The Last Battle of the War of the Roses
Monday 22nd August 1485 marked a major turning point in English history. This post aims to help you discover a little bit more about what happened that day when Richard III fought for his crown and lost his life to Henry Tudor, who became king. The battle of Bosworth marked the last significant battle of the War of the Roses. This was the ongoing civil war between the house of Lancaster and York which had spread across England during the latter half of the 15th century.
Many historians mark the death of King Richard III, who was the last English monarch to die in combat, as the end of the Plantagenet Dynasty which identifies four distinct royal houses; the Angevins, who were also counts of Anjou; the main body of the Plantagenets following the loss of Anjou; and the Plantagenets’ two cadet branches, the houses of Lancaster and York. The family had held the throne from 1154, with the accession of Henry II, to 1485 where Richard III died in battle.
Richard III came to reign in 1483 under mysterious circumstances after Richard had seized the throne from his young nephew Edward V. The young boy and his brother both then soon disappeared after being sent to heavily guarded royal lodgings in the Tower of London where they were supposedly murdered by Richard III. To add to this, rumours had begun to spread about Richard III involvement with the death of his wife.
During this time across the English Channel, the house of Lancaster was greatly diminished and Henry Tudor saw this as an opportunity to seize on Richard’s difficulties and laid claim to the throne. Even though a failed first attempt on the throne in 1483 was floundered in a storm, Henry Tudor arrived unopposed on the 7th August 1485 down the southwest coast of Wales. As he marched inland to London, Henry gathered support.
Richard’s army vastly outnumbered Henry’s. The army was divided into three groups, one assigned to the Duke of Norfolk, and another to the Earl of Northumberland. Henry maintained most of his forces under the command of the Earl of Oxford.
Richard’s vanguard, commanded by Norfolk, attacked but struggled against Oxford’s men, and some of Norfolk’s troops fled the field. Northumberland took no action when signalled to assist his king, so Richard gambled everything on a charge across the battlefield to kill Henry and end the fight. Seeing the king’s knights separated from his army, the Stanleys intervened; Sir William led his men to Henry’s aid, surrounding and killing Richard. After the battle, Henry was crowned king.
Henry hired chroniclers to portray his reign favourably; the Battle of Bosworth Field was popularised to represent his Tudor dynasty as the start of a new age, marking the end of the Middle Ages for England. From the 15th to the 18th centuries the battle was glamorised as a victory of good over evil. The climax of William Shakespeare’s play Richard III provides a focal point for critics in later film adaptations. The exact site of the battle is disputed because of the lack of conclusive data, and memorials have been erected at different locations. In 1974 the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre was built on a site that has since been challenged by several scholars and historians. In October 2009 a team of researchers, who had performed geological surveys and archaeological digs in the area from 2003, suggested a location two miles (3.2 km) southwest of Ambion Hill.
You can visit the Battlefield Heritage Centre just a five minute drive from Hall Farm, or you can walk the beautiful route via the canal and Ambion Wood, where you can see the Richard III Exhibition and enjoy the Tithe Barn restaurant and surrounding historic area.