By Mike Ingram
Studying history is a bit like an episode from the hit U.S. T.V crime series CSI! We start with all the blood and gore, and then have to work backwards to find out what happened. We have dodgy eyewitness statements in the form of chronicles and if we are lucky, evidence at the scene, which is discovered not by CSI’s but archaeologists (even though their methods are similar). From this we then have to piece together a battle. One of the biggest problems is that sometimes a scrap of information leads to more
questions than answers.
One such scrap of information is that in late 1483, Richard III banned the wearing of livery jackets except for his own red coloured jackets. So what were they wearing at Bosworth in 1485? This short statement implies that all Richard’s army were wearing red at the battle. We know that on Richard’s coronation, 13,000 white boar badges were ordered and distributed amongst his people. The contemporary Ballad of Lady Bessy tells us that Lord Stanley’s men wore red at Bosworth as well. As the Stanley colours were blue and white, this means that they must have been wearing the King’s colours too. When the Stanleys joined the battle in Henry’s side, this must have added considerable confusion to the battle, especially if they were wearing Richard’s white boar too! This is ok for the livery men, but what about the troops raised by Commission of Array? Did they wear red or did they stay with their town colours?
And what about Tudor’s army? We know that the King of France Charles VIII paid for clothing for his 500 or so supporters in exile with him. They may have even paid for livery for the French and Scottish mercenaries that were part of the invasion force? The troops under Sir John Savage, commander of Tudor’s right wing were wearing white hoods, according to the Ballad of Lady Bessy. Tudor’s colours were green and white, so does this mean they all wore white hoods? And what colour was their tunic, green? Then we have those that joined Tudor’s army en-route to Bosworth such as Rhys Thomas’ 500 men, did they wear their own livery, Tudor’s or Richard’s?
Questions… Questions… Questions…