Tag Archives: Richard III

Battle of Bosworth 21 August 1485

Battle of Bosworth Field

Tomorrow marks the five hundred and thirty first anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth and the end of the  War of The Rose’s and for me and many a fascinating period of British/French history.  At the end of day  King Richard III lay dead ,  Plantagenet rule came to a bloody, brutal  end and the rise of the “sexy” Tudors has began.

As a lover of all things history , especially British/Irish/Roman I have always been fascinated by the key players in the ruthless War of the Rose’s and the sheer brutality of the murder’s they perpetuated  and casual deceit they used to forward their quest for the crown of England/Wales. Going against the grain of popular opinion I have always had a soft spot for Richard, regardless of the various murders he has been associated with , not least of all the Prince’s in the Tower. He only ruled for a short term and yet he will go down in history as a giant of British Royalty  and the last Battle King of England

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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 raged across England in the latter half of the 15th century. Fought on 22 August 1485, the battle was won by the Lancastrians.

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Their leader Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, 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.

Richard’s reign began in 1483. At the request of his brother Edward IV, Richard was acting as Lord Protector for his son Edward V. Richard had Parliament declare Edward V illegitimate and ineligible for the throne, and Richard took it for himself. Richard lost popularity when the boy and his younger brother disappeared after Richard incarcerated them in the Tower of London, and Richard’s support was further eroded by the popular belief that he was implicated in the death of his wife. Across the English Channel in Brittany, Henry Tudor, a descendant of the greatly diminished House of Lancaster, seized on Richard’s difficulties so that he could challenge Richard’s claim to the throne.

Henry’s first attempt to invade England was frustrated by a storm in 1483, but at 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 while they decided which side it would be more advantageous to support.

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 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.



Further information: Wars of the Roses and Princes in the Tower
Map of England showing the locations of towns and battles. Bosworth is in the centre, northwest of London.

During the 15th century, civil war raged across England as the Houses of York and Lancaster fought each other for the English throne. In 1471, the Yorkists defeated their rivals in the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury. The Lancastrian King Henry VI and his only son, Edward of Lancaster, died in the aftermath of the Battle of Tewkesbury. Their deaths left the House of Lancaster with no direct claimants to the throne. The Yorkist king, Edward IV, was in complete control of England.

He attainted those who refused to submit to his rule, such as Jasper Tudor and his nephew Henry, naming them traitors and confiscating their lands. The Tudors tried to flee to France but strong winds forced them to land in Brittany, then a semi-independent duchy, where they were taken into the custody of Duke Francis II.

Henry’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, was a great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, uncle of King Richard II and father of King Henry IV. The Beauforts were originally bastards, but Henry IV legitimised them on the condition that their descendants were not eligible to inherit the throne. Henry Tudor, the only remaining Lancastrian noble with a trace of the royal bloodline, had a weak claim to the throne, and Edward regarded him as “a nobody”.

The Duke of Brittany, however, viewed Henry as a valuable tool to bargain for England’s aid in conflicts with France and kept the Tudors under his protection.

Edward IV died twelve years after Tewkesbury on 9 April 1483.

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His twelve-year-old elder son succeeded him as King Edward V; the younger son, nine-year-old Richard of Shrewsbury, was next in line to the throne. Edward V was too young to rule and a Royal Council was established to rule the country until the king’s coming of age. The royal court was worried when they learned that the Woodvilles, relatives of Edward IV’s widow Elizabeth, were plotting to seize control of the council.

Having offended many in their quest for wealth and power, the Woodville family was not popular. To frustrate the Woodvilles’ ambitions, Lord Hastings and other members of the council turned to the new king’s uncle—Richard, Duke of Gloucester, brother of Edward IV. The courtiers urged Gloucester to assume the role of Protector quickly, as had been previously requested by his now dead brother.

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Arms of Earl Rivers

On 29 April, Gloucester, accompanied by a contingent of guards and Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, took Edward V into custody and arrested several prominent members of the Woodville family. After bringing the young king to London, Gloucester had two of the Woodvilles (Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers and Richard Grey) executed, without trial, on charges of treason.

On 13 June, Gloucester accused Hastings of plotting with the Woodvilles and had him beheaded. Nine days later, Gloucester convinced Parliament to declare the marriage between Edward IV and Elizabeth illegal, rendering their children illegitimate and disqualifying them from the throne. With his brother’s children out of the way, he was next in the line of succession and was proclaimed King Richard III on 26 June.

The timing and extrajudicial nature of the deeds done to obtain the throne for Richard won him no popularity, and rumours that spoke ill of the new king spread throughout England. After they were declared bastards, the two princes were confined in the Tower of London and never seen in public again.

Discontent with Richard’s actions manifested itself in the summer after he took control of the country, as a conspiracy emerged to displace him from the throne. The rebels were mostly loyalists to Edward IV, who saw Richard as a usurper. Their plans were co-ordinated by a Lancastrian, Henry’s mother Lady Margaret, who was promoting her son as a candidate for the throne. The highest-ranking conspirator was Buckingham. No chronicles tell of the duke’s motive in joining the plot, although historian Charles Ross proposes that Buckingham was trying to distance himself from a king who was becoming increasingly unpopular with the people.

Michael Jones and Malcolm Underwood suggest that Margaret deceived Buckingham into thinking the rebels supported him to be king.

A blond woman with rosy cheeks holds a white rose. She wears a gilded black shawl over her head, and a red robe trimmed in white spotted fur.

Elizabeth of York: rumours of her marriage launched Henry’s invasion.

The plan was to stage uprisings within a short time in southern and western England, overwhelming Richard’s forces. Buckingham would support the rebels by invading from Wales, while Henry came in by sea. Bad timing and weather wrecked the plot. An uprising in Kent started 10 days prematurely, alerting Richard to muster the royal army and take steps to put down the insurrections. Richard’s spies informed him of Buckingham’s activities, and the king’s men captured and destroyed the bridges across the River Severn. When Buckingham and his army reached the river, they found it swollen and impossible to cross because of a violent storm that broke on 15 October.

Buckingham was trapped and had no safe place to retreat; his Welsh enemies seized his home castle after he had set forth with his army. The duke abandoned his plans and fled to Wem, where he was betrayed by his servant and arrested by Richard’s men. On 2 November 1483, he was executed.

Henry had attempted a landing on 10 October (or 19 October), but his fleet was scattered by a storm. He reached the coast of England (at either Plymouth or Poole), and a group of soldiers hailed him to come ashore. They were, in truth, Richard’s men, prepared to capture Henry once he set foot on English soil. Henry was not deceived and returned to Brittany, abandoning the invasion. Without Buckingham or Henry, the rebellion was easily crushed by Richard.

The survivors of the failed uprisings fled to Brittany, where they openly supported Henry’s claim to the throne. At Christmas, Henry Tudor swore an oath to marry Edward IV’s daughter, Elizabeth of York, to unite the warring houses of York and Lancaster.

Henry’s rising prominence made him a great threat to Richard, and the Yorkist king made several overtures to the Duke of Brittany to surrender the young Lancastrian. Francis refused, holding out for the possibility of better terms from Richard.  In mid-1484, Francis was incapacitated by illness and while recuperating, his treasurer, Pierre Landais, took over the reins of government. Landais reached an agreement with Richard to send back Henry and his uncle in exchange for military and financial aid. John Morton, a bishop of Flanders, learned of the scheme and warned the Tudors, who fled to France.

The French court allowed them to stay; the Tudors were useful pawns to ensure that Richard’s England did not interfere with French plans to annexe Brittany.

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Anne Neville

On 16 March 1485, Richard’s queen, Anne Neville, died  and rumours spread across the country that she was murdered to pave the way for Richard to marry his niece, Elizabeth. The gossip alienated Richard from some of his northern supporters,  and upset Henry across the English Channel. The loss of Elizabeth’s hand in marriage could unravel the alliance between Henry’s supporters who were Lancastrians and those who were loyalists to Edward IV.

Anxious to secure his bride, Henry assembled approximately 2,000 men and set sail from France on 1 August.


Two men in armour stand opposite each other. They wear crowns and hold swords in their hands. Above the man on the left is a flag of a white boar and a white rose. Above  the man on the right is a flag of a red dragon and a red rose. Above and between the two roses is a white rose superimposed on a red rose.

A stained-glass window in St. James Church, Sutton Cheney, commemorates the Battle of Bosworth and the leaders of the combatants, Richard III (left) and Henry VII (right).

By the 15th century, English chivalric ideas of selfless service to the king had been corrupted.

Armed forces were mostly raised through musters in individual estates; every able-bodied man had to respond to his lord’s call to arms, and each noble had exclusive authority over his militia. Although a king could raise personal militia from his lands, he could only muster a significantly large army through the support of his nobles. Richard, like his predecessors, had to win over these men by granting gifts and maintaining cordial relationships. Powerful nobles could demand greater incentives to remain on the liege’s side or else they might turn against him.

Three groups, each with its own agenda, stood on Bosworth Field: Richard III and his Yorkist army; his challenger, Henry Tudor, who championed the Lancastrian cause; and the fence-sitting Stanleys.


Small and slender, Richard III did not have the robust physique associated with many of his Plantagenet predecessors. However, he enjoyed very rough sports and activities that were considered manly. His performances on the battlefield impressed his brother greatly, and he became Edward’s right-hand man.

During the 1480s, Richard defended the northern borders of England. In 1482, Edward charged him to lead an army into Scotland with the aim of replacing King James III with the Duke of Albany. Richard’s army broke through the Scottish defences and occupied the capital, Edinburgh, but Albany decided to give up his claim to the throne in return for the post of Lieutenant General of Scotland. As well as obtaining a guarantee that the Scottish government would concede territories and diplomatic benefits to the English crown, Richard’s campaign retook the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, which the Scots had conquered in 1460.

Edward was not satisfied by these gains, which, according to Ross, could have been greater if Richard had been resolute enough to capitalise on the situation while in control of Edinburgh. In her analysis of Richard’s character, Christine Carpenter sees him as a soldier who was more used to taking orders than giving them. However, he was not averse to displaying his militaristic streak; on ascending the throne he made known his desire to lead a crusade against “not only the Turks, but all [his] foes”.


Duke of Norfolk

Richard’s most loyal subject was John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk.  The duke had served Richard’s brother for many years and had been one of Edward IV’s closer confidants. He was a military veteran, having fought in the Battle of Towton in 1461 and served as Hastings’ deputy at Calais in 1471.

Ross speculates that he may have borne a grudge against Edward for depriving him of a fortune. Norfolk was due to inherit a share of the wealthy Mowbray estate on the death of eight-year-old Anne de Mowbray, the last of her family. However, Edward convinced Parliament to circumvent the law of inheritance and transfer the estate to his younger son, who was married to Anne. Consequently, Howard supported Richard III in deposing Edward’s sons, for which he received the dukedom of Norfolk and his original share of the Mowbray estate.

Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland, also supported Richard’s seizure of the throne of England. The Percys were loyal Lancastrians, but Edward IV eventually won the earl’s allegiance. Northumberland had been captured and imprisoned by the Yorkists in 1461, losing his titles and estates; however, Edward released him eight years later and restored his earldom.

From that time, Northumberland served the Yorkist crown, helping to defend northern England and maintain its peace.  Initially the earl had issues with Richard III as Edward groomed his brother to be the leading power of the north. Northumberland was mollified when he was promised he would be the Warden of the East March, a position that was formerly hereditary for the Percys.

He served under Richard during the 1482 invasion of Scotland, and the allure of being in a position to dominate the north of England if Richard went south to assume the crown was his likely motivation for supporting Richard’s bid for kingship. However, after becoming king, Richard began moulding his nephew, John de la Pole, 1st Earl of Lincoln, to manage the north, passing over Northumberland for the position. According to Carpenter, although the earl was amply compensated, he despaired of any possibility of advancement under Richard.


