As a late Medieval England enthusiast, I thought it only right to honor the 528th anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth on August 22nd. Just a quick recap: The battle took place just west of Leicester in the Midlands region of the UK in 1485 when King Richard III (the last Plantagenet ruler and head of the House of York) was defeated by the upstart Henry Tudor (later Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch and the heir of the House of Lancaster). This was the last battle that decided the thirty year span of the so-called “War of the Roses” once and for all. Henry went on to marry Elizabeth of York to unite the rival houses and bring an end to the battles. Henry and Elizabeth’s ancestors sit on the throne of England to this day.
(Also of note, “The White Queen”, currently playing on the Starz network, is about Elizabeth of York’s mother, Elizabeth Woodville.)
Over the many years, people have lined up on both sides, supporting one player’s claims over the others. Richard, the anointed king, was accused of murdering his two nephews (the “princes in the tower”, the sons of Edward IV) to gain the throne. He was also thought to have killed his own wife in order to pursue his niece (and sister of the murdered princes) Elizabeth of York, who eventually became Henry’s wife. Unfortunately, whether or not any of that is true may never be known, but much of what has been said or written about Richard in the historical record is quite negative, as is often the case when one is the loser of the battle. Richard was the very last British monarch to die in battle and his precise burial location was only recently discovered.
Henry, on the other hand, had hardly spent much time in England at all, having spent most of his life in exile in France. Born in Wales, his claim to the throne was shaky at best, being through his mother, Margaret Beaufort, who was a descendant of Edward III through an illegitimate line that was only legitimized years later. Henry was young, inexperienced in governance and warfare, and knew very little about the people he would eventually come to rule.
The battle hinged on the support of Lord Thomas Stanley, who was Henry’s stepfather but had been a loyal York supporter until this time. Who would he support? To guarantee Stanley’s help, King Richard kept Stanley’s son captive – an insurance policy, if you will. Stanley was notorious for sitting on the sidelines during conflicts, waiting to see the tide turn before joining the winner’s team.
And that is exactly what Stanley and his brother Sir William did at Bosworth. They chose Henry’s side only after watching the ongoing battle and assisting Henry’s side at the eleventh hour. Richard was slain and the Tudor dynasty began, producing kings and queens of France, Scotland, and England for generations.
- Don’t always blame the mothers (express.co.uk)
- Richard III’s final resting place to be reviewed: Judge warns against War of the Roses part two (dailymail.co.uk)