The battle of Bosworth on 22 August 1485 is one of the most famous in English history, as it ended the reign (and life) of our most controversial king – the Yorkist Richard III – and inaugurated the century-long rule of that ever-popular dynasty, the Tudors.
It also effectively ended England’s longest civil war: the bloody 30-year internecine struggle we call the Wars of the Roses. And what with the rediscovery of Richard’s bones beneath a car park in nearby Leicester, there’s never been a better time to visit.
Richard mustered his 10,000-strong army at Leicester to crush an invasion by the obscure exiled Henry Tudor, a minor scion of the defeated House of Lancaster.
Henry’s army was only half the size of Richard’s when they met near Market Bosworth, and Richard should have had an easy win, but factors were against him. He was increasingly unpopular after usurping the throne from his own nephews, and generally behaving like a tyrant.
Sensing that events were moving against him, Richard plunged into the fight in a desperate effort to personally kill Tudor and his rebellion in a single stroke. He almost made it, cutting down Henry’s standard bearer as he rode. But at the last minute the powerful Stanley family intervened on Henry’s side, turning the tide.
Bogged down in marshy ground, Richard was unhorsed, surrounded and – as forensic examination of his skeleton revealed – stabbed and slashed to death. His naked corpse was slung over a horse, led back to Leicester, and flung into an unmarked grave for more than 500 years. Of course, his rival Henry took the crown.
Experience the battlefield
Bosworth is a battlefield in two places. For centuries it was believed to have been fought on Ambion Hill, south-west of Market Bosworth. In the 1970s, Leicestershire County Council built a Battlefield Visitor Centre on the hill.
However in 2010, after this location had been challenged, a full archaeological and source survey found artefacts – including cannon shot and a silver boar badge, Richard’s personal emblem – at a site two miles south-west of the hill, and this site was officially recognised as the battle’s real location.
Imagine what it was like to make one last charge here by following one of several good walking routes, including a Battle Trail. The Visitors’ Centre organises battlefield walks every Saturday and Sunday until December at 11am and 2pm. Leicestershire County Council hold tours of Richard’s Leicester, which take in this site.
HOW TO GET THERE
By car, from the A5, take the A444 toward Fenny Drayton, turning onto Fenn Lane, then left on to Shenton Lane. By public transport, Leicester train station is served by most major cities, and the Arriva 153 bus stops at Market Bosworth.
FIND OUT MORE
Bosworth Battlefield visitor centre
Richard’s Leicester Tours
The Black Horse
17 Market Place,
Market Bosworth, Warwickshire CV13 0LF
Enjoy a great modern menu in a traditional setting – an old stone building in the middle of a quaint village high street.
Royal Arms Hotel
Main Street, Sutton Cheney,
Near Market Bosworth,
Warwickshire CV13 0AG
This cosy country hotel is conveniently located close to the battlefield site, and offers a warm welcome after a day’s walking across fields.