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Rescue, my Lord of Norfolk, rescue, rescue! The king enacts more wonders than a man, Daring an opposite to every danger: His horse is slain, and all on foot he fights, Seeking for Richmond in the throat of death. Rescue, fair lord, or else the day is lost!
The Grisly Death of a Medieval King ... Death By The Halberd
At dawn on Monday 22nd August 1485 Richard Plantagenet, King of England, donned his medieval armor of burnished steel, mounted his dreadful warhorse and prepared to do battle. His sleep had been marred by dark dreams, and those around him noted that he looked paler than usual. As Richard prepared to go into battle, his advisers pleaded with him not to wear his crown, since it would make him a visible target for the enemy. Replying that he would live or die as King of England, Richard spurred his horse forward, and rode to meet his Welsh challenger.
The Battle of Bosworth Field, the last significant battle of the Wars of the Roses, is one of the least documented in medieval English History and no first-person accounts of it have survived. Even the exact site of the encounter is the subject of intense debate. What we do know is that the conflict lasted a mere two hours, and was fought on Redemore Plain, an open space of marshy ground, surrounded by hills, from the slopes of which the Stanley brothers and the Earl of Northumberland watched the melee, and failed to intervene on the King’s behalf. Richard’s loyal supporters, the Duke of Norfolk and Lord Ferrers, were slain in the fierce hand- to- hand combat and the Kings advisers pleaded with him to flee. But Richard refused. Then a messenger pointed out a group of horsemen, waving the banner of the red dragon, Standard of Henry Tudor, cantering across the plain towards Sir William Stanley. Realizing that his opponent was attempting to win the support of the Stanleys, Richard mounted his horse and, at the head of his household cavalry, charged towards the ranks of the Tudor guards in a bold attempt to kill his opponent in single combat and win the battle. He plunged into their ranks with such menacing ferocity that, despite his slight stature, he succeeded in cutting down the immensely strong Sir John Cheney and killing Henry’s standard-bearer, William Brandon. But, just as he and his men came within sword reach of their goal, Sir William Stanley threw his support behind Henry and brought his troops into the fray. Severely outnumbered, and with his men falling around him, Richard fought bravely on. Unhorsed, he took up his sword and, swinging it around him, made a last desperate bid to reach Henry. But the combined Tudor and Stanley forces fell upon him and an anonymous Welshman struck the death-blow with a halberd. “Treason! Treason!” Richard is said to have screamed just before the razor sharp axe blade sliced through the base of his skull in one terrible blow.
Richard’s blood encrusted body was stripped naked by the victors and, with a felon’s halter around his neck, Richard III - the last King of England to die on the field of battle - was buried in a forgotten grave that was not rediscovered until the early years of the 21st century.
A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!
Shakespeare's Richard III, 1594
classification of pole arms can be difficult and medieval European variations in
particular can be confusing. This is due to a number of factors including unfamiliarity
of weaponry in original source material, mistranslation of of period accounts, and
the use of anachronistic terms by well-meaning researchers and historians.
Halberds, poleaxes, spontoons, fauchards, and Lochaber axes became the workhorses of medieval and renaissance infantry. They were relatively simple to make and easy train common soldiers in the use of as they were originally adapted from hunting and agricultural tools such as axes and billhooks.
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