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Rout of Ludford Bridge, 12-13 October 1459

Rout of Ludford Bridge, 12-13 October 1459

Rout of Ludford Bridge, 12-13 October 1459

The battle of Ludford Bridge (12-13 October 1459) was a humiliating defeat that appeared to have ended any hopes of a Yorkist victory in the Wars of the Roses.

The first burst of open warfare came in 1455. During Henry VI's first period of mental illness Richard duke of York had insisted that he be appointed Protector. During his brief time in power he had performed fairly well, but he had used his influence to place Edmund Beaufort, second duke of Somerset, under arrest in the tower on charges relating to the English defeat in the Hundred Years War, and had sided with his allies the Nevilles in their long running feud with the Percy family.

When Henry recovered late in 1454 it was only a matter of time before his enemies were restored to power. In mid-April York and his Neville allies the earls of Salisbury and Warwick were summoned to a council, where they believed that they would be arrested. In response the Yorkists raised an army and marched on London. Somerset and the court were caught out, not having expected a military response. At the First Battle of St. Albans (22 May 1455) the outnumbered Royal army was defeated. Henry VI was captured while Somerset, Northumberland and Lord Clifford were killed. York regained power. His allies were rewarded with key posts - chancellor, treasurer and Captain of Calais, while in November York became Protector for a second time

York's position began to decline early in 1456. In February Henry recovered from an illness and removed York from his post as Protector. Queen Margaret moved away from London and began to establish a new powerbase in the country. Later in the summer King Henry joined her and most of York's appointments were reversed. Warwick was the one exception - as a proven man of action he was left in control in Calais.

Over the next few years Henry VI made some effort to maintain the peace. In 1458 he even managed to get the main protagonists to undergo a public reconciliation - the 'Loveday' of 24 March 1458 in which York, Salisbury and Warwick publicly made peace with the heirs of Northumberland, Somerset and Clifford.

Any good that the 'Loveday' had done was soon undone by events at Calais. Warwick may have remained in post, but he never received enough money and the pay of the garrison was in arrears. He was also paying for a small naval force of about ten ships (at this point Henry VI had one ship in the Royal fleet). Warwick used his ships against the French, but he also carried out some blatant piracy, attacking a Spanish fleet and the Hanseatic fleet. This gave his enemies at court an excuse to summon him to London. This visit, in October 1458, ended with a brawl between the Warwick's men and the royal guard and Warwick was forced to fight his way to safety on his barge. He then returned to Calais, ignoring official instructions to return to London.

This was verging on open rebellion. The court began to prepare for war, ordering stockpiles of weapons. Queen Margaret and her allies had learnt from the mistakes of 1455 and weren't going to be caught out by a rapid Yorkist mobilisation for a second time. They made their move in June 1459, summoning a Great Council to meet at Coventry. York, Salisbury and Warwick weren't invited, and instead they were charged with treason. After this the Yorkist lords retired to their main powerbases and began to recruit. Salisbury moved north and recruited around Middleham while York moved to the Welsh borders and his base at Ludlow.

Active campaigning began in September. The Royal armies moved into the Midlands in an attempt to intercept Salisbury before he could lead his dangerous northern army to join with York. Warwick left Calais with part of the garrison, led by Andrew Trollope, and marched to London. Crucially Trollope and his men appear to have believed that they wouldn’t have to face King Henry in person.

The Lancastrians failed to intercept Warwick, who moved up from London to Warwick and then across to Ludlow. They had more luck with Salisbury. His route south brought him to Newcastle-under-Lyme (north-western Staffordshire) where three Lancastrian armies were closing in. King Henry's army was left behind. Queen Margaret got into a good position to the south of Newcastle, but failed to act. This left a Cheshire army under Lord Audley, which blocked Salisbury's route at Blore Heath, between Newcastle and Market Drayton in Shropshire. The resulting battle of Blore Heath (23 September 1459) was a Yorkist victory. Audley was killed and his deputy, Lord Dudley, was captured. Salisbury managed to evade the Queen and joined York at Ludlow.

Although all three Yorkist armies had managed to join up they were still badly outnumbered. King Henry had at least eighteen peers with him, each with their armed retinues. York only had six peers in his army - himself, his sons Edward earl of March and Edmund earl of Rutland, the two Nevilles - Salisbury and Warwick, and Lord Clinton. Henry had one of the largest armies to take to the field during the Wars of the Roses, while York had struggled to recruit as many men as he had hoped.

Just as before First St. Albans a series of messages were exchanged between the two armies. The Yorkists issued a manifesto in which they claimed once again that they had no quarrel with the king, but only with his advisors (a standard claim of rebels throughout the Middle Ages). The King responded with an offer of a pardon for York and all of his supporters apart from those involved in Audley's death. This excluded Salisbury, and given the way in which Royal proclamations could be twisted could be extended to include York as the person responsible for the entire campaign. Neither side was willing to accept the others terms.

The combined Yorkist army moved south-east from Ludlow to Worcester. As the large Royal army approached they retreated south to Tewkesbury, before falling back north-west to Ludlow. Ludlow town is on the north bank of the River Teme. The old town sits in a bend in the river that covers it from the south and west, while the River Corve runs along the northern side, joining the Teme just to the north. The main bridge across the Teme was at the southern side of the town and led to Ludford. The Yorkists appear to have built a defensive position at Ludford Bridge, and this was where their army was posted. York's men were thus on the south bank of the Teme, with the bridge behind them. They had field artillery with them, mounted on carts, and these formed their front line, with the outnumbered troops behind.

The Royal army approached Ludford Bridge from the south late on 12 October. That night the Yorkist guns fired towards the Royal army (this is sometimes called a bombardment, but night firing can hardly have been effective enough to deserve that description). York was aware that the king's presence was potentially demoralising for his men and the offer of a pardon was very tempting, and so attempted to convince his men that the king was dead. The ruse failed. That night Trollope and the Calais men changed sides, accepting the pardon, claiming that they hadn't expected to have to fight the king in person. This seems rather unconvincing, but we don't know what Warwick had told the garrison before they left Calais. Perhaps more likely is that the Royal presence made them think twice about their actions, and the knowledge that they had nothing to do with Audley's death made the pardon more appealing.

The loss of the experienced Calais men meant that the Yorkist cause was doomed. That night the Yorkist leaders announced that they were going to retire to Ludlow Castle for the night. Once there they decided to flee, abandoning their men. The Yorkist leaders fled in different directions. York and his younger son Edmund fled north and then to Ireland. Salisbury, Warwick and March fled south (perhaps taking advantage of the cover of the River Teme to get past the Royal army, which would have been on the opposite bank of the river). They ended up in Devon, where they found a ship. An attempt to reach York in Ireland is said to have failed and instead they made for Calais. The next morning the remnants of the Yorkist army dissolved.

The embarrassing collapse of the Yorkist position at Ludford Bridge seemed to have ended their threat to Henry VI, but the respite would be surprisingly short-lived. Richard of York was safe in Ireland, where he built quite a following, while Salisbury, Warwick and March were equally secure at Calais. By the summer of 1460 they were ready to try their hand again. This time the Yorkist invasion met with more success. In the nine months between the Yorkist landings in Kent in June 1460 and the battle of Towton in March 1461 the two sides fought five major battles. By the end of this period Richard of York was dead, Henry VI was a refuge and Edward, earl of March had begun the first part of his reign as Edward IV.

Books on the Middle Ages -Subject Index: War of the Roses


The Richard III Society

The Richard III Society was founded to promote research into the life and times of Richard III, confident that reasoned debate and scrupulous research would reveal a very different character from the evil caricature of Tudor propaganda. This belief has proved well founded.

Of the six major ‘crimes’ imputed to Richard III by Shakespeare, it is now widely agreed that Richard was certainly innocent of four and that the other two cannot be proved conclusively: the deaths of Henry VI and George duke of Clarence were the responsibility of Edward IV no contemporary source links Richard with Edward of Lancaster’s death at Tewkesbury Anne Neville died of natural causes insufficient evidence survives to be certain whether Edward V was legitimate (and therefore the legal king) or to know what happened to Edward V and his brother after Richard’s accession. Even the ‘hunchback’ of popular myth has now been debunked by the discovery of the king’s remains: his scoliosis would have been barely discernible, except, perhaps, when his naked body was thrown forwards across a horse after his death. Importantly too, more recognition is now given to Richard’s achievements both as duke and king.

It is not the Society’s purpose to ‘whitewash’ Richard’s reputation it is to achieve a fair and balanced assessment of his life and character. Its members hold a wide variety of views on how the contemporary evidence can most accurately be judged and we aim to reflect this in the balance of articles on this website. A number of articles have been composed by members of the Research Committee and are periodically updated. Others have been written by named individuals, generally acknowledged experts in the relevant field, some of whom would identify themselves as Ricardians, and others who would not.

The views and conclusions expressed are those of the authors of the individual articles, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Society as a whole. This means that some articles will, at points, interpret the evidence differently to others. Readers must decide for themselves which they find most plausible. We hope that you will be inspired by this to look further and find out more.

Introduction

The Wars of the Roses is the popular name given to the civil conflict that dominated the late fifteenth century and which represented the claims of the rival descendants of Edward III - the Lancastrians and the Yorkists. This is a comparatively recent descriptor. Although the House of York occasionally used the white rose as an emblem it has been argued that the House of Lancaster did not. What is incontrovertible is that the eventual Lancastrian heir, Henry VII, combined the roses into the Tudor rose emblem having married the Yorkist heiress, Elizabeth.
Choosing the Red and White Roses
by Henry A Payne (1868-1940)
Courtesy of Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery The term, Wars of the Roses, appears to have originated with the historian David Hume as late as 1761 and it was taken up in the nineteenth century by Sir Walter Scott. The rose emblems suited the mood of a romantic Victorian age which enthusiastically adopted them in history, art and literature.

The Wars were in fact a sporadic civil struggle that took place between 1455 and 1485. The battles, however, were not the only manifestations of the unrest as uprisings, resistance and rebellions were as much a feature of the times as the military set-piece battles. Foreign policy also intruded and inevitably tensions with neighbouring countries brought England into other military conflicts with Burgundy, France and Scotland.

The Battle of Bosworth, however, did not conclude the wars and throughout his reign Henry VII faced challenges to his kingship. It was not until his son ascended the throne as Henry VIII, the heir of both York and Lancaster, that the fledgling Tudor dynasty found some security.

All this conflict and strife was so entwined with the political history of the period that it is inseparable from the study of the life and times of King Richard III. In order to give context to King Richard's life and the aftermath of his reign, this section of the website examines all these troubling aspects of the late fifteenth century.

The Political History of The Wars

This brief history has been written specially for the website by the well-known historian and author Keith Dockray. Much of the discussion derives from his book William Shakespeare, the Wars of the Roses and the Historians (2002) , and his three source books, Henry VI, Margaret of Anjou and the Wars of the Roses (2000), Edward IV (1999) and Richard III (1997).


The March from Leicester
by Graham Turner
Courtesy of Osprey Publishing LtdThe Wars of the Roses, so English historical tradition has it, were a series of bloody military conflicts dominating several decades during the second half of the fifteenth century. Royal houses of Lancaster and York, dynastic rivals for possession of England's ancient crown, fought each other in battle after battle the country's ruling elite, especially its powerful landowning aristocracy, split asunder in support of one or the other and the lives of ordinary folk were turned upside down by endemic civil strife and its appalling political, economic and social consequences.

No wonder William Shakespeare, when writing his Plantagenet history plays for the London stage in the 1590s, eagerly seized on the dramatic potential of so clear and compelling a story. But is it true? Certainly, kings did fight a series of battles between 1455 and 1487 and the crown itself changed hands several times. A high percentage of the nobility, and many gentry, became involved at one time or another thousands of countryfolk and townsmen made up the rank and file of armies and hundreds of lives were undoubtedly lost. Yet it is all too easy to exaggerate both the scale and impact of these wars, particularly if comparisons are made with the First and Second World Wars in the twentieth century.
William Shakespeare
engraving by Martin Broshuut, First Folio 1623
Courtesy Geoffrey WheelerPhases of more or less sustained conflict, such as that between 1459 and 1461, were very much the exception rather than the rule. England's ruling élite, particularly families having royal blood flowing through their veins, bore the brunt of it all, but even they often displayed considerable reluctance to take up arms. Many nobles were either killed in the fighting or faced execution for having backed the wrong side, but few, if any, prominent families became extinct as a direct result of civil strife. Most people probably never became involved in the wars at all material destruction was both intermittent and localised agriculture and trade were only minimally disrupted and the country's religious and cultural life continued to flourish throughout.

Why, at a time when Henry V's spectacular victory over the French at Agincourt in 1415 and subsequent conquest of most of northern France were still within living memory, did England dissolve into civil war at all? The main blame must fall on the shoulders of his son, the third Lancastrian king, Henry VI (1422-1461), surely the most inept and incompetent of all rulers of the English realm since the Norman Conquest of 1066. Maybe, given his personal piety and deep religious convictions, he might have made a decent enough monk but he had none of the qualities required for successful kingship in the fifteenth century: he had few political or man-management skills he had no military prowess or capacity for generalship and, after he suffered a complete mental collapse in 1453, he probably became little more than a political cipher, all too easily manipulated by those around him. He certainly could not hold a candle to Richard, Duke of York, no political genius himself, but who did have a strong claim to the throne and spearheaded opposition to the Lancastrian regime in the 1450s. Various factors help explain the onset of the Wars of the Roses: Lancastrian/ Yorkist dynastic rivalry and ideological controversy the loss of virtually all Henry V's empire in France by the autumn of 1453 economic recession in general and the chronic condition of the royal finances in particular private aristocratic feuds and escalating lawlessness and growing resentment at the power, wealth and influence of the clique surrounding the king. Even so, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, if Henry VI had not been the man he was and if his government had not developed along the lines it did, the Wars of the Roses might never have happened.

As early as February 1450 Henry VI's chief minister, William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, was impeached for treason and subsequently murdered Jack Cade's rebellion, the most serious popular uprising since the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, engulfed south-eastern England in May and June and, in the autumn, Richard of York openly challenged the Lancastrian regime. Early in 1452, having failed to rock the government by constitutional means, Richard of York resorted to armed force. That failed too, but when the king suffered a sudden bout of severe mental illness in the summer of 1453, York and his new northern aristocratic allies the Nevilles (Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury and his son Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick) eventually emerged triumphant and the duke became protector of the realm in March 1454. It was a short-lived victory. Henry Vl recovered at least most of his senses at the end of the year York's protectorate was terminated soon after and, now excluded from the magic circle of high politics once more and feeling seriously threatened, York and the Nevilles proceeded to arm and, on 22 May 1455, successfully confronted their rivals at the first battle of St Albans. Although little more than a skirmish in the streets of an English market town between rival lords and their retinues, however, this fight is conventionally regarded as the beginning of the Wars of the Roses.


The First Battle of St Albans
by Graham Turner
Courtesy www.studio88.comAs a result of St Albans the balance of political advantage changed again Henry VI fell into Yorkist hands and, when the king suffered another mental breakdown in November 1455, Richard of York again became protector for a few months. Again too, however, Henry's recovery put an end to that, not least as a result of the determination of his formidable queen, Margaret of Anjou. By the autumn of 1456, in fact, not only were York and his allies once more out of office but they had been largely replaced by men close to the queen. Thereafter, Margaret threw herself into factional politics with ever-mounting vigour by 1459 she was ready for a further showdown and, in the autumn of that year, civil strife erupted with a vengeance. Indeed, in all probability, only Henry VI's own well-meaning if ultimately futile efforts to promote peace and reconciliation (for instance, the so-called Loveday of March 1458) and the reluctance of the majority of the nobility to take up arms against their anointed king had prevented an earlier renewal of conflict.

When, on 23 September 1459, royal troops intercepted Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, in Staffordshire en route to join his son Warwick and Richard of York at Ludlow in Shropshire, the result was an indecisive engagement fought at Blore Heath near Newcastle-under-Lyme. Salisbury made it to Ludlow but on the night of 12/13 October, when faced by the prospect of fighting a much larger Lancastrian force, the Yorkist lords simply fled: Richard of York took ship for Ireland, while Salisbury, Warwick and York's eldest son Edward, Earl of March (the future Edward lV) escaped to Calais. Soon afterwards the Coventry parliament (or the Parliament of Devils as it was dubbed in Yorkist propaganda) condemned them as traitors and declared their estates confiscated. Only force could now restore their position and so, in June 1460, the Nevilles and Edward, Earl of March, sailed for south-eastern England and secured control of London. On 10 July, battle was joined once more outside Northampton. In another reversal of fortunes victory went to the Yorkist lords, Henry VI fell into their hands (again!) and when, in the autumn, Richard of York at last returned from Ireland, he dramatically claimed the throne for himself. This seems to have taken virtually everyone by surprise. After a prolonged and probably heated debate in parliament, however, a compromise was cobbled together whereby Henry VI would retain the crown during his lifetime but, after his death, his son Edward of Lancaster would be disinherited in favour of the house of York.


LudlowStalwart Lancastrians in general, and Queen Margaret of Anjou in particular, rejected the so-called Act of Accord out of hand and raised a new army. On 30 December 1460 at Wakefield the wheel of fortune turned yet again. Richard of York was killed in the field Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury was executed the following day and, in January 1461, the queen and her largely northern army marched south. On 17 February it defeated a force commanded by Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, at the second battle of St Albans and Henry Vl was reunited with his wife once more. London, however, baulked at the prospect of hosting so notoriously undisciplined an army. Perhaps foolishly, the queen made no attempt to take the city by force but, instead, retreated back to the north. Meanwhile, Richard of York's eldest son Edward, Earl of March won the battle of Mortimer's Cross in Shropshire on 2 February, joined Warwick and, together, the two earls entered the capital amidst considerable enthusiasm. A few days later, on 4 March 1461, the eighteen-year-old Edward was proclaimed king.


