10 Facts About the Battle of Bosworth

Gabrielle Kramer

4 mins

22 Aug 2018

From June 1483 to August 1485, the short reign of King Richard III was a tumultuous one.

After Parliament declaring the children of his brother, Edward IV, illegitimate, Richard, then the Duke of Gloucester and the Lord Protector, ascended to the throne and was declared King of England.

While many speculate and debate about the validity of his accession and his involvement in the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, all can agree that his reign ended on August 22, 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth. On this day, Richard III, and many of his closest supporters, were killed by the Lancastrian forces of Henry Tudor.

This marked the ending of one era and the beginning of another.

Thomas Penn talks Dan through the rise, zenith and fall of the House of York during the latter half of the 15th century.Watch Now

1. It was fought near, but not on, Bosworth Field

Despite its name, the Battle of Bosworth did not occur on Bosworth Field. In fact, it is three miles south of Market Bosworth. The battle has also been known as the Battle of Redemore Field or Dadlington Field.

In 2009, The Battlefields Trust eliminated two of the three proposed battle sites, including the popular belief that the battle occurred on Ambion Hill.

During their research and excavation, The Battlefields Trust also found over 22 cannonballs, which is the most to be found on a medieval battlefield.

2. Richard was known for his military leadership and skill

Following the death of his father, the Duke of York, Richard was brought up by Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick. He trained as a knight in Warwick’s castles in the North, mainly Middleham Castle.

He led military campaigns along the Scottish border. Richard also fought in many decisive battles of the Wars of the Roses, such as Barnet, Tewkesbury, and Bosworth.

While contemporary sources criticise Richard’s ambition and seizing of the English throne in 1483, most also seem to agree that he was a capable military leader and fought valiantly at Bosworth.

Richard fought in the Battle of Tewkesbury.

3. Yet Henry Tudor was relatively inexperienced

After the death of Edward of Westminster at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471, Henry Tudor was effectively considered the only Lancastrian heir. Through his mother’s line, he could trace his lineage back to John of Gaunt, a son of Edward III and father to Henry IV.

But much of his life was in exile in Wales and France. He was cared for by his paternal uncle, Jasper Tudor, who fought alongside him.

Bosworth was considered the first military battle of Henry Tudor’s career.

4. The Yorkist troops vastly outnumbered the Lancastrians

Henry Tudor sailed over from France with around 2,000 troops. On his march to the Battle of Bosworth, his numbers at least doubled. Without initially having the pledged support of the Stanley family’s army, Henry Tudor went to battle with around 4,000-5,000 men.

But the royal army of Richard III numbered at least 10,000, if not 15,000. Therefore, the Lancastrian forces were outnumbered either 2:1 or 3:1.

5. King Richard did not actually offer to give his kingdom for a horse

Richard III.

Despite the famous lines of William Shakespeare’s Richard, the actual king did not attempt to flee the battlefield when the battle’s tide turned against him.┬áIt is said that Richard wore a crown over his helmet into battle, easily identifying himself as the king.

While some did try to convince the king to flee, he was resolved to win the battle or die alongside his men.

6. The battle was swayed by Sir William Stanley’s involvement

During the majority of the battle, both Sir William and Sir Thomas Stanley remained on the sidelines. Richard III had Thomas Stanley’s son, Lord Strange, held hostage as he attempted to coerce him into fighting for the Yorkists.

With a private army of around 6,000 men, the brothers heavily influenced the outcome of the Battle of Bosworth. It is said that the brother became involved after Richard led a direct charge on Henry, who had been separated from his main force.

The Stanley army attacked Richard’s back flank and effectively changed the outcome of the Battle of Bosworth.

7. It was the final battle of the medieval period in England

While the exact dates of the medieval period are speculated and debated on, the Battle of Bosworth is often considered one of the final moments of the medieval period in England.

The reign of Henry VII, and his dynasty who followed him, begin the early modern period of English history.

Lauren Johnson talks to Dan about the fascinating reign of Henry VI.Listen Now

8. Richard III was the final English king to die in battle

After the death of Richard III, no English king would later die on the battlefield. Many would still lead their men and fight in battle, yet none would die.

George II would be the last English king to fight in battle in 1743.

9. Henry Tudor became Henry VII and ended the Wars of the Roses

Although it has been dismissed by experts, it was once said that Sir Thomas Stanley had found Richard’s circlet in a hawthorn bush.

Despite these exact details having no contemporary evidence, it seems true that Henry was crowned with fallen Richard’s circlet following his victory at Bosworth.

Sir Thomas Stanley hands the crown to Henry Tudor after the Battle of Bosworth. This image depicts the moment described by Polydore Vergil.

Henry would be officially crowned and anointed King Henry VII on 30 October 1485. He married Edward IV’s daughter, Elizabeth of York, and joined together the Houses of York and Lancaster.

While their union was most definitely symbolic, all accounts describe a rather happy marriage between the two.

10. But his throne was not secure after Bosworth

Despite the conflict known as the Wars of the Roses coming to a close with the Battle of Bosworth, Henry Tudor’s throne was anything but secure.

There were Yorkist uprising during his reign. Two of the most important are the uprisings behind Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck. Both were considered Yorkist heirs, either as Edward, the earl of Warwick or Richard of Shrewsbury, the Duke of York.

This 4-part History Hit audio drama, starring Iain Glen, tells the story of Perkin Warbeck, a young pretender to the English crown in the 1490s.Watch Now

Both were found to be pretenders. Lambert was pardoned and given a job in the royal household, but Perkin was executed on 23 November 1499.