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The Richard III Society

Promoting research into the life and times of Richard III since 1924

Patron: HRH The Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO

The Wars of the Roses

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Accounts of the battles

First Battle of St Albans

22 May 1455

First Battle of St Alban by Graham Turners
First Battle of St Albans
by Graham Turner
Reproduced by kind permission of the artist www.studio88.co.uk
In August 1453 Henry VI was struck down with a mental illness that incapacitated him for eighteen months during which time his son and heir, Edward, was born. The duke of York became protector and during this time he imprisoned his great rival, the duke of Somerset, but early in 1455 the king regained his senses and York was dismissed and Somerset released. York, together with the earls of Salisbury and Warwick, were summoned to appear before the Council in Leicester but instead they led a force of around 3,500 men south. The king and Somerset left London and marched north to St Albans, their force estimated at 2,000 men. On 22 May the battle that is regarded as the opening of the Wars of the Roses (although it was little more than a skirmish) was fought. York's objective appears to have been the elimination of Somerset.

The royal host occupied St Peter's Street, just north of the market place, and included the Duke of Buckingham, the earls of Pembroke, Northumberland, Devon, Stafford, Dorset, and Wiltshire and lords Clifford, Dudley and Roos. York and his men approached St Albans from the east. He deployed his men in three units of infantry, the northernmost stationed at Cock Lane and the southernmost in Sopwell Lane. They were in position by 7 o'clock in the morning but York made an attempt at conciliation and sent emissaries to the king assuring him of his loyalty but requesting him to deliver 'those who York would accuse'. The king refused to surrender Somerset and so between 11 o'clock and noon York attacked. The Lancastrians held off the attackers coming from the north and south but Warwick led a charge from the centre through the gardens and houses between Shropshire Lane and Sopwell Lane and burst into the market place surprising the royalists. The Yorkist archers fired at short range and wounded the king, Buckingham and Dudley. The Lancastrians fell back and began to flee from the onslaught. Somerset, Northumberland, Dorset, Stafford and Clifford were killed. With his greatest enemy dead, the victorious York made his obeisance to the king and together they left St Albans.

Shields of some of the participants

Henry VI

Duke of York

Duke of Somerset

Earl of Stafford

Earl of Northumberland

Robert Ogle

Which side was victorious?

York

Further Reading

  • 'Politics and the Battle of St Albans 1455' by CAJ Armstrong from the Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, May 1960.
    The causes, course and aftermath of the battle. This includes the contemporary chronicle 'The Dijon Relation' from the Archives de la Côte d'Or, B. 11942, No. 258.
  • An account of the First Battle of St Albans from a contemporary Manuscript edited by John Bayley. From Archaeologia, vol 20, 1824.
    One of the fullest contemporary accounts of the battle, the manuscript is with the Stonor papers in The National Archives.
  • The First Battle of St. Albans by Andrew Boardman. Tempus, 2006.
  • The Battles of St. Albans by Peter Burley, Michael Elliott and Harvey Watson. Pen and Sword, 2007.
  • 'Propaganda and the first battle of St Albans 1455' by Michael Hicks. Nottingham Medieval Studies xliv (2000).
  • 'Hall Place and 1st Battle of St Albans 22 May 1455' by Gerald McSweeney, Herts Past and Present, 3rd Series, Issue No 6 Autumn 2005
  • 'Battle of St Albans 1455' by AJ Pollard. From History Today May 2005
  • St Albans and the Wars of the Roses by Gerald Sanctuary. 1985. Brief account of the two battles of St Albans, with streetmaps.

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Battle of Blore Heath

23 September 1459

Audley's Charge by Robert Simm
Audley's Charge by Robert Simm.
Reproduced from the Blore Heath
website with their kind permission.
Following the battle of St Albans there were four years of peace but the political scene had now changed. Following the death of Somerset, Henry's queen, Margaret, became a power to be reckoned with and in 1459 she sought to indict York and his followers and was demanding the arrest of Warwick. Once again military conflict became inevitable. The Yorkists were geographically dispersed, with the duke at Ludlow, Salisbury in Middleham and Warwick in Calais. The armies of the king moved from Nottingham westwards but a force commanded by Lord Audley recruited within the earldom of Chester, which was under the control of the king, was in a position to intercept Salisbury who was moving south towards Ludlow.

The encounter took place at Blore Heath on open ground chosen by Audley to give him full advantage of his superior numbers and cavalry. When Salisbury saw the size of the opposing army, about 9,000 to 10,000, and double the size of his own, he decided to take up a defensive position, dug a trench to the rear and fortified his front line with stakes. Audley's Charge by Robert Simm
Mucklestone church tower, looking towards the battle field at Blore Heath.
Queen Margaret alledgedly stood here and watched her forces being defeated.
Reproduced from the Blore Heath
website with their kind permission. www.bloreheath.org
Somehow Salisbury persuaded Audley to attack. As the Lancastrian cavalry charged the Yorkist archers fired at the horses and followed with an infantry charge to finish off the cavalry. Audley responded with a second charge which was dealt with in the same way by the Yorkists. Finally Audley threw in his own infantry supported by his remaining cavalry and a fierce mêlée took place during which Audley was killed. Demoralised by their cavalry losses and their lack of progress against the Yorkists the leaderless Lancastrians broke their line and fled. Salisbury gave pursuit and cut down many of the fleeing Lancastrians before continuing to Ludlow and the rendezvous with his brother-in-law and son.

Shields of some of the participants

Earl of Salisbury

James Touchet, Lord Audley

Lord Dudley

Sir Hugh Venables

Sir John Donne

Sir William Troutbeck

Which side was victorious?

York

Further Reading

  • 'Cheshiremen at Blore Heath: A Swan Dive' by James L Gillespie. People, Politics and Community in the Later Middle Ages edited by J. Rosenthal and Colin Richmond. Sutton 1987.
  • The Battle of Blore Heath 1459. P Griffith (ed). Paddy Griffiths Associates, 1995.
  • 'The Wars of the Roses Part One: The Battle of Blore Heath' by Brian Jewell from Detector User, April 1984. A brief account of the battle.
  • The Battle of Blore Heath by FR Twemlow. 1912. A detailed study of the battle.

Links

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The Rout of Ludford Bridge

12 October 1459

Following the qualified success of Blore Heath, Salisbury, reached Ludlow and was reunited with the immediate Yorkist family as well as his son Warwick, who had crossed from Calais with a contingent of experienced soldiers under the command of Andrew Trollope. Other rebel supporters appeared: Lord Grey of Ruthyn and Walter Devereux. They then proceeded south to Worcester and on 10 October York, Salisbury and Warwick took an oath of loyalty to the king but decried the 'evil' councillors surrounding him. The king responded with a pardon to those who would join him within six days. The Yorkists returned to Ludlow, via Tewkesbury, and took up a position south of Ludlow at Ludford Bridge, where they dug a ditch and fortified it with artillery. However, despite the consolidation of the Yorkists, their numbers were inferior to the royalist force that was making its way north through Ledbury and Leominster. By the 12th the two armies faced each other across the river Teme but Trollope and his force defected and during the night the Yorkists decided that discretion was the better part of valour and stole away. York and his son Edmund went to Dublin, leaving his duchess and two younger sons to the mercy of the king, and his eldest son Edward and Neville relations went to Calais. The following day Ruthyn and Devereux submitted to the king. A parliament summoned to Coventry in November then proceeded to attaint the rebels.

Shields of some of the participants

Earl of Warwick

Lord Clinton

Sir Walter Devereux

Sir John Dinham

Sir William Oldhall

Andrew Trollope

Which side was victorious?

Lancaster

Further Reading

  • Ludford Bridge and Mortimers Cross: the Wars of the Roses in Herefordshire and the Welsh Marches and the Accession of Edward IV by Geoffrey Hodges, 1989. Booklet. A chronicle of both battles by a local historian who tries to bring to life the military campaigns and analyse the complete change in Yorkist fortunes and leadership in the two years between the battles.
  • 'The Civil War of 1459 to 1461 in the Welsh Marshes: Part 1 The Rout of Ludford' by Geoffrey Hodges. From The Ricardian, March 1984.

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Battle of Northampton

10 July 1460

Following the débâcle that was the rout of Ludford the rebels fled to Dublin and Calais and were attainted at the Coventry parliament. The earls of Warwick and Salisbury, together with the earl of March, had made for Calais which had been besieged by the duke of Somerset who had now retired to Guisnes. In May 1461 the Yorkists returned to England and landed at Sandwich on 26 June 1460. Their objective was to force the king to reform his government and to remove his 'evil' councillors. The king, meanwhile. had expected the return of the earls and on 23 June the south-east was put on alert and ordered to resist the rebels. The earls marched on London, augmenting their army with the men of Kent. Leaving Salisbury to garrison the Tower, Warwick and March moved north to meet with the Lancastrian forces commanded by the duke of Buckingham. Warwick sent three emissaries to present their grievances to the king but they did not get past the duke of Buckingham. Loyal Subjects: The Battle of Northampton
Loyal Subjects: The Battle of Northampton
by Graham Turner. Courtesy of the artist. www.studio88.co.uk
Finally an exasperated Warwick declared that he would speak to the king by 2 o'clock or die in the field. The royal army was entrenched south of the river Nene in a meadow. They were hopelessly outnumbered by the Yorkists and their powerful force or artillery had been rendered useless by rain.

