I recently posted a podcast episode about the Tudor Chroniclers, and how the art of writing history was changing during the 16th century. As most of you know, today is a very special day. It’s the day of my first date with my husband in 2005! It’s my grandma’s birthday! Okay, it’s both of those things, but it’s also the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth. Henry Tudor’s greatly outnumbered army defeated King Richard III today, and the Tudor Dynasty was born.
Richard received a blow to the back of his head, and that matches contemporary accounts that say he was fighting without a helmet at the very end, trying to make it to Henry to fight him directly. You can read more about the injuries they found when his body was discovered: http://www.le.ac.uk/richardiii/science/osteologybody.html
What do the contemporary accounts say about the Battle of Bosworth? Let’s take a look.
While there are no records written immediately after Bosworth (at least that we’ve found) we have enough from the following two decades or so to be able to piece together the events of the day. Of course these were written by those who wanted to appeal to Henry VII, and so they will portray him in a nicer light. The Richard III Society has a lot of information trying to even the balance, and they provide full texts of many of the chronicles online, so you can easily read them there. *(I should say, I’m not a Ricardian. I’m also not a Henrican. I’m an Episcopalian. That means I don’t like fighting, and I like to sing hymns. Also I don’t take sides between Henry and Richard. I do take sides when Margaret Beaufort is being maligned. That is all.)*
The Battlefield Report from English Heritage
You can read a full article on Tudor Times about Bosworth here:
Holinshead Chronicle on Henry VII’s speech to his troops:
Full text on the Richard III website
If euer God gaue victorie to men fighting in a iust quarrelI, or if he euer aided such as made warre for the wealth & tuition of their owne naturall and natritiue countrie, or if he euer succoured them which aduentured their liues for the releefe of innocents, suppressing of malefactors and apparant offendors ; no doubt my fellowes & freends, but he of his bountifull goodnesse will this daie send vs triumphant victorie, and a luckie iournie ouer our proud enimies, and arrogant aduersaries : for if you remember and consider the verie cause of our iust quarell, you shall apparantlie perceiue the same to be true, godlie, and vertuous. In the which I doubt not, but God will rather aid vs (yea and fight for vs) than see vs vanquished and ouerthrowne by such as neither feare him nor his laws, nor yet regard iustice or honestie.
Vergil’s Anglia Historia
The full text, translated, is available to read at the Richard III Society website.
In the meane time king Richard, hearing that thennemy drew neare, came first to the place of fight, a little beyond Leycester (the name of that village ys Boswoorth), and ther, pightching his tentes, refresshyd his soldiers that night from ther travale, and with many woords exhortyd them to the fyght to coome. Yt ys reportyd that king Rycherd had that night a terryble dreame; for he thowght in his slepe that he saw horryble ymages as yt wer of evell spyrytes haunting evydently abowt him, as yt wer before his eyes, and that they wold not let him rest; which visyon trewly dyd not so muche stryke into his brest a suddane feare, as replenyshe the same with ehavy cares: for furthwith after, being troublyd in mynde, his hart gave him theuppon that thevent of
Full text on the Richard III website.
This also describes how Thomas Stanley (Henry’s stepfather) pretended to be sick rather than come to Richard’s aid. Seriously, read it. It’s great.
But was all in vain; for, on the first day of August the enemy landed with a fair wind, and without opposition, at the most celebrated harbour, Milford Haven, near Pembroke.
On hearing of their arrival, the king rejoiced, or at least seemed to rejoice, writing to his adherents in every quarter that now the long wished-for day had arrived, for him to triumph with ease over so contemptible a faction, and thenceforth benefit his subjects with the blessings of uninterrupted tranquility.
At day-break on the Monday following there were no chaplains present to perform Divine service on behalf of king Richard, nor any breakfast prepared to refresh the flagging spirits of the king; besides which, as it generally stated, in the morning he declared that during the night he had seen dreadful visions, and had imagined himself surrounded by a multitude of dæmons.
So, all in all, Richard’s last night on earth wasn’t a pleasant one. He also had a terrible day. But we got the Tudors out of it, so that’s the celebration today.