MIDLAND Archive : Battle Cry at Bosworth; Chris Upton Looks at How the Battle of Bosworth Shaped Our History While Ross Reyburn Visits the Site Only to Find It Has Changed Very Little
There have been only two instances in history when the crown of England has swapped hands (or rather, heads) on the battlefield. The first time was back in 1066, when on a field in Kent, the country exchanged an English king for a French one.
The second - and people are less likely to get the date right for this one - involved a similar change in dynasty and nationality. From this point onwards, England would be ruled by a Welshman (or as Welsh as the average rugby international, anyway) and his subjects would have to start thinking of themselves as Tudors. It might not have felt so at the time, but so it was.
The battle that re-routed history - historians tend to call the period after it 'early modern' instead of 'medieval' - took place just outside the town of Market Bosworth on August 22, 1485. In it, Richard III bowed graciously out of the grand narrative and gave way to Henry Tudor and another chapter in England's colourful and bloody history began.
The battle might have taken place almost anywhere in the Midlands. Henry's progress took him across the west of the region, through Shropshire and into Staffordshire, while Richard's began at his headquarters in Nottingham, heading south into Warwickshire, but the collision had to take place somewhere in this area. It was not only a question of routes and intersections; the nation's major power-brokers - the Stanleys, Talbots and Dudleys - were also centred there.The battle for the crown of England was practically a fight between the West and East Midlands.
After his landing at Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire, Henry Tudor was within a few days at Shrewsbury, which reluctantly opened its gate for him, followed by Lichfield, Tamworth and Atherstone not long afterwards.
King Richard meantime moved his forces out from Nottingham to Leicester and further south to intercept the pretender's advance. The king had mustered around 12,000 men; Henry Tudor had less than half this. But what made the equation difficult to call was the lurking presence of Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby, and his 5,000 men. Stanley's a little farther off.
Exactly how the battle unfolded has taxed the minds of the historians ever since. The chroniclers and poets who set down a narrative were not there and even if they had been, a battle is not easy to chart without the aid of a helicopter. …