The Advance to Bosworth
Henry Tudor, Duke of Richmond, who had been in exile in France, sailed from the continent in August 1485 with a force of 2000 mercenaries. On the 7th August they landed in Pembrokeshire, to exploit his family’s Welsh roots and power base when recruiting their army. Marching through Wales and into the West Midlands the rebels were joined by various supporters until they numbered something over 5000 troops.
Advancing rapidly towards London along the Watling Street, Henry was seeking a rendezvous with contingents of troops from North Wales and the north west, which were marching south under the command of his stepfather, Lord Stanley. But Stanley could not openly join Henry’s army because his son was held hostage by Richard, to counter just such a move. Henry’s army appears to have reached Tamworth on the 20th August, when the Stanleys were already at Atherstone.
Richard was in Nottingham when Henry landed. He mustered forces from across the country, marching south to a final rendezvous at Leicester on the 20th August. Both armies must have used the major roads, because of the size of the armies and particularly of their artillery and baggage trains. From Leicester the Fenn Lanes Roman road, or possibly the main road to Hinckley, provided a significant link between the two converging major routes to London, the one from Nottingham being followed by Richard and that from Wales and the north west being taken by Henry and Lord Stanley.
Knowing Henry’s position in the Atherstone area, the Fenn Lanes gave Richard the opportunity to strike out decisively to challenge Henry, which he did on the 21st. Richard was forcing a battle. The rebel army could no longer march south with the threat of being caught by a flank attack and decided to turn and fight. Thus it was Richard who forced the battle and he who chose the ground.