The War of the Roses 1455-1485

A civil war between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists, a King would end up being killed on the battlefield






For thirty years, a bitter struggle for the English throne was waged between two branches on the same family, the House of York (White rose) and the House of Lancaster (Red rose), both descended from King Edward lll. The division between the two families became known as The Wars of the Roses.







The lead up to the War of the Roses

1450 King Henry VI was considered by many to be incapable of carrying out the roles bestowed on him as King.

22nd March 1454 When Cardinal John Kemp (the Chancellor) died, Henry was incapable of nominating a successor. To ensure that the country could be governed, a Council of Regency was set up which was headed by Richard Plantagenet (3rd Duke of York) who was popular with the people as Lord Protector.

In a feud with Henry Percy (2nd Earl of Northumberland), Richard Plantagenet imprisoned Edmund Beaufort (2nd Duke of Somerset) in the Tower of London.



Battle of St. Albans

Date: 22nd May 1455   Victory: Yorkist
 
House of York
Richard Plantagenet (3rd Duke of York)   Richard Neville (16th Earl of Warwick)
 
House of Lancaster
King Henry VI   Humphrey Stafford (1st Duke of Buckingham)
Edmund Beaufort (2nd Duke of Somerset)   Thomas Courtenay (6th Earl of Devon)
Henry Percy (2nd Earl of Northumberland)   Thomas Clifford (8th Baron de Clifford)

22nd May 1455 Richard, Duke of York led a small army of about 3,000 towards London, but was met at St.Albans by King Henry VI. The Battle of St.Albans would become the first Battle of the War of the Roses. Richard won the battle which resulted in several Lancastrian leaders being killed, which included Edmund, Duke of Somerset as well as Henry, Earl of Northumberland. Henry Beaufort, 2nd Earl of Dorset survived the battle, but was severely wounded. After the battle the Yorkists found King Henry VI hiding in a local tanners shop, he had suffered a bout of mental illness, as well as having a slight wound to his neck by an arrow. The Queen (Margaret of Anjou) and her young son Edward fled into exile.

Both sides tried to reconcile their differences, but the original problems that caused the conflict soon re-emerged. The main problem was the issue of if Richard or King Henry VI and his wifes infant son Edward (Prince of Wales) would succeed to the throne, Margaret would not accept any solution that would stop Edward getting the throne.

February 1456 King Henry VI recovered from his mental illness enough to relieve Richard of his position of Lord Protector.

King Henry VI and his wife went on a royal progress in the Midlands where they were still popular. While King Henry VI was away there was a decline in trade and widespread disorder, there was also piracy by the French Fleets along the South coast. Richard was made to take up his previous post of Lieutenant in Ireland.

1458 Thomas Burchier who was the Archbishop of Canterbury arranged a reconciliation where he negotiated some complex settlements to resolve the blood-feuds that had persisted since the Battle of St.Albans.



The Battle of Blore Heath

Date: 23rd September 1459   Victory: Yorkist
 
House of York
Richard Plantagenet (3rd Duke of York)   Richard Neville (5th Earl of Salisbury)
 
House of Lancaster
King Henry VI   James Tuchet (5th Baron Audley)
John Sutton (1st Baron Dudley)      

23rd September 1459 Over the past three years Margaret of Anjou maintained the pressure on ending Richard, Duke of York claims to the throne. Finally, Richard decided it was time to act before his forces lost complete momentum. He decided to centralise his forces of 5,000 around Ludlow and then attack the Lancastrian forces.

Margaret ordered the Lancastrian army of 10,000 under Lord Audley to prevent Earl of Salisbury from marching from Middleham Castle in Yorkshire to Ludlow in Staffordshire.

Two miles east of the town of Market Drayton in Shropshire the battle started with an archery duel between the longbows of both armies. The Earl of Salisbury was aware that any attack across the brook would be suicidal, employed a ruse to encourage the enemy to attack him. He withdrew some of his middle-order just far enough that the Lancastrians believed them to be retreating.

