“A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!
Alarum. Enter KING RICHARD III and RICHMOND; they fight. KING RICHARD III is slain.”
– Richard III, William Shakespeare
Richard III was slain during the battle of Bosworth Field. He became the last king of England to be killed in battle but was not the only one to suffer this brutal fate. King Harold was slain whilst opposing the Norman invaders and a clutch of earlier Saxon and Alpin kings would die in English and Scottish battles respectively
Scottish kings were even more prone to battlefield deaths – two kings from the House of Stuart would be killed within 61 years of Richard III’s death. James III died fighting an army led by his son in the Battle of Sauchieburn. His son would become James IV, and would suffer the same fate as his father but this time at the hands of the English in the battle of Flodden Field.
Richard III was also not the last English king to go into battle. A number of subsequent monarchs commanded their troops personally, a royal tradition that ended with George II’s command at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743.
The battle of Bosworth Field was a particularly bloody, brutal and confused affair. Although historians are sure that Richard III died on the battlefield, nothing else about his death is certain. Thomas Penn writes in the Winter King that Richard received so many blows to the head that his helmet was lodged in his skull.