The battle commenced with Warwick immediately committing all three of his 'battles' (also known as wings but essentially the group formations or divisions of an army). Fauconberg commanded the van, Warwick the centre, opposite Buckingham, and March the left wing. Opposite the young earl was the royalist van under Lord Grey of Ruthyn who had struck a deal with Warwick and at a given signal his men encouraged March's men to join them and together they attacked Buckingham. It was all over in just half an hour. Warwick had ordered his men to spare the common soldiers but to kill the nobles. Buckingham, the earl of Salisbury, lords Beaumont and Egremont perished. Having eliminated the hated royal councillors, the victorious Yorkists treated the king with respect and swearing their loyalty escorted him to the nearby abbey of St Mary (now Delapré) and then to London.

Shields of some of the participants

Lord Grey of Ruthyn

Lord Egremont

Earl of Shrewsbury

Sir Henry Bourchier

Sir John Say

Viscount Beaumont

Which side was victorious?

York

Further Reading

  • 'A Quincentenary: the Battle of Northampton, July 10 1460' by R Ian Jack from Northamptonshire Past and Present Vol 3 No 1 1960. Description of the battle with quotations from contemporary accounts.

Links

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Battle of Wakefield

30 December 1460

The Battle of Wakefield. 30 December 1460 by Graham Turner
The Battle of Wakefield. 30 December 1460.
Artwork from English Medieval Knight 1400-1500 by Graham Turner
© Osprey Publishing Ltd.
After the success at Northampton, York returned to England in September 1460 and moved to London where he laid claim to the throne. However, this was not acceptable to the assembled nobility. A compromise was agreed whereby he would succeed to the throne after the death of King Henry and the situation was formalised in an Act of Accord. The queen, believed to be in Hull, was outraged at the disinheriting of her son, and with the earl of Northumberland in another part of Yorkshire, she began raising forces to free the king who was still a prisoner following the battle of Northampton. She then travelled to Scotland and continued her recruiting campaign there. As the size of this army grew, York and Salisbury knew it could not be ignored and on 9 December they left London for the north together with the earl of Rutland, the second son of the duke of York, and Thomas Neville. The earl of March was sent to Wales to manage any problems there and Warwick remained in London with the King.

York recruited on his march but unfortunately was not nearly as successful as the Lancastrians. He was also hampered by bad weather and a run-in with Somerset's men at Worksop but arrived at his castle of Sandal on 21 December. He was joined by Thomas Harrington, Thomas Parre and James Pickering. A faithful retainer, Edward Fitzwilliam, held nearby Conisbrough Castle. The royalist army, meanwhile, was based at Pontefract and as Christmas was approaching it appears a truce was negotiated which would run until Epiphany. In his haste to reach the north, York did not have the opportunity to victual his army properly, and was forced to organise foraging expeditions to find supplies for his several thousand men, which meant large groups leaving the comparative safety of the castle precincts.

Exactly what happened next is uncertain. The various contemporary sources for the battle are contradictory but the reports do agree that the Yorkists were outnumbered. Estimates of York's army vary between 5,000 and 12,000 men. The Lancastrian army has been put at between 15,000 and 22,000. In the event, York was persuaded, either by deception or by bad intelligence, to leave the castle and to ride out towards Wakefield where the royalist army was apparently waiting for him. Keith Dockray comments, 'the battle was fought later in the day than normal; it did not last very long; and it was a crushing Yorkist defeat.' The Yorkist losses have been variously reported as between 700 and 2,500. Amongst the Yorkist leaders who died was the duke himself, his nephew Thomas Neville, James Pickering and Thomas Harrington. Tradition has it the earl of Rutland was killed at Wakefield Bridge by Lord Clifford. Salisbury was taken prisoner and executed the next day. The victors, however, were vengeful and decapitated the dead bodies of the leading Yorkists and placed their heads on Micklegate Bar in York. The head of the would-be king, Richard of York, was crowned with a paper diadem.

Shields of some of the participants

Duke of York

Lord Clifford

Sir Thomas Harrington

Sir Hugh Mortimer

Sir Thomas Parr

Earl of Rutland

Which side was victorious?

Lancaster

Further Reading

  • 'The Battle of Wakefield' by Keith Dockray. From The Ricardian, June 1992, pp. 238-258. A definitive joint article on the battle.
  • The Battle of Wakefield: 30 December 1460 by PA Haigh. Alan Sutton Publishing 1996. The only book devoted to the battle. An appendix provides suggestions for further reading with brief commentary. Review in The Ricardian December 1997.
  • 'The Battle of Wakefield: the Topography' by Richard Knowles. A definitive joint article from The Ricardian, June 1992.
  • From Wakefield to Towton: The Wars of the Roses (Battlefield Series: Britain 1460-1461), 2002. Well illustrated account of the battles of Wakefield, Ferrybridge and Towton. The emphasis is on the military encounters as opposed to the political activity although this is covered briefly to set the battles into their correct context. 'Tours' are also given so that readers can find the scene of the battlefields in today's world and follow their history.
  • 'The Battle of Wakefield' by ADH Leadman. Fom Proelia Eboracensia, 1891 (first published in Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Journal, vol 11, 1891). Account compiled from various contemporary chronicles.
  • 'The Battle of Wakefield' by Clements R Markham. From Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Journal, vol 9, 1886. Account of the battle based on contemporary sources.
  • The Battles of Wakefield: an historical narrative of the Battle of Wakefield in 1460 by George Tyas. 1854. Discursive account of the battle and the circumstances leading up to it, based on later chronicles.
  • 1460-1960: Catalogue of an Exhibition to Commemorate the Battle of Wakefield 1460 at the City Museum, Wakefield, 1960. List of exhibits, no illustrations.

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Battle of Mortimer's Cross

2 (or 3) February 1461

There is controversy as to the date of the battle which could have taken place on either 2 or 3 February.

While his father had marched north to meet the royalist army the young earl of March was sent to the Western March to raise men and contain any Lancastrian activity, a tactic particularly important following the events at Ludlow the previous year. The earl probably spent Christmas at Shrewsbury where he heard of his father's defeat and death at Wakefield. Perhaps the plan of the new duke of York was initially centred on retaliating against the Lancastrians in the north but he was threatened more immediately in the west by Jasper Tudor and the arrival in Pembroke of the earl of Wiltshire. Probably moving to either Ludlow or Wigmore, where he drew support from the lords of the Southern Marches, Edward may have had an army of between 2,000 and 3,000 men who had a vested interest in the area. Tudor's army on the other hand could be described as a motley bunch with little experience of battle and augmented by foreign mercenaries. The Lancastrian army marched towards the Yorkists and the battle was joined about four miles south of the latter's stronghold of Wigmore at Mortimer's Cross. Geoffrey Hodges describes the site: 'Two valleys, cutting through the limestone escarpment whose dip slope rises gently from the north Herefordshire plain, meet there at right angles.' Close to their base the Yorkists were prepared for their enemy but the day before the battle, on the feast of the purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a natural phenomenon appeared – three suns known as a parhelion – and this was taken as a sign of victory. This 'sun in splendour' was afterwards adopted by Edward as one of his emblems.

There is no clear account of the battle but due to the steep escarpments either side of the battlefield site it has been suggested that the traditional 'battles' of van, centre and rear of both armies were each drawn up one behind the other with the Yorkists facing south and the river Lugg to their left. Because of the congestion caused by the Yorkists' onslaught with their archers, followed by an infantry charge, the Lancastrian line broke and the probably superior forces of the Yorkists led to their victory after a possible last stand by the Lancastrians where Jasper's father, Owen Tudor, and Throckmorton were taken prisoner. The victors moved south to Hereford where the captives were executed and York learnt of the Yorkist defeat at St Albans.

Shields of some of the participants

Earl of March

Sir John Scudamore

Owen Tudor

Sir William Chamberlain

Sir John Throckmorton

Sir Richard Croft

Which side was victorious?

