Henry Tudor arrived at Mill Bay, Milford Haven this day in 1485, this was his first step to claiming the crown of England.
He landed here to avoid detection but also because he was familiar with the area. He had been born at Pembroke Castle and his uncle Jasper Tudor is thought to have maintained contact with the local people here even though he was was out of the country. Henry landed in the secluded bay with around about two thousand French mercenaries, we can only wonder as he was marching his troops toward Bosworth if he really though he could pull it off.
Today in 1486 confirmation of the dispensation, for the marriage of Henry Tudor to Elizabeth of York was
received six months after their marriage.
The union of Henry Tudor to Elizabeth of York was a dynastic marriage. Heading the list of issues Henry had to deal
with before the marriage took place was Titulus Regius, there was also dispensations to be gained as Henry and Elizabeth were related in the double fourth degree of consanguinity, that is they were both related to John of Gaunt.
Three dispensations would be issued in total, the first was received at the beginning of 1484 and the last in 1486. The conformation of the dispensation reads:
"In the name of God, Amen. We, James, bishop of Imola, apostolic legate to England and Scotland, having heard, etc.,
the merits and circumstances of a certain matter of a dispensation to be made between the most serene prince and lord
the lord Henry, by the grace of God king of England and France and lord of Ireland, of the one part, and the most
illustrious lady, the lady Elizabeth, eldest legitimate and natural daughter of the late Edward IV, sometime king of
England, of the other part, to contract marriage and remain therein, notwithstanding that they are related in the
fourth and fourth degrees of kindred, and the said prince and lady by their proctors sufficiently and lawfully
appearing before us, and instantly requesting such dispensation to be made by us; and having found to be true all the
contents of a certain schedule of petition set forth to us on behalf of the same prince and lady, the tenour of
which is as follows:--
It is set forth to your most reverend lordship on behalf of the most serene prince and lord the lord Henry, by the grace
of God king of England and France and lord of Ireland, of the one part, and of the most illustrious lady, the lady Elizabeth, eldest legitimate and natural daughter of the late Edward, sometime king of England and France and lord of Ireland, of the other part, that whereas the said king has by God's providence won his realm of England and is in peaceful possession thereof, and has been prayed and requested by all the lords of his realm, both spiritual and temporal, and also by the
general council of the said realm, called Parliament, to take to wife the aforesaid lady Elizabeth, he, wishing to accede
to the petitions of his subjects, desires to take the aforesaid lady to wife, but inasmuch as they are related in the fourth
and fourth degrees of kindred, he cannot fulfil such desire without obtaining canonical dispensation, wherefore petition is
made to your most reverend lordship on behalf of the said lord Henry and lady Elizabeth to grant them dispensation by
the apostolic authority which you exercise to contract marriage and remain therein, notwithstanding the said impediment,
and to decree the offspring to be born thereof legitimate, do therefore, by the apostolic authority committed to us, and
which we exercise in this behalf, grant to the said lord prince the lord Henry and lady Elizabeth, by this our sentence
or final decree, which we deliver and promulgate in these writings, dispensation to contract marriage and remain therein, notwithstanding the said impediment, and decree and declare the offspring to be born therein and thereof legitimate."
1486. 10 Kal. Aug. (23 July.) St. Peter's, Rome.
The inscription on the tomb of Margaret Beaufort composed by Erasmus reads:
"Margaret of Richmond, mother of Henry VII, grandmother of Henry VIII, who gave a salary to three monks of this convent
and founded a grammar school at Wimborne, and to a preacher throughout England, and to two interpreters of Scripture,
one at Oxford, the other at Cambridge, where she likewise founded two colleges, one to Christ, and the other to St John,
his disciple. Died A.D.1509, III Kalends of July [29 June]".
In 1455, at the age of just twelve years old Margaret had married Edmund Tudor as her second husband. Margaret was soon pregnant and gave birth to the future Henry VII a year later. The birth of Henry, while Margaret was just a child herself, did irreparable damage, and this could account for the fact that she never gave birth again. Thirty years later, Henry was aided at the Battle of Bosworth by Thomas Stanley, her fourth husband whose family famously stood and watched the battle, deciding at the last moment to take the side of the Lancastrian's against Richard III's Yorkist forces. Although Margaret never recognised it as a marriage she was firstly married to John de la Pole, the son of William de la Pole and Alice Chaucer. This marriage was later annulled.
