Decisive Tudor victory
* Final overthrow of House of York * Last Yorkist monarch Richard III killed in action * Ascension of Tudor dynasty
COMMANDERS AND LEADERS
Richard III † John Howard, Duke of Norfolk † Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey (POW) Francis, Viscount Lovell Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke John de Vere, Earl of Oxford Sir Gilbert Talbot Sir Philibert de Chandée Rhys ap Thomas Thomas, Lord Stanley Sir William Stanley
7,500–12,000 5,000–8,000 4,000–6,000
CASUALTIES AND LOSSES
1,000 100 Unknown
* v * t * e
* 1st St Albans * Blore Heath * Ludford Bridge * Sandwich * Northampton * Worksop * Wakefield * Mortimer\'s Cross * 2nd St Albans * Ferrybridge * Towton * Hedgeley Moor * Hexham * Edgecote Moor * Losecoat Field * Barnet * Tewkesbury * Bosworth Field * Stoke Field
The BATTLE OF BOSWORTH FIELD (or BATTLE OF BOSWORTH) was the last
significant battle of the
Wars of the Roses
Richard's reign began in 1483. At the request of his brother Edward
IV, Richard was acting as
Lord Protector for his son Edward V. Richard
had Parliament declare Edward V illegitimate and ineligible for the
throne, and took it for himself. Richard lost popularity when the boy
and his younger brother disappeared after he incarcerated them in the
Tower of London
Richard divided his army, which outnumbered Henry's, into three groups (or "battles"). One was assigned to the Duke of Norfolk and another to the Earl of Northumberland . Henry kept most of his force together and placed it under the command of the experienced Earl of Oxford . Richard's vanguard, commanded by Norfolk, attacked but struggled against Oxford's men, and some of Norfolk's troops fled the field. Northumberland took no action when signalled to assist his king, so Richard gambled everything on a charge across the battlefield to kill Henry and end the fight. Seeing the king's knights separated from his army, the Stanleys intervened; Sir William led his men to Henry's aid, surrounding and killing Richard. After the battle Henry was crowned king below an oak tree in nearby Stoke Golding, now a residential garden.
Henry hired chroniclers to portray his reign favourably; the Battle
of Bosworth was popularised to represent the
* 1 Background
* 2 Factions
* 2.1 Yorkist * 2.2 Lancastrian * 2.3 Stanleys
* 3 Crossing the Channel and through Wales
* 4 Shrewsbury: the gateway to
* 7 Legacy and historical significance
* 7.1 Historical depictions and interpretations * 7.2 Shakespearian dramatisation
* 8 Battlefield location
* 8.1 Historians\' theories * 8.2 Physical site * 8.3 The rediscovered battlefield and possible battle scenario
* 9 References
* 9.1 Bibliography
* 10 External links
Wars of the Roses
Edward IV died 12 years after Tewkesbury on 9 April 1483. His
12-year-old elder son succeeded him as King Edward V ; the younger
son, nine-year-old Richard of
On 13 June Gloucester accused Hastings of plotting with the Woodvilles and had him beheaded. Nine days later Gloucester convinced Parliament to declare the marriage between Edward IV and Elizabeth illegal, rendering their children illegitimate and disqualifying them from the throne. With his brother's children out of the way, he was next in the line of succession and was proclaimed King Richard III on 26 June. The timing and extrajudicial nature of the deeds done to obtain the throne for Richard won him no popularity, and rumours that spoke ill of the new king spread throughout England. After they were declared bastards, the two princes were confined in the Tower of London and never seen in public again.
Discontent with Richard's actions manifested itself in the summer after he took control of the country, as a conspiracy emerged to displace him from the throne. The rebels were mostly loyalists to Edward IV, who saw Richard as a usurper. Their plans were coordinated by a Lancastrian, Henry's mother Lady Margaret, who was promoting her son as a candidate for the throne. The highest-ranking conspirator was Buckingham. No chronicles tell of the duke's motive in joining the plot, although historian Charles Ross proposes that Buckingham was trying to distance himself from a king who was becoming increasingly unpopular with the people. Michael Jones and Malcolm Underwood suggest that Margaret deceived Buckingham into thinking the rebels supported him to be king. Elizabeth of York : rumours of her marriage launched Henry's invasion.