York

Further Reading

  • 'Crowning Victory of Edward IV' by CV Hancock. From the Birmingham Post. A brief account of the battle and of the battlefield as it is today.
  • Ludford Bridge and Mortimer's Cross: the Wars of the Roses in Herefordshire and the Welsh Marches and the Accession of Edward IV by Geoffrey Hodges. 1989. Booklet. A chronicle of both battles by a local historian who brings to life the military campaigns and analyses the complete change in Yorkist fortunes and leadership in the two years between the battles.
  • 'The Civil War of 1459 to 1461 in the Welsh Marches: Part 2 The Campaign and Battle of Mortimer's Cross' by Geoffrey Hodges. An article published in The Ricardian, June 1984.

Links

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2nd Battle of St Albans

17 February 1461

Warwick had been left in London with the king while Richard, Duke of York, marched north to meet the Queen's army and Edward, Earl of March, was sent to the Western March. On learning of the fate of Duke Richard at Wakefield, Warwick began recruiting a large army drawn from London, Kent and East Anglia and prepared to meet the Lancastrians who were marching south. Warwick chose the battlefield - St Albans. He approached the town through Ware and the duke of Norfolk led his force through Barnet. A small detachment of Yorkists was stationed at Dunstable and the remainder of the Yorkist army, which was well equipped with artillery, took up entrenched positions along an eastern stretch of the town that would enable them to intercept the Lancastrians travelling either from Luton or Wheathamstead. At the southern end of the deployment, in the town itself, were the Yorkist archers. Warwick had four days to prepare for the assault and Paul Murray Kendall writes that Warwick constructed 'elaborate defence works, the like of which had apparently never been seen in England before. The bowmen were given large mobile shields with swinging "doors" which the archers opened to deliver their arrows and then clapped to. These "pavises" were studded with threepenny nails so that when the enemy rushed forward, the archers could throw down the shields as mantraps.'

The Lancastrian army, however, unexpectedly changed route, swung to the west from Luton and approached St Albans from the south on the Dunstable road, arriving in the town in the early hours of the 17th. They had outflanked Warwick and, led by Sir Andrew Trollope, marched up Fishpool Street but after they passed the great abbey church and approached the Eleanor Cross they encountered the Yorkist archers whose deadly volleys repulsed the Lancastrians and drove them back to the mill. This gave Warwick valuable time to try to swing the centre and right wings around to meet the enemy but the former deployment of the troops made this a cumbersome manoeuvre and communication was difficult. The Lancastrians meanwhile attacked again a little further north and the archers and left flank of the Yorkists, under Lord Montagu, were hard pressed to maintain their position. Treachery then took a hand when the commander of the Kentish contingent, Lovelace, defected. Montagu was captured and his flank crumbled and retreated towards Warwick's newly positioned centre which now engaged with Trollope and Somerset's men. Much of Warwick's artillery was innovative, such as the Burgundian handguns which proved useless as the matches needed to fire them could not be lit in the wind and snow. Warwick held his position as long as he could but some of the raw recruits were running away and as the afternoon wore on Warwick retreated north to re-form what was left of his army around the Sandridge area and continued to fight until dusk when he finally admitted defeat and withdrew to the north-west in the hope of being re-united with his cousin, Edward of York. The king, who had accompanied Warwick, was found in a tent nearby guarded by Lord Bonville and Sir Thomas Kyriell, who were both executed a day or so later.

Shields of some of the participants

Duke of Norfolk

Queen Margaret

Lord Bonville

Sir Thomas Kyriell

Duke of Somerset

Earl of Arundel

Which side was victorious?

Lancaster

Further Reading

  • The Battles of St. Albans by Peter Burley, Michael Elliott and Harvey Watson. Pen and Sword, 2007.
  • 'Whirlwind from the North: the Campaign and Second Battle of St Albans 1461' by Anthony Clipson from Wargames World, No 3, January 1989. A detailed account, good on tactics and the lack of them – includes bibliography and notes for wargaming.
  • St Albans and the Wars of the Roses by Gerald Sanctuary, 1985.

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Battle of Towton & Ferrybridge

28 March 1461 - 29 March 1461

The Opening Barrage, by Graham Turner
The Opening Barrage, by Graham Turner
© Reproduced by kind permission of the artist. www.studio88.co.uk
Following their success at St Albans the Lancastrian army moved south towards London but the city was chary of opening its gates to Queen Margaret's army despite the fact she was re-united with the king. Margaret decided not to press the matter and withdrew with her army to the north. Meanwhile York and Warwick, following their respective victory and defeat, were reunited at either Chipping Norton or Burford and marched on the capital. The young duke felt sufficiently secure in his position to take the crown and on 4 March 1461 he was declared king. Edward knew that to make good his claim he had to defeat the Lancastrians once and for all. On the 5th the duke of Norfolk left London to raise an army in his base of East Anglia and on 7 March Warwick left for the midlands to the same end. Edward remained in London for another week and then marched north.

By 27 March Warwick, leading the vanguard of the new royal army, reached Ferrybridge, the crossing for the river Aire and just eight miles south of the Lancastrians who were encamped and preparing for the battle. The bridge was badly damaged but repairs were made and Warwick crossed and made camp. Early on morning of the 28th Lord Clifford led a surprise attack on the Yorkists, who were driven back across the river and Warwick's lieutenant, Lord FitzWalter, was killed and the earl was wounded in the leg by an arrow. Meanwhile King Edward advanced from Pontefract to find the bridge once again seriously damaged. Lord Fauconberg was sent westwards along the river to Castleford, three miles away, where he successfully crossed the Aire. He immediately marched north, caught up with Clifford, killed him and scattered his force. By the evening of the 28th the Yorkist host had crossed the river Aire and moved northward to meet the Lancastrian army.

The 29th March 1461, Palm Sunday, was a bitterly cold windy day with snow on the ground. The Lancastrian army, under the command of the 24-year-old duke of Somerset, may have been 30,000 strong, and was drawn up on heathland north of a ridge between the villages of Towton and Saxton. His two main 'battles', one under his own command and the other under the command of the earl of Northumberland, were side by side with archers to the front and a small rearguard behind them. King Edward, south of the ridge, ranged his archers, under the command of Lord Fauconberg, across the width of his two 'battles', one commanded by himself and the other by Warwick. As with Somerset, he had a small rear guard but the young king's major worry was the non-arrival of the duke of Norfolk and the East Anglians. To the left of the northward-facing Yorkist army was the river Cock which meandered westwards and surrounded Castle Hill Wood on three sides. North and south of the wood, the heathland fell sharply to the river and to the right of the Yorkist army was a plateau. The battlefield was anything but spacious. There has been speculation that the Lancastrians hid a force within the woods to ambush the Yorkists but this has not been substantiated.

The Rout
The Rout by Graham Turner
Artwork from 'Campaign 120: 'Towton 1461: England's bloodiest battle' by Graham Turner
© Osprey Publishing Ltd
The battle began mid-morning and the first Yorkist volleys of arrows were aided by the wind to find their mark within the Lancastrian ranks. The Yorkist archers immediately moved back and the Lancastrian response fell on empty ground. Fauconberg's archers were then ordered forward to retrieve the spent missiles. The first advance probably came from the Lancastrians with Somerset's 'battle' moving towards King Edward at a greater speed than Northumberland upon Warwick's 'battle'. The clash between the armies was intense within the restricted arena of battle, the fighting was hand to hand and the whole battle became a melée. The turning point was probably the arrival of the duke of Norfolk and his men who flung themselves onto the left flank of the Lancastrians. Gradually the Lancastrian line gave way until late in the day it eventually broke and the troops fled towards the river, their pathway becoming known as Bloody Meadow. The river Cock was in full flood, and hundreds were drowned. So ended one the longest and bloodiest battles fought on English soil. As many as 28,000 may have been killed, the Yorkists possibly losing 8,000. The earl of Northumberland, Lord Dacre and Sir Andrew Trollope were killed and the earls of Devon and Wiltshire were captured and executed although Somerset escaped. The former king and queen, who had stayed in York during the battle, fled to Scotland. The victorious young king was now free to return to London and his coronation.

Shields of some of the participants

Edward IV

Lord Dacre

Lord Fauconberg

Lord Welles

Earl of Wiltshire

Sir Edmund Hampden

Which side was victorious?