Henry Tudor was unfamiliar with the arts of war and a stranger to the land he was trying to conquer. He spent the first fourteen years of his life in Wales and the next fourteen in Brittany and France.  Slender but strong and decisive, Henry lacked a penchant for battle and was not much of a warrior; chroniclers such as Polydore Vergil and ambassadors like Pedro de Ayala found him more interested in commerce and finance.  Having not fought in any battles ] Henry recruited several experienced veterans on whom he could rely for military advice and the command of his armies.


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John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford, was Henry’s principal military commander. He was adept in the arts of war. At the Battle of Barnet, he commanded the Lancastrian right wing and routed the division opposing him. However, as a result of confusion over identities, Oxford’s group came under friendly fire from the Lancastrian main force and retreated from the field. The earl fled abroad and continued his fight against the Yorkists, raiding shipping and eventually capturing the island fort of St Michael’s Mount in 1473. He surrendered after receiving no aid or reinforcement, but in 1484 escaped from prison and joined Henry’s court in France, bringing along his erstwhile gaoler Sir James Blount. Oxford’s presence raised morale in Henry’s camp and troubled Richard III.


In the early stages of the Wars of the Roses, the Stanleys of Cheshire had been predominantly Lancastrians.  Sir William Stanley, however, was a staunch Yorkist supporter, fighting in the Battle of Blore Heath in 1459 and helping Hastings to put down uprisings against Edward IV in 1471.  When Richard took the crown, Sir William showed no inclination to turn against the new king, refraining from joining Buckingham’s rebellion, for which he was amply rewarded. Sir William’s elder brother, Thomas Stanley, 2nd Baron Stanley, was not as steadfast. By 1485, he had served three kings, namely Henry VI, Edward IV, and Richard III. Lord Stanley’s skilled political manoeuvrings—vacillating between opposing sides until it was clear who would be the winner—gained him high positions;  he was Henry’s chamberlain and Edward’s steward.

His non-committal stance, until the crucial point of a battle, earned him the loyalty of his men, who felt he would not needlessly send them to their deaths.

Even though Lord Stanley had served as Edward IV’s steward, his relations with the king’s brother, the eventual Richard III, were not cordial. The two had conflicts that erupted into violence around March 1470.  Furthermore, having taken Lady Margaret as his second wife in June 1472, Stanley was Henry Tudor’s stepfather, a relationship which did nothing to win him Richard’s favour. Despite these differences, Stanley did not join Buckingham’s revolt in 1483. When Richard executed those conspirators who had been unable to flee England,  he spared Lady Margaret. However, he declared her titles forfeit and transferred her estates to Stanley’s name, to be held in trust for the Yorkist crown.

Richard’s act of mercy was calculated to reconcile him with Stanley, but it may have been to no avail—Carpenter has identified a further cause of friction in Richard’s intention to reopen an old land dispute that involved Thomas Stanley and the Harrington family. Edward IV had ruled the case in favour of Stanley in 1473, but Richard planned to overturn his brother’s ruling and give the wealthy estate to the Harringtons. Immediately before the Battle of Bosworth, being wary of Stanley, Richard took his son, Lord Strange, as hostage to discourage him from joining Henry.

Crossing the Channel and through Wales

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The attacking force consisted of around 500 exiled Welsh and Englishmen. The history of one “John Major” (published in 1521) said Charles VIII of France had granted Henry 5,000 men of whom 1,000 were Scots, headed by Sir Alexander Bruce. No mention of Scottish soldiers was made by subsequent English historians.  After the battle, Bruce was given an annuity of £20 by Henry for his “faithful services”.

How many Frenchmen actually sailed is unknown, but the historian Chris Skidmore estimates over half of Henry’s armed fleet. The Crowland Chronicler also recorded that Henry’s troops were “as much French as English”. Many of these French mercenaries were from the garrison of Phillipe de Crevecoeur, Lord of Esquerdes. Commynes recorded that these included:

“some 3,000 of the most unruly men in Normandy”.

This is partly the reason why they were taken up the coast of Wales, under Henry’s stern command, keeping them well apart from the Welsh soldiers under Rhys’ command.

Henry’s crossing of the English Channel in 1485 was without incident. Thirty ships sailed from Harfleur on 1 August and, with fair winds behind them, landed in his native Wales, at Mill Bay (near Dale) on the north side of Milford Haven on 7 August, easily capturing nearby Dale Castle. His long awaited arrival had been hailed by contemporary Welsh bards such as Dafydd Ddu and Gruffydd ap Dafydd as the true prince and “the youth of Brittany defeating the Saxons” in order to bring their country back to glory.

Mill Bay had been chosen as it was completely hidden from view and there was no resistance by the cohort of Richard’s men stationed at Dale where Henry and his men spent the first night.

In the morning they marched to Haverfordwest, the county town of Pembrokeshire, 12 miles away and were received “with the utmost goodwill of all”. Here, the Welshman Arnold Butler (who had met Henry in Brittany) announced that “the whole of Pembrokeshire was prepared to serve him”. Butler’s closest friend was Rhys ap Thomas. That afternoon, Henry and his troops headed north towards Cardigan and pitched camp “at the fifth milestone towards Cardigan” where they were joined by Gruffydd Rede with a band of soldiers and John Morgan of Tredegar. The following day, 9 August, they passed through Bwlch-y-gwynt and over the Preseli mountains and to Fagwyr Llwyd south of Cilgwyn.

Richard’s lieutenant in South Wales, Sir Walter Herbert, failed to move against Henry, and two of his officers, Richard Griffith and Evan Morgan, deserted to Henry with their men.

However, the most important defector to Henry in this early stage of the campaign was probably Rhys ap Thomas, who was the leading figure in West Wales. Richard had appointed Rhys Lieutenant in West Wales for his refusal to join Buckingham’s rebellion, asking that he surrender his son Gruffydd ap Rhys ap Thomas as surety, although by some accounts Rhys had managed to evade this condition. However, Henry successfully courted Rhys, offering the lieutenancy of all Wales in exchange for his fealty.

Henry marched via Aberystwyth while Rhys followed a more southerly route, recruiting 2,000 Welshmen en route to swell Henry’s army when they reunited at Cefn Digoll, Welshpool,  thus ensuring that the majority of Henry’s army in the ensuing battle would be Welsh. By 15 or 16 August, Henry and his men had crossed the English border, making for the town of Shrewsbury.

Shrewsbury: the gateway to England


March through Wales, to Bosworth Field.

Since 22 June 1485 Richard had been aware of Henry’s impending invasion, and had ordered his lords to maintain a high level of readiness. News of Henry’s landing reached Richard on 11 August, but it took three to four days for his messengers to notify his lords of their king’s mobilisation. On 16 August, the Yorkist army started to gather; Norfolk set off for Leicester, the assembly point, that night. The city of York, a traditional stronghold of Richard’s family, asked the king for instructions, and receiving a reply three days later sent 80 men to join the king. Simultaneously Northumberland, whose northern territory was the most distant from the capital, had gathered his men and ridden to Leicester.

Although London was his goal, Henry did not move directly towards the city. After resting in Shrewsbury, his forces went eastwards and picked up Sir Gilbert Talbot and other English allies, including deserters from Richard’s forces. Although its size had increased substantially since the landing, Henry’s army was not yet large enough to contend with the numbers Richard could muster.

Henry’s pace through Staffordshire was slow, delaying the confrontation with Richard so that he could gather more recruits to his cause. Henry had been communicating on friendly terms with the Stanleys for some time before setting foot in England,  and the Stanleys had mobilised their forces on hearing of Henry’s landing. They ranged themselves ahead of Henry’s march through the English countryside,  meeting twice in secret with Henry as he moved through Staffordshire.

At the second of these, at Atherstone in Warwickshire, they conferred “in what sort to arraign battle with King Richard, whom they heard to be not far off”.  On 21 August, the Stanleys were making camp on the slopes of a hill north of Dadlington, while Henry encamped his army at White Moors to the northwest of their camp.

Battlefield map. Three white boxes are across the top; arrows extend downward from the left two, labelled "Norfolk" and "Richard III", but not from the right one, "Northumberland". Two red boxes are at mid-left: the smaller is "Henry", and the larger, "Oxford" has an arrow going right and then reversing up. Two stationary blue boxes near the bottom are labelled "Lord Stanley" and "William Stanley".

Early battle (a scenario based on historical interpretations): elements of Richard’s army charged down Ambion Hill to engage Henry’s forces on the plain. The Stanleys stood at the south, observing the situation.

On 20 August, Richard reached Leicester, joining Norfolk. Northumberland arrived the following day. The royal army proceeded westwards to intercept Henry’s march on London. Passing Sutton Cheney, Richard moved his army towards Ambion Hill—which he thought would be of tactical value—and made camp on it.  Richard’s sleep was not peaceful and, according to the Croyland Chronicle, in the morning his face was “more livid and ghastly than usual”.


Battlefield map. Red, white and blue boxes converge to the centre of the map. Richard charges into Henry. William Stanley advances to Henry's rescue. Richard fights to his death. Northumberland and Lord Stanley remain stationary.

Late battle (a scenario based on historical interpretations): Richard led a small group of men around the main battle and charged Henry, who was moving towards the Stanleys. William Stanley rode to Henry’s rescue.

The Yorkist army, numbering about 10,000 men, deployed on the hilltop  along the ridgeline from west to east. Norfolk’s group (or “battle” in the parlance of the time) of spearmen stood on the right flank, protecting the cannon and about 1,200 archers. Richard’s group, comprising 3,000 infantry, formed the centre. Northumberland’s men guarded the left flank; he had approximately 4,000 men, many of them mounted.  Standing on the hilltop, Richard had a wide, unobstructed view of the area. He could see the Stanleys and their 6,000 men holding positions on and around Dadlington Hill, while to the southwest was Henry’s army.

Henry had very few Englishmen—fewer than a thousand—in his army. Between three and five hundred of them were exiles who had fled from Richard’s rule, and the remainder were Talbot’s men and recent deserters from Richard’s army. Historian John Mackie believes that 1,800 French mercenaries, led by Philibert de Chandée, formed the core of Henry’s army .  John Mair, writing thirty-five years after the battle, claimed that this force contained a significant Scottish component, and this claim is accepted by some modern writers,  but Mackie reasons that the French would not have released their elite Scottish knights and archers, and concludes that there were probably few Scottish troops in the army, although he accepts the presence of captains like Bernard Stewart, Lord of Aubigny.

In total, Henry’s army was around 5,000 strong, a substantial portion of which was made up by the recruits picked up in Wales. Rhys ap Thomas’s Welsh force was described as being large enough to have “annihilated” the rest of Henry’s force.

In their interpretations of the vague mentions of the battle in the old text, historians placed areas near the foot of Ambion Hill as likely regions where the two armies clashed, and thought up possible scenarios of the engagement. In their recreations of the battle, Henry started by moving his army towards Ambion Hill where Richard and his men stood. As Henry’s army advanced past the marsh at the southwestern foot of the hill, Richard sent a message to Stanley, threatening to execute his son, Lord Strange, if Stanley did not join the attack on Henry immediately. Stanley replied that he had other sons. Incensed, Richard gave the order to behead Strange but his officers temporised, saying that battle was imminent, and it would be more convenient to carry out the execution afterwards.

Henry had also sent messengers to Stanley asking him to declare his allegiance. The reply was evasive—the Stanleys would “naturally” come, after Henry had given orders to his army and arranged them for battle. Henry had no choice but to confront Richard’s forces alone.

Well aware of his own military inexperience, Henry handed command of his army to Oxford and retired to the rear with his bodyguards. Oxford, seeing the vast line of Richard’s army strung along the ridgeline, decided to keep his men together instead of splitting them into the traditional three battles: vanguard, centre, and rearguard. He ordered the troops to stray no further than 10 feet (3.0 m) from their banners, fearing that they would become enveloped. Individual groups clumped together, forming a single large mass flanked by horsemen on the wings.]

