Without encountering any obstacle at sea, the 28-year old penniless exile, Henry Tudor and his approximately 4000 followers had sailed from the port of Harfleur and safely arrived after a 6-day’s journey at Mill Bay, along the rocky Pembrokeshire coastline, on 7 August 1485.
Henry owed a lot to his cousin Charles VIII who had given his support to Henry’s enterprise by grants and loans. Henry also borrowed heavily from one of Charles’ main councillors, Philippe Lullier. Further loans were given by local French Merchants. As a guarantee for these loans Henry had given up his personal belongings but also had to leave behind John Bourchier and Thomas Grey, Marques of Dorset as a security for his repayments. Henry’s army, commanded by the young Phillibert de Chandee (who was likely a distant kinsman of Henry) consisted of mostly French and Breton men, who were provided by the French King Charles VIII, including the vise-admiral Guillaume de Casenove and the marshal of France Philippe de Crevecoeur. Additionally, four hundred English exiles, including his uncle Jasper Tudor, John de Vere, Earl of Oxford and some prominent Woodvilles, under the command of Richard Guildford and a thousand Scots, under the leadership of Alexander Bruce of Earlshall, were present on the flotilla of around thirty ships.
Preparations had been going on for their arrival and amongst those waiting on the shore was Jasper’s half-brother and Henry’s uncle, the 26-year-old David Owen, the illegitimate son of Owen Tudor who had spent the first years of his life with Henry at Pembroke Castle.
Henry’s mixed sense of relief and anxiety was obvious. He then ‘kissed the ground meekly, and reverently made the sign of the cross upon him’. Soon after their landing Henry also decided to knight eight of his foremost followers – his uncles David Owen and John, Lord Welles, Philibert de Chandée, James Blount, Edward Courtenay, John Cheyne, Edward Poynings and John Fort.
Their first task was to climb up the steep sea cliff, followed by the decision to go the village of Dale and its castle and set up camp in the village. According to Henry’s biographer Bernard André, Henry, perhaps especially mindful of his French troops, reprimanded his men not to do anything to others, ‘either by word or by deed, which you not wish to have done to yourselves’. Rules of war were crucial if authority was to be maintained and order kept.
Both Jasper and John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford inspected the French troops in order to determine what gear and weaponry they were short of. It was probably, the constable of Pembroke, Richard Williams, who hastened 200 miles over 4 days to King Richard at Nottingham to bring him the news about their landing.
Their ultimately successful Bosworth campaign had begun.
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