The Arrival
By Graham Turner
Reproduced by kind permission of the artist
www.studio88.co.uk Edward IV (1461-1483) could hardly have been a more striking contrast to his hapless predecessor: personally, he was tall, handsome, intelligent, vigorous, convivial and worldly-wise politically, he was more cut out in every way for the tricky task of ruling England and militarily he was no slouch either. At Towton near York on 29 March 1461, indeed, he fought and won the biggest and bloodiest battle of the entire Wars of the Roses. Even after this great victory and the flight of Henry Vl, Margaret of Anjou and their son, Edward of Lancaster, to Scotland, however, the new king's position on the throne remained far from secure. Lancastrian resistance to Yorkist rule continued, particularly in Wales and the north of England. Only when the Yorkists won a further major victory at Hexham in Northumberland in May 1464, and Henry VI fell into their hands in Lancashire in July 1465, did this phase of the Wars of the Roses come to an end.

During Edward IV's early years Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick was his most powerful supporter: indeed, Warwick's rôle in enabling the new king to seize the throne in the first place later earned him the soubriquet 'Kingmaker'. The earl's mounting discontent in the later 1460s, however, eventually brought a renewal of civil war at the end of the decade. Perhaps the origins of the rift can be found in Edward IV's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville in 1464, the rise of the Woodville clan at court and, most particularly, Warwick's preference for an alliance with Louis XI of France rather than Burgundy (scotched by the marriage of the king's sister Margaret to Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy in 1468). Against Edward's wishes his brother George, Duke of Clarence, married Warwick's daughter Isabel and, on 26 July 1469, a Neville-sponsored northern rebellion culminated in a victory for the king's opponents at the battle of Edgecote and Edward's capture and imprisonment soon afterwards. A few weeks later he was released, or escaped, and resumed his rule moreover, the failure of another probably Neville-inspired rebellion in Lincolnshire in March 1470 (resulting in the flight of both Warwick and Clarence to France) seemed to mark the end of all the earl's hopes. Yet, improbably, the wily Louis XI managed to engineer a reconciliation between Warwick and the exiled Lancastrian queen Margaret of Anjou in July a marriage was contracted between Edward of Lancaster and the earl's daughter Anne and, in September, Warwick crossed to England, forced Edward IV to flee to Burgundy and, in October, restored Henry Vl to the throne: whatever his role in 1461, the earl was certainly a kingmaker in 1470.


Richard at the Battle of Barnet
Challenge in the Mist, by Graham Turner
Reproduced by kind permission of the artist
www.studio88.co.ukClearly, Henry Vl was even less capable of governing now than he had been a decade earlier and the government established in his name was very much dominated by Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Over the next six months he struggled to reconcile as many Yorkist supporters as he could, as well as trying to ensure continued Lancastrian backing for his fragile regime but, in practice, he found it almost impossible to satisfy one faction without alienating another. The failure of Margaret of Anjou and Edward of Lancaster to leave France hardly helped. Instead, it was Edward IV who landed in northern England in March 1471 he attracted increasing support as he marched south, including that of a now disgruntled George, Duke of Clarence, received an enthusiastic reception in London (as he had in 1461) and, on 14 April, the extraordinary battle of Barnet was fought in a thick mist. Here Edward won a famous victory and, most importantly, Warwick himself was killed in the field. Ironically, on the very same day as Barnet was fought, Margaret of Anjou set foot on English soil for the first time since 1463 the Lancastrians were forced into battle at Tewkesbury on 4 May and, once more, Edward IV triumphed. Edward of Lancaster lost his life, his mother was captured and, soon afterwards, Henry Vl was murdered in the Tower of London. Insofar as the fifteenth-century civil wars were dynastic struggles fought between the houses of Lancaster and York, they really ended in 1471.

The final phases of the Wars of the Roses resulted from divisions within the York family itself, coupled with the emergence of Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, as a new contender for the crown. When Edward IV died suddenly and prematurely on 9 April 1483 his eldest son was only a boy the Yorkist court was split and the Woodvilles, in particular, were unpopular and, as a result, the dead king's only surviving brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, became protector of the realm on 10 May. Within a few weeks, on 26 June 1483, he seized the throne for himself as Richard III. Since 1471, when he fought for Edward IV at both Barnet and Tewkesbury, he had served his brother loyally in the north of England and northerners formed the solid core of his support in 1483. Many in southern England were disgruntled, however, and, as rumours spread that Richard III's nephews (Edward V and Richard, Duke of York) had been murdered in the Tower, a major rebellion broke out in the south and west. The new king responded vigorously and the rising collapsed ignominiously. Yet by then, ominously, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, had emerged as a potentially serious rival, particularly once his marriage to Edward IV's daughter Elizabeth of York was mooted.


The landing of Henry VII at Milford Haven
By Graham Turner
Reproduced by kind permission of Osprey Publishing LtdAlthough Richard III made considerable efforts to widen the basis of his support in the political nation in 1484/5 he met with only limited success and, when Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, mounted an invasion in the summer of 1485, Richard's reliance on his own affinity (especially northerners) remained paramount. Certainly, when Richard III at last faced at Bosworth his rival on the battlefield early on the morning of 22 August, he was largely backed by the same men who had helped bring him to power two years earlier. Many of his supporters probably fought for him with vigour, and his own courage is beyond question, but the king's death in the midst of the action made the fall of the Yorkist dynasty inevitable. Even after the victory was won, however, the virtually unknown Henry VII was by no means secure on the throne luck rather than good judgement had probably been paramount in his victory at Bosworth and he had neither the background nor training for kingship. No wonder he became so obsessed with establishing the new Tudor dynasty on the throne, even after he had married Elizabeth of York, and countering threats (both real and imaginary) to his security. Only after a major rebellion had been put down in 1487 did his possession of the crown become increasingly unassailable. For that reason, the battle of Stoke, fought on 16 June 1487, rather than Bosworth, can be regarded as the end of the wars of the Roses.

A Brief Chronology of Events

&bull Insurrection broke out in this year in various parts of England, directed against the duke of Suffolk and his supporters, governing the country under Henry VI. The duke was impeached by the Commons on January 28, and committed to the Tower. He was later banished and murdered on his way to France. John Cade (calling himself Mortimer), raised an insurrection in Kent, in May, perhaps on behalf of the duke of York. Cade encamped on Blackheath, and plundered London but was later defeated and executed.
&bull The duke of Somerset, Governor of Normandy, was recalled to England and took direction of affairs on behalf of Henry VI.

&bull The duke of York took up arms, and demanded that Somerset should be brought to trial for his misdeeds. York was persuaded to lay down his arms, and was imprisoned. Shortly afterwards he was released and retired to his castle of Wigmore (in Herefordshire).
&bull Richard of Gloucester, youngest son of the duke of York, born at Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire on 2 October.

&bull The king fell mentally ill and was totally incapacitated for government in November. The duke of York came forward again and was admitted into the king's council. He obtained the imprisonment of Somerset in December.

&bull Parliament met on 14 February. The king's incapacity was agreed and the duke of York was appointed on 3 April protector and defender of the kingdom during the minority of King Henry's heir Prince Edward, born on 15 March.
&bull Somerset was deprived of his offices and accused of treason, but the charge was not pursued.

&bull The king recovered his health and revoked the duke of York's commission as Protector. Somerset was released from the Tower on 5 February. The dukes of York and Somerset entered into bonds of 20,000 marks each (1 mark = 13s 4d = 67p = roughly one euro) to submit their disputes to arbitration on 4 March. Two days later, on the advice of the duke of Somerset, the duke of York was deprived of the Captaincy of Calais and took up arms. The armies met at the first battle of St Albans on 22 May, Somerset was killed and the duke of York gained a complete victory.
&bull The captaincy of Calais was now given to the earl of Warwick, nephew of the duke of York. The king fell ill for a second time, and the duke of York was again made Protector, on 19 November, to remain in office until dismissed by Parliament.

&bull The king recovered and revoked the duke's commission as Protector on 25 February. The duke and his chief supporters retired to their estates.

&bull The queen and the duke of York were formally reconciled on 25 March.
&bull An attempt was made to assassinate the earl of Warwick in London on 9 September. He escaped to the north and arranged with his father, the earl of Salisbury, and the duke of York for their mutual defence. He then retired to Calais.

&bull The earl of Salisbury marched to join the duke of York. On his way he defeated and killed Lord Audley, a Lancastrian, at Blore Heath in Staffordshire on 23 September. The earl of Warwick now also joined the duke of York at Ludlow and the Lancastrians, commanded by the queen, advanced against them. When the armies met on 13 October at Ludford Bridge the queen offered a pardon, and the duke's army deserted him.
&bull The family of the duke of York, his wife Cecily, his two youngest sons George and Richard and his daughter Margaret were all taken prisoner and sent to the safe keeping of Anne, Duchess of Buckingham, Cecily's sister.
&bull The duke of Somerset made an attempt to take Calais from the Yorkists but failed. The earls of Warwick and Salisbury fled there and the duke of York went to Ireland.
&bull A parliament was held at Coventry on 20 November in which the duke of York and his chief supporters were attainted.

&bull The Yorkist lords at Calais, invited by the people of Kent, landed at Sandwich, about mid-summer. They entered London with a large army on 2 July. The queen raised a force, which was totally defeated by the Yorkists at Northampton on 10 July. The duke of Buckingham, the queen's general, was killed and the king taken prisoner. The queen and her son fled to Scotland.
&bull The duke of York returned from Ireland on 9 October, and made a formal claim to the crown on 16 October. A compromise was reached on 31 October, that Henry should retain the crown for life, and be succeeded by the duke of York. The proceedings of the parliament at Coventry in 1459 were set aside as illegal.
&bull The Queen raised an army in the north and advanced against the Yorkists. On 2 December the Duke of York left London to oppose her. He was besieged by her forces in Sandal Castle near Wakefield, sallied out and attacked them on 30 December, but was defeated and killed. His son Edmund, Earl of Rutland, was killed and the earl of Salisbury who was also with him was executed afterwards.
&bull By the autumn of this year York's family (including Richard) were in the house of Sir John Fastolf in Southwark, London.

&bull Duke Richard's eldest son Edward, now duke of York (and afterwards Edward IV) defeated Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, at the battle of Mortimer's Cross, near Wigmore, on 2 February. The earl's father, Owen Tudor, and several other prisoners were beheaded on the field of battle. The queen advanced southward, defeated the earl of Warwick at the second battle of St Albans on 17 February, and rescued the king. London closed its gates against her and she was obliged to retire to the north.
&bull Edward, Duke of York, entered London on 28 February. He urged his claim before a council of peers, prelates and chief citizens, who declared him king on 3 March. He was solemnly installed at Westminster as king on 4 March, immediately marched into the north, and defeated the Lancastrians with great slaughter at the battle of Towton, near Tadcaster on 29 March. Henry, with his queen and son Edward and some of their supporters, escaped to Scotland. Edward IV returned to London, and was crowned on 28 June.
&bull The new king created his brothers, George and Richard, dukes of Clarence and Gloucester respectively. Richard possibly placed in the household of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, the king's cousin.

&bull The duke of Somerset, Henry Beaufort, and many other Lancastrians abandoned Henry and made terms with King Edward.
&bull Queen Margaret landed in Northumberland with French troops, and retired to Scotland after no English joined her.

&bull Queen Margaret marched into England and captured several northern castles. She was again joined by Somerset and other supporters. John, Marquess of Montague, brother of the earl of Warwick, defeated the Lancastrians at a battle on Hedgley Moor, near Wooller, Northumberland, on 25 April, and again at Hexham, also in Northumberland, on 15 May. Henry found refuge in Lancashire the queen and the prince retired to Flanders. The Duke of Somerset and many other prisoners were executed.
&bull On 29 September Edward IV revealed his marriage to Elizabeth, the widow of Sir John Grey, a Lancastrian. Edward immediately showed favour to her relatives, the Woodvilles, and thus aroused the jealousy of his brothers and his supporter, the earl of Warwick.

&bull Henry VI was captured in Lancashire in July, conducted to London and imprisoned in the Tower.

&bull Edward IV took the seals of office from the Chancellor, George Neville, Archbishop of York, on 9 June, a first blow against the power and influence of the Nevilles.

&bull The king went on pilgrimage into Norfolk in June, accompanied by his brother Richard. Insurrections against the Woodvilles were raised by the earl of Warwick and Edward's brother Clarence. On 11 July Clarence married Isabel Neville, daughter of the earl of Warwick against the wishes of his brother. On 26 July the king's troops were defeated at Edgecote, near Banbury. The queen's father, Richard, Earl Rivers, and her brother John Woodville, together with other supporters of the king were captured and executed. The king was arrested by Warwick and imprisoned in Middleham Castle but he was free again by late September. Warwick and the king apparently reconciled.

&bull The Lancastrians rose in Lincolnshire under Sir Robert Welles, but were quickly suppressed in March. The earl of Warwick and the duke of Clarence were denounced as traitors by the King on 31 March, and fled to Calais. They were refused admission and retired to France, where they were received by Louis XI. Warwick was reconciled to Queen Margaret and agreed to assist in the restoration of King Henry. Warwick's daughter Anne was married to the young prince Edward, son of Henry VI and Margaret, in August.
&bull Warwick and Clarence landed at Dartmouth on 13 September. Edward gathered an army against them, but was deserted by Lord Montague and fled to Kings Lynn with his brother Gloucester, there embarking for Flanders on 3 October. Warwick entered London on 5 October and released King Henry from the Tower.

&bull A parliament was held at Westminster which repealed the attainder of the Lancastrians, attainted the Yorkists and settled the crown again on King Henry and his son Edward.
&bull Edward IV and Gloucester sailed from Zealand with a small force supplied by the duke of Burgundy on 11 March, and landed at Ravenspur at the mouth of the Humber on 14 March. Clarence joined him at Coventry on 30 March, and they advanced on London. Henry was again sent to the Tower, on 11 April. Warwick advanced on Edwar from Coventry, but was defeated and killed at Barnet on Easter Sunday, 14 April.
&bull Queen Margaret landed at Weymouth on 14 April, where she was joined by the duke of Somerset, Edmund Beaufort, and others who had escaped from Barnet, and set out to join the Tudors in Wales. Edward marched against them and defeated them at Tewkesbury on 4 May. He took Margaret prisoner and put to death the duke of Somerset and many others. Prince Edward was killed in the battle. King Henry was found dead in the Tower shortly afterwards.

&bull Edward IV tried to persuade the duke of Brittany to surrender to him Henry and Jasper Tudor (the earls of Richmond and Pembroke).

&bull George, Duke of Clarence, tried for treason before Parliament and found guilty on 7 February. He was executed in the Tower on 18 February.

&bull Death of Edward IV and the reign of Richard III began.
&bull In October Richard learned of the rebellion led by the duke of Buckingham. By 1 November King Richard was in Salisbury and the uprising had collapsed and the following day the duke was executed. On 12 November Henry Tudor attempted a landing at Plymouth (or possibly at Poole in October) but was driven off.

&bull Parliament held 23 January to 20 February. Henry Tudor was attainted.

&bull 7 August, Henry Tudor landed in Wales with an invasion army. On 22 August the battle of Bosworth was joined and King Richard was killed. Henry Tudor victorious and proclaimed King Henry VII.
&bull In October first insurrections against King Henry led by Robin of Riddesdale, Jack St Thomalyn and Master Mendall.

&bull Insurrection in the spring led by Francis Lovell who tried to capture King Henry at York.

&bull The earl of Lincoln, nephew and presumed heir of Richard III, supported an uprising by Lambert Simnel, who called himself Edward, Earl of Warwick (son of George, Duke of Clarence). Lincoln landed in Ireland with any army on 5 May, and Simnel was crowned in the cathedral at Dublin as Edward VI on 14 May.
&bull Simnel and his forces landed in Lancashire on 4 June, and marched to Stoke, near Newark. Henry advanced against them and defeated them on 16 June in the last battle of the Wars of the Roses. The earl of Lincoln and most of the leaders were killed and Simnel was taken prisoner.
&bull Elizabeth of York is crowned Queen on 25 November.

&bull Rebellion in Yorkshire and the earl of Northumberland was murdered on 28 April.

&bull In November the pretender Perkin Warbeck arrives in Dublin.

&bull Warbeck visits France and Burgundy.

&bull Warbeck visits Emperor Maximilian in Vienna.

&bull On 16 February Sir William Stanley is executed in connection with the activities of Perkin Warbeck.
&bull 23 July to 3 August Warbeck's expedition to Kent.
&bull He then sails to Ireland and in November arrives in Scotland.

&bull James IV and Warbeck invade England.

&bull In May the Cornishmen rebel against Henry VII and are defeated at Blackheath on 17 June.
&bull In July Warbeck leaves Scotland with his wife and family and lands in Cornwall on 7 September.
&bull On 5 October Warbeck surrenders to Henry VII.

&bull Warbeck attempts to escape from London and is arrested at Sheen on 9 June.


