Friday, August 22, 2014
A Horse, a Horse, my Kingdom for a Horse
Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth, the final major battle of that English civil war titled The War of the Roses. It was at this battle that King Richard III, variously identified as the last King from the House of Plantagenet or the House of York, fell, he being the last English King to die in battle. Henry Tudor, the victor, then became King Henry VII.
Henry’s victory in battle was if anything surprising. Richard’s forces outnumbered those of Henry. Meanwhile, Lord Stanley held his own force; if combined with that of Henry, that of Richard would have been out-numbered. At the same time, Richard held Stanley’s son as a hostage. As battle was about to commence, Richard sent word to Stanley that if Stanley did not join with him, he would execute Stanley’s son. Stanley replied, “I have other sons.”
Richard’s attack upon Henry’s position nearly succeeded, Henry’s standard-bearer William Brandon being killed at Henry’s side. Richard’s fate was sealed when the Stanley family and its retainers, having until then not committed to either side, rode against Richard’s infantry as his cavalry was separately moving against Henry.
William Brandon’s son Charles, ultimately Duke of Suffolk, would become the best friend of Henry VIII.
In 2012, Richard’s remains were located in the course of excavations under a parking lot that now covers part of what was the Blackfriars (Dominican) Church in Leicester, England; early 2013 saw the announcement that testing had confirmed the remains were those of Richard. In sad testimony to the modern age, litigation ensued as to whether Richard should be re-buried in Leicester Cathedral, apparently consistent with the terms of the agreement by which the archaeological work was performed and other British law, or in York where certain claimed descendants of Richard assert he would want to have been buried. That question is now resolved, and Richard will be laid to rest in Leicester Cathedral.