Tag Archives: Wars of the Roses

On this day in 1485 – Battle of Bosworth

Henry Tudor had spent most of his life living in exile in France with his uncle, Jasper. Henry became a figurehead for the Lancastrians cause in the Wars of the Roses. Henry and Jasper set sail from Harfleur on 1st August 1485 and landed on at Mill Bay, Dale in Wales on 7th August 1485.

Henry and his army set up camp at the newly captured Dale Castle upon their landing few Welsh joined Tudor’s army as it set off on its march inland. The army set off towards Haverfordwest and Pembrokeshire. As the army moved King Richard III lieutenant in South Wales, Sir Walter Herbert failed to move the King’s army against Henry and eventually two of Herbert’s men, Richard Griffith and Evan Morgan defected to Henry’s army. As the army progressed another Welsh figure, Rhys Fawr ap Maredudd also joined Henry.

Henry began his march towards Aberystwyth but before he did he was able to persuade Rhys ap Thomas, King Richard’s Lieutenant in West Wales to join his side and set him on a southerly route to gather more Welshmen to the army. They would later reunite at Welshpool. By the 16th August Henry’s army crossed into England at Shrewsbury.

News of Henry’s arrival on Welsh soil reached King Richard on 11th August but there was a delay in messengers notifying of the King’s plans but finally on 16th August the Yorkist army began to gather with armies setting off for a meeting point at Leicester.

Henrys route to bosworthHenry’s route from Dale to Bosworth

With Henry Tudor taking the town of Shrewsbury and the army rested they set out once again eastwards picking up more and more followers and deserters from Richard’s army. Henry’s army slowly moved towards Staffordshire, Henry was delaying the inevitable meeting with Richard and his army. Henry’s decision to slow his army down was a tactical one as he wanted to gain more supporters; in particularly he was hoping to recruit his step father Lord Stanley to his cause.

Henry had two secret meetings with Stanley as he continued marching his army towards London. The second of these meetings was at Atherstone, Warwickshire. The Stanley’s would not commit either way as was typical of the Stanley family, they always assured that they had a member of the family on the winning side.

On 20th August Richard arrived in Leicester and was informed that Henry and his army were nearby. Richard instructed his army to march west and to cut the Tudor army off before they reached London. Richard’s army moved past Sutton Cheney towards Ambion Hill where they camped for the night. Meanwhile the following night Lord Stanley’s army camped on a hill nearby north of Dadlington and Henry and his army camped at White Moors.

On the morning of 22nd August Richard’s Yorkist army, which stood at approximately 10,000 men, left Ambion Hill. The army309 were separated into three clear groups; Norfolk led the first to the right protecting the 1,200 archers and cannons, Richard was in the middle that comprised of 3,000 infantry and finally on the left was Northumberland with 4,000 men. From Ambion Hill Richard could see the Stanleys and their army of 6,000 men, a concern for Richard as no one knew who Stanley or his brother would fight for.

Meanwhile, at White Moors Henry was readying his army. The Tudor army consisted of approximately 5,000 men Henry’s army consisted of less than 1,000 Englishmen and many of those had deserted Richard’s army. The rest of the army consisted of approximately 1,800 Frenchmen and some Scottish; the remainder were recruits that were picked up along their route in Wales include a vast amount of troops courtesy of Rhys ap Thomas.

As Henry’s troops began their march towards Ambion Hill it is believed that they passed a marsh at the southwestern part of the hill, meanwhile Richard sent a messenger to Lord Stanley ordering him to send his army to attack Henry and if he did not Richard would have Stanley’son, Lord Strange, executed. Stanley simply replied that he had more sons and with that Richard ordered the execution but the officers delayed. At the same time Stanley was being asked to declare for Henry but still Stanley delayed.

Henry handed control of the army over to the Earl of Oxford and retired with his body guards to the rear of the army, Henry had little military action and so relied on someone who was experienced in battle. Oxford decided to keep the army together instead of following Richard’s example of splitting the army into three. Oxford ordered the troops to go no further than 10 feet from the banners. The large army was flanked by horsemen on either side of the line.

