The War of the Roses had raged across England
since 1377 when the Houses of York and Lancaster began their bid to
rule England. Although the wars were not that devastating for the
general population, they were very destructive for the Aristocracy. When Edward the IV died in early 1485 his son and heir,
Edward V was only 12 years old. Edward the IV's brother Richard was
proclaimed as Lord Protector until the young king was old enough to
rule on his own but Richard had both of Edward the IV's sons
imprisoned in the Tower of London. The two young boys mysteriously
disappeared one night and were not heard of again until Victorian
times when the skeletons of the two royals were found under a
staircase when renovations were ongoing. Richard quickly claimed the
throne and a reputation as an evil, power hungry opportunist. It is
likely that Richard had the boys murdered.
By August of 1485 the
chess game of real politics cumulated in a confrontation between King
Richard III (from the House of York) and Henry Tudor who had invaded
England through Wales with 2000 French mercenaries and some
Lancastrian lords and had made his way east via Shrewsbury and
Strafford. Richard who was at Nottingham moved to meet Henry and they
approached each other on August 21 just south of the Market Bosworth.
Henry had managed to
gather another 3000 troops during his march across England which
brought his army up to 5000 troops. Richard's army was over 12000
troops of which 4000 were under the command of the Stanley brothers
who were of doubtful loyalty.
The two armies
approached each other around Ambion Hill and deployed their troops
accordingly. Henry's general Oxford was slow in getting his troops
into position and was lucky Richard did not attack while he was
vulnerable. Once in place Oxford issued the order to attack Richard's
forces and quickly overran and killed the Duke of Norfolk and his
The battle ebbed and flowed for about an hour but the
Stanley brothers suddenly launched an attack but not against
Henry. They bore down on Richard's forces and the battle
began to go in favour of Henry Tudor. Richard
had two chances left to turn the tide. The first was that the Earl of
Northumberland would bring Richard's reserves into the fray and throw
back the Tudor forces. Northumberland however failed to do this when
he saw the Stanleys attack Richard. Richard's second and last chance
was a direct attack on Henry Tudor himself with his remaining forces.
Richard launched his attack and just failed to achieve his objective.
As he and his guard were
closing in on Henry Richard was struck down and killed.
Richard was wearing
his crown during the battle and upon his death it was retrieved and presented to
Henry. It was important that Henry made it clear that he was
already the rightful king before the crown was set upon his head
and hence needed no mans approval to claim his throne form
Richard. The battle was over and the kingdom had passed from the Yorkist Richard to Henry Tudor who had Lancastrian roots.
Henry later married the eldest daughter of Edward IV, Elizabeth who was descended from
the House of York. The House of Tudor became the royal family of
England. Henry spent the rest of his reign solidifying the Tudor
hold on the throne and this
insecurity played a role in decisions made by Henry VIII during
his life. Most landowners, churchmen and aristocrats did not want
a return to the uncertainty of the dynastic wars and the few
uprising that did take place were easily suppressed. Richard III was the last English King
who died on the
field of battle.