The plan was to stage uprisings within a short time in southern and
western England, overwhelming Richard's forces. Buckingham would
support the rebels by invading from Wales, while Henry came in by sea.
Bad timing and weather wrecked the plot. An uprising in
The survivors of the failed uprisings fled to Brittany, where they
openly supported Henry's claim to the throne. At Christmas, Henry
Tudor swore an oath to marry Edward IV's daughter,
Elizabeth of York ,
to unite the warring houses of York and Lancaster. Henry's rising
prominence made him a great threat to Richard, and the Yorkist king
made several overtures to the Duke of Brittany to surrender the young
Lancastrian. Francis refused, holding out for the possibility of
better terms from Richard. In mid-1484 Francis was incapacitated by
illness and while recuperating, his treasurer
Pierre Landais took over
the reins of government. Landais reached an agreement with Richard to
send back Henry and his uncle in exchange for military and financial
aid. John Morton, a bishop of
Small and slender,
Richard III did not have the robust physique
associated with many of his Plantagenet predecessors. However, he
enjoyed very rough sports and activities that were considered manly.
His performances on the battlefield impressed his brother greatly, and
he became Edward's right-hand man. During the 1480s Richard defended
the northern borders of England. In 1482 Edward charged him to lead an
army into Scotland with the aim of replacing King James III with the
Duke of Albany . Richard's army broke through the Scottish defences
and occupied the capital , Edinburgh, but Albany decided to give up
his claim to the throne in return for the post of Lieutenant General
of Scotland. As well as obtaining a guarantee that the Scottish
government would concede territories and diplomatic benefits to the
English crown, Richard's campaign retook the town of
Richard's most loyal subject was
John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk .
The duke had served Richard's brother for many years and had been one
of Edward IV's closer confidants. He was a military veteran, having
fought in the
Battle of Towton
Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland , also supported Richard's
seizure of the throne of England. The Percys were loyal Lancastrians,
but Edward IV eventually won the earl's allegiance. Northumberland had
been captured and imprisoned by the Yorkists in 1461, losing his
titles and estates; however, Edward released him eight years later and
restored his earldom. From that time Northumberland served the
Yorkist crown, helping to defend northern
Henry Tudor was unfamiliar with the arts of war and a stranger to the land he was trying to conquer. He spent the first fourteen years of his life in Wales and the next fourteen in Brittany and France. Slender but strong and decisive, Henry lacked a penchant for battle and was not much of a warrior; chroniclers such as Polydore Vergil and ambassadors like Pedro de Ayala found him more interested in commerce and finance. Having not fought in any battles, Henry recruited several experienced veterans on whom he could rely for military advice and the command of his armies. John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford , was Henry's principal military commander. He was adept in the arts of war. At the Battle of Barnet, he commanded the Lancastrian right wing and routed the division opposing him. However, as a result of confusion over identities, Oxford's group came under friendly fire from the Lancastrian main force and retreated from the field. The earl fled abroad and continued his fight against the Yorkists, raiding shipping and eventually capturing the island fort of St Michael\'s Mount in 1473. He surrendered after receiving no aid or reinforcement, but in 1484 escaped from prison and joined Henry's court in France, bringing along his erstwhile gaoler Sir James Blount . Oxford's presence raised morale in Henry's camp and troubled Richard III.
In the early stages of the Wars of the Roses, the Stanleys of Cheshire had been predominantly Lancastrians. Sir William Stanley , however, was a staunch Yorkist supporter, fighting in the Battle of Blore Heath in 1459 and helping Hastings to put down uprisings against Edward IV in 1471. When Richard took the crown, Sir William showed no inclination to turn against the new king, refraining from joining Buckingham's rebellion, for which he was amply rewarded. Sir William's elder brother, Thomas Stanley, 2nd Baron Stanley , was not as steadfast. By 1485, he had served three kings, namely Henry VI, Edward IV, and Richard III. Lord Stanley's skilled political manoeuvrings—vacillating between opposing sides until it was clear who would be the winner—gained him high positions; he was Henry's chamberlain and Edward's steward. His non-committal stance, until the crucial point of a battle, earned him the loyalty of his men, who felt he would not needlessly send them to their deaths.