Battle

Even after this defeat, the forces available to Henry and Margaret outnumbered the Yorkist combined armies by two to one. The Yorkist army tried to move towards London, but found their path blocked by the Lancastrian army with King Henry himself nominally at its head, and fell back to Worcester. Here, the Duke of York attended mass in the cathedral before sending written protestations of his loyalty to Henry. These were ignored. [5]

The Yorkists retreated towards Ludlow, before making a stand at a fortified position near Ludford, Shropshire on 12 October. Their troops excavated a defensive ditch in a field on the opposite side of the River Teme from Ludlow, near the bridge which gave the battle its name. They also constructed barricades of carts in which cannon were emplaced. However, morale was low, not least because the royal standard could be seen flying in the Lancastrian army, and it was known that King Henry himself was present, in full armour. For much of his reign, Henry had been regarded as an ineffectual ruler, and he had even lapsed into madness for periods of several months at a time. Richard of York and his supporters had maintained that they were opposed only to Henry's "evil counsellors". Now they realised that their army would probably refuse to fight against an army which included Henry himself. [6] Henry and the Duke of Buckingham, in command of the royal army, proclaimed the offer of a pardon to any who would change sides. [7]

Among the troops brought by Warwick from Calais were 600 men led by Andrew Trollope, an experienced soldier. During the night, Trollope and his men and others from the Yorkist forces defected to the Lancastrians. [8] Faced with certain defeat, York, Salisbury, and Warwick announced that they were returning to Ludlow for the night. They then abandoned their armies and fled into Wales. [9]

At dawn on 13 October, the leaderless Yorkist troops knelt in submission before Henry, and were pardoned. York had abandoned not only his troops but also his wife Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, his two younger sons George and Richard and his youngest daughter Margaret. By popular account, they were found standing at the Ludlow Market Cross when the Lancastrians arrived. They were placed in the care of the Duchess's sister Anne, wife of the Duke of Buckingham. The Lancastrian troops proceeded to plunder Ludlow, becoming drunk on looted wine and committing many outrages. [6]


Contents

During the 15th century civil war raged across England as the Houses of York and Lancaster fought each other for the English throne. In 1471 the Yorkists defeated their rivals in the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury. The Lancastrian King Henry VI and his only son, Edward of Lancaster, died in the aftermath of the Battle of Tewkesbury. Their deaths left the House of Lancaster with no direct claimants to the throne. The Yorkist king, Edward IV, was in complete control of England. [3] He attainted those who refused to submit to his rule, such as Jasper Tudor and his nephew Henry, naming them traitors and confiscating their lands. The Tudors tried to flee to France but strong winds forced them to land in Brittany, which was a semi-independent duchy, where they were taken into the custody of Duke Francis II. [4] Henry's mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, was a great-granddaughter of John of Gaunt, uncle of King Richard II and father of King Henry IV. [5] The Beauforts were originally bastards, but Henry IV legitimised them on the condition that their descendants were not eligible to inherit the throne. [6] Henry Tudor, the only remaining Lancastrian noble with a trace of the royal bloodline, had a weak claim to the throne, [3] and Edward regarded him as "a nobody". [7] The Duke of Brittany, however, viewed Henry as a valuable tool to bargain for England's aid in conflicts with France, and kept the Tudors under his protection. [7]

Edward IV died 12 years after Tewkesbury on 9 April 1483. [8] His 12-year-old elder son succeeded him as King Edward V the younger son, nine-year-old Richard of Shrewsbury, was next in line to the throne. Edward V was too young to rule and a Royal Council was established to rule the country until the king's coming of age. Some among the council were worried when it became apparent that the Woodvilles, relatives of Edward IV's widow Elizabeth, were plotting to use their control of the young king to dominate the council. [9] Having offended many in their quest for wealth and power, the Woodville family was not popular. [10] To frustrate the Woodvilles' ambitions, Lord Hastings and other members of the council turned to the new king's uncle—Richard, Duke of Gloucester, brother of Edward IV. The courtiers urged Gloucester to assume the role of Protector quickly, as had been previously requested by his now dead brother. [11] On 29 April Gloucester, accompanied by a contingent of guards and Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, took Edward V into custody and arrested several prominent members of the Woodville family. [12] After bringing the young king to London, Gloucester had two of the Woodvilles (the Queen's brother Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, and her younger son by her first marriage Richard Grey) executed, without trial, on charges of treason. [13]

On 13 June Gloucester accused Hastings of plotting with the Woodvilles and had him beheaded. [14] Nine days later Gloucester convinced Parliament to declare the marriage between Edward IV and Elizabeth illegal, rendering their children illegitimate and disqualifying them from the throne. [15] With his brother's children out of the way, he was next in the line of succession and was proclaimed King Richard III on 26 June. [16] The timing and extrajudicial nature of the deeds done to obtain the throne for Richard won him no popularity, and rumours that spoke ill of the new king spread throughout England. [17] After they were declared bastards, the two princes were confined in the Tower of London and never seen in public again. [18]

Discontent with Richard's actions manifested itself in the summer after he took control of the country, as a conspiracy emerged to displace him from the throne. The rebels were mostly loyalists to Edward IV, who saw Richard as a usurper. [19] Their plans were coordinated by a Lancastrian, Henry's mother Lady Margaret, who was promoting her son as a candidate for the throne. The highest-ranking conspirator was Buckingham. No chronicles tell of the duke's motive in joining the plot, although historian Charles Ross proposes that Buckingham was trying to distance himself from a king who was becoming increasingly unpopular with the people. [20] Michael Jones and Malcolm Underwood suggest that Margaret deceived Buckingham into thinking the rebels supported him to be king. [21]

The plan was to stage uprisings within a short time in southern and western England, overwhelming Richard's forces. Buckingham would support the rebels by invading from Wales, while Henry came in by sea. [22] Bad timing and weather wrecked the plot. An uprising in Kent started 10 days prematurely, alerting Richard to muster the royal army and take steps to put down the insurrections. Richard's spies informed him of Buckingham's activities, and the king's men captured and destroyed the bridges across the River Severn. When Buckingham and his army reached the river, they found it swollen and impossible to cross because of a violent storm that broke on 15 October. [23] Buckingham was trapped and had no safe place to retreat his Welsh enemies seized his home castle after he had set forth with his army. The duke abandoned his plans and fled to Wem, where he was betrayed by his servant and arrested by Richard's men. On 2 November he was executed. [24] Henry had attempted a landing on 10 October (or 19 October), but his fleet was scattered by a storm. He reached the coast of England (at either Plymouth or Poole) and a group of soldiers hailed him to come ashore. They were, in fact, Richard's men, prepared to capture Henry once he set foot on English soil. Henry was not deceived and returned to Brittany, abandoning the invasion. [25] Without Buckingham or Henry, the rebellion was easily crushed by Richard. [24]

The survivors of the failed uprisings fled to Brittany, where they openly supported Henry's claim to the throne. [26] At Christmas, Henry Tudor swore an oath in Rennes Cathedral to marry Edward IV's daughter, Elizabeth of York, to unite the warring houses of York and Lancaster. [27] Henry's rising prominence made him a great threat to Richard, and the Yorkist king made several overtures to the Duke of Brittany to surrender the young Lancastrian. Francis refused, holding out for the possibility of better terms from Richard. [28] In mid-1484 Francis was incapacitated by illness and while recuperating, his treasurer Pierre Landais took over the reins of government. Landais reached an agreement with Richard to send back Henry and his uncle in exchange for military and financial aid. John Morton, a bishop of Flanders, learned of the scheme and warned the Tudors, who fled to France. [29] The French court allowed them to stay the Tudors were useful pawns to ensure that Richard's England did not interfere with French plans to annex Brittany. [30] On 16 March 1485 Richard's queen, Anne Neville, died, [31] and rumours spread across the country that she was murdered to pave the way for Richard to marry his niece, Elizabeth. The gossip alienated Richard from some of his northern supporters, [32] and upset Henry across the English Channel. [33] The loss of Elizabeth's hand in marriage could unravel the alliance between Henry's supporters who were Lancastrians and those who were loyalists to Edward IV. [34] Anxious to secure his bride, Henry recruited mercenaries formerly in French service to supplement his following of exiles and set sail from France on 1 August. [35]

By the 15th century, English chivalric ideas of selfless service to the king had been corrupted. [36] Armed forces were raised mostly through musters in individual estates every able-bodied man had to respond to his lord's call to arms, and each noble had authority over his militia. Although a king could raise personal militia from his lands, he could muster a large army only through the support of his nobles. Richard, like his predecessors, had to win over these men by granting gifts and maintaining cordial relationships. [37] Powerful nobles could demand greater incentives to remain on the liege's side or else they might turn against him. [38] Three groups, each with its own agenda, stood on Bosworth Field: Richard III and his Yorkist army his challenger, Henry Tudor, who championed the Lancastrian cause and the fence-sitting Stanleys. [39]

Yorkist Edit

Small and slender, Richard III did not have the robust physique associated with many of his Plantagenet predecessors. [40] However, he enjoyed very rough sports and activities that were considered manly. [41] His performances on the battlefield impressed his brother greatly, and he became Edward's right-hand man. [42] During the 1480s Richard defended the northern borders of England. In 1482, Edward charged him to lead an army into Scotland with the aim of replacing King James III with the Duke of Albany. [43] Richard's army broke through the Scottish defences and occupied the capital, Edinburgh, but Albany decided to give up his claim to the throne in return for the post of Lieutenant General of Scotland. As well as obtaining a guarantee that the Scottish government would concede territories and diplomatic benefits to the English crown, Richard's campaign retook the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, which the Scots had conquered in 1460. [44] Edward was not satisfied by these gains, [45] which, according to Ross, could have been greater if Richard had been resolute enough to capitalise on the situation while in control of Edinburgh. [46] In her analysis of Richard's character, Christine Carpenter sees him as a soldier who was more used to taking orders than giving them. [47] However, he was not averse to displaying his militaristic streak on ascending the throne he made known his desire to lead a crusade against "not only the Turks, but all [his] foes". [41]

Richard's most loyal subject was John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk. [48] The duke had served Richard's brother for many years and had been one of Edward IV's closer confidants. [49] He was a military veteran, having fought in the Battle of Towton in 1461 and served as Hastings' deputy at Calais in 1471. [50] Ross speculates that he bore a grudge against Edward for depriving him of a fortune. Norfolk was due to inherit a share of the wealthy Mowbray estate on the death of eight-year-old Anne de Mowbray, the last of her family. However, Edward convinced Parliament to circumvent the law of inheritance and transfer the estate to his younger son, who was married to Anne. Consequently, Howard supported Richard III in deposing Edward's sons, for which he received the dukedom of Norfolk and his original share of the Mowbray estate. [51]

Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland, also supported Richard's seizure of the throne of England. The Percys were loyal Lancastrians, but Edward IV eventually won the earl's allegiance. Northumberland had been captured and imprisoned by the Yorkists in 1461, losing his titles and estates however, Edward released him eight years later and restored his earldom. [52] From that time Northumberland served the Yorkist crown, helping to defend northern England and maintain its peace. [53] Initially the earl had issues with Richard III as Edward groomed his brother to be the leading power of the north. Northumberland was mollified when he was promised he would be the Warden of the East March, a position that was formerly hereditary for the Percys. [54] He served under Richard during the 1482 invasion of Scotland, and the allure of being in a position to dominate the north of England if Richard went south to assume the crown was his likely motivation for supporting Richard's bid for kingship. [55] However, after becoming king, Richard began moulding his nephew, John de la Pole, 1st Earl of Lincoln, to manage the north, passing over Northumberland for the position. According to Carpenter, although the earl was amply compensated, he despaired of any possibility of advancement under Richard. [56]

Lancastrians Edit

Henry Tudor was unfamiliar with the arts of war and was a stranger to the land he was trying to conquer. He spent the first fourteen years of his life in Wales and the next fourteen in Brittany and France. [57] Slender but strong and decisive, Henry lacked a penchant for battle and was not much of a warrior chroniclers such as Polydore Vergil and ambassadors like Pedro de Ayala found him more interested in commerce and finance. [58] Having not fought in any battles, [59] Henry recruited several experienced veterans to command his armies. [60] John de Vere, 13th, Earl of Oxford, was Henry's principal military commander. [61] He was adept in the arts of war. At the Battle of Barnet, he commanded the Lancastrian right wing and routed the division opposing him. However, as a result of confusion over identities, Oxford's group came under friendly fire from the Lancastrian main force and retreated from the field. The earl fled abroad and continued his fight against the Yorkists, raiding shipping and eventually capturing the island fort of St Michael's Mount in 1473. He surrendered after receiving no aid or reinforcement, but in 1484 escaped from prison and joined Henry's court in France, bringing along his erstwhile gaoler Sir James Blount. [62] Oxford's presence raised morale in Henry's camp and troubled Richard III. [63]

Stanleys Edit

In the early stages of the Wars of the Roses, the Stanleys of Cheshire had been predominantly Lancastrians. [64] Sir William Stanley, however, was a staunch Yorkist supporter, fighting in the Battle of Blore Heath in 1459 and helping Hastings to put down uprisings against Edward IV in 1471. [65] When Richard took the crown, Sir William showed no inclination to turn against the new king, refraining from joining Buckingham's rebellion, for which he was amply rewarded. [66] Sir William's elder brother, Thomas Stanley, 2nd Baron Stanley, was not as steadfast. By 1485, he had served three kings, namely Henry VI, Edward IV, and Richard III. Lord Stanley's skilled political manoeuvrings—vacillating between opposing sides until it was clear who would be the winner—gained him high positions [67] he was Henry's chamberlain and Edward's steward. [68] His non-committal stance, until the crucial point of a battle, earned him the loyalty of his men, who felt he would not needlessly send them to their deaths. [63]

Lord Stanley's relations with the king's brother, the eventual Richard III, were not cordial. The two had conflicts that erupted into violence around March 1470. [69] Furthermore, having taken Lady Margaret as his second wife in June 1472, [70] Stanley was Henry Tudor's stepfather, a relationship which did nothing to win him Richard's favour. Despite these differences, Stanley did not join Buckingham's revolt in 1483. [66] When Richard executed those conspirators who had been unable to flee England, [24] he spared Lady Margaret. However, he declared her titles forfeit and transferred her estates to Stanley's name, to be held in trust for the Yorkist crown. Richard's act of mercy was calculated to reconcile him with Stanley, [21] but it may have been to no avail—Carpenter has identified a further cause of friction in Richard's intention to reopen an old land dispute that involved Thomas Stanley and the Harrington family. [71] Edward IV had ruled the case in favour of Stanley in 1473, [72] but Richard planned to overturn his brother's ruling and give the wealthy estate to the Harringtons. [71] Immediately before the Battle of Bosworth, being wary of Stanley, Richard took his son, Lord Strange, as hostage to discourage him from joining Henry. [73]

Henry's initial force consisted of the English and Welsh exiles who had gathered around Henry, combined with a contingent of mercenaries put at his disposal by Charles VIII of France. The history of Scottish author John Major (published in 1521) claims that Charles had granted Henry 5,000 men, of whom 1,000 were Scots, headed by Sir Alexander Bruce. No mention of Scottish soldiers was made by subsequent English historians. [74]

Henry's crossing of the English Channel in 1485 was without incident. Thirty ships sailed from Harfleur on 1 August and, with fair winds behind them, landed in his native Wales, at Mill Bay (near Dale) on the north side of Milford Haven on 7 August, easily capturing nearby Dale Castle. [75] Henry received a muted response from the local population. No joyous welcome awaited him on shore, and at first few individual Welshmen joined his army as it marched inland. [76] Historian Geoffrey Elton suggests only Henry's ardent supporters felt pride over his Welsh blood. [77] His arrival had been hailed by contemporary Welsh bards such as Dafydd Ddu and Gruffydd ap Dafydd as the true prince and "the youth of Brittany defeating the Saxons" in order to bring their country back to glory. [78] [79] When Henry moved to Haverfordwest, the county town of Pembrokeshire, Richard's lieutenant in South Wales, Sir Walter Herbert, failed to move against Henry, and two of his officers, Richard Griffith and Evan Morgan, deserted to Henry with their men. [80]

The most important defector to Henry in this early stage of the campaign was probably Rhys ap Thomas, who was the leading figure in West Wales. [80] Richard had appointed Rhys Lieutenant in West Wales for his refusal to join Buckingham's rebellion, asking that he surrender his son Gruffydd ap Rhys ap Thomas as surety, although by some accounts Rhys had managed to evade this condition. However, Henry successfully courted Rhys, offering the lieutenancy of all Wales in exchange for his fealty. Henry marched via Aberystwyth while Rhys followed a more southerly route, recruiting a force of Welshmen en route, variously estimated at 500 or 2,000 men, to swell Henry's army when they reunited at Cefn Digoll, Welshpool. [81] By 15 or 16 August, Henry and his men had crossed the English border, making for the town of Shrewsbury. [82]

Since 22 June Richard had been aware of Henry's impending invasion, and had ordered his lords to maintain a high level of readiness. [83] News of Henry's landing reached Richard on 11 August, but it took three to four days for his messengers to notify his lords of their king's mobilisation. On 16 August, the Yorkist army started to gather Norfolk set off for Leicester, the assembly point, that night. The city of York, a historical stronghold of Richard's family, asked the king for instructions, and receiving a reply three days later sent 80 men to join the king. Simultaneously Northumberland, whose northern territory was the most distant from the capital, had gathered his men and ridden to Leicester. [84]

Although London was his goal, [85] Henry did not move directly towards the city. After resting in Shrewsbury, his forces went eastwards and picked up Sir Gilbert Talbot and other English allies, including deserters from Richard's forces. Although its size had increased substantially since the landing, Henry's army was still substantially outnumbered by Richard's forces. Henry's pace through Staffordshire was slow, delaying the confrontation with Richard so that he could gather more recruits to his cause. [86] Henry had been communicating on friendly terms with the Stanleys for some time before setting foot in England, [34] and the Stanleys had mobilised their forces on hearing of Henry's landing. They ranged themselves ahead of Henry's march through the English countryside, [87] meeting twice in secret with Henry as he moved through Staffordshire. [88] At the second of these, at Atherstone in Warwickshire, they conferred "in what sort to arraign battle with King Richard, whom they heard to be not far off". [89] On 21 August, the Stanleys were making camp on the slopes of a hill north of Dadlington, while Henry encamped his army at White Moors to the northwest of their camp. [90]