The Lancastrians launched a cavalry charge, after they had committed themselves, the Earl of Salisbury ordered his men to turn back and catch the Lancastrians as they attempted to cross the brook. It had the effect of turning the balance in favour of the Earl of Salisbury. The charge resulted in heavy casualties for the Lancastrians.

The Lancastrians withdrew and made a second assault, the second attack was more successful with many Lancastrians crossing the brook which led to a period of intense fighting in which Lord Audley himself was killed.

The Lancastrian command now fell to the second-in-command, Lord Dudley who ordered an attack on foot with 4,000 men. The attack also failed, some 500 Lancastrians joined the enemy and began attacking their own side. All remaining Lancastrian resistance collapsed, the rout continued through the night, with the Yorkists pursuing the fleeing enemy for miles across the countryside.

At least 2,000 Lancastrians were killed, with the Yorkists losing nearly 1,000.



The Battle of Ludford Bridge

Date: 12th October 1459   Victory: Lancastrian
 
House of York
Richard Plantagenet (3rd Duke of York)   Richard Neville (16th Earl of Warwick)
Richard Neville (5th Earl of Salisbury)      
 
House of Lancaster
King Henry VI   Margaret of Anjou

Henry, Duke of Somerset was appointed Governor of Calais and was dispatched to take over the vital fortress on the French coast, but his attempts to evict the Earl of Warwick were easily repulsed. Earl of Warwick and his supporters began to launch raids on the English Coast from Calais that added more to the sense of chaos and disorder. Evading the royal ships commanded by Henry Holland (3rd Duke of Exeter), Earl of Warwick travelled to Ireland to concert plans with Richard Plantagenet.

12th October 1459 The Yorkist factions regrouped at Ludford Bridge at the town of Ludlow and started to advance towards Worcester. They quickly fell back when they encountered a larger enemy force led by King Henry VI. The Lancastrians ended up taking a position opposite the Yorkists across the Teme River, by excavating a defensive ditch in a field and also constructed barricades of carts for the cannon to be emplaced.

Among the troops brought by Earl of Warwick from Calais were 600 men led by Andrew Trollope, who was an experienced captain. During the night, Andrew Trollope and his men, along with others from the Yorkist forces, defected to the Lancastrians after accepting the king's pardon.

Giving the impression of returning to Ludlow for the night, Richard, Duke of York, Earl of Salisbury and Earl of Warwick abandoned their armies and fled.

At dawn on 13th October 1459, the leaderless Yorkist troops knelt in submission before King Henry IV, and were pardoned. Richard had abandoned not only his troops but also his wife Cecily Neville (Duchess of York), his two younger sons and his daughter. They were found standing at the Ludlow Market Cross when the Lancastrians arrived.

After the engagement Richard returned to Ireland and Earl of Sailsbury fled to Calais.



Battle of Northampton

Date: 10th July 1460   Victory: Yorkist
 
House of York
Richard Plantagenet (3rd Duke of York)   Richard Neville (16th Earl of Warwick)
Richard Neville (5th Earl of Salisbury)      
 
House of Lancaster
King Henry VI   Humphrey Stafford (1st Duke of Buckingham)
John Talbot (2nd Earl of Shrewsbury)   Thomas Percy (1st Baron Egremont)

26th June 1460 The Earl of Warwick, his father the Earl of Salisbury and Edward, The Earl of March landed at Sandwich with 2,000 men at arms. King Henry VI and his Queen (Margaret of Anjou) were at Coventry with their small army. Warwick entered London on 2nd July 1460 with an army of supporters numbering approximately 10,000.

10th July 1460 King Henry VI forces took up a defensive position at Northampton, in the grounds of Delapré Abbey, with their backs to the River Nene, with a water-filled ditch in front of them topped with stakes. The defending army was around 5,000 strong, consisting mainly of men-at-arms. The Lancastrians also had some field artillery.

