22 August 1485 – The Battle of Bosworth: The Death of Richard III and the Accession of Henry VII

Posted By on August 22, 2013

The victor: Henry VII

The victor: Henry VII

On this day in history, 22nd August 1485, the armies of King Richard III and Henry Tudor, son of the late Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, and Lady Margaret Beaufort, met on a field near Market Bosworth in rural Leicestershire. Richard was killed in the battle and Henry was crowned King Henry VII, starting a new era and dynasty: the Tudors.

You can read more about the battle in the following articles:

There are also various contemporary accounts of the Battle of Bosworth and here are some extracts from them, describing Richard’s death…

The Ballad of Bosworth Field

“He said, ‘Give me my battle-axe in my hand,
Set the crown of England on my head so high!
For by Him that shope both sea and land,
King of England this day will I die!

One foot will I never flee
Whist the breath is my breast within!’
As he said it, so did it be;
If he lost his life, if he were King.

About his standard can they light,
The crown of gold they hewed him fro,
With doleful dints his death they dight,
The duke of Norfolk that day they slew.”1

Continuation of the Crowland Chronicle

“For while fighting, and not in the act of flight, the said king Richard was pierced with numerous deadly wounds, and fell in the field like a brave and most valiant prince; upon which, the duke of Norfolk (2), before-mentioned, Sir Richard Ratclyffe, Sir Robert Brackenbury, keeper of the Tower of London, John Kendall, secretary, Sir Robert Percy, controller of the king’s household, and Walter Devereux, lord Ferrers, as well as many others, chiefly from the north, in whom king Richard put the greatest condifence, took flight without engaging; and there was left no part of the opposing army of sufficient importance or ability for the glorious conqueror Henry the Seventh to engage, and so add to his experience in battle.”2

Hall’s Chronicle

“Kyng Rychard set on so sharpely at the first Brout y he ouerthrew therles standarde, and slew Sir William Brandon his standarde bearer (whiche was father to sir Charles Brandon by kynge Henry viii. created duke of Suffolke) and matched hand to hand w sir Ihon Cheinye, a man of great force & strength which would haue resisted him, & the saied Ihon was by him manfully ouerthrowen, and so he making open passage by dent of swerde as he went forward, therle of Richmond with stode his violence and kept him at the swerdes poincte without auantage longer then his compaignions other thought or iudged, which beyng almost in dispaire of victorie, were sodainly recomforted by Sir William Stanley, whiche came to succours with. iii. thousand tall men, at whiche very instant kynge Richardes men were dryuen backe and fledde, and he him selfe manfully fyghtynge in the mydell of his enemies was slayne and brought to his death as he worthelyhad deserued.”3
Richard III

Polydore Vergil’s Anglica Historia

“But yeat Henry abode the brunt longer than ever his owne soldiers wold have wenyd, who wer now almost owt of hope of victory, whan as loe William Stanley with thre thowsand men came to the reskew: than trewly in a very moment the resydew all fled, and king Richerd alone was killyd fyghting manfully in the thickkest presse of his enemyes.”4

The American Branch of the Richard III Society have further contemporary accounts available to read on their website – click here.

Richard III’s Injuries and Death

Remains found in an archaeological dig in Leicester last year were confirmed in February 2013 to be those of King Richard III. The University of Leicester Press Office said that:

“Trauma to the skeleton indicates the individual died after one of two significant wounds to the back of the skull – possibly caused by a sword and a halberd.

This is consistent with contemporary accounts of Richard being killed after receiving a blow to the back of his head.

The skeleton also showed a number of non-fatal injuries to the head, rib and pelvis – believed to have been caused by a wound through the right buttock – which may have been caused by ‘humiliation injuries’ after death.”5

It is thought that Richard III lost his helmet sometime during the battle and was fighting on foot when he was killed. A wound to the top of the skull was a penetrating wound thought to have been caused by a direct blow from a weapon but the fatal wounds were at the back of the head. The first one was caused by a sword or halberd slicing away a large piece of the skull and the second “nearby blow had cut 10cm into the skull”. Jo Appleby, the archaeology team’s osteologist, said that “both of these would have caused immediate unconsciousness with death following shortly.”6 Other wounds, such as “a cut to his rib, inflicted from the back, and another to his pelvis, from a blow thrust through the right buttock” are thought to have been humiliation injuries inflicted on the dead king after he had been stripped naked and thrown over a horse to take him to Leicester.

