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The Battle of Bosworth
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The Battle of BosworthBy the summer of 1485 Richard III’s mind was troubled and not just by the recent deaths of his son and wife. Gossip was abroad that the king already had his mind set on marrying his niece, Elizabeth of York – to strengthen his grip on the Crown.

But Richard had more than marriage plans to concern him. Across the Channel, Henry Tudor was preparing an invasion. Richard knew of the plans, but, since Henry had French backing, could do little to forestall them.

Henry’s landing at Milford Haven on 7 August 1485 was greeted enthusiastically by Welsh supporters. Richard was at Nottingham, a good central position from which to confront any invader. As Henry moved eastwards, the king led his forces out to confront him and the two sides met at Sutton Cheney, near Market Bosworth, in Leicestershire.

Although the two armies were fairly evenly matched, on the sidelines waited a third force that was to decide the outcome. These troops from the north were under the command of Lord Stanley and his brother William. Henry tried to win them over, but Richard held Stanley’s son hostage and the two brothers had not yet shown their hand. Richard expected the Stanleys to fight for him but they did not move – until late in the day when their arrival on the flank swung the battle in Henry’s favour.

“He came to the field with the crown upon his head that thereby he might either make a beginning or end of his reign”.
Polydore Vergil, Italian historian, writing of Richard III at Bosworth.


Betrayed (as he must have seen it) by key allies, Richard fell fighting valiantly, refusing to run when he had the chance. The crown was picked up from a bush, and placed on Henry’s head. Richard III’s body was stripped and humiliated, the common fate of the looser in medieval war. Trussed on a horse’s back, it was carried off for burial in the Church of the Grey Friars, Leicester, with scant respect. Years later, the remains were thrown into the River Soar, though Henry VII ordered an imposing alabaster tomb as a belated monument to the last Yorkist king (a monument that did not survive Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries).

Henry VII was now England’s king. Richard lay largely unmourned, though York’s loyal citizens recorded their grief in the city council minutes: one John Spooner bringing news “that King Richard late mercifully reigning on us…was piteously slain and murdered to the great heaviness of this city”.

After the battle
Polydore Vergil described the scene as evening fell on Bosworth Field. “Henry, after the victory, gave forthwith thanks unto Almighty God… [and then] commanded his soldiers to cure [care for] the wounded and to bury them that were slain. He gave unto the nobility and gentlemen immortal thanks, promising that he would be mindful of their benefits…”. Henry then packed up his baggage train and made for Leicester, to “refresh his soldiers from their travails and pains”.


Armies meet at Bosworth Field
A modern painting by Andrew Stuart Jamieson shows the two armies, with shields and banners. To the right is Richard III, his army perhaps slightly the larger; to the left is the challenger, Henry Tudor.

The Battle of Bosworth




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