The Lancastrians were harassed by Richard’s cannon as they manoeuvred around the marsh, seeking firmer ground. Once Oxford and his men were clear of the marsh, Norfolk’s battle and several contingents of Richard’s group, under the command of Sir Robert Brackenbury, started to advance. Hails of arrows showered both sides as they closed. Oxford’s men proved the steadier in the ensuing hand-to-hand combat; they held their ground and several of Norfolk’s men fled the field.

Recognising that his force was at a disadvantage, Richard signalled for Northumberland to assist but Northumberland’s group showed no signs of movement. Historians, such as Horrox and Pugh, believe Northumberland chose not to aid his king for personal reasons. Ross doubts the aspersions cast on Northumberland’s loyalty, suggesting instead that Ambion Hill’s narrow ridge hindered him from joining the battle. The earl would have had to either go through his allies or execute a wide flanking move—near impossible to perform given the standard of drill at the time—to engage Oxford’s men.

At this juncture Richard saw Henry at some distance behind his main force. Seeing this, Richard decided to end the fight quickly by killing the enemy commander. He led a charge of mounted men around the melee and tore into Henry’s group; several accounts state that Richard’s force numbered 800–1000 knights, but Ross says it was more likely that Richard was accompanied only by his household men and closest friends.

Richard killed Henry’s standard-bearer Sir William Brandon in the initial charge and unhorsed burly John Cheyne, Edward IV’s former standard-bearer,  with a blow to the head from his broken lance.  French mercenaries in Henry’s retinue related how the attack had caught them off guard and that Henry sought protection by dismounting and concealing himself among them to present less of a target. Henry made no attempt to engage in combat himself.

Oxford had left a small reserve of Pike-equipped men with Henry. They slowed the pace of Richard’s mounted charge and bought Tudor some critical time. The remainder of Henry’s bodyguards surrounded their master and succeeded in keeping him away from the Yorkist king. On seeing Richard embroiled with Henry’s men and separated from his main force, William Stanley made his move. He led his men into the fight at Henry’s side. Outnumbered, Richard’s group was surrounded and gradually pressed back.

Richard’s force was driven several hundred yards away from Tudor, near to the edge of a marsh. The king’s horse lost its footing and toppled into it. Richard gathered himself and rallied his dwindling followers, supposedly refusing to retreat:

“God forbid that I retreat one step. I will either win the battle as a king, or die as one.”

In the fighting Richard’s banner man—Sir Percival Thirlwall—lost his legs but held the Yorkist banner aloft until he was killed.

Polydore Vergil, Henry Tudor’s official historian, recorded that

“King Richard, alone, was killed fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies”.

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 death-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”.

The identification in 2013 of King Richard’s body shows that the skeleton had 10 wounds, eight of them to the head, clearly inflicted in battle and suggesting he had lost his helmet. The skull showed that a blade had hacked away part of the rear of the skull.

Richard’s forces disintegrated as news of his death spread. Northumberland and his men fled north on seeing the king’s fate, and Norfolk was killed.



Against a background of cheering men, an armoured man on the left hands a crown to a mounted armoured man on the right.

Finding Richard’s circlet after the battle, Lord Stanley hands it to Henry.

After the battle, Richard’s circlet was found and brought to Henry, who was crowned king at the top of Crown Hill, near the village of Stoke Golding. According to Vergil, Henry’s official historian, Lord Stanley found the circlet. Historian Stanley Chrimes and Professor Sydney Anglo dismiss the legend of the crown’s finding in a hawthorn bush; none of the contemporary sources reported such an event.

Ross, however, does not ignore the legend. He argues that the hawthorn bush would not be part of Henry’s coat of arms if it did not have a strong relationship to his ascendance.[120] In Vergil’s chronicle, 100 of Henry’s men, compared to 1,000 of Richard’s, died in this battle—a ratio Chrimes believes to be an exaggeration.

The bodies of the fallen were brought to St James Church at Dadlington for burial. However, Henry denied any immediate rest for Richard; instead the last Yorkist king’s corpse was stripped naked and strapped across a horse. His body was brought to Leicester and openly exhibited to prove that he was dead. Early accounts suggest that this was in the major Lancastrian collegiate foundation, the Church of the Annunciation of Our Lady of the Newarke.

After two days, the corpse was interred in a plain unmarked tomb,  within the church of the Greyfriars. The location of Richard’s tomb was long uncertain, as the church was demolished following its dissolution in 1538.

On 12 September 2012 archaeologists announced the discovery of a battle-damaged skeleton suspected to be Richard’s in the remains of his burial church in Leicester.  On 4 February 2013, it was announced that DNA testing had conclusively identified (“beyond reasonable doubt”) the remains as those of Richard. On Thursday 26 March 2015, these remains were ceremonially buried in Leicester Cathedral. On the following day the new royal tomb of Richard III was unveiled.

Henry dismissed the mercenaries in his force, retaining only a small core of local soldiers to form the “Yeomen of his Garde“,  and proceeded to establish his rule of England. Parliament reversed his attainder and recorded Richard’s kingship as illegal, although the Yorkist king’s reign remained officially in the annals of England history. The proclamation of Edward IV’s children as illegitimate was also reversed, restoring Elizabeth’s status to a royal princess.

The marriage of Elizabeth, the heiress to the House of York, to Henry, the master of the House of Lancaster, marked the end of the feud between the two houses and the start of the Tudor dynasty. The royal matrimony, however, was delayed until Henry was crowned king and had established his claim on the throne firmly enough to preclude that of Elizabeth and her kin.

Henry further convinced Parliament to backdate his reign to the day before the battle, retrospectively enabling those who fought against him at Bosworth Field to be declared traitors. Northumberland, who had remained inactive during the battle, was imprisoned but later released and reinstated to pacify the north in Henry’s name. The purge of those who fought for Richard occupied Henry’s first two years of rule, although later he proved prepared to accept those who submitted to him regardless of their former allegiances.

Of his supporters, Henry rewarded the Stanleys the most generously.  Aside from making William his chamberlain, he bestowed the earldom of Derby upon Lord Stanley along with grants and offices in other estates.  Henry rewarded Oxford by restoring to him the lands and titles confiscated by the Yorkists and appointing him as Constable of the Tower and admiral of England, Ireland, and Aquitaine.

For his kin, Henry created Jasper Tudor the Duke of Bedford. He returned to his mother the lands and grants stripped from her by Richard, and proved to be a filial son, granting her a place of honour in the palace and faithfully attending to her throughout his reign. Parliament’s declaration of Margaret as femme sole effectively empowered her; she no longer needed to manage her estates through Stanley.

Elton points out that despite his initial largesse, Henry’s supporters at Bosworth would only enjoy his special favour for the short term; in later years, he would instead promote those who best served his interests.

Like the kings before him, Henry faced dissenters. The first open revolt occurred two years after Bosworth Field; Lambert Simnel claimed to be Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, who was Edward IV’s nephew. The Earl of Lincoln backed him for the throne and led rebel forces in the name of the House of York.

The rebel army fended off several attacks by Northumberland’s forces, before engaging Henry’s army at the Battle of Stoke Field on 16 June 1487.  Oxford and Bedford led Henry’s men,[137] including several former supporters of Richard III.  Henry won this battle easily, but other malcontents and conspiracies would follow.

A rebellion in 1489 started with Northumberland’s murder; military historian Michael C. C. Adams says that the author of a note, which was left next to Northumberland’s body, blamed the earl for Richard’s death.

Legacy and historical significance

Contemporary accounts of the Battle of Bosworth can be found in four main sources, one of which is the English Croyland Chronicle, written by a senior Yorkist chronicler who relied on second-hand information from nobles and soldiers.

The other accounts were written by foreigners—Vergil, Jean Molinet, and Diego de Valera. Whereas Molinet was sympathetic to Richard ,  Vergil was in Henry’s service and drew information from the king and his subjects to portray them in a good light. Diego de Valera, whose information Ross regards as unreliable,  compiled his work from letters of Spanish merchants.  However, other historians have used Valera’s work to deduce possibly valuable insights not readily evident in other sources

Ross finds the poem, The Ballad of Bosworth Field, a useful source to ascertain certain details of the battle. The multitude of different accounts, mostly based on second- or third-hand information, has proved an obstacle to historians as they try to reconstruct the battle. Their common complaint is that, except for its outcome, very few details of the battle are found in the chronicles. According to historian Michael Hicks, the Battle of Bosworth is one of the worst-recorded clashes of the Wars of the Roses.

Historical depictions and interpretations


An armoured and mounted man leads a small party, similarly dressed in mediaeval attire, along a road.

Newport History Society re-enacts Henry’s march through Wales to Bosworth Field during the battle’s quincentenary celebration.

Henry tried to present his victory as a new beginning for the country; he hired chroniclers to portray his reign as a “modern age” with its dawn in 1485. Hicks states that the works of Vergil and the blind historian Bernard André, promoted by subsequent Tudor administrations, became the authoritative sources for writers for the next four hundred years.

As such, Tudor literature paints a flattering picture of Henry’s reign, depicting the Battle of Bosworth as the final clash of the civil war and downplaying the subsequent uprisings.  For England the Middle Ages ended in 1485, and English Heritage claims that other than William the Conqueror‘s successful invasion of 1066, no other year holds more significance in English history. By portraying Richard as a hunchbacked tyrant who usurped the throne by killing his nephews, the Tudor historians attached a sense of myth to the battle: it became an epic clash between good and evil with a satisfying moral outcome.

According to Reader Colin Burrow, André was so overwhelmed by the historic significance of the battle that he represented it with a blank page in his Henry VII (1502).  For Professor Peter Saccio, the battle was indeed a unique clash in the annals of English history, because

“the victory was determined, not by those who fought, but by those who delayed fighting until they were sure of being on the winning side.”

Historians such as Adams and Horrox believe that Richard lost the battle not for any mythic reasons, but because of morale and loyalty problems in his army. Most of the common soldiers found it difficult to fight for a liege whom they distrusted, and some lords believed that their situation might improve if Richard was dethroned.

According to Adams, against such duplicities Richard’s desperate charge was the only knightly behaviour on the field. As fellow historian Michael Bennet puts it, the attack was “the swan-song of [mediaeval] English chivalry”. Adams believes this view was shared at the time by the printer William Caxton, who enjoyed sponsorship from Edward IV and Richard III. Nine days after the battle, Caxton published Thomas Malory‘s story about chivalry and death by betrayal—Le Morte d’Arthur—seemingly as a response to the circumstances of Richard’s death.

Elton does not believe Bosworth Field has any true significance, pointing out that the 20th-century English public largely ignored the battle until its quincentennial celebration. In his view, the dearth of specific information about the battle—no-one even knows exactly where it took place—demonstrates its insignificance to English society. Elton considers the battle as just one part of Henry’s struggles to establish his reign, underscoring his point by noting that the young king had to spend ten more years pacifying factions and rebellions to secure his throne.

Mackie asserts that, in hindsight, Bosworth Field is notable as the decisive battle that established a dynasty which would rule unchallenged over England for more than a hundred years.

Mackie notes that contemporary historians of that time, wary of the three royal successions during the long Wars of the Roses, considered Bosworth Field just another in a lengthy series of such battles. It was through the works and efforts of Francis Bacon and his successors that the public started to believe the battle had decided their futures by bringing about “the fall of a tyrant”.

Shakespearian dramatisation

William Shakespeare gives prominence to the Battle of Bosworth in his play, Richard III. It is the “one big battle”; no other fighting scene distracts the audience from this action, represented by a one-on-one sword fight between Henry Tudor and Richard III. Shakespeare uses their duel to bring a climactic end to the play and the Wars of the Roses; he also uses it to champion morality, portraying the “unequivocal triumph of good over evil”.