York

Further Reading

  • The Battle of Towton by AW Boardman, Stroud 1994. Reviewed in The Ricardian September 1995.
  • Walk Towton 1461: A vistor guide to battle-related sites by Helen Cox and Alan Stringer. Hershey Writing and Interpretation/York Publishing Services 2012
  • Blood Red Roses: The Archaeology of a Mass Grave from the Battle of Towton AD1461 edited by Veronica Fiorato, Anthea Boylston and Christopher Knüsel, Oxbow Books, Oxford 2000. Reviewed in The Ricardian September 2002.
  • Towton 1461 by Christopher Gravett. Osprey Publishing 2003. Brief and readable account of the battle. www.ospreypublishing.com
  • From Wakefield to Towton: The Wars of the Roses (Battlefield Series: Britain 1460-1461), 2002. Well illustrated account of the battles of Wakefield, Ferrybridge and Towton. The emphasis is on the military encounters as opposed to the political activity although this is covered briefly to set the battles into their correct context. 'Tours' are also given so that readers can find the scene of the battlefields in today's world and follow their progress.
  • 'Towton and Saxton: the story of a famous fight' by Edmund Bogg. From Round about Leeds and the Old Kingdom of Elmet, the land twixt Aire and Wharfe: a descriptive sketch of its ancient history, legends, picturesque etc. 1904.
  • The Battle of Towton: Palm Sunday 29 March 1461 by Graham Hudson, 1985. Leaflet.
  • The Battle of Towton 1461 by Patrick McGill. 1992. Covering events from Ludford Bridge 1459 to Towton, including the battles of Northampton, Wakefield, Mortimers Cross and 2nd Battle of St Albans. Includes lists of those present at each engagement.
  • From Yorkshire Archaeological and Topographical Journal, vol 10, 1889. Detailed account, with biographical notes on the participants.
  • 'The Battle of Towton' by Cyril Ransome. From English Historical Review, Vol 4 1889. Account of the battle based on examination of the area.
  • Towton – the Battle of Palm Sunday Field 1461 by John Sadler. Pen & Sword Military 2011
  • Killing Time: Challenging the common perceptions of three medieval conflicts – Ferrybridge, Dintingale and Towton by Tim Sutherland. Journal of Conflict Archaeology, Volume 5 No 1 2009 pp. 1-25
  • 'Nasty, brutish and not that short'. The Economist 16 December 2010 pp. 50-52. Review of Battle of Towton

Links

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Battle of Hedgeley Moor

15 May 1464

Memorial to Sir Ralph Percy
Memorial to Sir Ralph Percy
© Geoffrey Wheeler
Despite a resounding victory at Towton, King Edward still faced Lancastrian opposition during the early years of his reign. In 1462 the duke of Somerset was pardoned and his estates restored but at the end of the following year he turned traitor and made for the north-east where the die-hard Lancastrians held the Northumbrian castles of Alnwick, Bamburgh, and Dunstanborough. In the spring of 1464 King Edward was negotiating with the Scots and Lord Montagu was escorting a party of ambassadors from Norham to York when he was ambushed near Newcastle. The attack was a failure but Somerset's army met with Montagu at Hedgeley on 25 April. However, before the engagement became a reality Lords Roos and Hungerford left the field and were soon to be followed by Somerset, leaving only one division to fight under the command of Sir Ralph Percy. It was destroyed by Montagu.

Shields of some of the participants

Marquess Montagu

Sir Ralph Percy

Sir John Middleton

Lord Roos

Sir Richard Tunstall

Sir Thomas Finderne

Which side was victorious?

York

Further Reading

  • 'The Battle of Hexham 1464' by Dorothy Charlesworth, from Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th Series, Vol 30 1952. The course of the battle, and the events leading up to it.

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Battle of Hexham

15 May 1464

Lord Montagu, having delivered the Scottish ambassadors to York, rode north to Newcastle to face Somerset who had re-grouped following the débâcle at Hedgeley. Stopping briefly at Newcastle, Montagu left the city and headed west along the Tyne towards Hexham, probably crossing the river at either Bywell or Corbridge. Somerset, with a much smaller host than Montagu, chose his ground above the burn known as Devil's Water. This was probably in the Dilston area and possibly close to Swallowship Hill although the Ordnance Survey map offers an alternative site. It appears that the battle was brief, with the Lancastrians giving way to the superior forces of Montagu. Somerset was captured and executed the next day at Hexham and his captains, Roos and Hungerford, a day or so later. This was the end of any serious Lancastrian resistance and King Edward could now rule his entire kingdom.

Shields of some of the participants

Duke of Somerset

Sir Ralph Pudsey

Robert Lord Hungerford

Sir Philip Wentworth

Sir William Tailboys

Sir Richard Tempest

Which side was victorious?

York

Further Reading

  • 'The Battle of Hexham 1464' by Dorothy Charlesworth, from Archaeologia Aeliana, 4th Series, Vol 30 1952. The course of the battle, and the events leading up to it.

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Battle of Edgecote

26 July 1469

There was peace for five years but civil strife erupted again in 1469 as the King and the earl of Warwick became estranged and hostilities once again broke out with a series of rebellions in Yorkshire. The Yorkshire rebel army led by 'Robin of Redesdale' was sufficiently large to cause the king, who had gone north to resist the rebels, to retire to Nottingham and to await reinforcements from Wales and the west country that were being recruited by the earls of Pembroke and Devon. The rebel army, meanwhile, was also wary of a confrontation with the king so they marched south to rendezvous with the earl of Warwick. Unfortunately for all concerned the rebel army and royal reinforcements crossed each other's paths near Banbury.

There appears to have been a skirmish on the 25th which resulted in the death of Warwick's cousin Sir Henry Neville, but it is unclear where such an action took place. During the evening of the same day an argument appears to have occurred between the royalist commanders about where they should each lodge and the earl of Devon withdrew and encamped elsewhere, although one account (de Waurin) maintains that Devon withdrew during the fighting. This was to prove disastrous for the royalists as all the archers were under his command.

The following day the battle was joined at Danes Moor, south-east of Edgecote and about three miles from Banbury. Pembroke took up a position on high ground, but without archers he decided to take the offensive and descended towards the rebels. The battle was hard-fought and although Sir William Conyers was killed the day fell to the rebels, leaving about 4,000 royalists dead on the field. Pembroke and his brother, Sir Richard Herbert, were captured and executed along with the queen's father and brother, Earl Rivers and Sir John Woodville. The earl of Devon was taken in August and executed in Bridgwater. A few days later King Edward was captured by Warwick's brother, and the earl, for the moment, had control of the kingdom. The rebel army now retired to their homes in the north.

Shields of some of the participants

Sir William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke

Sir Henry Neville

Sir William Conyers

Earl Rivers

Sir Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Devon

Sir Henry Fitzhugh

Which side was victorious?

Lancaster

Contemporary Sources

  • 'Hearne's Fragment' in The Chronicles of the White Rose, edited by JC Giles, 1843
  • A Chronicle of the First Thirteen Years of the Reign of King Edward IV by John Warkworth. Edited by JO Halliwell, 1839
  • Recueil des Chroniques D'Engleterre edited by W Hardy and E Hardy, 1891

Further Reading

  • ' … Where both the hosts fought …' - The Rebellion of 1469-1470 and the Battles of Edgecote and Lose-Coat Field by PA Haigh. Battlefield Press, Heckmondwike, West Yorks 1997.

Links

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Battle of Empingham (aka Lose-coat Field)

12 March 1470

In March 1470 a local dispute escalated into a full-scale rebellion in Lincolnshire which King Edward, who had escaped from Warwick's custody, decided to deal with personally.

The climax of the rebellion took place on 12 March near Empingham, Rutland, between the king and his army and Sir Robert Welles leading the Yorkshire rebels. That morning King Edward arrived in Stamford and sent his vanguard to search out the position of Welles who was found beside the Great North Road near Empingham, which was just five miles from Stamford. The king advanced with the remainder of his army and took up his position.

The chronicler of the rebellion claims that the rebels charged with cries of a' Clarence, a' Clarence, a' Warwick (confirming that the duke of Clarence and the earl of Warwick had been behind the rebellion all along) and it appears that a single volley from the royalists broke the rebels' lines and they fled the battlefield, discarding their coats, either to speed their departure or to lose the heraldic emblems which would have condemned them as traitors. The leaders were captured and executed but the common men, as was often the case with King Edward, were spared.

Shields of some of the participants

Robert Welles, Lord Willoughby

Sir Thomas Dymoke

Thomas de la Launde

Sir Thomas Burgh

Sir Christopher Willoughby

Sir William Parr

Which side was victorious?

York

Contemporary Sources

  • 'Chronicle of the Rebellion in Lincolnshire 1470', edited by JG Nichols, Camden Miscellany, vol 1, 1847, pp 5-18.
  • Three Chronicles of Edward IV, Sutton Publishing, 1988 (includes the above chronicle).
  • A Chronicle of the First Thirteen Years of the Reign of King Edward IV by John Warkworth. Edited by JO Halliwell, 1839
  • 'Hearne's Fragment' in The Chronicles of the White Rose, edited by JC Giles, 1843.

