WAR OF THE ROSES
WAR OF THE ROSES
Oils on Wood Panel
1500 mm x 1500 mm
KING RICHARD III
“King Richard, alone, was killed fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies”
POLYDORE VERGIL, Henry Tudor’s official historian
This painting is inspired by the great violent rivalry between the English royal houses of Lancaster and York. It is an allegory relating to this famous War of the Roses and the penultimate Battle of Bosworth Field that brought the civil strife of that era to a close.
The components and subject matter of this work are as follows:
Rose Frame – The Rose motif and design reinforces the subject of the painting simulating a design that is reminiscent of the era.
Colours – In the latter half of the 15th Century the two rival factions of the royal bloodline tor England apart, they were represented by the Lancastrian Red Rose and The White Rose of York. These two colours are used symbolically placing Richard III of York on a grey mount and Henry VII on a rowan steed.
The Red Dragon and White Boar – The personal emblems of the Two rival kings battle at the bottom of the picture The White Boar of Richard and the rival Red Dragon (Welsh Dragon) of Henry.
The Battling Armies in the Fields - These represent the massive clash of arms that took place throughout the wars and the final battle of Bosworth Field.
The Hedge and Bushes – Legend has it that Richard’s crown was found under a hawthorn bush and was presented to Henry after the battle. Although there is no historical evidence for this the legend has persisted.
Central Conflict Composition – The central composition relates to the Battle of Bosworth Field.
At first it appears that the reigning King Richard is winning by driving his opponent backwards – Richard’s forces in this battle were vastly superior, outnumbering Henrys and the battle should have been a foregone conclusion.
Henry has been caught off balance in the fight – Richard saw Henry separated from his main force with a small retinue. He led he own personal guard and knights falling on the unsuspecting Henry in an attempt to secure the decisive blow.
The Lancastrian pike man with the red sash is about to strike Richard with his weapon unbalancing the king – Due to the bravery of his own guard Henry held off Richards attack until help arrived. Richard was famously unhorsed and eventually slain by a welsh pike-man. Richard III was the last English monarch to be slain in battle and by all accounts he fought valiantly to the end.
Lord Stanley and his blue banner on the hill – Lord Stanley’s banner was blue and white and he stands detached from the battle on the hilltop, overseeing the events unfolding. Stanley played a pivotal roll in this battle. He was supposed to be allied to the Yorkist forces, though his loyalties were rightly suspect. He initially refused to commit his forces to either side of the battle, but seeing Richard exposed in his attack on Henry he finally committed but to the Lancastrian cause and sealed Richards fate, costing the king his life and his crown.