Wednesday, August 22, 2007

August 22

The War of the Roses, a three-decade armed struggle over the English crown, came to a bloody end on this date in 1485 as King Richard III lost both the throne and his life at Bosworth Field. Richard, the last of the Plantagenet kings, headed the House of York; he was opposed in battle by Henry Tudor, who represented the rival House of Lancaster, which laid tenuous -- though ultimately successful -- claims to the kingdom. Joined by several thousand French soldiers, Henry landed at Milford Haven (Wales) in early August and marched eastward toward Leicestershire, where on August 22 his forces routed the king in less than two hours.

According to the Chronicles of Jean Molinet, a French historian whose account of the battle appeared around 1490
The king bore himself valiantly according to his destiny, and wore the crown on his head; but when he saw this discomfiture and found himself alone on the field he thought to run after the others. His horse leapt into a march from which it could not retrieve itself. One of the Welshmen then came after him, and struck him dead with a halberd, and another took his body and put it before him on his horse and carried it, hair hanging as one would bear a sheep.

And so he who miserably killed numerous people, ended his days iniquitously and filthily in the dirt and mire, and he who had despoiled churches was displayed to the people naked and without any clothing, and without any royal solemnity was buried at the entrance to a village church.
The church, known as Greyfriars, was destroyed during the English Reformation. Legend has it that Richard’s body was tossed into the River Soar, though it seems more likely that the body was not disturbed. In that case, the remains of Richard III now lie sealed under a parking lot.

Last year's post: Nat Turner revolt