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The War Of The Roses

The War Of The Roses

The war of the Roses.


The Prehistory

It was in this year [1411], that Richard Plantagenet was born to

Richard, fifth Earl of Cambridge and Anne Mortimer. His father was the son

of Edmund, the first Duke of York, who was in turn the fourth son of Edward

III. If Henry VI had died before 1453, the year of the birth of Edward,

Prince of Wales, then Richard would have undoubtedly been crowned King of

England, since there was no other noble (since the death of Henry VI's

uncle and heir Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who had died in 1447) with

such a strong claim to the throne at that time, other than Richard himself.

Being so highly placed in the royal household, Richard was destined to

play a significant role in the Government and politics of England

throughout his lifetime and in England's affairs in France during the later

stages of the Hundred Years War. He was appointed Lieutenant of France in

1436. Throughout his service in Europe, he had to pay for the services of

his men and finance the army in France from his own personal funds.

Although York was a wealthy man in his own right, (York was the sole

benefactor of the childless Edmund Mortimer, who had died of plague in

Ireland in 1425). It was his marriage to Cicely Neville in 1438 (who was

known as 'The Rose of Raby'), daughter to Ralph Neville, Earl of

Westmoreland and sister of Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, which had

brought him great wealth. Thus, he was able, albiet unhappily in doing so,

to fund the English army overseas. By the time he left France, York had

forwarded some Ј38,000 of his own money to maintain English interests in

France. To add insult to injury, in 1445 he was replaced as Lieutenant of

France by Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset. It is not to be doubted that

it was on Somerset's advice (who was Henry VI cousin, and someone Henry

trusted more than the Duke of York) that Henry VI created York Lieutenant

of Ireland, which was in reality, exile by office. Somerset was no doubt

fearful of York, a fear enhanced by the fact that Somerset, a man whom York

equally detested, and a favourite of Henry VI was forwarded funds to the

sum of Ј25,000 to sustain the king's army in France.

Not only did York detest Somerset because of his favouritism with the

king, but he also detested the fact that he had been given the office he

had previously held in France and the funds to support it, despite his

inability as a soldier. York's fears over the management of the campaign in

France was soon realised, as the war began to go badly for the English. The

Duke of Somerset was personally responsible for the surrender of the

strategic town of Rouen which subsequently led to the fall of Normandy to

Charles VII of France. Because of this, Somerset became distinctly

unpopular at home. However, because he retained the king's favour, he

maintained his prestigious position at court. In June 1451, Bordeaux in

France, and Gascony, were lost to the French. This was disastrous news for

the English and the King, Henry VI, took the loss very badly. York in turn,

was quick to blame Somerset for the disaster and, with support for the king

and his adherents at such a low point (due mainly to English failings in

France), York, decided to risk all and attempt to wrest control from the

king by force of arms and arrest the Duke of Somerset, thus removing him

from his position as the king's most senior advisor.

Doubtless this move was not only inspired by York's fear for the conduct

of the war in France, but also because he was equally fearful that Somerset

might take over the very position that York felt was his own, that of the

most likely heir to Henry in the absence of the king having any children of

his own. Thus York, believing that he had more popular support than he

actually had, sailed from Ireland and landed in North Wales, gathered his

forces and travelled straight for London and the encounter at Blackheath.

The Wars of the Roses Begin

After York's release from custody, there then followed several years of

relative peace. However, by the year 1453, the political storm clouds were

once again gathering over the country. By this year, England's possessions

in France had been almost lost as the disastrous Hundred Years War had all

but come to an end . It was this - it is said - that brought about the

first bout of madness in Henry VI. What form this illness took is not

recorded, but it seems that it manifested itself in a form of paralysis.

York, with the king incapacitated, was made protector of England and took

the opportunity to seek revenge on his earlier enemies, namely the Duke of

Somerset, who was sent to the Tower on a revised charge of treason (for his

poor management of the war in France) in September 1453. The Earl of

Salisbury, Richard Neville and his eldest son Richard, Earl of Warwick,

also took the opportunity afforded by the king's illness and, under the

cover of their kinsman's protectorate began to seek their revenge against

the Percy family, the Earls of Northumberland, with whom, they had held a

long running feud, over the issue of ownership of property in

Northumberland and Yorkshire .

Thus, England was plunged into a series of minor wars between the land's

most powerful lords to which the Duke of York, as protector was able to use

his authority to the advantage of his family and supporters. However, this

all came to an end when the king recovered from his illness in January

1455. Somerset was released from the Tower, and immediately formed a

natural alliance with Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland (and Percy's ally

in the north Lord Clifford), against the Duke of York - who was stripped of

his powers as protector - and his supporters, namely the Earl of Salisbury

and the Earl of Warwick. With this the battle lines for the 'Wars of the

Roses' were drawn. The pact between Somerset, Northumberland and Clifford,

supported by the king would in later years go by the name of Lancastrians,

taken from the family name of the House of Lancaster to which the lineage

of Henry VI was derived. While the followers of the House of York, Warwick,

Salisbury and the Duke of York himself became known as the Yorkists.


First St. Albans, Northampton, Wakefield, Mortimer's Cross, Second St.

Albans, Towton and Hexham.

In May 1455 the queen and Somerset summoned a Council, to which no

prominent Yorkist was invited, and ordered a gathering of the peers at

Leicester to take steps for the king's safety. York marched south to secure

a fair hearing from the king, while the court moved towards Leicester,

escorted by a large number of nobles and their retainers. The king and

Somerset did not learn of York's actions until they were en route to

Leicester. They tried to assemble an army, but there was insufficient time;

at nightfall on 21 May, when the two sides camped only 20 miles apart, the

king's 'army' still consisted of just his escort and their retainers.

Both sides decided to advance against their adversary during the night,

and these marches became a race for the chief town of the area, St. Albans.

The king's army arrived there at 7am, and York halted at Key Fields, east

of the town, at about the same time. There followed a pause of three hours

while reconciliation was attempted, York offering to withdraw if the king

would surrender Somerset, whom York considered a traitor. The king (i.e.