At two o'clock the Yorkists advanced, as they closed with the Lancastrians, Warwick was met by a fierce hail of arrows, the rain had rendered the Lancastrian cannons useless.

When Warwick reached the Lancastrian left flank, that was commanded by Lord Grey of Ruthin treachery ensued. Lord Grey had his men lay down their weapons and let the Yorkists have easy access into the camp beyond. This treachery was the result of a secret message from Lord Grey to the Earl of March. Warwick had ordered his men not to attack those wearing the black ragged staff of Lord Grey's men. After this, the battle lasted a mere thirty minutes. The defenders were unable to manoeuvre inside the fortifications, and fled the field as their line was rolled up by attacking Yorkists.

The Duke of Buckingham, the Earl of Shrewsbury, Lord Egremont and Lord Beaumont all died trying to save the King from the Yorkists closing on his tent. Three hundred other Lancastrians were slain in the battle.

King Henry VI was found in his tent by Warwick and March. Henry was taken to London and confined in the Bishop of London's palace. The king agreed that the Yorkists were the rightful heirs to the throne, many thought this would end the war of the roses. The Queen was busily assembling an army in Wales in order to continue the struggle.



Battle of Wakefield

Date: 30th December 1460   Victory: Lancastrian
 
House of York
Richard Plantagenet (3rd Duke of York)   Richard Neville (5th Earl of Salisbury)
 
House of Lancaster
Henry Beaufort (3rd Duke of Somerset)   Henry Percy (3rd Earl of Northumberland)
John Clifford (9th Baron de Clifford)      

21st December 1460, Richard of York reached his own fortress of Sandal Castle near Wakefield. York sent for help to his son Edward, Earl of March.

30th December 1460 Before any reinforcements could arrive, Edward had sortied from the castle.

Half of the Lancastrian army under Duke of Somerset and Lord Clifford advanced towards Sandal Castle, while the remainder under the Earl of Wiltshire were concealed in the woods surrounding the area.

York was short of provisions in the castle, seeing that the enemy was no stronger than his own army, he seized the opportunity to engage them in the open rather than withstand a siege while waiting for reinforcements.

The Yorkists marched out of Sandal Castle towards the Lancastrians located to the north of the castle. York engaged the Lancastrians to his front, others attacked him from the flank and rear, cutting him off from the castle. The Yorkist army was surrounded and destroyed.

The Duke of York was killed in the fighting, his 17-year-old second son Edmund, Earl of Rutland attempted to escape over Wakefield Bridge, but was killed by Lord Clifford in revenge for his father's death at St Albans. The Earl of Salisbury's fourth son Sir Thomas Neville also died in the battle, also his son-in-law William, Lord Harington and Harington's father, William Bonville, were captured and executed immediately after the battle. Salisbury himself escaped the battlefield but was captured during the night, and was taken to the Lancastrian camp. Salisbury was dragged out of Pontefract Castle and beheaded by local commoners, to whom he had been a harsh overlord.

The heads of The Duke of York, Earl of Rutland and the Earl of Salisbury were displayed over Micklegate Bar, which is the western gate through the York city walls.



Battle of Mortimor's Cross

Date: 2nd February 1461   Victory: Yorkist
 
House of York
Edward (7th Earl of March)      
 
House of Lancaster
Sir Owen Tudor   Jasper Tudor (1st Earl of Pembroke)

When Edward, the Earl of March, heard of the disaster at Wakefield he decided to march east to meet up with the Earl of Warwick in London.

During his movement he became aware of a Lancastrian force located in central Wales. Edward decided to change direction and engage the enemy. His army of mostly Welshmen routed the Lancastrian army of mercenaries from France and Ireland and Welshmen.

Yorkist archers were positioned at a crossroads in order to halt the Lancastrian advance.

