Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1485, died Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth.

Richard was a king who plotted and killed to get to the throne, but was killed by people who plotted against him.

Richard was born on 2nd October 1452, at Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire, the third son of Richard, Duke of York. He was a person of no importance, a mere younger son of a duke, until his father claimed the throne on behalf of the House of York, and declared himself the true king. Richard senior, however, was defeated in battle and had his head chopped off and publicly displayed in York city. His elder son, Edward, had more success and deposed King Henry VI and proclaimed himself Edward IV. When his brother became king, Richard conspired to have his other brother murdered and, some people say, murdered his brother the king. When Edward IV died, he left 2 sons, Edward V and Richard of York. Richard had the boys done to death and then seized the throne himself.

As king, Richard was not a great success. He was no better and no worse than his brother had been, or the Lancastrians who had gone before or the Plantagenet kings before them. But it was unfortunate for Richard that the social and economic system was changing and the feudal monarchy set up by William I was not up to governing the country. The wealth of England now derived from trade and particularly the wool trade. The old system whereby landowners, the nobility, answered to the king who controlled the state was unworkable. The country’s income came from trade. The merchants, a new growing middle class, were producing wealth and demanding a share in the government. This class, unlike the nobility, were literate and numerate, were educated and knew law. But unlike the nobility, they could not fight on the battlefield, had no military training and were therefore known as ‘gentlemen’, and their class was the gentry.

During Richard’s reign, there was a great revolutionary feeling in the land. The gentry wanted the whole feudal system overthrown, and many of the nobility were tired of working under an autocratic ruler who could grant or withhold favours at his own whim. A plot arose centred around Henry Tudor, a descendant of Edward III, and of the house of Lancaster, although through an illegitimate line. Henry had military support from many of the nobles and money from the gentry. He landed with an army in South Wales, marched east and engaged Richard in battle on Bosworth Field on 22nd August 1485. Many of the king's most powerful nobles defected at a crucial moment in the battle and Richard was defeated. The victorious army hacked down the king and packed his body on the back of a hose to be paraded through the city of Leicester. His body was eventually buried in Leicester. [Greyfriars Cathedral, Peacock Lane, Leicester, LE1 5FX. Grave location under the car park]

The victors now started a new revolutionary regime. Henry Tudor took the title ‘king’ as Henry VII, but power was now to be in Parliament. All decisions were made with the agreement of both the Lords and the Commons, with the king holding the balance of power. The land was no longer run by a monarch but rather by the state, and the name given to this state, or semi republic, was the Crown. All power now resided in the Crown and not with an individual. All decisions were agreed by the persons who mattered, that is people who had the money, the Lords and Commons together. In this state, there was no need for a powerful king and indeed you could place a woman on the throne. Henry VII’s two granddaughters Mary I, and Elizabeth I, each became queen in turn. Historians date the end of the medieval period from when the merchant class, the gentry, gained control of the state. So the Middle Ages ended abruptly on 22nd August 1485, at or about lunchtime.

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