Capture of Sandwich, June 1460

Capture of Sandwich, June 1460

The capture of Sandwich (June 1460) was a key Yorkist success that allowed the exiled earls of Salisbury, Warwick and March to invade England from their base at Calais at the start of the campaign that ended with the great Yorkist victory at Northampton.

In 1459 the Lancastrians had decided to move against the Yorkists and had charged Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury, Richard Neville, earl of Warwick and Richard, earl of York, with treason. Unlike in 1455 the court also made military preparations, and so when the Yorkists raised an army they were outnumbered. At Ludford Bridge (12-13 October 1459) the senior Yorkist commanders, realising that they were outnumbered, decided to flee, abandoning their army. York escaped to Ireland, while Salisbury, Warwick and York's Edward earl of March (the future Edward IV) escaped to Calais. This was Warwick's military power base, although the desertion of part of the Calais garrison at Ludford Bridge had played a part in the Yorkist collapse.

Over the next few months most of the fighting was concentrated around Calais and Sandwich. Henry Beaufort, duke of Somerset, the son of the duke of Somerset killed at the First Battle of St. Albans, was sent to take Calais. He was unable to take the port but did establish himself at the outlying castle of Guines. A Lancastrian fleet was gathered at Sandwich, but on 15 January 1460 a Yorkist force under John Dinham captured this fleet, along with Richard Woodville, Earl Rivers, the commander of the garrison. After this success Warwick sailed for Ireland, where he met with York and the two men came up with a plan for a two-pronged invasion of England. A Lancastrian fleet failed to intercept Warwick as he returned to Calais, and the plan was soon put into effect.

Early in June 1460 Sandwich was defended by a force of 200 archers and 200 men-at-arms, commanded by Sir Osbert Mountfort. This force was preparing to cross the channel to join Somerset at Guines.

The attacking force was led by William Neville Lord Fauconberg, John Wenlock and John Dinham. Their force crossed to Sandwich early in June and after some hard fighting captured the town. Mountfort was taken back to Calais where as a loyal support of Somerset he was executed. Fauconberg remained in Sandwich with most of the Yorkist raiding party. On 26 June he was joined by Warwick, Salisbury and March with around 2,000 men. This small Yorkist force gained strength as it passed through Kent. They were admitted into London, where the Lancastrian commanders retreated into the Tower of London, and then continued north. On 10 July 1460 the outnumbered Lancastrians were defeated at the battle of Northampton. Several important Lancastrian leaders were killed and Henry VI was captured. For the moment the Yorkists appeared to be in the ascendency.

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

This important battle occurred on 10 July 1460 and led to the capture of Henry VI. The Earl of Warwick and the Earl of March (he was later to become Edward IV) landed at Sandwich in June 1460 after sailing across to England from Calais. Warwick eventually marched north to intercept a Lancastrian army that was on its way south to Coventry and was led by King Henry VI.

The Lancastrians learned of this plan and elected to stop at the town of Northampton and create a defensive position. Instead of attacking straight away once he arrived at the town, Warwick wanted a peace settlement and was hoping to speak to the king. After fruitless talks, the Yorkists launched their attack.

As I mentioned in the introduction, treachery was a feature of the War of the Roses and it reared its ugly head at Northampton. Lord Grey had been commanding a section of the king&rsquos army but when he faced Warwick in battle, he ordered his men to lay down their arms and allow the Yorkists through.

Had Lord Grey not taken this action, it is likely that the Battle of Northampton would have been a bloody one as the combined strength of the two armies was around 30,000. Instead, the entire conflict was over in about half an hour as Warwick captured the king and killed several important Lancastrian nobles. A number of Lancastrian foot soldiers tried to escape via the River Nene but it was overflowing so many of them drowned. These deaths made up most of the casualties which totalled only hundreds. Incidentally, Grey switched sides because the Yorkists offered support in a property dispute he was having!

It appeared as if the war was over now that the king had been captured but his queen, Margaret of Anjou, had other ideas as she assembled an army in Wales.