Margaret's third husband was Humphrey, Duke of Buckingham, their marriage was said to be a happy one. In Henry VII's court, Margaret liked to be referred to as 'My Lady the King's Mother' she intensely disliked the fact that she was of a lower status than both Elizabeth of York, Henry's queen and her mother Elizabeth Woodville, the widow of Edward IV. She also disliked the fact that she had to adhere to court protocol and walk behind the queen and was probably responsible for the banishment of Elizabeth Woodville in 1487. Henry was said to have been a devoted son, his death in the June of 1509 was probably the beginning of the end for Margaret as she was dead only two months later.
Margaret Beaufort is famous as much for her piety and gifts to churches and collages as she is for being domineering, pushy and intimidating, she was a force to be reckoned with, but her achievements prove that medieval women did not always take the back seat to men.
Love her or hate her she was a very strong and determined woman.
16th June 1487
Standing with your back to the bell tower of St Oswald’s Church in East Stoke, and looking across the site that was once a medieval village, you can see England's third longest river, the Trent. The River Trent and the Fosse Way play an important part in the story of Stoke Field, both run parallel to one another and between the two, and a just over a mile in length, are the fields on which the last battle of the Wars of the Roses was fought.
The Trent winds its way north east from its source in Staffordshire until it meets the River Ouse to form the Humber Estuary, and as it does, it passes through the county of Nottinghamshire. After flowing under Trent Bridge in Nottingham it makes its way towards Newark. At one point it runs in an almost north to south direction passing the village of Fiskerton on its west bank, after another a mile of meandering it gradually turns eastwards, this curve forms a flood plain which it encompasses on three sides before turning north once more. It is at this point the Trent is only a quarter of a mile from the village of East Stoke. This village, often referred to as Stoke, has now been returned to the pleasant village it once was, no longer are its residents troubled by volumes of traffic trundling through the village centre, tooting their horns impatiently at the cross roads traffic lights, for the traffic that traveled along the Fosse Way, now pass at a pleasing distance along the new A46.
The tiny village is dominated by Stoke Hall, a red bricked Georgian mansion once the home Sir Robert Howe Bromley, admiral and politician. Adjacent to the hall is the aforementioned St Oswald’s Church, in whose hallowed grounds lie the bodies of the slain of the Battle of Stoke.
The village of East Stoke, the aforementioned River Trent and Fosse Way form natural boundaries to the battlefield, the Trent snakes its way east and the ancient Roman road, the Fosse way, runs from Exeter to Lincoln. Other significant landmarks are Humber Lane, an old drove road that runs through the middle and cuts the battle field in half, and a wooded area known as Stoke Wood that now covers a steep embankment that forms the side of what has come to be known as Red Gutter.
The Battle of Stoke, along with Hedgeley Moor, Hexham, Edgecote Moor and Lusecote Field are much overlooked when it comes to analysing the politics of the Wars of the Roses, in fact Stoke, is more often than not, not seen as part of this time period at all. The Battle of Stoke, which took place on the morning of the 16th June 1487, saw off the last of the Plantagenets and gave the Tudors a foundation on which to build their new dynasty, was an attempt by Yorkist loyalists to take the crown from the head of Henry VII and place it on the head of Yorkist figurehead Lambert Simnel, a claimant to the English throne, posing as Edward, Earl of Warwick.
Following Simnel’s coronation in Dublin in May, the rebel army landed at Furness in Lancashire on the 4/5th of June. As they made their was south east, they gathered English soldiers and Irish and German mercenaries before coming face to face with the forces of Henry Tudor on the 16th. In 1487, the battlefield was referred to as the 'moor beyond Newark’ which suggests a grass, moss and bracken covered area where there would be no hedges and few trees as there are today. As time passed the battlefield succumbed to enclosure and the ‘moor’ was divided into a series of smaller fields, about twenty of them in all, bordered to the north by School and Church Lane in Stoke village and the south side by RAF Syerston's airfield. Just off centre is Rampire Hill, which actually is more of a bump than a hill which on one side slopes fairly steeply down towards the Trent near Hazelwood Lock, its other sides having more of a gentle incline. However, it is a hill none the less and its highest point has long been called Burrand Furlong. The vast majority of battlefield when we visited this weekend was filled with lush green crops, only the fields that runs along Stoke Wood and Church Lane are left uncultivated. The area, toward Stoke Wood that would have been used for strip farming by the residents of the ‘lost’ medieval village, is today exactly as seen in the above aerial photograph, a beautiful flower filled meadow.
The Yorkist Battle line (Troops with their back to Stoke wood) they would eventually run in this direction towards Red Gutter.