Further Reading

  • ' … Where both the hosts fought …' - The Rebellion of 1469-1470 and the Battles of Edgecote and Lose-Coat Field by PA Haigh. Battlefield Press, Heckmondwike, West Yorks 1997.
  • 'An Unnoticed Battle' by M Barton from Rutland Magazine, vol 1 1904. Full account of the battle.
  • 'The Battle of Losecoat Field March 1470' by JL Knapp. From Squire Magazine, vol 1, no 8, July 1980. Brief account of the battle.
  • 'The Lincolnshire Rebellion and Its Part in the Downfall of the Earl of Warwick' by Juanita L Knapp. The Ricardian, September 1978.
  • 'The Battle of Losecoat Field' by Justin Simpson. From Leicestershire and Rutland Notes and Queries, Vol 1 1889-91. Brief account of the engagement.
  • 'The Battle of Empingham (Lose-Coat Field) 1470' by Alan Smithies from Grantham Journal, 12 March 1970. Brief account of the battle.

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The Battle of Barnet

14 April 1471

Challenge in the Mist by Graham Turner
Challenge in the Mist by Graham Turner
© Reproduced by kind permission of the artist.
www.studio88.co.uk
King Edward's ten-year reign was interrupted by the defection of his cousin, the earl of Warwick, which eventually led to the latter giving his allegiance to his erstwhile enemy, the Lancastrian Queen Margaret, and her son. The king was driven into exile on 3 October 1470 but he returned to England on 14 March the following year, landing at Ravenspur in Yorkshire. The city of Hull refused to open its gates to the Yorkists so they marched on to York where they were received with only a little less reluctance. The king's reception in Yorkshire was generally cool so rather than proclaim that he had returned to reclaim his kingdom, he told the Yorkshiremen that he was only claiming his rights as duke of York, repeating Henry of Bolingbroke's claim in 1399.

Edward left York on 19 March and marched to Nottingham via Wakefield, all the while being shadowed by Montagu who failed to attack, probably due to lack of resources, whilst the king attracted support. At Leicester a force of 3,000 under the command of Sir William Norris joined him, raised from the estates of William Hastings. Meanwhile the earl of Warwick was frantically recruiting in the midlands but as the king approached he retreated into the city of Coventry and refused Edward's challenges to meet and fight. The king impatiently by-passed the city and made for the town of Warwick where he proclaimed himself king once again. Clarence, who had been recruiting in the west country, ostensibly for the earl of Warwick, now met with his brother three miles outside the town of Warwick and the two were reconciled.The Royalist March
The Royalist March
Reproduced by kind permission of Peter Hammond and David Scuffam


The king again challenged Wawick to fight, who, although he was now reunited with his brother Montagu and his army, was not happy with the odds; and again refused. Edward then took the decision to leave Coventry in enemy hands and made for London, which he entered on Thursday 10 April. He was briefly reunited with his wife and saw his son and heir for the first time. The next day, Good Friday, fresh support for the king began to arrive and on Saturday Edward's preparations for the forthcoming military engagement were complete. He left London later that day heading towards St Albans, the last reported sighting of Warwick. Earlier in the day Warwick had reached Barnet and took up a defensive position across the St Albans road, in the area now known as Hadley Green, on the plateau overlooking London. The earl of Oxford led one division, Montagu the centre and the duke of Exeter, the other flank. It was late when Edward reached Barnet but he was determined to end the matter the next day, Easter Sunday. In the dark he deployed his troops, the van led by the young duke of Gloucester, the centre by himself with Clarence, the left by Lord Hastings. The divisions of the opposing forces were not aligned to the Yorkists which was to the advantage of Gloucester and Oxford but to the disadvantage of Hastings and Exeter. During the night Warwick sought to frighten his opponents by firing volleys but due to the close proximity of the two armies the artillery overshot their marks.

The Battle of Barnet
The Battle of Barnet
Reproduced by kind permission of Peter Hammond and David Scuffam
Very early in the morning, as it became light, and in a thick mist, Edward engaged his enemy. Inevitably the misalignment of the wings caused problems for both armies. As Gloucester's wing moved forward it missed Exeter's force but by swinging his men around he attacked Exeter's flank and Gloucester was soon in the thick of the fighting. Warwick may have deployed some of his reserve to support Exeter following the surprise manoeuvre.

At the other end of the field, Oxford had the advantage over Hastings and made short work of the Yorkist division. Hastings' line broke and his solders ran off, hotly pursued by the Lancastrians who halted their chase to plunder the town. Oxford eventually managed to rally a force of about 800 men and return to the battle but his luck for the day now ran out. The battle lines had shifted and the first men Oxford encountered were those in Montagu's division. The mist was still lingering and in the poor visibility Montagu's men mistook Oxford's estoile badge for King Edward's Sun in Splendour badge and attacked what was left of Oxford's division and the earl fled the field. Cries of treason were now heard as the Lancastrian army began to disintegrate. Montagu was killed and with the death of his brother and his army in disarray, Warwick tried to escape. It appears he was taken prisoner, but when a group of soldiers recognised him he was killed.

With the death, defection and wounding of the Lancastrian leaders, the battle was over by 7 or 8 o'clock in the morning. The duke of Exeter was seriously wounded and Gloucester and Clarence may have suffered some minor injuries. Among the nobles dead, apart from the Neville brothers, were the Lords Cromwell and Saye and the heir of Lord Berners, Sir Humprhey Bourchier. Casualties have been put between 1,500 and 3,000. The strength of armies has been estimated at around 15,000 for the Lancastrians and between 10,000 and 12,000 for the Yorkists.

King Edward rested briefly at Barnet before returning to London but unbeknown to him, Queen Margaret with her son and army landed at Weymouth the same day.

Shields of some of the participants

Duke of Gloucester

Lord Hastings

Humphrey Bourchier,
Lord Cromwell

Earl of Oxford

Duke of Exeter

Earl of Warwick

Duke of Clarence

Lord Saye and Sele

Edward IV

Marquess Montague

Which side was victorious?

York

Contemporary Sources

  • Historie of the Arrivall of Edward IV in England and the Finall Recouerye of his Kingdomes from Henry VI edited by J Bruce, Camden Society, 1838.
  • Mémoires by Philippe de Commines edited by D Godefroy and Llenglet du Fesnoy, 4 vols, Paris, 1747.
  • The Great Chronicle of London edited by AH Thomas and ID Thornley, 1938.
  • A Chronicle of the First Thirteen Years of the Reign of King Edward IV by John Warkworth. Edited by JO Halliwell, 1839.
  • Edward IV's Memoir on Paper to Charles, Duke of Burgundy. The so-called 'short Version of the Arrivall' edited by Livia Visser-Fuchs, Nottingham Medieval Studies, vol 36, 1992.
  • Anchiennes Croniques d'Engleterre by Jean de Waurin, edited by E Dupont, 3 vols, Société de l'Histoire de France, Paris, 1858-63.
  • Recueil des Chroniques D'Engleterre by Jean de Waurin edited by W Hardy and E Hardy, 1891.

Further Reading

  • A Hanseatic merchant's account of Edward's campaign to regain the crown, up to the battle of Barnet' from The Newsletter of Gerhard von Wessel 17 April 1471 by John Adair. From Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research 1968.
  • 'Chronicles of the Battle of Barnet' by P Bernard and B Grafton Green. From Hendon & District Archaeological Society Occasional Papers No 1 1971. Description of various chronicles and other original sources of information on the battle.
  • 'A Review of the Sources for the Battle of Barnet' by Peter Watson, The Ricardian, June 2000.
  • 'The Battle of Barnet' by Frederick Charles Cass from Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society Vol 6 1882. Account of the battle by the Rector of Monken Hadley.
  • 'Battle on Easter Day' by Hubert Collier from Lloyds Log, March and April 1971. An account of the battle based on an examination of the battlefield.
  • 'Battle of Barnet Quincentenary Commemorative Brochure' edited by David Hicks 1971. Includes short articles on warfare in the late Middle Ages, the Yorkist and Lancastrian claims to the throne, and the battle itself.
  • The Battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury by PW Hammond, Gloucester 1990. Definitive work on these two major battles. Review in The Ricardian, December 1990.
  • 'The Battle of Barnet' by Sheila Hutchison. From The Lady, 8 April 1971. Short account of the battle.
  • The Battle of Barnet by Fiona Jones. Barnet Museum. (Barnet and District Local History Society 2004).
  • 'A Ricardian Riddle: The Casualty List for the Battle of Barnet' by Livia Visser-Fuchs. The Ricardian, March 1988.
  • Reappraisal of the Battle of Barnet 1471 by B Warren. Potters Bar and District Historical Society 2009

Links

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Battle of Tewkesbury

4 May 1471

Somerset's advance at Tewkesbury
Somerset's advance at Tewkesbury
Artwork from 'Campaign 131: 'Tewkesbury 1471: The lst Yorkist victory'
by Graham Turner © Osprey Publishing Ltd.
Queen Margaret landed at Weymouth, with her son Edward, Sir John Langstrother, the Prior of St John of Jerusalem, and a small army of Frenchman, on 14 April, the same day that her ally, the earl of Warwick, was defeated and killed at the battle of Barnet. When the news reached queen Margaret, she must have been devastated but she was not deterred. With her generals, the duke of Somerset and the earl of Devon, she and her army had already moved north-west. Her aim was to recruit a substantial army from the west country and Wales as quickly as possible and then to engage with the Yorkists. King Edward left London in pursuit of the queen on 24 April. He reached Cirencester on the 29th and almost caught up with her near Sodbury but she carried on north towards Gloucester, racing to get across the river Severn and into Wales to continue her recruitment campaign. Gloucester closed its gates to her and she was forced further north to the next possible crossing of the river - Tewkesbury. Knowing how close the Yorkist army was she did not have sufficient time to make the crossing so she deployed her exhausted army south of the town, choosing the most advantageous ground.

