Medieval War of the Roses

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.

Before the Battle of Bosworth, the country had 14 years of political stability and peace. In 1483 the 12 year old King Edward V and his brother disappeared, later found murdered. Richard Plantagenet, Duke of Gloucester had become proclaimed as the rightful King. He became crowned King Richard III of England.

October 1483, Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham joined with Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, and his mother Lady Margaret Beaufort. They lead a rebellion against Richard III, however it had been unsuccessful. Henry Tudor fled to Brittany in France.

richard iii outside the blue boar inn
Richard III outside the Blue Boar Inn, by J.Fulleylove

George Stanley, 9th Baron Strange admitted that he and his uncle Sir William Stanley had some involvement with Henry during the rebellion. Richard had him held hostage for his fathers loyalty.

2nd November 1483, the Duke of Buckingham had been beheaded for treason at the market place of Salisbury, Wiltshire.

25th December 1483, Henry swore an oath in Rennes Cathedral to marry Edward IV‘s daughter Elizabeth of York. This would unite the Houses of York and Lancaster.

16th March 1485, Richard’s Queen Anne Neville died. Rumours had suggested that Richard had poisoned her in order to marry his niece Elizabeth of York. The rumours had alienated Richard with his northern supporters, and upset Henry in Brittany.

1st August 1485, Henry had been keen to secure a marriage to Elizabeth of York. He raised an army of French mercenaries to bolster his English and Welsh exiled supporters. Henry set sail in 30 ships from Harfleur, France to cross the English Channel.

Henry landed in Wales

7th August 1485, Henry and his army landed at Mill Bay near Milford Haven in Wales, and captured Dale Castle.

As the invading army moved inland through Haverfordwest, they gathered more supporters. The Lieutenant of South Wales, Sir Walter Herbert did not move against Henry. Evan Morgan and Richard Griffith who where the Lieutenants officers deserted to Henry, along with their men.

henry tudors arrival at mill bay
Henry Tudor’s arrival at Mill Bay 7th August 1485, by Graham Turner

The Lieutenant of West Wales, Sir Rhys ap Thomas of Carew Castle also deflected across to Henry on the promise of becoming Lieutenant of all Wales.

Henry marched through Aberystwyth gaining more Welshmen to the army, then on to the market town of Welshpool.

Henry crossed the English boarder

16th August 1485, Henry and his army had crossed the English border, and heading for Shrewsbury in Shropshire.

Richard started to gather his Yorkist army. John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk headed to Leicester, the central gather point for the Yorkists. Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland and his men also headed to Leicester from the north.

Henry and his army went west bound and met up with Sir Gilbert Talbot of Grafton. Other allies also joined Henry.

Since landing in Wales, Henry’s army had grown in size, but outnumbered by Richard’s Yorkist army.

The march to Bosworth

On reaching Atherstone in Warwickshire, Thomas Stanley, 1st Baron Stanley and Sir William Stanley joined forces with Henry.

20th August 1485, Richard met with the Duke of Norfolk in Leicester, and spent the night at the Blue Boar Inn. Richard’s Yorkist army made camp at Ambion Hill, just west of Sutton Cheney in Leicestershire.

richard 3rd at bosworth
Richard III at Bosworth, by Graham Turner

21st August 1485, Lord Stanley’s army made camp on a hill north of Dadlington, and William Stanley’s army placed on a hill north of Stoke Golding. Henry’s army made camp at White Moors, just northwest of the Stanley’s camp.

Battle of Bosworth Field

22nd August 1485, during the morning of the Battle of Bosworth, Richard rode his white courser horse from Leicester to meet up with his army.

The Yorkist army of around 10,000 men lined up along a ridge to the west of Sutton Cheney. The Earl of Northumberland’s force on the left flank, and the Duke of Norfolk on the right flank. Richards army formed the centre at Ambion Hill.

artillery at bosworth
Artillery at Bosworth, by Graham Turner

Henrys army to the south of Richard, consisted of around 7,000 men. Lord Stanley’s army positioned on Dadlington Hill, just southwest William Stanleys army place on a hill north of Stoke Golding.