Somerset!) refused, and York ordered the attack(see map).

Warwick was to lay down a barrage of arrows in support of flank attacks

by York and Salisbury. However, these attacks were repulsed and Warwick

therefore ordered his archers to concentrate on their own front. He then

attacked the center, broke through to the Chequers, and here established a

rallying point. Falling back to prevent their divided forces from being

outflanked by Warwick, the Lancastrians weakened their defense of the

Sopwell and Shropshire Lanes, and the forces of York and Salisbury almost

immediately burst into the town. The Lancastrians began to falter,

panicked, and broke, to be pursued up St. Peter's Street by the triumphant


Somerset and some retainers took cover in the Castle Inn while Lord

Clifford, with Percy, Harington and some other knights and esquires, fought

on outside the inn. When those outside were slain, Somerset led his men in

one last charge. He killed four men before being felled by an axe. The

king, the Duke of Buckingham, and the Earls of Devon and Dorset were

captured; Clifford, Somerset, Stafford, Percy and Harington were amongst

those killed.

York was appointed Protector in October and Warwick became Captain of

Calais, the city which possessed the only standing army of the king. For

the next three years there was an uneasy peace. York lost the protectorship

at the beginning of 1456 and returned to Ireland. Margaret gained control

of court and government, but Warwick refused to surrender Calais to her,

and this city thus became a refuge for the Yorkists, from which an attack

might be launched at any time.

In the late summer of 1459 both sides began arming again, and in October

York's forces were defeated at Ludford – mainly due to the treachery of

Andrew Trollope, captain of a body of professional soldiers sent over from

Calais by Warwick. York was forced to flee to Ireland again and his troops


In June 1460 Warwick landed at Sandwich with 2,000 men of the Calais

garrison, accompanied by the Earl of Salisbury and York's son Edward, Earl

of March. The king and queen were at Coventry when they received news of

the landing. Hastily gathering an army from his chief supporters – the

Percies, Staffords, Beauforts, Talbots and Beaumonts – the king began to

march south. However, in the meantime the men of south-east England had

flocked to the standard of the popular Warwick, and on 2 July he entered

London with 5,000 men. Only the Tower, commanded by Lord Scales, held out

for the king and, hearing that London had gone over to the Yorkists, the

king halted at Northampton and took up a defensive position to await


Pausing only to establish a siege force round the Tower, Warwick led his

army northwards, arriving between Towcester and Northampton on the 9th.

Early the next morning - 10 July 1460 – he deployed for battle, but first

attempted to negotiate a settlement. At 2pm, no agreement having proved

possible, Warwick gave the order to advance, with the three 'battles' in

'line astern'.

It was raining hard as the Yorkists arrived and Edward's 'battle',

consisting entirely of men-at-arms, made slow progress over the sodden

ground. As they came within bow range they were met by a fierce barrage of

arrows and this, together with a ditch and stakes, prevented the Yorkists

from getting to close quarters. At this critical moment Lord Grey suddenly

displayed Warwick's ragged staff badge and ordered his men to lay down

their weapons. Indeed, the men of Grey's command actually assisted their

enemies over the defenses and, once established within the defenses in

sufficient numbers, Edward and Warwick led their men-at-arms behind the

king's archers in the center to strike Buckingham in flank and rear. Unable

to maneuver within the narrow confines of the defenses, the Lancastrians

soon broke and fled, many being drowned in the shallow but wide river at

their backs. The Duke of Buckingham, Earl of Shrewbury, Thomas Percy, Lord

Beaumont and Lord Egremont were among the Lancastrian dead. The king was

captured again, taken to London, and compelled to sanction a Yorkist


York arrived from Ireland in mid-September and in October put forward a

claim to the throne. The peers rejected his claim (while Henry lived) but

made him Protector in view of the king's periods of insanity.

The queen and her son, who had remained at Coventry, fled to north

Wales, then to the North, where she began to gather a new army. With these

forces she overran Yorkshire, and a large number of Lancastrian supporters

from the West Country began to march across the Midlands to join her. York

sent his son Edward, Earl of March, to the Welsh borders to recruit an army

and to handle the minor local troubles stirred up by the Earl of Pembroke.

He left Warwick in London to ensure the capital's support and guard the

king; and on 9 December he led the Yorkist army northwards to deal with the

queen. He took with him his younger son Edmund and all the artillery then

available at the Tower of London.

On the 16th York's 'vaward battle' clashed with the West Countrymen,

suffered heavy losses, and was unable to prevent the Lancastrians from

moving on to join the queen. Learning that Margaret's main force was at

Pontefract Castle, York marched to his castle at Sandal, two miles south of

Wakefield and only nine from Pontefract. He arrived at Sandal Castle on the

21st and, learning that the queen's army was now almost four times as

numerous as his own, remained in the castle to await reinforcements under

Edward. The Lancastrian forces closed round the castle to prevent foraging.

On 30 December 1460 half the Lancastrian army advanced against Sandal

Castle as if to make an assault, but under cover of this movement the

'vaward battle', commanded by the Earl of Wiltshire, and the cavalry under

Lord Roos, unobtrusively took up positions in the woods flanking the open


York, believing the entire Lancastrian army to be before him, and much

smaller than he had been told, deployed for open battle, and led his troops

straight down the slope from the castle to launch an attack on Somerset's

line. The Lancastrians fell back before the advance, drawing the Yorkists

into the trap, finally halting to receive the charge.

The Yorkist charge almost shattered Somerset's line and the Lancastrian

reserve under Clifford had to be committed to stem the advance. But then

Wiltshire and Roos charged from the flanks, and the battle was over. York,

his son Edmund, his two uncles Sir John and Sir Hugh Mortimer, Sir Thomas

Neville (son of Salisbury), Harington, Bourchier and Hastings were among

those killed. The Earl of Salisbury was captured, and subsequently beheaded

by the Percies because of their feud with the Nevilles.

