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22 August 1485 – The Battle of Bosworth

Posted By on August 22, 2011

On this day in history, the 22nd August 1485, in rural Leicestershire near Market Bosworth, the armies of King Richard III and Henry Tudor faced each other in a battle that would see the death of the King and the beginning of a new dynasty, the Tudor dynasty, which would have a major impact on English history.

When Henry Tudor challenged the King on that August day, Richard III had been King for just over two years. He had gone from being Lord Protector to the young King Edward V, the 12 year old son of Richard’s brother Edward IV, to being King after Edward IV’s sons were declared illegitimate. His challenger, Henry Tudor, was the son of Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond, and Lady Margaret Beaufort, a woman descended from John of Gaunt, third son of Edward III. As a Lancastrian, Henry had fled to Brittany in France, after Edward IV successfully regained the throne from Henry VI in 1471, but returned to England after his mother had conspired with Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV’s widow, to arrange a marriage between Elizabeth’s daughter, Elizabeth of York, and Henry and to promote Henry as an alternative to Richard III.

In the summer of 1485, Henry made his move. With the support of the French and some English exiles, he sailed from France to Milford Haven on the Welsh coast to declare war on the King. His Welsh heritage enable Henry to gain more support there and to add to his army and when he finally met Richard at Bosworth it is estimated that he had around 5000 men. Henry requested the support of his stepfather, Lord Thomas Stanley, and his step-uncle, Sir William Stanley, who were both wealthy men and could raise large armies to support Henry. The Stanleys, although linked to Henry through Thomas’s marriage to Margaret Beaufort, were actually supporters of the King, so it was not known who they would support on the battlefield. Richard, on hearing of Henry’s landing in Wales, took Thomas Stanley’s eldest son, Lord Strange, hostage in an attempt to ensure that the Stanleys would stay true.

Although Henry had managed to build an army of around 5000 men, Richard’s men, who were marching out from Leicester in an attempt to cut Henry off as he marched from Wales to London, are thought to have numbered around 12000. Richard must have felt confident that he could squash Henry, particularly when they finally met and Henry’s men were struggling to negotiate marshland and Richard’s men were on higher ground! Richard and his army certainly had the advantage, particularly as Henry had no battle experience whatsoever!

Henry TudorRichard took the initiative and sent the Duke of Norfolk and some men out to attack Henry’s men who had become strung out in a line below them after being forced to circle around the marsh. Fortunately for Henry, he had the Earl of Oxford, an experience soldier on his side, who knew just what to do. Oxford quickly created a wedge of men between two banners and, in the fighting that followed, the Duke of Norfolk was killed – a blow for the King, but he still had a huge army at his disposal. Things looked good for the King until… the Stanleys, who had been watching events unfold but had not committed their armies to any particular side, made a decision. As Richard III’s cavalry clashed with Henry and his men, who had been on their way to appeal to the Stanleys, William Stanley ordered his men to attack the King and his cavalry. Before the Stanleys and their men reached Henry and Richard, Richard’s men managed to kill Henry’s standard bearer, Sir William Brandon (father of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk), and unhorse Sir John Cheyne, but the tide turned when Stanley’s men reached the spot. King Richard III, himself, was killed and Henry Tudor was crowned King Henry VII later that day when Richard’s crown was recovered.

Richard III’s body was recovered from the battlefield and taken to Leicester, where it was displayed for several days before being buried. It is not known exactly where Richard was buried as contemporary reports suggest two different sites, both in Leicester: The Newarke (the Church of the Annunciation of Mary the Virgin) and the Grey Friars monastery. Legend has it that during the dissolution of the monasteries in the time of Henry VIII, Henry VII’s son, Richard’s remains were dug up and thrown in the River Soar, but we just don’t know. It is sad that this King of England’s resting place has been lost.

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. This was the start of a new era, the reign of the Tudors, that iconic family who reigned over England for just 118 years but who have captured the hearts and minds of many people all over the world.

Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre

Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre and Country Park is well worth a visit if you want to find out more about this historic battle. There, visitors can:-

  • Walk the Battle of Bosworth Trail – This trail will enable you to see landmarks such as the actual Battlefield, the church where Richard was said to have heard his last mass on the eve of battle and the new sundial which features the thrones of Richard III, Henry VII and Lord Stanley as well as giving amazing panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
  • Browse the interactive Exhibition – Learn about the battle, Tudor warfare and how archaeologists discovered the true location of the battle.

See “The True Location of the Battle of Bosworth” for more information on how archaeologists have pinpointed the battle site.

Bosworth Battlefield and Our Tours

Attendees on our Executed Queens Tour and Discover the Tudors Tour spend a day at Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre and enjoy a private hands-on falconry experience, an entertaining talk on weaponry and life as a soldier (rather bloodthirsty!) and a guided walk of the battlefield trail. We had an amazing day at Bosworth this year and I’m looking forward to going back next year. See our History Tour website for further details on our tours.

Enjoy this slideshow of photos from our visit…

Also on this day in history…

  • 1545 – Death of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, friend of Henry VIII, husband of Mary Tudor Queen of France and grandfather of Lady Jane Grey.
  • 1552 – Edward VI visits Christchurch on his royal progress
  • 1553 – Execution of John Dudley, Earl of Warwick and Duke of Northumberland, on Tower Hill

Sources

22 thoughts on “22 August 1485 – The Battle of Bosworth”

  1. Fiz says:

    Sorry, Claire, but in my eyes, Richard III is not a legitimate king! He was a murderer and all round thug! Now watch the “Richard III was a saint” brigade fall on me! (and it’s still true!)

    1. Claire says:

      No need to apologise and I actually wasn’t painting him as either a legitimate king or a murderer as the jury (in my head) is still out on that.

      1. Laurie says:

        You’re right, Claire — Richard’s historical status as “monster” is highly debatable, given that the Tudor history and literature about him display a clear agenda: to validate the Tudor dynasty by making Richard look as evil as possible. Shakespeare’s Richard III, while one of my favorite plays, is a case in point.

        1. Claire says:

          Yes, we have to remember that history is written by the victors, in this case the Tudors, who obviously wanted their claim to the throne to be seen as right and just. It is hard to know what’s true about Richard but I don’t believe that he was a monster and we do not have any evidence that he definitely murdered the Princes in the Tower. I have read some books on him but I’m certainly no expert and have not researched him fully.

  2. Sheena says:

    I haven’t been able to look at at pitchfork the same way after watching the weapons demonstration, and I still want to know where I can buy a Tudor banner! =) It is crazy to think of how many people were there for the battle, and how it all came to pass in such a small area. I would love to sample the “battlefield lunch” that they offered (stew, I think) with the soldiers- are you guys planning on doing that this year, or the lunch we had in the centre?

  3. henry says:

    Whose skeleton is on display?

    1. Claire says:

      It is not a real skeleton, Henry, it’s an example in the BFI lab in the exhibition to show what archaeologists and experts can deduce from artefacts found at battlefields and digs.

  4. Anne Barnhill says:

    This is so interesting–I hadn’t seen that particular painting of Henry Vii–he looks almost handsome and he must have been quite brave to set out from France to claim the throne, especially since his claim seems a bit shaky to me at least. I know Richard III has been vilified but I don’t know enough about him to have an opinion. I think Shakespeare had a hand in that! Love the slide show, especially the falconry–since Anne’s emblem was the falcon–I can see her hunting and being very adept at using the birds.

  5. miladyblue says:

    If there is one thing I have learned, having friends of Welsh descent, is to NEVER underestimate either their determination or their innovation. That might have been Richard’s fatal mistake in dealing with Henry Tudor. Of course, it also helps that Margaret Beaufort was also underestimated simply by virtue of being a “mere woman.”

  6. Mary Ann Cade says:

    Hi Claire:

    I have mixed feelings about Richard III as well but one thing that has always bothered me and made me believe that he was responsible for the deaths of the little princes in the tower is the fact that when they disappeared, I don’t believe that Henry Tudor was in England. He was also virtually powerless in 1483 when they disappeared.

    Also, if he was responsible for their disappearance and deaths, why did Elizabeth of York, their sister, seem to be anxious for the marriage to Henry and they seemed to have a happy marriage?