On 20 August, Richard rode from Nottingham to Leicester, [91] joining Norfolk. He spent the night at the Blue Boar inn (demolished 1836). [91] Northumberland arrived the following day. The royal army proceeded westwards to intercept Henry's march on London. Passing Sutton Cheney, Richard moved his army towards Ambion Hill—which he thought would be of tactical value—and made camp on it. [90] Richard's sleep was not peaceful and, according to the Croyland Chronicle, in the morning his face was "more livid and ghastly than usual". [92]

The Yorkist army, variously estimated at between 7,500 and 12,000 men, deployed on the hilltop [93] [94] along the ridgeline from west to east. Norfolk's force (or "battle" in the parlance of the time) of spearmen stood on the right flank, protecting the cannon and about 1,200 archers. Richard's group, comprising 3,000 infantry, formed the centre. Northumberland's men guarded the left flank he had approximately 4,000 men, many of them mounted. [95] Standing on the hilltop, Richard had a wide, unobstructed view of the area. He could see the Stanleys and their 4,000–6,000 men holding positions on and around Dadlington Hill, while to the southwest was Henry's army. [96]

Henry's force has been variously estimated at between 5,000 and 8,000 men, his original landing force of exiles and mercenaries having been augmented by the recruits gathered in Wales and the English border counties (in the latter area probably mustered chiefly by the Talbot interest), and by deserters from Richard's army. Historian John Mackie believes that 1,800 French mercenaries, led by Philibert de Chandée, formed the core of Henry's army. [97] John Mair, writing thirty-five years after the battle, claimed that this force contained a significant Scottish component, [98] and this claim is accepted by some modern writers, [99] but Mackie reasons that the French would not have released their elite Scottish knights and archers, and concludes that there were probably few Scottish troops in the army, although he accepts the presence of captains like Bernard Stewart, Lord of Aubigny. [97] [98]

In their interpretations of the vague mentions of the battle in the old text, historians placed areas near the foot of Ambion Hill as likely regions where the two armies clashed, and thought up possible scenarios of the engagement. [100] [101] [102] In their recreations of the battle, Henry started by moving his army towards Ambion Hill where Richard and his men stood. As Henry's army advanced past the marsh at the southwestern foot of the hill, Richard sent a message to Stanley, threatening to execute his son, Lord Strange, if Stanley did not join the attack on Henry immediately. Stanley replied that he had other sons. Incensed, Richard gave the order to behead Strange but his officers temporised, saying that battle was imminent, and it would be more convenient to carry out the execution afterwards. [103] Henry had also sent messengers to Stanley asking him to declare his allegiance. The reply was evasive—the Stanleys would "naturally" come, after Henry had given orders to his army and arranged them for battle. Henry had no choice but to confront Richard's forces alone. [39]

Well aware of his own military inexperience, Henry handed command of his army to Oxford and retired to the rear with his bodyguards. Oxford, seeing the vast line of Richard's army strung along the ridgeline, decided to keep his men together instead of splitting them into the traditional three battles: vanguard, centre, and rearguard. He ordered the troops to stray no further than 10 feet (3.0 m) from their banners, fearing that they would become enveloped. Individual groups clumped together, forming a single large mass flanked by horsemen on the wings. [104]

The Lancastrians were harassed by Richard's cannon as they manoeuvred around the marsh, seeking firmer ground. [105] Once Oxford and his men were clear of the marsh, Norfolk's battle and several contingents of Richard's group, under the command of Sir Robert Brackenbury, started to advance. Hails of arrows showered both sides as they closed. Oxford's men proved the steadier in the ensuing hand-to-hand combat they held their ground and several of Norfolk's men fled the field. [106] Norfolk lost one of his senior officers, Walter Devereux, in this early clash. [107]

Recognising that his force was at a disadvantage, Richard signalled for Northumberland to assist but Northumberland's group showed no signs of movement. Historians, such as Horrox and Pugh, believe Northumberland chose not to aid his king for personal reasons. [108] Ross doubts the aspersions cast on Northumberland's loyalty, suggesting instead that Ambion Hill's narrow ridge hindered him from joining the battle. The earl would have had to either go through his allies or execute a wide flanking move—near impossible to perform given the standard of drill at the time—to engage Oxford's men. [109]

At this juncture Richard saw Henry at some distance behind his main force. [110] Seeing this, Richard decided to end the fight quickly by killing the enemy commander. He led a charge of mounted men around the melee and tore into Henry's group several accounts state that Richard's force numbered 800–1000 knights, but Ross says it was more likely that Richard was accompanied only by his household men and closest friends. [111] Richard killed Henry's standard-bearer Sir William Brandon in the initial charge and unhorsed burly John Cheyne, Edward IV's former standard-bearer, [112] with a blow to the head from his broken lance. [113] French mercenaries in Henry's retinue related how the attack had caught them off guard and that Henry sought protection by dismounting and concealing himself among them to present less of a target. Henry made no attempt to engage in combat himself. [114]

Oxford had left a small reserve of pike-equipped men with Henry. They slowed the pace of Richard's mounted charge, and bought Tudor some critical time. [115] The remainder of Henry's bodyguards surrounded their master, and succeeded in keeping him away from the Yorkist king. Meanwhile, seeing Richard embroiled with Henry's men and separated from his main force, William Stanley made his move and rode to the aid of Henry. Now outnumbered, Richard's group was surrounded and gradually pressed back. [113] Richard's force was driven several hundred yards away from Tudor, near to the edge of a marsh, into which the king's horse toppled. Richard, now unhorsed, gathered himself and rallied his dwindling followers, supposedly refusing to retreat: "God forbid that I retreat one step. I will either win the battle as a king, or die as one." [116] In the fighting Richard's banner man—Sir Percival Thirlwall—lost his legs, but held the Yorkist banner aloft until he was killed. It is likely that James Harrington also died in the charge. [117] [118] The king's trusted advisor Richard Ratcliffe was also slain. [119]

Polydore Vergil, Henry Tudor's official historian, recorded that "King Richard, alone, was killed fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies". [120] Richard had come within a sword's length of Henry Tudor before being surrounded by William Stanley's men and killed. The Burgundian chronicler Jean Molinet says that a Welshman struck the death-blow with a halberd while Richard's horse was stuck in the marshy ground. [121] It was said that the blows were so violent that the king's helmet was driven into his skull. [122] The contemporary Welsh poet Guto'r Glyn implies the leading Welsh Lancastrian Rhys ap Thomas, or one of his men, killed the king, writing that he "killed the boar, shaved his head". [121] [123] Analysis of King Richard's skeletal remains found 11 wounds, nine of them to the head a blade consistent with a halberd had sliced off part of the rear of Richard's skull, suggesting he had lost his helmet. [124]

Richard's forces disintegrated as news of his death spread. Northumberland and his men fled north on seeing the king's fate, and Norfolk was killed. [113]

Although he claimed [125] fourth-generation, maternal Lancastrian descendancy, Henry seized the crown by right of conquest. After the battle, Richard's circlet is said to have been found and brought to Henry, who was proclaimed king at the top of Crown Hill, near the village of Stoke Golding. According to Vergil, Henry's official historian, Lord Stanley found the circlet. Historians Stanley Chrimes and Sydney Anglo dismiss the legend of the circlet's finding in a hawthorn bush none of the contemporary sources reported such an event. [113] Ross, however, does not ignore the legend. He argues that the hawthorn bush would not be part of Henry's coat of arms if it did not have a strong relationship to his ascendance. [126] Baldwin points out that a hawthorn bush motif was already used by the House of Lancaster, and Henry merely added the crown. [127]

In Vergil's chronicle, 100 of Henry's men, compared to 1,000 of Richard's, died in this battle—a ratio Chrimes believes to be an exaggeration. [113] The bodies of the fallen were brought to St James Church at Dadlington for burial. [128] However, Henry denied any immediate rest for Richard instead the last Yorkist king's corpse was stripped naked and strapped across a horse. His body was brought to Leicester and openly exhibited to prove that he was dead. Early accounts suggest that this was in the major Lancastrian collegiate foundation, the Church of the Annunciation of Our Lady of the Newarke. [129] After two days, the corpse was interred in a plain tomb, [130] within the church of the Greyfriars. [131] The church was demolished following the friary's dissolution in 1538, and the location of Richard's tomb was long uncertain. [132]

On 12 September 2012, archaeologists announced the discovery of a buried skeleton with spinal abnormalities and head injuries under a car park in Leicester, and their suspicions that it was Richard III. [133] On 4 February 2013, it was announced that DNA testing had convinced Leicester University scientists and researchers "beyond reasonable doubt" that the remains were those of King Richard. [134] On 26 March 2015, these remains were ceremonially buried in Leicester Cathedral. [135] Richard's tomb was unveiled on the following day. [136]

Henry dismissed the mercenaries in his force, retaining only a small core of local soldiers to form a "Yeomen of his Garde", [137] and proceeded to establish his rule of England. Parliament reversed his attainder and recorded Richard's kingship as illegal, although the Yorkist king's reign remained officially in the annals of England history. The proclamation of Edward IV's children as illegitimate was also reversed, restoring Elizabeth's status to a royal princess. [138] The marriage of Elizabeth, the heiress to the House of York, to Henry, the master of the House of Lancaster, marked the end of the feud between the two houses and the start of the Tudor dynasty. The royal matrimony, however, was delayed until Henry was crowned king and had established his claim on the throne firmly enough to preclude that of Elizabeth and her kin. [139] Henry further convinced Parliament to backdate his reign to the day before the battle, [117] enabling him retrospectively to declare as traitors those who had fought against him at Bosworth Field. [140] Northumberland, who had remained inactive during the battle, was imprisoned but later released and reinstated to pacify the north in Henry's name. [141] The purge of those who fought for Richard occupied Henry's first two years of rule, although later he proved prepared to accept those who submitted to him regardless of their former allegiances. [142]

Of his supporters, Henry rewarded the Stanleys the most generously. [61] Aside from making William his chamberlain, he bestowed the earldom of Derby upon Lord Stanley along with grants and offices in other estates. [143] Henry rewarded Oxford by restoring to him the lands and titles confiscated by the Yorkists and appointing him as Constable of the Tower and admiral of England, Ireland, and Aquitaine. For his kin, Henry created Jasper Tudor the Duke of Bedford. [144] He returned to his mother the lands and grants stripped from her by Richard, and proved to be a filial son, granting her a place of honour in the palace and faithfully attending to her throughout his reign. Parliament's declaration of Margaret as femme sole effectively empowered her she no longer needed to manage her estates through Stanley. [145] Elton points out that despite his initial largesse, Henry's supporters at Bosworth would enjoy his special favour for only the short term in later years, he would instead promote those who best served his interests. [146]

Like the kings before him, Henry faced dissenters. The first open revolt occurred two years after Bosworth Field Lambert Simnel claimed to be Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, who was Edward IV's nephew. The Earl of Lincoln backed him for the throne and led rebel forces in the name of the House of York. [141] The rebel army fended off several attacks by Northumberland's forces, before engaging Henry's army at the Battle of Stoke Field on 16 June 1487. [143] Oxford and Bedford led Henry's men, [147] including several former supporters of Richard III. [148] Henry won this battle easily, but other malcontents and conspiracies would follow. [149] A rebellion in 1489 started with Northumberland's murder military historian Michael C. C. Adams says that the author of a note, which was left next to Northumberland's body, blamed the earl for Richard's death. [117]

Contemporary accounts of the Battle of Bosworth can be found in four main sources, one of which is the English Croyland Chronicle, written by a senior Yorkist chronicler who relied on second-hand information from nobles and soldiers. [150] The other accounts were written by foreigners—Vergil, Jean Molinet, and Diego de Valera. [151] Whereas Molinet was sympathetic to Richard, [152] Vergil was in Henry's service and drew information from the king and his subjects to portray them in a good light. [153] Diego de Valera, whose information Ross regards as unreliable, [101] compiled his work from letters of Spanish merchants. [152] However, other historians have used Valera's work to deduce possibly valuable insights not readily evident in other sources. [154] Ross finds the poem, The Ballad of Bosworth Field, a useful source to ascertain certain details of the battle. The multitude of different accounts, mostly based on second- or third-hand information, has proved an obstacle to historians as they try to reconstruct the battle. [101] Their common complaint is that, except for its outcome, very few details of the battle are found in the chronicles. According to historian Michael Hicks, the Battle of Bosworth is one of the worst-recorded clashes of the Wars of the Roses. [100]

Historical depictions and interpretations Edit

Henry tried to present his victory as a new beginning for the country [155] he hired chroniclers to portray his reign as a "modern age" with its dawn in 1485. [156] Hicks states that the works of Vergil and the blind historian Bernard André, promoted by subsequent Tudor administrations, became the authoritative sources for writers for the next four hundred years. [157] As such, Tudor literature paints a flattering picture of Henry's reign, depicting the Battle of Bosworth as the final clash of the civil war and downplaying the subsequent uprisings. [100] For England the Middle Ages ended in 1485, and English Heritage claims that other than William the Conqueror's successful invasion of 1066, no other year holds more significance in English history. By portraying Richard as a hunchbacked tyrant who usurped the throne by killing his nephews, the Tudor historians attached a sense of myth to the battle: it became an epic clash between good and evil with a satisfying moral outcome. [158] According to Reader Colin Burrow, André was so overwhelmed by the historic significance of the battle that he represented it with a blank page in his Henry VII (1502). [159] For Professor Peter Saccio, the battle was indeed a unique clash in the annals of English history, because "the victory was determined, not by those who fought, but by those who delayed fighting until they were sure of being on the winning side." [59]

Historians such as Adams and Horrox believe that Richard lost the battle not for any mythic reasons, but because of morale and loyalty problems in his army. Most of the common soldiers found it difficult to fight for a liege whom they distrusted, and some lords believed that their situation might improve if Richard were dethroned. [106] [148] According to Adams, against such duplicities Richard's desperate charge was the only knightly behaviour on the field. As fellow historian Michael Bennet puts it, the attack was "the swan-song of [mediaeval] English chivalry". [117] Adams believes this view was shared at the time by the printer William Caxton, who enjoyed sponsorship from Edward IV and Richard III. Nine days after the battle, Caxton published Thomas Malory's story about chivalry and death by betrayal—Le Morte d'Arthur—seemingly as a response to the circumstances of Richard's death. [117]

Elton does not believe Bosworth Field has any true significance, pointing out that the 20th-century English public largely ignored the battle until its quincentennial celebration. In his view, the dearth of specific information about the battle—no-one even knows exactly where it took place—demonstrates its insignificance to English society. Elton considers the battle as just one part of Henry's struggles to establish his reign, underscoring his point by noting that the young king had to spend ten more years pacifying factions and rebellions to secure his throne. [160]

Mackie asserts that, in hindsight, Bosworth Field is notable as the decisive battle that established a dynasty which would rule unchallenged over England for more than a hundred years. [161] Mackie notes that contemporary historians of that time, wary of the three royal successions during the long Wars of the Roses, considered Bosworth Field just another in a lengthy series of such battles. It was through the works and efforts of Francis Bacon and his successors that the public started to believe the battle had decided their futures by bringing about "the fall of a tyrant". [162]

Shakespearian dramatisation Edit

William Shakespeare gives prominence to the Battle of Bosworth in his play, Richard III. It is the "one big battle" no other fighting scene distracts the audience from this action, [163] represented by a one-on-one sword fight between Henry Tudor and Richard III. [164] Shakespeare uses their duel to bring a climactic end to the play and the Wars of the Roses he also uses it to champion morality, portraying the "unequivocal triumph of good over evil". [165] Richard, the villainous lead character, has been built up in the battles of Shakespeare's earlier play, Henry VI, Part 3, as a "formidable swordsman and a courageous military leader"—in contrast to the dastardly means by which he becomes king in Richard III. [166] Although the Battle of Bosworth has only five sentences to direct it, three scenes and more than four hundred lines precede the action, developing the background and motivations for the characters in anticipation of the battle. [165]

Shakespeare's account of the battle was mostly based on chroniclers Edward Hall's and Raphael Holinshed's dramatic versions of history, which were sourced from Vergil's chronicle. However, Shakespeare's attitude towards Richard was shaped by scholar Thomas More, whose writings displayed extreme bias against the Yorkist king. [167] The result of these influences is a script that vilifies the king, and Shakespeare had few qualms about departing from history to incite drama. [168] Margaret of Anjou died in 1482, but Shakespeare had her speak to Richard's mother before the battle to foreshadow Richard's fate and fulfill the prophecy she had given in Henry VI. [169] Shakespeare exaggerated the cause of Richard's restless night before the battle, imagining it as a haunting by the ghosts of those whom the king had murdered, including Buckingham. [170] Richard is portrayed as suffering a pang of conscience, but as he speaks he regains his confidence and asserts that he will be evil, if such needed to retain his crown. [171]

The fight between the two armies is simulated by rowdy noises made off-stage (alarums or alarms) while actors walk on-stage, deliver their lines, and exit. To build anticipation for the duel, Shakespeare requests more alarums after Richard's councillor, William Catesby, announces that the king is "[enacting] more wonders than a man". Richard punctuates his entrance with the classic line, "A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!" [164] He refuses to withdraw, continuing to seek to slay Henry's doubles until he has killed his nemesis. There is no documentary evidence that Henry had five decoys at Bosworth Field the idea was Shakespeare's invention. He drew inspiration from Henry IV's use of them at the Battle of Shrewsbury (1403) to amplify the perception of Richard's courage on the battlefield. [172] Similarly, the single combat between Henry and Richard is Shakespeare's creation. The True Tragedy of Richard III, by an unknown playwright, earlier than Shakespeare's, has no signs of staging such an encounter: its stage directions give no hint of visible combat. [173]