The death of Richard of York was a severe blow to the Yorkists; but

Warwick in London and Edward, now Duke of York, in the Welsh Marches, were

both raising new armies. In the Welsh Marches, in particular, men flocked

to Edward's banner to avenge Richard and their own lords who had died with

him, and by the end of January 1461 Edward had a fair-sized army gathered

round Hereford.

From here he set out to unite with Warwick, probably at Warwick Castle,

in order to halt the queen's march on the capital. However, shortly after

starting out he learned that the Earls of Pembroke and Wiltshire were

moving towards Worcester from the west with a large force and, in order to

avoid being caught between two Lancastrian armies, Edward moved northwards

17 miles to Mortimer's Cross, not far from Ludlow and only three and a half

miles from his own castle at Wigmore, ancestral home of the Mortimers. Here

the River Lugg, flowing south to join the Wye, was bridged for the main

road from central Wales and the Roman road from Hereford, the two roads

meeting close by the bridge. Edward deployed his army at this important

crossroads and river crossing early on the morning of 2 February 1461.

The Lancastrians deployed for battle on the morning of the 2nd and

advanced against the Yorkist line about noon. After a fierce struggle the

Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond succeeded in forcing Edward's right flank back

across the road (see map), but at the same time Pembroke's 'main battle'

was completely defeated by Edward. Ormond's 'battle' reformed and moved on

to the center to support Pembroke but, finding him already defeated, for

some inexplicable reason halted and sat down to await the outcome of the

fighting on the other flank.

Owen Tudor's 'battle' was the last to become engaged, having swung right

in an attempt to outflank the Yorkist position. In carrying out this

maneuver the Lancastrians exposed their own left flank, and the waiting

Yorkists promptly seized the opportunity to charge, cutting the

Lancastrians in two and scattering them in all directions. A general

retreat by the Lancastrians in the direction of Leominstcr followed,

quickly transformed into a bloody rout by the Yorkists. Owen Tudor was

captured and later executed.

After the battle of Wakefield the queen's army of borderers, Scots,

Welsh and mercenaries had begun to march on London, pillaging as it went

and leaving a 30-mile-wide swathe of ruin in its wake: Margaret, whose aim

was now to rescue the king, was unable to pay her army and had promised

them the whole of southern England to plunder in compensation. London was

panic-stricken, and Warwick found himself faced with the problem of being

unable to raise enough men either to stop the Lancastrian advance or to

defend the city. Edward's victory at Mortimer's Cross solved this problem,

for men flocked to Warwick's banner when news of the battle reached London

on about 10 February; and on the 12th Warwick was able to leave London with

a force large enough to attempt to halt the queen, sending word to Edward

to join forces as soon as possible.

Warwick marched to St. Albans and began to prepare a defensive position

there with a three-mile front barring the two roads to London which passed

through Luton and Hitchin. Detachments were also placed in St. Albans and

Sandridge to watch the flanks, and in Dunstable to guard the Watling Street

approach to St. Albans.

The queen left York on 20 January, marching down Ermine Street towards

London. At Royston she swung left and moved south-west as if to prevent a

junction between Edward and Warwick. On 14 or 15 February the queen

received details of Warwick's deployment from Lovelace, who had commanded

the Yorkist artillery at Wakefield but who had been spared by the

Lancastrians. Margaret allowed the borderers to continue ravaging the

countryside due south from Hitchin to divert Warwick's attention, and took

the rest other army on a hard march south and west past Luton to Dunstable,

intending to follow this with another march against St. Albans from the

west, so turning Warwick's defensive line.

The queen's army arrived at Dunstable late on the 16th, took the

Yorkists detachment there by surprise, and killed or captured every man.

After a brief halt the Lancastrians set out on a 12-mile night march to St.

Albans, arriving on the south bank of the River Ver before dawn. After a

short pause to rest and organize an attack, at about 6am on 17 February

1461 the 'vaward battle' crossed the river and entered the town. The

Yorkists were again taken by surprise but, as the Lancastrians rushed up

George Street towards the heart of the town, they were halted by a strong

detachment of archers left in St. Albans by Warwick, and eventually were

driven back to St Michael's church.

Shortly afterwards scouts reported an unguarded entrance through the

defenses via Folly and Catherine Lanes, and at about loam the town fell to

the Lancastrians. The king was found in a house in the town.

Warwick's defense line had been rendered useless and he was now faced

with the task of re-aligning his army in the presence of the enemy. His

'rearward battle', stationed by Beech Bottom Ditch, was wheeled to face

south, and Warwick then rode off to bring up the 'main' and 'vaward


The Lancastrian army now attacked the Yorkist 'rearward battle' which,

after a long and brave struggle, finally broke and fled towards the rest of

the army. Warwick was already on his way to reinforce them with the 'main

battle', but this now broke up as the fugitives streamed past, joining in

the general flight. Warwick rode off to bring up his 'vaward battle', but

on reaching it he found that Lovelace's detachment had deserted to the

enemy and the remainder was badly shaken. Somehow Warwick managed to form a

new line and held off further Lancastrian attacks until dark, when he

managed to extricate about 4,000 of his men and march westwards to join


Margaret waited nine days at St. Albans while negotiating the surrender

of London, only 20 miles away. London, panic-stricken by the behavior of

the queen's army, which looted St. Albans after the battle, refused to open

its gates to the queen and her king. The borderers began to desert in

droves; and with Edward and Warwick united and advancing rapidly from the

west, Margaret finally abandoned her attempt on the capital and withdrew to

York with the king. Twelve days after second St. Albans the united forces

of Edward and Warwick entered London: on 4 March Edward was proclaimed king

by the Yorkist peers and by the merchants and commons of London.

Edward set off in pursuit of Margaret and Henry on 19 March, but his

advance guard was defeated by a Lancastrian delaying force at Ferrybridge

on the River Aire on the 27th. At dawn on the 28th the Yorkists forced

their way over the bridge and all that day fought to push back the

Lancastrian rearguard towards Towton, reaching the village of Saxton by

nightfall. The next morning the queen's army, commanded by Somerset, was

seen drawn up less than a mile away (see map).

