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Shortly after the death of King Edward IV, Bishop Robert Stillington, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, is said to have informed Richard that Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was invalid because of Edward’s earlier union with Eleanor Butler, making Edward V and his siblings illegitimate.

Bishop Stillington asserted Eleanor Butler had had a legal precontract of marriage to Edward, which invalidated the king’s later marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. According to Richard Duke of Gloucester, this meant that he, rather than Edward’s sons, was the true heir to the throne.

A precontract is a legal contract that precedes another; in particular it can refer to an existing promise of marriage with another. Such a precontract would legally nullify any later marriages into which either party entered. The practice was common in the Middle Ages, and the allegation of a precontract was the most common means of dissolving a marriage by the medieval ecclesiastical courts.

The identity of Stillington was known only through the memoirs of French diplomat Philippe de Commines. On June 22, a sermon was preached outside Old St. Paul’s Cathedral by Ralph Shaa, declaring Edward IV’s children bastards and Richard the rightful king. Shortly after, the citizens of London, both nobles and commons, convened and drew up a petition asking Richard to assume the throne.

Richard accepted the throne on June 26 and was crowned at Westminster Abbey on July 6. Richard then persuaded Parliament to pass an act, Titulus Regius, which debarred Edward V from the throne and proclaimed him as King Richard III. The Titulus Regius was confirmed by Parliament in January. Also at a meeting held on January 23, 1484 the former king’s marriage was declared illegal.

The princes, who were still lodged in the royal residence of the Tower of London at the time of Richard’s coronation, disappeared from sight after the summer of 1483. Although after his death Richard III was accused of having Edward and his brother killed, notably by More and in Shakespeare’s play, the facts surrounding their disappearance remain unknown. Other culprits have been suggested, including Buckingham and even Henry VII, although Richard remains a suspect.

After the coronation ceremony, Richard and Anne set out on a royal progress to meet their subjects. During this journey through the country, the king and queen endowed King’s College and Queens’ College at Cambridge University, and made grants to the church. Still feeling a strong bond with his northern estates, Richard later planned the establishment of a large chantry chapel in York Minster with over 100 priests. He also founded the College of Arms.