The Earl of Pembroke's army was about a thousand men smaller than Edwards. The Lancastrians commenced the attack with James Butler (5th Earl of Ormond) leading the first assault and forcing Edward's right wing to retreat across the road, where this flank dissolved. Pembroke faced Edward's centre division and was held off, then Owen Tudor attempted an encirclement of the Yorkist left wing, he was defeated and a rout commenced. Pembroke's centre then also broke and the battle was won by Edward. Owen Tudor's men fled as far as seventeen miles to Hereford.

2nd February 1461 Owen was captured and beheaded along with other prisoners.

After the battle Edward continued his march east to join Warwick near London, within two months Edward would be crowned king.



Second Battle of St. Albans

Date: 17th February 1461   Victory: Lancastrian
 
House of York
Richard Neville (16th Earl of Warwick)      
 
House of Lancaster
Margaret of Anjou      

The Earl of Warwick with the captive King Henry VI in his train, positioned his army at St. Albans (20 miles northwest of London) to block Margaret of Anjou's army's route to London. Warwick set up several fixed defenses, including cannon and obstacles such as caltrops and pavises studded with spikes. Warwick waited for Edward, Earl of March's army to join him.

Although strong, Warwick's lines faced north only and Margaret knew of Warwick's position, through Sir Henry Lovelace who was the steward of Warwick's own household. Lovelace had been captured by the Lancastrians at Wakefield but had been spared from execution and released, he believed he had been offered the vacant Earldom of Kent as reward for betraying Warwick.

16th February 1461, Margaret's army swerved sharply west and captured the town of Dunstable. From Dunstable, Margaret's forces moved south-east at night, towards St Albans. Before the Yorkists could join forces the leading Lancastrian forces attacked the town shortly after dawn. Storming up the hill past the Abbey, they were confronted by Yorkist archers in the town centre who shot at them from the house windows.

The Lancastrians regrouped at the ford across the River Ver and sought another route into the town. A second attack was launched along the line of Folly Lane and Catherine Street, this attack met with no opposition and the Yorkist archers in the town were now outflanked. They continued to fight house to house, but were finally overcome after several hours.

Having gained the town, the Lancastrians turned north towards Warwick's rear, positioned on Bernards Heath. The damp conditions dampened the gunpowder, many of the Yorkists cannon and handguns failed to fire.

As dusk set in Warwick realised that his men were outnumbered and increasingly demoralised, he withdrew with his remaining forces of about 4,000 men to Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire. As Warwick fled, he left his hostage a bemused King Henry VI under a tree, where the King spent the battle sitting under a tree, singing.

2nd March 1461 Edward, Earl of March and the Earl of Warwick entered London.

4th March 1461 Warwick proclaimed the young Yorkist leader as King Edward IV, the country now had two Kings.



Battle of Ferrybridge

Date: 28th March 1461   Victory: Yorkist
 
House of York
King Edward IV (7th Earl of March)   Richard Neville (16th Earl of Warwick)
 
House of Lancaster
Margaret of Anjou      

Ferrybridge was a small engagement before the larger battle of Towton. After Edward, Earl of Marsh proclaiming himself King Edward IV, he gathered together a large force and marched north toward the Lancastrian position behind the Aire River.

28th March 1461 The forces engaged and the Yorkist army was pushed back and their leader, Lord Fitzwalter, was killed. More Yorkist forces arrived later on in the day and beat back the Lancastrians.



Battle of Towton

Date: 29th March 1461   Victory: Yorkist
 
House of York
King Edward IV (7th Earl of March)      
 
House of Lancaster
Henry Beaufort (3rd Duke of Somerset)      

The Battle of Towton was to affirm the victor's right to rule over England through force of arms. On reaching the battlefield, the King Edward IV found himself heavily outnumbered, part of the force under John de Mowbray (3rd Duke of Norfolk), had yet to arrive.