At present, the exact positioning of troops on the battlefield is not known, this is due in part to no artifacts being found to confirm a definite position. However, most accounts agree that the right flank of the Yorkist's held Burrand Furlong. The 'traditional' account of the battle suggest that the lines ran across the width of the battle field with the Yorkist forces facing towards Syerston, with the Lancastrain right flank and the Yorkist left both straddling the Fosse Way. An alternative deployment, and the one I favour, has the Yorkist line within the battlefield with its center point crossing the end of Humber Lane and its back to Stoke Wood and Red Gutter. (See map above)
Looking towards Burrand Furlong. The Yorkist force right flank were placed on Burrand Furlong (first image) and straddled Humber Lane (second image) and Lancastrian position at Burrand Furlong (Images four and five)
The Battle of Stoke began by
" 9:00 am, after marching eight miles that morning from Radcliffe, the vanguard of the royal force, under the command of the Earl of Oxford, encountered the rebel army and deployed for battle. The rebel army advanced to the attack. Only the royal vanguard was engaged and, at first, they came under considerable pressure. Although probably outnumbered, these will have been the crack troops of the royalist army, better equipped and far more experienced than most of their opponents. As at Bosworth the Earl of Oxford's troops took the pressure and then counter attacked, first breaking the Yorkist army and then destroying them in the rout."
After three hours the Yorkist line was broken and all was lost. Blooded and frightened for their lives, those who survived the battle attempted to escape towards the top of the escarpment and down the embankment to Red Gutter, a gully that separates the battlefield from the floodplains of the River Trent. The legend that the vast majority of the Yorkist fled the battle making their escape from Rampire Hill via Red Gutter adds weight to the theory of the aforementioned 'alternative' battle line.
Red Gutter and the Trent flood plain. Red Gutter is not so called because it ran red with blood of the slain, but because of the redness of the soil as
you can see in the fourth image.
Slipping and sliding down the steep embankment into such a small gutter, slowed down the Yorkist escape, and made it easy for their slaughter at the hands of the sword wielding but victorious Lancastians. While his men striped the dead of their belongings, Henry VII made his way to Burrand Furlong, the highest point on Stoke Field, to proclaim his victory, here he placed the Tudor standard, a symbolic gesture reminiscent of Bosworth.
The estimate of the number of men killed at Stoke varies quite considerably, it ranges from 4000 to 7000, all but a few hundred were Yorkist dead. Those who did not escape with their lives were carried or dragged the short distance into grounds of St Oswald’s Church where they were hastily buried in a large pit. Evidence of the burial site is quite plain to see, the ground level of the churchyard is notably higher than the surrounding area, and it is significantly higher than the floor level within the church itself. A neat and well kept grassed mound in a pretty English churchyard is all that remains of a battle that took place here so very long ago.
Raised burial ground of St Oswald's thought to be the burial pit of thousands slain on the battlefield.
Today, there are few monuments to the dead, one stands in the churchyard tucked unobtrusively to one side and the other, the Burrand Bush Stone, is totally inaccessible. Legend has it that a tree was planted on the spot where the Henry placed his standard (A hawthorne bush? An attempt to reinforce the Lancastrian claim to Richard III's crown?) Later a small grey monument was placed where a tree once grew, it reads:
Here stood the Burrand Bush planted on the spot where Henry VII placed his standard after the
Battle of Stoke June 16th 1487.
Walking around this battle site you would never know anything happened here, it is quite heart breaking to think that only two
grey stones mark this area where such an important event in our history took place. The Battlefield Trail that at one time circled the site has fallen into disrepair, only a few rotting steps remain in place, the Burrand Bush Stone can no longer be seen, the memorial stone to the fallen blends into the wall of the St Oswald’s bell tower so much so that if you don’t know it’s there you’ll miss it. The information boards that lie within the church are actually quite informative but again not easily noticed or accessed, both the porch latch and the doors to the bell tower were stuck so tight that pressure had to be applied for them to open.
Remains of the Battlefield Trail, Battle of Stoke Memorial Stone, Information board and gates into St Oswald's church porch.
Something should be done to make more of this site, in memory of and giving the reason why 7000 men lost their lives here if nothing else! I’m not talking about a heritage centre, just a couple of brown road sign pointing to this historic site* and few information boards placed at points along School Lane and Church Lane that lead to Red Gutter will do or maybe just a flag pole standing proudly on Burrand Furlong with a white and red rose flag fluttering in the breeze, just something that would catch the eye of walkers and those motorists who drive past on East Stoke's brand new road to get people asking
“I wonder what went on over there?"