Even though Lord Stanley had served as Edward IV's steward, his relations with the king's brother, the eventual Richard III, were not cordial. The two had conflicts that erupted into violence around March 1470. Furthermore, having taken Lady Margaret as his second wife in June 1472, Stanley was Henry Tudor's stepfather, a relationship which did nothing to win him Richard's favour. Despite these differences, Stanley did not join Buckingham\'s revolt in 1483. When Richard executed those conspirators who had been unable to flee England, he spared Lady Margaret. However, he declared her titles forfeit and transferred her estates to Stanley's name, to be held in trust for the Yorkist crown. Richard's act of mercy was calculated to reconcile him with Stanley, but it may have been to no avail—Carpenter has identified a further cause of friction in Richard's intention to reopen an old land dispute that involved Thomas Stanley and the Harrington family. Edward IV had ruled the case in favour of Stanley in 1473, but Richard planned to overturn his brother's ruling and give the wealthy estate to the Harringtons. Immediately before the Battle of Bosworth, being wary of Stanley, Richard took his son, Lord Strange , as hostage to discourage him from joining Henry.
CROSSING THE CHANNEL AND THROUGH WALES
Reports of the number of soldiers Henry brought with him vary widely, with different sources giving figures of 1,000, 3,000, 3,600, 4,000 and 5,000 men. This initial force consisted of the English and Welsh exiles who had gathered around Henry, combined with a contingent of mercenaries put at his disposal by Charles VIII of France . The history of one "John Major" (published in 1521) claims that Charles had granted Henry 5,000 men, of whom 1,000 were Scots, headed by Sir Alexander Bruce. No mention of Scottish soldiers was made by subsequent English historians. After the battle, Bruce was given an annuity of £20 by Henry for his "faithful services". How many Frenchmen actually sailed is unknown, but the historian Chris Skidmore estimates over half of Henry's armed fleet. The Crowland Chronicler also recorded that Henry's troops were "as much French as English". Many of these French mercenaries were from the garrison of Philippe de Crevecoeur, Lord of Esquerdes . Commynes recorded that these included "some 3,000 of the most unruly men in Normandy".
Henry's crossing of the
In the morning they marched to Haverfordwest , the county town of Pembrokeshire , 12 miles away and were received "with the utmost goodwill of all". Here, the Welshman Arnold Butler (who had met Henry in Brittany) announced that "the whole of Pembrokeshire was prepared to serve him". Butler's closest friend was Rhys ap Thomas . That afternoon, Henry and his troops headed north towards Cardigan and pitched camp "at the fifth milestone towards Cardigan" where they were joined by Gruffydd Rede with a band of soldiers and John Morgan of Tredegar . The following day, 9 August, they passed through Bwlch-y-gwynt and over the Preseli mountains and to Fagwyr Llwyd south of Cilgwyn.
Richard's lieutenant in South Wales, Sir Walter Herbert, failed to move against Henry, and two of his officers, Richard Griffith and Evan Morgan, deserted to Henry with their men.
However, the most important defector to Henry in this early stage of
the campaign was probably Rhys ap Thomas, who was the leading figure
in West Wales. Richard had appointed Rhys Lieutenant in West Wales
for his refusal to join Buckingham's rebellion, asking that he
surrender his son Gruffydd ap
Rhys ap Thomas as surety, although by
some accounts Rhys had managed to evade this condition. However, Henry
successfully courted Rhys, offering the lieutenancy of all Wales in
exchange for his fealty. Henry marched via
Aberystwyth while Rhys
followed a more southerly route, recruiting a force of Welshmen en
route, variously estimated at 500 or 2,000 men, to swell Henry's army
when they reunited at Cefn Digoll ,
Welshpool ,. By 15 or 16 August,
Henry and his men had crossed the English border, making for the town
SHREWSBURY: THE GATEWAY TO ENGLAND
March through Wales, to Bosworth Field.
