Though still sick, King Edward IV brokers a reconciliation between Queen Elizabeth, Dorset, and Rivers and Hastings and Buckingham. Anon, Richard appears to reconcile with everyone else when Queen Elizabeth mentions her wish to have Clarence pardoned. To the shock of everyone, most especially to King Edward IV himself who claims that he had issued an order reversing Clarence’s condemnation, Richard informs the gathered assembly that Clarence is dead and buried, adding that the King’s countermand must have been too late to reverse the original edict and insinuating that the Queen and her faction is responsible.
At this point, Stanley comes to beg the King to have a servant of his pardoned for killing a man. The request spurs the King to chide his subjects for their collective failure to plead on behalf of Clarence, arguing that it’s a crying shame that no one thought it his duty to stand up for a King’s brother when at this very moment a noble is standing up on behalf of a slave. Thus distressed, the King retires.
A Boy and a Girl, the orphaned children of Clarence, question their grandmother, the Duchess (or the mother of King Edward IV, Clarence, and Richard), as to why she’s often so sad of late if not for the fact of their father‘s death. The Duchess replies that she’s sad because of her son’s--Edward’s--illness and that their father Clarence hasn’t died. The latter of the Duchess’ assertion, however, contradicts what the Boy knows to be truth as he has been told by his uncle, Richard, that the King has had their father killed and at the behest of the Queen. The Duchess assures the boy that his uncle has lied and wonders how she could have ever given birth to such a disgrace--Richard.
Anon, the Queen, accompanied by Rivers and Dorset, appears in a state of dishevelment. King Edward IV has died. She appears to be inconsolable, but Dorset and Rivers manage to calm her, arguing that she cannot begrudge God his payment and that she has yet her son, the Prince of Wales, from her marriage to King Edward IV, who will no doubt be King, on whom she may rely. Presently, Richard and his supporters appear to offer their condolences to the Queen and the Duchess. They have an ulterior motive, however: They wish to separate the Prince of Wales from the Queen, and to that end they make sure that the party which will be sent to fetch the Prince will mostly consist of Richard and his henchmen.
Three citizens of England discuss the news of King Edward’s death and of its ramifications to the state. Citizens #1 and #2, believe that things will turn out alright, arguing that though the Prince of Wales is too young to rule that it won’t be any different than when Henry VI was crowned King at nine months old. That is to say counselors will see to the governing of the state until the Prince is old enough to rule and govern himself. Citizen #3, however, doubts that that’ll be the case this time around, arguing that Henry VI had wise and noble counselors around him whereas the Prince of Wales is surrounded by Richard and Queen Elizabeth, who are both ambitious for power and whose either rule will likely spell hard times for England.
York objects when his mother, Queen Elizabeth, says that York’s rate of growth has exceeded that of his older brother’s, the Prince of Wale’s, arguing that he would rather be a rare flower than a weed what with his uncle’s (Richard’s) remark extolling the slow growth of a rare flower as opposed to the wild, unchecked growth of a weed. York then goes on to say how he would like to chide his uncle who, according to anecdotes, grew so fast that he grew a tooth in two hours time since his birth. York, the Queen, the Duchess, and the Archbishop of York are thus beguiling the time, in anticipation of the Prince of Wales’ arrival, when a messenger emerges with dire news: Queen Elizabeth’s brother, Rivers, and her son by her previous marriage, Grey, have been imprisoned in Pomfret by order of Richard and Buckingham. Lamenting that her life is now all but in ruins, the Queen makes preparations to seek sanctuary. The Archbishop vows to look after the Queen’s interest, and the Duchess, lamenting her fate which had her widowed on account of England’s crown and for which now her son, having destroyed the lives of her other sons, seems poised to destroy the lives of countless others, decides to join the Queen.