Today must be said to be the absolute startingpoint of the Tudor era. The day would start with Richard III on the throne, and by the time it was over, the king of England was Henry Tudor. It is today of course the anniverasary of the Battle of Bosworth, which can also be said to have been the last great battle of the Wars of the Roses.
The outcome of the battle is almost incomprehensible as when the present and the future king met close to Ambion Hill in Leicestreshire, Richard III was backed by approximately 10 000 and Henry Tudor around half of that.
Henry Tudor had left his 14 year long perido as an exile by way of Harfleur and without any mishaps crossed the channel and arrived in England on the 1st of August and landed in Wales on the 7th. Being of Welsh descent Henry had expected more of a support, but he had been away for a long time and had also been not much more than a child when he left, and as a result his arrival was met to a large extent with indifference and silence.
Only a small number of his fellow Welshmen decided to join him on his march further into the country, the most prominent member of the following being Rhys ap Thomas who must be said to have been a leading person in the west of Wales. He had, as a reward for refusing to participate in a rebellion against Richard III, received the position as lieutenant over west Wales by the king, but was successfully courted by Henry Tudor and decided to join the slowly growing army.
The goal for Henry´s march was clearly London, but he didn´t immediately set course for the capital, but after crossing the border between Wales and England on the 15th or 16th of August, he rested at Shrewsbury and later continued eats to meet Gilbert Talbot – a knight who would later be a Knight of the Garter in 1495 and Lord Deputy of Calais in 1509 – as well as English allies and deserters from Richard´s army.
Richard had anticipated the arrival of Henry since mid-July, but when news of the landing reached him on August 11th , it still took him a couple of days before his loeds found out that the king was mobilising his forces and also was in need of them and their armies. The result was that the York army didn’t gather until August 16th, making Leicester their base.
Richard arrived on the 20th of August and joined Norfolk while Northumberland arrived the day after. After this the royal army moved west with the intention of cutting of Henry´s march on London. Richard III mad his camp on Ambion Hill* which he assumed would be of tactical value.
There were problems in the ranks of Richard´s army. One of his men, Thomas, Lord Stanley, was married to Henry Tudor´s mother Margaret Beaufort. Even though he had declined to participate in Buckingham´s rebellion, his wife´s envolvement had meant that he was under the eye of Richard who also eld his son Lord Strange as a hostage to assure himself of Lord Stanley´s loyalty. Loyalty would have been a tricky thing for Lord Stanley during these days; on one side the king to whom he had sworn obedience, on the other side not only his wife and her son, but also his own son. Stanley and his younger brother William brought 6 000 men to the battlefield in addition to Richard´s 10 000.
As the battle drew closer and the Stanley army was positioned on Dadlington Hill. Richard is said to have sent a message to Stanley to let him know that if he didn´t join Richard´s forces, his son would be beheaded. Stanley allegedly replied that he had other sons. Richard is said to have demanded an immediate execution but was advised to wait until after the battle, which was a stroke of luck for Lord Strange. When Henry Tudor in his turn sent for Lord Stanley, the answer he received was wavering, and when the two armies clashed, the Stanley´s remained in their positions and observed which way the battle was going. When it became obvious that Richard against all odds was losing, the Stanley´s finally joined the battle on the side of Henry Tudor. The historians are all in agreement that Richard fought to the very last, and contrary to popular opinion, he didn´t shout “My kingdom for a horse”** (indicating that he was about to flee), but instead shouted “Traitor, traitor, traitor”.
Some people believe that it was the earlier mentioned Welshman Rhys ap Thomas who finally killed Richard III, but there really is no way to know this. Another popular legend is that Stanley found Richard´s crown in a thornbush where it had landed as the former king went down, and handed it to Henry Tudor as the new king who then became Henry VII.
Smaller battles and skirmishes would flame up for a little while longer, but in all, this battle put an end to the Wars of the Roses.
After his death Richard was brought to Leicester where he was put on display for two days to really bring it home to his supporters that he was dead. He was later buried in Greyfriar´s.
As the dissolution swept through the country, Greyfriar´s was destroyed in the 1530´s, and the grave of the last Plantagenet king seemingly lost to the word. In September 2012 the skeleton of a man with an obviously crooked spine was found under the tarmac during a dig in a parking lot where Greyfriar´s was believed to have been located. After many tests, including comparing DNA with now living descendants of Richard´s sister and, such as Michael Ibsen from Canada, it was in early 2013 established that the found remains did indeed belong to Richard III.
Update after original posting: Richard was reinterred in Leicester Cathedral on March 28th 2015, and event which drew visitors from all over the World.
*It is diffucult to, with 100 percents certainty establish wher the exact location for the battle would have been, as it didn´t leave any direct physical traces. In October 2009 the result of geological examinations in combination with archealogical excavations from 2003, suggested that the location of the battle may have been about 3 kilometres southwest of Ambion Hill.
**The quote about the horse is from the Shakespeare play Richard III, a work of art some people consider to be ”Tudor propaganda”, even if it´s never been quite established why Shakespeare would feel the need to create propaganda against Richard III after more than 100 years of Tudor rule.
Bosworth – Chris Skidmore
Bosworth 1485; Last Charge of the Plantagenets – Christopher Gravett
Bosworth Field and the Wars of the Roses – Alfred Rowse
Wikipedia except coffin of Richard III: courtesy of Leicester Cathedral