In 15th century England a vicious civil war raged across England for almost 30 years. Many thousands of people lost their lives and lands as two families, the House of York and the House of Lancaster fought for the throne of England. Each believed they had the better claim to the throne.
On 22 August 1485, in the heart of rural Leicestershire, two armies faced each other; a large Royal army led by King Richard III awaited the approach of a smaller rebel army led by Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond. This decisive battle would witness the death of the King and the birth of a dynasty that would last for 122 years. It was the last time that an English King was killed in battle.
King Richard III had ruled the country for just over two years when he found his claim to the throne challenged by Henry Tudor. Henry started the day as an exiled nobleman, and ended the day being crowned at Stoke Golding, becoming Henry VII.
Henry had been living in exile in France since the age of 14, but at 28 was encouraged by his Lancastrian family and friends to fight for the chance to become England’s King. He sailed to Milford Haven in Wales with a small army of English exiles and French mercenaries. He was born in Wales, and used this connection to gain more support for his cause. His army finally numbered around 5000 men.
Henry requested help from Lord Thomas Stanley and his brother Sir William Stanley, based in the North West of England. Lord Thomas was married to Henry’s mother (Henry’s father had died some years before), but more importantly, was a wealthy man. He could command a great private army. Henry and Sir William are said to have communicated on the march down the country, as they would have followed a similar route. However it is not known if Henry was successful in gaining Lord Thomas’s support prior to the Battle.
Meanwhile Richard III, on hearing of Henry’s landing, sent out a summons to his supporters, requesting them to meet the King equipped for war. He also wanted Lord Thomas’s support and took his eldest son hostage in an attempt to guarantee it.