    Also, if he was guilty, whey did Elizabeth’s mother, and the mother of the boys, Elizabeth Woodville as well as Elizabeth’s sisters, seem to accept Henry and no comment does not seem to exist that they suspected Henry of the boys’ disappearance.

    If there was any scandal, wouldn’t the ambassadors/spies of other courts, particularly the ones who supported Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck in their actions, have reported it to discredit Henry and the Tudors? I doubt they could have suppressed other countries’ reports.

    For these reasons, I tend to believe that Richard was responsible for their disappearance especially since he quickly declared that Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was invalid and that the children of that union were illegitimate and unfit to rule. Why would he do this so shortly after the boys’ disappearance if he supported them and the validity of his brother’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville?

    1. Esther Sorkin says:

      FWIW, Richard declared the marriage invalid before the boys disappeared, not afterwards. Also, in his biography of Henry VII, Francis Bacon states that Elizabeth Woodville actually coached one of the pretenders (Simnel or Warbeck, I’m not sure). She definitely turned her daughters over to Richard’s control Richard had definitely had one of her sons executed (one by her first marriage) … and Thomas More says that she wrote to her elder son (then in France with Henry Tudor) and told him to come home and that Richard would treat him well … with no mention of Richard forcing her. Paul Murray Kendall, who wrote a biography of Richard, admits that the case against Richard is strong, but also thinks that the behavior of Elizabeth Woodville is the strongest piece of evidence for his innocence.

  7. Fiz says:

    Anne B. I had to study it for A level and at degree level and there were several rumours and outright speech that claimed Richard had murdered the Princes before Henry Tudor ever landed in this country. My A level teacher offered the Duke of Buckingham as an alternative to Richard as he had a good “primus inter pares” Claim to the throne.

  8. Melanie says:

    I’m a Ricardian myself; murdering the children of his much-loved older brother was quite out of character, and there were others–such as Henry, his mother, and the Duke of Buckingham–who had equally good motives for wanting them dead. On the other hand, Richard was no saint, and quite possibly did usurp the throne for no other reason than his conviction that he’d make a better king than a teenage boy with ambitious relatives who disliked him, Richard. (Which was probably true.)

    I think the fate of Edward V and his brother is bound to remain a mystery until more forensic evidence is investigated, such DNA analysis of the skeletons found in the Tower in 1674. In the meantime, the Richard III societies in Britain and the USA are pretty fascinating, and full of good scholarly articles: http://www.r3.org and http://www.richardiii.net

    Anyway, thanks very much for the article, Claire, and thanks for reminding me: I must post RIII’s year-mind on Craigslist!

    “PLANTAGENET, RICHARD – Remember before God, Richard III, King of England, and those who fell at Bosworth Field, having kept faith, 22nd August, 1485. ‘Loyaulte me Lie.'”

  9. It was drilled into me at school that Richard 111 was EVIL. So much so, that we had to draw a work of art portraying the evil Richard 111 (that was back in 1980). Now I am suspicious of my school teachers and their single minded teaching material !!~

    1. Neil Kemp says:

      Alison, I had the same problem in the 60’s. We were taught that Richard was an evil, murdering, hunch-back, who get what he deserved. Despite this I’ve grown up with a more balanced view of Richard and the events of his time and, like Claire, the jury in my brain is still out on this one. I do hope modern teaching has a more fact driven approach to Richard’s reign than the teaching I was given on this subject.

  10. DeAnn says:

    I think it’s often forgotten that Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard’s great-grandfather was killed at the battle and their grandfather, then Earl of Surrey, was wounded greatly and spent several years as a prisoner of Henry VII in the Tower of London.

    Some have (wrongfully imo) implicated John Howard for Edward V and the Duke of York’s deaths.

    And you cannot mention Henry Tudor’s marriage to Elizabeth of York’s without me pointing out that Parliament had to insist on the marriage. There are some signs that Henry was trying to reenge on the deal.

    There are a couple of theories on that. Elizabeth Woodville had worked out a deal with Richard III and left sanctuary. Some wondered if that meant she was willing to accept her daughter marrying someone other than Henry Tudor. The second theory is that Henry Tudor was no longer interested so much in Elizabeth after the gossip about Elizabeth and Richard III’s “relationship” following the death of Anne Neville Plantagenet reached his ears on the Continent.