The new king, Henry VII, secured his claim to the throne by marrying Elizabeth of York on the 18th January 1486, thus uniting the Houses of York and Lancaster and starting a new dynasty: The House of Tudor. The emblem of the Tudor Rose symbolised this union by combining the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster.

Also on this day in history…

  • 1545 – Death of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, magnate, courtier, soldier and close friend of Henry VIII, at Guildford, while making preparations to lead an army to Boulogne. He was laid to rest in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. He died on the anniversary of the death of his father, Sir William Brandon, who was killed at the Battle of Bosworth while acting as Henry Tudor’s standard bearer.
  • 1553 – Execution of John Dudley, Earl of Warwick and Duke of Northumberland, on Tower Hill for his part in putting his daughter-in-law, Lady Jane Grey, on the throne in place of Mary I. He was buried in the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, at the Tower of London, and is thought to lie under the Chancel floor next to Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, and between Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. Northumberland’s friends, Sir John Gates and Sir Thomas Palmer, were also executed on this day in 1553 for supporting Northumberland. Read more…

Notes and Sources

  1. Bennett, Michael (1985) The Battle of Bosworth. St. Martin’s Press, p170-175 – The whole ballad can be read on the Richard III Society website.
  2. The Croyland Chronicle: Part IX. The Third Continuation of the History of Croyland Abbey: July, 1485 – April, 1486 with Notes. The chronicle can be read on the Richard III Society website.
  3. Hall, Edward. Hall’s Chronicle, p418-419 – This can be read online at www.archive.org/stream/hallschronicleco00halluoft#page/418/mode/2up
  4. Vergil, Polydore. Anglica Historia, Books 23-25, transcribed and translated for The Richard III Society. It can be read online on the Society website – see www.r3.org/links/to-prove-a-villain-the-real-richard-iii/these-supposed-crimes/polydore-vergil/
  5. University of Leicester announces discovery of King Richard III
  6. The fatal injuries of Richard III by Eugenia Ellanskaya, 12th September 2012, Current Archaeology Magazine

6 thoughts on “22 August 1485 – The Battle of Bosworth: The Death of Richard III and the Accession of Henry VII”

  1. Dawn says:

    God rest you, Richard!

    You know, I’ve heard that if Richard had swung the other way at that one point, he would have killed Henry, not his standard bearer. *sigh*

    (Ricardian and proud)

  2. BanditQueen says:

    All the writers agree that Richard died fighting a brave fight in the thickest part of the battle and that he died well. He obviously received many wounds, some fatal, others during the fighting and at least one afterwards. The wounds on the identified skeleton tie in with those from the contemporary accounts. The chronicle does not mention the one confirmed so called humiliation wound: that of a bollock knife to the rear of the pelvis. This is only possible to know from the examination of the bones. Other post mortom wounds may not be humiliation wounds: but wounds obtained while on the ground as his enemies attempted to finish him off in the frenzy of their attack. I do not buy the identiication of the cut to the ribs as a humiliation wound: as it is possible that it was obtained either as he died or just after he died. Other experts have made the same point. The pelvic wound however is clearly not possible until after his armour and sadly clothing had been removed. It seems to be a terrible and needless thing to have done; but then some of the army that Henry Tudor cobbled together were not of the highest character possible. Any one of them could easily have been horrible enough to have done this.

    Richard was certainly fighting on foot when he was killed as his white charger had gotten caught in the ditch and the marshes and he had slipped from the saddle. His supporters tried to get him to mount a new horse and to flee when it seemed that the tide of the battle was turning against him; but he bravely and doggidly refused. “Today I will live or die the King of England.” There was no question in his mind that Richard had a righteous cause and that he was the true King of England. He had gone to Bosworth that morning with the hope of success. Without the last minute commitment of the Stanley brothers; Henry Tudor would not have won the Battle at Redemore to give it its correct name. (Bosworth is actually a town almost three miles away) Contemporary warrants call it soon afterwards the Feld of the Rede more. Richard had made a death charge into the forces surrounding Henry Tudor taking his standard bearer Sir William Brandon out and unhorsing Sir John Cheney. His own standard bearer Sir Perciville was killed as his legs were cut from under him. It was a pretty fierce and bloody mess.

