Visitor Centre curators in search to locate descendants of men from the Battle of Bosworth

By Richard Moss | 05 August 2010
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a photographic montage showing medieval soldiers in armour under a hail of arrows

Curators at Bosworth Battlefield in Leicestershire have launched an international search for the descendants of the men who fought at the bloody battle for the English throne on August 22 1485.

Timed to coincide with the battle's 525th anniversary and an extensive re-enactment at the heritage site, the call is designed to add some detail to the list of names already held at the Bosworth Battlefield Visitor Centre and enhance the growing knowledge of the Battle, which was the final chapter in the bloody episode in English history known as the Wars of the Roses.

Contemporary accounts of the clash, which effectively swept away the Plantagenet dynasty and ushered in the Tudors, suggest there were between 12,000 and 16,000 men fighting for King Richard, opposed by 5,000 fighting for Henry Tudor and between 5,000 and 7,000 in the army of the Stanleys.

The names of many men in these armies are held at the Visitor Centre but, as Curator Richard Knox concedes, there is much more to be done to flesh out their stories.

"We have a list of names of men who fought at the battle from sources, including the Italian historian Polydore Vergil, but we know very little else about them," he says.

"We would love to hear from families who believe their ancestors are connected to the battle and start to add some flesh to the bones of the Bosworth story."

One of the men who fought was Ralph Orrell of Turton, Lancashire, who was a cousin to the mighty magnate of Lancashire, Lord Thomas Stanley. At Bosworth, Ralph Orrell's contingent, made up of tenants, joined the battle late as the Stanleys intervened to save Henry Tudor.

Ralph Orrell's descendant, James Orrell, spent 14 years researching his family tree back to the Battle of Bosworth.

"I traced my family tree all the way back to 1120, and along the way I discovered that one of my ancestors, Ralph Orrel, was involved in the Battle of Bosworth on the side of Henry Tudor," he reports.

"As a reward for his loyalty at Bosworth, in 1486 Ralph Orrell was paid ten marks a year for life for good and faithful services.

It's fascinating to discover that my family were involved in something so pivotal to British history, although I can't help but feel Ralph fought for the wrong side, but understandably you didn't argue with the Stanleys."

Some of the key families with traceable connections to the Battle of Bosworth will be invited to attend the spectacular re-enactment to mark the 525th anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth on the weekend of August 21 and 22.

The event will see hundreds of medieval re-enactors from The Wars of the Roses Federation bringing history to life as Kings, knights, archers and soldiers come face to face to recreate this decisive and bloody battle which killed King Richard III.

The spectacular two-day event will also include a jousting tournament, falconry displays, skill-at-arms, guided walks, medieval market, living history encampment, expert talks, children's activities and the chance to meet King Richard III himself.

The Battle of Bosworth Anniversary Re-enactment Weekend is on Saturday 21 and Sunday August 22, 10am – 5.30pm. Advance tickets £12/£8 (family ticket £25-£40). 10% discount before August 8, call 01455 290429 or visit www.bosworthbattlefield.com

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