Created Oct 3, 2003 | Updated Feb 11, 2013

At the start of the First War of the Roses, the Yorkist faction wanted to rescue Henry VI from bad advisors, and give good government to England. Yet the war finished with that king a deposed prisoner. This is the story of how that came to be.

The First Battle of St Albans

The army led by the Duke of York and the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick met that raised by King Henry and the Dukes of Somerset and Buckingham in the town of St Albans. What happened there was strange - more of a skirmish in the streets than a true open battle. The fighting, which only lasted half an hour, was, however, furious. The victory went unquestionably to the Yorkists. Buckingham and the King were both captured, having both suffered injuries. Best of all, from York's point of view, was that his old enemy, Somerset, had been killed in the fighting. At last, after years of threats, one had finally destroyed the other.

The captive Henry was led back to London, and York was restored as protector. Once again, York set about a reform campaign. Once again, he failed. His plans, coupled with his high-handedness, alienated many powerful men, and, in early 1456, he was again relieved of the protectorate. But he remained powerful enough to have Warwick appointed Captain of Calais. Margaret, meanwhile, had been driven by popular hostility, to leave London with Prince Edward. Henry was later able to join them. This effectively moved the Royal court to Coventry.

But the government was now in stasis, with disorder rising. A French raid was even able to burn the town of Sandwich. Warwick was funding his Calais garrison by piracy. Margaret called him to England, aiming to replace him with the new Duke of Somerset. There was a scuffle at court, and Warwick fled back to Calais. This was in 1458, and Margaret had for some time been raising troops against the Yorkists. War was about to erupt again.

War in Earnest

With Margaret and Somerset conscripting troops, the Yorkists began arming to defend themselves. York was in his Ludlow headquarters, and Salisbury in his at Middleham, some way apart. They had to join forces against the Lancastrians. Warwick managed to get from Calais to Ludlow with his troops, but Salisbury was intercepted by the Lancastrians at Blore Heath on the Welsh border. The resulting battle was one of the surprises of the war. Heavily outnumbered, Salisbury managed, by nothing more than clever tactics, to win. It was not the main Lancastrian Army that he had defeated, but it got him to Ludlow.

This proved a false dawn. The Lancastrians produced a masterstroke - reinforcements led by Henry VI himself. The Yorkists did not wish to fight the king and were heavily outnumbered. Many soldiers would not fight. The Yorkist leaders abandoned them. York fled to Ireland, and Salisbury, Warwick, and York's teenage son, the Earl of March, to Calais. The Lancastrians, meanwhile, marched into Ludlow.

The war now centred around Somerset's attempts to oust Warwick from Calais. He was singularly unsuccessful, so that Warwick was able to visit York in Ireland. Queen Margaret had been ruling England avariciously, and Warwick knew how unpopular she had become. On his return to Calais, Warwick saw off a Lancastrian fleet. The channel was now his. In June 1460, Warwick's followers captured Sandwich. A Yorkist invasion was now inevitable.

Warwick, Salisbury, March and 2000 troops landed on 26 June. Warwick was hugely popular in Kent, and the people flocked to him. By the time he reached London, he had something in the region of 40,000 men. London opened its gates. The Yorkists lords then swore that they would take control of Henry VI, and end the court party once and for all. Salisbury besieged the Tower Warwick and March headed west, hoping to meet with York.

The Lancastrian army, led by Buckingham, aimed to stop them. The two armies met near Northampton. Young March led the attack on the royal position - apparently a risky move. But Warwick had plotted with the Lancastrian Lord Grey, who turned traitor. The Yorkists thus had no trouble getting behind royal lines and the battle was over before it had started. Buckingham was one of the few killed. Best of all, to the Yorkists, the King was now in their hands.

The Radicalisation of York

Warwick and March took Henry to London, all the time expressing loyalty to him. Soon after they arrived, the Tower fell to Salisbury. York now came back to join them. But something was strange about his progress across Wales and England. He was using the royal standard without any additions.

