Bosworth Counterfactual

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What if Richard III had not been killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in August 1485..?

The Players

Yorkist

Richard III - "bought and sold" by the traitorous Stanleys?

Small and slender, Richard III did not have the robust physique associated with many of his Plantagenet predecessors. However, he enjoyed very rough sports and activities that were considered "manly" and, perhaps more significantly, was not afraid of leading his own army into battle. On ascending the throne he made known his desire to lead a crusade against "not only the Turks, but all foes".

Richard possibly saw himself as a chivalrous knight, as a king who would gain his "divine right" through battle. Another view is that he was a hunch-backed, murderous psychopath with a withered arm.

Richard's most loyal subject was John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk. The duke served Richard's brother for many years and was one of Edward IV's closer confidantes. He was a military veteran, having fought in the Battle of Towton in 1461. He was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field.

The York faction turned up for the battle with 10,000 men.

Lancastrian

Henry VII - had a "Mona Lisa" smile

Henry Tudor was unfamiliar with the arts of war and a stranger to the land he was trying to conquer. He spent the first fourteen years of his life in Wales and the next fourteen in Brittany and France. Slender but strong and decisive, Henry lacked a penchant for battle and was not much of a warrior; chroniclers such as Polydore Vergil and ambassadors like Pedro de Ayala found him more interested in commerce and finance.

Henrt Tudor turned up for the battle with 5,000 men.

Stanley

In the early stages of the Wars of the Roses the Stanleys of Cheshire were predominantly Lancastrians. Sir William Stanley, however, was a staunch Yorkist supporter, fighting in the Battle of Blore Heath in 1459 and helping Hastings to put down uprisings against Edward IV in 1471. When Richard took the crown, Sir William showed no inclination to turn against the new king, refraining from joining the Duke of Buckingham's rebellion, for which he was amply rewarded.

Sir William's elder brother, Thomas Stanley, 2nd Baron Stanley, was not as steadfast. By 1485, he had served three kings, namely Henry VI, Edward IV, and Richard III. Lord Stanley's skilled political manoeuvrings—vacillating between opposing sides until it was clear who would be the winner—gained him high positions; he was Henry's chamberlain and Edward's steward. His non-committal stance, until the crucial point of a battle, earned him the loyalty of his men, who felt he would not needlessly send them to their deaths. Even though Lord Stanley had served as Edward IV's steward, his relations with the king's brother, the eventual Richard III, were not cordial. The two had conflicts with each other that erupted into violence around March 1470. Furthermore, having taken Lady Margaret - Henry Tudor's mother - as his second wife in June 1472, Stanley was therefore Henry Tudor's stepfather, a relationship which did nothing to win him Richard's favour. Once it was clear that Henry Tudor was marching unopposed through Wales, Richard ordered Thomas Stanley to join him without delay. According to the Crowland Chronicle, Stanley excused himself on the grounds of illness, the "sweating sickness" (i.e. - a form of plague).

The Stanley's turned up at Bosworth Field with 6,000 men, but initially took no side.

History as it happened (all "accurate")

  • 1483: Edward IV died. Richard, Duke of Gloucester was named Lord Protector for his 12-year-old nephew Edward V. However, on 25 June 1483, Edward V and his siblings were declared illegitimate, and Gloucester ascended the throne as King Richard III. Anne Neville was crowned alongside her husband on 6 July 1483 by Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, the first joint coronation for 175 years. The queen’s train was borne by Margaret, Countess of Richmond, mother of the exiled Henry Tudor. Edward of Middleham, son of Richard III, created Earl of Chester in a splendid ceremony on 24 August.
  • 1484: Edward of Middleham Earl of Chester, dies. Both Richard and Anne were overwhelmed with grief at this news. Anne was particularly heartbroken and she fell gravely ill only a few months later. Richard III visits Chester. The citizens claimed that Chester had no merchant ship of its own and that the port was "wholly destroyed because no merchant ship had been able to approach within 12 miles for 60 years" (within two years 60 years would become 200). Richard III again cuts an annual tax on Chester from £50 to £30.
  • 1485: 16th March, Richard's queen, Anne Neville, died. The day she died, there was an eclipse. Richard III is said to have wept openly at her funeral. Richard's ambassadors were sent on a formal errand to negotiate a double marriage between Richard and the Portuguese King's sister Joanna, of Lancastrian descent (and by then, already a nun), and Elisabeth of York and Joanna's cousin Duke Manuel (the future Manuel I).
  • 1485: 22nd June, Richard III becomes aware of Henry Tudors impending invasion and quietly begins to assmble his artillery train, which includes cannon brought from Calais.

- a version of events...

