King Richard III reigned briefly from 1483-1485, when he was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth Field by the army of Henry Tudor, who subsequently became King Henry VII. One of the few portraits possibly painted during his life-time is in the Royal Collection (see O. Millar, The Tudor, Stuart and Early Georgian Pictures in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen, London, 1963, p. 51, no. 14), which served as the prototype for many subsequent pictures of Richard, including the present painting.
This painting was commissioned by Ralph Sheldon, an educated and cultured tapestry manufacturer from Warwickshire, and formed part of a series of portraits of English Sovereigns from Henry V (1387-1442) to Edward VI (1537-1553), along with Cardinal Wolsey (now National Portrait Gallery, London), Oliver Cromwell, and Sir Thomas More, that were displayed in the Long Gallery at Weston Park, Warwickshire. Such sets were popular in the 16th Century to display loyalty to the monarchy. The artist has adapted the portrait in the Royal Collection, extending it to half-length and adding the propagandist element of a slight humpback. Other portraits of the King derived from the same prototype are in the National Portrait Gallery, London, Hatfield House, and Anglesey Abbey.