The Battle of Bosworth Field was in effect the last battle of the Wars of the Roses (1455-1487), a series of civil wars fought between the Houses of York and Lancaster over the English crown. The Battle of Bosworth resulted in the victory of Lancastrian contender Henry Tudor over Yorkist king Richard III and established the Tudor dynasty on the throne.
After the Battle of Tewkesbury (1471), the House of Lancaster was left with no direct claimants to the throne and Yorkist king Edward IV took control of the English crown. He expelled those who refused to submit to his rule, among which was Henry Tudor, who was the only remaining Lancastrian with a trace of royal bloodline and thus had a weak claim on the throne. The Duke of Brittany supported Henry’s claim and kept the Tudors under his protection since he thought Henry could be useful to intercede for England in conflicts with France.
On April 1483 Edward IV passed away and as his son, Edward V, was too young to rule, Edward’s brother, Richard, assumed the role of Protector. Soon afterwards, Richard had Edward taken into custody and convinced the Parliament to declare the marriage between Edward IV and his wife illegal. This disqualified Edward’s children from the throne and made Richard the next in line of succession. He was then proclaimed King Richard III. Still, the new king was extremely unpopular and loyalists to Edward IV plotted to overthrow him led by Lady Margaret, Henry Tudor’s mother, and the Duke of Buckingham. They planned to invade Wales and overwhelm Richard’s forces by causing uprisings in southern and western England. In the meanwhile, Henry’s army would come in by sea. However, the plan was a complete failure and Richard easily crushed the rebellion. As a result, Buckingham was arrested and executed and Henry was forced to return to Brittany before even setting foot in England.
At Christmas of that same year, Henry swore to marry Elizabeth of York, Richard’s niece, so that the houses of York and Lancaster would be united. However, on March 16 1485, Richard’s wife Anne Neville passed away and rumours spread that the king wished to marry Elizabeth. Afraid of losing her hand and the support of those who were loyalists to Edward IV, Henry decided to lose no time and set sail to England to fight Richard on 1 August.
Henry crossed the English Channel and arrived at Pembrokeshire, in Wales, with a force of 2,000 men. When he reached Shrewsbury, he was joined by other nobles who supported him. As soon as he heard the news about Henry, Richard mustered an army of 10,000 men at Leicester, who were commanded by the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Northumberland. The army was deployed on a hilltop, south of Market Bosworth in Leicestershire.
Henry’s army was initially placed under Ambion Hill and commanded by the Earl of Oxford. The battle started on August 22 when the Earl decided to move the army to firmer ground and they were harassed by Richard’s cannons. Then, Henry’s men advanced up the hill and both sides closed in while thousands of arrows were loosed. Seeing that Henry was dominating the battle, Richard turned to Northumberland for help. However, the latter failed to aid him and did not join the battle, which led to Richard’s men being outnumbered. The King's last resort was to lead a direct attack on Henry, since if he was able to kill him the fight would end. However, as soon as his men charged, Lord Stanley, Henry’s stepfather, joined the battle to support Henry. Even though he knew he was at a great disadvantage, Richard kept on fighting till he was killed.
Right after Richard was killed, the Yorkist army left the battlefield and the battle was put to an end. Richard became the last Plantagenet king of England and his body was buried in an unmarked tomb in Leicester. Henry was then proclaimed king Henry VII and the Tudor dynasty was established on the throne. Throughout the years, the Battle of Bosworth Field was used by the Tudors to represent the end of the Middle Ages and the start of a new age for England. Moreover, during the 15th and 18th centuries, it was used as a symbol of the victory of good over evil, as can be seen in Shakespeare’s Richard III.
- henry vii
- richard iii
- battle of bosworth
- wars of the roses
- edward iv