At 9am on 29 March 1461, with heavy snow falling, the two armies

advanced towards each other. When they were about 300 yards apart the

Yorkists halted to discharge one volley of heavy armour-piercing arrows

which, aided by a following wind, hit the Lancastrian line and caused some

casualties. The Yorkist archers then fell back a short distance. The

Lancastrians responded with several volleys, using the lighter flight

arrows not normally used at all except short range. Impeded by the wind,

these arrows fell short by some 50 yards, but the Lancastrians continued to

discharge their arrows until their quivers were empty. The Yorkist archers

then advanced again and poured a barrage of arrows into the Lancastrian

ranks. Unable to respond, the Lancastrians moved forward to contact as

quickly as possible.

The battle raged all day, but at about 3pm Lord Dacres, one of the

senior Lancastrian commanders, was killed, and at the same time the Duke of

Norfolk's force of several thousand men arrived to reinforce the Yorkist

right flank. The Lancastrians began to ease off, the slackening of pressure

increased to a withdrawal, and suddenly their whole line collapsed. About

12,000 Yorkists were killed or died of wounds and exposure, while some

20,000 Lancastrians were killed, making Towton the bloodiest battle ever

fought on English soil. It was also the most decisive battle of the wars,

in the very heart of Lancastrian country, and firmly established Edward IV

on the throne. The queen, Henry, and their son Prince Edward fled to


The first years of Edward's reign were pro-occupied with stamping out

all remaining Lancastrian opposition. Pembroke and Exeter remained at large

in Wales, but the Earl of Oxford was executed in 1462 for an attempted

landing on the cast coast. The bulk of the surviving Lancastrians retired

to the Scots border with Margaret and Henry, seeking support from Scotland

and holding the powerful border castles.

In April 1464 a Yorkist force under Lord Montagu, Warwick's younger

brother and Edward's lieutenant in the north, clashed with a Lancastrian

force under the Duke of Somerset at Hedgeley Moor. The two Lancastrian

wings, commanded by Lords Hungerford and Roos, promptly fled, but the men

under Sir Ralph Percy stood fast and were annihilated. Montagu was unable

to pursue, as he was escorting a Scottish delegation to York to discuss a

peace. Somerset led his forces to Hexham and made camp two miles south of

that town. As soon as Montagu had carried out his mission, he moved

southwards to confront the Lancastrians again.

Early on the morning of 15 May 1464 Montagu attacked the Lancastrian

camp, smashing through Somerset's center with a rapid downhill charge. Once

again the two wings broke and fled. Somerset was captured and executed,

along with Hungerford and Roos, among others. These executions almost

completed the extinction of the old Lancastrian faction, and virtually

ended Lancastrian resistance; and even the queen gave up, and fled to



Barnet and Tewkesbury.

The great northern strongholds of the Lancastrians – Ainwick, Norham,

Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh fell soon after the battle of Hexham, and within

a year Henry VI, who had been hiding in a monastery, was betrayed and

placed in the Tower. Apart from Harlech Castle and Berwick-on-Tweed, Edward

was now truly king of all England.

In November 1464 Edward secretly married Elizabeth Woodville, without

the consent and against the wishes of Warwick (who was engaged at the time

in trying to arrange a French marriage for the king). Warwick, trying to

assume dictatorial powers over the new king, fell from favor, and

Elizabeth's numerous relatives rose swiftly in rank and office as Edward

formed his own Yorkist party: his father-in-law became Earl Rivers, his

brother-in-law Lord Scales, Elizabeth's son by her first marriage became

Earl of Dorset, while old supporters were also advanced – William Herbert

was made Earl of Pembroke, Humphrey Stafford Earl of Devon, and the Percies

were recruited in alignment against the Nevilles by restoring to them the

earldom of Northumberland. In 1467 Edward openly broke with Warwick by

repudiating a treaty with France and an alliance with Burgundy which

Warwick had just negotiated. Enraged and humiliated, Warwick enlisted the

aid of Edward's brother, George of Clarence, and from the security of

Calais declared against Edward because of his oppressions.

At about this time Warwick engineered a Neville rising in the north,

which began with the so-called rebellion of Robin of Redesdale. When the

rising was well under way Warwick landed in Kent with a force from Calais

but, before he could reach the scene of operations, the royal army was

defeated at Edgecotc in Northamptonshire (6 July 1469). Edward was captured

and handed over to Warwick, who executed many of Edward's leading

supporters, including Queen Elizabeth's father, her brother John, and the

newly created Earls of Pembroke and Devon.

Edward was confined for some weeks in Middleham Castle, but was released

when he agreed to accept new ministers nominated by Warwick. But at the

first opportunity Edward took his revenge. In March 1470 a Lancastrian

uprising occurred in Lincolnshire. Edward gathered a force to suppress the

rising, carefully calling to his standard all those peers with grudges

against Warwick or who were not tied to him by family alliances. Edward

defeated the rebels at the battle of Lose-Coat Field and the rebels'

leader, Sir Robert Welles, confessed the rising was part of a plot by

Warwick to make Clarence king. Unable to oppose Edward's army, Warwick and

Clarence fled to France, where they allied themselves with Margaret and the

Lancastrian cause.

In September Warwick arranged a rising in Yorkshire and, as soon as

Edward moved north, landed with Clarence and a small force at Dartmouth.

Devon rose to support them, Kent followed suit, and London opened its


Edward, returning south in a hurry, found himself caught between

Warwick's growing army in the south and the rising in the north. His army

began to melt away, and Edward was forced to take ship at Lynn and flee to

the Netherlands.

Henry VI was released and restored to the throne, but Margaret did not

trust her old enemy Warwick, and refused to leave France: Prince Edward

remained with her.

