04 Feb 2013

The Death of Richard III

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“King Richerd at the first brunt killyd certane, overthrew done Henryes standerd, toygther with William Brandon the standerd bearer.”

Polydore Virgil‘s Anglica Historia, 1485-1537, early English translation:

In the meane time king Richard, hearing that thennemy drew neare, came first to the place of fight, a little beyond Leycester (the name of that village ys Boswoorth), and ther, pightching his tentes, refresshyd his soldiers that night from ther travale, and with many woords exhortyd them to the fyght to coome. Yt ys reportyd that king Rycherd had that night a terryble dreame; for he thowght in his slepe that he saw horryble ymages as yt wer of evell spyrytes haunting evydently abowt him, as yt wer before his eyes, and that they wold not let him rest; which visyon trewly dyd not so muche stryke into his brest a suddane feare, as replenyshe the same with heavy cares: for furthwith after, being troublyd in mynde, his hart gave him theruppon that thevent of the battale folowing wold be grevous, and he dyd not buckle himself to the conflict with such lyvelyness of corage and countenance as before, which hevynes that yt showld not be sayd he shewyd as appallyd with feare of his enemyes, he reportyd his dreame to many in the morning. But (I beleve) yt was no dreame, but a conscyence guiltie of haynous offences, a conscyence (I say) so muche the more grevous as th offences wer more great, which, thowght at none other time, yeat in the last day of owr lyfe ys woont to represent to us the memory of our sinnes commyttyd, and withall to shew unto us the paynes immynent for the same, that, being uppon good cause penytent at that instant for our evell led lyfe, we may be compellyd to go hence in heavynes of hart. Now I return to my purpose. The next day after king Richerd, furnysshyd throwghly with all maner of thinges, drew his whole hoste owt of ther tentes, and arraieth his vanward, stretching yt furth of a woonderfull lenght, so full replenyshyd both with foote men and horsemen that to the beholders afar of yt gave a terror for the multitude, and in the front wer placyd his archers, lyke a most strong trenche and bulwark; of these archers he made leder John duke of Norfolk. After this long vanward folowyd the king himself, with a choyce force of soldiers. In this meane time Henry, being departyd bak from the conference with his frinds, began to take better hart, and without any tary encampyd himself nighe his enemyes, wher he restyd all night, and well early in the morning commandyd the soldiers to arm themselves, sending withall to Thomas Stanley, who was now approchyd the place of fight, as in the mydde way betwixt the two battaylles, that he wold coom to with his forces, to sett the soldiers in aray. He awnsweryd that the earle showld set his owne folkes in order, whyle that he should coome to him with his army well apoyntyd.With which answer, geaven contrary to that was looked for, and to that which thoportunytie of time and weight of cause requyryd, thowghe Henry wer no lyttle vexyd, and began to be soomwhat appallyd, yeat withowt lingering he of necessytie orderyd his men in this sort. He made a sclender vanward for the smaule number of his people; before the same he placyd archers, of whom he made captane John erle of Oxfoord; in the right wing of the vanward he placyd Gilbert Talbot to defend the same; in the left veryly he sat John Savage; and himself, trusting to thayd of Thomas Stanley, with one troup of horsemen, and a fewe footemen dyd folow; for the number of all his soldiers, all maner of ways, was scarce v.M [5000] besydes the Stanleyans, wherof about 3.M [3000] wer at the battaill, under the conduct of William. The kings forces were twyse so many and more. Thus both the vanwardes being arrayed, as soone as the soldiers might one se an other afur of, they put on ther head peces and preparyd to the fyght, expectyng thalarme with intentyve eare. Ther was a marishe betwixt both hostes, which Henry of purpose left on the right hand, that yt might serve his men instede of a fortresse, by the doing therof also he left the soon upon his bak ; but whan the king saw thenemyes passyd the marishe, he commandyd his soldiers to geave charge uppon them. They making suddanely great showtes assaultyd thennemy first with arrowes, who wer nothing faynt unto the fyght but began also to shoote fearcely ; but whan they cam to hand strokes the matter than was delt with blades. In the meane tyme therle of Oxfoord, fearing lest hys men in fyghting might be envyronyd of the multitude, commandyd in every rang that no soldiers should go above tenfoote from the standerds; which charge being knowen, whan all men had throng thik togethers, and stayd a whyle from fighting, thadversaryes wer therwith aferd, supposing soom fraude, and so they all forbore the fight a certane space, and that veryly dyd many with right goodwill, who rather covetyd the king dead than alyve, and therfor fowght fayntly. Than therle of Oxforth in one part, and others in an other part, with the bandes of men closse one to an other, gave freshe charge uppon thenemy, and in array tryangle vehemently renewyd the conflict. Whyle the battayll contynewyd thus hote on both sydes betwixt the vanwardes, king Richard understood, first by espyalls wher erle Henry was a farre of with smaule force of soldiers abowt him; than after drawing nerer he knew yt perfytely by evydent signes and tokens that yt was Henry; wherfor, all inflamyd with ire, he strick his horse with the spurres, and runneth owt of thone syde withowt the vanwardes agaynst him. Henry perceavyd king Richerd coome uppon him, and because all his hope was than in valyancy of armes, he receavyd him with great corage. King Richerd at the first brunt killyd certane, overthrew Henryes standerd, toygther with William Brandon the standerd bearer, and matchyd also with John Cheney a man of muche fortytude, far exceeding the common sort, who encountered with
him as he cam, but the king with great force drove him to the ground, making way with weapon on every syde. But yeat Henry abode the brunt longer than ever his owne soldiers wold have wenyd, who wer now almost owt of hope of victory, whan as loe William Stanley with thre thowsand men came to the reskew: than trewly in a very moment the resydew all fled, and king Richerd alone was killyd fyghting manfully in the thickkest presse of his enemyes. In the mean time also the erle of Oxfoord after a lyttle bickering put to flight them that fowght in the forward, wherof a great company wer killed in the chase. But many mo forbare to fyght, who came to the fielde with king Richerd for aw, and for no goodwill, and departyd withowt any daunger, as men who desyryd not the safety but destruction of that prince Noblemen whom they hatyd. Ther wer killyd about a M. [1000] men, and emon est them of noblemen of warre John duke of Norfolk, Gwalter L. Ferryse, Robert Brakkenbury, Rycherd Ratclyff and many moe. Two days after at Leycester, William Catesby, lawyer, with a few that wer his felowys, were executyd. And of those that tooke them to ther fete Frauncis L. Loovell, Humfrey Staffoord, with Thomas his brother and muche more company, fled into the sayntuary of Saint John which is at Colchester, a toune by the sea syde in Essex. As for the number of captyves yt was very great; for whan king Richerd was killyd, all men furthwith threw away weapon, and frely submyttyd them selfes to Henryes obeyssance, wherof the most part wold have doone the same at the beginning, yf for king Rycherds scurryers, scowring to and fro, they myght so have doone. Emongest them the chiefe wer Henry erle of Northumberland, and Thomas erle of Surrey. This man was commyttyd to ward, wher he remaynyd long; he as frind in hart was receavyd into favor. Henry lost in that battayll scarce an hundreth soldiers, emongst whom there was one princypall man, William Brandon, who bare erle Henryes standerd. The feilde was fowghten the xj th. calends of September, in the yere of mans salvation M.cccc.lxxxvj, and the fight lasted more than two houres.

