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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Roan Rose~~Tragedy at Bosworth Field

On August 22, 1485, England would be conquered for the last time by a foreign invader. 

The final battle of the Wars of Roses, the moment when the long-lived Plantagenet dynasty came to a bitter end, was fought by a small number of soldiers compared to the earlier bloodbaths that had taken place at Towton, Wakefield, and Mortimer's Cross--just to name just a few.

Henry Tudor styled himself a Welshman and flew the ancient  banner of the Pendragons. His army was comprised mostly of French mercenaries. Although an anointed King of England would die in battle on this day, if truth be told, Henry did not win by force of arms. The Battle of Bosworth Field was, for Henry, the culmination of long  years of intrigue.

Treason! said to be King Richard's final cry as he "fought bravely in the midst of his enemies" was the true reason for Henry's victory.

Here, Rose tells what she saw :


In the gray which proceeds dawn we came upon the king’s pickets at the rear guard. Here, my soldier friends went in and I stayed among a little group of women of the army waiting in an orchard. In the camp, the lords were arming. There were gay banners and the flash of metal on the hill above.

From that distance I heard canons begin to boom and heard the distant thud of gun stones. Into the summer dawn rose a black smoke, as if hell had opened a gate. There came next the battle roar. At last, in the valley behind the hill, I began to hear the terrible cries of the wounded.

Some of the women simply stayed under the trees. Myself and a few others, pale and full of fear at what we knew in our hearts—we went forward—to help, to look for our men. In dread we skirted the hill which had been the king’s camp.

A mob of ravens had already gathered, a murderous racket in the trees. Hearing them, the hair on my neck prickled.

There were three ravens sat on a tree . . .

 The grim old song! Crossing myself, I began to walk. If they gathered so eagerly, there were none left to do me harm...

Down, down in yonder green field

There lies a knight, slain ‘neath his shield...

        The dead lay everywhere. I stepped among them and then over them. Of the first lords I saw was one who lay belly down, arms extended, hands still gripping his battered, emblazoned shield. A trail of gore marked his progress through the crushed grass. He had been crawling, stubbornly refusing to release his arms. The shield was dented and crushed, the corners actually hammered out of shape. One heraldic quartering had been obliterated, but the other was still identifiable. It was my Lord Duke of Norfolk, ever true to the house of York.

As I approached, the ravens flew up with a chorus of caws and a funereal clatter of black wings. They did not go far, just rose, circled, and then landed again in the nearest tree, confident of their feast. It took my breath way to round the hill and come upon this rare work of men—strong bodies now broken and dead horses, the fallen, trampled standards, the greasy sheen of blood upon long August grass.

A haze hung in the air and the wind was rank with dust, black powder from the hellish guns, and that slaughterhouse stink. I crouched to see if any still breathed, but stiffening death was all I saw. On every side lay Richard’s men, men I knew, tabards emblazoned with the boar, now soaked with their own entrails...

~~Juliet Waldron

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