The Battle of Bosworth 1485 Part 2 – The Battle

Richard III

On the 22nd August 1485 Henry Tudors 5,000 Lancastrian soldiers met Richard III’s army of 8,000 at Bosworth in rural Leicestershire. Henry Tudor had been in exile in France during the reign of Edward IV but was now determined to depose Richard III and claim the throne for himself.

On 1st August 1485 Henry Tudor sailed from Harfleur in France to Milford Haven in Wales with a force of French mercenaries and English exiles. He landed on the Welsh coast on the 7th August and set about gathering further support and troops as he marched through Wales and the Welsh Marches, aiming for London. Henry also asked for support from his stepfather, Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, who, although married to Henry’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, was a Yorkist supporter. Henry knew that his stepfather had money and influence and could rally his own private army. Stanley, and his brother William, did bring troops down from the North West of England, but we don’t know whether they committed to supporting Henry prior to the battle, they may well have wanted to keep their options open and we know that Richard, on hearing of Henry’s arrival, took Stanley’s son, Lord Strange, hostage to guarantee his support.

Richard III gathered his troops and marched from Leicester, aiming to cut off Henry who was marching from Wales to London. The two forces met in Leicestershire in a field near Stoke Golding, Sutton Cheney and Market Bosworth. The Bosworth Battlefield website tells of how the King’s army were on higher ground, with Henry’s forces “strung out in a line below” and that the Stanleys’ forces stayed out of the battle at first, while they decided on which side to support. The website tells the story:-

“Richard ordered his friend, the Duke of Norfolk, to attack Henry’s men, who were strung out in a long line after negotiating the marsh. Henry had never fought in battle before, but had the Earl of Oxford with him, an experienced soldier. Oxford placed two banners in the ground, and encouraged Henry’s men to form up between them. This created a solid wedge of men and when Norfolk charged, he found Oxfords Wedge difficult to attack. During the fierce fighting Norfolk was killed, however, the advantage of numbers was still with Richard and the Yorkists.

Henry VII

Henry decided to ride out with a small bodyguard to appeal to Lord Thomas, who was still uncommitted. Richard, from his higher vantage point, intended to stop Henry from reaching his step father. As the King and his Cavalry charged towards Henry, the force was so great that one of his Knight’s lances pierced through 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 Cavalry. 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 hill. Richard was buried at Grey Friars monastery in Leicester.

The Battle of Bosworth was the last major battle of the Wars of the Roses and Henry’s subsequent marriage to Elizabeth of York united the Houses of Lancaster and York and started a new house and dynasty, the House of Tudors. Thirty years of civil war was over.

But where did the Battle of Bosworth take place? Find out in my next post “The True Location of the Battle of Bosworth”.

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4 thoughts on “The Battle of Bosworth 1485 Part 2 – The Battle”
  1. Claire, I can’t stop laughing when I think of William Stanley waiting around on a battlefield and not deciding which side to join. What was he doing? Playing cards? Maybe a game of tag? Okay, which one of those jerks who tags me first, I’ll join his side. Looks like Richard just messed up so I guess we go with Henry. Monty Python should do a version of this.

    1. If you can believe all that rubbish you can believe anything. Henry’s Welsh mercenaries were just superior to Richard’s conscripts. William Stanley on the side of Henry, you’ve got to be joking, like his brother he only entered when the game was up for Richard. Henry hung William Stanley for treason a few years later. Henry’s mother took chastity vows to prevent her husband remarrying, so he was caste aside with a title and no power and no wife.
      Time to smell the coffee, we’ve all got Welsh DNA to a greater or lesser extent so there is no need to prolong the Richard III lie.

      1. Actually William Stanley had contacted Henry prior to the battle even if he had not totally committed to him. We don’t all have Welsh blood, you are the one talking nonsense. I have French, Scots and Irish blood, not Welsh and the majority of us are actually more Viking and Saxon than anything else on the DNA map. We are all mixed in our genes and even people who have strong ancestry don’t have as strong as they think when DNA Profiling is applied.

        Sir William Stanley was actually beheaded and not hung; for claiming that if Perkin Warbeck did turn out to be a son of Edward IV, that is Richard of York he could not oppose him. Both Stanleys made some contact with Henry in the two days prior to the Battle but did not commit to his cause. Lord Thomas Stanley sat on the sidelines, a tactic that was agreed upon with his brother in every conflict to ensure one of them lived. William also knew that if Richard won he was already in trouble; he had nothing to lose by supportinng Henry. Lord Stanley was caught in the middle: his son Lord Strange was Richard’s hostage to ensure he turned up and he was married to Margaret Beaufort Countess of Richmond the mother of Henry Tudor. Wether of not she took a vow of celibracy (speculation not proven) is irrelevant; she chose to marry a Yorkist Lord in order to be at the centre of the action in the court of Edward IV and work for favour and the return of her son. Margaret was richer than her husband and he had no intention of setting her aside. He was a widower and their political union suited both of them. Lord Stanley’s appearance of loyalty to Richard enabled Margaret to plot treason against him and when this failed, he was given custody over her and her lands oh and her wine. Richard was too chivilarious to execute a woman and one who had what she called saints needs (knees). Margaret was pious but she was well placed to conspire with Elizabeth Woodville to gain support and favour for Henry.