*I am pleased to say that since writing this blog two years ago something has been done (I cannot say how excited I am) and now the story of what when on here in 1487 can be told from the exact site. You can now walk a trail that circles the battlefield and see, almost exactly, what all those men saw in those awful moments before the first charge. You can read the story of the last battle of the Wars of the Roses on a series of five oak panels which describe the background to the battle, the bloody events of the day and the aftermath.
You can find out more about these new boards, a joint project between Nottinghamshire County Council and the Battlefields Trust here: www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/media/1494449/battlefield-leaflet.pdf
What is important to remember though, is that today, the land on which the battle was fought in 1487 is private land and the owner will not want people wandering all over his property and straying from the trail, it is important that this is always be respected.
Most of my photograph's were taken in 2016 on the boundaries of the battle field, from behind fences and gates, which is as close as we could get to the site. Others were taken from Humber Lane, however we did walk a short distance up a well used track to get some photographs of Burrand Furlong, at no point did we trample through the landowner's crops. Other photo's added since then are from a tour, lead by Mike Ingram in 2017, in which permission was granted by the land owner to visit the Burrand Stone. (That brought a lump to my throat I must say!)
On the 31st May 1443 Margaret Beaufort was born at Bletsoe Castle to Margaret Beauchamp and John Beaufort,
Duke of Somerset.
In 1455, at the age of just twelve years old Margaret had married Edmund Tudor as her second husband.
Margaret was soon pregnant and gave birth to the future Henry VII a year later. The birth of Henry, while Margaret was just a child herself, did irreparable damage, and this could account for the fact that she never gave birth again. Thirty years later, Henry was aided at the Battle of Bosworth by Thomas Stanley, her fourth husband whose family famously stood and watched
the battle, deciding at the last moment to take the side of the Lancastrian's against Richard III's Yorkist forces.
Although Margaret never recognised it as a marriage she was firstly married to John de la Pole, the son of William de la
Pole and Alice Chaucer. This marriage was later annulled.
Margaret's third husband was Henry, son of Humphrey, Duke of Buckingham, their marriage was said to be a happy one.
In Henry VII's court, Margaret liked to be referred to as 'My Lady the King's Mother' she intensely disliked the fact that
she was of a lower status than both Elizabeth of York, Henry's queen and her mother Elizabeth Woodville, the widow of
Edward IV. She also disliked the fact that she had to adhere to court protocol and walk behind the queen and was probably responsible for the banishment of Elizabeth Woodville in 1487. Henry was said to have been a devoted son, his death in
the April of 1509 was probably the beginning of the end for Margaret as she was dead only two months later.
Margaret Beaufort is famous as much for her piety and gifts to churches and collages as she is for being domineering,
pushy and intimidating, she was a force to be reckoned with, but her achievements prove that medieval women did not
always take the back seat to men.
Love her or hate her she was a very strong and determined woman.
The Wakefield Tower is the second largest in the Tower of London, it was built between 1220 and 1240 by King Henry III,
within this tower was the King's private room. King Henry VI, was held prisoner in this tower by Edward IV and was said to have been murdered whilst praying in the oratory of the tower on this night of the 21st May 1471.
Henry VI was born on the 6th of December 1421 and was the founder of Eton College and Kings College Cambridge.
Most, if not all, of English colleges celebrate Founders Day and Eton have been celebrating the birth of Henry VI since 1905 when two boys laid a bouquet of white lilies on Henry's tomb. By 1947 King's College Cambridge were given permission to join the ceremony. Since then Kings, lay white roses in purple ribbons alongside the Eton lilies in pale blue ribbons on the spot where Henry VI is said to have been murdered.
Richard III - 2nd October 1452 - 22nd August 1485
Who decides if somebody is to be admired or is brave enough to be called a hero?
Who decides if someone is so contemptuous that he should be called a villain?
We only have the writings of men of learning who may or may not have witnessed events in the past, but whose version and personal views of these events have left their mark on our perception of our English kings. Some are described as able kings, just kings, tall and handsome, a man worthy of the title hero. Then there are the kings that are incapable, unreasonable and treacherous and their physical descriptions are usually ugly, dark, short, a hunchback! It seems to me that, nearly always, kings in the villainous category are preceded by kings in the hero category. King John followed Richard I, Edward II followed Edward I, Richard III followed Edward IV, the list goes on. Our modern kings fared no better Edward VII followed Victoria and Edward VIII followed George V. Apart from the last two Edwards, the image of these men that history had placed in my young head was not unlike The Hooded Claw, a evil caped villain who plotted his victims downfall.