Since 22 June 1485 Richard had been aware of Henry's impending
invasion, and had ordered his lords to maintain a high level of
readiness. News of Henry's landing reached Richard on 11 August, but
it took three to four days for his messengers to notify his lords of
their king's mobilisation. On 16 August, the Yorkist army started to
gather; Norfolk set off for
Although London was his goal, Henry did not move directly towards the city. After resting in Shrewsbury, his forces went eastwards and picked up Sir Gilbert Talbot and other English allies, including deserters from Richard's forces. Although its size had increased substantially since the landing, Henry's army was still substantially outnumbered by Richard's forces. Henry's pace through Staffordshire was slow, delaying the confrontation with Richard so that he could gather more recruits to his cause. Henry had been communicating on friendly terms with the Stanleys for some time before setting foot in England, and the Stanleys had mobilised their forces on hearing of Henry's landing. They ranged themselves ahead of Henry's march through the English countryside, meeting twice in secret with Henry as he moved through Staffordshire. At the second of these, at Atherstone in Warwickshire, they conferred "in what sort to arraign battle with King Richard, whom they heard to be not far off". On 21 August, the Stanleys were making camp on the slopes of a hill north of Dadlington , while Henry encamped his army at White Moors to the northwest of their camp. Early battle (a scenario based on historical interpretations): elements of Richard's army charged down Ambion Hill to engage Henry's forces on the plain. The Stanleys stood at the south, observing the situation.
On 20 August, Richard rode from Nottingham to Leicester, joining Norfolk. He spent the night at the Blue Boar inn (demolished 1836). Northumberland arrived the following day. The royal army proceeded westwards to intercept Henry's march on London. Passing Sutton Cheney , Richard moved his army towards Ambion Hill —which he thought would be of tactical value—and made camp on it. Richard's sleep was not peaceful and, according to the Croyland Chronicle , in the morning his face was "more livid and ghastly than usual".
Late battle (a scenario based on historical interpretations): Richard led a small group of men around the main battle and charged Henry, who was moving towards the Stanleys. William Stanley rode to Henry's rescue.
The Yorkist army, variously estimated at between 7,500 and 12,000 men, deployed on the hilltop along the ridgeline from west to east. Norfolk's group (or "battle" in the parlance of the time) of spearmen stood on the right flank, protecting the cannon and about 1,200 archers. Richard's group, comprising 3,000 infantry, formed the centre. Northumberland's men guarded the left flank; he had approximately 4,000 men, many of them mounted. Standing on the hilltop, Richard had a wide, unobstructed view of the area. He could see the Stanleys and their 4,000–6,000 men holding positions on and around Dadlington Hill, while to the southwest was Henry's army.
Henry's force has been variously estimated at between 5,000 and 8,000 men, his original landing force of exiles and mercenaries having been augmented by the recruits gathered in Wales and the English border counties (in the latter area probably mustered chiefly by the Talbot interest), and by deserters from Richard's army. Historian John Mackie believes that 1,800 French mercenaries, led by Philibert de Chandée, formed the core of Henry's army. John Mair , writing thirty-five years after the battle, claimed that this force contained a significant Scottish component, and this claim is accepted by some modern writers, but Mackie reasons that the French would not have released their elite Scottish knights and archers , and concludes that there were probably few Scottish troops in the army, although he accepts the presence of captains like Bernard Stewart, Lord of Aubigny .
In their interpretations of the vague mentions of the battle in the old text, historians placed areas near the foot of Ambion Hill as likely regions where the two armies clashed, and thought up possible scenarios of the engagement. In their recreations of the battle, Henry started by moving his army towards Ambion Hill where Richard and his men stood. As Henry's army advanced past the marsh at the southwestern foot of the hill, Richard sent a message to Stanley, threatening to execute his son, Lord Strange , if Stanley did not join the attack on Henry immediately. Stanley replied that he had other sons. Incensed, Richard gave the order to behead Strange but his officers temporised, saying that battle was imminent, and it would be more convenient to carry out the execution afterwards. Henry had also sent messengers to Stanley asking him to declare his allegiance. The reply was evasive—the Stanleys would "naturally" come, after Henry had given orders to his army and arranged them for battle. Henry had no choice but to confront Richard's forces alone.
