Bringing the past to present times

Battle of Bosworth 1485

Battle of Bosworth a defining battle for the crown of England, the end of the Plantagenets and start of the Tudor dynasty with Henry Tudor.

The lead up to the Battle of Bosworth

On 9th April 1483, The death of King Edward IV aged 40 year old. Before Edward died, he named his brother Richard (Duke of Gloucester) as Protector after his death.

richard 3rd at bosworth
Richard III at Bosworth – painted by Graham Turner

26th June 1483 Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester) was made King Richard III.

7th August 1485, Henry Tudor (Earl of Richmond) sailed from Harfleur, France with a force of between 400 and 500 loyal followers and about 1500 French soldiers, the force landed at Milford Haven the same day.

12th August 1485, Henry Tudor had won the support of Rhys ap Thomas who was the most influential landowner in South Wales, he promised the Lieutenancy of Wales if Henry won. Lord Stanley who was Henrys step-father and his brother Sir William Stanley both secretly gave money to Henry, Lord Stanley’s eldest son was being held prisoner by King Richard III. The uncle of the Earl of Shrewsbury, Gilbert Thomas, also gave his support to Henry along with 500 men.

Richard III was at Nottingham Castle when he learned about Henry’s invasion. He did nothing as he assumed that the major landowners of Wales would see Henry as a threat and group their forces together and attack him. When he realised that he had made a mistake, Richard marched his forces to Market Bosworth.

richard III at the battle of bosworth
Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth – painted by Mark Churms

Battle of Bosworth

22nd August 1485, In the morning Henry Tudor arrived two and a half miles south of Market Bosworth. At the Battle of Bosworth Henry had a force of about 5000 men while Richard’s army was around 12,000 men. However, 4,000 of these soldiers belonged to the Stanley family, Henry was not sure if the Stanley’s could be trusted. It is thought that Richard did not trust Lord Stanley as he had a reputation of fighting for whoever he felt was going to be the most generous in victory.

When the fighting began the two Stanley armies stayed away from the actual fighting at this stage so that the contest was literally a battle between Richard’s and Henry’s forces. Richard held the crest of Ambien Hill with Henry at the bottom in more marshy land.

When Henry’s men charged up the hill, they sustained heavy casualties. However, Henry had recruited long bow men while in Wales and these inflicted equally severe wounds on the forces of Richard as being at the top of a hill did not protect them from a deluge of long bow arrows.

Richard turned the battle by targeting Henry himself. Henry was seen making a move to where Lord Stanley was almost certainly with the intent to urge Sir William Stanley to use his forces on Henry’s side. With some trusted men Richard charged at Henry that nearly succeeded in getting to Henry. William Brandon who was Henrys standard bearer was killed. Henry’s bodyguards closed ranks which gave some more protection, Henry was saved.

For the duration of the battle, the forces of the Stanley family had stood by the sides – therefore fulfilling what Richard believed – but at this critical moment the army of Sir William Stanley attacked Richard, seemingly coming to the aid of Henry. Richard was killed and his forces broke up and fled.

Lord Stanley picked up the slain Richard’s crown and placed it on Henry’s head. Richard’s naked body was put over a mule and taken to Leicester to be buried. Though there are no contemporary accounts of the battle, it is generally accepted that it lasted about two to three hours. Casualties on both sides were heavy.

king richard III knocked of his horse
King Richard III knocked of his horse

The aftermath

After Henry defeated Richard III at Bosworth he was crowned Henry VII, King of England. This ended the reign of the Plantagenet’s and introduced the reign of the Tudors.

By marrying Elizabeth of York, Henry unified both houses of Lancaster and York.

By , last updated: 21st November 2020