  • 1485: 7th August, Henry Tudor lands at Mill Bay near Milford Haven in Wales.
  • 1485: 22nd August, the Battle of Bosworth Field. One wing of the Tudor forces are led by the son of the Mayor of Chester, John Savage. As expected by Richard III, Henry Tudor places himself some way to the rear of his main battle lines. The Stanleys turn up, but position themselves to one side of the facing armies, as yet taking no side and no part. Richard opens the battle with the primitive artillery of the time, then, while the vanguards of the armies clash, personally leads a cavalry charge at Tudor. Richard killed Henry's standard-bearer Sir William Brandon in the initial charge and unhorsed burly John Cheyne, Edward IV's former standard-bearer, with a blow to the head from his broken lance. Discarding the lance, Richard wielded his battle-axe. Henry's bodyguards surrounded their master and succeeded in keeping him away from the Yorkist king. On seeing Richard embroiled with Henry's men and separated from his main force, William Stanley made his move and his troops advanced..

- a version of events...

Alternate Timeline

  • 1485: ..Richard redoubled his efforts, and began to almost single handedly hack and slash his way towards Henry Tudor, just yards away. Seeing the Stanley's advancing a few of the Tudor bodyguard faltered and attempted to flee. Others followed. Even as the Stanley's reached one edge of the melee at the other edge Richard finally fought through the press to face a cowering and unarmed Henry Tudor. Tudor held up his hands in supplication and as Richard looked down on him the clamour of battle began to die away. Men on both sides, who moments before were hell-bent on mutual slaughter stopped to watch the king and his rival. "Someone give him a sword", called Richard, dropping from his horse, and turning to squire adding " ..I have no need of a horse." A sword was thrown to land before Tudor, who simply stared at it. Richard advanced, casting aside his crowned helm, which fell, without ceremony, into a mire of blood. Historians differ as to what happened next, some say Henry Tudor made an attempt to fight, and died, while others have him struck down by Richard in an attempt to surrender, or even flee. William Stanley pleaded that he was only coming to the Kings rescue.
  • 1486: Richard III marries Joanna of Portugal and although she was known as "Queen" there is no formal coronation.
  • 1487: Joanna gives birth to a son, Arthur. Lambert Simnel claimed to be the Earl of Warwick and became the figurehead of a rebellion, which fell apart when Richard revealed the real Earl. Simnel was pardoned by Richard, and was thereafter employed in the Royal kitchens as a spit-turner. He later became a favorite cook of the King.
  • 1488: a certain Genoese, during his long quest to finance his crazy-sounding scheme to discover a new world, or at least sail to Asia, dispatched his brother Bartholomew to the English Court seeking patronage (he was taken by pirates and landed in England in a destitute condition). Richard III, now 40 - with a Portuguese second wife and forever the risk-taker, said: "Bartholomew Columbus, get thy brother Christopher to Chester, where our Admirals of Cheshire, the good Stanleys will provide you ships for your enterprise and crews...to seek out new worlds, to boldly go where no man has gone.."
  • 1491: Perkin Warbeck landed in Ireland in the hope of gaining support for his claim to the English throne. He was publicly recognized as Richard of Shrewsbury by Margaret of York, the widow of Charles the Bold, the sister of both Edward IV and Richard III and thus the aunt of the Princes in the Tower.
  • 1492: History records that the Stanley's "Three poor cogs" named, as every schoolboy knows, "Enterprise", "Whal" and "Olifant" reached America and founded the colony of "New York" in honour of their king. The first person to step ashore was Richard of Shrewsbury.
  • 1493: Richard of Shrewsbury returns from the "New World" in the "Whal", "Olifant" having been lost. In the papal bull Inter caetera, Pope Alexander VI decrees that all lands discovered west of the Azores are English/Portuguese.
  • 1495: On 3 July 1495, funded by Margaret of Burgundy (Margaret of York), Perkin Warbeck landed at Deal in Kent, hoping for a show of popular support. Warbeck's small army was routed and 150 of the pretender’s troops were killed without Warbeck even disembarking. He was forced to retreat almost immediately, this time to Ireland. There he found support from Maurice FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Desmond, and laid siege to Waterford, but, meeting resistance, he fled to Scotland. The appearance of the real Richard of Shrewsbury put an end to the rebellion. Richard pardoned his Irish supporters, remarking drily "I suppose they will crown an ape next". William Stanley, however, was convicted of treason and executed for his support of Perkin Warbeck against Richard III. He readily admitted to the crime despite circumstantial evidence as he thought that through a full confession he would escape execution. Richard of Shrewsbury now gained the title Duke of New York.

(..bits left out..)

  • 2015: Leicester, England...

Sources and links