Well aware of his own military inexperience, Henry handed command of his army to Oxford and retired to the rear with his bodyguards. Oxford, seeing the vast line of Richard's army strung along the ridgeline, decided to keep his men together instead of splitting them into the traditional three battles: vanguard, centre, and rearguard. He ordered the troops to stray no further than 10 feet (3.0 m) from their banners, fearing that they would become enveloped. Individual groups clumped together, forming a single large mass flanked by horsemen on the wings.
The Lancastrians were harassed by Richard's cannon as they manoeuvred around the marsh, seeking firmer ground. Once Oxford and his men were clear of the marsh, Norfolk's battle and several contingents of Richard's group, under the command of Sir Robert Brackenbury , started to advance. Hails of arrows showered both sides as they closed. Oxford's men proved the steadier in the ensuing hand-to-hand combat; they held their ground and several of Norfolk's men fled the field. Recognising that his force was at a disadvantage, Richard signalled for Northumberland to assist but Northumberland's group showed no signs of movement. Historians, such as Horrox and Pugh, believe Northumberland chose not to aid his king for personal reasons. Ross doubts the aspersions cast on Northumberland's loyalty, suggesting instead that Ambion Hill's narrow ridge hindered him from joining the battle. The earl would have had to either go through his allies or execute a wide flanking move—near impossible to perform given the standard of drill at the time—to engage Oxford's men.
At this juncture Richard saw Henry at some distance behind his main force. Seeing this, Richard decided to end the fight quickly by killing the enemy commander . He led a charge of mounted men around the melee and tore into Henry's group; several accounts state that Richard's force numbered 800–1000 knights, but Ross says it was more likely that Richard was accompanied only by his household men and closest friends. Richard killed Henry's standard-bearer Sir William Brandon in the initial charge and unhorsed burly John Cheyne , Edward IV's former standard-bearer, with a blow to the head from his broken lance. French mercenaries in Henry's retinue related how the attack had caught them off guard and that Henry sought protection by dismounting and concealing himself among them to present less of a target. Henry made no attempt to engage in combat himself.
Oxford had left a small reserve of pike -equipped men with Henry. They slowed the pace of Richard's mounted charge and bought Tudor some critical time. The remainder of Henry's bodyguards surrounded their master and succeeded in keeping him away from the Yorkist king. On seeing Richard embroiled with Henry's men and separated from his main force, William Stanley made his move. He led his men into the fight at Henry's side. Outnumbered, Richard's group was surrounded and gradually pressed back. Richard's force was driven several hundred yards away from Tudor, near to the edge of a marsh. The king's horse lost its footing and toppled into it. Richard gathered himself and rallied his dwindling followers, supposedly refusing to retreat: "God forbid that I retreat one step. I will either win the battle as a king, or die as one." In the fighting Richard's banner man—Sir Percival Thirlwall —lost his legs but held the Yorkist banner aloft until he was killed.
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 and killed. The Burgundian chronicler Jean Molinet says that a Welshman struck the death-blow with a halberd while Richard's horse was stuck in the marshy ground. It was said that the blows were so violent that the king's helmet was driven into his skull. The contemporary Welsh poet Guto\'r Glyn implies the leading Welsh Lancastrian Rhys ap Thomas , or one of his men, killed the king, writing that he "killed the boar, shaved his head". The identification in 2013 of King Richard's body shows that the skeleton had 10 wounds, eight of them to the head, clearly inflicted in battle and suggesting he had lost his helmet. The skull showed that a blade had hacked away part of the rear of the skull.
Richard's forces disintegrated as news of his death spread. Northumberland and his men fled north on seeing the king's fate, and Norfolk was killed.
Finding Richard's circlet after the battle, Lord Stanley hands it to Henry.
After the battle, Richard's circlet is said to have been found and brought to Henry, who was proclaimed king at the top of Crown Hill, near the village of Stoke Golding. According to Vergil, Henry's official historian, Lord Stanley found the circlet. Historian Stanley Chrimes and Professor Sydney Anglo dismiss the legend of the circlet's finding in a hawthorn bush ; none of the contemporary sources reported such an event. Ross, however, does not ignore the legend. He argues that the hawthorn bush would not be part of Henry's coat of arms if it did not have a strong relationship to his ascendance. Baldwin points out that a hawthorn bush motif was already used by the House of Lancaster, and Henry merely added the crown.