Richard, the villainous lead character, has been built up in the battles of Shakespeare’s earlier play, Henry VI, Part 3, as a “formidable swordsman and a courageous military leader”—in contrast to the dastardly means by which he becomes king in Richard III. Although the Battle of Bosworth has only five sentences to direct it, three scenes and more than four hundred lines precede the action, developing the background and motivations for the characters in anticipation of the battle.


A moustached man—dressed in white stockings, puffed breeches, and a red robe—props himself up with his left arm on a bed. His eyes are wide and his right hand raised, palm open towards the front. A suit of armour lays on the floor at the foot of his bed.

Richard III, Act 5, scene 3: Richard, played by David Garrick, awakens after a nightmare visit by the ghosts of his victims.

Shakespeare’s account of the battle was mostly based on chroniclers Edward Hall‘s and Raphael Holinshed‘s dramatic versions of history, which were sourced from Vergil’s chronicle. However, Shakespeare’s attitude towards Richard was shaped by scholar Thomas More, whose writings displayed extreme bias against the Yorkist king.

The result of these influences is a script that vilifies the king, and Shakespeare had few qualms about departing from history to incite drama.  Margaret of Anjou died in 1482, but Shakespeare had her speak to Richard’s mother before the battle to foreshadow Richard’s fate and fulfill the prophecy she had given in Henry VI.

Shakespeare exaggerated the cause of Richard’s restless night before the battle, imagining it as a haunting by the ghosts of those whom the king had murdered, including Buckingham. Richard is portrayed as suffering a pang of conscience, but as he speaks he regains his confidence and asserts that he will be evil, if such needed to retain his crown.

The fight between the two armies is simulated by rowdy noises made off-stage (alarums or alarms) while actors walk on-stage, deliver their lines, and exit. To build anticipation for the duel, Shakespeare requests more alarums after Richard’s councillor, William Catesby, announces that the king is “[enacting] more wonders than a man”. Richard punctuates his entrance with the classic line, “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!”

He refuses to withdraw, continuing to seek to slay Henry’s doubles until he has killed his nemesis. There is no documentary evidence that Henry had five decoys at Bosworth Field; the idea was Shakespeare’s invention. He drew inspiration from Henry IV‘s use of them at the Battle of Shrewsbury (1403) to amplify the perception of Richard’s courage on the battlefield.

Similarly, the single combat between Henry and Richard is Shakespeare’s creation. The True Tragedy of Richard III, a play earlier than Shakespeare’s, has no signs of staging such an encounter: its stage directions give not a hint of visible combat.


A view from the back of a stage. Two unkempt actors enact a sword fight for the audience. Men dressed as soldiers lounge and drink behind the props.

The Battle of Bosworth Field, a Scene in the Great Drama of History, illustrating Beckett’s mocking of Victorian attitude towards history

Despite the dramatic licences taken, Shakespeare’s version of the Battle of Bosworth was the model of the event for English textbooks for many years during the 18th and 19th centuries. This glamorised version of history, promulgated in books and paintings and played out on stages across the country, perturbed humorist Gilbert Abbott à Beckett.  He voiced his criticism in the form of a poem, equating the romantic view of the battle to watching a “fifth-rate production of Richard III“: shabbily costumed actors fight the Battle of Bosworth on-stage while those with lesser roles lounge at the back, showing no interest in the proceedings.

In Laurence Olivier‘s 1955 film adaptation of Richard III, the Battle of Bosworth is represented not by a single duel but a general melee that became the film’s most recognised scene and a regular screening at Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre. The film depicts the clash between the Yorkist and Lancastrian armies on an open field, focusing on individual characters amidst the savagery of hand-to-hand fighting, and received accolades for the realism portrayed.

One reviewer for The Manchester Guardian newspaper, however, was not impressed, finding the number of combatants too sparse for the wide plains and a lack of subtlety in Richard’s death scene. The means by which Richard is shown to prepare his army for the battle also earned acclaim. As Richard speaks to his men and draws his plans in the sand using his sword, his units appear on-screen, arraying themselves according to the lines that Richard had drawn. Intimately woven together, the combination of pictorial and narrative elements effectively turns Richard into a storyteller, who acts out the plot he has constructed.

Shakespearian critic Herbert Coursen extends that imagery: Richard sets himself up as a creator of men, but dies amongst the savagery of his creations. Coursen finds the depiction a contrast to that of Henry V and his “band of brothers”.

The adaptation of the setting for Richard III to a 1930s fascist England in Ian McKellen‘s 1995 film, however, did not sit well with historians. Adams posits that the original Shakespearian setting for Richard’s fate at Bosworth teaches the moral of facing one’s fate, no matter how unjust it is, “nobly and with dignity”.  By overshadowing the dramatic teaching with special effects, McKellen’s film reduces its version of the battle to a pyrotechnic spectacle about the death of a one-dimensional villain.  Coursen agrees that, in this version, the battle and Richard’s end are trite and underwhelming.

Battlefield location

Richard’s Field
A clearing sparsely surrounded by trees and bushes. A gravel-lined spot is at the centre, sporting a stone with flowers lain in front of it. On the left stands a flagpole, whose flag lies unfurled.
Rectangular plaque containing "Richard the last Plantagenet King of England was slain here 22nd August 1485"
The memorial and its plaque

Officially the site of the battle is deemed by Leicestershire County Council to be in the vicinity of the town of Market Bosworth.  The council engaged historian Daniel Williams to research the battle, and in 1974 his findings were used to build the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre and the presentation it houses. Williams’s interpretation, however, has since been questioned. Sparked by the battle’s quincentenary celebration in 1985,  a dispute among historians has led many to suspect the accuracy of Williams’s theory.  In particular, geological surveys conducted from 2003 to 2009 by the Battlefields Trust, a charitable organisation that protects and studies old English battlefields, show that the southern and eastern flanks of Ambion Hill were solid ground in the 15th century, contrary to Williams’s claim that it was a large area of marshland.

Landscape archaeologist Glenn Foard, leader of the survey, said the collected soil samples and finds of medieval military equipment suggest that the battle took place two miles (3 km) southwest of Ambion Hill (52°34′41″N 1°26′02″W),  contrary to the popular belief that it was fought near the foot of the hill.


Bosworth Battlefield true location

Historians’ theories

The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England (popularly referred to as “English Heritage”) argues that the battle was named after Market Bosworth because the town was the nearest significant settlement to the battlefield in the 15th century.

As explored by Professor Philip Morgan, a battle might initially not be named specifically at all. As time passes, writers of administrative and historical records find it necessary to identify a notable battle, ascribing it a name that is usually toponymical in nature and sourced from combatants or observers. This official name becomes accepted by society and future generations without question.

Early records associated the Battle of Bosworth with “Brownehethe”, “bellum Miravallenses“, “Sandeford” and “Dadlyngton field”. The earliest record, a municipal memorandum of 23 August 1485 from York,  locates the battle “on the field of Redemore”. This is corroborated by a 1485–86 letter that mentions “Redesmore” as its site.

According to historian Peter Foss, records did not associate the battle with “Bosworth” until 151

Foss is named by English Heritage as the principal advocate for “Redemore” as the battle site. He suggests the name is derived from “Hreod Mor“, an Anglo-Saxon phrase that means “reedy marshland”. Basing his opinion on 13th- and 16th-century church records, he believes “Redemore” was an area of wetland that lay between Ambion Hill and the village of Dadlington, and was close to the Fenn Lanes, a Roman road running east to west across the region.

Foard believes this road to be the most probable route that both armies took to reach the battlefield. Williams dismisses the notion of “Redmore” as a specific location, saying that the term refers to a large area of reddish soil; Foss argues that Williams’s sources are local stories and flawed interpretations of recor

Moreover, he proposes that Williams was influenced by William Hutton‘s 1788 The Battle of Bosworth-Field, which Foss blames for introducing the notion that the battle was fought west of Ambion Hill on the north side of the River Sence. Hutton, as Foss suggests, misinterpreted a passage from his source, Raphael Holinshed‘s 1577 Chronicle. Holinshed wrote, “King Richard pitched his field on a hill called Anne Beame, refreshed his soldiers and took his rest.” Foss believes that Hutton mistook “field” to mean “field of battle”, thus creating the idea that the fight took place on Anne Beame (Ambion) Hill. To “[pitch] his field”, as Foss clarifies, was a period expression for setting up a camp


Side view of a building, which has a small tower on the left side: tombstones lie in rows on plots in front.

St James the Greater, Dadlington: the dead of Bosworth Field were buried here.

Foss brings further evidence for his “Redemore” theory by quoting Edward Hall‘s 1550 Chronicle. Hall stated that Richard’s army stepped onto a plain after breaking camp the next day. Furthermore, historian William Burton, author of Description of Leicestershire (1622), wrote that the battle was:

“fought in a large, flat, plaine, and spacious ground, three miles [5 km] distant from [Bosworth], between the Towne of Shenton, Sutton [Cheney], Dadlington and Stoke [Golding]”.

In Foss’s opinion both sources are describing an area of flat ground north of Dadlington.

Physical site

English Heritage, responsible for managing England’s historic sites, used both theories to designate the site for Bosworth Field. Without preference for either theory, they constructed a single continuous battlefield boundary that encompasses the locations proposed by both Williams and Foss.

The region has experienced extensive changes over the years, starting after the battle. Holinshed stated in his chronicle that he found firm ground where he expected the marsh to be, and Burton confirmed that by the end of the 16th century, areas of the battlefield were enclosed and had been improved to make them agriculturally productive. Trees were planted on the south side of Ambion Hill, forming Ambion Wood. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Ashby Canal carved through the land west and south-west of Ambion Hill. Winding alongside the canal at a distance, the Ashby and Nuneaton Joint Railway crossed the area on an embankment.

The changes to the landscape were so extensive that when Hutton revisited the region in 1807 after an earlier 1788 visit, he could not readily find his way around


A pyramidal stone structure stands in a small clearing surrounded by small trees and bushes. The structure, enclosed by a fence, has an opening in the front.

Richard’s Well, where the last Yorkist king supposedly took a drink of water on the day of the battle.

Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre was built on Ambion Hill, near Richard’s Well. According to legend, Richard III drank from one of the several springs in the region on the day of the battle. In 1788, a local pointed out one of the springs to Hutton as the one mentioned in the legend. A stone structure was later built over the location. The inscription on the well reads:

“Near this spot, on August 22nd 1485, at the age of 32, King Richard III fell fighting gallantly in defence of his realm & his crown against the usurper Henry Tudor.

The Cairn was erected by Dr. Samuel Parr in 1813 to mark the well from which the king is said to have drunk during the battle.

It is maintained by the Fellowship of the White Boar.”

Northwest of Ambion Hill, just across the northern tributary of the Sence, a flag and memorial stone mark Richard’s Field. Erected in 1973, the site was selected on the basis of Williams’s theory.  St James’s Church at Dadlington is the only structure in the area that is reliably associated with the Battle of Bosworth; the bodies of those killed in the battle were buried there.

The rediscovered battlefield and possible battle scenario

The very extensive survey carried out (2005-2009) by the Battlefields Trust headed by Glenn Foard led eventually to the discovery of the real location of the core battlefield.  This lies about a kilometer further west than the location suggested by Peter Foss. It is in what was at the time of the battle an area of marginal land at the meeting of several township boundaries. There was a cluster of field names suggesting the presence of marshland and heath. Thirty four lead round shot  were discovered as a result of systematic metal detecting (more than the total found previously on all other C15th European battlefields), as well as other significant finds,  including a small silver gilt badge depicting a boar. Experts believe that the boar badge could indicate the actual site of Richard III’s death, since this high-status badge depicting his personal emblem, was probably worn by a member of his close retinue.

