In the Telegraph, Chris Skidmore looks at the end of the Battle of Bosworth in the light of the injuries suffered by King Richard:
Richard III’s body was discovered among the dead strewn across the battlefield, “despoiled to the skin” and “all besprung with mire and filth”. It was hard to believe that this naked and bloodied corpse had once belonged to a king. Still Richard III’s body had one final journey to make. After “many other insults were heaped upon it”, one chronicler reported how “not very humanely, a halter was thrown round the neck, and it was carried to Leicester”. With “nought being left about him, so much as would cover his privy member”, the last Plantagenet king was trussed up on the back of a horse, “as a hog or another vile beast” to be brought into the town “for all men to wonder upon, and there lastly irreverently buried”.
The new king — Henry Tudor, now crowned Henry VII — had good reason to put Richard’s body on display. Few could believe that Richard was dead, much less that a Welsh rebel who had landed on the tip of Wales two weeks earlier, leading an army of a few thousand men, mostly French mercenaries, had defeated a reigning king. Only hours earlier, Richard had led his army of 15,000 men, the largest army ever assembled “on one side” that England had ever witnessed, into battle against a rebel army barely one third its size. Bosworth, quite simply, was a battle that Richard should never have lost. Why did it go so badly wrong?
Treason, without a doubt:
With the collapse of his vanguard, Richard would have expected that his rear-guard, led by Henry Percy, the earl of Northumberland, to provide re-inforcements. Instead the earl did nothing. One chronicler was insistent that ‘in the place where the earl of Northumberland was posted, with a large company of reasonably good men, no engagement could be discerned, and no battle blows given or received”. Northumberland, Jean Molinet observed, should have “charged the French” but instead “did nothing except to flee, both he and his company, and to abandon his King Richard” since he had already agreed a secret pact with Henry Tudor.
Northumberland was a northern lord whose own power had diminished over the past decade as a result of Richard’s rise to power. He had nothing to lose and everything to gain from abandoning his king. Other reports from the battlefield suggest that Northumberland may have not only left Richard to his fate, but actively turned against him and “left his position and passed in front of the king’s vanguard”, at which point, “turning his back on Earl Henry, he began to fight fiercely against the king’s van, and so did all the others who had plighted their faith to Earl Henry”. If this were the case, it would explain why Richard had been heard “shouting again and again that he was betrayed, and crying ‘Treason! Treason! Treason!’”
Not just treason, but double treason:
The “first onslaught” of Richard’s attack saw some men surrounding Tudor been killed instantly, including Henry’s standard bearer, William Brandon, standing just feet away. It seemed that victory was now in Richard’s grasp. Not only had some of Henry’s men chose to flee, his standard had been ‘thrown to the ground’. Henry’s own men were ‘now wholly distrustful of victory’. Richard’s frenzied energy seemed to be turning the tables, as the king “began to fight with much vigour, putting heart into those that remained loyal, so that by his sole effort he upheld the battle for a long time”. It was at this point that Sir William Stanley, having sat out the battle on its fringes, sent orders for his forces, numbering perhaps 3,000 men, to crash into the side of Richard’s detachment, taking Tudor’s side. Richard stood no chance. He was swept off his horse and into a marsh, where he was killed, “pierced with numerous deadly wounds” one chronicler wrote, “while fighting, and not in the act of flight”.
Update: Maclean’s has a long article up on the Canadian connections to Richard III.