The Yorkist leader Lord Fauconberg turned the tables by ordering his archers to take advantage of the strong wind to outrange their enemies. The Duke of Somerset believed the best strategy was to abandon their defensive position and charge at the Yorkists. After many hours of intense hand-to-hand combat the Yorkist line was showing signs of strain.

Fortunately the Duke of Norfolk arrived with reinforcements and the Yorkist army defeated the Lancastrians. Many Lancastrians were killed while fleeing, some trampled each other while some were drowned in the rivers. A number of Lancastrians were taken as prisoners, they were executed.

It was said that 'this battle was probably the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil'. The Yorkists had a force of around 25,000 while the Lancastrians had a force of around 30,000. By the end of the battle there was around 28,000 dead.

King Henry VI, the Queen, and their son fled to Scotland and Edward IV marched into York.

28th June 1461 Edward IV was formally crowned King at Westminster.



Battle of Hedgeley Moor

Date: 2th April 1464   Victory: Yorkist
 
House of York
John Neville (1st Marquess of Montagu)      
 
House of Lancaster
Henry Beaufort (3rd Duke of Somerset)   Ralph Percy
Robert Hungerford (3rd Baron Hungerford)   Thomas de Ros (9th Baron de Ros)

The Duke of Somerset tried to ambush Lord Montagu (brother of 16th Earl of Warwick) near Newcastle, but Lord Montagu was able to evade this attempt. Lord Montagu continued his journey northwards gathering more men as he went, when he reached Hedgeley Moor he had an army of around 5,000 men.

The Duke of Somerset commanded an army of around 5,000 which also included Sir Ralph Percy, Lord Hungerford, Lord Ros and Sir Ralph Grey.

The battle began with the normal exchange of archery between the two armies, Lord Montagu advanced across the moorland, only to be forced to halt and readjust his lines. When the Lancastrian left flank, under Lord Hungerford and Lord Ros of some 2,000 men fled the battlefield, they left Sir Ralph Percy with his household retainers who made a brave last stand which was not to last long. Sir Ralph Percy's troops were crushed and Percy himself was struck down and killed.



Battle of Hexham

Date: 15th May 1464   Victory: Yorkist
 
House of York
John Neville (1st Marquess of Montagu)      
 
House of Lancaster
Henry Beaufort (3rd Duke of Somerset)   Robert Hungerford (3rd Baron Hungerford)
Philip Wentworth (Knight of Nettlestead)      

Lord Montagu led a force of around 3,500 men and marched south from the border of Scotland. The Lancastrians had little time to prepare for battle, despite warnings by their own scouts. The Duke Somerset rushed his forces to a site near Linnels Bridge and deployed his troops in 3 detachments in a meadow near the Devil's Water, he hoped he could engage Lord Montagu's army before it moved past him into Hexham, Northumberland.

Lord Montagu's army rapidly charged downhill and crushed the Duke of Somerset's forces. Seeing the Yorkist advance the right detachment of the Lancastrian army, commanded by Lord Roos, turned and fled across the Devil's Water and into Hexham.

The Duke of Somerset's remaining force was in a hopeless situation, they were hemmed in and unable to manoeuvre. The Yorkist troops charged through an opening at the east end of Linnel's Meadow and then engaged the bewildered Lancastrian soldiers, they were pushed into the Devil's Water by the advancing Yorkist infantry. Some of The Duke of Somerset's men either drowned in the river or were crushed as they tried to climb the steep banks of the Devil's Water during the retreat towards Hexham, but most of the men were trapped in West Dipton Wood on the north bank of the river, they were forced to surrender when the Yorkists approached.

Thirty leading Lancastrians leaders which included the Duke of Somerset, Lord Hungerford and Sir Philip Wentworth were captured and three days later beheaded at Middleham, Yorkshire on 18th May 1464. King Henry VI was kept safely away having been captured in battle 3 times earlier in his life, he escaped to the north.