Meanwhile, Clarence began to seek reconciliation with Edward; and on 15

March 1471, with a body of some 1,500 German and Flemish mercenaries lent

to him by the Duke of Burgundy, Edward landed at Ravenspur in the Humber

estuary. Marching swiftly southwards, Edward evaded an army under the Duke

of Northumberland and reached Nottingham, where he learned that Warwick was

gathering an army at Coventry. The Earl of Oxford was at Newark with

another army, but Edward managed to slip between them, gathering adherents

to his cause all the way to the capital. The most important of these was

Clarence, who joined him with a force originally raised for the Lancastrian


Edward reached London on 11 April, closely followed by the now united

armies of Oxford, Northumberland and Warwick, and on 14 April 1471 was

fought the battle of Barnet (see map).

The battle began at dawn in a heavy fog, with the right wing of each

army overlapping the left wing of the other. Both the Yorkist and

Lancastrian left wings were defeated. Consequently both armies swung to a

new position, almost at right angles to their original lines, and in the

fog the Lancastrian right under Oxford blundered into the rear of his own

center, causing some casualties. Cries of treason rang out, and many of

Oxford's men now quit the field, followed by some of those from Somerset's

'main battle'. At this moment Edward charged between Somerset and Warwick

with about a 100 horsemen of his reserve. Warwick's men slowly gave way,

eventually breaking and fleeing, and a general Lancastrian rout then

ensued. Warwick, on foot, was cut down and killed. With him died his

brother Montagu.

On the same day Queen Margaret and Prince Edward landed at Weymouth.

Learning of the battle, the queen marched through the West Country,

collecting men and heading for the Lancastrian strongholds in Wales.

Edward, keeping his army intact, marched from London to prevent this new

Lancastrian force from reaching Wales.

Gloucester, with its crucial first bridge over the Severn, closed its

gates to the queen at Edward's request, and Margaret had no option but to

bypass the city and move further up river to Tewkesbury. Here Edward caught

up with her on 3 May after a series of forced marches.

The next day – 4 May 1471 – the outnumbered Lancastrians took up a

strong position on a slope between two brooks (see map). The Yorkists

deployed some 400 yards away, with their left flank under Richard of

Gloucester apparently 'in the air'. Somerset took his personal command away

to the right to attack Richard in the flank, giving Lord Wenlock orders to

advance as soon as he saw Somerset attacking, thus pinning Richard in

position. In the event Wenlock failed to advance;

Richard turned to face Somerset, who was now faced by the entire Yorkist

left; and at the same time some 200 spearmen, placed on the extreme flank

by Edward to guard against such a move, advanced to attack Somerset in the

flank. Somerset's force gave ground, then broke and fled. Somerset escaped

to confront Wenlock, and in a rage slew him with his battleaxe. The 'main

battle' now began to give ground, and when Edward's center began a general

advance the Lancastrian army broke and ran.

Most of the Lancastrian nobles were captured and slaughtered, among them

Prince Edward and Edmund, Duke of Somerset, the last male Beaufort. Queen

Margaret was captured and placed in the Tower, where she remained for five

years until ransomed by her father. Henry VI was murdered in the Tower

shortly after the battle.

Edward proclaimed his seven-month-old son Edward Prince of Wales and

sent Hastings with a strong force to take possession of Calais. Richard of

Gloucester was rewarded with Warwick's lands and offices, while Clarence

received the lands of Courtenay in the West Country and the Lieutenancy of



Bosworth, Stoke, Blackheath and Exeter

Edward IV died in April 1483 when his son and heir, Edward V, was only

twelve. Inevitably rival factions immediately emerged – the boy king and

the court controlled by the queen mother and her relations, and Edward's

favorites Lord Hastings and Thomas Lord Stanley, opposed by Richard, Duke

of Gloucester, now the most powerful man in the kingdom, whom Edward IV had

intended should be regent.

Richard acted swiftly. Moving south, he joined forces with Henry

Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, and seized Edward V en route to London in the

care of Lord Rivers, the queen mother's brother. Her son, Dorset, at once

fled the country, while the queen mother sought sanctuary in Westminster

Abbey. Within a month of Edward IV's death, Richard was Protector of the


In June Hastings was suddenly arrested and executed. Two weeks later

Richard informed Parliament that Edward's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville

was invalid due to an earlier marriage, and therefore Edward V was a

bastard – which left Richard the rightful successor. Richard became Richard

III, Lord Rivers was executed, and Edward V and his younger brother

Richard, Duke of York, were placed in the Tower.

That autumn there was a revolt in the West Country, led by Buckingham,

apparently in conspiracy with the exiled Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond and

now head of the House of Lancaster. (Henry could claim the throne, in right

of his mother, Margaret Beaufort, as surviving male representative of the

House of Lancaster, the Beauforts being descended from John of Gaunt.)

Buckingham was supported by the Woodvillcs and Courtenays. Richard quickly

and efficiently crushed the revolt, and Buckingham was executed. Henry

Tudor withdrew to France, but in 1485, with about 3,000 French mercenaries,

he landed in Pembrokeshire, where his uncle Jasper was earl. He marched

quickly through Wales and the Marches, picking up considerable support on

the way, and confronted Richard in battle for the throne at Bosworth in

Leicestershire on 22 August 1485.

The two main forces drew up facing each other but both Henry Tudor and

Richard III looked anxiously for support from the forces of the two

brothers Stanley: those of Sir Willaim Stanley were visible to the north-

west of the battlefield, and those of Lord Stanley to the southeast.

The battle commenced without the Stanleys, the opposing forces both

making a bid for Ambien Hill. Richard's troops reached the ridge first, and

his 'vaward battle' deployed on it in a defensive position. The 'main

battle' followed, while the 'rearward battle' was ordered to take position

on the left of this line as soon as possible, and to face due south.

Henry advanced to engage in an archery duel at long range, and Richard

looked in vain for his 'rearward battle': the Earl of Northumberland had

decided to avoid action until the Stanleys showed their hands.