Despite the dramatic licences taken, Shakespeare's version of the Battle of Bosworth was the model of the event for English textbooks for many years during the 18th and 19th centuries. [174] This glamorised version of history, promulgated in books and paintings and played out on stages across the country, perturbed humorist Gilbert Abbott à Beckett. [175] He voiced his criticism in the form of a poem, equating the romantic view of the battle to watching a "fifth-rate production of Richard III": shabbily costumed actors fight the Battle of Bosworth on-stage while those with lesser roles lounge at the back, showing no interest in the proceedings. [176]

In Laurence Olivier's 1955 film adaptation of Richard III, the Battle of Bosworth is represented not by a single duel but a general melee that became the film's most recognised scene and a regular screening at Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre. [177] The film depicts the clash between the Yorkist and Lancastrian armies on an open field, focusing on individual characters amidst the savagery of hand-to-hand fighting, and received accolades for the realism portrayed. [178] One reviewer for The Manchester Guardian newspaper, however, was not impressed, finding the number of combatants too sparse for the wide plains and a lack of subtlety in Richard's death scene. [179] The means by which Richard is shown to prepare his army for the battle also earned acclaim. As Richard speaks to his men and draws his plans in the sand using his sword, his units appear on-screen, arraying themselves according to the lines that Richard had drawn. Intimately woven together, the combination of pictorial and narrative elements effectively turns Richard into a storyteller, who acts out the plot he has constructed. [180] Shakespearian critic Herbert Coursen extends that imagery: Richard sets himself up as a creator of men, but dies amongst the savagery of his creations. Coursen finds the depiction a contrast to that of Henry V and his "band of brothers". [181]

The adaptation of the setting for Richard III to a 1930s fascist England in Ian McKellen's 1995 film, however, did not sit well with historians. Adams posits that the original Shakespearian setting for Richard's fate at Bosworth teaches the moral of facing one's fate, no matter how unjust it is, "nobly and with dignity". [182] By overshadowing the dramatic teaching with special effects, McKellen's film reduces its version of the battle to a pyrotechnic spectacle about the death of a one-dimensional villain. [183] Coursen agrees that, in this version, the battle and Richard's end are trite and underwhelming. [184]


The Coventry Carol

The lilting lament of The Coventry Carol is not especially festive, being as it is a mother’s song to her doomed infant as she waits for Herod’s soldiers to visit and murder him, however it is a haunting, beautiful tune with extraordinary history. If you’d like to know more about that, you can compare audio and read about it here, but we shall move on to a legal connection.

When we think of Coventry, most of us have heard the tale of Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom, and in modern times, the city is perhaps best known for the fate of its cathedral, destroyed by bombs in 1940 and its modern replacement consecrated in 1962, however there are many more facets to the town’s history. A timeline can be found in The History of Coventry by Benjamin Poole (Coventry, 1852). You can order the book in print to a reading room using your reader’s ticket from here or download a copy for free by right clicking and saving this link to your computer. Lesser known, is that on two occasions, in 1404 and 1459, Coventry was the seat of Parliament: see page 152 of Poole (213 of the pdf) for the section of the timeline mentioning both.

King Henry IV by Unknown artist
NPG 4980(9)

Parliaments of the time were commonly differentiated by nicknames and these could be quite dramatic. The 1404 Coventry Parliament, held in the 6th year of Henry IV’s reign, has been variously referred to as Parliament Indoctorum, the Unlearned Parliament, the Lack-Learning Parliament, the Ignorant Parliament, the Lawless Parliament and the Parliament of Dunces, whilst the 1459 Coventry Parliament, held in the 38th year of Henry VI’s reign, was also known as Parliamentum Diabolicum, the Diabolical Parliament and the Parliament of Devils!

Tomlin’s Law Dictionary (4th Edition, 1835) available in print in the library at KL40 TOM 1835 or free digitally by right clicking and saving this link to your computer, gives a little more information: see page 300 of the pdf. Also of interest is Life in an old English town, a history of Coventry by Mary Dormer Harris (London, 1898) which can be ordered to a reading room using your reader’s ticket here: see page 137 for her explanation of the naming of the 1404 “Unlearned Parliament” and 168 for the history surrounding the 1459 “Diabolical Parliament”.

In 1404 England was in the midst of the 100 Years War with France, in Wales Owain Glyn Dwr was leading a revolt against the English in collaboration with the French, and vital trading routes through Prussia were threatened by trade embargoes preventing the export of goods from the Baltic to England and prohibiting the English cloth trade. Henry IV was desperate to raise money and wished to make use of some of the assets of the Church, which was popularly viewed as rich and degenerate. Even so, his intentions may not have stood up under close inspection of those well versed in the law, and so he instructed the sheriffs to prevent the return of lawyers as members of Parliament. Coventry was a long way from the law courts in Westminster, which was undoubtedly helpful to his cause. More about the economic and political state of the country can be found in The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485 by E.F. Jacob, available in the library at Legal Hist O98f.

Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York

Queen Margaret of Anjou by Schenecker, published by Edward Harding, after Sylvester Harding
NPG D23777

In 1459 England was again in the midst of war, this time between the houses of Lancaster and York, both of whom were direct descendants of Edward III. Henry VI was suffering from bouts of mental illness and Richard, Duke of York, took the opportunity to further his own dynastic ambitions. Margaret of Anjou, Henry’s wife, was Richard’s sworn enemy, wanting the throne for her own son. She moved the Royal Court to Coventry, where in 1456 the Mayor and councillors swore allegiance to the Lancastrian cause. The two sides fought for many years. In 1459, after winning the battle of Blore Heath, the Yorkists regrouped in Ludlow and advanced towards Worcester. At Ludford Bridge they encountered a larger force headed by Henry VI in person. Henry granted a pardon to Andrew Trollope, who defected along with many Yorkist troops. The following morning the rest of the Yorkists fled. A Parliament was swiftly summoned to Coventry, to which none of the Yorkists were invited. According to Dormer Harris, 23 of their number were attainted in order to divest them of their land and power.

King Henry VI by Unknown artist
NPG 2457

This action was almost immediately undone. The first Act in the Statutes at Large for the 39th year of Henry VI’s reign (1460) is: “The parliament holden at Coventry, 20 die Novembris, Anno 37 HEN. VI. repealed, and all acts, statutes, &c. made by authority of the same, reversed.” The wording is stern, giving a summary of the history and strong opinions. Interestingly it appears not to blame the King himself for the vengeful legislation, but “divers seditious and evil disposed persons, having no regard to the dread of God, nor to the damage of the prosperous estate of our said sovereign lord the King, nor his realm, sinisterly and importunely did labour to the said King to summon a parliament to be holden at his city of Coventry…” It goes on to explain that the “said seditious persons” have long held malice towards these “faithful liege people” and coveted their lands and possessions. It mentions that of those attending the Coventry parliament, “a great part of the knights for divers counties of this realm and many burgesses and citizens for divers boroughs and cities in the same appearing, were named, returned, and accepted, some of them without due and free election, some of them without any election, against the course of the King’s laws and the liberties of the commons of this realm…” In case there’s any doubting its intent, the final paragraph of the Act demands “That the said parliament holden at the said city of Coventry be void, and holden for no parliament. And, That all acts, statutes and ordinances, by the authority of the same made, be reversed, adnulled, undone, repealed, revoked, voided, and of no force or effect.” You can read it for yourself in the library at Cw UK 8 (formerly Cw UK 20 P595), volume 3 pages 334-5, or on pages 353-4 of the pdf obtained by right clicking on this link and saving it to your computer.

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The Red Rose and the White

If Richard III had not charged to his death at Bosworth, how different might the history of Britain have been?

Beginning in 1453 and ending in 1487, The Red Rose and the White provides a gripping overview of the bitter dynastic struggle for supremacy that raged between the houses of York and Lancaster for thirty years, culminating in the dramatic events on Bosworth Field in 1485.

As well as offering a comprehensive account of the campaigns, battles and sieges of the conflict, the book also assesses the commanders and men involved and considers the weapons and tactics employed. Photographs, maps and portraits of the principal characters help to bring the period to life, whilst the fast-paced narrative conveys a sense of what it was actually like to fight in battles such as Towton or Tewkesbury the effect of the arrow storm and the grim realities of hand-to-hand combat with edged and bladed weapons.

Skilfully weaving in political and social events to place the conflict in its context, The Red Rose and the White is a fascinating exploration of the turbulent period that would change the course of British history forever.


Battle of Ludford Bridge - Wikipedia

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On October 12, 1459, in the Battle at Ludford Bridge, Richard of York was defeated. From the article:

"The Battle of Ludford Bridge was a largely bloodless battle fought in the early years of the Wars of the Roses. It took place on 12 October 1459, and resulted in a setback for the Yorkists. Although this seemed to be a triumph for the rival Lancastrians at the time, they had thrown away their advantage within six months.

In the first pitched battle of the wars, the First Battle of St Albans in 1455, Richard of York, backed by his brother in law the Earl of Salisbury and Salisbury's son the Earl of Warwick, had eliminated most of his rivals at court. He reaffirmed his allegiance to the King, Henry of Lancaster and was reappointed Lord Protector, until February 1456. However, Henry's Queen, Margaret of Anjou, suspected that Richard ultimately intended to supplant her infant son Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales and become King himself. She continually plotted and agitated against Richard and the Nevilles (Salisbury and Warwick).[1] She was supported by several nobles, many of them the sons of York's opponents who had died at St. Albans.

The renewed outbreak of open warfare was precipitated by some high-handed actions by Warwick, who held the post of Captain of Calais. Late in 1458, he had led ships from Calais in attacks on merchant ships from Lübeck and Spain, on obscure grounds of acknowledgement of English sovereignty in the Channel, to secure plunder to pay his garrison. Though these actions infuriated the royal court, they were popular among the merchants, particularly in London and Kent, as they removed competitors for English trade with Flanders. When Warwick was summoned to London to explain his actions before the King's council, there was violence between Warwick's retinue and the royal household. Warwick claimed that his life had been threatened, and he returned to Calais with any charges unanswered.[2][3]

Margaret took this to be open defiance of Henry's authority. She had long before persuaded Henry to move the court from London to the Midlands, where her supporters had the most influence. They began mustering their forces, and summoned a council to be held in Coventry on 24 June 1459. York, Salisbury and Warwick himself feared that they would be arrested for treason if they went to their opponents' heartland, and refused to attend. They were quickly indicted for rebellion.[4]

The Yorkist forces began the campaign dispersed over the country. York himself was at Ludlow in the Welsh Marches, Salisbury was at Middleham Castle in North Yorkshire and Warwick was at Calais. As Salisbury and Warwick marched to join the Duke of York, Margaret ordered a force under the Duke of Somerset to intercept Warwick and another under James Tuchet, 5th Baron Audley to intercept Salisbury. Warwick successfully evaded Somerset, while Audley's forces were routed at the bloody Battle of Blore Heath.

Even after this defeat, the forces available to Henry and Margaret outnumbered the Yorkist combined armies by two to one. The Yorkist army tried to move towards London, but found their path blocked by the Lancastrian army with King Henry himself nominally at its head, and fell back to Worcester. Here, the Duke of York attended mass in the cathedral before sending written protestations of his loyalty to Henry. These were ignored.[5]

The Yorkists retreated towards Ludlow, before making a stand at a fortified position near Ludford, Shropshire on 12 October. Their troops excavated a defensive ditch in a field on the opposite side of the River Teme from Ludlow, near the bridge which gave the battle its name. They also constructed barricades of carts in which cannon were emplaced. However, morale was low, not least because the royal standard could be seen flying in the Lancastrian army, and it was known that King Henry himself was present, in full armour. For much of his reign, Henry had been regarded as an ineffectual ruler, and he had even lapsed into madness for periods of several months at a time. Richard of York and his supporters had maintained that they were opposed only to Henry's "evil counsellors". Now they realised that their army would probably refuse to fight against an army which included Henry himself.[6] Henry and the Duke of Buckingham, in command of the royal army, proclaimed the offer of a pardon to any who would change sides.[7]

Among the troops brought by Warwick from Calais were 600 men led by Andrew Trollope, an experienced soldier. During the night, Trollope and his men and others from the Yorkist forces defected to the Lancastrians.[8] Faced with certain defeat, York, Salisbury and Warwick announced that they were returning to Ludlow for the night. They then abandoned their armies and fled into Wales.[9]

At dawn on 13 October, the leaderless Yorkist troops knelt in submission before Henry, and were pardoned. York had abandoned not only his troops but also his wife Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, his two younger sons George and Richard and his youngest daughter Margaret. By popular account, they were found standing at the Ludlow Market Cross when the Lancastrians arrived. They were placed in the care of the Duchess's sister Anne, wife of the Duke of Buckingham. The Lancastrian troops proceeded to plunder Ludlow, becoming drunk on looted wine and committing many outrages.[6]

York, with his second son Edmund, Earl of Rutland, made his way to Ireland where he had previously been Lieutenant of Irelard, and still had support from the Irish parliament. Salisbury, Warwick and York's eldest son Edward, Earl of March went to South Wales, where Warwick had estates and supporters. There they took a ship, also intending to reach Ireland, but were blown across the Bristol Channel to the West Country where a supporter, Sir John Dynham, loaned them a boat which took them to Calais.[10] On 9 October, King Henry had appointed the Duke of Somerset to replace Warwick as Captain of Calais. However, Warwick was able to forestall him, possibly only by hours. Under his uncle, Lord Fauconberg, the garrison and city still supported him.[11]

King Henry and his army meanwhile returned to Coventry, where a Parliament packed with Queen Margaret's supporters attainted York, Salisbury and Warwick and their remaining supporters. However, it proved impossible for the Earl of Wiltshire, who was appointed Lieutenant of Ireland in Richard of York's place, to raise troops to oust York from Ireland. Somerset was able to land near Calais and captured the nearby castle of Guînes but was twice repulsed when he tried to capture Calais from Warwick.[12] Warwick was able to sail to Ireland, evading the royal ships commanded by the Duke of Exeter, to concert plans with the Duke of York.

Although it had appeared that the country had been united behind King Henry at the time of the Battle of Ludford Bridge, within a short time the behaviour of Henry's court had prompted many complaints that Lancastrian favourites were enriching themselves at the expense of the King and populace, and were failing to prevent the spread of lawlessness. It was these grievances which Richard of York had first used as pretext to take arms against Henry's court in the early 1450s. Within six months of the battle, Warwick was able to land at Sandwich in Kent, with popular support from London and the south east of England. He then marched into the Midlands and, aided by treachery in the Lancastrian army, he captured King Henry at the Battle of Northampton."


ExecutedToday.com

This honourable man, a good knight and a gentle of living somewhat dissolute plain and open to his enemy, secret to his friend, easy to beguile, as he that of good heart and courage forestudieth no perils a loving man, and passing well-beloved very faithful, and trusty enough — trusting too much.

–Thomas More‘s assessment of William Hastings

The Baron Hastings arose this date as the trusted councillor of the Lord Protector. Before dinner, he’d had his head chopped off over a log in the Tower of London.


Lord Hastings sported this fancy badge of a handsomely endowed manticore.

Richard III (Duke of Gloucester).
I pray you all, tell me what they deserve
That do conspire my death with devilish plots
Of damned witchcraft, and that have prevail’d
Upon my body with their hellish charms?

Lord Hastings.
The tender love I bear your grace, my lord,
Makes me most forward in this noble presence
To doom the offenders, whatsoever they be
I say, my lord, they have deserved death.

Richard III (Duke of Gloucester).
Then be your eyes the witness of this ill:
See how I am bewitch’d behold mine arm
Is, like a blasted sapling, wither’d up:
And this is Edward’s wife, that monstrous witch,
Consorted with that harlot strumpet Shore,
That by their witchcraft thus have marked me.

Lord Hastings.
If they have done this thing, my gracious lord —

Richard III (Duke of Gloucester).
If? thou protector of this damned strumpet —
Tellest thou me of ‘ifs’? Thou art a traitor:
Off with his head! Now, by Saint Paul I swear,
I will not dine until I see the same.
Lovel and Ratcliff, look that it be done:
The rest, that love me, rise and follow me.

[Exeunt all but HASTINGS, RATCLIFF, and LOVEL]

Lord Hastings.
Woe, woe for England! not a whit for me
For I, too fond, might have prevented this.
Stanley did dream the boar did raze his helm
But I disdain’d it, and did scorn to fly:
Three times to-day my foot-cloth horse did stumble,
And startled, when he look’d upon the Tower,
As loath to bear me to the slaughter-house.
O, now I want the priest that spake to me:
I now repent I told the pursuivant
As ’twere triumphing at mine enemies,
How they at Pomfret bloodily were butcher’d,
And I myself secure in grace and favour.
O Margaret, Margaret, now thy heavy curse
Is lighted on poor Hastings’ wretched head!

Sir Richard Ratcliff.
Dispatch, my lord the duke would be at dinner:
Make a short shrift he longs to see your head.

Lord Hastings.
O momentary grace of mortal men,
Which we more hunt for than the grace of God!
Who builds his hopes in air of your good looks,
Lives like a drunken sailor on a mast,
Ready, with every nod, to tumble down
Into the fatal bowels of the deep.

Lord Lovel.
Come, come, dispatch ’tis bootless to exclaim.

Lord Hastings.
O bloody Richard! miserable England!
I prophesy the fearful’st time to thee
That ever wretched age hath look’d upon.
Come, lead me to the block bear him my head.
They smile at me that shortly shall be dead.