Battle of Edgecote Moor

Date: 26th July 1469   Victory: Lancastrian
 
House of York
William Herbert (1st Earl of Pembroke)      
 
House of Lancaster
Richard Neville (16th Earl of Warwick)      

After eight years of rule, King Edward IV began to alienate many of the nobles including Warwick because of his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville and his alliances with Burgundy.

12th July 1469 Warwick and Clarence declared their support for the Lancastrians.

King Edward IV rallied an army to put down an uprising in Yorkshire. He was intercepted by a Lancastrian force and swiftly defeated. Meanwhile the Earl of Warwick and Edward's brother, George the Duke of Clarence, had already landed from Calais and were on their way to join forces with Robin of Redesdale, field leader of the Lancastrian force.

18th July 1469 Warwick left London at the head of a large army to reinforce the Lancastrians.

26th July 1469 The Earl of Devon and his Welsh archers were some miles away, having stayed the night in a neighbouring village.

The Lancastrians attacked across the river forcing The Earl of Pembroke to retreat and pull his men back some distance. Pembroke was attacked again in his new position, he managed to hold off the advance of the Lancastrians while reinforcements arrived. The Earl of Devon was rapidly advancing with all his men, but at the same time the advance guard of the Earl of Warwick's army arrived on the battlefield the morale of the Lancastrians was instantly boosted.

Seeing Warwick's livery amongst the enemy, Pembroke's men presumed his whole force of expert soldiers was upon them. Shortly afterwards the Pembroke's army broke and fled the field, before Devon could even reinforce them.

After the battle, The Earl of Warwick ordered his brother George Neville, the archbishop of York, to intercept and capture King Edward IV. The Earl of Pembroke and his brother Sir Richard Herbert were captured and executed the following day. The Earl of Devon was executed a few days later.



Battle of Losecote Field (Empingham)

Date: 12th March 1470   Victory: Yorkist
 
House of York
King Edward IV (7th Earl of March)      
 
House of Lancaster
Robert Welles (8th Baron Willoughby de Eresby)      

The Earl of Warwick found himself in a similar position to that which he had been in before the battle of Edgecote. He was unable to exercise any control over, or influence, King Edward IV policies. Warwick wanted to place another of the King's brothers, George, Duke of Clarence, on the throne so that he could regain his influence. To do so, he called on former supporters of the defeated House of Lancaster.

When his family fell foul of King Edward IV, Sir Robert Welles who was a former Lancastrian, turned to the Earl of Warwick for help. Warwick judged the time was ripe for another battle to kill or remove King Edward IV from the throne.

Sir Robert Welles army left Stamford and marched towards Leicester, to join forces with the Earl of Warwick and the Duke of Clarence. Edward heard about this and sent a letter to Sir Robert Welles stating that if he does not disband his army, his father (Lord Richard Welles, 7th Baron Welles) who was previously taken prisoner by Edward would be executed.

Sir Robert Welles quickly turned back with his army to Stamford, Edward's confidence grew when Welles failed to rendezvous with Warwick and his forces.

On 12th March 1470 Edward positioned his army in a battle line to the north of Sir Robert Welles army at Queen's Cross in Stamford, then in the space separating the two forces had Lord Richard Welles beheaded in view of both armies.

This action set off the Lancastrians (around 30,000 men) to advance, a single barrage of cannonballs was fired, then Edward had his men charge towards the enemy. Before the leaders of this attack could even come to blows with the Lancastrians front line, the battle was over as the Lancastrians broke and fled rather than face King Edward IV highly trained men. The defeated Lancastrians shed their coats to flee more quickly, hence the name of the battle.

Both captains, Sir Robert Welles and his commander of foot Richard Warren were captured during the rout. On 19th March 1470 Both Sir Robert Welles and Richard Warren were beheaded at Doncaster.

Edward was back in control, the Earl of Warwick and the Duke of Clarence fled to France to make an alliance with Margaret of Anjou.



