530th Anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth and the death of Richard III

The view from Nottingham castle 530 years after Richard III. rode out to meet his destiny

Visit Nottingham castle today, and you will find a museum, expansive grounds and a restored medieval gatehouse sitting high above the city.

It is the only raised part of the city, and it is obvious as to why the castle that once graced it was a stronghold for many a King of England.

Other than the gatehouse, there is nothing of the castle of 1485, where Richard III of England waited for the inevitable invasion of Henry Tudor. I thought of him gazing out across the vast landscape of Nottinghamshire from the battlements, even though the view is irrevocably changed, you get a sense of the bleak view and how it must have stretched on forever.

The gatehouse of Nottingham castle through which Richard rode on his way to Leicester

Nottingham castle wasn’t a place of happy memories for Richard.

It was here in April 1484 that he learnt of the death of his only son, Edward of Middleham, and where he and his wife were nearly driven mad with grief.

Richard referred to it from that point forward as the Castle of his Care.

Less than a year since the death of Edward came a further blow to Richard.

March 1485 saw the death of his wife Anne, possibly of tuberculous. They had known each other most of their lives and been married for over 10 years.

Richard, Anne and their son Edward depicted in a window at the Church of Saints Mary and Alkelda, Middleham
Richard, Anne and their son Edward depicted in a window at the Church of Saints Mary and Alkelda, Middleham

Can you ever truly identify with someone from the 15th century? It was such a different time, where death stalked everyone, the young, the rich – this didn’t matter. Death was a part of life, with strong religious protocol and did their unshakable faith in God help?

What ever way you look at it, loosing your wife and only child in such a short space of time must have been a terrible burden to bare, and the fact that he was King and had to be seen as in command and unbreakable must have weighed upon him.

The Paston portrait of King Richard III, a copy of an original in the 1520’s. Thought to be a good likeness of him.

By August 1485, Richard was at Nottingham where he chose to await the invasion of Henry Tudor.

It was a strategic decision as Nottingham is in the heart of England and was the centre of his kingdom. No matter where Tudor landed, he would have been in striking distance.

Henry Tudor had landed at Milford Haven on the 7th of August, and I believe this must have been a relief to Richard.

He had been awaiting the invasion at Nottingham since June and had a stronger army than Tudor.

He had his experience in battle to rely on, having been accomplished in war and honoured during the reign of his brother Edward IV, where in which Tudor was an inexperienced exile.

He might have seen this as his opportunity to scotch the rebellion of Tudor once and for all and get on with the business of ruling the country.

The Royal Coat of Arms of Richard III as seen at Fotheringhay Church
The Royal Coat of Arms of Richard III as seen at Fotheringhay Church

There was no indication that Richard was depressed or dreading this next trial in his life and I like to think he was confident of winning.

However, Richard wasn’t surrounded by friends and he must have felt he couldn’t rely on all of the nobles loyalty.

How ironic that must have been for a man who had prized his own loyalty to others and had adopted the motto Loyaulte Me Lie (Loyalty Binds Me)

Richard's signature as Duke of Gloucester
Richard’s signature as Duke of Gloucester

Richard didn’t find out that Tudor had landed until the 11th of August which was a longer delay than he could have expected, especially seeing he had not had word from Sir William Stanley who was in charge in North Wales

Most of the nobles of Richard’s court responded to his call to war, however Lord Thomas Stanley wrote to Richard, pleading illness. Earlier that year, Lord Stanley had asked to leave court.

Against all council advice, Richard agreed, on the condition that Stanley’s son Lord Strange be placed at court as a bond of loyalty. Lord Stanley   was the Father in Law to Henry Tudor, but had sworn loyalty to Richard.

Richard and his forces rode out of Nottingham castle on the 19th of August and headed towards Leicester.
By the 22nd of August Richard and his forces were in place and they met Tudor’s forces in the Battle of Bosworth. Lord Stanley’s men had joined the battle but had not declared for either side.

The Royal Coat of Arms of King Richard III outside Leicester Cathedral

Richard’s army had superior numbers but the Tudor army was well commanded. In the midst of battle Richard spotted Tudor himself and made the decision to attack him directly.

This would either end in a glorious victory and or his death and he must have known it. His loyal friend Catesby advised him to flee the field of battle but he refused, legend says he said he would live or die the King of England.

His household knights joined him in this last charge, many of whom would be loyal to the end including Robert Brackenbury and Lord Lovell.

Richard felled a huge man called Sir John Cheney and fought valiantly even when he was knocked off his horse. It is impossible to know how close he came to Tudor, but as he killed Tudor’s standard bearer, it must have been incredibly close.

A banner with the White Boar of Richard III which stands by his tomb at Leicester cathedral

Lord Stanley entered the battle and joined with Tudor. We know from this point Richard and his household Knights were overwhelmed and Richard was brutally killed crying treason. One particular blow to the head from behind was so violent that he wouldn’t have suffered long.

Henry Tudor became King Henry VII that day and dated his reign to the day before the Battle of Bosworth, making every man who fought for Richard that day a traitor.

Richard himself was given no dignity in death. He was stripped and humiliated, and born through Leicester naked on the back of a horse. Henry VII put a stop to further humiliation injuries, not due to respect for Richard, but for that the fact that he had to remain recognisable so all would know he was truly dead.

After his body had been put on display he was buried at Greyfriars, Leicester in a grave that was too short for him.

Henry VII did commission a tomb for him at the friary, however this was lost in the reformation like so much of England’s past.

Even Richard’s enemies praised his bravery that day in August 1485 and for me it is the fact that he fought incredibly stoically and gallantly right to the end that contributes to why there remains so much interest in him today.

In March 2015, Richard was laid to rest in a tomb in Leicester cathedral and I hope for the first time in 530 years, the anniversary of The Battle of Bosworth sees him finally at peace.

Requiescat in pace, King Richard. In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen

Statue of King Richard III as gifted by the Richard III Society
Statue of King Richard III as gifted by the Richard III Society

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