Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Bosworth Field

Richard was trying to set his army in battle array at Bosworth Field. Brave Norfolk was happy to command the leading forces, but Northumberland was insisting on staying in the rear. The Stanleys were still on the sidelines. Richard knew that William was a lost cause, but he sent an ultimatum to Lord Stanley to join him immediately or Lord Strange would die. Stanley replied cheekily that he had many more sons, sending Richard into a rage. He summoned block, axeman and priest and turned upon young Strange.

Richard: You told me your uncle William would not support me, but why did you lie to me about your father? Confess your lies, and I may yet show mercy.

Strange: Your majesty, I did not lie and I cannot lie. I truly believed that my father was loyal to you.

Checked by the courage of the youth, and perhaps recalling his hastiness with Hastings, Richard relented.

Richard: If God grants me victory this day, I swear to you that I will be a better father to you than Lord Stanley has ever been.

The priest asked whether he should say mass before the battle. Richard declined the offer on the grounds that if his cause was good God would uphold it anyway, and if his cause was bad they had no right to ask for God's blessing, a reply exhibiting the folly of exalting reason above revelation. Elizabeth, we may be confident, was not neglecting her prayers.

The battle commenced. Norfolk and his men gave everything, but they were no match for his opposite number Oxford, and were slaughtered. Northumberland's idea of a rearguard position appeared to be somewhere in Northamptonshire. There was nothing for it but for Richard and his men to attack Tudor directly. The best axeman in England set to work. Quickly he cut down Sir William Brandon, Tudor's standard bearer. Next he unhorsed Sir John Cheyney, a man mountain who was one of Tudor's fiercest warriors. Richard was close to his objective and yelled at Tudor, who was merely watching the proceedings, to fight like a man.

Tudor took the view that heroism was for romantic fools. He glanced across to William Stanley, who set his forces upon Richard's. Richard's peloton defended their king stoutly, but one by one they were hacked away by Stanley's overwhelming numbers until Richard was left exposed. Down he went, never to rise.

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