The report is that king Richerd might have sowght to save himself by flight; for they who wer abowt him, seing the soldiers even from the first stroke to lyft up ther weapons febly and fayntlye, and soome of them to depart the feild pryvyly, suspectyd treason, and exhortyd him to flye, yea and whan the matter began manyfestly to qwaile, they browght him swyft horses; but he, who was not ignorant that the people hatyd him, owt of hope to have any better hap afterward, ys sayd to have awnsweryd, that that very day he wold make end ether of warre or lyfe, suche great fearcenesse and suche huge force of mynd he had: wherfor, knowinge certanely that that day wold ether yeald him a peaceable and quyet realme from thencefurth or els perpetually bereve him the same, he came to the fielde with the crowne uppon his head that therby he might ether make a beginning or ende of his raigne. And so the myserable man had suddaynly suche end as wont ys to happen to them that have right and law both of God and man in lyke estimation, as will, irnpyetie, and wickedries. Surely these are more vehement examples by muche than ys hable to be utteryd with toong to tereyfy those men which suffer no time to passe free from soome haynous offence, creweltie, or mischief.

Henry, after the victory obtaynyd, gave furthwith thanks unto Almightie God for the same; than after, replenysshyd with joy incredible, he got himself unto the next hill, wher, after he had commendyd his solders, and commandyd to cure the woundyd, and to bury them that wer slane, he gave unto the nobylytie and gentlemen immortal thankes, promysing that he wold be myndfull of ther benyfyttes, all which meane whyle the soldiers cryed, God save king Henry, God save king Henry ! and with hart and hand utteryd all the shew of joy that might be ; which whan Thomas Stanley dyd see, he set anon king Richerds crowne, which was fownd among the spoyle in the feilde, uppon his head, as thoughe he had bene already by commandment of the people proclamyd kingafter the maner of his auncestors, and that was the first signe of prosperytie. After that, commanding to pak upp all bag and baggage, Henry with his victorious army procedyd in the evening to Leycester, wher, for refresshing of his soldiers from ther travaile and panes, and to prepare for going to London, he taryed two days. In the meane time the body of king Rycherd nakyd of all clothing, and layd uppon an horse bake with the armes and legges hanginge downe on both sydes, was browght to thabbay of monks Franciscanes at Leycester, a myserable spectacle in good sooth, but not unwoorthy for the mans lyfe, and ther was buryed two days after without any pompe or solemne funerall. He raigned two yeres and so many monethes, and one day over. He was lyttle of stature, deformyd of body, thone showlder being higher than thother, a short and sowre cowntenance, which semyd to savor of mischief, and utter evydently craft and deceyt. The whyle he was thinking of any matter, he dyd contynually byte his nether lyppe, as thowgh that crewell nature of his did so rage agaynst yt self in that lyttle carkase. Also he was woont to be ever with his right hand pulling out of the sheath to the myddest, and putting in agane, the dagger which he did alway were. Trewly he had a sharp witt, provydent and subtyle, apt both to counterfayt and dissemble; his corage also hault and fearce, which faylyd him not in the very death, which, whan his men forsooke him, he rather yealded to take with the swoord, than by fowle flyght to prolong his lyfe, uncertane what death perchance soon after by sicknes or other vyolence to suffer.


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