A new interpretation   of the battle now integrates the historic accounts with the battlefield finds and landscape history. The new site lies either side of the Fenn Lanes Roman road, close to Fenn Lane Farm and is some three kilometers to the southwest of Ambion Hill.

Bosworth Battlefield (Fenn Lane Farm)

Based on the round shot scatter, the likely size of Richard III’s army, and the topography, Glenn Foard and Anne Curry think that Richard may have lined up his forces on a slight ridge which lies just east of Fox Covert Lane and behind a postulated medieval marsh. Richard’s vanguard commanded by the Duke of Norfolk was on the right (north) side of Richard’s battle line, with the Earl of Northumberland on Richard’s left (south) side.

Tudor’s forces approached along the line of the Roman road and lined up to the west of the present day Fenn Lane Farm, having marched from the vicinity of Merevale in Warwickshire.   The Stanleys were positioned on the south side of the battlefield, on rising ground towards Stoke Golding and Dadlington. The Earl of Oxford turned north to avoid the marsh (and possibly Richard’s guns). This manoeuvre put the marsh on Oxford’s right. He moved to attack Norfolk’s vanguard. Norfolk was subsequently killed.

Northumberland failed to engage, possibly due to the presence of the Stanleys, whose intentions were unclear, or due to the position of the marsh (or for both reasons). With Richard’s situation deteriorating, he decided to launch an attack against Henry Tudor, which almost succeeded, but the king’s horse became stuck in the marsh, and he was killed. Fen Hole (where the boar badge was found) is believed to be a residue of the marsh. When Richard began his charge, Sir William Stanley intervened from the vicinity of Stoke Golding. It was here, on what came to be known as Crown Hill (the closest elevated ground to the fighting), that Lord Stanley crowned Henry Tudor after Richard was killed.

Bosworth Battlefield actual site

The windmill close to which the Duke of Norfolk is said to have died (according to the ballad “Lady Bessy”) was Dadlington windmill. This has disappeared but is known to have stood at the time of the battle, in the vicinity of Apple Orchard Farm and North Farm, Dadlington. A small cluster of significant finds was made in this area, including a gold livery badge depicting an eagle. The windmill lay between the core battlefield and Richard’s camp on Ambion Hill and the rout of Norfolk’s vanguard was in this direction. This also accounts for the large number of dead in Dadlington parish, leading to the setting up of the battle chantry there.

Historic England have re-defined the boundaries of the registered Bosworth Battlefield to incorporate the newly identified site. There are hopes that public access to the site may be possible in the future.


The Tudors & Henry VIII

The Tudor Dynasty


Henry VIII

Tudor Rose.svg
Tudor Rose

The Tudor dynasty or House of Tudor was a royal house of Welsh and English origin,[1] descended in the male line from the Tudors of Penmynydd. Tudor monarchs ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms, including their ancestral Wales and the Lordship of Ireland (later the Kingdom of Ireland) from 1485 until 1603. The first monarch, Henry VII, descended through his mother from a legitimised branch of the English royal House of Lancaster. The Tudor family rose to power in the wake of the Wars of the Roses, which left the House of Lancaster, to which the Tudors were aligned, extinct.


Inside The Court Of Henry VIII – Documentary 2015


Tudor Rose.svg
Tudor Rose
Country England
Parent house Tudors of Penmynydd
Founded 22 August 1485
Founder Henry VII
Final ruler Elizabeth I
Current head Extinct
Dissolution 24 March 1603
Ethnicity Welsh, English

Henry Tudor was able to establish himself as a candidate not only for traditional Lancastrian supporters, but also for the discontented supporters of their rival House of York, and he rose to capture the throne in battle, becoming Henry VII. His victory was reinforced by his marriage to Elizabeth of York, symbolically uniting the former warring factions under a new dynasty. The Tudors extended their power beyond modern England, achieving the full union of England and the Principality of Wales in 1542 (Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542), and successfully asserting English authority over the Kingdom of Ireland. They also maintained the nominal English claim to the Kingdom of France; although none of them made substance of it, Henry VIII fought wars with France trying to reclaim that title. After him, his daughter Mary I lost control of all territory in France permanently with the fall of Calais in 1558.


The Wars of The Roses: A Bloody Crown


In total, five Tudor monarchs ruled their domains for just over a century. Henry VIII of England was the only male-line male heir of Henry VII to live to the age of maturity. Issues around the royal succession (including marriage and the succession rights of women) became major political themes during the Tudor era. The House of Stuart came to power in 1603 when the Tudor line failed, as Elizabeth I died without issue

Ascent to the throne

The Tudors are descended on Henry VII’s mother’s side from John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, one of the illegitimate children of the 14th century English Prince John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster (the third surviving son of Edward III of England) by Gaunt’s long-term mistress Katherine Swynford. The descendants of an illegitimate child of English Royalty would normally have no claim on the throne, but the situation was complicated when Gaunt and Swynford eventually married in 1399, when John Beaufort was 25. The church retroactively declared the Beauforts legitimate by way of a papal bull the same year, confirmed by an Act of Parliament in 1397. A subsequent proclamation by John of Gaunt’s legitimate son, Henry IV of England, also recognised the Beauforts’ legitimacy, but declared them ineligible ever to inherit the throne. Nevertheless, the Beauforts remained closely allied with Gaunt’s legitimate descendants from his first marriage, the House of Lancaster.

On 1 November 1455, John Beaufort’s granddaughter, Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby, married Henry VI of England‘s half-brother Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond. It was his father, Owen Tudor (Welsh: Owain ap Maredudd ap Tewdur ap Goronwy ap Tewdur ap Goronwy ap Ednyfed Fychan), who abandoned the Welsh patronymic naming practice and adopted a fixed surname. When he did, he did not choose, as was generally the custom, his father’s name, Maredudd, but chose his grandfather’s instead. Tewdur or Tudor is derived from the words tud “territory” and rhi “king”.[2]

Owen Tudor was one of the body guards for Queen Dowager Catherine of Valois, whose husband, Henry V of England, had died in 1422. Evidence suggests that the two were secretly married in 1429. The two sons born of the marriage, Edmund and Jasper, were among the most loyal supporters of the House of Lancaster in its struggle against the House of York.

Henry VI ennobled his half brothers. Edmund became earl of Richmond and was married to Margaret Beaufort, the great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, the progenitor of the house of Lancaster. Jasper became earl of Pembroke and by 1460 had collected so many offices in Wales that he had become the virtual viceroy of the country. Edmund died in November 1456. On 28 January 1457, his widow, who had just attained her fourteenth birthday, gave birth to a son, Henry VII of England, at her brother-in-law’s castle of Pembroke.


Henry VII of England


Henry Tudor spent his childhood at Raglan Castle, the home of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, a leading Yorkist. Following the murder of Henry VI and his son, Edward, in 1471, Henry became the person upon whom the Lancastrian cause rested. Concerned for his young nephew’s life, Jasper Tudor took Henry to Brittany for safety. Lady Margaret remained in England and remarried, living quietly while advancing the Lancastrian, and her son’s cause. Capitalizing on the growing unpopularity of King Richard III of England, she was able to forge an alliance with discontented Yorkists in support of her son. Two years after Richard III was crowned, Henry and Jasper sailed from the mouth of the Seine to the Milford Haven Waterway and defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field.[2] Upon this victory, Henry Tudor proclaimed himself King Henry VII.

Family tree of the principal members of the house of Tudor.

Henry VII

King Henry VII, the founder of the royal house of Tudor

Now King, Henry’s first concern was to secure his hold on the throne. On 18 January 1486 at Westminster, he honoured a pledge made three years earlier and married Elizabeth of York.[3] They were third cousins, as both were great-great-grandchildren of John of Gaunt. The marriage unified the warring houses of Lancaster and York and gave his children a strong claim to the throne. The unification of the two houses through this marriage is symbolized by the heraldic emblem of the Tudor rose, a combination of the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster.

Henry VII and Queen Elizabeth had several children, four of whom survived infancy: Arthur, Prince of Wales; Henry, Duke of Richmond; Margaret, who married James IV of Scotland; and Mary, who married Louis XII of France. One of the objectives of Henry VII’s foreign policy was dynastic security, which is portrayed through the alliance forged with the marriage of his daughter Margaret to James IV of Scotland and through the marriage of his eldest son. Henry VII married his son Arthur to Catherine of Aragon, cementing an alliance with the Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, and the two spent their honeymoon at Ludlow Castle, the traditional seat of the Prince of Wales.[4] However, four months after the marriage, Arthur died, leaving his younger brother Henry as heir apparent. Henry VII acquired a papal dispensation allowing Prince Henry to marry Arthur’s widow; however, Henry VII delayed the marriage. Henry VII limited his involvement in European politics. He went to war only twice, once in 1489 during the Breton crisis and the invasion of Brittany, and in 1496–1497 in revenge for Scottish support of Perkin Warbeck and for their invasion of Northern England. Henry VII made peace with France in 1492 and the war against Scotland was abandoned because of the Western Rebellion of 1497. Henry VII came to peace with James IV in 1502, paving the way for the marriage of his daughter Margaret.[4]

One of the main concerns of Henry VII during his reign was the re-accumulation of the funds in the royal treasury. England had never been one of the wealthier European countries, and after the War of the Roses this was even more true. Through his strict monetary strategy, he was able to leave a considerable amount of money in the Treasury for his son and successor, Henry VIII. Although it is debated whether Henry VII was a great king, he certainly was a successful one if only because he restored the nation’s finances, strengthened the judicial system and successfully denied all other claimants to the throne, thus further securing it for his heir.[5]

Henry VIII

Catherine of Aragon: marriage was annulled – by the Church of England – for not producing a male heir to the Tudor dynasty

The new King Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon on 11 June 1509; they were crowned at Westminster Abbey on 24 June the same year. Catherine was Henry’s older brother’s wife, making the path for their marriage a rocky one from the start. A papal dispensation had to be granted for Henry to be able to marry Catherine, and the negotiations took some time. Despite the fact that Henry’s father died before he was married to Catherine, he was determined to marry her anyway and make sure that everyone knew he intended on being his own master. When Henry first came to the throne, he had very little interest in actually ruling; rather, he preferred to indulge in luxuries and to partake in sports. He let others control the kingdom for the first two years of his reign, and then when he became more interested in military strategy, he took more interest in ruling his own throne.[6] In his younger years, Henry was described as a man of gentle friendliness, gentle in debate, and who acted as more of a companion than a king. He was generous in his gifts and affection and was said to be easy to get along with. However, the Henry that many people picture when they hear his name is the Henry of his later years, when he became obese, volatile, and was known for his great cruelty.[7] Unfortunately, Catherine did not bear Henry the sons he was desperate for; Catherine’s first child, a daughter, was stillborn, and her second child, a son named Henry, Duke of Cornwall, died 52 days after the birth. A further set of stillborn children were conceived, until a daughter Mary was born in 1516. When it became clear to Henry that the Tudor dynasty was at risk, he consulted his chief minister Cardinal Thomas Wolsey about the possibility of annulling his marriage to Catherine. Along with Henry’s concern that he would not have an heir, it was also obvious to his court that he was becoming tired of his aging wife, who was six years older than he. Wolsey visited Rome, where he hoped to get the Pope’s consent for an annulment. However, the church was reluctant to rescind the earlier papal dispensation and felt heavy pressure from Catherine’s nephew, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, in support of his aunt. Catherine contested the proceedings, and a protracted legal battle followed. Wolsey fell from favour as a result of his failure to procure the annulment, and Henry appointed Thomas Cromwell in his place.