As the archers began to run out of arrows, the two armies advanced to

melee, and only now did the Stanleys move – to attack both flanks of

Richard's line, while Northumberland remained immobile. Richard mounted,

collected his bodyguard around him, and rode into the center of the enemy,

intent on killing Henry Tudor or dying like a king. Unhorsed in the marsh,

Richard was soon overwhelmed by superior numbers and killed. The battle

ceased when his death became known, and his army melted away with little or

no pursuit. Lord Stanley took the circlet indicating Richard's rank from

the dead king's helmet and, placing it on Henry Tudor's head, proclaimed

him King Henry VII.

In the early years of his reign Henry VII was in continual danger, and

it is erroneous to regard Bosworth as the end of the Wars of the Roses. The

first of the king's troubles was a rising in 1486 in the North Riding of

Yorkshire, where Richard III had been very popular. It was led by Lord

Lovel, Richard's chamberlain and admiral, but the rebels dispersed when

Henry marched against them with a large force. Lovel fled to Flanders.

In May 1487 Lovel landed in Ireland with some 2,000 Swiss and 1,500

German mercenaries, supplied by Margaret of Burgundy and commanded by the

Swiss captain Martin Schwarz, accompanied by John, Earl of Lincoln, and

about 200 other exiled Yorkists. This revolt was in the name of Edward,

Earl of Warwick, son of Clarence, but as he was a prisoner in the Tower a

'double' named Lambert Simnel played his part.

The invaders were welcomed by most of the Irish lords and 'Clarence' was

crowned Edward VI at Dublin. Within a few weeks Lincoln had recruited some

4,000 – 5,000 Irish soldiers under Thomas Fitzgerald. These forces now

sailed for England, landing in Lancashire. However, few Yorkists had joined

the invaders by the time Henry VII brought them to battle at Stoke, near

Newark, on 17 July 1487. Despite fierce resistance by the foreign

mercenaries the rebels were routed, Lincoln and Fitzgerald killed, and

Simnel captured. Lovel disappeared.

For the next four years Henry enjoyed a relatively peaceful reign, but

then Yorkist conspiracies began once more to thicken. Ever since 1483 it

had been rumored that one or both of Edward IV's sons had escaped from the

Tower: Henry Tudor claimed they had been murdered by Richard HI, but no

bodies had ever been found or displayed as proof of their death. One Perkin

Warbeck, a citizen of Tournai, was chosen for his similarity of appearance

to Edward IV, and declared to be Richard, Duke of York.

He gained some support in Ireland, and was recognized as York by

Margaret of Burgundy and Maximilian of Austria. For two years Warbeck

followed the Imperial court while his patrons intrigued with English

malcontents; but in the winter of 1494-5 Henry's spies infiltrated the

conspiracy and large numbers of the conspirators were arrested, including

Lord Fitz Walter and Sir William Stanley. The latter was beheaded, as were

several others, while the remainder were hanged or imprisoned.

Nevertheless, in July 1495 Warbeck sailed from Flanders with 2,000

exiles and German mercenaries. He attempted to land at Deal, but his

vanguard was destroyed by Kentish levies and he drew off and made for

Ireland. Henry had anticipated such a move, and had already sent to Ireland

Sir Edward Poynings, who had suppressed the Irish supporters of Warbeck.

Warbeck landed at Munster, but only the Earl of Desmond came to his

support. Unable to face Poynings' forces, Warbeck sailed to Scotland. With

James IV he raided Northumberland in 1496, but a pretender backed by

Scottish spears was not acceptable to the English borderers, and not one

man rallied to the Yorkist banner.

However, discontent over the taxes imposed to pay for the war with

Scotland did lead to rioting in the south-east counties, and in Cornwall

open rebellion broke out. A rebel army marched on Eondon, sweeping over

five counties unopposed and collecting recruits en route, and was only

stopped by a hard fight at Blackheath.

Warbeck, hearing of the rising, landed in Devon in August. Gathering

together 8,000 rebels, he marched on Exeter. The city closed its gates

against him and, after an attempt to besiege the city, Warbeck had to march

away to confront a royal army dispatched to relieve Exeter. When he reached

Taunton Warbeck found his followers so dispirited that disaster was

inevitable. He took sanctuary on the abbey of Beaulieu, and later confessed

his fraud in exchange for his life. In 1498 Warbeck escaped from the Tower

but was recaptured and thereafter confined in a dungeon. The next year he

planned another escape, together with the unfortunate Edward of Clarence,

but spies in the Tower betrayed this. Henry allowed the plot to proceed

almost to completion, then had both Edward and Warbeck executed for

planning rebellion.

The last real fighting of the Wars of the Roses had taken place at

Blackheath and the siege of Exeter, but Clarence had been a true male heir

of the House of Plantagenet and all the time he lived he was a threat to

the House of Tudor. His death truly marked the end of the Wars of the

Roses, and thereafter Henry VII’s reign was peaceful apart from a few minor

and futile plots by the exiled Edmund, Earl of Suffolk, younger brother of

John, Earl of Lincoln, and the last possible Yorkist claimant to the throne

of England.

Appendix 1 Armies

In 1341 Edward III had revolutionized the structure of European armies

by instituting in England a system of written indentured contracts between

the Crown and prominent military leaders. Under this system the military

leaders, or 'captains' and 'lieutenants', contracted with the king to

provide an agreed number of men for military service, promising to bring

them to a place of assembly by a certain date. The indenture set out

precisely how long the men would have to serve, their rate of pay,

obligations and privileges. The captains were responsible for paying these

men, the king giving securities to repay the money at a later date.

These captains raised their companies by making a series of similar

contracts with knights and man-at-arms, again stipulating the terms of

service and the types of soldiers they would be expected to contribute. The

captains usually sought these 'sub-contractors' amongst their friends,

kinsmen, tenants and neighbors.

These companies, composed entirely of volunteers, created in effect a

royal standing army; for the men were professional soldiers who, although

raised, led and paid by their captains, regarded themselves firstly as

English soldiers, owing allegiance to their king and fighting only his


Inevitably, many of the most powerful captains were of the nobility, for

they had the position at court, the wealth, and the connections to raise

large contingents. In order to be able to satisfy at once any request by

the king for a company, such lords frequently maintained a permanent force,

contracting their sub-contractors for life with annuities. These men often

held offices (such as chamberlain or steward) in the magnate's household or

on his estates, and probably provided in their turn the key contingents in

his company.

