Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bosworth and Richard III

One of my biggest delights in High School was History. It still is a delight, especially since it is always mixed in with literature and language. All that is much of the cause behind my choice of my life's career in education, teaching Latin and Greek at the Secondary Level. I don't do that anymore, as those subjects and the Humanities give way to the Sciences and Sports when tight financial times "force" cuts in public education and social services.

This is a betrayal against the people of a Democratic State.

But I digress, slightly, for this is not about the piteous treatment public education is undergoing in these times. This piece is about a King and the Battle of the day, Richard III and Bosworth, a betrayal at the last, and the ignoble grave under what became a common English parking lot. I think I can relate to that.

I recall going through English history and literature, the War of the Roses and Shakespeare, though the experience is more than a bit fuzzy now because at that time I was rabid about the American Civil War and getting very interested in the stories from old Greece and Rome. Not that I didn't enjoy the same sort of stories from England and other places, I just did not relate to them as much. After all, what is it that's most important to a typical teenager in High School?

So a long lost King of England pops up onto the pages of world news for a bit of time, and half-remembered times and faces and names from my past pop up too, friends and teachers.

And betrayal.

One of the strongest impressions I have of any of the countless wars throughout history is that of betrayal or, to put a better face on it, divided loyalties. So here is a short half hour on the Battle of Bosworth, and underneath it an article about Richard with a facial reconstruction based upon the remains of his shattered body. Sometime soon, I'll pull out my copy of Mel Gibson's "Braveheart", a good sketch of Mediaeval Warfare and Betrayal.


  1. I understood that the treachery of Stanley was opportunistic. He only supported Henry when he saw which way the battle was going, his betrayal of Richard was in no way decisive to the outcome. So despite the English propaganda the battle was won by the Welsh with the aid of French troops, funding, and shipping. For myself and for my grandma Gwynnie Llewellen, I am glad of it.

    Here is a neat site with a ton details of the University of Leicester KR-III project:

    Richard III press conference

    I have to wonder though if the University of Leicester received any of their funding for the project from a certain HBO production company???

  2. A wonderful history . . . reflecting the full range of human action . . . makers and shakers and Fussvolk . . .

  3. From the accounts I've read it always sounded like Bosworth was decided on one of those colossal fuckups that happen in war. The Tudor command group was moving away from of his main force, or at least looked like it from Richard's vantage point.

    Richard was having trouble with his troops that day; regardless of when Stanley actually crossed over to the rebels he sat on his hands all morning, taking a good third of the royalist force out of the fight. Plus there seems to be some questions about Northumberland's actions; he might have been hindered by the bad ground...or he, too, might have been having second thoughts.

    With all this going wrong Richard - who by all accounts was an experienced combat commander - saw the opportunity to execute a coup de main by killing the rebel leader. He led his immediate household to strike into the Tudor command group and came within an ace of making it work; he is supposed to have killed Henry's bannerman who would have been within a lance-length or so of his boss.

    But at that point the Stanleys DID turn their coats, and between the weight of their guys piling on AND the release of the Tudor forces that must have been detailed off to overwatch the damn Stanleys they were able to pull down the king and batter his head apart.

    The Bosworth battlefield website your video links from has a nice summary of the battle itself and the history surrounding it and the parts of Leistershire where it was fought.

    As a historical aside, as great a tale as the history of the Wars of the Roses make they really were about as fucked up an example of the sort of utter goatscrew feudal "government" could devolve into as possible. As seydlitz says, a terrific story full of love, hate, cunning, stupidity, betrayal and heroism. But for the regular jakes and mollies of the England of the day, what a fuckstory that must have been, these ironclad lunkheads tearing up the place and doing whatever casual murder, looting, raping, and burning on the side whenever they felt like it...

  4. Interesting times Chief!

    The osteoarcheologist team leader examining the skeleton mentions at least ten wounds showing up in the bones. Almost all of them could have been fatal so it appears that some of them were inflicted after death as "humiliation wounds". Including one that looks like someone shoved a dagger up where the sun don't shine.

    He did escape a later humiliation though. The lead archeologist states: "The grave lay in an area of the first trench where modern disturbance had destroyed most of the later medieval floor levels and where a 19th-century brick outhouse had come very close to destroying the burial altogether."

  5. Mnnnn Most interesting blog. I enjoyed your take on authoritarian Catholicism and was especially please to read about Richard III. It seems although I can see the cover of the internet Newsweek my inability to open it due to my paltry computer skills left me puzzled as to what the fuss was about. I'll guess I'll have to stick with the Shakespeare version.... bad dude.

  6. mike: Yeah, I saw that note about the poor bastard getting Gaddafi-ed. One hopes that he was already dead by that point. Injury is one thing, insult quite another...

    And I assume that whilst his political enemies had no wish to see him other than biding safe in a ditch that they at least have him some kind of slab with a name on it somewhere in the old church. But it seems kind of careless to lose a whole king, even Wicked Uncle Richard. You'd think that someone would have remembered he was there when they demo'ed the old building.

    So I wonder - did they just shove him in a hole under the parquet and cover him up? That seems kind of rude. But sort of Tudorish. So, there.

  7. Chief -

    According to Henry Tudor's financial records, he had an alabaster tomb built over Richard's grave in GreyFriar's church. But the church was destroyed during the turbulence of the reign of Tudor's son, Henry VIII, when England left the Pope's fold.

    Later in the very early 1600's, the mayor of Leicester erected a pillar over the grave. I can find no reference as to what happened to that. Perhaps Cromwell or some of his roundheads tore it down after Charles I execution??

    Going back to Bosworth Field, interesting battle, reportely the last use of a fully armored cavalry charge in England. But Tudor (or perhaps his mentor, his uncle Jasper Tudor) was smart enough to take Richard's army on the flank and anchor one of his own flanks on marshy ground.

    According to He had the sun at his back. And he had the wind at the backs of his archers. Good use of tactics, terrain and weather in my book. And then of course he had his strategic ace in the hole: his father-in-law Lord Stanley.