Despite his failure to produce the results that Henry wanted, Wolsey actively pursued the annulment—divorce was synonymous with annulment at that time—however, he never planned that Henry would marry Anne Boleyn, with whom the king had become enamoured while she was lady-in-waiting in Queen Catherine’s household. It is unclear how far Wolsey was actually responsible for the Reformation, but it is very clear that Henry’s desire to marry Anne Boleyn precipitated the schism with the Church. Henry’s concern about having an heir to secure his family line and increase his security while alive would have prompted him to ask for a divorce sooner or later, whether Anne had precipitated it or not. Only Wolsey’s sudden death at Leicester[8] on his journey to the Tower of London saved him from the public humiliation and inevitable execution he would have suffered upon his arrival at the Tower.[9]

Break with Rome

Thomas Cromwell, 1st Earl of Essex, Henry VIII’s chief minister responsible for the Dissolution of the Monasteries

In order to allow Henry to divorce his wife, the English parliament enacted laws breaking ties with Rome, and declaring the king Supreme Head of the Church of England (from Elizabeth I the monarch is known as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England), thus severing the ecclesiastical structure of England from the Catholic Church and the Pope. The newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, was then able to declare Henry’s marriage to Catherine annulled. Catherine was removed from Court, and she spent the last three years of her life in various English houses under “protectorship,” similar to house arrest.[10]

This allowed Henry to marry one of his courtiers Anne Boleyn, the daughter of a minor diplomat Sir Thomas Boleyn. Anne had become pregnant by the end of 1532 and gave birth on 7 September 1533 to Elizabeth named in honour of Henry’s mother.[11] Anne may have had later pregnancies which ended in miscarriage or stillbirth. In May 1536, Anne was arrested, along with six courtiers. Thomas Cromwell stepped in again, claiming that Anne had taken lovers during her marriage to Henry, and she was tried for high treason, witchcraft and incest; these charges were most likely fabricated, but she was found guilty, and executed in May 1536.


The Last Days of Anne Boleyn


Henry VIII of England: Henry’s quarrels with the Pope led to the creation of the Church of England

Protestant alliance

Henry married again, for the third time, to Jane Seymour, the daughter of a Wiltshire knight, and with whom he had become enamoured while she was still a lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne. Jane became pregnant, and in 1537 produced a son, who became King Edward VI following Henry’s death in 1547. Jane died of puerperal fever only a few days after the birth, leaving Henry devastated. Cromwell continued to gain the king’s favour when he designed and pushed through the Laws in Wales Acts, uniting England and Wales.

Anne of Cleves,by Hans Holbein the Younger

In 1540 Henry married for the fourth time to the daughter of a Protestant German duke, Anne of Cleves, thus forming an alliance with the Protestant German states. Henry was reluctant to marry again, especially to a Protestant, but he was persuaded when the court painter Hans Holbein the Younger showed him a flattering portrait of her. She arrived in England in December 1539, and Henry rode to Rochester to meet her on 1 January 1540. Although the historian Gilbert Burnet claimed that Henry called her a Flanders Mare, there is no evidence that he said this; in truth, court ambassadors negotiating the marriage praised her beauty. Whatever the circumstances were, the marriage failed, and Anne agreed to a peaceful annulment, assumed the title My Lady, the King’s Sister, and received a massive divorce settlement, which included Richmond Palace, Hever Castle, and numerous other estates across the country. Although the marriage made sense in terms of foreign policy, Henry was still enraged and offended by the match. Henry chose to blame Cromwell for the failed marriage, and ordered him beheaded on 28 July 1540.[12] Henry kept his word and took care of Anne in his last years alive; however, after his death Anne suffered from extreme financial hardship because Edward VI’s councillors refused to give her any funds and confiscated the homes she had been given. She pleaded to her brother to let her return home, but he only sent a few agents who tried to assist in helping her situation and refused to let her return home. Anne died on 16 July 1557 in Chelsea Manor.[13]

Thomas Cranmer

Thomas Cranmer, Henry’s first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury, responsible for the Book of Common Prayer during Edward VI’s reign

The fifth marriage was to the Catholic Catherine Howard, the niece of Thomas Howard, the third Duke of Norfolk, who was promoted by Norfolk in the hope that she would persuade Henry to restore the Catholic religion in England. Henry called her his “rose without a thorn”, but the marriage ended in failure. Henry’s fancy with Catherine started before the end of his marriage with Anne when she was still a member of Anne’s court. Catherine was young and vivacious, but Henry’s age made him less inclined to use Catherine in the bedroom; rather, he preferred to admire her, which Catherine soon grew tired of. Catherine, forced into a marriage to an unattractive, obese man over 30 years her senior, had never wanted to marry Henry, and conducted an affair with the King’s favourite, Thomas Culpeper, while Henry and she were married. During her questioning, Catherine first denied everything but eventually she was broken down and told of her infidelity and her pre-nuptial relations with other men. Henry, first enraged, threatened to torture her to death but later became overcome with grief and self-pity. She was accused of treason and was executed on 13 February 1542, destroying the English Catholic holdouts’ hopes of a national reconciliation with the Catholic Church. Her execution also marked the end of the Howard family’s power within the court.[14]

Catherine Parr

By the time Henry conducted another Protestant marriage with his final wife Catherine Parr in 1543, the old Roman Catholic advisers, including the powerful third Duke of Norfolk had lost all their power and influence. The duke himself was still a committed Catholic, and he was nearly persuaded to arrest Catherine for preaching Lutheran doctrines to Henry while she attended his ill health. However, she managed to reconcile with the King after vowing that she had only argued about religion with him to take his mind off the suffering caused by his ulcerous leg. Her peacemaking also helped reconcile Henry with his daughters Mary and Elizabeth and fostered a good relationship between her and the crown prince.

Meanwhile, Edward was brought up a strict and devout Protestant by numerous tutors, including Bishop Richard Cox, John Belmain, and Sir John Cheke. The lady in charge of his upbringing was Blanche Herbert Lady Troy, whose ancestors had residual Lollard connections.[15] Her elegy includes the lines: …To King Edward she was a true – (And) wise lady of dignity, – In charge of his fosterage (she was pre-eminent)….[16]

Edward VI:

Edward VI of England

Protestant zeal



Henry died on 28 January 1547. His will had reinstated his daughters by his annulled marriages to Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn to the line of succession, but did not legitimise them. (Because his marriages had been annulled, they legally never occurred, so his children by those marriages were illegitimate.) In the event that all 3 of his children died without heir, the will stipulated that the descendant of his younger sister Mary would take precedence over the descendants of his elder sister, Margaret, Queen of Scotland. Edward, his nine-year-old son by Jane Seymour, succeeded as Edward VI of England. Unfortunately, the young King’s kingdom was usually in turmoil between nobles who were trying to strengthen their own position in the kingdom by using the Regency in their favour.[17]

The title page of Archbishop Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer, 1549

Duke of Somerset’s England

Although Henry had specified a group of men to act as regents during Edward’s minority, Edward Seymour, Edward’s uncle, quickly seized complete control, and created himself Duke of Somerset on 15 February 1547. His domination of the Privy Council, the king’s most senior body of advisers, was unchallenged. Somerset aimed to unite England and Scotland by marrying Edward to the young Scottish queen Mary, and aimed to forcibly impose the English Reformation on the Church of Scotland. Somerset led a large and well equipped army to Scotland, where he and the Scottish regent James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran, commanded their armies at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh on 10 September 1547. Somerset’s army eventually defeated the Scots, but the young Queen Mary was smuggled to France, where she was betrothed to the Dauphin, the future Francis II of France. Despite Somerset’s disappointment that no Scottish marriage would take place, his victory at Pinkie Cleugh made his position appear unassailable.

Meanwhile, Edward VI, despite the fact that he was only a child of nine, had his mind set on religious reform. In 1549, Edward ordered the publication of the Book of Common Prayer, containing the forms of worship for daily and Sunday church services. The controversial new book was not welcomed by either reformers or Catholic conservatives; and it was especially condemned in Devon and Cornwall, where traditional Catholic loyalty was at its strongest. In Cornwall at the time, many of the people could only speak the Cornish language, so the uniform English Bibles and church services were not understood by many. This caused the Prayer Book Rebellion, in which groups of Cornish non-conformists gathered round the mayor. The rebellion worried Somerset, now Lord Protector, and he sent an army to impose military solution to the rebellion. One in ten of the indigenous Cornish population was slaughtered.[dubious ] The rebellion did not persuade Edward to tread carefully, and only hardened his attitude towards Catholic non-conformists. This extended to Edward’s elder sister, the daughter of Catherine of Aragon, Mary Tudor, who was a pious and devout Catholic. Although called before the Privy Council several times to renounce her faith and stop hearing the Catholic Mass, she refused. He had a good relationship with his sister Elizabeth, who was a Protestant, albeit a moderate one, but this was strained when Elizabeth was accused of having an affair with the Duke of Somerset’s brother, Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley, the husband of Henry’s last wife Catherine Parr. Elizabeth was interviewed by one of Edward’s advisers, and she was eventually found not to be guilty, despite forced confessions from her servants Catherine Ashley and Thomas Parry. Thomas Seymour was arrested and beheaded on 20 March 1549.

A small boy with a big mind: Edward VI, desperate for a Protestant succession, changed his father’s will to allow Lady Jane Grey to become queen

Problematic succession

Lord Protector Somerset was also losing favour. After forcibly removing Edward VI to Windsor Castle, with the intention of keeping him hostage, Somerset was removed from power by members of the council, led by his chief rival, John Dudley, the first Earl of Warwick, who created himself Duke of Northumberland shortly after his rise. Northumberland effectively became Lord Protector, but he did not use this title, learning from the mistakes his predecessor made. Northumberland was furiously ambitious, and aimed to secure Protestant uniformity while making himself rich with land and money in the process. He ordered churches to be stripped of all traditional Catholic symbolism, resulting in the simplicity often seen in Church of England churches today. A revision of the Book of Common Prayer was published in 1552. When Edward VI became ill in 1553, his advisers looked to the possible imminent accession of the Catholic Lady Mary, and feared that she would overturn all the reforms made during Edward’s reign. Perhaps surprisingly, it was the dying Edward himself who feared a return to Catholicism, and wrote a new will repudiating the 1544 will of Henry VIII. This gave the succession to his cousin Lady Jane Grey, the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister Mary Tudor, who, after the death of Louis XII of France in 1515 had married Henry VIII’s favourite Charles Brandon, the first Duke of Suffolk. Lady Jane’s mother was Lady Frances Brandon, the daughter of Suffolk and Princess Mary. Northumberland married Jane to his youngest son Guildford Dudley, allowing himself to get the most out of a necessary Protestant succession. Most of Edward’s council signed the Devise for the Succession, and when Edward VI died on 6 July 1553 from his battle with tuberculosis, Lady Jane was proclaimed queen. However, the popular support for the proper Tudor dynasty–even a Catholic member–overruled Northumberland’s plans, and Jane, who had never wanted to accept the crown, was deposed after just nine days. Mary’s supporters joined her in a triumphal procession to London, accompanied by her younger sister Elizabeth.

Mary I: A troubled queen’s reign

Mary I of England, who tried to return England to the Roman Catholic Church

However, Mary soon announced that she was intending to marry the Spanish prince Philip, son of her mother’s nephew Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. The prospect of a marriage alliance with Spain proved unpopular with the English people, who were worried that Spain would use England as a satellite, involving England in wars without the popular support of the people. Popular discontent grew; a Protestant courtier, Thomas Wyatt the younger led a rebellion against Mary, with the aim of deposing and replacing her with her half-sister Elizabeth. The plot was discovered, and Wyatt’s supporters were hunted down and killed. Wyatt himself was tortured, in the hope that he would give evidence that Elizabeth was involved so that Mary could have her executed for treason. Wyatt never implicated Elizabeth, and he was beheaded. Elizabeth spent her time between different prisons, including the Tower of London.

