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Today in history... the Tudors take the crown

12:00am | & News

A new ruling dynasty, The Tudors, began their 118-year tenure of the English Crown on this day in 1485.

That crown was plucked from a bush and placed on the head of Henry Tudor (pictured), the Earl of Richmond, at the end of the Battle of Bosworth Field, making him King Henry VII. At the start of the battle the crown was worn by King Richard III, the last Plantagenet ruler of England. But the day would see him brutally slain and his discarded crown claimed by the rival Tudor house.

Fought on August 22nd, 1485, the Battle of Bosworth Field was the final significant battle of the Wars of the Roses, a civil war that raged across England between the Houses of Lancaster and York in the latter half of the 15th Century. The battlefield lies to the south of Market Bosworth, in Leicestershire, where Richard of York's army of 10,000 men were confident of victory over the much smaller force led by Henry Tudor.  

But Henry's army were experienced fighters, largely French mercenaries fighting alongside Welsh and some Scottish forces and a good number of deserters from Richard's side, who had become disenchanted at his ineffective leadership. Henry, at just 28, was also wise enough to recognise his own military inexperience and hand command of his troops to the much more experienced Earl of Oxford, who used them to best effect.

While 32-year-old Richard divided his force into three groups, each under separate leadership, Henry's force remained largely together. As Richard's first group, commanded by the Duke of Norfolk, floundered against Henry's men, his second group, commanded by the Earl of Northumberland, refused to join the bloody fray.

Richard decided to gamble all on a charge across the battlefield with his own force to confront and kill Henry and thereby end the fight. But marshy ground proved their undoing, the charge faltering and Richard losing his mount. Seeing Richard and his knights separated from his army, Sir William Stanley led his Welshmen into battle, slaughtering Richard and his men. Until that point Stanley had held his force back, not sure which side to support before seeing which way the battle was going.

On hearing of Richard's death his army disintegrated and fled as Henry was crowned king beneath an oak tree on what is now Crown Hill, near the village of Stoke Golding. The crown was actually a 'circlet', a symbolic version of the real crown which had been worn around Richard's helmet but lost in the heat of battle and later found in a bush.

Richard's corpse was stripped naked, strapped to a horse and taken to Leicester – the nearest large settlement – to be publicly displayed as proof of his death. After two days the body was buried in a plain unmarked tomb in the church of Greayfriars, which was later demolished.

In 2012 archaeologists announced they had discovered a battle-damaged skeleton under a Leicester car park and confirmed the remains were those of King Richard III. Examination showed 10 major wounds to the skeleton, eight of them to the head. One, probably inflicted by a halberd, had severed the rear part of his skull. In March 2015 the remains were ceremonially buried in a new royal tomb in Leicester Cathedral, although there is a campaign to return Richard's skeleton to his native York.

Henry VII reigned until his death in 1509, when he was succeeded by his son, the most infamous of the Tudors, Henry VIII. The Tudors' reign finally ended in March 1603 with the death of Queen Elizabeth I, whose 45-year-reign had finally restored some stability and credibility to the British monarchy.

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