York had no doubt decided by now that his attempts to control the king would always unravel. He was now emboldened - he would invoke the Mortimer claim, and seek to depose Henry VI. On 7 October, 1460, York arrived in Parliament. There, he formally submitted his claim to the throne.

Even the Yorkist Earls were shocked. How could they support him now, having sworn fealty to Henry VI? The House of Lords discussed the claim earnestly. They largely preferred Yorkist rule to Lancastrian rule, but also preferred Henry to York. Moreover, deposition was just too great a step. Nonetheless, there was no doubting one thing - York did have the strongest claim. Eventually, the Lords put forward a compromise. York would be officially declared Henry's heir, and Henry would remain king for the rest of his life. So weak was Henry that he consented to the disinheritance of his own son. This was not ideal for York - after all, he was ten years older than Henry - but it was the best he was going to get.

A Paper Crown

Queen Margaret would not allow her son to be disinherited. She declared that she would march on London, and the Lancastrian lords, swelled by neutrals outraged at the settlement, gathered an army. York and Salisbury took an army north to meet it, leaving Warwick in charge of the capital. It was winter, so York and Salisbury decided to rest over Christmas in York's Sandal Castle, near Wakefield. While he was there, the greatly superior Lancastrian army gathered around Sandal Castle. York simply decided to wait for reinforcements.

Perhaps they were foraging for food, or maybe it was a trick, but York left Sandal on 30 December, 1460. Somerset's army now fell on them. The Yorkists were surrounded and cut down. York himself was killed in the battle. Salisbury was captured and executed soon after, thus joining his lands with those of his son Warwick, who was now the most powerful landowner in England. York's son, the seventeen-year-old Earl of Rutland, was murdered by the Lancastrian Lord Clifford shortly after. York's head ended up over the gates of the city that shared his name, wearing a mocking paper crown.

The Second Battle of St Albans

The Lancastrians marched south from Wakefield. Warwick, hearing of the Wakefield disaster, gathered a new army, and marched north to meet them. Warwick set up his troops in St Albans, where the Lancastrians attacked. It was clear by now that political behaviour had greatly degenerated, as no attempt was made by either side to avoid battle. And once again, it was treachery that proved decisive. The battle proved long and hard, and Warwick's ally, Lord Lovelace, held back. When he did enter, it was on the Lancastrian side.

Warwick's troops lost heart as night fell. Many fled. When all was dark, Warwick realised that to fight on would just mean getting more of his troops - and perhaps himself - killed. With as many men as he could muster, he retreated into the night. Henry VI himself was found sitting under a tree after the battle. He was now re-united with his family.

The Second Battle of St Albans had opened the road to London for the Lancastrians. It seemed as if the war was won. In fact, there were still two problems to be dealt with - getting in to London, and the fact that March, now Duke of York, was still at large.

From New Duke to New King

The Earl of March had been at his castle in Shrewsbury when he heard of the deaths of his father York and brother Rutland. Now Duke of York himself, he rallied a new army from the Welsh Marches nearby, to make his own move on London. It is just as well he did, as Jasper Twdwr, Earl of Pembroke, and half-brother of Henry VI, was leading an army to join the main Lancastrian forces. York swore to meet it.

The two armies met at a hamlet called Mortimer's Cross on 14 February, 1461. What followed was one of the bloodiest battles of the Wars of the Roses. The Lancastrians tried to attack York's army. They shattered his right wing, but the rest held firm. Eventually, York's archers made the difference. The Lancastrians broke ranks, and Pembroke fled. York captured Pembroke's father Owen Twdwr - Henry VI's stepfather - and put him to death, avenging his own father.

Warwick and his men were meanwhile fleeing from St Albans. The two Yorkist armies met up in the Cotswolds, and turned to try to get to London before Queen Margaret's Lancastrians.

Margaret was having a hard time getting in to London. The citizens feared her army, as it consisted mostly of northerners. Their pillaging in St Albans did nothing to reassure the Londoners, who kept the gates to the city firmly closed. As Margaret's troops pillaged wider, the Londoners' resolve hardened. In the end, Margaret retreated, hoping to persuade the Londoners to trust her.

