In 1483, when RICHARD III’s usurpation of his nephew’s throne revived dynastic conflict and political instability, William Catesby served as one of Richard’s closest advisors and confidants.
One of the few southern members of the king’s inner circle, Catesby was born into an obscure Northamptonshire GENTRY family and trained as a lawyer. A councilor of William HASTINGS, Lord Hastings, who later acquired some of Hastings’s offices, Catesby’s rapid rise to power and influence under Richard III led to later charges that he had connived at Hastings’s death in 1483. In his HISTORY OF KING RICHARD III, Sir Thomas More suggested that Catesby sounded out Hastings about Richard’s decision to claim the throne, and that his unfavorable report of Hastings’s response led to Hastings’s summary execution.
After Richard’s accession, Catesby was appointed chancellor of the Exchequer and chancellor of the earldom of March. He was also made a squire of the body (i.e., a close personal servant of the king) and was given lands worth more than £300 a year, an income that made Catesby wealthier than many knights and brought him much unpopularity as an undeserving parvenu. He was sent on embassy to SCOTLAND in September 1484 and to BRITTANY in February 1485. Catesby served as Speaker of the PARLIAMENT of 1484, in which he sat as member for Northamptonshire. His speakership indicated the position of trust he held with the king, for it was unusual for a member to be Speaker in his first Parliament.
Along with Sir Richard RATCLIFFE and Francis LOVELL, Lord Lovell, Catesby became widely known as a member of Richard’s inner circle of advisors. A popular satirical couplet of the time declared that “The cat [Catesby], the rat [Ratcliffe], and Lovell our dog [Lovell’s emblem], / Rule all England under a hog [referring to Richard III’s white boar emblem].” In March 1485, Catesby and Ratcliffe were said to have opposed Richard’s plan to wed his niece, ELIZABETH OF YORK. Catesby was taken prisoner at the Battle of BOSWORTH FIELD on 22 August 1485 and executed three days later at Leicester.
Further Reading: Horrox, Rosemary, Richard III:A Study in Service (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991); Roskell, John S., William Catesby, Counselor to Richard III (Manchester: John Rylands Library, 1959) [reprinted from the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, vol. 42, no. 1, September, 1959]; Ross, Charles, Richard III (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); “William Catesby,” in Michael Hicks, Who’s Who in Late Medieval England (London: Shepheard- Walwyn, 1991), pp. 366–369.