Mary married Philip at Winchester Cathedral, on 25 July 1554. Philip found her unattractive, and only spent a minimal amount of time with her. Despite Mary believing she was pregnant numerous times during her five-year reign, she never reproduced. Devastated that she rarely saw her husband, and anxious that she was not bearing an heir to Catholic England, Mary became bitter. In her determination to restore England to the Catholic faith and to secure her throne from Protestant threats, she had many Protestants burnt at the stake between 1555 and 1558. Mary’s main goal was to restore the Catholic faith to England; however, the Marian Persecutions were unpopular with the Protestant majority of England, though naturally supported by the Catholic minority. Because of her actions against the Protestants, Mary is to this day referred to as “Bloody Mary”. English author Charles Dickens stated that “as bloody Queen Mary this woman has become famous, and as Bloody Queen Mary she will ever be remembered with horror and detestation”[18]

Protestants Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley being burned at the stake during Mary’s reign

Mary’s dream of a resurrected Catholic Tudor dynasty was finished, and her popularity further declined when she lost the last English area on French soil, Calais, to Francis, Duke of Guise, on 7 January 1558. Mary’s reign, however, introduced a new coining system that would be used until the 18th century, and her marriage to Philip II created new trade routes for England. Mary’s government took a number of steps towards reversing the inflation, budgetary deficits, poverty, and trade crisis of her kingdom. She explored the commercial potential of Russian, African, and Baltic markets, revised the customs system, worked to counter the currency debasements of her predecessors, amalgamated several revenue courts, and strengthened the governing authority of the middling and larger towns.[19] Mary also welcomed the first Russian ambassador to England, creating relations between England and Russia for the first time. Had she lived a little longer, then the Catholic religion that she worked so hard to restore into the realm may have taken deeper roots than it did; however, Mary died on 17 November 1558 at the relatively young age of 42.[20]

The age of intrigues and plots: Elizabeth I


Queen Elizabeth I “The Virgin Queen”


Elizabeth I at her coronation on 15 January 1559

Elizabeth I, who was staying at Hatfield House at the time of her accession, rode to London to the cheers of both the ruling class and the common people.

When Elizabeth came to the throne, there was much apprehension among members of the council appointed by Mary, due to the fact that many of them (as noted by the Spanish ambassador) had participated in several plots against Elizabeth, such as her imprisonment in the Tower, trying to force her to marry a foreign prince and thereby sending her out of the realm, and even pushing for her death.[21] In response to their fear, she chose as her chief minister Sir William Cecil, a Protestant, and former secretary to Lord Protector the Duke of Somerset and then to the Duke of Northumberland. Under Mary, he had been spared, and often visited Elizabeth, ostensibly to review her accounts and expenditure. He was the cousin and friend of Blanche Parry, the closest person to Elizabeth for 56 years.[22] Elizabeth also appointed her personal favourite, the son of the Duke of Northumberland Lord Robert Dudley, her Master of the Horse, giving him constant personal access to the queen.

The early years

Elizabeth had a long, turbulent path to the throne. She had a number of problems during her childhood, one of the main ones being after the execution of her mother, Anne Boleyn. When Anne was beheaded, Henry declared Elizabeth an illegitimate child and she would, therefore, not be able to inherit the throne. After the death of her father, she was raised by his widow, Catherine Parr and her husband Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron Seymour of Sudeley. A scandal arose with her and the Lord Admiral to which she stood trial. During the examinations, she answered truthfully and boldly and all charges were dropped. She was an excellent student, well-schooled in Latin, French, Italian, and somewhat in Greek, and was a talented writer.[23][24] She was supposedly a very skilled musician as well, in both singing and playing the lute. After the rebellion of Thomas Wyatt the younger, Elizabeth was imprisoned in the Tower of London. No proof could be found that Elizabeth was involved and she was released and retired to the countryside until the death of her sister, Mary I of England.[25]

Imposing the Church of England

Elizabeth was a moderate Protestant; she was the daughter of Anne Boleyn, who played a key role in the English Reformation in the 1520s. She had been brought up by Blanche Herbert Lady Troy. At her coronation in January 1559, many of the bishops – Catholic, appointed by Mary, who had expelled many of the Protestant clergymen when she became queen in 1553 – refused to perform the service in English. Eventually, the relatively minor Bishop of Carlisle, Owen Oglethorpe, performed the ceremony; but when Oglethorpe attempted to perform traditional Catholic parts of the Coronation, Elizabeth got up and left. Following the Coronation, two important Acts were passed through parliament: the Act of Uniformity and the Act of Supremacy, establishing the Protestant Church of England and creating Elizabeth Supreme Governor of the Church of England (Supreme Head, the title used by her father and brother, was seen as inappropriate for a woman ruler). These acts, known collectively as the Elizabethan Religious Settlement, made it compulsory to attend church services every Sunday; and imposed an oath on clergymen and statesmen to recognise the Church of England, the independence of the Church of England from the Catholic Church, and the authority of Elizabeth as Supreme Governor. Elizabeth made it clear that if they refused the oath the first time, they would have a second opportunity, after which, if the oath was not sworn, the offenders would be deprived of their offices and estates.

Mary, Queen of Scots, who conspired with English nobles to take the English throne for herself

Pressure to marry

Even though Elizabeth was only twenty-five when she came to the throne, she was absolutely sure of her God-given place to be the queen and of her responsibilities as the ‘handmaiden of the Lord’. She never let anyone challenge her authority as queen, even though many people, who felt she was weak and should be married, tried to do so.[21] The popularity of Elizabeth was extremely high, but her Privy Council, her Parliament and her subjects thought that the unmarried queen should take a husband; it was generally accepted that, once a queen regnant was married, the husband would relieve the woman of the burdens of head of state. Also, without an heir, the Tudor dynasty would end; the risk of civil war between rival claimants was a possibility if Elizabeth died childless. Numerous suitors from nearly all European nations sent ambassadors to English court to put forward their suit. Risk of death came dangerously close in 1564 when Elizabeth caught smallpox; when she was most at risk, she named Robert Dudley as Lord Protector in the event of her death. After her recovery, she appointed Dudley to the Privy Council and created him Earl of Leicester, in the hope that he would marry Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary rejected him, and instead married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, a descendant of Henry VII, giving Mary a stronger claim to the English throne. Although many Catholics were loyal to Elizabeth, many also believed that, because Elizabeth was declared illegitimate after her parents’ marriage was annulled, Mary was the strongest legitimate claimant. Despite this, Elizabeth would not name Mary her heir; as she had experienced during the reign of her predecessor Mary I, the opposition could flock around the heir if they were disheartened with Elizabeth’s rule.

Pope St. Pius V, who issued the Papal bull excommunicating Elizabeth and relieving her subjects of their allegiance to her

Numerous threats to the Tudor dynasty occurred during Elizabeth’s reign. In 1569, a group of Earls led by Charles Neville, the sixth Earl of Westmorland, and Thomas Percy, the seventh Earl of Northumberland attempted to depose Elizabeth and replace her with Mary, Queen of Scots. In 1571, the Protestant-turned-Catholic Thomas Howard, the fourth Duke of Norfolk, had plans to marry Mary, Queen of Scots, and then replace Elizabeth with Mary. The plot, masterminded by Roberto di Ridolfi, was discovered and Norfolk was beheaded. The next major uprising was in 1601, when Robert Devereux, the second Earl of Essex, attempted to raise the city of London against Elizabeth’s government. The city of London proved unwilling to rebel; Essex and most of his co-rebels were executed. Threats also came from abroad. In 1570, Pope Pius V issued a Papal bull, Regnans in Excelsis, excommunicating Elizabeth, and releasing her subjects from their allegiance to her. Elizabeth came under pressure from Parliament to execute Mary, Queen of Scots, to prevent any further attempts to replace her; though faced with several official requests, she vacillated over the decision to execute an anointed queen. Finally, she was persuaded of Mary’s (treasonous) complicity in the plotting against her, and she signed the death warrant in 1586. Mary was executed at Fotheringay Castle on 8 February 1587, to the outrage of Catholic Europe.

There are many reasons debated as to why Elizabeth never married. It was rumoured that she was in love with Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, and that on one of her summer progresses she had birthed his illegitimate child. This rumour was just one of many that swirled around the two’s long-standing friendship. However, more important to focus on were the disasters that many women, such as Lady Jane Grey, suffered due to being married into the royal family. Her sister Mary’s marriage to Philip brought great contempt to the country, for many of her subjects despised Spain and Philip and feared that he would try to take complete control. Recalling her father’s disdain for Anne of Cleves, Elizabeth also refused to enter into a foreign match with a man that she had never seen before, so that also eliminated a large number of suitors.[26]

The Spanish Armada: Catholic Spain’s attempt to depose Elizabeth and take control of England

Last hopes of a Tudor heir

Despite the uncertainty of Elizabeth’s – and therefore the Tudor dynasty’s – hold on England, she never married. The closest she came to marriage was between 1579 and 1581, when she was courted by Francis, Duke of Anjou, the son of Henry II of France and Catherine de’ Medici. Despite Elizabeth’s government constantly begging her to marry in the early years of her reign, it was now persuading Elizabeth not to marry the French prince for his mother, Catherine de’ Medici, was suspected of ordering the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre of tens of thousands of French Protestant Huguenots in 1572. Elizabeth bowed to public feeling against the marriage, learning from the mistake her sister made when she married Philip II of Spain, and sent the Duke of Anjou away. Elizabeth knew that the continuation of the Tudor dynasty was now impossible; she was forty-eight in 1581, and too old to bear children.

By far the most dangerous threat to the Tudor dynasty during Elizabeth’s reign was the Spanish Armada of 1588. Launched by Elizabeth’s old suitor Philip II of Spain, this was commanded by Alonso de Guzmán El Bueno, the seventh Duke of Medina Sidonia. The Spanish invasion fleet outnumbered the English fleet’s 22 galleons and 108 armed merchant ships; however, the Spanish lost as a result of bad weather on the English Channel and poor planning and logistics, and in the face of the skills of Sir Francis Drake and Charles Howard, the second Baron Howard of Effingham (later first Earl of Nottingham).

While Elizabeth declined physically with age, her running of the country continued to benefit her people. In response to famine across England due to bad harvests in the 1590s, Elizabeth introduced the poor law, allowing peasants who were too ill to work a certain amount of money from the state. All the money Elizabeth had borrowed from Parliament in 12 of the 13 parliamentary sessions was paid back; by the time of her death, Elizabeth not only had no debts, but was in credit. Elizabeth died childless at Richmond Palace on 24 March 1603. She never named a successor. However, her chief minister Sir Robert Cecil had corresponded with the Protestant King James VI of Scotland, son of Mary, Queen of Scots, and James’s succession to the English throne was unopposed. The Tudor dynasty survived only in the female line, and the House of Stuart occupied the English throne for most of the following century.

Before and after comparisons

Public interference regarding the Roses dynasties was always a threat until the 17th century Stuart/Bourbon re-alignment occasioned by a series of events such as the execution of Lady Jane Grey, despite her brother in law, Leicester’s reputation in Holland, the Rising of the North (in which the old Percy-Neville feud and even anti-Scottish sentiment was discarded on account of religion; Northern England shared the same Avignonese bias as the Scottish court, on par with Valois France and Castile, which became the backbone of the Counter-Reformation, with Protestants being solidly anti-Avignonese) and death of Elizabeth I of England without children.

The Tudors made no substantial changes in their foreign policy from either Lancaster or York, whether the alliance was with Aragon or Cleves, the chief foreign enemies continuing as the Auld Alliance, but the Tudors resurrected old ecclesiastic arguments once pursued by Henry II of England and his son John of England. Yorkists were tied so much to the old order that Catholic rebellions (such as the Pilgrimage of Grace) and aspirations (exemplified by William Allen) were seen as continuing in their reactionary footsteps, when in opposition to the Tudors’ reformation policies, although the Tudors were not uniformly Protestant according to Continental definition—instead were true to their Lancastrian Beaufort allegiance, in the appointment of Reginald Pole.

