Richard was born at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire on 2nd October 1452. His father was Richard, Duke of York (died 1460) and his mother was Cecily Neville. Richard was their fourth son and last surviving child. Richard was born during the Wars of the Roses and along with George an elder brother, was moved from one safe location to another as the fortunes of their father changed. At the end of June 1461, Richard's eldest brother Edward became king of England as Edward IV and later that year Richard was given the title of Duke of Gloucester and made a member of the Order of the Garter. Richard's brother George was given the title Duke of Clarence.
It was normal in medieval times for the sons of kings to be taught in the homes of other members of the nobility. Richard's schooling was entrusted to Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (the 'Kingmaker') and Richard spent several years at Middleham Castle in Yorkshire learning the noble arts of hunting and jousting. Richard shared his time at Middleham with Francis Lovell, a knight who would support Richard in the future, and the daughters of the Kingmaker Isabel and Anne. Isabel would marry George, Richard's brother, and Anne would eventually marry Richard and become Queen of England.
Extra notes supplied by Dorothy Davies
A much maligned and misunderstood king, thanks to Tudor slander after his untimely death at Bosworth on the 22nd August 1485 and later thanks to Shakespeare who took the Tudor slander and created a villain that has persisted as a stereotype for hundreds of years.
The truth is that Richard of Gloucester was not a hunchback, the portraits were over painted to make him look that way. He did not murder his brother the Duke of Clarence, that was a private execution carried out on the orders of their brother Edward IV. At the time of Clarence's death Richard was back in the North, in the territory he controlled and ruled on behalf of his brother the king. He did not murder his son or his wife, they both died of natural diseases. He was made Lord Protector of the new king Edward V when his brother Edward died by direct bequest in Edward's will.
He did not usurp the throne. He was petitioned by parliament to take the throne after the revelation of the pre-contract of marriage which rendered the Princes illegitimate and unable to hold the position. The Titulus Regis, written at that time and later ordered to be hunted down and destroyed by order of Henry Tudor, proclaimed his right to be king.
During his short reign Richard III introduced the bail system which we follow today, he standardised weights and measures across the kingdom, he abolished benevolences, abolished the purchasing of high office, you had to get there by merit or not at all, and established English as the language of law so that the common people would understand what was being said. He endowed many collegiates and was an intensely pious and devoted man.
His part in the 'death of the Princes' is something which haunts his reputation to this day but the blame for the Princes' disappearance can be laid at the door of several people, not least of whom was Henry, Duke of Buckingham, who later turned traitor to Richard and was executed after his uprising failed.
Bosworth was a disaster waiting to happen, as the Stanleys and others stood back and let the battle go as it would, without joining in. Any good book on the battle will show that Richard III should have won, the Tudor should have been despatched and if all had gone according to plan, that is precisely what would have happened. Unfortunately the turncoats had the day and Richard was killed. It has been said he had nothing to live for at that time anyway, having lost all that mattered to him, his brother Edward to whom he was devoted, his wife and his son, both of whom he adored.
For more information, read 1485: The Psychology of a Battle by Michael K Jones, The Life and Times of Richard III by Anthony Cheetham, The Mystery of the Princes by Audrey Williamson for a start.