The Village Coronation of King Henry VII

Much has been written about the demise of that unlucky monarch King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field.

For some thirty years before that fateful day of 22nd August 1485 there had been a long standing quarrel between the houses of York and Lancaster for the right to the throne. Commonly called the Wars of the Roses, the emblem of the Yorkists being a white rose and that of the Lancastrians being a red one, the feud culminated in the final battle of the Roses just beyond the village of Stoke Golding between the King and The Earl of Richmond commonly known as Henry Tudor.

Henry Tudor had been living in Brittany and latterly in France having fled the kingdom to save his own skin. On 31st July 1485 he sailed from Harfleur with two thousand men at arms, described as ‘the scum of France’ to try and take the throne. He landed at Milford Haven and after marching across country through Shrewsbury and Lichfield he turned from his path to London when he heard that Richard was close, to do battle outside this village.

Richard was no coward, and, as the battle was about to start he is said to have cried, “Bryng me my battaylaxe in my hand and set the crowne of gold on my hed so hye, for by Hym that shope bothe se and land, Kynge of England this day will I dye, one foote away I will not fle, whill brethe wyll byde my brest within.”

Richard is said to have fallen after his horse was cut from under him, resulting in the supposed cry of “My horse, my horse my kingdom for a horse.”

It is said that the blood of the slain so tinged the water of the nearby stream that for a long time the residents could not drink from it.

Recent investigation indicates that perhaps the battlefield was much closer to the village than was previously thought. Indeed accounts of the battle tell of the villagers climbing to the battlements of the church to view the fight.

The window sills of the Church show grooves which legend has it were caused by the soldiers sharpening their swords on the eve of the battle.

On finding himself the master of the field, Henry’s first act was to fall on his knees and give thanks for his great victory.

After the battle Richard’s body was thrown naked across a horse and taken to Leicester where it was on public display for two days before being taken to Greyfriars for interment at the Church of St Mary in the city.

Henry and his followers rode into Stoke Golding, no doubt to the great consternation of the populace, who, having seen the engagement from afar and faintly heard the sounds of battle and victory, waited in fearful anticipation of the arrival of their new King, Henry VII.

He and his army occupied the area of land subsquently named Crown Hill, or, as some narratives state, King Harry’s Hill, which lies between the north side of Station Road and the canal and, from a farmhouse nearby, a chair and table were brought for the rural Coronation. The table is said to have been preserved in Maxstoke Castle , Warwickshire.

Wherever Richard fell on the Battlefield, it is certain that his crown, which would have been merely a circlet of gold which fitted over his battle helmet, either fell from his head or was removed after his death.

This battered coronet was found, in a hawthorn bush by Sir Reginald Bray, who hastened to Crown Hill in Stoke Golding, where the new Tudor sovereign and his army were gathering.A contemporary account of the scene recounts, “Then they removyd to a mountayne hyghe, and withe a voyce they cryed “Kynge Henry”. The crowne of gold was delyveryd to the Lord Stanley, and unto Kynge Henry then went he, and delyveryd it, as to the most worthe to were the crowne and be theyr Kynge.”

Then broke out a loud cheering which was taken up by all who had assembled on Crown Hill, the shouts being taken up by Henry’s men, until it reached those who had remained to pillage the battlefield. Lord Stanley placed the battered circlet on his stepson’s head and proclaimed him King. The field became known as Halloa Meadow in consequence of the cheering of the new Monarch.

There followed a thanksgiving for the victory where Henry addressed his troops and thanked them for the great service they had done and promised them adequate rewards. A Te Deum was then sung.

A field in the vicinity of the crowning was styled ‘Le Gulden’ (The Golden) shortly afterwards and some claim that the addition of the word Golding after the name of the village was derived from this great event.

After the battle, Richard’s body was thrown naked across a horse and taken to Leicester, where it was on public display for two days before being taken to Greyfriars for interment in a tomb provided by King Henry VII. The Friary was dissolved in 1538 by King Henry VII, Tudor’s son, and it was said that King Richard’s tomb was destroyed, his bones thrown into the River Soar and his stone coffin used as a horse trough.

However, in 2012 after much research by the University of Leicester, it was announced that the remains of the Friary were believed to have been discovered under a car park near to Leicester Cathedral. Suspecting that the remains of Richard could be near the altar of the Friary, excavations began. Ground probing radar was used which confirmed historical ruins under the car park and trenches were dug. Within days two human skeletons were found. A female one was thought to be perhaps that of the Friary foundress.

The male skeleton was found to have various injuries to the skull and signs of spinal abnormalities caused by scoliosis. The remains were taken away for detailed examination, testing and comparison with DNA of two people who were found to be the only living descendants of a member of King Richard’s family.

After months of speculation, on 4th February 2013 the University of Leicester announced that carbon dating showed that the male skeleton was aged in his late 20s to early 30s who lived between 1455 and 1540. Richard was 32 when killed at Bosworth Field

The skeleton showed evidence of 10 injuries including 8 to the skull, all typical of ‘battle’ wounds. The project’s geneticist announced that there was a DNA match between the maternal DNA of the descendants of the family of King Richard III and the skeleton found in the Greyfriars dig.

The body of King Richard III had been found.

At the time of the announcement confirming that the skeleton was indeed the King, arrangements were already being put in place for the remains of the last Plantagenet monarch to be laid to rest in Leicester Cathedral.