A longtime Yorkist pillar during the Wars of the Roses, Hastings parlayed his many years of proximity to King Edward IV into still-extant architectural glories like Ashby Castle and Kirby Castle.

Of greater moment for the pivotal year of 1483 was Hastings’s bitter enmity with the Woodville family — the kin of widowed queen when Edward died suddenly in 1483. In his life, the king had checked the rivalry between Woodvilles and York magnates. But “the king’s death at once broke up the unity of the court, the peace of the country, and the fortunes of the house of York.”

Before Edward’s body went cold, both factions raced into the power vacuum: the heir was a 12-year-old who wasn’t event present in the capital when his father died. Power in the realm hinged on the actions of men like Hastings in April and May of 1483.

And Hastings made the most of his moment — to his own later grief. While the Woodvilles flexed during the first days of the regency, Hastings drug his feet, threatened to start a civil war, and successfully negotiated for the respective sides to minimize their armed retinues when they arrived for the coronation of young Edward V. He also wrote urgently to the new de facto captain of Team York, the late king’s brother, Richard of Gloucester.

Hastening to answer the call, Gloucester hijacked a too-lax royal convoy en route to London, acquiring custody of the heir, and rolled into town that May as the master of both the boy king’s person and the political situation. Edward V and his brother were the urchins destined to disappear into the Tower of London Gloucester would eventually crown himself King Richard III. The Woodvilles fled from power and danger, to the sanctuary of an obliging cathedral.

Big win for Bill Hastings, right? He

was extremely elated at these changes to which the affairs of the world are so subject, and was in the habit of saying that hitherto nothing whatever had been done except the transferring of the government of the kingdom from two of the queen’s blood to two more powerful persons of the king’s and this, too, effected without any slaughter, or indeed causing as much blood to be shed as would be produced by the cut of a finger. In the course, however, of a very few days after the utterance of these words, this extreme of joy of his supplanted with sorrow. (Croyland Chronicle)

The sorrow arrived like a thunderbolt at a particularly infamous royal council meeting on June 13, 1483, when Gloucester seemingly out of nowhere denounced Hastings as a traitor, along with three others. The others we set aside they were politically insulated from membership in the pages of Executed Today. But not so Hastings, who was detailed for immediate beheading on Gloucester’s say-so, and never mind the trial.

Politics on this plane was intrinsically cutthroat nevertheless, this shock destruction of an essential ally puts Richard in a pretty unflattering light. Was he really, as Gloucester claimed, plotting against him? Perhaps Gloucester perceived Hastings too loyal to Edward V at a moment when he was resolved upon usurpation? Had it factored, as the proclamation alleged, that Hastings took up with the late king’s remarkable mistress Jane Shore,* “one of his secret counsel in this heinous treason, with whom he lay nightly, and namely the night past before his death”? Claims and counterclaims around this black June 13 grow thick on the ground, none of them rooted in any decisive evidence.

The estimable David Crowther deals with these perilous months in Episode 187 of the History of England Podcast. The guest episode 187a in that same series explores the aforementioned mistress of William Hastings, whose humiliating public penance inspired the Walk of Shame scene in Game of Thrones.

On this day..

Possibly related executions:

1450: Jack Cade posthumously quartered

On or around this date in 1450 the body of the rebel Jack Cade was posthumously beheaded and quartered.

He’s one of England’s first names in rebellion, and Cade’s Kentish rising indexed England’s catastrophic breakdown under the weak king Henry VI, a milepost between the waning Hundred Years’ War and the onrushing Wars of the Roses.

And for all of these, Cade included, Henry was the chaos-making variable.

He had just about finished squandering the entire French patrimony so gloriously won for him by the sword-arm of his doughty father Henry V, and defeated troops fleeing French advances in Normandy compounded, as they tramped up the southeast beaten and looting, the general fury at the king’s unpopular marriage to the French princess Margaret of Anjou. With shambolic governance allied to a slumping economy, corrupt taxation, and mounting public debt, things were coming unglued.

Like many kings, Henry benefited from the instinct to target overt blame away from the sovereign himself and towards the aides and counselors who surround him. One of the very most hated of those counselors was the man who had negotiated that French marriage — giving away to the French crown the hard-won provinces of Anjou and Maine as its price. William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, was so near to being attainted or lynched around London that King Henry exiled him for his own safety to France. But Suffolk didn’t make there: instead, he was captured at sea and murdered.

When his body washed up in Kent, rumors seem to have anticipated a royal reprisal against that region and in favor of the late hated favorite, perhaps the trigger for the events in this post.

Nevertheless, the “rebels” did not conceive themselves engaged in a seditious enterprise this is apparent from the manifesto of grievances it issued, with moderating tones and language echoing complaints that the Commons was raising to no avail in Parliament.

Item. The law serves of nought else in these days but for to do wrong, for nothing is spread almost but false matters by colour of the law for reward, dread and favour and so no remedy is had in the Court of Equity in any way.

Item. We say our sovereign lord may understand that his false council has lost his law, his merchandise is lost, his common people is destroyed, the sea is lost, France is lost, the king himself is so set that he may not pay for his meat nor drink, and he owes more than ever any King of England ought, for daily his traitors about him where anything should come to him by his laws, anon they take it from him.

Item. We will that all men know we blame not all the lords, nor all those that are about the king’s person, nor all gentlemen nor yeomen, nor all men of law, nor all bishops, nor all priests, but all such as may be found guilty by just and true inquiry and by the law.

Item. We will that it be known we will not rob, nor plunder, nor steal, but that these defaults be amended, and then we will go home …

The man at the forefront is a cipher: he went by the potent alias of “John Mortimer”, the surname unmistakably linking his cause to the rival royal claimants over at the the House of York, but neither the name of “Jack Cade” by which history recalls his movement nor the antecedent experiences that thrust him into leadership can be attested with any confidence.

He appears by the half-glimpses we catch of him in the period’s chronicles to be a vigorous and intelligent character. He shied away from battle with a royal army, wisely avoiding the taint of treason that would come with entering the field against the king’s own person but, it was an organized withdrawal that left his forces capable of ambushing and destroying the detachment from that army that the king had sent to pursue them, a testament to Cade/Mortimer’s adroit command.

Panicked when the news of this reversal resulted in his own forces taking up the rebels’ call to punish traitorous lords, King Henry beat feet for the safety of Kenilworth Castle and abandoned the stage of London to this mysterious new character.

The rebel militia seized it on the third of July that year, visiting its promised popular justice in the process upon several of those “false counsellors” detested among the populace — including the Bishop of Salisbury, the Baron Saye and Sele, and the former sheriff of Kent, William Cromer Shakespeare gives us a bloody-minded* Cade bantering with his prey Saye and Sele in Henry VI, Part 2 — “Ye shall have a hempen caudle, then, and the help of hatchet … Go, take him away, I say, and strike off his head presently and then break into his son-in-law’s house, Sir James [sic] Cromer, and strike off his head, and bring them both upon two poles hither.”


Charles Lucy, “Lord Saye and Sele brought before Jack Cade 4th July 1450”

Peasant risings like these are made for eventual failure, but it the unusually high water mark achieved by Cade’s rebellion before receding makes another measure of the crown’s weakness. After ceding the Kentishmen the run of London for several days, it took a desperate nighttime battle on London Bridge to finally push them out.

A general amnesty went abroad to induce the rebels to disperse, but it was not for Cade — who fled to Sussex where he was taken, and mortally wounded in the process, by the new sheriff of Kent, Alexander Iden. (A road called Cade Street now runs in the vicinity there is a monument to his capture in Heathfield.) It was Cade’s good fortune to succumb to his injuries on the journey back to London but the pains of justice were inflicted upon his remains just the same.

Cade died on Sunday, July 12. The precise date for his posthumous disgrace is not certain from the sources available to us. Many writers report July 15, seemingly based on John Benet’s chronicle, which is a strong source and asserts the 15th unambiguously. I’m here guardedly preferring the 16th based on Gregory’s Chronicle, whose authors were clearly Londoners, and who narrated the progress of the week following Cade’s death with specificity.

And that day was that fals traytoure the Captayne of Kentte i-take and slayne in the Welde in the countre of Sowsex, and uppon the morowe he was brought in a carre alle nakyd, and at the Herte in Sowetheworke there the carre was made stonde stylle, the wyffe of the howse myght se hym yf hyt were the same man or no that was namyd the Captayne of Kente, for he was loggyd whythe yn hyr howse in hys pevys tyme of hys mys rewylle and rysynge. And thenne he was hadde in to the Kyngys Bynche, and there he lay from Monday at evyn [i.e., Monday, July 13] unto the Thursseday nexte folowynge at evyn [Thursday, July 16] and whythe yn the Kynges Benche the sayde captayne was be-heddyde and quarteryde and the same day i-d[r]awe a-pon a hyrdylle in pecys whythe the hedde by-twyne hys breste from the Kyngys Benche thoroughe owte Sowthewerke, and thenne ovyr Londyn Brygge, and thenne thoroughe London unto Newegate, and thenne hys hedde was takyn and sette uppon London Brygge.

Cade’s is the rebellion that gets the ink, but several other uprisings in the South of England followed in the months ahead … ill omen for the king who would soon experience the ruin of his reign and family.

The History of England podcast covers Jack Cade’s rebellion in Episode 161.

* It is one of Cade’s subalterns in this play who supplies posterity with the immortal quip, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”


Individual Note

Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York (21 September 1411 30 December 1460) was a member of the English royal family, who served in senior positions in France at the end of the Hundred Years' War, and in England during Henry VI's madness. His conflict with Henry VI was a leading factor in the political upheaval of mid-fifteenth-century England, and a major cause of the Wars of the Roses. Although he never became king, he was the father of Edward IV and Richard III.
Contents
[hide]

  • 1 Descent
  • 2 Childhood and Upbringing (14111436)
  • 3 France (14361439)
  • 4 France again (14401445)
  • 5 Ireland (14451450)
  • 6 Leader of the Opposition (14501452)
  • 7 Protector of the Realm (14531454)
  • 8 St. Albans (14551456)
  • 9 Loveday (14561458)
  • 10 Ludford (1459)
  • 11 The wheel of fortune (14591460)
  • 12 A paper crown
  • 13 Legacy
  • 14 Ancestry
  • 15 Children
  • 16 References
  • 17 Literature
  • 18 External links

[edit] Descent
Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York
Children
Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York
Richard of Conisburgh, Earl of Cambridge
Constance, Countess of Gloucester
Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York
Richard of Conisburgh, Earl of Cambridge
Children
Isabel, Countess of Essex
Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York
Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York
Children
Anne, Duchess of Exeter
Edward IV of England
Edmund, Earl of Rutland
Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk
Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy
George, Duke of Clarence
Richard III of England
Edward IV of England
Children
Elizabeth, Queen Consort of England
Mary of York
Cecily Kymbe
Edward V of England
Margaret of York
Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York
Anne, Countess of Surrey
George, Duke of Bedford
Catherine, Countess of Devon
Bridget of York
George, Duke of Clarence
Children
Margaret, Countess of Salisbury
Edward, Earl of Warwick
Richard III of England
Children
Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales

He was born to Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge and Anne de Mortimer. Anne was the senior heiress of Lionel of Antwerp, the second surviving son of Edward III this arguably gave her and her family a superior claim to the throne over that of the House of Lancaster. Anne died giving birth to Richard. He was a younger brother of Isabel Plantagenet.

His paternal grandparents were Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York and Isabella of Castile. His maternal grandparents were Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March and Eleanor de Holland.

Edmund of Langley was the fourth surviving son of Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault. Isabella of Castile was a daughter of Pedro of Castile and María de Padilla. Roger de Mortimer was a son of Edmund de Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March and Philippa Plantagenet. Eleanor de Holland was a daughter of Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent and Alice Fitzalan. Alice Fitzalan was a daughter of Richard FitzAlan, 10th Earl of Arundel and Eleanor of Lancaster.

Philippa Plantagenet was in turn the only daughter of Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence and Elizabeth de Burgh, 4th Countess of Ulster. Lionel of Antwerp being the second son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault.

His father was executed for his part in the plot against Henry V of England on August 5, 1415. From his father he inherited neither land nor title. However his paternal uncle Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York was killed at the Battle of Agincourt (October 25, 1415). The Duke was childless and Richard was his closest male relative.

After some hesitation Henry V allowed Richard to inherit the title and (at his majority) the lands of the Duchy of York. The lesser title and (in due course) greater estates of the Earldom of March became his on the death his maternal uncle Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March, on January 19, 1425. The reason for the hestiation of Henry V is due to the usurpation of Edmund Mortimer's right to the English throne once Richard inherited the March, he became the foremost Yorkist pretender.

[edit] Childhood and Upbringing (14111436)

As an orphan, the income and management of his lands became the property of the crown. Even though many of the lands of his uncle of York had been granted for life only, or to him and his male heirs the remaining lands, concentrated in Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, Yorkshire, and Wiltshire and Gloucestershire were considerable. The wardship of such an orphan was therefore a valuable gift of the Crown, and in October 1417 this was granted to Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmoreland, with the young Richard under the guardianship of Sir Robert Waterton. Ralph was one of the most philoprogenitive peers of the age, and had many daughters needing husbands. As was his right, in 1424 he betrothed the 13-year-old Richard to his daughter Cecily Neville, then aged 9.

In October 1425, when Ralph Neville died, he bequeathed the wardship of York to his widow, Joan Beaufort. By now the wardship was even more valuable, as Richard had inherited the Mortimer estates on the death of the Earl of March. These manors were concentrated in Wales, and in the Welsh Borders around Ludlow.

Little is recorded of his early life. On 19 May 1426 he was knighted at Leicester by John of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Bedford. In October 1429 (or earlier) his marriage to Cecily Neville took place. On November 6 he was present at the coronation of Henry VI of England in Westminster Abbey. He then followed Henry to France, being present at his coronation as King of France in Notre Dame on December 16, 1431. Finally, on May 12, 1432 he came into his inheritance and was granted control of his estates.

York first enters history with his expedition to France in May 1436. Henry V's conquests in France could not be sustained forever - the Kingdom of England either needed to conquer more territory to ensure permanent French subordination, or to concede territory to gain a negotiated settlement. During Henry VI's minority the Council took advantage of French weakness and the alliance with Burgundy to increase England's possessions, but following the Treaty of Arras in 1435 Burgundy ceased to recognise the King of England's claim to the French throne.

York's appointment was one of a number of stop-gap measures after the death of Bedford to try to retain French possessions until King Henry should assume personal rule. The fall of Paris (his original destination) led to his army being allocated to Normandy. Working with Bedford's captains, York had some success, re-capturing Fecamp and holding on to the Pays de Caux, while establishing good order and justice in the Duchy. His term was extended beyond the original twelve months, and he returned to England in November 1439. In spite of his position as one of the leading nobles of the realm, he was not included in Henry VI's Council on his return.[1]

[edit] France again (14401445)

Henry turned to York again in 1440 after peace negotiations failed. He was appointed Lieutenant of France on 2 July, with the same powers that Bedford had been granted. As in 1437, he was able to count on the loyalty of Bedford's supporters, including Sir John Fastolf and Sir William Oldhall.

However, in 1443 Henry put the newly-created John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset in charge of an army of 8,000 men, initially intended for the relief of Gascony. This denied York much-needed men and resources at a time when he was struggling to hold the borders of Normandy. Not only that, the terms of Somerset's appointment could have caused York to feel that his own role as effective regent over the whole of Lancastrian France was reduced to that of governor of Normandy. Somerset's army achieved nothing, and eventually returned to Normandy, where Somerset died. This may have been the start of the hatred that York felt for the Beaufort family, that would later turn into civil war.

English policy now turned back to a negotiated peace (or at least a truce), so the remainder of York's time in France was spent in routine administration and domestic matters. Duchess Cecily had accompanied him to Normandy, and his children Edward, Edmund and Elizabeth were born in Rouen.

At the end of his five year appointment (he returned to England on 20 October), he must have had reasonable expectations of reappointment. However, he had become associated with the English in Normandy who were opposed to Henry VI's policy towards France, some of whom (for example Sir William Oldhall and Sir Andrew Ogard) had followed him to England. Eventually (in December 1446) the lieutenancy went to Edmund Beaufort, who had become Earl of Somerset on the death of his brother (see above). During 1446-7 York attended meetings of Henry VI's Council and of Parliament, but most of his time was spent in administration of his estates on the Welsh border.

His attitude toward Henry's surrender of Maine must have contributed to his appointment on 30 July as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In some ways it was a logical appointment. Richard was also Earl of Ulster and had considerable estates in Ireland. But it was also a convenient way of removing him from both England and France. His term of office was for ten years, ruling him out of consideration of any other high office during that period.

Domestic matters kept him in England until June 1449, but when he did eventually go, it was with Cecily (who was pregnant at the time) and an army of around 600 men. This suggests a stay of some time was envisaged. However, claiming lack of money to defend English possessions, York decided to return to England. His financial state may indeed have been problematic - by the mid-1440s he was owed nearly £40,000 by the crown, and the income from his estates was declining.

[edit] Leader of the Opposition (14501452)
Coat of arms of Richard, 3rd Duke of York
Coat of arms of Richard, 3rd Duke of York

In 1450 the defeats and failures of the previous ten years boiled over into serious political unrest. In January, Adam Moleyns, Lord Privy Seal and Bishop of Chichester, was lynched. In May the chief councillor of the King, William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, was murdered on his way into exile. The commons demanded that the King take back many of the grants of land and money he had made to his favourites.

In June Kent and Sussex rose in revolt. Led by Jack Cade (taking the name Mortimer), they took control of London and killed John Fiennes, 1st Baron Saye and Sele, Lord High Treasurer of England. In August, the final towns held in Normandy fell to the French' and refugees flooded back to England.