Has history been unfair to these men and why does history play on the successes of one and the failures of another's, each king is not wholly good or bad!
I was lucky enough to visit the scene of the Battle of Bosworth to watch the re enactment of the battle in the August of 2012, it was the first event of this kind I had been to. I had some knowledge of medieval warfare after reading accounts of the different battles during the Wars of the Roses, I knew about the swords and archery and I know about the armour, but what I wasn't prepared for was the sheer force of it all, the shouting, the noise of metal on metal but most of all the brutality. I was shocked.
In 1485 the action I witnessed was REAL A real BATTLE, real lives!
The images below were taken in 2012 and tell Richards Story.
Richard III arrives to address his troops, he shouts “ By the grace of god, am I not the King of England, By the grace of god, am I not the King of France, are you with me?”
The battle began early and the fighting was fierce, over two hours later the whole of the field was littered with the bodies of the dead and dying, casualties on both sides were heavy.
After the battle Richards crown is found and his body is striped naked.
as it is mutilated Henry Tudor is handed Richards crown.
Henry Tudor holds the crown high for his supporters to see and orders Richards body to be taken to Leicester.
Richards body is thrown across his horse and is subjected to another insult, a knife in the base of his buttocks.
What was a shock to me was the last moments in the life of Richard III. The re-enactment of the kings death was based on the evidence of written accounts in the two years after his death, and the results of the 4th February makes it all the more poignant for me, and hopefully my photographs go some way in giving us a glimpse of how Richard III ended his days.
Five hundred and twenty eight years later Richards remains are found with his wrists tied, his body buried in a grave that was too small for him at Grey Friars in Leicester.
I have followed Richards story for a long time, read many books about him and I can truly say that the past six months has been both sad and thought provoking.
When Dr Jo Appleby read out her findings and we saw for the first time the bound skeletal remains I knew that we were looking at the body of Richard III, and I am not ashamed to say that I did have a tear in eye.
This is a question with no easy answer, but it can be looked at in a number of ways.
If we consider the Wars of the Roses began in 1455 with the first battle of St Albans we should look at the Battle of Tewkesbury as the final battle in these wars.
The origins of these battles had their roots in the rivalry between the Duke of Somerset and the Duke of York. Following King Henry VI 'regaining his senses' Edmund Beaufort was given back his former post. To make matters worse, Beaufort was also given the captaincy of Calais which really rubbed York up the wrong way, eventually it came to blows at St Albans. You could say that the following fifteen battles, not including Bosworth and Stoke, were just a continuation of this, although there was far more to it than that.
The beginning of the end was the death of Henry VI's son Edward at Tewkesbury, followed seventeen days later by Henry himself.
You could that say the Wars of the Roses did indeed end at Tewkesbury.
On the other hand if you consider, like I do, the Wars of the Roses began or at least the seeds were set on the 8th June 1376 with the death of Edward III's heir Edward the Black Prince.
The fall out from the Black Prince's death cannot be underestimated. A boy king, an influential and 'lustful' uncle, a illegitimate brood and a usurper, lead you follow two lines. Firstly that of the usurper, where you end up at Henry VI and Margaret Beaufort/Henry Tudor and secondly, if you follow the line of John Beaufort, Gaunt's illegitimate son, you get Margaret Beaufort and Henry Tudor. Which line you follow makes no difference you will end up with events of 1483 to 1485.
With all that in mind you will have to say that the Wars of the Roses ended at Bosworth.
Two years after Bosworth the armies of York and Lancaster met again at Stoke Field in Nottinghamshire. Henry VII found himself in same position as that of Richard III defending his crown and facing a rebel army who were intent on placing a Plantagenet on the throne, albeit an impostor. Lambert Simnel, a claimant to England's throne posing as Edward, Earl of Warwick, was crowned in Dublin by John de la Pole and Francis Lovell. With a Plantagenet claimant as their figurehead only Henry VII stood in their way.
John de la Pole died on the battlefield, Lovell's body was not among the dead, but his days were numbered. This battle effectively wiped out the last of the Yorkist rebels, enabling Henry VII to establish the Tudor dynasty virtually unchallenged, on the battlefield at least.
Did the Wars of the Roses end with the Lancastrian victory at Stoke Field ?
What is the answer then Tewkesbury, Bosworth or Stoke?
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