Updated: Aug 9
Monday, 22nd August 1485.
The battle of Bosworth has been considered as one of the most significant in English history & in my opinion a major turning point in British history.
Not only did it bring a new king to the throne, but also a new dynasty. The House of Tudor would last 118 years & bring profound social, religious, economic, & political change not just in England & Wales, but throughout the rest of the British Isles & Europe. But another story……
The Battle of Bosworth was the culmination of a series battles fought over a thirty year period, 'The Wars of the Roses'. In the year 1485 Richard III was on the throne, of the House of York. A new challenge emerged from the House of Lancaster, Henry Tudor. His claim to the throne was negligible but he was still considered as the senior male of the House of Lancaster.
1485 was a disastrous year for Richard, & that’s quite an understatement. In March his wife Anne Neville had died probably of tuberculosis, at Westminster. The day she died, there was an eclipse, which some took to be an omen of her husband's fall from heavenly grace. Less than a month after Richard & Anne’s only son Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales died leaving the king without an heir.
Richard was thirty-two years old, & a veteran of the 1471 Battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury. He had also campaigned extensively in the continuous low-level border warfare with Scotland. He was a warrior king in every sense. He was a talented general & one of the most important figure during the Wars of the Roses, he had been victorious in ever battle he had fought in.
His rival Henry, although aged 28, had never fought in a battle. He had learnt how to ride, use a sword & master archery during his childhood by the Earl of Pembroke, Sir William Herbert at Raglan castle. Nevertheless Henry had learned from his uncle Jasper Tudor, but could never compare with Richards know how.
A fleet of thirty ships, carrying Henry, his arms, horses & men, sailed from Harfleur, making for Milford in Pembrokeshire, Jasper Tudor’s former heartland, on 1st August 1485, landing on the 7th.
The Battle of Bosworth
Standard practice was to divide an army into three sections or ‘battles’ as they are rather confusingly known. The largest, was the vanguard, at the front; the mid-section with the overall commander; & the rearguard. Richard’s artillery was probably centre-front. The Duke of Norfolk.
Thomas, Lord Stanley, & Sir William Stanley brought a force to the battlefield, but held back while they decided which side it would be more advantageous to support.
Henry’s deployment is uncertain; though it appears that Henry’s men advanced first, keeping the marshy ground to the right, to protect his men from a flanking attack. They also manoeuvred to avoid Richard’s artillery fire.
In the early stages, neither Richard nor Henry was in the main battle area. Henry, it seems, had only a small group of men around him as the Earl of Oxford had the majority of troops in his battle.
At this moment, Richard, decided to make an end of the matter by taking his horse (generally, commanders fought on foot), & with a group of his best troops headed for Henry’s standard. In hand-to-hand fighting, Henry’s standard-bearer, Sir William Brandon, was killed.
At this point, Sir William Stanley betrayed his king, & joined Henry’s men. Richard was killed in the thick of the fighting. According to the chronicler, John Rous, Richard’s last words were ‘treason, treason, treason’.
Polydore Vergil, Henry Tudor's official historian, recorded that "King Richard, alone, was killed fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies". Richard had come within a sword's length of Henry Tudor before being surrounded by Sir William Stanley's men & killed.
Analysis of King Richard's skeletal remains found 11 wounds, nine of them to the head; a blade consistent with a halberd had sliced off part of the rear of Richard's skull, suggesting he had lost his helmet.
The numbers of dead are as widely estimated as the numbers of participants ranging from 1,000 on Richard’s side & 100 on Henry’s to 300 in total or 10,000 in total. The new King later sent out orders that no-one returning from the battlefield, regardless of which side he had fought on, was to be ‘robbe(d) or spoyle(d)’ but instead left peacefully to return home complete with horse & any accoutrements.
It has long been said, and there is no evidence to refute it, that Richard’s crown was found in a thorn bush and was placed on Henry’s head by one or other of the Stanleys, the traditional location being at a place now known as Crown Hill. Certainly the emblem of a crown in a bush was used by Henry.
Henry travelled to Leicester, no doubt wearing his new crown. Richard’s body was also taken there, &, as was not unusual, was subject to post-mortem insult. One account says that it was naked, another that there was a cloth to cover his ‘privy member’, & a third that it was covered in black cloth from the waist down.
It was displayed to pubic view to prove that Richard was dead, as Henry VI’s body had been in 1471. The purpose being to prevent rumours of escape from gaining credence. Richard’s body was buried in the Greyfriars Church in Leicester, probably on 25th August, the day Henry departed for Coventry.
Henry made a formal entry to London on 3rd September & was crowned as Henry VII on 30th October.
To find out more why not visit the excellent King Richard III centre in Leicester & even visit the kings tomb in Leicester cathedral
King Richard III Visitor Centre 4A St Martins Leicester LE1 5DB Tel: 0300 300 0900 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Leicester Cathedral St Martins House 7 Peacock Lane Leicester LE1 5PZ
Tel: 0116 261 5200
Email us at : email@example.com
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