Henry’s army were fired at by Richard’s cannons as they made their way around the marsh once they were clear Norfolk and the right flank began to advance and began firing arrows at the advancing Tudor army. Norfolk was at a disadvantage so Richard ordered Northumberland to send his troops in to assist but Northumberland failed to move.

With Henry’s army having the advantage Henry rode to muster Stanley into battle, Richard seeing this led a charge into Henry’s group where Richard killed Henry’s standard bearer, Sir William Brandon and even unhorsed John Cheyne, the former standard bearer of King Edward IV. The remainder of Henry’s bodyguards surrounded Henry and kept him out of the way of Richard’s group. Seeing Henry and his men engaged in battle with Richard caused Stanley to lead his men into battle to support Henry. The new development meant that Richard’s army was now outnumbered and slowly began being pushed back towards the marsh, during this Richard’s standard bearer Sir Percival Thirwell was cut down but kept holding the Yorkist banner until he was killed.

389The Battle of Bosworth recreation

It was reported by Polydore Vergil, who was the official historian of Henry VII, wrote;

Richard had come within a sword’s length of Henry Tudor before being surrounded by Sir William Stanley’s men and killed. The Burgundian chronicler Jean Molinet says that a Welshman struck the deathm blow with a halberd while Richard’s horse was stuck in the marshy ground. It was said that the blows were so violent that the King’s helmet was driven into his skull. The contemporary Welsh poet Guto’r Glyn implies the leading Welsh Lancastrian Rhys ap Thomas, or one of his men, killed the king, writing that he ‘killed the boar, shaved his head.”

With the news of Richard’s death spreading around the battle the Yorkist army fled with Northumberland escaping the battle alive but Norfolk was captured and killed.

228The site of the Battle of Bosworth

With Henry Tudor victorious and the battle over it is believed that Lord Stanley found Richard’s circlet in a hawthorn bush (this has never been proven nor disproven) and crowned Henry on Crown Hill near Stoke Golding. Around 100 of Henry’s men lost their lives compared to 1,000 of Richard’s men, the dead were taken to St James Church in Dadlington for burial, whilst Richard was stripped naked and thrown over the back of a horse and carried towards Leicester where he was put on display for the public to see that the old King was dead. Richard was then taken to the church of the Greyfriars where he was buried in an unmarked small grave where he would lie until he was discovered in 2012 and reinterred at Leicester Cathedral in 2015.

121King Richard’s grave

Back in 1485 Henry was proclaimed King Henry VII and dismissed his army only retaining a small group that he called the ‘Yeomen of his Garde’. He instantly called on Parliament to reverse the attainder that had been passed in his name and had the reign of Richard declared as illegal, this decision also reversed Richard’s decision to declare the children of King Edward IV as illegitimate therefore restoring Elizabeth to the title of Princess and making their forthcoming marriage easier. Henry also dated his reign from the day before the battle making anybody that fought for Richard traitors.

With the death of Richard saw the end of the Plantagenet dynasty and the beginning of the Tudors.

016The standards of Richard and Henry at the Bosworth visitor centre

Book review – The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory has a real talent for bringing alive the characters of her stories. Those who lived and breathed during the Wars of the Roses over 500 years ago are brought to life on the pages of her books. The King’s Curse is no different as we follow Margaret Pole through 40 years of her life.

Margaret Pole, Plantagenet by birth and niece to King Edward IV and King Richard III is now living in the Tudor court. Her brother, Edward, is locked away in the Tower of London his only crime is being the true Plantagenet heir to the throne. We are first introduced to Margaret in The King’s Curse after her brother has been executed on the orders of Henry VII at the request of the Spanish monarchs before they send their daughter, Katherine of Aragon, to England for marriage to the King’s oldest son, Arthur.

Margaret is head of the household at Ludlow Castle serving Prince Arthur and his new bride Katherine. We see through her eyes the developing love between the newlyweds and the heart break when Arthur dies just months later.

Margaret is sent home to her husband, an arranged marriage at the hands of Henry VII in order to bury the Plantagenet name and memory of years past. Margaret and her husband struggle with money and to raise their own children and with the death of her husband the family are pushed into poverty. As a reader you really feel for Margaret who has to do anything she can to survive.