        Lord Thomas Stanley did indeed wait on the sidelines and he ensured that William did as well. It was only that Henry sent word to ask him to come into the battle that he was prepared to side at all. He as you say only did so when Richard, seeing Henry exposed gathered his proffessional horsemen, a force believed to be around 200-800 men, and launched his heroic last charge of the Middle Ages at Henry’s ranks. He unhorsed Sir John Cheney, killed William Brandon, and then almost killed Henry Tudor. His horse lost its footing in the marsh and he was forced to fight on foot, pressed by his enemies. It was at this point that the Stanley redcoats, their own men, charged and came behind Richard surrounding and pinning him in. Henry’s Welsh recruits fought back and one of them felled Richard with a halbard. He was cut to pieces, a blow to the top of his skull, a slice to his jaw and so on, ten battle wounds in all; his helmet having been removed in the fighting. He was finished off with a bollock knife. His dead body was humiliated, dragged naked from the field and flung over a horse of all to see; he received two more humiliation wounds, his body was placed in a local church to ensure all knew he was dead. The poor monks did not have time to measure his body and although they placed him in the grave with reverence; it was too small. They had to move his head. It was only ten years later that Henry got around to placing a tomb there; but the monks would have said masses and prayers for him. It was only after he was finally found and identified by th DNA you are mocking, that he has now been finally buried with dignity and honour, and has a beautiful and moving tomb in a lovely Leicester Cathedral. And yes, I have been there.

        Richard was betrayed by the Stanleys; they did not commit troops to his cause; just by being on the sidelines; they affected the outcome. Northumberland also did not give support. He did not support Henry either, he made excuses that he could not move his troops, given the location of Sutten Cheney to his position, it is possible that a ditch did prevent him; an old map shows one close by. William did want to support Henry, he gave him two commanders and some troops and some knights who fought at his side. He may have only come to Henry’s rescue just in time and only when Richard was fighting but Richard was not done for. It was only when he was surrounded by the Stanley forces that he was in danger. He was too good a commander in his own right and fighter to not to have seen his danger, but as he was now trapped he was forced to fight longer on foot and tired quickly. He was seen refusing to flee and fighting ‘in the thickest press of his enemies’ when he was struck down. Domonic Smee proved it was possible. He has the same condition as Richard and I have met him; he trained for a few weeks and was able to do it; Richard trained all of his life and was in battle from the age of 18. He was killed because of betrayal and an unfortunate lack of knowledge of that area of the terraine. Henry Tudor nearly got killed; his banner men got in the way. As for his troops being better than Richard’s nonsense.

        For one thing they are not Richard’s conscripts. Men were recruited via summons to array calls for the local proffessional soldiors and sworn soldiors to come to the battleground or to the area that the troops gathered. Each lord brought his own retainers and his own armies with him. Stanley had men that he recruited and that were bound to his family over a long period in service, proffessional troops, Norfolk called on the local gentry to provide troops, they were also trained and many had fought before; some were conscripts but many had been in battle previously. Northumberland also had his own troops. They were bound by a system called bastard feudalism and that was the problem; they fought for the Lord they were with not the King, although in theory they were bound and sworn to support King Richard.

        Henry Tudor had a right mob of mixed bands. He had men from the French King, he had mercanaries, he had men from the prisons, he had Bretons and he had Welsh soldiers recruited via two armies marching through Wales to the Battlefield. He also had the service and experience of the Earl of Oxford, who was somehow able to get this lot into a disciplined formation. They were grouped into their own language groups and their own skill groups and he was also supported by others who joined on the way, and Sir John Talbot and others lent to him by William Stanley. He had personal retainers as well. his body guard. Richard had his household cavalry which charged with him. The experience on both sides is believed to have been slightly in Richard’s favour, the numbers were, but the skill may have been on Henry’s side due to the experience of his mercanaries and Oxford. It is hard to access as little has been written from the time about the actual battle and the armies and how they were made up.

        Just what Richard lie are you talking about?

        Just a geographical note: the Battle was closer to Dadlington than it was to Market Bosworth which is actually ten miles away. Dadlington is the church to which the bodies of many of the 1000 dead were taken and you can see the battle from Cheney, just down the road, Stoke Goulding and Dadlington, just over the road. But other than that excellent artlicle as always, Claire.

        1. My 16th gr-grandfather John Kendal I, secretary to Richard III, also died at Bosworth. He is buried in the Bosworth Battlefield Grave Pits, Dadlington Hinckley and Bosworth Borough, Leicestershire, England.

          Find A Grave also names the following men as being buried in the Pits: Sir Robert Brackenbury, Sir William Brandon, Sir Walter Devereux, John Iwardby, & Sir Richard Ratcliffe. I am sure there are many more.

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