When Henry VII defeated Richard III in the Battle of Bosworth there is a strong view that he owed much his success to the Stanleys. The Stanleys were a very powerful family in Britain at the time with most of their powerbase in North Wales and Lancashire. However many would say that it was not so much the Stanleys who won the battle but the combined power of France, Brittany and Wales; all of which supported Henry Tutor. Other factors which contributed to outcome of the battle were that Richard III was unpopular as a King in many places.
The Stanley family consisted of many important nobles including Lord Thomas Stanley, William Stanley and George Stanley. They were originally loyal Richard III but still supported Henry as they were related to him. Thomas Stanley was a leading member of the Yorkist family. He was also married to Margret Beaufort and related to John of Gaunt. Even though he was extremely powerful he had a very weak claim to the throne which is why he made such a good ally to any king. During the Battle of Bosworth the Stanleys switched sides to the Lancastrians. Arguably they were keener to be on the winning side than anything else.
However this balanced the two armies in size and if they had not switched sides then it is very likely the very large Yorkist army would have won the battle. Therefore the Stanleys held significant importance to the battle and Henry would not have won without them. After suspecting doubts in their loyalty Richard held George Stanley, Thomas Stanley’s son, hostage. When the Stanleys decided that they would support the Lancastrians Richard ordered for George to be beheaded, however this act was never carried through. This shows a lack of organisation from the Yorkists which arguable held significance in the outcome of the battle.
Nevertheless it highlights the Stanleys as being a very important tool as both sides wanted their support. The fact that they would not support Richard shows that he was not a popular king. This is crucial as the betrayal of the Stanleys meant more than just more men for Henry. It made Richard’s regime look weak and led to a lack of support from other nobles. This is ultimately what lost him the battle and therefore the Stanleys were significant to Henry’s success as they strengthened the Lancastrians while weakening the Yorkists. Although there are many other factors which influenced the outcome of the battle.
Firstly Richard fell off his horse and was hacked to death; therefore it can be argued that the outcome of the battle was not due to the Stanleys. Both armies were of similar size and even though the Stanleys made a considerable difference it did not mean that Richard was outnumbered nor would that it was a guaranteed win. As soon as Richard was killed it was pretty much the end for the Yorkists as they had nothing to fight for. This meant that Henry’s success was not reliant of the Stanleys but instead what can only be seen as luck. Furthermore Henry VII already had a very powerful army before the Stanleys.
As well as support from Brittany, the country he had lived in for 14 years, he had French and Welsh support. In 1484 Richard reached a deal with the Duke of Brittany to hand over Henry Tutor. This angered the French as they did not want an alliance between the two countries as they feared they would soon invade France. The best option for France was to give support to Henry Tutor as it would get rid Richard III and leave Brittany for themselves. This is crucial as if it was not for Richard III’s tactical error in dealing with Brittany then Henry would have not been able to raise an army to challenge him in the first place.
On top of France and Brittany Henry gained more support from Wales. This was mainly due to the unpopularity of Richard III caused by his suspicious rise to the throne. There was a popular belief that he had killed the Princes in the Tower so he could claim the throne for himself. This made him widely unpopular across his very own country. The significance of this was that people did not want to fight for a king they did not see as worthy for the throne, hence weakening his powerbase and allowing Henry’s to grow.
To conclude the Stanleys did play an important in the battle as they shifted the momentum. Also if they had remained loyal to Richard it is highly unlikely he would have lost the battle. However Richard’s overthrow was a result of many different factors. He made tactical errors in his regime and made no major attempt to boost his popularity which could have easily been done. Furthermore it was Richards’s unpopularity which led the Stanleys to betray him. Therefore Henry did owe his success to the Stanleys but they were not the sole reason to his victory.