With Henry VIII taking the throne upon his father’s death he is keen to unite the once warring families, especially as his mother was also a Princess of York. He restores his aunt’s titles and lands to her and welcomes her to court once again running the household of the new Queen, Katherine of Aragon. Margaret is loyal to the new Queen as she was when she was in Ludlow. We stay with Margaret in the service of the Queen for more than a decade where she is witness to the Queen’s many miscarriages and stillbirths along with the birth of the only surviving child a daughter, Mary.

With the possibility of any more children born to the Queen we see Henry change from the boy that Margaret knew who was caring and loving to a bitter man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. This starts with putting aside Queen Katherine in favour of Anne Boleyn and raising his illegitimate son to a Dukedom.

Margaret remains loyal to the Queen and her daughter Mary, who she is the governess of. Margaret spends much of her time during this part of the story at her home and court news is relayed to her through hers son. Through this we learn of Henry’s break with Rome and the oath he makes every subject take throughout the country to the King’s new marriage and subsequently the birth of his new daughter, Elizabeth. With the news coming in the form of letters and her sons it does not place Margaret in the centre of the action so we are only told what is needed to be known and the less important details are left out.

Whilst at Margaret’s home we get to see the relationship with her family in particularly the strained relationship with her youngest son, Reginald. We are also able to see Margaret’s reactions to the Pilgrimage of the North and how the Pole family remain loyal to the Princess and want to act in her best interest as she is declared illegitimate.

Henry’s descent from the sweet child whose brother was destining to be King to the tyrant he became in his later life is really well documented in The King’s Curse his failures to produce many living heirs, his many wives and a country that drives him to be paranoid about anyone and everyone is clear to see and you have a clear understanding of what drove Henry to lose his way.

The tragic ending of the book shows just how far Henry’s paranoia stretched and I’d be surprised if you aren’t reaching for a tissue or calling out in support of Margaret.

As with many historical novels they don’t cover all the facts and truths but I find that they are a good starting place to jumpstart further readings to learn the truth.

The King’s Curse is well written each character is a good rounded person with their own personalities and the writing flows so easy that you find yourself constantly saying ‘just one more chapter’. Philippa Gregory once again shows why she is leading the way with historical novels.

The King's Curse

On this day in 1503 – Elizabeth of York is buried in Westminster Abbey

Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and mother to Henry VIII, was buried in Westminster Abbey on 23rd February 1503.

Elizabeth was betrothed to Henry Tudor whilst he was in exile planning his return to England to face Richard III. Henry defeated Richard at the Battle of Bosworth on 22nd August 1485 and was proclaimed king.

Henry took Elizabeth for his wife on 18th January 1486 with a service in Westminster Abbey. Their marriage united the Houses of York and Lancashire and ended the Wars of the Roses.

Elizabeth died on 11th February 1503 on her 37th birthday, days after giving birth to a daughter, Katherine, who unfortunately also died just a few days after being born. After her death Elizabeth lay in state at the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London before being interred to Westminster Abbey. Henry VII gave his wife a magnificent state funeral and spared no expense.

Elizabeth’s funeral procession began on 22nd February and was led by 200 men and women dressed in black and carrying torches. Behind them followed Elizabeth’s household members and clerics and then came Elizabeth’s coffin on a horsedrawn carriage accompanied by knights and nobles.

Behind the carriage were the Queen’s four sisters on horseback with four other noblewomen in single file each escorted by a gentleman dressed in black damansk. The procession was followed further by noblewomen and members of the royal household.

Following a night resting within the Abbey, masses were said with the Bishop of Lincoln presiding over the final requiem mass. When all the sermons and masses were over the Bishop of London sanctified the grave for the coffin to be lowered into the ground. The Queen’s chamberlain and gentlemen ushers broke their staffs of offie and threw them into the grave to signify the end of their employment in her name.

Henry VII declared that every 11th February a requiem mass was to be sung, bells tolled and 100 candles lit in honour of his Queen.

Work on the Tudor vault in Westminster Abbey had only just begun at the time of Elizabeth’s death and so she could not be interred here, instead she was temporarily laid to rest in a specially built vault made just for her between the high altar and the choir in the Abbey. It was only after the death of Henry VII in 1509 that she was re-interred to her final resting place in the Lady Chapel.

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