Battle of Barnet

Date: 14th April 1471   Victory: Yorkist
 
House of York
King Edward IV (7th Earl of March)   Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester)
George Plantagenet (1st Duke of Clarence)   William Hastings (1st Baron Hastings)
 
House of Lancaster
Richard Neville (16th Earl of Warwick)   John Neville (1st Marquess of Montagu)
John de Vere (13th Earl of Oxford)   Henry Holland (3rd Duke of Exeter)

2nd April 1471 When King Edward IV launched his campaign to retake England, George the Duke of Clarence accepted his brother's offer of pardon and rejoined the Yorkists at Coventry.

King Edward IV was joined at Barnet by his brothers, Richard the Duke of Gloucester (who would become Richard III), and George the Duke of Clarence.

14 April 1471 Edward had planned for an early attack at around 4 o'clock in the morning, there was thick fog. He quickly roused his men to engage the Lancastrians.

Both sides fired their cannon and arrows before laying into each other with polearms. The Earl of Oxford's men quickly overwhelmed Lord William Hastings. Yorkist soldiers fled towards Barnet, chased by the Lancastrians. The Earl of Oxford rallied 800 of the men and led them back to the battle. Due to the fog, visibility was low and the two forces failed to notice Oxford's victory over Hastings.

The fighting between the forces of King Edward IV and Lord Montagu was evenly-matched and intense, Duke of Gloucester exploited the misaligned forces and beat the Duke of Exeter back. Warwick ordered most of his reserves to help ease the pressure on Exeter.

As the fog started to dissipate, Edward saw the Lancastrian center in disarray, he sent in his reserves, hastening its collapse. Cries of Exeter's demise from a Yorkist axe resounded across the battlefield, Lord Montagu was struck in his back and was killed. The Duke of Exeter had been stripped of his armour and left for dead on the battlefield, but he was alive though gravely injured.

Warwick knew the battle was lost, he made for the horses in an attempt to retreat. Edward recognised his victory was at hand, deciding that Warwick was more valuable alive than dead Edward sent his guards to bring back Warwick alive. Other Yorkist soldiers ignorant of Edwards order, found Warwick first. They pulled him down, pried open his visor, and fatally stabbed him through the neck. Edward's guards found Earl of Warwick's corpse, mutilated and stripped of its gilded armour. After withdrawing from the battle, The Earl of Oxford fled to France.



Battle of Tewkesbury

Date: 4th May 1471   Victory: Yorkist
 
House of York
King Edward IV (7th Earl of March)   Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester)
George Plantagenet (1st Duke of Clarence)      
 
House of Lancaster
Margaret of Anjou   Edmund Beaufort (4rd Duke of Somerset)
Edward Plantagenet (Prince of Wales)      

The Lancastrians who fled from the battle looked to the queen to restore their house to the throne. The Duke of Somerset led the Lancastrian forces towards the Welsh border in order to recruit more troops.

King Edward IV moved his army towards the border as well in order to intercept the Lancastrians. After reaching Tewkesbury first, Somerset took up a strong defensive position with around 6,000 men.

4th May 1471 Edward reached Tewkesbury with a force of around 5,000 men, the battlefield was broken up by woods, ditches and embankments. The Yorkist archers and artillery showered the Lancastrians with arrows and shot.

Somerset saw an opportunity to outflank Edward's army by leading some of his men via a lane. Although Edwards left flank was attacked by surprise they resisted stoutly, beating back Somerset's attack among the hedges and banks.

Edward had earlier place 200 spearmen in the woods far out on the left, at a vital moment they came out of the woods and attacked Somerset from his own right flank and rear, as Gloucester's battle also joined in the fighting.

Somerset's battle was routed and his surviving army tried to escape across the River Severn, most were cut down as they fled. As the morale collapsed, the rest of the Lancastrian army tried to flee, but the River Swilgate became a deadly barrier. Many who succeeded in crossing it converged on a mill south of the town of Tewkesbury and a weir in the town itself, where there were crossings over the Avon. Here too, many drowned or were killed by their pursuers.

