Battle of Bosworth Field

Template:Battlebox The Battle of Bosworth or Bosworth Field was an important battle during the Wars of the Roses in 15th century England. It was fought on August 22, 1485 between the Yorkist King Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet dynasty, and the Lancastrian contender for the crown, Henry Tudor, 2nd Earl of Richmond (later King Henry VII). It ended in the defeat and death of Richard and the establishment of the Tudor dynasty. Historically, the battle is considered to have marked the end of the Wars of the Roses, although further battles were fought in the years that followed as Yorkist pretenders unsuccessfully sought to reclaim the crown.


The Campaign and its politics

Henry had landed in Pembrokeshire, the county of his birth, on August 7 with a small force—consisting mainly of French mercenaries—in an attempt to claim the throne of England. Richard III had fought similar battles with Lancastrian usurpers in the past, but this one would be his last. Although Henry did not have his opponent's military experience, he was accompanied by his uncle, Jasper Tudor, 1st Earl of Pembroke (later 1st Duke of Bedford) and John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford, each of them being a brilliant and seasoned soldier. Henry gathered supporters in the course of his journey through his father's native Wales, and by the time he arrived in the Midlands, he had amassed an army estimated at 5,000 men. The King, by contrast, could command nearly 8,000. The decisive factor in the battle was to be the conduct of the Stanley brothers—Sir William Stanley and Thomas Stanley, 2nd Baron Stanley, the latter being Henry's stepfather. Richard had good cause to distrust them but was dependent on their continued loyalty.

The battlefield site, now open to the public, is close to Sutton Cheney and Market Bosworth in Leicestershire. The actual site of the battle has been the topic of often contentious debate among professional and amateur historians, with a compelling case being made for situating the battle closer to the villages of Dadlington and Stoke Golding, although most are agreed that Richard's encampment the night before the battle was indeed on Ambion Hill. Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland, with Lord Stanley and Sir William Stanley, and their troops, watched the beginning of the engagement as the rest of York's army fought Henry Tudor's French mercenaries and loyal exiles, the Stanleys seem to have taken up a position some distance away from the two main armies.

The two notorious trimmers in 1469–71 were the young John Talbot, 3rd Earl of Shrewsbury, and the older more experienced Lord Stanley, and they acted with a circumspection that bordered on deceitfulness, consistently holding back from final commitment to either side and always keeping on good terms with the winners. Richard had taken hostages to ensure that, even if they did not join him, they would at least remain neutral during the battle.


Richard III reached Ambion Hill first and his troops were well-rested going into the battle, while Henry's men had trouble lining up on the rough ground below (it is not clear why). Richard could have charged then and slaughtered the disorganised Lancastrians but he missed his chance. When Henry Tudor finally got ready his men used cannon and arrows to damage Richard on his hilltop, forcing him to come down. When he did, he called for Lord Northumberland (one of his own commanders) to join in with fresh forces but Lord Northumberland refused. But it was the decision of Lord Stanley, waiting nearby, that changed British history forever. He had promised to fight for both Richard and Henry, and Richard trusted that he would join in on his side.

But he joined Henry instead, and Richard thus lost the battle. He led a valiant charge against Henry but was cut down; the second and latter English King to be killed in battle (Harold Godwinson at Hastings, 1066, killed by the Normans, was the first).

The battle lasted about two hours, and began well for the king. Unfortunately for him, the Stanleys chose their moment to enter the fray on Henry's side.

After Richard's commander, John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk, was slain, Richard attempted a surprise charge at Henry Tudor, before the waiting armies of Lords Stanley and Northumberland chose sides. In the attack Richard killed Tudor's standard bearer, William Brandon, but whilst Richard was within sight of Tudor, Lord Stanley's army moved, surrounding Richard and the men of his Household, and thus York met his fabled end.

Despite a suicidal charge led by Richard in an attempt to remove Henry—who had stayed well clear of most of the fighting—from the equation, the king was overwhelmed by the opposition.

Lord Northumberland failed to assist Richard in combat although he commanded the right wing of Richard's army. He betrayed the King by holding his forces back from action and, although he was captured on the day, he was soon released and confirmed in all his titles and lands by the new King Henry VII.

The Protector was 32 years of age when he was slain at Bosworth Field. York was the only king from the north, and the last of the Plantagenet kings with the distinction of also being the last English king to die at war. When Richard was slain on the field, his body was ignominiously treated by the victors.

A popular legend says that the crown of England was found in a hawthorn bush after Richard's death, but the truth is probably that it was the circlet Richard wore around his helmet, the common practice so followers could recognize their ruler in battle, even from behind him.

The battle proved to be decisive in ending the long-running mediaeval series of English Civil Wars later be to known as the Wars of the Roses, although the last battle was actually to be fought at Stoke two years later (1487).

Henry Tudor's victory in this battle led to his being crowned as King Henry VII, and the 118-year reign of the Tudor dynasty in England.


Henry Tudor became King Henry VII of England. He immediately sought to backdate his administration to a date prior to the battle of Bosworth Field in order to attaint for treason men who had fought for the former King Richard of York.

Henry VII was in fact outlawed and barred from his own inheritance, and was under Attainder when he seized the English Throne in 1485. Henry's coronation conveniently nullified the attainder; following this, Parliament made the declaration that any who had opposed the King at Bosworth were to be considered traitors.

Lord Northumberland was killed at one of his Yorkshire residences by a mob protesting over high taxes for the defence of Brittany against France on April 28, 1489. Another reason for the mob's actions was his part in the downfall and death of Richard III who remained popular in Yorkshire.

Two myths

Richard's crown fell off his head as he died and it caught on a bush. Henry found it and wore it (or Stanley found it and gave it to him).

As Richard died, he cried out "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!"

Both are possible but unlikely. They were only mentioned in William Shakespeare's plays, written more than a hundred years later. No other account mentions them. As for Henry finding the crown, that is virtually impossible because he wasn't even in the fighting (he was watching some way off). Stanley could have found the crown but remember that victorious troops usually looted the battlefield and they would probably have found it first, and if they did, they would probably keep it for themselves.


For several years after the event the battle was called the Battle of Redemore and it was some time before the more famous name was used. This has led to the theory that the battle was not fought on Ambion Hill but on a reedy moor in the same area. People have long been researching to try to discover the actual site of this battle; work which has continued in the first decade of the 21st century.

There appears to be truth in all the theories but none takes the whole set of evidence into account. There is however, a coherent account of events but it has not been published, so Wikipedia rules preclude its inclusion here.

External links

de:Schlacht von Bosworth Field nl:Slag bij Bosworth ru:Битва при Босворт&#1077


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