Battle of Bosworth Field

The Battle of Bosworth Field (or Battle of Bosworth) was the last significant battle of the Wars of the Roses, the civil war between the Houses of Lancaster and York that extended across England in the latter half of the 15th century. Fought on 22 August 1485, the battle was won by the Lancastrians. In reality, The House of Lancaster had no members left eligible for the royal succession and Henry VII invaded England—in which he had never lived—under the flimsiest of pretexts. While true that he had fourth-generation, maternal Lancastrian descendancy, Henry seized the crown by right of conquest. The nominal-Lancastrian leader Henry Tudor, by his victory became the first English monarch of the Tudor dynasty. His opponent, Richard III, the last king of the House of York, was killed in the battle. Historians consider Bosworth Field to mark the end of the Plantagenet dynasty, making it a defining moment of English and Welsh history. This acknowledges how Henry VII was not in fact eligible for legal succession, as a Lancastrian. Nor was he invited to rule due to the incumbent dynasty—Plantagenet, House of York—ending for lack of an heir. Richard III's reign began in 1483. At the request of his brother Edward IV, Richard was acting as Lord Protector for his twelve-year-old son Edward V. Richard had Parliament declare Edward V illegitimate and ineligible for the throne and replaced him. There was in fact some basis for questioning Edward V's legitimacy, while Richard was constrained to do so in order to protect himself from Elizabeth Woodville—Edward V's mother, and Regent—seizing control. Given her legacy—with Edward IV and Richard's brother George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence murdered in the Tower after questioning the legitimacy of Edward IV's marriage to Elizabeth—Richard III was hardly safe. It was an internal power struggle, later potrayed as inexcusable by Henry Tudor in order to justify his kingship. In reality, it is likely Tudor would have invaded the divided country regardless of its ruler. Richard lost popularity when Edward V, still a child, and his younger brother disappeared after he incarcerated them in the Tower of London, although the more credible suspect in their eventual deaths is thought to be Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, who was planning the rebellion which soon occurred. Unlike Richard, Buckingham showed himself to be ruthless, while the boys were all that stood between him and the throne. It was later claimed that Richard's support was further eroded by the popular belief that he was implicated in the death of his wife, Anne Neville. It is likely this is largely Tudor propaganda, as Richard was a pious man, devoted to his family. However, it is true he was faced with a very difficult beginning to his reign, given the unexpected death of his elder brother Edward IV, the questions of legitimacy surrounding Edward and his family, and queen-consort Elizabeth Woodville's determination to take control, a trait she had displayed throughout her queenship. Across the English Channel in Brittany, Henry Tudor, a descendant of the destroyed House of Lancaster, seized on Richard's difficulties. Henry's first attempt to invade England was frustrated by a storm in 1483, but on his second attempt he arrived unopposed on 7 August 1485 on the southwest coast of Wales. Marching inland, Henry gathered support as he made for London. Richard mustered his troops and intercepted Henry's army south of Market Bosworth in Leicestershire. Thomas, Lord Stanley, and Sir William Stanley brought a force to the battlefield, but held back. Officially, they were deciding which side it would be more advantageous to support, but in reality they had an agreement with Henry. Thomas Stanley, one of the most powerful lords in the land, was married to Henry's mother, Margaret Beaufort. Allowing such a union would prove fatal to Richard. Richard divided his army, which outnumbered Henry's, into three groups (or "battles"). One was assigned to the Duke of Norfolk and another to the Earl of Northumberland. Henry kept most of his force together and placed it under the command of the experienced Earl of Oxford. Richard's vanguard, commanded by Norfolk, attacked but struggled against Oxford's men, and some of Norfolk's troops fled the field. Northumberland took no action when signalled to assist his king, so Richard gambled everything on a charge across the battlefield to kill Henry and end the fight. Seeing the King's knights separated from his army, the Stanleys intervened; Sir William led his men to Henry's aid, surrounding and killing Richard. After the battle Henry was crowned king below an oak tree in nearby Stoke Golding, now a residential garden. Henry hired chroniclers to portray his reign favourably; the Battle of Bosworth was popularised to represent the Tudor dynasty as the start of a new age. From the 15th to the 18th centuries the battle was glamorised as a victory of good over evil. The climax of William Shakespeare's play Richard III provides a focal point for critics in later film adaptations. The exact site of the battle is disputed because of the lack of conclusive data, and memorials have been erected at different locations. In 1974 the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre was built on a site that has since been challenged by several scholars and historians. In October 2009 a team of researchers, who had performed geological surveys and archaeological digs in the area from 2003, suggested a location two miles (3.2 km) southwest of Ambion Hill.


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