On 7 September York landed at Beaumaris. Evading an attempt by Henry to intercept him, and gathering followers as he went, York arrived in London on 27 September. After an inconclusive (and possibly violent) meeting with the King, York continued to recruit, both in East Anglia and the west. The violence in London was such that Somerset, back in England after the collapse of English Normandy, was put in the Tower of London for his own safety. In December Parliament elected York's chamberlain, Sir William Oldhall, as speaker.

York's public stance was that of a reformer, demanding better government and the prosecution of the traitors who had lost northern France. Judging by his later actions, there may also have been a more hidden motive the destruction of Somerset, who was soon released from the Tower. Although granted another office (Justice of the Forest south of the Trent), York still lacked any real support outside Parliament and his own retainers.

In April 1451, Somerset was released from the Tower and appointed Captain of Calais. When the MP for Bristol, Thomas Young (one of York's councillors) proposed that York be recognised as heir to the throne, he was sent to the Tower and Parliament was dissolved. Henry VI was prompted into belated reforms, which went some way to restore public order and improve the royal finances. Frustrated by his lack of political power, York retired to Ludlow.

In 1452, York made another bid for power but not to become king himself. Protesting his loyalty, he aimed to be recognised as Henry VI's heir, while also trying to destroy the Earl of Somerset (as a Beaufort descendant, Henry may have preferred him over York to succeed him). Gathering men on the march from Ludlow, York headed for London, to find the city gates barred against him on Henry's orders. At Dartford in Kent, with his army outnumbered, and the support of only two of the nobility, York was forced to come to an agreement with Henry. Allowed to present his complaints against Somerset to the king, he then was taken to London and after two weeks of virtual house arrest, was forced to swear an oath of allegiance at St Paul's Cathedral.

[edit] Protector of the Realm (14531454)

By the summer of 1453, York seemed to have lost his power struggle. Henry embarked on a series of judicial tours, punishing York's tenants who had been involved in the debacle at Dartford. His Queen consort Margaret of Anjou was pregnant, and even if she should miscarry, the marriage of the newly ennobled Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond to Margaret Beaufort provided for an alternative line of succession. Bordeaux had been re-captured the previous year. By July he had lost both his Offices - Lieutenant of Ireland and Justice of the Forest south of the Trent.

Then, in August, Henry VI suffered a catastrophic mental breakdown. Perhaps brought on by the news of the defeat at the Battle of Castillon in Gascony, he became completely unresponsive, unable to speak and having to be led from room to room. The council tried to carry on as though the King's disability would be brief. However, eventually they had to admit that something had to be done. In October, invitations for a Great Council were issued, and although Somerset tried to have him excluded, York (the premier Duke of the realm) was included. Somerset's fears were to prove well-grounded, for in November he was committed to the Tower. Despite the opposition of Margaret of Anjou, on 27 March, York was appointed Protector of the Realm and Chief Councillor.

York's appointment of his brother-in-law, Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, as Chancellor was significant. Henry's burst of activity in 1453 had seen him try to stem the violence caused by various disputes between noble families. These disputes gradually polarised around the long-standing Percy-Neville feud. Unfortunately for Henry, Somerset (and therefore the king) became identified with the Percy cause. This drove the Nevilles into the arms of York, who now for the first time had support among a section of the nobility.

"If Henry's insanity was a tragedy, his recovery was a national disaster" [2]. In January 1455 Henry lost little time in reversing York's actions. Somerset was released and restored to favour. York was deprived of the Captaincy of Calais (granted to Somerset) and of the office of Protector. Salisbury resigned as Chancellor. York, Salisbury and Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick were threatened when a Great Council was called to meet in Leicester (away from Somerset's enemies in London) on 21 May. York and his Neville relations recruited in the north and probably along the Welsh border. By the time Somerset realised what was happening, there was no time to raise a large force to support the king.

Once York took his army south of Leicester, thus barring the route to the Great Council, the dispute between him and the king regarding Somerset would have to be settled by force. On 22 May, the king and Somerset, with a hastily-assembled and poorly-equipped army of around 2,000 arrived at St Albans. York, Warwick and Salisbury were already there, with a larger and better-equipped army. More importantly, at least some of their soldiers would have had experience in the frequent border skirmishes with the Kingdom of Scotland and the occasionally rebellious people of Wales.

The First Battle of St Albans which immediately followed hardly deserves the term battle. Possibly as few as 50 men were killed, but among them were Somerset and the two Percy lords, Henry Percy, 2nd Earl of Northumberland and Thomas Clifford, 8th Baron de Clifford. York and the Nevilles had therefore succeeded in killing their enemies, while York's capture of the king gave him the chance to resume the power he had lost in 1453. It was vital to keep Henry alive - his death would have led, not to York becoming king himself, but to the minority rule of his two-year-old son Edward of Westminster. Since York's support among the nobility was small, he would be unable to dominate a minority council led by Margaret of Anjou.

In the custody of York, the king was returned to London with York and Salisbury riding alongside, and with Warwick bearing the royal sword in front. On 25 May, Henry received the crown from York, in a clearly symbolic display of power. York made himself Constable of England, and appointed Warwick Captain of Calais. York's position was enhanced when some of the nobility agreed to join his government, including Lord Fauconberg, who had served under him in France.

For the rest of the summer York held the king prisoner, either in Hertford castle or (in order to be enthroned in Parliament in July) in London. When Parliament met again in November the throne was empty, and it was reported that the king was ill again. York resumed the office of Protector, although he surrendered it when the king recovered in February 1456, it seemed that this time Henry was willing to accept that York and his supporters would play a major part in the government of the realm.

Salisbury and Warwick continued as councillors, and Warwick was confirmed as Captain of Calais. In June York himself was sent north to defend the border against a threatened invasion by James II of Scotland. However, the king once again became under the control of a dominant figure, this time one harder to replace than Suffolk or Somerset. For the rest of his reign, it would be the queen, Margaret of Anjou, who would control the king.

Although Margaret of Anjou had now taken the place formerly held by Suffolk or Somerset, her position, at least at first, was not as dominant. York had his Lieutenancy of Ireland renewed, and he continued to attend meetings of the Council. However, in August 1456 the court moved to Coventry, in the heart of the Queen's lands. How York was treated now depended on how powerful the Queen's views were. York was regarded with suspicion on three fronts: he threatened the succession of the young Prince of Wales he was apparently negotiating for the marriage of his son Edward into the Burgundian ruling Family and as a supporter of the Nevilles, he was contributing to the major cause of disturbance in the kingdom - the Percy/Neville feud.

Here, the Nevilles lost ground. Salisbury gradually ceased to attend meetings of the council. When his brother Robert Neville, Bishop of Durham died in 1457, the new appointment was Laurence Booth. Booth was a member of the Queen's inner circle. The Percys were shown greater favour both at court and in the struggle for power on the Scottish Border.

Henry's attempts at reconciliation between the factions divided by the killings at St Albans reached their climax with the Loveday on March 24, 1458. However, the lords concerned had earlier turned London into an armed camp, and the public expressions of amity seemed not to have lasted beyond the ceremony.

In June 1459 a great council was summoned to meet at Coventry. York, the Nevilles and some other lords refused to appear, fearing that the armed forces that had been commanded to assemble the previous month had been summoned to arrest them. Instead, York and Salisbury recruited in their strongholds and at Worcester met Warwick, who had brought with him his troops from Calais. Parliament was summoned to meet at Coventry in November, but without York and the Nevilles. This could only mean that they were to be accused of treason.

On 11 October, York tried by move south, but was forced to head for Ludlow. On 12 October, at the Battle of Ludford Bridge, York once again faced Henry just as he had at Dartford seven years earlier. Warwick's troops from Calais refused to fight, and the rebels fled - York to Ireland, Warwick, Salisbury and York's son Edward to Calais[3]. York's wife Cecily and their two younger sons (George and Richard) were captured in Ludlow Castle and imprisoned at Coventry.

[edit] The wheel of fortune (14591460)

York's retreat worked to his advantage. He was still Lieutenant of Ireland, and attempts to replace him failed. The Parliament of Ireland backed him, providing offers of both military and financial support. Warwick's (possibly inadvertent) return to Calais also proved fortunate his control of the English Channel meant that pro-Yorkist propaganda, emphasising loyalty to the king while decrying his wicked councillors, could be spread around Southern England. Such was the Yorkists' naval dominance that Warwick was able to sail to Ireland in March 1460, meet York and return to Calais in May. Warwick's control of Calais was to prove to be influential with the wool-merchants in London.

In December 1459 York (along with Warwick and Salisbury) had suffered attainder his life was forfeit, and his lands reverted to the king his heirs would not inherit. This was the most extreme punishment a member of the nobility could suffer, and York was now in the same situation as Henry of Bolingbroke in 1398. Only a successful invasion of England would restore his fortune. Assuming the invasion was successful, York had three options become protector again, disinherit the king so that York's son would succeed, or claim the throne for himself.

On 26 June, Warwick and Salisbury landed at Sandwich. The men of Kent, always ready to revolt, rose to join them. London opened its gates to the Nevilles on 2 July. York remained in Ireland. Not until 9 September did he set foot in England, and when he did, he acted as a king. Marching under the arms of his maternal great-great-great-grandfather Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence, as he approached London he displayed a banner of the Coat of Arms of England. By this time, Warwick had already defeated the royal forces at the Battle of Northampton (10 July) and captured the king. A Parliament called to meet on 7 October repealed all the legislation of the Coventry parliament the previous year.

On 10 October, York arrived in London and took residence in the royal palace. Entering Parliament with his sword borne upright before him, he claimed the throne of England. Once again, his narrow support among his peers led to failure. After weeks of negotiation, the best that could be achieved was that York and his heirs would be recognised as Henry's successor. However, Parliament did grant York extraordinary executive powers to protect the realm, and with the king effectively in custody, York and Warwick were the de facto rulers of the country.

While this was happening, the Lancastrian loyalists were arming. Faced with the threat of attack from the Percys, and with Margaret of Anjou trying to gain the support of new king James III of Scotland, on 2 December York and Salisbury headed north. With them went York's son Edmund, Earl of Rutland. They arrived at Sandal Castle on 21 December to find the situation bad and getting worse. Forces loyal to Henry controlled the city of York, and nearby Pontefract Castle was also in hostile hands.

On 30 December, York and his forces left Sandal, possibly to obtain supplies. Intercepted near Wakefield by a larger Lancastrian force, York and his son were killed. Salisbury was captured during the Battle of Wakefield and executed the following day. York was buried at Pontefract, but his head was put on a pike by the victorious Lancastrian armies. His remains were later moved to Fotheringhay Church[4].

There is no contemporary portrait of Richard of York. None of his affinity (or his enemies) left a memoir of him. All that remains is the record of his actions, and the propaganda issued by both sides. Faced with the lack of evidence, we can only infer his intentions from his actions. Few men have come so close to the throne as York, who died not knowing that in only a few months his son Edward would become king. Even at the time, opinion was divided as to his true motives. Did he always want the throne, or did Henry VI's poor government and the hostility of Henry's favourites leave him no choice? Was the alliance with Warwick the deciding factor, or did he just respond to events?

Richard's eldest surviving son finally succeeded in putting the House of York on the throne in 1461 as Edward IV of England. His youngest son later became Richard III of England. The grandchildren of Richard include Edward V of England and Elizabeth of York. Elizabeth married Henry VII of England, founder of the Tudor dynasty and became the mother of Henry VIII of England, Margaret Tudor and Mary Tudor. After the reigns of the three children of Henry VIII, all English monarchs have been descendants of Margaret.

Richard was descended from English, French and Castilian royalty, as well as several major English aristocratic families.
Ancestors of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York[show]

4. Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York

18. William I, Count of Hainaut

2. Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge

5. Isabella of Castile, Duchess of York

22. Juan García de Padilla, 1st Señor de Villagera

23. María Fernández de Henestrosa

1. Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York

24. Roger Mortimer, 2nd Earl of March

12. Edmund Mortimer, 3rd Earl of March

6. Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March

26. Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence (son of 8)

13. Philippa Plantagenet, 5th Countess of Ulster

27. Elizabeth de Burgh, 4th Countess of Ulster

28. Thomas Holland, 1st Earl of Kent

14. Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent

30. Richard FitzAlan, 10th Earl of Arundel

His children with Cecily Neville include:

1. Joan of York (1438-1438).
2. Anne of York (August 10, 1439 January 14, 1476), consort to Henry Holland, 3rd Duke of Exeter.
3. Henry of York (b. February 10, 1441, died young).
4. Edward IV of England (April 28, 1442 April 9, 1483).
5. Edmund, Earl of Rutland (May 17, 1443 December 31, 1460).
6. Elizabeth of York (April 22, 1444 after January, 1503), consort to John de la Pole, 2nd Duke of Suffolk.(His first wife was Margaret Beaufort).
7. Margaret of York (May 3, 1446 November 23, 1503). Married to Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy.
8. William of York (b. July 7, 1447, died young).
9. John of York (b. November 7, 1448, died young).
10. George, Duke of Clarence (October 21, 1449 February 18, 1478). Married to Isabel Neville. Parents of Margaret Pole whose husband's mother was the half-sister of Margaret Beaufort.
11. Thomas of York (born c. 1451, died young).
12. Richard III of England (October 2, 1452 August 22, 1485). Married to Anne Neville, the sister of Isabel Neville.
13. Ursula of York (born 22 July 1455, died young).

1. ^ Storey p.72
2. ^ Storey p 159
3. ^ Goodman p 31
4. ^ Haigh p 31ff


ExecutedToday.com

This honourable man, a good knight and a gentle of living somewhat dissolute plain and open to his enemy, secret to his friend, easy to beguile, as he that of good heart and courage forestudieth no perils a loving man, and passing well-beloved very faithful, and trusty enough — trusting too much.

–Thomas More‘s assessment of William Hastings

The Baron Hastings arose this date as the trusted councillor of the Lord Protector. Before dinner, he’d had his head chopped off over a log in the Tower of London.


Lord Hastings sported this fancy badge of a handsomely endowed manticore.

Richard III (Duke of Gloucester).
I pray you all, tell me what they deserve
That do conspire my death with devilish plots
Of damned witchcraft, and that have prevail’d
Upon my body with their hellish charms?

Lord Hastings.
The tender love I bear your grace, my lord,
Makes me most forward in this noble presence
To doom the offenders, whatsoever they be
I say, my lord, they have deserved death.

Richard III (Duke of Gloucester).
Then be your eyes the witness of this ill:
See how I am bewitch’d behold mine arm
Is, like a blasted sapling, wither’d up:
And this is Edward’s wife, that monstrous witch,
Consorted with that harlot strumpet Shore,
That by their witchcraft thus have marked me.

Lord Hastings.
If they have done this thing, my gracious lord —

Richard III (Duke of Gloucester).
If? thou protector of this damned strumpet —
Tellest thou me of ‘ifs’? Thou art a traitor:
Off with his head! Now, by Saint Paul I swear,
I will not dine until I see the same.
Lovel and Ratcliff, look that it be done:
The rest, that love me, rise and follow me.

[Exeunt all but HASTINGS, RATCLIFF, and LOVEL]

Lord Hastings.
Woe, woe for England! not a whit for me
For I, too fond, might have prevented this.
Stanley did dream the boar did raze his helm
But I disdain’d it, and did scorn to fly:
Three times to-day my foot-cloth horse did stumble,
And startled, when he look’d upon the Tower,
As loath to bear me to the slaughter-house.
O, now I want the priest that spake to me:
I now repent I told the pursuivant
As ’twere triumphing at mine enemies,
How they at Pomfret bloodily were butcher’d,
And I myself secure in grace and favour.
O Margaret, Margaret, now thy heavy curse
Is lighted on poor Hastings’ wretched head!

Sir Richard Ratcliff.
Dispatch, my lord the duke would be at dinner:
Make a short shrift he longs to see your head.

Lord Hastings.
O momentary grace of mortal men,
Which we more hunt for than the grace of God!
Who builds his hopes in air of your good looks,
Lives like a drunken sailor on a mast,
Ready, with every nod, to tumble down
Into the fatal bowels of the deep.

Lord Lovel.
Come, come, dispatch ’tis bootless to exclaim.

Lord Hastings.
O bloody Richard! miserable England!
I prophesy the fearful’st time to thee
That ever wretched age hath look’d upon.
Come, lead me to the block bear him my head.
They smile at me that shortly shall be dead.

A longtime Yorkist pillar during the Wars of the Roses, Hastings parlayed his many years of proximity to King Edward IV into still-extant architectural glories like Ashby Castle and Kirby Castle.

Of greater moment for the pivotal year of 1483 was Hastings’s bitter enmity with the Woodville family — the kin of widowed queen when Edward died suddenly in 1483. In his life, the king had checked the rivalry between Woodvilles and York magnates. But “the king’s death at once broke up the unity of the court, the peace of the country, and the fortunes of the house of York.”

Before Edward’s body went cold, both factions raced into the power vacuum: the heir was a 12-year-old who wasn’t event present in the capital when his father died. Power in the realm hinged on the actions of men like Hastings in April and May of 1483.

And Hastings made the most of his moment — to his own later grief. While the Woodvilles flexed during the first days of the regency, Hastings drug his feet, threatened to start a civil war, and successfully negotiated for the respective sides to minimize their armed retinues when they arrived for the coronation of young Edward V. He also wrote urgently to the new de facto captain of Team York, the late king’s brother, Richard of Gloucester.

Hastening to answer the call, Gloucester hijacked a too-lax royal convoy en route to London, acquiring custody of the heir, and rolled into town that May as the master of both the boy king’s person and the political situation. Edward V and his brother were the urchins destined to disappear into the Tower of London Gloucester would eventually crown himself King Richard III. The Woodvilles fled from power and danger, to the sanctuary of an obliging cathedral.