And so she lost her chance. York and Warwick arrived in London on 27 February. They were allowed straight in, to a heroes' welcome. The nature of the war had changed, and the very idea of Henry remaining king was now anathema to the Yorkists. York and Warwick stated to Parliament that, by joining Margaret, Henry had violated the settlement of the previous year. This time, Parliament and the people of London readily agreed. On 3 March, 1461, the Duke of York was officially proclaimed King Edward IV.

So began the rule of the house of York. But the deposed King Henry and Queen Margaret were at large, with a formidable army. Edward IV swore that he would not be crowned until they had been truly crushed.

The Towton Campaign

On learning of their deposition, Henry and Margaret had fled to their strongholds in the north, and began gathering the biggest army they could. From London, Edward IV did the same. He left for the North on 13 March with a huge army, which grew as he progressed. It is possible that the rival armies at their greatest comprised two percent of the entire English population. The Lancastrians took a position blocking the way to York.

A series of skirmishes followed between detachments of the two armies, in one of which Edward had the pleasure of hearing that Clifford had been painfully killed by a broken arrow. But what Edward wanted was a direct battle between the two armies. On 29 March, he got his wish. On a meadow near the village of Towton, during a blizzard, took place the bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil.

The Lancastrian archers opened the battle, but, blinded by snow, they usually missed their targets. The Yorkist archers had no such trouble. Realising their mistake, the Lancastrians charged. The Yorkists responded, and for two hours the carnage mounted. Only at the end of the day did Edward's army appear to be winning, and at that moment it was reinforced by troops from Norfolk. The Lancastrians broke ranks and fled. Many were cut down by pursuing Yorkists, or drowned in the nearby rivers. By the end of the battle, the road from Towton to York was covered in red snow. The death toll could have been as high as 40,000.

Henry and Margaret escaped to fight another day, but were now desperate fugitives. Only the far north remained open to them. Edward had destroyed their army, and could return to London victorious. He was crowned on 28 June, 1461.

The 'Last' of Lancaster

Margaret now set about plotting foreign intervention to fight the war, allying with France and Scotland. The Scots invaded in late May, but were defeated by Warwick. Edward, meanwhile, set about capturing Pembroke's castles in Wales, so that by the end of the Year, only Harlech remained in Lancastrian hands.

In 1462, Margaret had arranged a French invasion. Edward learned of this, and arranged a fleet to meet it. King Louis seemed quite half-hearted in his support, only sending a token army. Margaret landed in Northumberland. At first, she had some success, but Warwick soon retook the castles she seized. The biggest threat was a Scottish invasion, so Warwick had needed the castles intact. It was diplomacy, rather than force, that enabled him to retake them.

Edward adopted a policy of wooing his old enemies, to freeze Margaret out. He certainly appeared to have converted Somerset, who entered London alongside him in February 1463. Edward also arranged meetings with Burgundy and France.

At this point, treachery by Sir Ralph Percy enabled the Lancastrians to retake the northern castles. The Scots invaded. Warwick beat them back, and Edward planned an invasion. Before setting off, though, he changed his mind. He would not bother with the Lancastrian strongholds before he had isolated them diplomatically.

The treaty with France was arranged to last until October 1464. Meanwhile, Lord Montagu was sent north to collect Scottish envoys to take to York. In late April, 1464, in the extreme north of England, he was attacked by forces under the traitors Percy and Somerset. Montagu won, and Percy was killed. By the time Edward arrived in York, Montagu had won again, this time defeating and capturing Somerset at the battle of Hexham on 15 May. Somerset was executed soon after, and a grateful Edward then made Montagu Earl of Northumberland.

The treaty with Scotland was signed on the 1st of June, with a three-year truce. Northumberland was now able to deal with the three Lancastrian castles. By the end of the month, all had fallen. Margaret and Prince Edward escaped back to France. Henry stayed in hiding in safe houses in Northern England, but was betrayed in July 1465, and taken to London, a prisoner in the Tower.

