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Battle of Bosworth Field

History -- Military history -- List of battles

The Battle of Bosworth or Bosworth Field was fought on the August 22nd 1485 when Richard III of England, the last of the Plantagenet dynasty, fought a pitched battle with the Lancastrian contender for his crown, Henry Tudor. 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. Note that Richard III was of the Yorkist branch of the Plantagenets.

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 (later Duke of Bedford) and Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, both brilliant and seasoned soldiers. 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 Lord Thomas 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 the villages of Sutton Cheney and Market Bosworth in Leicestershire. The actual siting of the battle has been the topic of often contentious debate among professional and amateur historians, with a compelling case being made for siting 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. In any case, the Stanleys seem to have taken up a position some distance away from the two main armies. Richard had taken hostages to ensure that, even if they did not join him, they would at least remain neutral during the battle. 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. 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.

Richard was killed on the field (the last English king to die in battle), and 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.

However, 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 Henry VII, and the long reign of the Tudor dynasty in England.

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