Losing the Battle of Bosworth Field

It turns out Leicestershire county council have misplaced the famous battleground. Historical sites can be a slippery business

Richard III, at Bosworth Field. Picture: Bettmann/Corbis

No, I sympathise. Some of you might wonder how it is that, according to the latest experts, Leicestershire county council seems to have got the site of the battle of Bosworth field in the wrong place; others will know that in the complicated and much overstretched world of local administration, mistakes can happen.

It’s doubly bad luck, too, as what now seems not to be the site boasts the council’s very shiny award-winning state-of-the-art interactive Battlefield Heritage Centre. And while the more sensitive might quibble with the nomenclature, I must say that on a visit in the summer I found it one of the finest heritage experiences I have experienced: top video, intelligent exposition of the 1485 clash in which Henry Tudor seized the Crown from Richard III, not an actor in doublet and dodgy beard to be seen.

It also makes clear that doubt and division over the exact spot is not new, owing to a vagueness in the contemporary record. You see, journalists do have their uses: this would not have arisen if our legendary accuracy had been brought to bear on a special Bosworth minute-by-minute commemorative pull-out section (complete with exclusive shot of crucial dead horse).

There again, it does seem odd that absolutely no one thought to write it down properly. I suppose we could blame some clerke in the forerunner to Leicestershire county council, but I’m not so sure. We are, after all, dealing here with two of the tricksiest characters in British history. Is it entirely beyond the realms of possibility that this battle never took place, and that Richard ended his days quietly in a monastery on the Costa Brava? Yes, you say. I say: what about the Moon landing? Precisely. Moreover, Richard’s body has never been satisfactorily located (although some say it’s under a car park in Leicester).

It also makes clear that doubt and division over the exact spot is not new, owing to a vagueness in the contemporary record. You see, journalists do have their uses: this would not have arisen if our legendary accuracy had been brought to bear on a special Bosworth minute-by-minute commemorative pull-out section (complete with exclusive shot of crucial dead horse).

There again, it does seem odd that absolutely no one thought to write it down properly. I suppose we could blame some clerke in the forerunner to Leicestershire county council, but I’m not so sure. We are, after all, dealing here with two of the tricksiest characters in British history. Is it entirely beyond the realms of possibility that this battle never took place, and that Richard ended his days quietly in a monastery on the Costa Brava? Yes, you say. I say: what about the Moon landing? Precisely. Moreover, Richard’s body has never been satisfactorily located (although some say it’s under a car park in Leicester).

Some have claimed that Lancashire itself is a corruption of Lancelotshire, but my scholarly scruples hold me slightly in check there, even if it is my home county. And I had no luck in Ince at either the library – “It doesn’t seem to ring any bells with anybody” – or the Post Office, although the lady behind the counter said “That would explain why they’re always fighting round here.”

So I find it hard to summon any resentment for my atmospheric trip round the fields near Bosworth, which have probably always been only fields. The stories and lessons they conjure, that’s the thing. And, as you see, I have had worse disappointments, including the time I visited a field quite near the Wash with a man who swore blind that King John’s treasure lay beneath it. All he had to do was get the financing in place and untold wealth would ensue. He didn’t, it didn’t; I’ve forgotten where the field was, and his name. Call me.

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