King Edward, having marched some thirty-six miles that day, camped at Tredington, 3 miles from Tewkesbury, on the night of 3 May. As daylight appeared the following morning, he broke camp and moved towards the rebel army deploying his own army into three divisions led by Gloucester, himself in the centre and Lord Hastings. Again, the king kept his untrustworthy brother Clarence with him but his younger brother was assigned great responsibility. Hastings and his division had performed badly at Barnet and Edward now placed his trust and judgement in Gloucester who was facing the division led by the experienced Lancastrian fighter – Somerset. The centre of the Lancastrian army was commanded nominally by Prince Edward of Wales but in reality by Lord Wenlock and the other flank was commanded by the earl of Devon. Compared to the recently fought battle of Barnet the armies were smaller, with Edward possibly having 5,500 men and the Lancastrians numbering 6,000.The Royalist March
The Royalist March
Reproduced by kind permission of Peter Hammond and David Scuffam


The Yorkists began the engagement with gun fire and arrows on Somerset's division. The duke responded but his gun power was inferior and he was soon forced to make a charge. He did not head straight towards the opposing division but swung left towards the king's central one, no doubt expecting support from Wenlock in the centre. This was not forthcoming and he was pushed back by Gloucester and Edward with many of his men running from the field towards Bloody Meadow. Somerset returned to the fray and in a probably apocryphal story he turned on Wenlock and killed him with a blow to the head from his battleaxe. In any event, the Lancastrian line was now giving way and the soldiers fled. The leaders were killed - Somerset's brother John Beaufort, the earl of Devon, Wenlock and during the flight, Edward of Wales. The Battle of Tewkesbury
The Battle of Tewkesbury
Reproduced by kind permission of Peter Hammond and David Scuffam
The Yorkists pursued the rebels to the bridge crossing the river Swilgate, to the mill, the weir and the town. Some rebels, including Somerset and Langstrother took sanctuary in the abbey but they were removed and brought to trial and execution on Monday 6 May.

Closely following his success at Tewkesbury, King Edward learned of problems in the north which required his attention. Whilst at Worcester, he heard of the capture of Queen Margaret. She was to remain a prisoner in England for four years until Louis XI of France paid a ransom for her release. The northern uprising came to nothing but London was now under attack by the Bastard of Fauconberg and the king turned back to his capital which he entered on 21 May. That night King Henry VI died in the Tower, undoubtedly by command of King Edward.

Shields of some of the participants

Edward IV

Duke of Somerset

Earl of Devonshire

John, Lord Wenlock

John Langstrother,
Prior of St John

Richard, Duke of Gloucester

Edward, Prince of Wales

Sir William Hastings

Sir Robert Whittingham

Sir John Delves

Which side was victorious?

York

Contemporary Sources

  • Part 5 of the Anonymous History of the Arrival of Edward IV in England and the Final Recovery of his Kingdom from Henry VI. The Aftermath of Tewkesbury through the Surrender of the Bastard of Fauconberg (courtesy of the US Branch of the Society).
  • Historie of the Arrivall of Edward IV in England and the Finall Recouerye of his Kingdomes from Henry VI edited by J Bruce, Camden Society, 1838.
  • Mémoires by Philippe de Commines edited by D Godefroy and Llenglet du Fesnoy, 4 vols, Paris, 1747.
  • The Great Chronicle of London edited by AH Thomas and ID Thornley, 1938.
  • A Chronicle of the First Thirteen Years of the Reign of King Edward IV by John Warkworth. Edited by JO Halliwell, 1839.
  • Edward IV's Memoir on Paper to Charles, Duke of Burgundy. The so-called 'short Version of the Arrivall' edited by Livia Visser-Fuchs, Nottingham Medieval Studies, vol 36, 1992.
  • Anchiennes Croniques d'Engleterre by Jean de Waurin, edited by E Dupont, 3 vols, Société de l'Histoire de France, Paris, 1858-63.
  • Recueil des Chroniques D'Engleterre by Jean de Waurin edited by W Hardy and E Hardy, 1891.

Further Reading

  • 'The Battle of Tewkesbury' by Alan Baker from British History Illustrated, vol 1, no 1 1975. Well illustrated.
  • 'The Battle of Tewkesbury AD1471' by the Rev Canon Beazeley. 1904. Orthodox account of the battle originally published in Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, vol 26, 1903.
  • 'The Battle of Tewkesbury' by Lt-Col JD Blyth. From Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 1961. Misleading account of the battle.
  • Extract from a 'Chronicle of Tewkesbury Abbey' on the battle, with a list of those slain. From CL Kingsford's English Historical Literature in the 15th Century. 1913.
  • 'Battle of Tewkesbury May 1471' by Hubert Collier. From Lloyds Log, May 1971. Account of the battle based on examination of the battle field.
  • 'Account of King Edward the Fourth's Invasion of England in 1471 drawn up by one of his followers, with the King's letter to the Inhabitants of Bruges upon his success'. Translated from a French manuscript in the public library at Ghent. From Archaeologia, vol 21, 1927.
  • Tewkesbury: Eclipse of the House of Lancaster 1471 by Steven Goodchild. Battleground. Wars of the Roses series. Pen and Sword 2005
  • Tewkesbury 1471: The last Yorkist victory by Christopher Gravett. Osprey Publishing 2003. Good account of the battle, detailing command strategies, tactics and battle experiences of the opposing forces in the Wars themselves. Well-illustrated by Graham Turner. Review in The Ricardian 2005.
  • Battle of Tewkesbury 4th May 1471 by PW Hammond and HG Shearring and G Wheeler. 1971. Illustrated commemorative booklet for 500th anniversary.
  • The Battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury by PW Hammond, Gloucester 1990. Definitive work on these two major battles. Review in The Ricardian December 1990.
  • The Battle of Tewkesbury Saturday May 4th 1471 by B Linnell. An account of the battle written for the 500th anniversary. 1971. Misleading account of the battle.
  • Descriptive Particulars of the Battle of Tewkesbury and of all known local Scenes and Memorials of the Battle. Printed and published by William North. Undated, probably late 19th century.
  • 'A May Day in Tewkesbury When a Crown was Lost and Won' by Dorothy Kendall Pearson. From Cotswold Life, June 1994. Story of the battle and tries to sift the facts from the legends that have grown up around it.
  • 'The Burials of Lancastrain Notables in Tewkesbury Abbey after the Battle AD 1471' by GMcN Rushforth. From Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, vol 47 1925. Identifies the nobles, and the sites of their graves in the Abbey.
  • 'Battle of Tewkesbury: Museum Diorama' by Geoffrey Wheeler. From Airfix Magazine Vol 13 No 8 April 1972. Description of the construction of the scale model of the battle in the Museum at Tewkesbury.
  • Battle of Tewkesbury 1471: a roll of arms by Geoffrey Wheeler 1471. Lists of those present at the battle with brief biographical details and coats of arms.

Links

Battle of Bosworth

22 August 1485

by PW Hammond

The Battle of Bosworth by Graham Turner
The Battle of Bosworth by Graham Turner.
Reproduced by kind permission of the artist.
The threat of an invasion of England by Henry Tudor became a reality when he landed at Milford Haven in Wales on 7 August 1485. King Richard had based himself at Nottingham, in the centre of his kingdom, so as to be within striking distance of wherever Tudor decided to make landfall.

On 11 August Richard learned of Tudor's arrival and he wasted no time in contacting his captains to join him at either Nottingham or Leicester. These included the duke of Norfolk and his son, the earl of Surrey, the earl of Northumberland and Sir Richard Brackenbury. He also commanded the Stanley brothers, Thomas Lord Stanley and Sir William Stanley to appear. Their support was critical, both in terms of men and loyalty. Lord Stanley was married to Henry Tudor's mother, Margaret Beaufort, and there was the very real danger that the Stanleys would desert the king, especially when Lord Stanley excused himself on the pretext of illness. Meanwhile the Stanleys began to assemble their forces.

