- Bosworth Field, Battle of
- (1485)Fought on 22 August 1485 near the Leicestershire village of Market Bosworth, the Battle of Bosworth Field overthrew the house of YORK and initiated the rule of the TUDOR dynasty.By early 1485, RICHARD III knew that Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond (see Henry VII, King of England), the remaining Lancastrian claimant to the throne, intended to invade England. Not knowing where Richmond would land, the king based himself in Nottingham, from where he could strike quickly in any direction. On 1 August, Richmond, having finally persuaded the government of CHARLES VIII to back his enterprise, left FRANCE with a force of about 600 English exiles and about 2,000 French and Scottish MERCENARIES. Hoping to take advantage of his Welsh ancestry and the local influence of his uncle, Jasper TUDOR, earl of Pembroke, and anxious to contact his stepfather, Thomas STANLEY, Lord Stanley, whose base was in the northwest, Richmond landed in WALES at Milford Haven on 7 August.The earl collected some reinforcements in Wales, but upon entering England at Shrewsbury received a message from Stanley that offered encouragement but no support. Suspicious of Stanley, who was the husband of Richmond’s mother, Margaret BEAUFORT, Richard had demanded that he leave his son, Lord Strange, as a hostage when he withdrew from COURT. Upon Richmond’s landing, the king interrogated Strange, who confessed that his uncle, Sir William STANLEY, was plotting to join Richmond. In receipt of a letter from his son begging him to join Richard, Stanley remained cautiously aloof from both armies. On 17 August, Richmond met with Sir William Stanley, whom Richard had denounced as a traitor. Three days later, the earl met both Stanleys, but, fearing for Strange’s life, neither would openly join Richmond. Doubting the loyalty of some of his supporters, such as Henry PERCY, earl of Northumberland, and relying mainly on his trusted northern adherents, Richard marched west to the town of Sutton Cheney, which he reached on 21 August (see Richard III, Northern Affinity of). That same evening, Richmond camped about four miles away at a place called Whitemoors, while the Stanleys, with about 8,000 men between them, remained at a distance from both armies. Next morning, the king, who had the larger force, was on or near Ambien Hill, high ground above Richmond’s position. As the two armies maneuvered for battle, the Stanleys arrived within sight of the field, but joined neither army, leaving both Richmond and the king to guess their intentions.After barrages of ARCHER and ARTILLERY fire, the two armies clashed, with John de VERE, earl of Oxford, leading Richmond’s van, and John HOWARD, duke of Norfolk, commanding the royal van. Tradition placed the fighting on the slope of Ambien Hill, but recent research suggests that the battle occurred a half mile to the south in the plain between Ambien Hill and the village of Dadlington. The course of the battle is also in doubt. Richmond, seeking to persuade Stanley to commit his forces, may have started toward his stepfather’s position, thus providing the king an opportunity to catch and destroy his opponent in the open field. Or Richard, sensing that the Stanleys were about to join Richmond, may have decided to descend rapidly on either the earl or Stanley before this conjunction could occur. Whatever his thinking, Richard led a charge of his mounted RETAINERS and became heavily engaged with Richmond’s men, the king himself slaying the earl’s standard-bearer, Sir William Brandon. Before Richard could bring his charge to a successful conclusion, Sir William Stanley’s men overwhelmed his small retinue and the king was unhorsed and killed. The death of Richard ended the fighting. Richmond was immediately proclaimed king as Henry VII, while Richard’s body was slung on a horse and paraded naked through Leicester. Dead on the field were Norfolk, Sir Robert BRACKENBURY, and Sir Richard RATCLIFFE, all Yorkists, and 3,000 soldiers, mostly Yorkists. Three other Yorkists were taken prisoner—William CATESBY, who was executed several days later;Thomas HOWARD, earl of Surrey, Norfolk’s son, who was imprisoned; and Northumberland, who was detained only briefly. Tradition says that Richard had entered battle wearing a gold circlet, which Stanley retrieved from beneath a hawthorn bush and placed on Henry’s head. While possible, this story cannot be confirmed.See also The Ballad of Bosworth Field;The Rose of England;The Song of Lady BessyFurther Reading: Bennett, Michael, The Battle of Bosworth (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985); Foss, Peter J., The Field of Redemore: The Battle of Bosworth, 1485, 2d ed. (Newtown Linford, UK: Kairos, 1998); Hammond, P.W., and Anne F. Sutton, Richard III: The Road to Bosworth Field (London: Constable, 1985); Rees, David, The Son of Prophecy: Henry Tudor’s Road to Bosworth, 2d ed. (Ruthin, UK: John Jones, 1997); Richmond, Colin,“Bosworth Field and All That,” in P.W. Hammond, ed., Richard III: Loyalty, Lordship and Law (London: Richard III and Yorkist History Trust, 1986); Rowse,A. L., Bosworth Field (Garden City,NY: Doubleday, 1966);Williams,D.T., The Battle of Bosworth (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1973); see also the Richard III Society Web site at http://www.r3.org for various sources relating to the Battle of Bosworth Field.
Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. John A.Wagner. 2001.