The Battle of Bosworth – Day of Reckoning
And so, here we are, the 22nd August, a Monday in 1485, and the day of the Battle of Bosworth Field.
It is estimated that the royal party would have risen around the hour of Prime, approximately 0610 on that Monday morning, with mass starting at around 0640. Therefore, Richard would probably have been breaking his fast around 0710, as his squires began the process of preparing and putting on his armour around him. Reports suggest it was a bright, sunny morning, as Richard and his chaplains processed to bless the royal army, before marching westwards to meet with the enemy, who had spent the night on the road to London – Richard arranged his forces on high ground, looking down towards Tudor’s forces.
Around 0800, the rebels began moving across the lower, marshy ground. Initially, Richard did not advance, until they had crossed the marshland, and he gave the order to advance. There followed about an hour of manoeuvring by both sides, until Richard caught sight of Tudor directly, called his men around him, and set off in person towards the enemy, aiming to settle things once and for all.
Whatever the reason for his decision, whether a sense of bravado, anger at Tudor’s attitude, or perhaps even a fever addling his brains (another theory for his poor night’s sleep and looking ‘drawn’ on the morning of the 22nd August), this was his fateful move.
The charge cut through Tudor’s army, reaching the standard itself, its bearer, William Brandon, cut down by Richard himself. At this point, it is thought only one man stood between Henry Tudor and King Richard III. But then Tudor’s forces formed a defensive structure around their leader, breaking the royal charge. Seeing this confusion, Stanley committed his until-then non-assigned forces to Tudor, and entered the fray, reversing the balance of the field in minutes.
Richard was unhorsed, his mount killed beneath him, and he lost his helmet as he fell (as evident from subsequent analysis of the skeleton). He refused a replacement horse, choosing instead to fight on, but he was now on foot, with his head unprotected, and one blow to the back of his head proved fatal.
His reported last words were “treason, treason.”
Thanks to the events of the last couple of years, the tale of what happened to his body after the battle is more well-known now, including the immediate attacks on his dead body, and being slung over the back of a horse. He was transported back to Leicester during the afternoon, and put on public display in the Newark, so that everyone could see that King Richard was dead. He was subsequently buried at the Greyfriars Priory, in the heart of Leicester, where he remained for over five centuries, before being discovered, as we all know, under that famous car-park…