The Battle of Bosworth Field was fought on the August 22nd 1485
when Richard III of England, the last of the Plantagenet dynasty, fought
a pitched battle with the Lancastrian contender for his crown, Henry Tudor.
Henry had landed in Pembrokeshire, the county of his birth, on August 7,
with a small force - consisting mainly of French mercenaries - in an attempt
to claim the throne of England.
Richard III had fought similar battles with Lancastrian usurpers in
the past, but this one would be his last. Although Henry did not have his
opponent's military experience, he was accompanied by his uncle, Jasper
Tudor and Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, both brilliant and seasoned soldiers.
Henry gathered supporters in the course of his journey through his father's
native Wales, and by the time he arrived in the Midlands, he had amassed
an army estimated at 5,000 men. The king, by contrast, could command nearly
8,000. The decisive factor in the battle was to be the conduct of the Stanley
brothers - Sir William Stanley and Lord Thomas Stanley, the latter being
Henry's stepfather. Richard had good cause to distrust them but was dependent
on their continued loyalty.
The battlefield site, now open to the public, is close to the villages
of Sutton Cheney and Market Bosworth in Leicestershire. The actual siting
of the battle has been the topic of often contentious debate among professional
and amateur historians, with a compelling case being made for siting the
battle closer to the villages of Dadlington and Stoke Golding, although
most are agreed that Richard's encampment the night before the battle was
indeed on Ambion Hill. In any case, the Stanleys seem to have taken up
a position some distance away from the two main armies. Richard had taken
hostages to ensure that, even if they did not join him, they would at least
remain neutral during the battle. The battle lasted about two hours, and
began well for the king. Unfortunately for him, the Stanleys chose their
moment to enter the fray on Henry's side. Despite a suicidal charge led
by Richard in an attempt to remove Henry - who had stayed well clear of
most of the fighting - from the equation, the king was overwhelmed by the
Richard was killed on the field (the last English king to die in battle),
and his body was ignominiously treated by the victors. A popular legend
says that the crown of England was found in a hawthorn bush after Richard's
death, but the truth is probably that it was the circlet Richard wore around
his helmet, the common practice so followers could recognize their ruler
in battle, even from behind him. However, the battle proved to be decisive
in ending the long-running mediaeval series of English wars known as the
of the Roses, although the last battle was actually to be fought at
Stoke two years later (1487).
Henry Tudor's victory in this battle led to his being crowned as Henry
VII, and the long reign of the Tudor dynasty in England.
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