The Battle of Bosworth Field

For thirty years in the late 15th century, the War of the Roses raged across England and Wales (The War of the Roses was the real Game of Thrones). By 1483, the House of York, whose symbol was a white rose, had forced the remaining members declared for the House of Lancaster, the red rose, to flee to France. But internal politics had forced the regency council to declare the 12 year old Yorkist King Edward V illegitimate, and Henry, of the small House of Tudor and the last remaining Lancastrian lord, took the opportunity to invade.

Henry Tudor landed in Wales in early August 1485. Henry gathered troops from former Lancastrian allies, and met the forces of the House of York under King Richard III outside of the village of Bosworth. (Richard took the throne after Edward V and is the guy whose remains they discovered underneath a parking lot in Leicester in 2015) Richard III vastly outnumbered Henry Tudor and he divided his army into three “battles”: one commanded by himself, one under the Duke of Norfolk, one under Earl of Northumbria. A fourth force was on the field under Lord Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby, ostensibly fighting for Richard. Henry kept his small army together under the Earl of Oxford.

Richard III ordered all of the battles to attack, but only his and Norfolk’s actually did. The Earl of Oxford held off the attacks and even forced some of Richard’s forces to retreat. Richard asked Northumbria for assistance but the Earl’s battle did not move. Henry, seeing the two immobile battles of Stanley and Northumbria, correctly surmised that they were waiting to see who won in the center before throwing in their support.

Henry saw an opportunity to win the battle and moved off to directly appeal to Stanley. Richard III saw Henry move toward Stanley and realized that the only way to win the battle was to kill Henry. So he personally charged. The bodyguards of the two commanders fought and Henry was almost killed. But when Sir William Stanley (the Earl of Derby’s nephew?) saw that Richard was isolated from the rest of his army, he and his men charged. Richard III slighted William Stanley years before and chose this moment for revenge. The combined weight of Henry’s bodyguard and Stanley’s knights overwhelmed Richard and his retinue, whom were slaughtered to a man. Unhorsed, Richard III fought to the death.

Henry Tudor was crowned on the field and the War of the Roses was over. The House of Tudor claimed prominence in England and King Henry VII would reign for 25 years. He was succeeded by his son Henry VIII (I am I am; the one with the wives), and his granddaughters Queen “Bloody” Mary I and Queen Elizabeth I.

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