Among the leading Lancastrians who died on the field were Somerset's younger brother John Beaufort, Marquess of Dorset, and the Earl of Devon. Edward, the Prince of Wales (18 years old), died in battle. The Duke of Somerset was beheaded and Queen Margaret was captured.

21st May 1471 The Lancastrian King Henry VI, who was a prisoner in the Tower of London died at the age of 49 years old.



Battle of Bosworth

Date: 22nd August 1485   Victory: Lancastrian
 
House of York
King Richard III (Duke of Gloucester)   John Howard (1st Duke of Norfolk)
Thomas Howard (1st Earl of Surrey)   Henry Percy (4th Earl of Northumberland)
 
House of Lancaster
Henry Tudor (Earl of Richmond)   John de Vere (13th Earl of Oxford)
Jasper Tudor (1st Earl of Pembroke)   Thomas Stanley (1st Earl of Derby)
Sir William Stanley      

9th April 1483 1483 Death of King Edward IV aged 40 year old. Before Edward died, he named his brother Richard (Duke of Gloucester) as Protector after his death.

26th June 1483 Richard Plantagenet (Duke of Gloucester) was made King Richard III.

7th August 1485 Henry Tudor (Henry VII), Earl of Richmond, landed in Wales to challenge King Richard III for the crown.

Richard moved to meet Henry's army south of the village of Market Bosworth.

22nd August 1485 The armies engaged, Lord Thomas Stanley and his brother Sir William switched sides and fought for Henry.

The Yorkist forces were defeated, King Richard III was killed, and Henry ushered in the rule of the house of Tudor effectively ending the Wars of the Roses.

Please click here for a more detailed account of the Battle of Bosworth.



Battle of Stoke

Date: 16th June 1487   Victory: Lancastrian
 
House of York
John de la Pole (1st Earl of Lincoln)   Sir Thomas FitzGerald of Laccagh
Colonel Martin Schwartz      
 
House of Lancaster
King Henry VII (Earl of Richmond)   John de Vere (13th Earl of Oxford)
Jasper Tudor (1st Earl of Pembroke)      

Stoke is considered by most people as the final conflict in the Wars of the Roses. The Yorkist loyalists concocted a scheme in a last gasp attempt to regain the crown.

Lambert Simnel who was a commoner, instructed by Richard Simons a priest and others to impersonate the Earl of Warwick. Lambert was to claim he escaped from the Tower of London where Warwick was being held and upon his escape he was crowned King Edward IV in Dublin Ireland on 24th May 1487.

4th June 1487 The new Yorkist group headed by the Earl of Lincoln landed in England and began to collect an army of English soldiers and German and Irish mercenaries.

16th June 1487 King Henry VII army was divided into three, which the Earl of Oxford led the vanguard. The Yorkist's suffering from the arrows chose to surrender the high ground by immediately going on to the attack in the hope of breaking the Lancastrian line and rolling up the enemy army. The vanguard was badly shaken, but Oxford was able to rally his force. The battle was bitterly contested for over three hours.

Though the German mercenaries were equipped with the latest handguns, the presence of large numbers of traditional archers in the Lancastrian army proved decisive. The skilled longbowmen were able to shoot volley after volley into the Yorkist position. The lack of body armour on the Irish troops in particular meant that they were cut down in increasing numbers by repeated showers of arrows.

The broken Yorkists fled towards the Trent down a ravine in which many were cornered and killed. Thomas FitzGerald, Sir Thomas Broughton and Schwartz were killed in the battle.

Richard Simons avoided execution due to his priestly status, but was imprisoned for life.

King Henry pardoned young Simnel realising that he was merely a puppet for the leading Yorkists, he gave him a job in the royal kitchen as a spit-turner.





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