This system was introduced to deal with the demand for expeditionary

forces to invade France during the Hundred Years' War, and the need to

maintain permanent royal garrisons in the castles and towns across the

channel. But it had the effect of creating large forces commanded by the

great barons, and during the course of the Hundred Years' War these

magnates became virtually petty kings within their own domains: the great

northern families of Percy and Neville, for example, fought each other in

the Wars of the Roses as much for supremacy in the North as for who should

control the government of all England.

The three greatest landowners of the second half of Henry VI's reign

were the Earl of Warwick and the Dukes of Buckingham and York. Humphrey

Stafford (died 1460), 1st Duke of Buckingham, had a personal retinue often

knights and 27 esquires, many of whom were drawn from the Staffordshire

gentry. These men were paid annuities to retain their loyalty (hence

'retainers'), the best-paid in Buckingham's retinue being Sir Edward Grey

(died 1457) who was retained for life in 1440 at Ј40 per annum. Two knights

(Sir Richard Vernon and Sir John Constable) received annuities of Ј20 p.e.,

but Ј10 was the customary annuity for a knight, with esquires paid from Ј10

to Ј40 marks per annum.

These knights and esquires were the subcontractors, and each would have

provided a contingent of archers and men-at-arms. When their contingents

were amalgamated, considerable armies could be gathered. For example, in

January 1454, 2,000 badges of the Stafford knot were produced for

distribution to Buckingham's men; in 1469 the Duke of Norfolk fielded 3,000

men and some cannon; while a great soldier and statesman of the ability and

ambition of Warwick would have been able to count on thousands of men

scattered over no fewer than 20 shires.

Note the predominance of archers. The contemporary Paston letters give a

good idea of the value of the longbowman during the Wars of the Roses. When

Sir John Paston was about to depart for Calais, he asked his brother to try

to recruit four archers for him: 'Likely men and fair conditioned and good

archers and they shall have 4 marks by year and my livery', (i.e. they were

to be permanent retainers, on annuities).

These were ordinary archers, as opposed to an elite or 'de maison'

archer who would serve permanently in the household troop of a great lord.

Warwick considered such men to be worth two ordinary soldiers – even

English ones! In 1467 Sir John Howard hired such an archer, offering him

Ј10 a year – the annuity paid to knights – plus two gowns and a house for

his wife. As an extra inducement he gave the man 2s. 8d., two doublets

worth 10s. and a new gown (a term often applied to the livery coat). When

Sir John bought himself a new bow, for which he paid 2s., he bought for

this elite archer four bows costing 5s. 11.5d. each, a new case, a shooting

glove, bowstrings, and a sheaf of arrows which cost 5s.: at that price they

were probably the best target arrows available.

Edward IV's leading captains for his 1475 expedition to France had the

following retinues:

|Duke of Clarence |10 knights 1,000 archers |

|Duke of Gloucester |10 knights 1,000 archers |

|Duke of Norfolk |2 knights 300 archers |

|Duke of Suffolk |2 knights 300 archers |

|Duke of Buckingham |4 knights 400 archers |

This contract system still existed in the mid-15th century, and the end

of the Hundred Years' War in 1453 flooded England with large numbers of men

who had no trade other than that of soldier. Returning to England, these

men now assumed the aspect of mercenaries, unemployed and troublesome.

Bored and hungry, they eagerly sought employment with the great barons.

Such large private armies were extremely dangerous to the king. Lacking a

standing army of his own, he could now only control unruly or even disloyal

barons by using the private armies of those barons who remained loyal. Of

course, loyal barons were rewarded with valuable offices and vast estates –

which enabled them to hire even larger armies until, as with Warwick, they

became powerful enough to attempt the overthrow of their benefactor.

This weakness in the royal authority led to corruption in high offices,

and especially in the judiciary system. Whenever the interests of a

landowner were involved in a legal case, rival bodies of armed men, wearing

the liveries and badges of the lords who maintained them, would ride into

the county town and bribe or intimidate judge and jury.

During the regency of Henry VI's reign the legal system finally

collapsed, and the barons began to resolve their quarrels over land and

inheritances by making war against each other: might was right, and it

became commonplace for heiresses to be abducted, minor lords to be

imprisoned or even murdered, and for 'evidence' to be procured by bribery

or threat.

Since justice was no longer obtainable by fair means, many of the yeoman

farmers and smaller landowners of the lesser gentry now turned to the

barons for their personal protection and for the protection of their lands

and rights. This led to the polarization, which is such a feature of the

Wars of the Roses.

The yeomen and lesser gentry entered into another form of contract,

known as 'livery and maintenance', whereby they undertook to wear the

baron's livery – i.e. a tunic in his colors and bearing his household badge

– and to fight for him in times of need. In return they received his

protection whenever they needed it.

From the above can be seen that an 'army' of the Wars of the Roses might

consist of a magnate's personal or household troops (or bodyguard – usually

of knights, sergeants and archers), plus his tenants, together with paid

mercenaries or contract troops – both English and foreign specialists such

as gunners and hand gunners – and 'livery and maintenance' men who were

unpaid but who had a personal stake in the fighting.

The only forces under the king's personal command were his bodyguard of

knights and sergeants and the large, professional body of men who formed

the royal garrison at Calais. Edward IV also had a permanent bodyguard of

archers, and one of Henry VII's first actions on seizing the throne was to

found the Yeomen of the Guard, a body of some 2,000 archers under a

captain. These first saw active service in 1486, when they were used in the

suppression of northern rebels.

Finally, in times of great need, the king might also use Commissions of

Array to call out the local militia. In theory the king's officials chose

the best-armed men from each village and town to serve the king for up to

40 days, the men's provisions being provided by their community. In

practice, the king's authority was frequently misused, and great landowners

often sent letters to the lesser landowners and councils of towns where

they had influence, reminding those in authority of past favors and hinting

at benefits yet to come.