Tudor, having despatched messages to his supporters to join him, marched his small army rapidly north and then eastwards and crossed the river Severn at Shrewsbury. The Landing of Henry VII at Milford Haven
The Landing of Henry VII at Milford Haven
Artwork from The Battle of Bosworth by Graham Turner
©Osprey Publishing Ltd.
He proceeded to Stafford, where he met with Sir William Stanley on about 19 August and from that point his progress slowed down considerably, presumably to allow time for further support to arrive. On the evening of 20 August he and his army arrived at Atherstone. The Stanleys had been shadowing Tudor and his army, which had now increased to about 5,000. As yet the Stanleys were not committed to either side.

King Richard left Nottingham on 19 August, arriving at Leicester that evening where he was joined by Norfolk and Brackenbury. Northumberland arrived the following day. The royal army marched out of Leicester over Bow Bridge on Sunday 21 August heading westwards to meet the enemy. Passing through the small village of Sutton Cheney the king camped that night in its vicinity perhaps at the foot of Ambion Hill. He may well have stationed some troops on the hill as look outs.

At dawn on the morning of 22 August both armies were deployed, Richard's to occupy a position on the plain south west of Ambion Hill, probably across the Fenn Lane and blocking Watling Street, the road to London. The troops were apparently deployed in one long line rather than the usual three 'battles'. Norfolk was in command of the archers in the front ranks. Northumberland was probably on the left wing, Richard himself commanded a small mounted reserve in the rear. Tudor marched his men towards Richard's army from Atherstone, and formed them up in a position to oppose the king, perhaps in three units or battles with the veteran Earl of Oxford in overall command and leading the van and with John Savage on the left and Gilbert Talbot on the right. The Stanleys with about 5000 men were probably both stationed to the south of Richard's position with Sir William nearer Tudor. Tudor himself was in the rear of his army with a small force. The last charge of Richard III
The last charge of Richard III
Artwork from The Battle of Bosworth by Graham Turner
©Osprey Publishing Ltd.


As Tudor's army approached the royal army opened fire, first with artillery and then with archers. To negate the larger size of the royal army Oxford ordered his men to keep close order and then attack the flank of the royal army, advancing in a wedge, with the flanks and point of the wedge formed by French mercenary pikemen. This unusual tactic (unfamiliar to the English troops) succeeded, at some point in the hard fighting Norfolk was killed. This would have had a devastating effect on morale and it seems likely that the king's line began to break up. Richard seeing this gathered his reserve and ordered a cavalry charge against Tudor. He must have had such a manoeuvre in mind from the beginning, such a tactic could not have been a last minute decision. Richard would have been accompanied by his household knights including Sir Robert Percy, controller of his household, Sir Percival Thirlwall, his standard bearer and perhaps including some of the peers who were with him. The charge almost succeeded, Richard himself killed Tudor's own standard bearer and unhorsed the giant knight Sir John Cheney. At this point Sir William Stanley at last showed his hand and attacked his king. Richard was unhorsed and - surrounded by the enemy - died fighting bravely, the last Plantagenet king of England.

With the king dead, his army began to disintegrate and many surrendered. Amongst the Yorkist dead were Sir Richard Brackenbury, the lieutenant of the Tower, John Kendall, the king's secretary, Lord Ferrers of Chartley, Sir Robert Percy and Sir Richard Radcliffe. William Catesby was captured and executed three days later and the earls of Surrey and Northumberland committed to the Tower although later released. Richard's close friend Francis Viscount Lovell and Humphrey and Thomas Stafford all escaped and survived to threaten Tudor in the future. It is uncertain whether the earl of Lincoln, Richard's probable heir, was at the battle or whether he was sent on another mission by the king, but within a few weeks he too surrendered to the new king.

Tudor, now proclaimed as King Henry VII, marched in triumph to Leicester, with the body of late king, stripped and ignominiously flung across a horse. King Richard's reputation in the years to follow would be treated as contemptuously as his person.

Shields of some of the participants

King Richard III

John Howard Duke of Norfolk

William Catesby

Sir Richard Ratcliff

Sir Robert Percy

Sir Robert Brackenbury

Henry Tudor, arms as Earl of Richmond

Earl of Oxford

Sir John Cheney

Sir John Savage

Sir Thomas Stanley

Gilbert Talbot

The Battle of Bosworth is one of the most poorly recorded battles in English history and until the archaeological survey in 2009 (funded by the English Lottery Fund) even where it took place was doubtful. The survey however located no fewer than 22 lead balls from mediaeval guns in an area roughly where Fenn Lane joins Watling street, south west of Ambion Hill, which was the traditional site, and it was concluded that this was where the battle was fought. This position is used in the account above.

Leicestershire County Council has established a Battlefield Centre on Ambion Hill in which is a comprehensive account of the battle. The Council's official website site on the battlefield includes a comprehensive section on the battle, a link is given below.

Which side was victorious?

Lancaster

Further Reading

  • The Battle of Bosworth by Michael Bennett. Gloucester 1985.
  • 'The Buckinghamshire Six at Bosworth' by Lesley Boatwright, The Ricardian 2003.
  • 'The Landing Place of Henry of Richmond' by SB Chrimes. From Welsh History Review Vol 2 No 2 1964. Suggests Henry's landing place can be identified as Mill Bay, near Dale at the entrance to Milford Haven.
  • 'Bosworth Field: A Footnote to a Controversy' by Margaret Condon. The Ricardian, March 1987.
  • 'The Battle of Bosworth: towards a re-assessment' by Peter J Foss. From Midland History, vol 13 1998. Uses documentary and topographical evidence to suggest that Dadlington rather than Ambion Hill was site of the battle.
  • The Battle of Bosworth – where was it fought: a provisional re-assessment by Peter J Foss. August 1985. Peter Foss' first brief paper questioning the traditional site of the battle.
  • The Field of Redemore: the Battle of Bosworth 1485 by Peter J Foss. Comprehensive re-assessment of the evidence, proposing a new scenario for the movements of the armies before, during and after the battle, and emphasising the importance of Dadlington.
  • 'A Castilian Report on English Affairs 1485' by Anthony Goodman and Angus MacKay. From English Historical Review, vol 88, January 1973. De Valera's letter describing events in England from August 1485 to January 1486.
  • The Battle of Bosworth by Christopher Gravett. Oxford 1999. Readable and concise account of the battle. Illustrated by Graham Turner.
  • Richard III and the Bosworth Campaign by Peter Hammond, Barnsley, 2010. An account of the life of Richard III from his Coronation with a comprehensive account of his preparations for the battle.
  • 'An Amended Itinerary to Bosworth Field' by Arnold J James. The Ricardian, June 1989.
  • 'Wales and Bosworth Field – selective historiography?' by Emyr Wyn Jones. From National Library of Wales Journal Vol 21 No 1 1979. Discusses the literature on Bosworth and its ignoring the role of Wales and Welshmen.
  • 'Bosworth Field: an episode of Welsh history' by W Garmon Jones. From Transactions of Liverpool Welsh National Society 1910-12. Welsh attitudes to Richard III and Henry Tudor.
  • Bosworth 1485: Psychology of a Battle by Michael K Jones. Tempus Publishing 2002. A recent work which has had a major impact in terms of the alleged illegitimacy of Edward IV and the location of the battle which the author identifies as Merivale near Atherstone.
  • A Church for Bosworth Field: St James Dadlington and the Battlefield Chantry by Tim Parry. 1987. Booklet on the history of the chantry and the light it sheds on the siting of the battle.
  • 22nd August 1485: the Battle of Bosworth. A record of an exhibition at the Public Record Office (now The National Archives), to mark the quincentenary of the battle. Typescript listing of documents in the TNA relevant to Bosworth and its aftermath, with summaries of their contents and their call numbers.
  • '1485 and All That, Or what was going on at the Battle of Bosworth' by Colin Richmond. From Richard III: Loyalty, Lordship and Law edited by PW Hammond 1986. Suggests one of the causes of the Battle of Bosworth was the lack of foreign wars since 1453 and gives an analysis of who fought on both sides in the battle.
  • Bosworth: the Birth of the Tudors by Chris Skidmore, London 2013. An account of the Tudors from the liaison of Queen Catherine, widow of Henry V and Owen Tudor through the events leading to the battle of Bosworth and its aftermath.
  • 'Henry of Richmond's Itinerary to Bosworth' by W Tom Williams. From Y Cymmrodor, the magazine of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion Vol 29 1919. Henry's route from Milford Haven to Bosworth, day by day.
  • 'Bosworth Feilde' and 'Ladye Bessiye'. From Bishop Percy's Folio Manuscript – Ballads and Romances Vol 3 edited by JW Hales and FJ Furnivall 1868. Near-contemporary metrical account of the battle.
  • The Field of Bosworth by KS Wright. Kingsway Publishing 2002.