In Vergil's chronicle, 100 of Henry's men, compared to 1,000 of Richard's, died in this battle—a ratio Chrimes believes to be an exaggeration. The bodies of the fallen were brought to St James Church at Dadlington for burial. However, Henry denied any immediate rest for Richard; instead the last Yorkist king's corpse was stripped naked and strapped across a horse. His body was brought to Leicester and openly exhibited to prove that he was dead. Early accounts suggest that this was in the major Lancastrian collegiate foundation, the Church of the Annunciation of Our Lady of the Newarke . After two days, the corpse was interred in a plain tomb, within the church of the Greyfriars . The church was demolished following the friary's dissolution in 1538, and the location of Richard's tomb was long uncertain.
On 12 September 2012 archaeologists announced the discovery of a
battle-damaged skeleton suspected to be Richard's in the remains of
his burial church in Leicester. On 4 February 2013, it was announced
that DNA testing had conclusively identified ("beyond reasonable
doubt") the remains as those of Richard. On Thursday 26 March 2015,
these remains were ceremonially buried in
Henry dismissed the mercenaries in his force, retaining only a small
core of local soldiers to form the "Yeomen of his Garde ", and
proceeded to establish his rule of England. Parliament reversed his
attainder and recorded Richard's kingship as illegal, although the
Yorkist king's reign remained officially in the annals of England
history. The proclamation of Edward IV's children as illegitimate was
also reversed, restoring Elizabeth's status to a royal princess. The
marriage of Elizabeth, the heiress to the House of York, to Henry, the
master of the House of Lancaster, marked the end of the feud between
the two houses and the start of the
Of his supporters, Henry rewarded the Stanleys the most generously.
Aside from making William his chamberlain, he bestowed the earldom of
Derby upon Lord Stanley along with grants and offices in other
estates. Henry rewarded Oxford by restoring to him the lands and
titles confiscated by the Yorkists and appointing him as Constable of
the Tower and admiral of England, Ireland, and
Like the kings before him, Henry faced dissenters. The first open revolt occurred two years after Bosworth Field; Lambert Simnel claimed to be Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick , who was Edward IV's nephew. The Earl of Lincoln backed him for the throne and led rebel forces in the name of the House of York. The rebel army fended off several attacks by Northumberland's forces, before engaging Henry's army at the Battle of Stoke Field on 16 June 1487. Oxford and Bedford led Henry's men, including several former supporters of Richard III. Henry won this battle easily, but other malcontents and conspiracies would follow. A rebellion in 1489 started with Northumberland's murder; military historian Michael C. C. Adams says that the author of a note, which was left next to Northumberland's body, blamed the earl for Richard's death.
LEGACY AND HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE
Contemporary accounts of the Battle of Bosworth can be found in four main sources, one of which is the English Croyland Chronicle , written by a senior Yorkist chronicler who relied on second-hand information from nobles and soldiers. The other accounts were written by foreigners—Vergil, Jean Molinet, and Diego de Valera. Whereas Molinet was sympathetic to Richard, Vergil was in Henry's service and drew information from the king and his subjects to portray them in a good light. Diego de Valera, whose information Ross regards as unreliable, compiled his work from letters of Spanish merchants. However, other historians have used Valera's work to deduce possibly valuable insights not readily evident in other sources. Ross finds the poem, The Ballad of Bosworth Field, a useful source to ascertain certain details of the battle. The multitude of different accounts, mostly based on second- or third-hand information, has proved an obstacle to historians as they try to reconstruct the battle. Their common complaint is that, except for its outcome, very few details of the battle are found in the chronicles. According to historian Michael Hicks , the Battle of Bosworth is one of the worst-recorded clashes of the Wars of the Roses.
HISTORICAL DEPICTIONS AND INTERPRETATIONS
Newport History Society re-enacts Henry's march through Wales to Bosworth Field during the battle's quincentenary celebration.
