So the 22nd August 1485 started quite well for Richard III. He was about to fight the battle that would define his reign, against a certain Henry Tudor, and there was nothing to suggest that things would not go well. He had both the high ground and numerical superiority. After some initial manoeuvring battle was joined and things started to go downhill pretty quickly. Richard’s first attack, led by the Duke of Norfolk, was repulsed and when Richard waved for the rest of his army to join, led by the Earl of Northumberland, they just sat there.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, there was the small matter of Lord Stanley, who was currently sitting out on the sidelines with 6000 men waiting to decide which side to join. When Richard spotted his opponent riding out to meet the Stanley’s and persuade them to fight against Richard, he saw the opportunity to end the battle by cutting the head from the snake.
He, hunchbacked Richard, led the charge, killing the enemy standard bearer and unhorsing one of Henry’s best men. But just as things looked like they were getting better, the Stanley’s joined the party on Henry’s side and Richard, outnumbered and out of luck, was killed. Legend says that his crown was later found in a hawthorn bush and handed to Henry who was crowned Henry VII.
The whole episode is perhaps best known for Shakespeare’s depiction of it in his play Richard III (A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse! and all that). But in all honestly I don’t think even a hundred horses would have saved him, and I think he was probably more worried about the fact that everyone he’d expected to help him out had deserted and there was a Welshmen with a Halberd about to split his skull! (and the fact that it would take 530 yrs to get a proper burial)
No matter how bad your day was today, Richard III’s day, on 22nd August 530 yrs ago, was worse.