Richard III and his advisors had expected an invasion in support of Henry Tudor. Henry had been involved in operations the previous year Then he had to turn back due to developments on the English mainland. Intelligence from France was relatively fast to arrive. News came via frequent cross channel mercantile voyages and more covert means of gathering information. That a fleet was being readied was known. What Richard and his supporters could not be sure of was the intended landing site.
Where might Henry Tudor’s invasion force land?
- Kent, due to the narrow crossing. The Calais Fleet and proximity to loyal forces made this dangerous though.
- The South East. This is where the Cinque Ports are. This is another dangerous option.
- The South Coast of Sussex and Hampshire. Though there were well defended ports at Southampton and Portsmouth there were many potential landing sites. This stretch of coastline had an established defence mechanism. Successful landings had taken place in the area before.
- The South West. It had been the site of choice for Warwick and Clarence in 1470. Margaret of Anjou and Edward of Westminster also landed there in 1471. It retained Lancastrian sympathies. However, the area is isolated and easily cut off.
- Wales. It was the home of the Tudor family. Jasper Tudor still had supporters in the estates that he had held.
Defending of the Coast
To face this threat Richard had assigned trusted aides to oversee the defence of the coast. For example, the South was under Viscount Lovell who had a fleet at Southampton, Pembrokeshire in South Wales under William Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke.
When the invasion force did set sail it made for Milford Haven in the South West of Wales. It was a port known to Jasper Tudor but would require the invader to march through or around hostile territory: William Herbert was under orders to stop any advance through his lands should the Tudors choose, as they did, to land to the west of his heartlands.
Richard had been waiting for news of the invasion. He was confident that it would end in the defeat of the Tudor pretender and enable his reign to continue with all serious threats eliminated. His response is documented in the Croyland Chronicle, as set out below.
Richard III’s Response to Henry Tudor Landing at Milford Haven
And then besides, the king, at this period, seemed especially to devote his attention to strengthening the southern parts of his kingdom. But it was all in vain: for, on the first day of August the enemy landed with a fair wind, and without opposition, at that celebrated harbour, Milford Haven, near Pembroke. On hearing of their arrival, the king rejoiced, or at least seemed to rejoice, writing to his adherents in every quarter that now the long wished-for day had arrived, for him to triumph with ease over so contemptible a faction, and thenceforth benefit his subjects with the blessings of uninterrupted tranquillity. In the meantime, in manifold letters he despatched orders of the greatest severity, commanding that no men, of the number of those at least who had been born to the inheritance of any property in the kingdom, should shun taking part in the approaching warfare; threatening that whoever should be found in any part of the kingdom after the victory should have been gained, to have omitted appearing in his presence on the field, was to expect no other fate than the loss of all his goods and possessions, as well as his life.
Featured Image: A plan of Milford Haven from a 1748 survey included in Lewis Morris’ coastal charts of Wales. In 1748 Admiralty encouraged the publication of Morris private survey of the Welsh coast and individual harbour plans. They were published privately that September. National Library of Wales via Wikipedia. Public Domain.