A few years ago, the school I taught in decided to change the history curriculum, which meant that the Year Seven children would not be studying the Battle of Bosworth in the summer term. The consequence of this was that the annual history trip was no more. I was very sad, and especially on the anniversary of the battle, 22 August (1485). The significance to history is that it was the start of the Tudor Dynasty, which led to the break with Rome, hence the birth of the Church of England. Children need this visit.
To many teachers, however, school trips in general were (are) a great source of stress. The health and safety regulations are so intense and include an endless amount of form-filling that the rest of the logistics of travelling with two hundred teenagers falls into insignificance. And to most children it was a very long and boring day.
And that’s before we even get to discuss the accuracies – or otherwise – of the location of the battle. Be sure there will be some little history anorak who will argue each point with the official guide, Bosworth or military expert. Know-all teenagers know everything and will not be budged, especially when the evidence of the exact location keeps shifting.
“We are standing on the hill where it was once thought the battle took place, but we now believe it was actually in the middle of the farmer’s field over there. Unfortunately, as it is a working arable farm, we cannot march over the crops to see where Richard may have fallen. Or maybe it was the other way where the woodland now is. Or somewhere else entirely.” Not such a great learning experience any more.
With the discovery of Richard III’s body in 2012, the centre has had a facelift and there is a wonderful visitors’ centre to explore. The most interesting thing now is, I find, that Henry Tudor, the victor and first of the Tudor dynasty, is no longer the main focus of attention. Richard always had his followers of course, the Richard III Society is testament to that, but there is a renewed interest from people who knew nothing about him before his body was found in that car park in Leicester.
Suddenly Richard is glamorous despite his physical deformities. The face of the dead king was recreated from his skull and he is portrayed as a kindly-looking and handsome man. People now question whether this face could possibly have murdered the boy princes in the tower. He is pitied for the treatment he received at the hands of Henry Tudor’s supporters. The ritual humiliation of the defeated king, stripped naked and ridden through the streets while his corpse is beaten: completely ridiculed. Surely this royal man should not have been treated like this. Richard’s makeover is total.
So just when the school visit may have more appeal to the other children who are not history anoraks, the school has dropped the trip. Instead we are teaching something else (the topic escapes me right now). But there are always revisionist aspects where we assess interpretations of people from history, and King Richard III, the hunchback from William Shakespeare’s play, will be top of the list.
Well, I’ll drink to that this year.
It was the birth of the Tudors and the end of the Plantagenet King Richard III, he of Shakespeare fame and the king found buried under the car park. If the result of the battle had been different there may not have been Henry VIII and his six wives, the break from Rome and the Church of England. No Virgin Queen Elizabeth, no Armada, possibly no British Empire. The significance of the Battle of Bosworth between Henry Tudor and King Richard III cannot be underestimated.
And yet there are so many people ignorant of the details. There are controversies surrounding the topic at school for a variety of reasons, but it is vital that we teach it in England and to anyone who wants to know why a distinct branch of Christianity sprang up and why Britain became separate from the rule of Rome, hundreds of years before Brexit.
So if the education is lacking in state schools or you simply need to find out more for yourself, these non-fiction books will go some way to fill in the gaps.