  11. Fiz says:

    Melanie, It isn’t even sure that the two skeletons found were the two boys. I don’t know how you could prove it either. I don’t suppose the Queen would consent to the exhumation of Elizabeth of York or Edward 1V, and she has certainly said that the two young boys will not be disturbed again.

    1. Melanie says:

      @Fitz: I agree that the skeletons may or may not be the remains of the young princes, and a positive identification is rather unlikely. I do hope that the Queen’s successor(s) takes a different point of view, and authorizes some exhumations.

      I’ve also toyed with the notion (not an original one!) that Richard, who was no fool, might have transferred the boys to one of his northern castles. The frustrating part is knowing that so much evidence is gone: e.g., records destroyed, whether accidentally or not, etc.

      1. Christine says:

        I know this is an old post but iv just seen it so had to pass a comment, the bones that were found are those of the little Princes as shreds of velvet clothing was still attached to the skeletons, and only Royalty were allowed to wear velvet, so that proves once and for all that they were the children of Edward 1V and Elizabeth Woodville, whilst people say Richard just couldn’t have murdered his own nephews he could and did, medieval monarchs were ruthless and it was all about power, people look thru the past with modern eyes they fail to take into account how different it was in those days, relatives were seen as enemies, contenders to the throne, not my dear neice and nephew and good old uncle Dick, it was all about power, Richard was just the same as his forbears they were ruthless in deposing their enemies, Thomas Mores account of Richard is more accurate as he had lived thru that era and so his was a source to be relied on, the fact that Elizabeth Woodville let her daughter be released into Richards hands was probably due to the fact that some bargain had taken place between them, she knew also he would not dare harm her as he was contemplating marrying her.

  12. Laura says:

    I am starting to move backwards in time to find out more about Edward IV and he Queen – Elizabeth Woodville (and so parents to Elizabeth of York).

    I fi=ind the propsect of such a sad end to the short life of Edward V quite horrifying, and also not sure I see Richard III as a true King of England either, but he is in the history books and my opinion will not change that!

    I do wonder how Endland would have been different had Edward V lived, reached his majority and ruled?

  13. Yann says:

    I know it’s no big deal and that you may have put that to help people situate it but saying
    “Henry had fled to Brittany in France” is making a mistake considering that Brittany was not really part of France until November 26th,1532 . And at the time that Henry went to Brittany,to the court of Francis II of Brittany,Brittany was totally independent,even if threatened by France . There has even been some consideration of marrying Henry VII to Francis II’s daughter,Anne of Britanny . I can’t help wondering how everything would have been if they would have been married…But as the saying goes,with “if” we could change the world .

  14. BanditQueen says:

    Having come back recently from Bosworth and stayed there for 11 days: I have sat on every spot I think that either Henry Tudor or Richard sat or camped or drank right across the entire area, and the total trail without the extras is 7 and a half miles as there is the original site and the moved site or spread out site. We were there last month 2013 and were lucky on the day we went as the reconstructed head of the real Richard 111,now of course found in Greyfriars was at the centre. It was as well I looked up before we went as it was the last day it was at the site and it was not returning to Leicester until later this year, but going on tour. So we would have missed it at the centre in Leicester.

    The pics above are great and brought back that very hot couple of weeks attempting to walk around the trial in blistering heat. The first day we got as far as the well and gave up. The second visit four days later it had cooled a little and we were better equipped to have a go at the official trail at least. The views down from Abinden Hill are stunning and the monument up there moving. Various metal and wood chairs represent the main people like Richard, Henry and Stanley and there is a spear with his boar and crown on it. The first day sat down and seat was roasting! Even though the fighting did not take place on the hill but on the Redemore plain beyond leading into the woods and the marsh, you can see why Richard chose here to view the battlefield. I am not going to comment on the personality of either Richard or Henry as to be honest both have most likely been put down by their enemies and detractors or overpraised by supporters.

