The Wars of the Roses are finally over and England is at peace under the victorious Yorkist King Edward IV. However peace does not suit the King’s scheming brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester.
A third Yorkist brother George, Duke of Clarence, is imprisoned through Richard’s secret plotting. Richard blames Queen Elizabeth and her family and sows similar seeds with Lord Chamberlain Hastings, himself newly released from prison. Hastings tells Richard that the King is ill. Richard decides to remove Clarence from the succession quickly before the King dies. He aims to grab the throne for himself.
His next move is the outrageous but successful seduction of Lady Anne, widow of the dead Lancastrian heir to the throne. He will marry her, but for political reasons only.
At court the Queen and her son and brother, Rivers and Grey, discuss the sick king. The Duke of Buckingham arrives on the king’s errand to broker a truce between the Queen, Richard and Hastings. Richard takes this public opportunity to slander the Queen. Meanwhile he has arranged for Clarence to be murdered.
The King brings the factions together and they agree to end their quarrel. Richard reveals that Clarence is dead and blames the King and Queen. The King is distraught and Richard has some new allies, particularly Buckingham.
The King dies. The Queen mourns with her mother-in-law, the Duchess of York, who knows her remaining son Richard is a villain. Rivers and Grey go to fetch the new king Edward from Ludlow. Richard and Buckingham follow them. Soon the Queen and the Duchess receive news that Rivers and Grey are imprisoned and the young King taken by Richard and Buckingham. The Queen flees to sanctuary with her other son, Prince Richard.
Richard, now Lord Protector, brings the young King to London. Richard says he and his little brother must stay in the Tower of London for their own safety.
Richard has Lord Hastings sounded out on his possible support. Hastings refuses. Rivers and Grey are executed. At a meeting to arrange the young king’s coronation Richard accuses the Queen of witchcraft and a slip of the tongue leads to Hastings’ execution. Richard and Buckingham deceive the Mayor of London with lies about a coup led by Hastings and try to gain the support of the citizens. The Mayor begs Richard to take the throne. Pretending piety and reluctance, Richard accepts.
Queen Elizabeth, the Duchess of York and Lady Anne are told that Richard is now King and Anne must be crowned Queen. Queen Elizabeth fears for the fate of her sons and with good cause. When Buckingham refuses, Richard hires a poor nobleman to murder the boys. According to Richard, Queen Anne is sick. She will soon die and he’s already scheming to marry his niece Princess Elizabeth. Buckingham cuts ties with Richard when he’s refused his promised rewards. Richard is suspicious of his connections with the Earl of Richmond, a rival claimant to the throne.
The Princes are murdered in the Tower and many of Richard’s allies including Buckingham join with Richmond. Richard persuades Queen Elizabeth to present his marriage proposal to her daughter Princess Elizabeth. Richmond and his forces land in England. Buckingham is captured and executed.
On the night before the Battle of Bosworth, Richard dreams of all his victims cursing him. Next day he is killed on the battlefield by Richmond, who will now become King Henry VII, marry Princess Elizabeth and found the Tudor royal dynasty.