Have you ever wondered about this famous line from Shakespeare: “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”? Shakespeare’s statement and a common saying go hand in hand. What in the world caused the writer of this saying and Shakespeare to write about a lost horse? The following famous legend summarizes the events that took place on August 22, 1485, at the Battle of Bosworth Field.
Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, wanted to be King of England. He gathered an army of about 5,000 soldiers. Even though he had little combat experience, he had experienced advisers – noblemen who had fought in similar battles. King Richard III was not only an experienced military veteran, but he was also a brave and shrewd warrior. His army consisted of 8,000 to 10,000 soldiers. On the appointed day of the battle, King Richard and his army prepared to meet the pretender to the English throne and his army. The winner of this battle would be the King of England. [Interesting bit of information: The body of King Richard III was found under a parking lot in Leicester, England, earlier this year.]
King Richard sent his group to get his favorite horse. “Shoe him quickly”, the groom told the blacksmith. “The king wishes to ride at the head of his troops.”
“You’ll have to wait,” the blacksmith answered. “I’ve shoed the king’s whole army the last few days, and now I’ve got to go get more iron.”
“I can’t wait,” the groom shouted impatiently. “The king’s enemies are advancing right now, and we must meet them on the field. Make do with what you have.”
So the blacksmith bent to his task. From a bar of iron he made four horseshoes. He hammered and shaped and fitted them to the horse’s feet. Then he began to nail them on. But after he had fastened three shoes, he found he did not have enough nails for the fourth.
“I need one or two more nails,” he said, “and it will take some time to hammer them out.”
“I told you I can’t wait,” the groom said impatiently. “I hear the trumpets now. Can’t you just use what you’ve got?”
“I can put the shoe on, but it won’t be as secure as the others.”
“Will it hold?” asked the groom.
“It should,” answered the blacksmith, “but I can’t be certain.”
“Well, then, just nail it on,” the groom cried. “And hurry, or King Richard will be angry with us both.”
The armies met and the battle was on with King Richard in the midst of it. He rode back and forth as he urged his soldiers forward towards Henry’s army. As he rode, he noticed that some of his men were falling back on the far side of the field of battle. He wanted to stop them before other soldiers followed them. He was about halfway across the field when his horse lost its shoe, stumbled, and fell to the ground. King Richard jumped to his feet, but his horse galloped away before he could grab the reins. The king looked around him; he saw his soldiers running away from the battle and Henry’s army closing in around him.
He waved his sword in the air. “A horse!” he shouted. “A horse!” My kingdom for a horse!”
But there was no horse for him. His army had fallen to pieces, and his troops were busy trying to save themselves. A moment later Henry’s soldiers were upon Richard, and the battle was over.
For want of a nail, a shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe, a horse was lost,
For want of a horse, a battle was lost,
For want of a battle, a kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
(James Baldwin, adapted by William J. Bennett in The Book of Virtues, pp. 198-200).
By winning the Battle of Bosworth Field, Henry Tudor began the Tudor dynasty or the House of Tudor that ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms for more than one hundred years (1485-1603). There were five monarchs in the Tudor dynasty. King Henry VIII with his many wives may have been the most famous; Queen Elizabeth I was the end of the line.
Elder Eduardo Gavarret of the Quorum of the Seventy shared this legend and saying before stating: “As I think of this story, I reflect on how something as simple as a poorly fastened horseshoe nail led to such a turn of events. We can compare the missing nail to the principles of the gospel. A lack of gospel principles and their associated values and practices can leave us helpless on the field of battle against temptation and evil.
“What practices are missing in our lives and families? Are we neglecting personal or family prayer? Diligent study of the scriptures? Regular family home evening? Payment of a full tithe? Service to our brothers and sisters? Sabbath day observance? Temple worship? Love for our neighbors?
“Each of us can take a look inside and find what we may lack – which principle or practice we need to fasten more firmly in our lives and in our families. Then, after we identify that principle or practice, we can act with diligence and determination to tighten the nail – to live that principle more fully and to better prepare ourselves and our families to stand up for what’s right” ("Prepared Against the Day of Battle," Ensign, October 2013, pp. 52-55).
It is the small things in life that make the biggest difference in whether we achieve success or not. A wise father taught this principle to his son: “Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.
“And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Alma 36:6-7).
We are now engaged in the greatest battle of all time, a battle for the eternal freedom of all mankind. Evil rages in our nation and in the world. The division between good and evil is becoming wider and deeper. Secret combinations have gained control of many parts of our federal government in an attempt to end the freedoms of American citizens. We must be mindful of the little things.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian saints and encouraged them to “take upon you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13).
This counsel was renewed by the Lord in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith in August 1830: “Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, that ye may be able to stand.
“Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, which I have sent mine angels to commit unto you;
“Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked;
“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of my Spirit, which I will pour out upon you, and my word which I reveal unto you, and be agreed as touching all things whatsoever ye ask of me, and be faithful until I come, and ye shall be caught up, that where I am ye shall be also. Amen” (Doctrine and Covenants 27:15-18).
Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counseled: “Be obedient to the prophetic teachings Christ would have you follow. Don’t rationalize away future happiness by taking shortcuts instead of applying sound gospel principles. Remember: little things lead to big things. Seemingly insignificant indiscretions or neglect can lead to big problems. More importantly, simple, consistent, good habits lead to a life full of bountiful blessings” (“For Peace at Home,” Ensign, May 2013, 29).
As we move nearer and nearer to the time of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, we must continue to take care of the “little things” that will determine the final outcome for us individually. God will win the battle against evil. The only thing that has not yet been determined is if you and I will be on the winning side! God is in control. We must keep our faith in Him and our eyes on His glory!