Hugh Beavin

My kingdom for a horse!

One of the most momentous battles in British history took place on Redmore Plain - just outside the village of Market Bosworth. Immortalised by Shakespeare's line "a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!" the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 signalled the final, decisive conflict in the War of the Roses between the Houses of York and Lancaster.

The two Houses had created a succession of wars since the beginning of the reign of Henry VI and this eventual crisis came to a head in August 1485 when a battle more vicious and bloody than previous encounters was fought between Henry, Earl of Richmond, and King Richard III, of York.

Richard, who was later demonised by Elizabethan propagandists as a hunchback who murdered two young princes in his care to keep the crown, assembled his army in Nottingham and his forces were bolstered by the Duke of Norfolk and his men.

Lord Stanley, who had pledged his support to Richard but had connections with the Richmond family, assembled his army at Atherstone. The rival Houses attacked each other on Redmore Plain on Monday 22nd August 1485 but, crucially, Lord Stanley refused to be drawn into the battle and refused desperate entreaties from both sides to join in.

But eventually he did commit his men. And when he did, it proved to be the decisive moment. His army sided with the usurper Henry and turned the battle his way.

Richard was cornered and hacked to death, so ending the reign of the last Plantagenet king of England. His crown was retrieved from its hiding place in a bush and was placed on Henry's head, and he reigned thereafter as Henry VII.

Richard's naked body was tethered to a horse and taken to the Town Hall at Leicester to be exposed to public view for two days.

During the Dissolution of the Monasteries, his remains were irreverently snatched and cast over Bow Bridge into the River Soar. His coffin, it is alleged, was used as a horse trough at the White Horse Inn.

The War of the Roses was over and the Battle of Bosworth was the last time an English monarch led his army into battle and knights fought in full armour.

Today the site is a major local tourist attraction. There is an award-winning information centre providing models and exhibitions, together with clearly marked footpaths with information boards at intervals along the route, marking key locations of the battle.

Author: Hugh Beavin

Written for: Hinckley-on-line