Big win for Bill Hastings, right? He

was extremely elated at these changes to which the affairs of the world are so subject, and was in the habit of saying that hitherto nothing whatever had been done except the transferring of the government of the kingdom from two of the queen’s blood to two more powerful persons of the king’s and this, too, effected without any slaughter, or indeed causing as much blood to be shed as would be produced by the cut of a finger. In the course, however, of a very few days after the utterance of these words, this extreme of joy of his supplanted with sorrow. (Croyland Chronicle)

The sorrow arrived like a thunderbolt at a particularly infamous royal council meeting on June 13, 1483, when Gloucester seemingly out of nowhere denounced Hastings as a traitor, along with three others. The others we set aside they were politically insulated from membership in the pages of Executed Today. But not so Hastings, who was detailed for immediate beheading on Gloucester’s say-so, and never mind the trial.

Politics on this plane was intrinsically cutthroat nevertheless, this shock destruction of an essential ally puts Richard in a pretty unflattering light. Was he really, as Gloucester claimed, plotting against him? Perhaps Gloucester perceived Hastings too loyal to Edward V at a moment when he was resolved upon usurpation? Had it factored, as the proclamation alleged, that Hastings took up with the late king’s remarkable mistress Jane Shore,* “one of his secret counsel in this heinous treason, with whom he lay nightly, and namely the night past before his death”? Claims and counterclaims around this black June 13 grow thick on the ground, none of them rooted in any decisive evidence.

The estimable David Crowther deals with these perilous months in Episode 187 of the History of England Podcast. The guest episode 187a in that same series explores the aforementioned mistress of William Hastings, whose humiliating public penance inspired the Walk of Shame scene in Game of Thrones.

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1483: Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham

On this date in 1483, the Duke of Buckingham was beheaded at Salisbury for rebelling against Richard III.


Shakespeare’s treatment of Buckingham’s death in Richard III:

“Why, then All-Souls’ day is my body’s doomsday.
This is the day that, in King Edward’s time,
I wish’t might fall on me, when I was found
False to his children or his wife’s allies

Come, sirs, convey me to the block of shame
Wrong hath but wrong, and blame the due of blame.”

Buckingham — Henry Stafford by name — resided firmly in the 1% of the 1% for 15th century England: a dangerous neighborhood since the War of the Roses was afoot, felling noblemen hither and yon. (Henry Stafford became the Duke of Buckingham as a toddler when his father was mortally wounded at the Battle of St. Albans.)

Our Buckingham could count five Kings of England among his close relations he himself was married right into Edward IV‘s household when he was wed at age 10 to Catherine Woodville, the seven-year-old sister of the commoner-queen Elizabeth Woodville. That made Buckingham uncle to the two sons and possible heirs of Edward IV.

But every family has its black sheep. Buckingham wasn’t keen on the Woodvilles despite his presence on their Christmas card list, and when King Edward died relatively young in 1483, Buckingham backed the succession in power not of the Woodvilles, but of Edward’s brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester — the man who indeed became king as Richard III.

Technically, Richard started out as Lord Protector on behalf of the boy-king Edward V and his little brother Richard, before he had the twerps declared illegitimate and disappeared them in 1483 into the Tower of London. Buckingham himself is one of the lead suspects for the man who urged or even carried out the murder of these Princes in the Tower.

The prospect that Buckingham’s alliance with Richard III extended all the way to regicide makes quite curious the former’s turn later that same year to rebellion — for as Thomas More would write, “hereupon sone after [the murder of the princes] began the conspiracy or rather good confederacion, between ye Duke of Buckingham and many other gentlemen against [Richard III]. Thoccasion wheruppon the king and the Duke fell out, is of divers folks diverse wyse pretended.”

Buckingham’s right to the marquee of the autumn 1483 “Buckingham’s Rebellion” has been doubted, for leadership of the various uprisings in southern England and Wales appears to belong to those “other gentlemen” of the gentry.

“Buckingham’s” rebellion was easily defeated but it augured a much deeper threat to Richard’s crown than one peer’s enmity — for the rebellion declared in favor of Henry Tudor, a last-gasp, exiled Lancastrian claimant descended from a Welsh courtier.

Buckingham himself was captured, condemned as a traitor, and publicly beheaded at Salisbury on November 2, 1483. He was one of numerous principals in the rising to go to the scaffold, but Henry’s cause continued to accumulate adherents — until not two years later, Henry defeated Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field.

In Shakespeare’s treatment, the ghost of the executed Buckingham aptly appears to Richard III on the eve of this climactic moment of English history to prophesy his former ally’s defeat:

The last was I that helped thee to the crown
The last was I that felt thy tyranny:
O, in the battle think on Buckingham,
And die in terror of thy guiltiness!
Dream on, dream on, of bloody deeds and death:
Fainting, despair despairing, yield thy breath!

Buckingham left a five-year-old heir, Edward Stafford, who was spirited into hiding, away from the vengeful King Richard. This third Duke of Buckingham would in the fullness of time grow to to be executed by Henry Tudor’s son, Henry VIII.

The History of England podcast covers this gentleman in detail in episode 189.

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1483: Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers

On this date in 1483, Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, was beheaded with his nephew Sir Richard Grey and royal chamberlain Sir Thomas Vaughan at Pontefract Castle.*

These noble heads rolled a bare 10 weeks after the death of King Edward IV to whom Woodville was certainly quite loyal: the Earl’s sister, Elizabeth Woodville, was Edward’s queen Consort.

This marked the acme of the family’s meteoric, single-generation rise from gentleman nobodies. Anthony’s dad, Richard Woodville, vaulted the family into the nobility with an illicit marriage to the Duke of Bedford’s widow. Their pretty daughter Elizabeth scandalized Britain’s elite by conquering Edward’s heart and his hand in 1464 — though this was her second marriage: the first, to Sir John Grey of Groby, had produced two children, one of whom was the Richard Grey who went to the block with Sir Anthony Woodville.

But while heads were still attached to shoulders, Woodville employed his in literary pursuits: he’s credited with publishing (via the pioneering English printer William Caxton) some of the very first books in English: Earl Rivers’s own translation into “right good and fayr Englyssh” of Jean Mielot‘s Cordyale, or Four last thinges (image) and, the 1477 Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers, another Rivers translation that he knocked out while on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. It’s distinguished as the first English printed book that dates itself (November 18, 1477).


Earl Rivers presents Edward IV with the fruits of movable type.

But for sure, circa Regna tonat — especially here during the long-running War of the Roses for control of the English throne.

The reason that Anthony Woodville and not his father was the current Earl Rivers was because dad had his own head cut off when King Edward was temporarily deposed in 1469. (Exile to Bruges was also the reason that the second Earl Rivers met William Caxton.)

After Edward came roaring back at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471, the Woodville family would have been feeling pretty well set up: their Yorkist faction seemed to have won as decisive a victory as could be imagined over the Lancastrians.

But King Edward’s early death meant that Anthony’s nephew Edward V inherited all too early — which is to say that he did not truly inherit at all. The 12-year-old Edward and his younger brother Richard, Duke of York, both of them children of Elizabeth Woodville, were the boy-princes left to the care of Edward IV’s brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

The next part of the story is quite notorious, and it directly concerns the Woodvilles: the reason that Richard infamously disappeared those tragic princes into the Tower of London was because they were in Elizabeth Woodville’s own custody — and Richard, soon to seize power for himself as King Richard III, feared that if given the opportunity to gather themselves the Woodvilles and not he would dominate English politics.

Events could easily have turned out differently — even with Richard on the blade end of the Woodvilles’ executioner. In the chaotic days following Edward’s death, as news made its way ponderously around the realm, Richard raced to get ahead of the Woodvilles before they were secure in their patrimony. On April 30 of 1483, Richard intercepted the royal party traveling to London and took king into custody along with Rivers, Thomas Vaughan, and Richard Grey.

Gloucester-cum-Richard III acted with dispatch from that point. He had Elizabeth Woodville’s marriage to the late king invalidated, effectively disinheriting her children. While Gloucester made ready for his coronation, Anthony Woodville and his friends made sad poetry and last wills and testaments.

Glories are fleeting. Two years later, Richard III was unhorsed, too.

* There are some citations equivocating on Vaughan’s precise death-date. Yet another man, Sir Richard Haute (Hawte) is also sometimes numbered a fourth in the doomed party however, a man of this name took part in Buckingham’s Rebellion against King Richard III, and received a pardon in 1485.

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1460: Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury

On the 31st of December in 1460, the Earl of Salisbury was beheaded the day after the Lancastrians routed the Yorkists at the Battle of Wakefield.

Salisbury — Richard Neville by name — was brother-in-law to the Yorkist claimant (and namesake) Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, so you can guess which side Neville backed during these Wars of the Roses.

Actually, although your guess is spot on for the instance at hand, overlapping kin networks and cutthroat politicking made for an indistinct border between Lancastrians and Yorkists that some actors willingly crisscrossed. Richard Neville’s cousin Thomas Neville, for example, was a Lancastrian, who switched to the Yorkists, and then switched back to the Lancastrians. All this goes to show the treacherous environment for nobles who could go from the orbit of royal power themselves straight to the headsman’s block with each new battlefield reversal. And Salisbury, he was Team White Rose* right on down the line.

(The Neville family’s running feud with their fellow northern magnates, the Percys, helped to catalyze the York-Lancaster rivalry into open warfare.)

Salisbury led the Yorkist side to a notable early victory at the September 1459 Battle of Blore Heath, cunningly baiting the Lancastrians into a disadvantageous charge across a brook by feigning retreat. Then, runs Hall’s chronicle, “the Earl of Salisbury, which knew the sleights, strategies and policies of warlike affairs, suddenly returned, and shortly encountered with the Lord Audley and his chief captains, ere the residue of his army could pass the water … [and] so eagerly fought, that they slew the [Lancastrian commander] Lord Audley, and all his captains, and discomfited all the remnant of his people.”

The Yorkists didn’t do as well at the Battle of Ludford Bridge three weeks later and their leaders (Salisbury included) had to flee England to regroup.

This 1459-1461 period has especially rapid reversals of fortune for the contending parties in the Wars of the Roses, who seemed to alternate between them the results of the latest battle and with it the leadership of England.

As the most recent losers, Salisbury and his son, the Earl of Warwick — known as the “kingmaker”, this younger Richard Neville was one of the pivotal figures of the dynastic wars — had to flee England with many of the Yorkist leaders. But they mounted a re-invasion from Calais where Warwick was constable and the Nevilles pere and fils led separate columns that overran London, and captured the Lancastrian King Henry VI. Suddenly, the ex-fugitive York was the Lord Protector, England’s de facto ruler, and its de jure successor.

But as had been the case one year before, fickle Fortune abandoned the House of York almost immediately after raising it up. Two months later, their forces ventured battle with a much larger army of the regrouping Lancastrians as night fell on December 30, 1460, York himself lay dead in his armor while his kinsman Salisbury was a prisoner with just hours left to live.

This was, of course, very far from the end for the Yorkist party, for both men left their causes to capable heirs. York’s 18-year-old son Edward inherited his father’s claims to the throne of England together with Warwick, they counterattacked and crushed the Lancastrians at Towton on March 29, 1461** — finally deposing Henry VI and enthroning York’s eldest son as King Edward IV.

* The competing Rose devices used by the Yorkists, the Lancastrians, and the eventual Tudors, are one of the four suit markers we’ve used in our unique Executed Today playing card set. Pick up a pack or eight today why don’t you?

** The undercard fight to Towton was February’s Battle of Mortimer’s Cross, which also featured a crushing defeat of the Lancastrians — led on that occasion by a commander whom the Yorkists subsequently put to death, Owen Tudor.

Against any odds one could care to name, it was this Owen Tudor’s descendant who would eventually emerge from the Wars of the Roses as England’s legitimate-ish king, Henry VII — founder of the Tudor dynasty so very fruitful for this here execution blog.


Battlefield location

Officially the site of the battle is deemed by Leicestershire County Council to be in the vicinity of the town of Market Bosworth. [169] The council engaged historian Daniel Williams to research the battle, and in 1974 his findings were used to build the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre and the presentation it houses. [170] Williams's interpretation, however, has since been questioned. Sparked by the battle's quincentenary celebration in 1985, [169] a dispute among historians has led many to suspect the accuracy of Williams's theory. [171] [172] In particular, geological surveys conducted from 2003 to 2009 by the Battlefields Trust, a charitable organisation that protects and studies old English battlefields, show that the southern and eastern flanks of Ambion Hill were solid ground in the 15th century, contrary to Williams's claim that it was a large area of marshland. [173] Landscape archaeologist Glenn Foard, leader of the survey, [174] said the collected soil samples and finds of medieval military equipment suggest that the battle took place two miles (3 km) southwest of Ambion Hill (52°34′41″N 1°26′02″W), [175] contrary to the popular belief that it was fought near the foot of the hill. [176]

Historians' theories

The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England (popularly referred to as "English Heritage") argues that the battle was named after Market Bosworth because the town was the nearest significant settlement to the battlefield in the 15th century. [137] As explored by Professor Philip Morgan, a battle might initially not be named specifically at all. As time passes, writers of administrative and historical records find it necessary to identify a notable battle, ascribing it a name that is usually toponymical in nature and sourced from combatants or observers. This official name becomes accepted by society and future generations without question. [177] Early records associated the Battle of Bosworth with "Brownehethe", "bellum Miravallenses", "Sandeford" and "Dadlyngton field". [178] The earliest record, a municipal memorandum of 23 August 1485 from York, [179] locates the battle "on the field of Redemore". [180] This is corroborated by a 1485–86 letter that mentions "Redesmore" as its site. [170] According to historian Peter Foss, records did not associate the battle with "Bosworth" until 1510. [178]

Foss is named by English Heritage as the principal advocate for "Redemore" as the battle site. He suggests the name is derived from "Hreod Mor", an Anglo-Saxon phrase that means "reedy marshland". Basing his opinion on 13th- and 16th-century church records, he believes "Redemore" was an area of wetland that lay between Ambion Hill and the village of Dadlington, and was close to the Fenn Lanes, a Roman road running east to west across the region. [170] Foard believes this road to be the most probable route that both armies took to reach the battlefield. [181] Williams dismisses the notion of "Redmore" as a specific location, saying that the term refers to a large area of reddish soil Foss argues that Williams's sources are local stories and flawed interpretations of records. [182] Moreover, he proposes that Williams was influenced by William Hutton's 1788 The Battle of Bosworth-Field, which Foss blames for introducing the notion that the battle was fought west of Ambion Hill on the north side of the River Sence. [183] Hutton, as Foss suggests, misinterpreted a passage from his source, Raphael Holinshed's 1577 Chronicle. Holinshed wrote, "King Richard pitched his field on a hill called Anne Beame, refreshed his soldiers and took his rest." Foss believes that Hutton mistook "field" to mean "field of battle", thus creating the idea that the fight took place on Anne Beame (Ambion) Hill. To "[pitch] his field", as Foss clarifies, was a period expression for setting up a camp. [184]

Foss brings further evidence for his "Redemore" theory by quoting Edward Hall's 1550 Chronicle. Hall stated that Richard's army stepped onto a plain after breaking camp the next day. Furthermore, historian William Burton, author of Description of Leicestershire (1622), [170] wrote that the battle was "fought in a large, flat, plaine, and spacious ground, three miles [5 km] distant from [Bosworth], between the Towne of Shenton, Sutton [Cheney], Dadlington and Stoke [Golding]". [182] In Foss's opinion both sources are describing an area of flat ground north of Dadlington. [185]

Physical site

English Heritage, responsible for managing England's historic sites, used both theories to designate the site for Bosworth Field. Without preference for either theory, they constructed a single continuous battlefield boundary that encompasses the locations proposed by both Williams and Foss. [186] The region has experienced extensive changes over the years, starting after the battle. Holinshed stated in his chronicle that he found firm ground where he expected the marsh to be, and Burton confirmed that by the end of the 16th century, areas of the battlefield were enclosed and had been improved to make them agriculturally productive. Trees were planted on the south side of Ambion Hill, forming Ambion Wood. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Ashby Canal carved through the land west and south-west of Ambion Hill. Winding alongside the canal at a distance, the Ashby and Nuneaton Joint Railway crossed the area on an embankment. [137] [187] The changes to the landscape were so extensive that when Hutton revisited the region in 1807 after an earlier 1788 visit, he could not readily find his way around. [137]

Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre was built on Ambion Hill, near Richard's Well. According to legend, Richard III drank from one of the several springs in the region on the day of the battle. [188] In 1788, a local pointed out one of the springs to Hutton as the one mentioned in the legend. [116] A stone structure was later built over the location. The inscription on the well reads:

"Near this spot, on August 22nd 1485, at the age of 32, King Richard III fell fighting gallantly in defence of his realm & his crown against the usurper Henry Tudor.

The Cairn was erected by Dr. Samuel Parr in 1813 to mark the well from which the king is said to have drunk during the battle.

It is maintained by the Fellowship of the White Boar." [189]

Northwest of Ambion Hill, just across the northern tributary of the Sence, a flag and memorial stone mark Richard's Field. Erected in 1973, the site was selected on the basis of Williams's theory. [190] St James's Church at Dadlington is the only structure in the area that is reliably associated with the Battle of Bosworth the bodies of those killed in the battle were buried there. [116]

In 2010, a small silver badge depicting a boar was found in the area at a site one mile to the southwest. Experts believed this could indicate the actual site of the battle, since this badge depicts Richard III's personal emblem. Discussions were held about providing access to this site as well. [191] [192]


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