Tuesday, 9 August 2016

August 1485

An interesting speed sign on the approach to Sutton Wharf.

P1030111Neither of us are quite sure how you judge that speed. Most probably for the local first time hirers.

There were no vacant spots on the 24 & 48 hour moorings at Sutton Wharf but that didn’t particularly bother us as we were looking for a quiet rural location.  We topped up the water tank and disposed of our rubbish before moving on to find a pleasant mooring below Ambion Wood.

IMG_0339We are now very close to the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field fought in 1485.  It was the final major battle of the 100 Year Wars (War of the Roses).  King Richard III had marshalled his army in the general vicinity of Ambion Hill (to the right in the above photo).  Henry Tudor, Earl of Lancaster had landed in western Wales with a small force of mostly Scottish and French soldiers.  He had been joined by the Welsh and then slowly made his way west collecting more forces to his banner. King Richard had come north from London with a larger army intending to defeat the last Tudor contender for the throne. 

Henry Tudor’s claim was rather tenuous, he was ninth in the line of succession but his direct lineage was through his great-great grandmother who had been the mistress of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.  She gave birth to four children before the Duke married her and whilst he recognised the children as his own it was on the condition they were ineligible for the throne.

Richard Plantagenet’s claim to the throne was almost as tenuous.  His brother Edward had been king and when he died Richard became Regent to Edward’s children.  Richard promptly proclaimed Edward’s marriage had been invalid and his sons were therefore bastards and not eligible for the throne.  He had them locked up in the Tower of London from whence they subsequently disappeared.  By then Richard had declared himself king.

Kings didn’t have a large army; instead they relied on their nobles to maintain smaller forces which could be called up by the king in time of need.  This made many of the nobles powerful and the king had to be careful not to alienate them.  There was a third force in the vicinity.  Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby controlled vast areas of the NW of England.  He was related to the Plantagenet’s by marriage and been supporter of the House of York.  However his second wife was Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry Tudor.  This made Stanley Henry’s step-father.

These three forces eventually met in the area to the SW of the town of Market Bosworth.

Richard’s forces were located on and around Ambion Hill whilst the Stanley forces were to the south of Ambion Hill around Dadlington.  Henry’s army approached from the west.

This next map shows the various locations.  Richard’s army at Ambion Hill (top right arrow).  Our mooring (blue arrow).  Presumed location of the battle (middle red arrow).  Location of the Stanley forces (bottom right arrow).  Recently discovered location of the actual battlefield (bottom left arrow)

Battle of Bosworth FieldRichard was an experienced military commander whilst Henry had almost no military experience.  Henry had appointed the very experienced Earl of Oxford to command his forces.  Richard held the high ground and a good defensive position.  However he had divided his army into three components (vanguard, main guard and rear guard) which is a manoeuvre strategy.  This suggests Richard didn’t intend to fight a defensive battle.  Richards vanguard was commanded by the Duke of Norfolk and he promptly attacked Henry’s forces.  This didn’t go well for Norfolk and some of his troops fled the field.  Richard signalled the Duke of Northumberland to go to Norfolk’s aid however Northumberland either didn’t receive the message or ignored it.

Richard then decided to attack with his own force and defeat Henry.  The Stanley force to the east had been sitting on the fence waiting to see which way the battle would turn.  When they saw Richard ride forward with his own small group of knights they attacked and surrounded Richard’s force.  Richard was killed during the fight, his body stripped bare and thrown over a horse to be taken to Leicester as proof he had been killed.  He was then anonymously buried in a public car park (well you know the story).

The Stanley’s crowned Henry under a tree in nearby Stoke Golding.  Apparently the tree still stands!

Henry Crowning

Bottom right arrow points to the location of Henry’s crowning.

Many of the dead were buried at the small church in Dadlington.

Richard III’s Well.  Legend has it this spring on the side of Ambion Hill is where Richard had his last drink before the battle.  The stone Cain was erected in 1813 which is quite some time after the battle so I have strong reservations!


The visitor centre is located on Ambion Hill however views of the battle field from the site aren’t very good because much of the area is now wooded and the correct location of the battlefield is some 2km away.


Visitor Centre – English Heritage


I was walking yesterday evening and by chance happened to take a photo of the distant battlefield.


The location is in the general vicinity of the buildings in the above photo.


Peter Berry said...

Hi Tom, 1.2 mph is of course 1 knot in marine speed terms if you take the conversion to 1 decimal place, (1mph = 1.151 knots). I wonder if this is where the stupid speed limit sign originated. They had the same problem on Windermere when they introduced the overall speed limit. Was it to be 10mph or 10 knots, which of course is much faster and still allows water skiing to take place or just about.

Jenny said...

Ooooh - I love English Royal history, and would have loved to see this battle site on our trips to UK, but sadly didn't. Did you know that Stanley, the noble who changed sides and therefore the course of history, was the third and current husband of Margaret Beaufort? Who just happened to be the mother of Henry Tudor, and had been championing her son's rise to power ever since he was a baby? Heady stuff - for a Tudorphile like me!

Tom and Jan said...

Hi Peter I was more bemused that someone thought a boater could judge that speed. I suppose it makes a difference to the usual tick-over signs.

Tom and Jan said...

Hi Jenny,
Yes, I mentioned Stanley was Henry's step-father! All these wives... you want to be careful.