    When you walk and pause at the well with the curn put up in Victorian times you can imagine Richard or some of his men, already worn out by the fighting and the heat and flies, quenching their thirst one last time. Then looking back towards Dadlington Church and Stoke Golding from the gate towards the Sutton Warf Ashby Canal across Shenton Field, you are awed by the shere beauty and emptiness of the place. Of course today it is a rich and beautiful corn field; on the day not so pretty. And somewhere in that spot close to the sands and marshlands; Richard tried to mow down his enemies with a brave death charge! While the two vans faced each other well off towards the mills and the lanes around Daddlington and Fenney Dratton; and Oxford is chasing Norfolks men up the hill again; the Stanleys, Sir William off to one side and Thomas to the other now have seen the charge and committed behind him.

    With three lions on his shirt KIng Richard on his massive white charged leads his knights in a charge into Henry Tudor’s position, hacking his way through to try and see his opponent off. It is almost as if Richard knows this is it! He will live or die this day a King of England and the wars will finally be ended. I am not sure if Richard is actually crazed at this point or brave or both, but he has moved from a relatively safe position right into the heart of his enemies and by now his vanguard has no escape either as 4000 extra troops from Sir William swing round to encircle them from the direction of Sutton Cheney and the armies are trapped together. Richard has seen Thomas and his brother play the waiting game and does not know that they came to an agreement with Henry Tudor at Atherton monastic house the night before. This priory you can see some lovly Tudor glass and the arrow marks where the soldiors sharpened them before the battle. Richard knows now he has been betrayed and gives orders for the son of Lord Stanley to be killed as he had him as a hostage, but the young man has actually been released.

    Now with the cry: York! York! To Me! Richard clatters into Henry Tudors party, personally cutting down his banner man Sir William Brandon, father of our Charles, and spearing and unhorsing Sir James Cheney. His own banner man has his legs taken from under him and will also die. Before he can reach the shocked Henry Tudor who fights on relentlessly, despite being untried in battle, Richard’s horse slips in the marsh and gets stuck. Richard will fight on foot for some time and his followers bring a fresh horse but he cries Treason! Today I will live or die a king of England and is cut down. The Earl of Oxford has seen off the men with Norfolk who will be killed in Mill Lane at the other side of the fields; faithful to the last to his beloved cousin, and the Welsh and French foot soldiors at Henry’s side cram in and Richard is literally hacked to pieces, being felled by sword blows, a pike and received at least 10 wounds, most in the head and face. The rest of the van run away and the battle is over. It is 11 a.m and the battle lasted 2 hours.

    Henry Tudor is now asked to retire to a quieter spot and on the south east part of the field near Shenton: he goes to his camp near Stoke Golding. Both William and Thomas Stanley must have assisted with the removal of the armour and the identification of Richard’s poor body, and the crown on his helmet is recoered and brought to Henry. The sources are not in agreement as to which Stanley crowned Henry but assume it was the elder, Sir Thomas. And the rest is history.

    The many sites around the battlefield are of note, especially Sroke Golding were Henry was crowned, Sutton Cheney Church were Richard spent his last mass, and were there is a memorial to him and Daddlington Church were the dead were laid to rest. Here are memorials and also some history and copies of warrants by Henry VII and his son Henry VIII who came here in 1511 to make the chapel for the dead and repose of their souls. A lovely view across the entire area can be seen from Daddlington and the fields, fresh with golden corn, seem to play their own tribute to the fallen.

    It is also worth noting that Henry paid compensation to some areas were his troops had damaged crops including the monastic house mentioned above. Henry did not execute the lossers whole scale: only one or two; most were pardoned or put in prison and then pardoned. Sir Willam Catesby who was not a nice person was executed in Leicester a few days later, but seems to be the only one. Francis Lovell ran off and gave his alliance to Henry soon after but then led a rebellion against him and was executed after the Battle of Stoke 1487. Finally the wars of the roses ended, Henry married of course as we know the eldest child of Richard’s brother; Edward IV: Lady Elizabeth and united York and Lancaster: the Tudor dynasty was born.

    Today is also by coinsidence our wedding anniversary and notes the death of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk in Guilford in 1545. I think that Henry probably owed his life to Sir William and that is one of the reasons the boy was raised in the royal household were he would eventrually meet the man he was friends for life with; our own Henry VIII.

    Thank you for listening to my ramble.

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