The Battle of Bosworth - August 22, 1485
Legends about the Battle of Bosworth
"Legend": Definition: [Old French; Middle Latin.] Commonly, a nonverifiable story handed down by tradition from earlier times and popularly accepted as having in fact occurred.
Those who loom large in their own time engender legends -- stories or tales reported as having happened but about which there is no historical proof. Begun as tales told to others, legends endure by finding their way into songs, children's stories, plays, books and film or television. Certainly this is true for legends about King Richard III. These days, visitors to Bosworth Field may have the good fortune to be escorted around the battlefield by a guide who, discussing the various versions of what happened, often uses these words:

"Some folk say that..."

  • The King's Bed. Some folk say that Richard III took with him on his travels throughout the realm a portable bed, light but well-designed and appropriately regal, which he used on all such travels. Legend has it that King Richard slept poorly, and because even more so in strange beds, gave instructions that this portable bed accompany him on his journeys for use in all overnight stays except when in preparation for or engaged in actual battles. The bed, allegedly last used for his stay at the Blue Boar in Leicester, is said to have passed through a succession of owners until it was permanently disassembled and most of it lost. However, there exists today in a manor house in Donnington-le-Health a large chair, the cross supports of which are said to be made of wood from Richard's bed.

  • The Witch on the Bridge: Some folk say that when Richard III rode out from the City of Leicester to meet Henry Tudor's forces at Ambion Hill, he crossed the River Soar on one of the bridges that spans that broad stream. On it, he is supposed to have encountered a witch -- or possibly an old crone with the gift of precognition -- who is alleged to have said to him words of this effect: "Richard Plantagenet, on your return to Leicester, your head will strike where your spur strikes now." She alluded to the side-wall of the bridge. After the battle, when the slain king was returned to Leicester slung across a horse, his head may well have struck the bridge, just as his spur may have struck it on the way to Bosworth Field.

  • The Fields Spared and the Fields Laid Waste: Some folk say that Richard III's concern for the common people in his kingdom -- and his kind, gentle ways -- are attested to by stories that Richard III on his way to do battle with Henry Tudor at Bosworth went out of his way to march his armies and equipment on roads so as to spare local farmers' fields. In contrast, Henry Tudor is alleged to have taken his troops and supplies directly over farmland, in the process ruining a large portion of standing crops in the countryside. By such small actions, people say yet today, is true character revealed. [more]

  • The Message on Norfolk's Tent: Some folk say King Richard became strengthened in his belief that Lord Stanley, supposedly his ally, was on the point of betraying Richard when the following note was found on the Duke of Norfolk's tent: "Jockey of Norfolk; be not too bold, for Dickon thy master is bought and sold." The "master" in the note of course would have been Richard III having been sold by Stanley and bought by Henry Tudor.[more]

  • John of Gloucester Returned to Safety: Some folk say that the young nobleman John of Gloucester, who wanted to fight with his father, pled his case before Richard. Richard, however, would have none of it and remained adamant, and had the young man escorted back to safety in a northern castle where other royal children, including Edward IV's daughters, had been sent for safety.

  • The Crown Under the Hawthorne Bush: Some folk say that after Richard III was "most piteously slain" and the Battle of Bosworth Field thus concluded, that Richard's crown was found where it had fallen -- beneath a hawthorne bush near the small well-spring known as King Richard's Well, marked by a shoulder-high piece of stonework that partially shields the well. The crown allegedly found there was presented to Henry Tudor, on whose head it was placed.

[Ed. Note: See also excerpts from William Hutton, The Battle of Bosworth Field, for legends concerning the disposition of Richard III's bones; and the account of the Portuguese Princess's Dream for more Bosworth lore.]

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