Battles and SiegesChronicles

Battle of Bosworth (3rd Continuation of the Croyland Chronicle)

Account of the Battle of Bosworth, from the Croyland Chronicle

The Croyland Chronicle and it’s continuations are contemporary accounts based on information that the Abbey has received from various sources. Though well informed of events on a national scale, the chroniclers at this and other Abbeys have a tendency to favour the victors. In the case of the Battle of Bosworth it is plausible that the Abbey heard from several people who had fought in the battle. Croyland would have been passed by some of the forces making their way to and from the battlefield.

Battle of Bosworth

Here was found a number of warriors ready to fight on the king’s side, greater than had ever been seen before in England collected together in behalf of one person. On the Lord’s day before the feast of Bartholomew the Apostle, the king proceeded on his way, amid the greatest pomp, and wearing the crown on his head ; being attended by John Howard, duke of Norfolk, and Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland and other mighty lords, knights, and esquires together with a countless multitude of the common people. Oh departing from the town of Leicester, he was informed by scouts where the enemy most probably intended to remain the following night ; upon which, he encamped near the abbey of Mirival, at a distance of about eight miles from that town.

The chief men of the opposing army were the following: in the first place, Henry earl of Richmond, whom they called their king, Henry the Seventh; John Vere, earl of Oxford, John lord Wells, of Wells, uncle to king Henry the Seventh, Thomas lord Stanley and William his brother, Edward Wydville, brother of queen Elizabeth, a most valiant knight, John Cheyne, John Savage, Robert Willoughby, William Berkeley, James Blunt, Thomas Arundel, Richard Edgcumbe, Edward Foynings, Richard Guilford, and many others of knightly rank, who had been distinguished before these troubles, as well as at the commencement of the present war. Of the ecclesiastical orders, there were present, for the purpose of giving their advice, the following persons, who had similarly suffered banishment — the venerable father, Peter, bishop of Exeter, the flower of the knighthood of his country, Master Robert Morton, clerk of the Rolls of Chancery, Christopher Urswyk, and Richard Fox, of whom the one was afterwards appointed to the office of Almoner, and the other to that of Secretary, together with many others.

At daybreak on the Monday following there were no chaplains present to perform Divine service on behalf of king Richard, nor any breakfast prepared to refresh the flagging spirits of the king; besides which, as it is generally stated, in the morning he declared that during the night he had seen dreadful visions, and had imagined himself surrounded by a multitude of daemons. He consequently presented a countenance which, always attenuated, was on this occasion more livid and ghastly than usual, and asserted that the issue of this day’s battle, to whichever side the victory might be granted, would prove the utter destruction of the kingdom of England. He also declared that it was his intention, if he should prove the conqueror, to crush all the supporters of the opposite faction ; while, at the same time, he predicted that his adversary would do the same towards the well-wishers to his own party, in case the victory should fall to his lot. At length, the prince and knights on the opposite side now advancing at a moderate pace against the royal army, the king gave orders that the lord Strange before-mentioned should be instantly beheaded. The persons, however, to whom this duty was entrusted, seeing that the issue was doubtful in the extreme, and that matters of more importance than the destruction of one individual were about to be decided, delayed the performance of this cruel order of the king, and, leaving the man to his own disposal, returned to the thickest of the fight.

A battle of the greatest severity now ensuing between the two sides, the earl of Richmond, together with his knights, made straight for king Richard: while the earl of Oxford, who was next in rank to him in the whole army and a most valiant soldier, drew up his forces, consisting of a large body of French and English troops, opposite the wing in which the duke of Norfolk had taken up his position. In the part where the earl of Northumberland was posted, with a large and well provided body of troops, there was no opposition made, as not a blow was given or received during the battle. At length a glorious victory was granted by heaven to the said earl of Richmond, now sole king, together with the crown, of exceeding value, which king Richard had previously worn on his head. For while fighting, and not ill the act of flight, the said king Richard was pierced with numerous deadly wounds, and fell in the field like a brave and most valiant prince ; upon which, the duke of Norfolk, ** before-mentioned. Sir Richard Ratcliffe, Sir Robert Brackenbury, keeper of the Tower of Loudon, John Kendall, secretary, Sir Robert Percy, controller of the king’s household, and Walter Devereux, lord Ferrers, as well as many others, chiefly from the north, in whom king Richard put the greatest confidence, took to flight without engaging ; and there was left no part of the opposing army of sufficient importance or ability for the glorious conqueror Henry the Seventh to engage, and so add to his experience in battle.

Through this battle peace was obtained for the entire kingdom, and the body of the said king Richard being found among the dead. Many other insults were also heaped upon it, and, not exactly in accordance with the laws of humanity, a halter being thrown round the neck, it was carried to Leicester; while the new king also proceeded to that place, graced with the crown which he had so gloriously won. While these events were taking place, many nobles and others were taken prisoners; and in especial, Henry, earl of Northumberland, and Thomas Howard, earl of Surrey, the eldest son of the before-named duke of Norfolk. There was also taken prisoner William Catesby, who occupied a distinguished place among all the advisers of the late king, and whose head was cut off at Leicester, as a last reward for his excellent offices. Two gentlemen, also, of the western parts of the kingdom, father and son, known by the name of Brecher, who, [after] the battle, had fallen into the hands of the conquerors, were hanged. As it was never heard, nor yet stated in writing or by word of mouth, that any other persons, after the termination of the warfare, were visited with similar punishments, but that, on the contrary, the new prince had shewn clemency to all, he began to receive the praises of all, as though he had been an angel sent down from heaven, through whom God had deigned to visit His people, and to deliver it from the evils with which it had hitherto, beyond measure, been afflicted.

And thus concluding this history, which we promised to set forth down to the death of the said king Richard, so far as a truthful recital of the facts suggested itself to our mind, without knowingly intermingling therewith any untruthfulness, hatred, or favour whatsoever. We began this description, chiefly, for the purpose of aiding the pious and praiseworthy ignorance manifested by the Prior of this place, who compiled the preceding portion, and who, though extremely well versed in Divine matters, was sometimes most reasonably mistaken in those of a secular nature.

Image Credit

Bosworth Battlefield (Fenn Lane Farm). Daveleicuk – via Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 4.0

Looking west from Fox Covert Lane across the fields of Fenn Lane Farm (the farm is left, on the skyline). Fen Hole is approximately where the hedge line in the foreground is. The cortege carrying Richard III’s remains visited the farm and soil was taken and placed in the king’s grave when he was re-buried in Leicester Cathedral in 2015. The fields on either side of Fenn Lanes Roman road correspond to the flat plain which William Burton (writing in the early 1600s) described as the site of the battle: “fought in a large, flat, plaine, and spacious ground, three miles distant from [Bosworth], between the Towne of Shenton, Sutton [Cheney], Dadlington and Stoke [Golding]..,” It was in the fields to either side of Fenn Lanes (the route of approach of Richmond’s army) that the Battlefields Trust found the round shot and silver-gilt boar badge, identifying the true site of the battle. (Ambion Hill was the site of Richard III’s camp, not the site of the battle).

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