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Battle of Stoke

16 June 1487

Piel Castle, close to the landing of the rebels
Piel Castle, close to the landing of the rebels
© Geoffrey Wheeler.
Within two years of his victory at Bosworth, King Henry faced another army, this time led by King Richard's nephew and probable heir, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln. The intervening months had been punctuated with insurrections and rebellions against the fledgling Tudor regime, but the alliance between Lincoln, Viscount Lovell the late king's friend, and Irish malcontents, promoted a boy who came to be known as Lambert Simnel was to prove a very real threat. The rebels claimed he was Edward, Earl of Warwick, the son of the executed Duke of Clarence, brother to kings Edward IV and Richard III. The young pretender was crowned as Edward VI in Dublin on 24 May 1487. On Monday 4 June, Lincoln, Lovell and Sir Thomas Fitzgerald with the boy-king and mercenary leader Martin Schwartz landed an army on Foulney Island in Lancashire and close to lands held by Sir Thomas Broughton, a staunch supporter. The army comprised of 2,000 Swiss and German mercenaries, funded by Margaret, Dowager Duchess of Burgundy, and 4,000 Irish troops raised by the Earl of Kildare.

The rebels marched eastwards over the Pennines and in Yorkshire recruited the Scrope lords of Bolton and Masham to their cause. From Masham, the rebels sent word to York to receive their king and his army but the city, daily expecting the arrival of the Lancastrian Lord Clifford and the Earl of Northumberland, now committed to the Tudor regime, refused them. Lincoln decided to by-pass York and travelled southwards through Boroughbridge to Bramham Moor. Clifford, determined to engage the rebels, left York and camped at Tadcaster but Lincoln attacked at twilight and bested Clifford who retreated back to York having lost his baggage train to the rebels.

Despite this limited success Lincoln's position was not promising. His army had grown to about 8,000 but the speed of his march across England left little time for others to raise their forces and join him. To the north there was Northumberland and advancing from the midlands was the royalist army under King Henry. On 12 June the earl and Clifford left York to join up with the king and in a bid to draw them back to the city the Scrope lords led a force of cavalry, assaulted the city and proclaimed Simnel as King Edward at Bootham Bar. Although the mayor defended the city the rebel object was achieved as the earl and Clifford returned to York.

Lincoln's route south is not known but he was joined at some point by Sir Edward Hastings and Robert Percy of Scotton with companies of men, and a further rendezvous was made, possibly at Castleford or Stainforth. The rebels now approached Doncaster and encountered part of the royalist vanguard under the command of the queen's uncle, Lord Scales. What began as a skirmish became a rout as the royal cavalry were defeated and fled south through Sherwood forest to Nottingham. Lincoln continued his march south but his recruitment campaign now dried up and no fresh troops joined him. By 15 June he was searching for a suitable crossing of the river Trent and this was made at Fiskerton. That night the Yorkists made the crossing towards the village of East Stoke. They took up a position south of the village on a ridge in front of Burham Furlong and awaited the arrival of the royal host.

Meanwhile the king had taken the reverse route of King Richard almost two years earlier. He left Leicester on Monday 11 June and arrived in Nottingham the following day. On Friday 15 June he marched north-eastwards towards Newark and camped the night at Radcliffe, about nine miles from East Stoke. Early on the morning of the 16th the royal army were on the move and probably followed the course of the river Trent toward East Bridgford. Soon the scouts reported on the position of the rebels and at 9 a.m. the king was in the vicinity of Stoke.

The king's deployment of his 12,000 strong army was to have Oxford commanding the vanguard, himself the central division and Lord Strange on the his other flank. It is uncertain how Lincoln arranged his army but it is possible that he formed them into just one division. There was a lack of battle-experience within the Yorkist command and the men were under-armed and many untrained but their position was a good one, being on high ground with the river protecting one flank and their rear. Oxford positioned himself opposite the rebels on the other side of the Fosse Way and gradually moved forward.

The Red Gutter
The Red Gutter
© Geoffrey Wheeler.
Lincoln opened the battle with crossbow fire, possibly hoping for early success before the remainder of the royal army caught up with the vanguard. The king, with his force, was still at Syerston, a good mile away. Oxford's well-armed division retaliated by a hail of arrow-fire which had no difficulty in finding its mark and Lincoln was forced to leave the safety of the high ground to lead a charge. However, the experience of the mercenaries and the agility of the Irish, all racing down the slope towards the enemy, the latter no doubt having their own blood-curdling battle cries to complement the English rebels cry of a Warwick, a Warwick, produced a devastating effect as they ran headlong into Oxford's van. Memorial to the fallen
Memorial to the fallen
© Geoffrey Wheeler.
For a while the battle hung in the balance but slowly Oxford made headway and, as the rebels retreated towards Bramham Furlong to re-group, he made a counter-attack which led to the decimation of the rebel army who suffered some 4,000 fatal casualties. Many were trapped and killed in the ravine, which became known as the red gutter, which ran down into the Trent. The poorly-clad Irish had stood little chance against the rain of arrows and the chronicler, Molinet, likened the victims to hedgehogs. The battle was probably over by noon. It was a bloody engagement with the total number of dead probably in the order of 6,000.

By the time the King arrived it was all over. Lincoln, Thomas Fitzgerald and Martin Schwartz were dead and Lovell and Sir Thomas Broughton missing. The boy-king was found and due to his age was spared punishment and given a job in the royal kitchens. King Henry was reported as being furious at Lincoln's fate. The king had wanted to learn why the earl had risked a comfortable existence to support an obvious pretender but death had cheated him of this knowledge.

Shields of some of the participants

John de la Pole
Earl of Lincoln

Francis,
Viscount Lovell

Sir Thomas Fitzgerald

Sir Thomas Broughton

Lord Scrope of Masham

King Henry VII

Earl of Oxford

Lord Strange

Sir Richard Edgecombe

Gilbert Talbot

Which side was victorious?

Lancaster

Contemporary Sources

  • For a full list of documents and sources see Appendix in Lambert Simnel and the Battle of Stoke by Michael Bennett, pp 121-138 which includes the relevant extracts.
  • The Popular Songs of Ireland edited by TC Croker, London 1839, pp 318-31.
  • Letters and Papers Illustrative of the Reigns of Richard III and Henry VII, edited by James Gairdner, 2 vols, Rolls Series 1861-3.
  • Collectanea by J Leland, edited by T Hearne, Oxford 1774. Vol 4, pp 212-15. Herald's Report.
  • Chroniques de Jean Molinet edited by G Doutrepont and O Jodogne, 3 vols, Brussels, 1935-7 (in French).
  • Rotuli Parliamentorum edited by J Strachey, 6 vols, London 1767-83. Vol 4, pp 397-8 (Act of Attainder).
  • York Civic Records edited by A Raine, Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Record Series 103, 1941.

Further Reading

  • Stoke Field: the last Battle of the Wars of the Roses by David Baldwin. Pen and Sword, 2006.
  • A Strange Accident of State: Henry VII and the Lambert Simnel Conspiracy by David Beeston. 1987. Account of the campaign and the battle, seeking to show its significance as a major battle.
  • Lambert Simnel and the Battle of Stoke by Michael Bennett. 1987. Well-illustrated definitive account, tracing the origins of the Lambert Simnel conspiracy and the course of the campaign. Reviewed in The Ricardian March 1988.
  • The Battle of East Stoke 1487 by MW Bishop. 1987. Well-illustrated booklet giving a concise account of the campaign and the battle, based on contemporary sources. Reviewed in The Ricardian March 1988.
  • 'The Field of the Battle of Stoke' by Richard Brooke. From Visits to Fields of Battle in England of the 15th Century. 1857. An account based on his personal examination of the battlefield in the 1850s.
  • 'The Battle of Stoke Field, 16th June 1487' by AH Burne. From More Battlefields of England 1952. Modern account of the battle.
  • A Pocket History of East Stoke by Frank AA Cotton. Newark & Sherwood District Council. 1987. Reviewed in The Ricardian March 1988.
  • The Battle of Stoke Field 1487 by Notts County Council 1987. Leaflet/poster giving a brief account of the battle and a guide to the battlefield.
  • The Battle of Stoke Field 1487 by David E Roberts 1987. Detailed account of the events leading up to the battle and the battle itself, well illustrated with photographs and maps. Reviewed in The Ricardian March 1988.
  • 'The Battle of Stoke'. Programme of quincentenary celebrations, official leaflet and advance announcement from History Today.
  • The Secret Battle: Stoke Field 16 June 1487 by Alan Wilkinson. 1987. An attempt to make the battle better known by recreating the events of 1487, ascribing words and viewpoints to the principal characters. Reviewed in The Ricardian March 1988.

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