Richard III Bosworth
King Richard III, Bosworth Field, the date, 22nd August 1485.
As King Richard III’s remains lie in Leicester Cathedral awaiting re-burial nearly 530 years after his death, it reminds us that his death brought to an end a great dynasty of Plantagenet kings.
On the death of King Edward IV in 1483, England was once again in the grip of a gaggle of controlling noblemen. After years of war what the country needed was strong Government, not vested interest.
The road to Bosworth field was fast approaching but England did not yet know it.
The young king, Edward V was still a boy, whose rule could very well be controlled by his mother’s family, the Woodvilles. His uncle, Richard of Gloucester was aware of the implications of this controlling hand and stepped in to prevent the Woodvilles from establishing themselves as Edwards advisors. Richard travelled with him to London, taking care to arrest the Woodville males, Lord Rivers and Sir Richard Grey as they went. In London Richard swiftly proclaimed himself protector. He had the backing of others who were anti Woodville but the Council was split in their support for him. Lord Hastings was against him but it was an unwise move. Richard accused him of sorcery and gave orders for his execution.
“I will not to dinner until I see thy head off”
All the time King Edward IV was alive, Richard had been a loyal and well regarded Yorkist nobleman. He had fought gallantly beside his brother at Barnet and Tewkesbury and in 1461 was made Lord of the North. After his brother’s death, Richard was determined to take the throne. He ‘persuaded’ King Edward V’s mother to release her other son Richard to his care. With both sons of Edward IV under his control he declared them illegitimate and himself therefore the heir to the throne and he would take the crown of England. The boys disappeared and the conclusion is that he had them murdered.
He was crowned King Richard III in July 1483
His troubles were far from over. Having disposed of his brothers airs there were others like Lord Hastings who were unhappy with the situation. The southern nobles, Richard had little control in the south, rebelled against him with the support of one of King Richards supporters, the Duke of Buckingham. In France sat Henry Tudor, he attempted an invasion but when he saw the southern rebellion had failed, retreated.
King Richard shored up the south by bringing in officials from the north, Catesby, Ratcliffe and Lovel. This met with further derision from the south.
The Cat, the Rat and Lovel our dog
Rule all England under the hog
This caused more southerners to be drawn to the weak cause of Henry Tudor, who with his supporters, including Richard Fox (Bishop of Winchester) was waiting for his moment to invade and take the crown.
King Richard Boswell Campaign
Henry Tudor would wait no longer, he set sail from Harfleur on the 1st August and landed at Milford Haven with 2000 men. He marched through Wales hoping to gather support as he went but in fact few joined him. King Richard III was at Leicester. Henry made his camp at Merevale Abbey in Warwickshire.
King Richard set up camp on Ambion Hill, he has just four days left to live.
Richard’s army was much larger than Henry’s which consisted of a great number of French mercenaries. King Richard’s army at Bosworth should have been better prepared and able to defeat Henry.
The two armies faced each other across a marshland. the Earl of Oxford heading Henry’s men and the Earl of Northumberland and the Duke of Norfolk, leading Richards. The Stanleys who were hedging their bets stood to the side between the two.
Under heavy fire, the Earl of Oxford led Henry’s army around the marsh to attack the right flank of King Richard. Northumberland found himself boxed in with the marsh to the front of him and to his left the Stanleys.
King Richard III charged his army at Henry but the marsh defeated Richard and he dismounted. This was his undoing he was surrounded on all sides by Henry’s men and when asked if his wished to flee he answered;
“I will live or die as the King of England”
And die he did. His crown was retrieved from under a thorn bush and because of the tenuous claim Henry had on the throne, his supporters wasted no time placing the fallen crown on Henry’s head at a place called ‘Crown Hill’ at nearby Stoke Golding.
King Richard III’s body was slung across the back of a horse and ridden to Leicester where it was left at the Greyfriars Priory. Even in those times it was a mean end for a King.
March forward 500 years.
Many people have questioned where the remains of King Richard III lay and the discovery of his remains in September 2012 by a team from Leicester University was a remarkable feat. So too is the DNA analysis confirming the identity.
It is the support for the re-burial of this notorious but not forgotten King, thanks to the writing of William Shakespeare, that is most touching.
The white roses that lie scattered at Bosworth field, at the church of St James Sutton Cheney (known as the battlefield church) and on random walls, are a moving tribute to this, our last Plantagenet King.
Visit the excellent Bosworth Field Exhibition to fully understand the landscape of the Battle of Bosworth Field.