Monday, 3 June 2013

An Extraordinary Rise to Power

If you're anything like me (which I hope for your sake you're not), you'd have noticed while flicking through the channels recently that there seems to be a new found love of the Tudors when it comes to Television producers. Normally, when I notice a sudden influx of popularity for a period of History, I tell myself I'll watch the educational shows 'later', and instead watch something equally intellectual as 'Made in Chelsea' or 'Waterloo Road'. But, in an occasion as rare as seeing Boris Johnson seem vaguely sane, the other day I decided to plonk myself on the sofa with a nice big bowl of popcorn to watch 'Henry VII:Winter King'. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, it started in true BBC style, with swords being sharpened dramatically and words with little sense appearing on screen in white, before cutting to Thomas Penn docking on the very same Pembrokeshire coast that the winter king himself once trod on. However, after a while of over-dramatics I became glued to the scree,enthralled by a man who seemingly had very little claim to the throne of England, and very little chance of winning it, but against all odds managed to become King of England.

Henry's extraordinary rise to power began on Sunday 7th August 1485, at Milford Haven, and didn't begin as you would probably imagine an invasion would: with loud declarations and fights, with people rushing to the aid of each army. Oh no, the 'invasion' of Henry VII and his small fleet was not really like an invasion at all, and the drama related with said 'invasion' was to come later, at the Battle of Bosworth. Perhaps though, his arrival Britain was fitting for his army - sort of a pick-a-mix of political dissidents and mercenaries, hardly a force fit to storm London. Henry, however, knew this, and chose to slip in unnoticed in order to drum up support in Wales before facing the large army of Richard III, and decided to go north to his stepfather, Lord Stanley, who had told Henry that he would support him in his rise to power. With Lord Stanley's army behind him, Henry's plan was to head for London, but by then Richard III had heard of his plans, and had
begun to move his army to meet Henry's. He had no choice but to turn and fight.

On the morning of 22nd August 1485, Henry advanced his army to meet the much larger army of Richard III, in a battle that was to become famous. Richard, seeing that Henry's forces were fragmented, advanced, and the two men fought nose to nose, Henry's standard bearer being cut down in the battle. It was at this moment that Lord Stanley clinched a win for Henry. He had been waiting, watching the battle as he chose which side to support- he only wished to support a winner- and decided to fight for Henry in a decision that would become fateful for Richard III.

Richard apparently fought bravely, but could not win once Lord Stanley had joined the battle, and was viciously killed. It was this victory that would lead to one of England's most memorable monarchies, and a particularly rich period in our history.

(Update) The Winter King is currently available on YouTube here. There's also a handy BBC page here with links to interesting web pages and radio programmes. Thomas Penn's Book "Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England" is reviewed here.

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