A Brief History
On August 22, 1485, King Richard III of England died from wounds received in the Battle of Bosworth Field, the last English King to die in battle. Long ago, kings and other nobility would lead their men in battle, but for the past few hundred years the trend has been for the rich and powerful to send other people into battle. Perhaps if our leaders were forced to actually lead they would consider war a bit more carefully!
Richard III was the last of the Plantagenet dynasty kings, a clan originally from France that included the Yorks and Lancasters among their 4 houses. The Plantagenets held the English throne from 1154 to 1485, when Henry VII, House of Lancaster, defeated and killed Richard III of the House of York. The Battle of Bosworth Field was the ultimate battle of the Wars of the Roses between the Houses of Lancaster and York, a series of power grabbing struggles often portrayed on the stage and on film. (Richard III, a play by William Shakespeare, and the Starz cable television series, The White Queen, are fine examples. Some of the drama in HBO’s The Game of Thrones is loosely based on the Wars of the Roses and the characters involved.)
About 2 years after the Battle of Bosworth Field, a final effort by a York pretender to the throne threatened King Henry VII, who by this time had established the House of Tudor by uniting the Houses of Lancaster and York by marriage (to Elizabeth of York) resulted in the Battle of Stoke Field. The Pretender, Lambert Simnel, pretending to be Edward, a claimant to the York throne, was defeated in a major battle with a few thousand casualties on each side, making the Battle of Stoke Field a larger battle than that at Bosworth Field, though with a much smaller literary imprint on history. Simnel was captured by Henry VII, but pardoned as merely being a dupe for the Yorkists. Most of the prominent remaining Yorkists were killed either at Bosworth or Stoke.
Richard III had named his nephew, Lincoln, as his heir, and Lincoln had encouraged the Yorkist insurrection leading to the Battle of Stoke Field. Lincoln, John de la Pole, the 1st Earl of Lincoln, was killed at Stoke, depriving Henry VII the opportunity to torture him into revealing the extent of the Yorkist conspiracy.
At Bosworth, before being mortally wounded, Richard III allegedly yelled, “Treason!” referring to his abandonment by some of his closest cohorts. The York Royal Army had reportedly outnumbered the Lancasters of Henry VII, but had been bested through the alleged treachery of some of Richard’s supposed supporters. As Richard III lie wounded and dying, he (according to Shakespeare) cried out, “A horse! A horse! My Kingdom for a horse!” as his steed had been mired in mud. Struck a blow on the head with a halberd (type of battle axe), Richard suffered that serious head wound and 10 others, as evidenced by examination of his remains that were discovered in 2012.
Richard III had been hurriedly buried at Grayfriars Church in Leicester after the Battle of Bosworth Field, and Henry VII supposedly paid for a monument to be placed on his grave. When Henry VIII disbanded and razed many monasteries, it was legend that Richard III had been dug up and tossed in a river. A 2012 investigation revealed the body of Richard III to still be buried where expected, and he was disinterred for study, and then reburied at Leicester Cathedral in a tomb befitting a King.
Starting with King Henry VII, the Tudor Era lasted from 1485 until 1603 when upon the death of Queen Elizabeth I, James I, formerly James VI of Scotland, a Stuart, became King of England. James I ruled for 22 years, an era called the Jacobean Era. Stuarts remained on the throne until 1714 when replaced by George I of the House of Hanover. (Note: The Throne of England was vacant during the Commonwealth of 1649-1660.)
With the contentious, convoluted, and often bloody history of the thrones and crowns of England and the rest of Europe, it is baffling that anyone could ever believe any of these monarchs were ordained by God to be rulers, especially when so many of them were removed through murder! Question for students (and subscribers): What do you think about the British Monarchy? Should it still exist? Should it be done away with? What good is it? Please share your ideas on this subject in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Baldwin, David. Richard III. Amberley Publishing, 2012.
The featured images in this article, an 18th-century illustration by Thomas Pennant (1726-1798) of the death of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field and a photograph by Andrewrabbott of a former memorial ledger stone to Richard III in the choir of Leicester Cathedral, since replaced by his stone tomb, are in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or fewer and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, respectively.