Henry army advanced from White Moors towards in the direction of Richard and his army at Ambion Hill. Richard sent a message to Lord Stanley. He demanded that Lord Stanley should attack Henrys army, or his son held hostage would become executed. Lord Stanleys replied “Sire, I have other sons”. Richard gave the order to behead Lord Strange. His officers failed to carry out the order, suggesting it better done after the battle.

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

Henry send a messenger to Lord Stanley asking for his allegiance, but his reply came back evasive. Lord Stanleys army stayed in potion on Dadlington Hill and took no direct part on the battlefield.

John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford took the lead of Henrys army, flanked by horsemen. As they were passing an area of march, they came under fire from the Yorkist artillery. Once the Earl of Oxford had passed the march, the Yorkists under the Duke of Norfolk and Sir Robert Brackenbury began to advance.

richard iii killing standard bearer sir william brandon
Richard III killing standard bearer Sir William Brandon, by Graham Turner

Both sides had their archers fire their longbows, as the two armies closed. They then clashed together, fighting hand-to-hand combat. The Yorkist Walter Devereux, 8th Baron Ferrers of Chartley had been killed in the battle. Several men under the command of Duke of Norfolk fled the battlefield.

Richard signalled the Earl of Northumberland to engage in the fight against the Earl of Oxfords army, but he failed to advance.

The Duke of Norfolk had been killed when struck in the face by an arrow. Earlier he had lost the face guard from his helmet while fighting with the Earl of Oxford.

Death of Richard III

Richard and his household knights had seen Henry at some distance behind his main army. They charged directly at Henry in an attempt to end the battle quickly. Once the knights clashed, Sir John Cheyne became unhorsed. Richard killed Henry’s standard bearer Sir William Brandon with his lance.

Sir Robert Brackenbury had joined in the charge, but was killed by Sir Walter Hungerford of Farleigh in hand-to-hand combat. Sir Richard Ratcliffe had also been killed in the charge.

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

Henry dismounted his horse and took cover amongst the French mercenaries, making himself less of a target. Richard had come within a sword length away from Henry.

However, Richards horse became stuck in the marshy ground and toppled. Richard had now become unhorsed and refusing to retreat. Sir William Stanley’s men surrounded him and started attacking him. He fought gallantly before Sir Rhys ap Thomas delivered the death-blow to the back of Richard’s head using a halberd.

Richard III, the last of the Plantagenets, and became the last King to be killed on a battlefield.

Richards standard bearer Sir Percival Thirlwall, lost his legs while still holding the banner. He became struck again and killed.

As the news of Richards death spread, the Yorkists started to break. The Earl of Northumberland and his army fled the Battle of Bosworth field.


After the Battle of Bosworth Lord Stanley retrieved Richard III’s fallen circlet from the battlefield. He took it to Henry and placed it upon his step-sons head in front of his cheering troops. He had become proclaimed King at the top of Crown Hill, near Stoke Golding.

finding richards circlet after the battle, lord stanley hands it to henry
Finding Richard’s circlet after the battle, Lord Stanley hands it to Henry.

Henry Tudor by right of conquest had become King Henry VII of England.

The bodies of the dead had been taken to St. Jane’s Church in Dadlington. As for Richard III’s body, it was striped naked and laid over a horse. He was then taken to Leicester to be displayed to prove that Richard III was dead. After two days he was interred in a plain tomb at Greyfriars of Leicester.

27th October 1485, Lord Stanley became the Earl of Derby.

18th January 1486, King Henry VII marriage to Elizabeth of York at Westminster Abbey. This unified the Houses York and Lancaster.

1487, the pretender Lambert Simnel claimed to be Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick. John del la Pole, Earl of Lincoln backed him for the throne in the name of the House of York. The rebellion would become settled at the Battle of Stoke Field.