An example is given in the contemporary Stonor letters and papers for

the Oxfordshire half-hundred of Ewelme, which provided from its 17 villages

a total of 85 soldiers, 17 of whom were archers. Eweime itself produced six

men: 'Richard Slythurst, a harness [i.e. armored] and able to do the king

service with his bow. Thomas Staunton [the constable], John Hoime, whole

harness and both able to do the king service with a bill. John Tanner, a

harness and able to do the king service with a bill. John Pallying, a

harness and not able to wear it [presumably it did not fit him]. Roger

Smith, no harness, an able man and a good archer'. Other men without

harness are described as 'able with a staff.

Muster rolls are another source of such information. The muster on 4

September 1457 before the king's officials at Bridport, Dorset, shows that

the standard equipment expected was a sallet, jack, sword, buckler and

dagger. In addition, about two-thirds of the men had bows and a sheaf or

half a sheaf of arrows. There was a sprinkling of other weapons – poleaxes,

glaives, bills, spears, axes and staves; and some odd pieces of armour –

hauberks, gauntlets, and leg harness. Two men also had pavises, and the

officials recommended more pavises be made available.

In May 1455 the mayor of Coventry was ordered by royal signet letter to

supply a retinue for the king. The town council decided to supply a hundred

men with bows, jacks and sallets, and a captain was elected to lead them.

The retinues supplied for Edward IV's expedition to France are divided

into 'lances' in the Continental manner, but it is most unlikely that the

forces engaged in the Wars of the Roses were ever formally divided in this

manner. Rather they were grouped by weapon and armour, by companies and

under the banners of their captains, and grouped into 'vaward', 'main' and

'rearward battles' under the standard of a major figure. The army as a

whole would often be commanded by the leading political figure, assisted by

military advisers. In the case of the king's armies the commander-in-chief

would be the lieutenant or captain of the region: officers such as the

Warden of the Marches, Lieutenant of Ireland, or Lieutenant of the North,

the latter post being granted to Fauconberg in 1461 and to Warwick in 1462.

Many of the commanders, particularly at company level, were not knights

but experienced soldiers, though many of them were subsequently knighted on

the field of battle. Lovelace was only an esquire, but rose to be Captain

of Kent through his military skills. Trollope was another soldier who rose

to high command, and was rewarded for his services by a knighthood at

Second St. Albans. Men such as Trollope were frequently the military brains

or 'staff officers' behind the magnates who led the 'battles'. On the other

hand, constables of towns played a key role in recruiting contingents, and

they may often have commanded companies, as may sheriffs. Such men may not

have had any military skill.

Although the wars started with small armies of experienced soldiers, as

time went on the proportion of veterans diminished and, generally speaking,

the armies had insufficient cohesion for elaborate tactics: most battles

began with an archery duel, which tended to cancel out the value of the

longbow, followed by a vast and contused melee on foot. The commander of an

army could do little once the melee commenced, though he might hold back a

small mounted reserve under his personal command, or detach a formation

prior to the battle to use in an outflanking maneuver.

Large numbers of the troops were mounted – not just the knights and

esquires, but many of the men-at-arms. Some of these 'mounted infantry'

were used as mounted scouts, flank guards and the like, but apart from an

occasional mounted reserve of only 100 men or so, the armies dismounted to

do battle, all horses being sent to the rear with the baggage. Primarily

this was because of the weapons used and the facts that few mounted men

were sufficiently experienced to fight effectively on horseback. However,

the fact that many men of all arms were mounted did tend to lead to the

formation of special vanguards of all-mounted troops, who were used to

spearhead movement prior to a battle.

Because of the fear of treachery, it was essential that the major

commanders fight on foot to indicate their willingness to stand and die

with their men. It was for this reason that so many of the nobles were so

easily killed or captured once their army was defeated. The mounted

reserves therefore tended to be composed of lesser knights or bodyguards,

and were led by minor commanders, such as Sir John Grey of Codnor, an

experienced soldier but a knight of low rank and position, who led the

Lancastrian cavalry reserve at Second St. Albans.

Appendix 2 Characters.

|Henry V (1387 - 1422) - King of England |

| |

| |

|Years lived: 1387 - 1422 |

| |

|Years ruled: 1413 - 1422 |

| |

|Son of: Henry IV and Mary de Bohun |

| |

|Married to: Catherine de Valois |

| |

|Children: Henry VI |

| |

|Henry V, a member of the House of Lancaster, was crowned king in 1413 at the |

|age of 26. Henry spent most of his reign campaigning in France in order to |

|regain territories claimed by his ancestors. The highlight of his three |

|invasions of France (1415, 1417-1421, and 1422) was the Battle of Agincourt |

|fought on October 25, 1415 during the Hundred Year's War. In a span of a few |

|short hours, Henry crushed a much larger French army leaving him in control of |

|Northern France. Henry died at the age of 35 of an unknown illness, leaving the|

|crown to his infant son, Henry VI. |

| |

|Richard III, King of England 1483 - 1485 |

| |

|Years lived: 1452 - 1485 |

| |

|Years ruled: 1483 - 1485 |

| |

|Son of: Richard, Duke of York, and Cecily Neville |

| |

|Married to: Anne Beauchamp Neville (1472) |

| |

|Children: Edward, Prince of Wales |

| | |

| | |

|Richard III, the younger brother of Edward IV, was made duke of Gloucester at |

|age nine. He fough for Edward at the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury in 1471.|

|When Edward died in 1483 he took control of Edwards heirs, Edward V and his |

|brother Richard. The young brothers were held in the Tower of London and |

|murdered in June 1483. Richard III was crowned king that year. He was killed |

|by Henry VII at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. |

Appendix 3 Genealogies

House of Lancaster

The Lancastarian claim to the throne was via Edward III's third son John

of Gaunt. In October 1460, an Act of Accord designated that the royal

succession would move to the house of York after Henry VI's death. The

houses of Lancaster and York were united when Henry VII married the

Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV.

Sons of Edward III (1312-1377)


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