which has been a ruin since the 1950s, is cared for by a national charity, the Friends of Friendless Churches.
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