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Richard III: The Making of a Legend
Richard appeared before the magistrates of London and the Lords and firmly denied that there was any truth in the slander, charging that it was the work of Tudor's agents.
Henry Tudor, encouraged by the promise of French aid, had already begun serious preparations for his invasion. Richard, realizing the gravity of the situation, made plans for the defense of his realm. He sent a fleet to guard the Channel and reinforced the defenses of the towns. Commissions of Array were sent to all the counties.
Lord Stanley, stepfather to Henry Tudor, now began his maneuvers, designed to assure his place on the winning side, whichever it turned out to be. He asked the king's permission to return to his estates so that he would be in a better position to raise support for the king in case of an invasion. The Stanleys had a long history of treason to both Lancaster and York but had always managed not only to avoid the usual consequences of treason but also to reap great rewards in the bargain. Richard, who was well aware of Stanley's record and character, agreed to the request. To conciliate his councillors, however, he sent for Stanley's son, Lord Strange, to act as his father's deputy and as surety for his father's loyalty.
On Sunday, August 7, 1485, Henry Tudor landed with his army at Milford Haven in South Wales. His soldiers were, for the great part, criminals released from the jails of Normandy on the condition that they accompany Tudor to England. Their generals were Henry's uncle, Jasper Tudor, the Lancastrian Earl of Pembroke, and John, Earl of Oxford. Henry Tudor had never fought a battle in his life.
Tudor, who had chosen for his banner the red dragon of Cadwallader, picked up some support from the Welsh who saw him as a new King Arthur come to claim his and their rightful place as rulers of England. He won the support of the leading chieftain of Wales, Rhys ap Thomas. by promising him the lieutenantship of Wales for life. This greatly strengthened his cause, but his hopes of a general uprising in his favor proved to be unfounded.
When Richard learned of the invasion, he instructed his captains to join him at Leicester. Lord Stanley, upon being ordered to meet the king at Nottingham, sent word that he was suffering from the sweating sickness and was therefore unable to obey the summons. Lord Strange, captured during an attempted escape, admitted that his uncle, Sir William Stanley, planned to betray the king. He insisted, however, that his father intended no treason, and wrote to Lord Stanley begging him to join the king with his retainers.
The Stanleys were not Richard's only source of worry. He learned that the Earl of Northumberland, the Commissioner of Array for the East Riding, had failed to summon the men of York, possibly because he resented their loyalty to Richard. When the magistrates of York were apprised of the situation, they sent eighty men to aid the king.
On August 19, having learned that Tudor's army was marching toward Leicester, Richard turned south from Nottingham with his forces. He was joined by the Duke of Norfolk, but the Earl of Northumberland and his army lagged behind. To the west lay the armies of the Stanleys, and bringing up the rear was the rag-tag collection of French criminals and Welshmen marching under the banner of Henry Tudor. En route, a secret meeting took place at Atherstone, during which the Stanleys promised Henry Tudor that they would aid him in the coming battle, throwing in their forces when they felt the time was right. Henry fully realized, however, that if Richard's army seemed to be winning, the Stanleys would not hesitate to support the king. He never forgave them for their equivocation.
Late in the day of August 20, Northumberland and his army reached Leicester. His men, he told Richard, were exhausted after their long march and would do better service in the rear, rather than in the thick of the fighting. Richard no doubt knew that he could not count on Percy. All his life Percy had resented the power Richard held over the men of the north -- power that had been exercised by the Percy family for generations and which they felt was rightfully theirs. In deed, it is quite probable that Percy had already secured a pardon from Henry Tudor in the hope that Henry would be victorious and would, in return for such support, restore the Percies to a position of power in the north.
On August 22, on Redmore Plain a few miles outside the little town of Market Bosworth, the king addressed his troops. His sleep had been disturbed by dreams, and those around him noted that he was paler than usual. No matter who won the field that day, he told his men, the England that they knew would be destroyed. If Tudor won, he would ch the supporters of the House of York and rule by fear. If Richard won, he too would rule by force since his attempts to win loyalty by fairness and kindness had failed. The absence of a chaplain to say mass before the battle was intentional, the king declared. If their quarrel were God's, no prayers were needed; if not, their prayers were idle blasphemy. 
Richard then sent a last message to Lord Stanley, ordering him to join the royal army if he valued his son's life. Stanley replied that he had other sons and for the present was not inclined to join the king. In a burst of anger, Richard ordered the immediate execution of Strange, but thought better of it and decided instead to keep him under close guard.
As Richard prepared to go into battle some members of his household begged him not to wear the crown which would mark him out for destruction by the enemy. He replied that he would live and die King of England. Then, surrounded by his knights and esquires of the body, he rode out to join battle with the Welsh challenger.
Henry Tudor had probably five thousand men in the field, of which two thousand were French. Lord Stanley's force numbered between thirty-five hundred and four thousand, and his brother, Sir William, had about twenty-five hundred men under his command. Richard's army was about twice as large as Tudors, but smaller than the combined Tudor-Stanley forces. Three thousand of Richard's nine thousand men were under the command of Northumberland and so took no part in the fighting.
In the midst of the battle, a messenger pointed out to Richard a figure on horseback, motionless on a hill. Above his head waved the banner of the red dragon of Cadwallader and surrounding him were about two hundred and fifty armed men. Quickly Richard decided to take the one desperate chance which must end in brilliant victory or disastrous defeat. If he and the men of his household could cross in front of Sir William Stanley's much larger force, he would have a chance to reach Tudor and destroy him and his cause with one blow. The terrible news that Norfolk and Lord Ferrers had been killed reached Richard and he spied a messenger from Tudor, hurrying to inform Lord Stanley of their deaths. Northumberland refused to obey when the king ordered him to move in to support the royal forces and Richard knew that his only chance for survival lay in Tudor's death.
Rejecting Catesby's plea to flee while there was yet time, Richard and his household knights mounted their horses. Richard gripped his battle axe, signalled his trumpeters, and he and his men started slowly down the hill. At the bottom they broke into a gallop. Past the Stanley lines they rode, straight toward the ranks of the Tudor guards.
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