    Henry Tudor, although in shock and first time active in battle fought back and hard and well. His men were being beaten back and the van guards were locked together, but he rallied as he realised that the Stanleys had indeed committed treason and come in on his side. Sir William wheeled his troops around behind Richard and Norfolk’s van and trapped them in fierce fighting; the Earl of Oxford forcing the royal troops backwards. Lord Thomas Stanley brought the other 4000 troops directly to aid Henry Tudor. In a fierce melley; Richard was felled and received the blows that are mentioned above. He was also struck several times on the ground. Knowing that Richard was dead, his immediate followers fled and the vanguard was cut to pieces. It was only Norfolk further up the hill towards Mill Lane that made a final stand. It was all over for him as well as he too was killed soon afterwards. Oxford’s men sent the rest of them packing and chased anyone else off the battlefield. The battle had lasted for two hours.

    As the fighting stopped the bodies were stripped as is the custom in battle and the search to identify Richard began. Henry, now victorious was persuaded to make for his camp at Stoke Golding near the field. The body of the dead King was found and identied and his crown picked up by Sir Richard Bray. It was then given to Sir William Stanley who brought it to King Henry. Having already declared himself king the day before, his crowning was more confirmation of his victory as it was that he was England’s new King. As High Constable of England, it was Thomas Stanley who arrived to officially declare and crown Henry at his camp on the hill near the village called Crown Hill or somewhere close to it.

    Richard’s body was brought to the King and then laid over a horse to be led for all to see back into the City of Leicester that he had marched out from in triumph and splender just 24 hours before hand. Ironically he came back over the same bridge and gave rise to a local legend. The RIII Society have marked this with a suitable plaque. His body may have been naked on the journey into Leicester, although personally I doubt this as some reference to his standard and herald is also made. Personally I believe his body was covered, at least in part with the standard and his herald announced the late King’s death all the way back into the city. Henry had the body taken to the Neworke in the Castle area of the Town and laid out first in the Church of All Saints and then in the Friary of the Greyfriars. He was then after two days laid to rest in the ground , in the choir of the Greyfriars Church, a place of honour, and given a simple but respectful ceremony. His soul would have been prayed for and Mass said. Ten years later Henry had a tomb raised overr the spot. and although it vanished after the Reformation, we have now found the bones of Richard III in that place in February this year. And still the poor chap cannot rest in peace as we have to do experiments on him and quarrel over were to bury him. I think Henry VII showed him more respect than his so called relatives today who want him moved to York. He has laid for 500 years in peace in Greyfriars in Leicester; he was found by the university and people of Leicester, his new tomb is being built in Leicester, and in Leicester he should remain.

    Finally may Richard III, Last of his line rest in peace and may all those who died at Bosworth, especially Sir William Brandon, also rest in peace, and may Perpetual Light Shine Upon Them. Amen.

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  4. Christine says:

    Although he was a brave soldier he did usurp the throne lets not forget there were two frightened children who were taken from their mother and imprisoned in the Tower and who vanished most mysteriously, all evidence points to Richard 111 being their murderer, no matter how many people try to ignore this, the people knew he was not to be trusted because he had committed several acts of tyranny during his reign, and he had begun to lose a lot of support from the Barons over this, there is nothing worse than the death of children and in that age which was less tolerant than today it was still considered shocking, their bones were found several centuries later still with part of the clothing intact, these were two healthy children aged around nine and twelve, and children of that age don’t suddenly die, they were murdered by Richard 111 to make the way clear for him and his greed and cruelty led to his own destruction and the death of the Plantagenet line.

    1. caroline says:

      All evidence points to Richard murdering the princes? You have been reading the internet versions of Wars of the Roses history I suspect. And as for couldn’t be trusted – if only he had not trusted the Stanleys (one of whom was Henry Tudor’s step-father-in-law) the outcome at Bosworth might have been very different. Odd, too, that there was no contemporary record of the accusation of the murders – one who would have thought that Henry VII with his very flimsy claim to the throne would have had that announced. And, what were Richard’s other acts of tyranny Christine? Henry VII was far more cruel. If Richard was ruthless he would have imprisoned Margaret Beaufort for simply being Henry’s mother; he would have wiped out all Lancastrian sympathisers just as Henry VII set to in getting rid of those with Plantagenet blood. And by the way, the Tower was a royal residence back then not only a prison. And by the way – there were other people who were set to gain much more from killing the boys, including and most especially Henry Tudor.

      1. caroline says:

        Step-father I meant, sorry

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