The Battle of Bosworth, which was fought on 22nd August 1485, is one of England’s defining battles as it resulted in the end of Richard III’s reign and led to Henry Tudor becoming King Henry VII. This marked the beginning of the infamous Tudor dynasty.
Henry Tudor had a claim to Richard’s throne, however it wasn’t particularly strong as it came from John of Gaunt’s questionable union with Katherine Swynford. Henry was a highly capable man, with the energy and drive to fight for his claim to the throne. Since 1471 Henry had been in exile in Brittany, and despite his prolonged time to prepare for battle, his landing at Milford Haven in early August was considered by some to be a gamble.
Though he only landed with 5,000 men, Henry picked up reinforcements as he marched through Wales. He then moved through Shrewsbury, all the way across to the Midlands. While Henry was on the move, so too was Richard, with an army of between 12,000 and 15,000 men. Richard marched from Nottingham to Leicester where both forces met near the market town of Bosworth.
King Richard III had three divisions present at the battle, one was led by the King himself, one was led by the Duke of Norfolk, while the third was led by the Earl of Northumberland. As battle commenced the Duke of Norfolk was at the side of the King, while the Earl of Oxford was at the side of Henry. Both contingents fought tirelessly and aggressively until the Earl of Oxford’s men took the upper hand.
Richard took the decision to attack Henry personally while he was somewhat isolated. The move looked set to win Richard the battle until the Stanley’s made decisive their move. Richard and his household made a desperate stand against the influx of the Stanley’s men and legend has it that the standard bearer kept the Royal banner in the air even though both of his legs had been hacked off.
Contrary to William Shakespeare’s depiction of Richard III, he refused a horse to take him to safety and carried on fighting until the death. The blow which killed Richard was said to have been dealt by a Welsh poleaxe. After the battle, Richard’s body was draped over a mule and paraded through the streets of Leicester.
The win for Henry at Bosworth marked the beginning of the Tudor dynasty and a start of what could have been called at the time a ‘modern monarchy’, for Henry shifted his focus from party squabbling and greed to a concern for the state. Henry even united the warring Houses of York and Lancaster through his marriage to Elizabeth of York, who was Edward IV’s daughter and Richard III’s niece. What’s more is that the Tudor era produced some of the country’s well-known Kings and Queens, including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.
As for Richard, his body was quickly buried in Leicester and over 500 years later it was discovered at the site once occupied by Greyfriars. The University of Leicester confirmed it was indeed the body of the last Plantagenet King after a comparison of DNA with descendants of Richard’s sister, Anne of York. It has since been confirmed that Richard III will be reinterred at Leicester Cathedral in a ceremony on 26th March 2015.
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