The essential difference between the Tudors and their predecessors, is the nationalization and integration of John Wycliffe‘s ideas to the Church of England, holding onto the alignment of Richard II of England and Anne of Bohemia, in which Anne’s Hussite brethren were in alliance to her husband’s Wycliffite countrymen against the Avignon Papacy. The Tudors otherwise rejected or suppressed other religious notions, whether for the Pope’s award of Fidei Defensor or to prevent them from being in the hands of the common laity, who might be swayed by cells of foreign Protestants, with whom they had conversation as Marian exiles, pursuing a strategy of containment which the Lancastrians had done (after being vilified by Wat Tyler), even though the phenomenon of “Lollard knights” (like John Oldcastle) had become almost a national sensation all on its own.

In essence, the Tudors followed a composite of Lancastrian (the court party) and Yorkist (the church party) policies. Henry VIII tried to extend his father’s balancing act between the dynasties for opportunistic interventionism in the Italian Wars, which had unfortunate consequences for his own marriages and the Papal States; the King furthermore tried to use similar tactics for the “via media” concept of Anglicanism. A further parallelism was effected by turning Ireland into a kingdom and sharing the same episcopal establishment as England, whilst enlarging England by the annexation of Wales. The progress to Northern/Roses government would thenceforth pass across the border into Scotland, in 1603, due not only to the civil warring, but also because the Tudors’ own dynasty was fragile and insecure, trying to reconcile the mortal enemies who had weakened England to the point of having to bow to new pressures, rather than dictate diplomacy on English terms.

Tudor monarchs of England and Ireland

The six Tudor monarchs were:

Portrait Name Birth Accession date Marriages Death Claim
Henry VII Henry VII 28 January 1457
Pembroke Castle
22 August 1485
(crowned at Westminster Abbey on 30 October 1485)
Elizabeth of York 21 April 1509
Richmond Palace
aged 52
Descent from Edward III of England through his mother Lady Margaret Beaufort.
Henry VIII Henry VIII
(first King of Ireland)[1]
28 June 1491
Greenwich Palace
21 April 1509
(crowned at Westminster Abbey on 24 June 1509)
(1) Catherine of Aragon
(2) Anne Boleyn
(3) Jane Seymour
(4) Anne of Cleves
(5) Catherine Howard
(6) Catherine Parr
28 January 1547
Palace of Whitehall
aged 55
Son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York
Edward VI Edward VI1 12 October 1537
Hampton Court Palace
28 January 1547
(crowned at Westminster Abbey on 20 February 1547)
6 July 1553
Greenwich Palace
aged 15
Son of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour
Lady Jane Grey Jane1
Bradgate Park
10 July 1553
(never crowned)
Lord Guildford Dudley 12 February 1554
executed at the Tower of London
aged 16–17
Great granddaughter of Henry VII; granddaughter of Henry VIII’s sister, Mary Brandon (née Tudor), Duchess of Suffolk; first-cousin once removed of Edward VI
Mary I Mary I1 18 February 1516
Palace of Placentia
19 July 1553
(crowned at Westminster Abbey on 1 October 1553)
Philip II of Spain 17 November 1558
St James’s Palace
aged 42
Daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon; known as “Bloody Mary” for burning Protestants during her reign.
Elizabeth I Elizabeth I1 7 September 1533
Greenwich Palace
17 November 1558
(crowned at Westminster Abbey on 15 January 1559)
24 March 1603
Richmond Palace
aged 69
Daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn; known as “The Virgin Queen” or “Gloriana” during her reign.

1. ^ To the Tudor period belongs the elevation of the English-ruled state in Ireland from a Lordship to a Kingdom (1541) under Henry VIII.


Before the succession[edit]

Arms of Owen Tudor.svg
Arms of Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond.svg
Arms of Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford.svg
Earlier arms of the Tudors as Welsh noble house. Coat of arms of Edmund Tudor, first Earl of Richmond. As he was the son of a princess of France and a minor Welsh Squire, the grant of these arms to him by his half-brother Henry VI recognizes his status as part of the Lancastrian Royal Family. Coat of Arms of Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford, and Earl of Pembroke, brother of Edmund Tudor

Patrilineal descent[edit]

Patrilineal descent, the descent from a male ancestor in which all intervening ancestors are also male, is the principle behind membership in royal houses, as it can be traced back through the paternal line. Note that as siblings, Edward, Mary and Elizabeth, share a generation number.

Royal House of Tudor[edit]
  1. Ednyfed Fychan, d. 1246
  2. Goronwy ab Ednyfed, Lord of Tres-gastell, d. 1268
  3. Tudur Hen, Lord of Penmynydd, d. 1311
  4. Goronwy ap Tudur Hen, d. 1331
  5. Tudur ap Goronwy, Lord of Penmynydd, d. 1367
  6. Maredudd ap Tudur, d. 1406
  7. Owen Tudor, 1400–1461
  8. Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond, 1430–1456
  9. Henry VII of England, 1457–1509
  10. Henry VIII of England, 1491–1547
11a. Edward VI of England, 1537–1553
11b. Mary I of England, 1516–1558
11c. Elizabeth I of England, 1533–1603

Coat of arms as sovereigns

Coat of Arms of Henry VII of England (1485-1509).svg
Coat of Arms of England (1509-1554).svg
Coat of Arms of England (1554-1558).svg
Coat of Arms of England (1558-1603).svg
Coat of Arms of Henry VII of England (1485-1509) & Henry VIII of England (1509-1547) in the first part of his reign Coat of Arms of Henry VIII (1509-1547) in the later part of his reign & Edward VI (1547–1553) Coat of Arms of Mary I (1554-1558) impaled with those of her husband, Philip II of Spain Coat of Arms Elizabeth I (1558-1603) with her personal motto: “Semper eadem” or “always the same”

As Prince of Wales, Arthur, Henry, and Edward all bore these arms,

Coat of Arms of the Tudor Princes of Wales (1489-1574).svg
Coat of Arms of the Tudor Princes of Wales (1489-1574.

Tudor Badges

The Welsh Dragon supporter honored the Tudor’s Welsh origins. The most popular symbol of the house of Tudor was the Tudor rose (see top of page). When Henry Tudor took the crown of England from Richard III in battle, he brought about the end of the Wars of the Roses between the House of Lancaster (whose badge was a red rose) and the House of York (whose badge was a white rose). He married Elizabeth of York to bring all factions together. On his marriage, Henry adopted the Tudor Rose badge conjoining the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster. It symbolized the Tudor’s right to rule as well the uniting of the kingdom after the Wars of the Roses. It was used by every British Monarch since Henry VII as a Royal Badge.

Royal Roses Badge of England.svg
Tudor Rose Royal Badge of England.svg
Tudor Rose (Heraldry).svg
Tudor Dragon Badge.svg
Beaufort Portcullis Badge of the Tudors.svg Crowned Fleur de lys (Tudor Crown).svg Crowned Harp (Tudor Crown).svg
Royal Roses Badge of England showing the red rose of Lancaster, the white rose of York, and the combined Tudor rose. Tudor Rose Royal Badge of England combining the Red Rose of Lancaster and White Rose of York. Tudor Rose Uncrowned Tudor dragon badge symbolizing the Tudor’s Welsh heritage and the Welsh union with England. Tudor Portcullis Badge taken from their Beaufort ancestors Crowned Fleur de lys (Tudor Crown) showing the claim to crown of France. Crowned Harp of Ireland(Tudor Crown)showing the Tudors as Kings of Ireland. The harp was later quartered into the royal arms.

Tudor Monograms

The Tudors also used monograms to denote themselves:

Royal Monogram of King Henry VIII of England.svg
Royal Monogram of Queen Elizabeth I of England.svg
Royal Monogram of King Henry VIII of England. Royal Monogram of Queen Elizabeth I of England.

Lineage and the Tudor name

Patrimonial Lineage

As noted above Tewdur or Tudor is derived from the words tud “territory” and rhi “king”. Owen Tudor took it as a surname on being knighted. It is doubtful whether the Tudor kings used the name on the throne. Kings and princes were not seen as needing a name, and a ” ‘Tudor’ name for the royal family was hardly known in the sixteenth century. The royal surname was never used in official publications, and hardly in ‘histories’ of various sorts before 1584. … Monarchs were not anxious to publicize their descent in the paternal line from a Welsh adventurer, stressing instead continuity with the historic English and French royal families. Their subjects did not think of them as ‘Tudors’, or of themselves as ‘Tudor people’”.[27] Princes and Princess would have been known as “of England”. The medieval practice of colloquially calling princes after their place birth (e.g. Henry of Bolingbroke for Henry IV or Henry of Monmouth for Henry V) was not followed. Henry VII was likely known as “Henry of Richmond” before his taking of the throne.

Ednyfed Fychan
d. 1246
Goronwy ab Ednyfed
d. 1268
Tudur Hen
(also known as Tudur ap Goronwy)
d. 1311
Tomos ap Llewelyn
Goronwy ap Tudur Hen
d. 1331
Elen ferch Tomos
(mother of Owain Glyndŵr)
Marged ferch Tomos Tudur ap Goronwy
d. 1367
Goronwy ap Tudur Edynfed ap Tudur Maredudd ap Tudur
Rhys ap Tudur
d. 1409
Gwilym ap Tudur
d. 1413
Owen Tudor
(Owain Tudur)
Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond
d. 1456
Jasper Tudor
Henry VII of England
d. 1509

Royal Lineage (Simplified)[edit]

The Tudors claim to the throne was the strongest one at the end of the Wars of the Roses, as it combined the Lancastrian claim in their descent from the Beauforts and the Royal Yorkist claim by the marriage of Henry VII to the heiress of Edward IV.

Crown of England Old.png
Edward III
Edward, the Black Prince Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York
Crown of England Old.png
Richard II
Philippa, 5th Countess of Ulster Crown of England Old.png
Henry IV
John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset
Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March, 6th Earl of Ulster Crown of England Old.png
Henry V
Catherine of France Owen Tudor Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge
Anne de Mortimer Crown of England Old.png
Henry VIRed Rose Badge of Lancaster.svg
1422–1461, 1470–1471
Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of RichmondRed Rose Badge of Lancaster.svg Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and DerbyRed Rose Badge of Lancaster.svg Richard, 3rd Duke of YorkWhite Rose Badge of York.svg
Edward of Westminster, Prince of WalesRed Rose Badge of Lancaster.svg Crown of England Old.png
Edward IV of EnglandWhite Rose Badge of York.svg
George, 1st Duke of ClarenceWhite Rose Badge of York.svg Crown of England Old.png
Richard III of EnglandWhite Rose Badge of York.svg
Isabella I of Castile Ferdinand II of Aragon Tudor Crown (Heraldry).svg
Henry VII of EnglandRed Rose Badge of Lancaster.svg
Elizabeth of YorkWhite Rose Badge of York.svg Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury Edward of Middleham, Prince of WalesWhite Rose Badge of York.svg
Joanna of Castile Maria of Aragon Catherine of Aragon Tudor Crown (Heraldry).svg
Henry VIII of EnglandTudor Rose.svg
Arthur, Prince of Wales Tudor Rose.svg Margaret TudorTudor Rose.svg Mary TudorTudor Rose.svg Reginald Pole
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor Isabella of Portugal James V of Scotland Lady Frances Brandon
Philip II of Spain Tudor Crown (Heraldry).svg
Mary I of EnglandTudor Rose.svg
Tudor Crown (Heraldry).svg
Elizabeth I of EnglandTudor Rose.svg
Tudor Crown (Heraldry).svg
Edward VI of EnglandTudor Rose.svg
Mary, Queen of Scots Lady Jane Grey
Tudor Crown (Heraldry).svg
James VI of Scotland and I of England Dimidiated Rose and Thistle Badge.svg