On 22 August 1485, in the heart of rural Leicestershire, two armies faced each other; a large Royal army led by King Richard III awaited the approach of a smaller rebel army led by Henry Tudor, calling himself ‘Earl of Richmond’. This decisive battle would witness the death of the King and the birth of a dynasty that would last for 122 years. It was the last time that an English King was killed in battle.
King Richard III had ruled the country for just over two years when he found his claim to the throne challenged by Henry Tudor. Henry started the day as an exile, and ended the day being crowned at Stoke Golding, becoming Henry VII.
Henry had been living in exile in France since the age of 14, but at 28 was encouraged by his Lancastrian family and friends to fight for the chance to become England’s King. He sailed to Milford Haven in Wales with a small army of English exiles and French mercenaries. He was born in Wales, and used this connection to gain more support for his cause. His army finally numbered around 5000 men.
Henry requested help from Lord Thomas Stanley and his brother Sir William Stanley, based in the North West of England. Lord Thomas was married to Henry’s mother (Henry’s father had died some years before), but more importantly, was a wealthy man. He could command a great private army. Henry and Sir William are said to have communicated on the march down the country, as they would have followed a similar route. However it is not known if Henry was successful in gaining Lord Thomas’s support prior to the Battle.
Meanwhile Richard III, on hearing of Henry’s landing, sent out a summons to his supporters, requesting them to meet the King equipped for war. He also wanted Lord Thomas’s support and took his eldest son hostage in an attempt to guarantee it.
Richard marched out from Leicester with around 12000 men with the intention of cutting Henry off from his march towards London. The exact location of where they met was, until recently, the subject of much debate, and modern technology is allowing more research in the area around the villages connected to the Battle.
The King’s army camped on Ambion Hill overnight, but on the morning of the battle they appear to have moved some way down the hill to face the advancing army of Henry Tudor. Henry’s men encountered a marsh and had to circle around it to face Richard. It also became apparent that the Stanley brothers, Lord Thomas and Sir William, had arrived, but still had not decided which side to join. They spent most of the morning watching the events unfold
Unlike Richard, Henry had never fought in battle before, but had the Earl of Oxford, an experienced soldier, with him. Oxford’s men moved around the marsh to attack Richard’s right flank, which was commanded by John Howard, the Duke of Norfolk. Richard ordered Norfolk, to attack Henry’s men once they had passed the marsh. A Burgundian writer, Jean Molinet, tells us that Oxford’s army (including the French mercenaries) moved to attack Richard’s flank to avoid heavy fire from the King’s artillery. Oxford placed two banners in the ground, and encouraged his men to form up between them. This created a solid wedge of men and when Norfolk charged, he found Oxford’s Wedge difficult to attack. During the fierce fighting Norfolk was killed, however, the advantage of numbers was still with Richard and the Yorkists.
Henry’s men eventually advanced in battle order. Richard, from his vantage point, saw that Norfolk was losing on the right flank and that Northumberland did not, or could not engage with any enemy. Seeing Henry approach with a relatively small a force of men Richard could see a chance of winning the battle outright – by killing Henry. As the King and his mounted knights charged crashed into Henry’s bodyguards, the force was so great that the Kings lance pierced Henry’s standard bearer, and snapped in half.
At this point William Stanley finally committed to support Henry and his men attacked Richard and his Knights. Richard suddenly found himself outnumbered, and was cut down and killed.
Later that day, Richard’s crown was recovered and Henry was crowned on a nearby Crown Hill Field at Stoke Golding.
Richard is said to have been striped naked and tied to a horse. From the battle field he was then taken to Leicester.
Tradition has it, his head hit the side of the Bow Bridge; the same bridge he had hit his knee on as he left Leicester 48 hours before, and thus completing the vision of the “old wise women” who had foretold his hitting the bridge twice.
Richard was laid out for two or three days for people to see, and thus confirm his death, and that of Henry’s victory at Bosworth.
Richard was then laid to rest in Grey Friars Monastery. To find out more about his burial site and the recent archaeological dig click here.
Henry VII, the new King of England married Richard III’s niece, Elizabeth, joining the Houses of York and Lancaster together. Despite this union Yorkist revolts continued until 1499.
Interior, Church of St. James, Sutton Cheney
A Message from the Chairman
What does Bosworth mean to us today? A time to remember a particular period of history? A time to remember fellowship? A time just to remember?
As members of the Richard III Society, of course we remember Richard III and all of those who died at the battle of Bosworth, whether they were fighting for or against him. We remember the king who did much for his people during his all too short reign. We remember injustice and how we, as a Society, have fought against it for many years.
We remember the fellowship formed by Richard III with the nobility, church and commons of the land, and the fellowship that comes from being in a Society dedicated to the remembrance of that earlier community and to research into those times.
In this solemn season, my thoughts will be with all the members of the Society at this time, of course, and especially with the friends I made whilst in America.
We take this as a time to remember friends past and present. We remember the Society and we look forward to meeting the challenges of the year to come.
Loyaulte me lie.
Dr. Philip T. Stone
Chairman, Richard III Society
From the Past Chairman of the American Branch
Bosworth Field. American Ricardians remember Bosworth as a distant battlefield, yet one close to home. We remember our Good King Richard in the same way that we Americans have a special place in our hearts for underdogs. We remember all of those who died at the battle of Bosworth, whether they were fighting for or against the King. We are saddened that Richard was vilified after his death in the same way as we view all who have been unjustly treated. We remember Good King Richard’s motto, loyaulté me lie, loyalty binds me. We want to be remembered as loyal Ricardians, loyal to the cause of right and truth, loyal to the cause of justice for which Richard stood. Bosworth Field. Loyalty binds us.
Past Chair, Richard III Society, American Branch
The Richard III Society commemorates the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth.
PLANTAGENET, RICHARD – Remember before God, Richard III, King of England, and those who fell at Bosworth Field, having kept faith, 22nd August, 1485. ‘Loyaulté me Lie’.
The Society visits Bosworth in August in its annual commemoration of the Battle, when a service has for years been held in Sutton Cheney Church to commemorate the fallen in the Battle. It is attended by Society members from around the world, and wreaths are placed adjacent to the Soiety’s commemorative plaque, which carries the wording now used in the annual ‘In Memoriam’ notices.
The Society has provided displays on the subject of Richard III and the Battle in Sutton Cheney Church, and at the Bosworth Battlefield Centre. This year the Society travels to Leicester for the unveiling of a plaque honoring the centenery of the birth of American historian Paul Murray Kendall.
In the United States, the American Branch places an annual notice in the New York Times. Regional chapters and individual Ricardians also place notices in their local papers.