Henry tried to present his victory as a new beginning for the
country; he hired chroniclers to portray his reign as a "modern age"
with its dawn in 1485. Hicks states that the works of Vergil and the
Bernard André , promoted by subsequent Tudor
administrations, became the authoritative sources for writers for the
next four hundred years. As such, Tudor literature paints a
flattering picture of Henry's reign, depicting the Battle of Bosworth
as the final clash of the civil war and downplaying the subsequent
Historians such as Adams and Horrox believe that Richard lost the
battle not for any mythic reasons, but because of morale and loyalty
problems in his army. Most of the common soldiers found it difficult
to fight for a liege whom they distrusted, and some lords believed
that their situation might improve if Richard was dethroned.
According to Adams, against such duplicities Richard's desperate
charge was the only knightly behaviour on the field. As fellow
historian Michael Bennet puts it, the attack was "the swan-song of
English chivalry". Adams believes this view was shared at the time by
Elton does not believe Bosworth Field has any true significance, pointing out that the 20th-century English public largely ignored the battle until its quincentennial celebration. In his view, the dearth of specific information about the battle—no-one even knows exactly where it took place—demonstrates its insignificance to English society. Elton considers the battle as just one part of Henry's struggles to establish his reign, underscoring his point by noting that the young king had to spend ten more years pacifying factions and rebellions to secure his throne.
Mackie asserts that, in hindsight, Bosworth Field is notable as the
decisive battle that established a dynasty which would rule
Shakespeare's account of the battle was mostly based on chroniclers
Edward Hall 's and
Raphael Holinshed 's dramatic versions of history,
which were sourced from Vergil's chronicle. However, Shakespeare's
attitude towards Richard was shaped by scholar
The fight between the two armies is simulated by rowdy noises made
off-stage (alarums or alarms) while actors walk on-stage, deliver
their lines, and exit. To build anticipation for the duel, Shakespeare
requests more alarums after Richard's councillor,
William Catesby ,
announces that the king is " more wonders than a man". Richard
punctuates his entrance with the classic line, "A horse, a horse! My
kingdom for a horse!" He refuses to withdraw, continuing to seek to
slay Henry's doubles until he has killed his nemesis. There is no
documentary evidence that Henry had five decoys at Bosworth Field; the
idea was Shakespeare's invention. He drew inspiration from Henry IV 's
use of them at the Battle of
Despite the dramatic licences taken, Shakespeare's version of the Battle of Bosworth was the model of the event for English textbooks for many years during the 18th and 19th centuries. This glamorised version of history, promulgated in books and paintings and played out on stages across the country, perturbed humorist Gilbert Abbott à Beckett . He voiced his criticism in the form of a poem, equating the romantic view of the battle to watching a "fifth-rate production of Richard III": shabbily costumed actors fight the Battle of Bosworth on-stage while those with lesser roles lounge at the back, showing no interest in the proceedings.
The adaptation of the setting for
Richard III to a 1930s fascist
Richard's Field The memorial and its plaque
Officially the site of the battle is deemed by
The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England (popularly referred to as "English Heritage") argues that the battle was named after Market Bosworth because the town was the nearest significant settlement to the battlefield in the 15th century. As explored by Professor Philip Morgan, a battle might initially not be named specifically at all. As time passes, writers of administrative and historical records find it necessary to identify a notable battle, ascribing it a name that is usually toponymical in nature and sourced from combatants or observers. This official name becomes accepted by society and future generations without question. Early records associated the Battle of Bosworth with "Brownehethe", "bellum Miravallenses", "Sandeford" and "Dadlyngton field". The earliest record, a municipal memorandum of 23 August 1485 from York, locates the battle "on the field of Redemore". This is corroborated by a 1485–86 letter that mentions "Redesmore" as its site. According to historian Peter Foss, records did not associate the battle with "Bosworth" until 1510.
Foss is named by
Foss brings further evidence for his "Redemore" theory by quoting
Edward Hall 's 1550 Chronicle. Hall stated that Richard's army stepped
onto a plain after breaking camp the next day. Furthermore, historian
William Burton , author of Description of
English Heritage, responsible for managing England's historic sites, used both theories to designate the site for Bosworth Field. Without preference for either theory, they constructed a single continuous battlefield boundary that encompasses the locations proposed by both Williams and Foss. The region has experienced extensive changes over the years, starting after the battle. Holinshed stated in his chronicle that he found firm ground where he expected the marsh to be, and Burton confirmed that by the end of the 16th century, areas of the battlefield were enclosed and had been improved to make them agriculturally productive. Trees were planted on the south side of Ambion Hill, forming Ambion Wood. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Ashby Canal carved through the land west and south-west of Ambion Hill. Winding alongside the canal at a distance, the Ashby and Nuneaton Joint Railway crossed the area on an embankment. The changes to the landscape were so extensive that when Hutton revisited the region in 1807 after an earlier 1788 visit, he could not readily find his way around. Richard's Well, where the last Yorkist king supposedly took a drink of water on the day of the battle.
Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre was built on Ambion Hill, near Richard's Well. According to legend, Richard III drank from one of the several springs in the region on the day of the battle. In 1788, a local pointed out one of the springs to Hutton as the one mentioned in the legend. A stone structure was later built over the location. The inscription on the well reads:
"Near this spot, on August 22nd 1485, at the age of 32, King Richard III fell fighting gallantly in defence of his realm the bodies of those killed in the battle were buried there.
THE REDISCOVERED BATTLEFIELD AND POSSIBLE BATTLE SCENARIO
The very extensive survey carried out (2005-2009) by the Battlefields Trust headed by Glenn Foard led eventually to the discovery of the real location of the core battlefield. This lies about a kilometer further west than the location suggested by Peter Foss. It is in what was at the time of the battle an area of marginal land at the meeting of several township boundaries. There was a cluster of field names suggesting the presence of marshland and heath. Thirty four lead round shot were discovered as a result of systematic metal detecting (more than the total found previously on all other C15th European battlefields), as well as other significant finds, including a small silver gilt badge depicting a boar. Experts believe that the boar badge could indicate the actual site of Richard III's death, since this high-status badge depicting his personal emblem, was probably worn by a member of his close retinue.
A new interpretation of the battle now integrates the historic accounts with the battlefield finds and landscape history. The new site lies either side of the Fenn Lanes Roman road, close to Fenn Lane Farm and is some three kilometers to the southwest of Ambion Hill. Bosworth Battlefield (Fenn Lane Farm)
Based on the round shot scatter, the likely size of Richard III's army, and the topography, Glenn Foard and Anne Curry think that Richard may have lined up his forces on a slight ridge which lies just east of Fox Covert Lane and behind a postulated medieval marsh. Richard's vanguard commanded by the Duke of Norfolk was on the right (north) side of Richard's battle line, with the Earl of Northumberland on Richard's left (south) side.
Tudor's forces approached along the line of the Roman road and lined up to the west of the present day Fenn Lane Farm, having marched from the vicinity of Merevale in Warwickshire. The Stanleys were positioned on the south side of the battlefield, on rising ground towards Stoke Golding and Dadlington. The Earl of Oxford turned north to avoid the marsh (and possibly Richard's guns). This manoeuvre put the marsh on Oxford's right. He moved to attack Norfolk's vanguard. Norfolk was subsequently killed.
Northumberland failed to engage, possibly due to the presence of the Stanleys, whose intentions were unclear, or due to the position of the marsh (or for both reasons). With his situation deteriorating, Richard decided to launch an attack against Henry Tudor, which almost succeeded, but the king's horse became stuck in the marsh, and he was killed. Fen Hole (where the boar badge was found) is believed to be a residue of the marsh. When Richard began his charge, Sir William Stanley intervened from the vicinity of Stoke Golding. It was here, on what came to be known as Crown Hill (the closest elevated ground to the fighting), that Lord Stanley crowned Henry Tudor after Richard was killed. Bosworth Battlefield actual site
The windmill close to which the Duke of Norfolk is said to have died (according to the ballad "Lady Bessy") was Dadlington windmill. This has disappeared but is known to have stood at the time of the battle, in the vicinity of Apple Orchard Farm and North Farm, Dadlington. A small cluster of significant finds was made in this area, including a gold livery badge depicting an eagle. The windmill lay between the core battlefield and Richard's camp on Ambion Hill and the rout of Norfolk's vanguard was in this direction. This also accounts for the large number of dead in Dadlington parish, leading to the setting up of the battle chantry there.
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to BATTLE OF BOSWORTH FIELD .
* "Bosworth". The New Student\'s Reference Work. 1914. * Bosworth Battlefield