Only Harlech castle, in north-west Wales, remained in Lancastrian hands. A gigantic place, it in fact held out until 1468, but by that stage, things hardly mattered. With the capture of Henry VI, the first War of the Roses was in reality over. By the time Harlech fell, though, clouds of a second war were already gathering.

Battle of Northampton

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

At two o’clock the Yorkists advanced, as they closed to the Lancastrians. The Earl of Warwick had become met by a fierce hail of arrows. The result of the arrows were that they had rendered the Lancastrian cannons useless.

“Yorkist Gunnes” – Battle of Northampton 1460, by Matthew Ryan

Earl of Warwick reached the Lancastrian left flank, commanded by Edmund Grey, 4th Baron Ruthin. Lord Grey had his men lay down their weapons and let the Yorkists have easy access into the camp beyond. This treachery was the result of a secret message from Lord Grey to the Earl of March.

The Earl of Warwick had ordered his men not to attack those wearing the black ragged staff of Lord Grey’s men. After this, the battle lasted a mere thirty minutes. The defenders were unable to manoeuvre inside the fortifications. They fled the field as their line had become broken by the attacking Yorkists.

Death of the Earl of Shrewsbury at the Battle of Northampton in 1460

Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham, John Talbot, 2nd Earl of Shrewsbury, Thomas Percy, 1st Baron Egremont and John Beaumont – 1st Viscount Beaumont were all killed. They had been trying to save the Henry IV from the Yorkists closing on his tent. Three hundred other Lancastrians became slain in the battle.


Eustace the Monk once belonged to a monastic order, but he broke his vows and became a pirate along with his brothers and friends. His early successes at this endeavor attracted many lawless men and his pirates became a menace to shipping in the English Channel. Ώ] The English opponents of Eustace credited the man with "diabolical ingenuity". ΐ]

From 1205 to 1208, Eustace worked for King John I of England. With the English sovereign's blessing he seized the Channel Islands and was allowed to hold them for John, Α] while using Winchelsea as his English base. Β] In 1212, Eustace switched his allegiance to France and was chased out of England. The year 1215 saw his ships transporting war engines to the English barons who opposed John. When Prince Louis sailed for London, he traveled in Eustace's fleet. Γ] It was thanks to Eustace's help that Louis was able to quickly capture London and the Cinque Ports. Ώ] After his lieutenants were badly defeated at the Battle of Lincoln on 20 May 1217, Prince Louis raised his siege of Dover Castle and retired to London. Signalling his willingness to negotiate an end to the struggle, he agreed to meet at Brentford with adherents of the boy-king Henry III of England. The victor of Lincoln, William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke and Louis came close to an agreement. However, in order to pardon the bishops who had gone over to Louis' cause, Pope Honorius III's acquiescence was required. Since this was not possible without a long journey to Rome, the negotiations broke down. Louis received the news that reinforcements and supplies would soon arrive from France. Encouraged, he resolved to fight on. Δ]

Alliances Begin to Develop

Serbia was blamed by Austria for this murder. Serbia was near to Bosnia and had encouraged the Black Hand Gang by giving the gang weapons. The hope as that Serbia and Bosnia would unite to form a new state.

Austria decided that Serbia must be punished and planned to invade. Serbia called on her old friend Russia to help her.

Russia had a large army and Austria wouldn’t have been able to handle an Austro-Russian was. So, Austria called on Germany for help. The German government agreed to this, but their response upset the French government.

Secretly the German government had already created a plan to defeat France in 6 weeks before fighting Russia. This plan involved an attack on France via Belgium.

Britain had given Belgium a guarantee in 1839 that if anybody attacked her, Britain would attack the attacker.

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.


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 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, 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 of Northampton

The Battle of Northampton took place on 10th July 1460. It was a Yorkist victory that reversed the fortunes of their cause in the Wars of the Roses. After spending time in exile, the Yorkists returned to England. At Northampton they defeated the Lancastrian army, captured King Henry VI and killed several leading Lancastrians. The battle led to Richard, Duke of York, being named heir.

Following Ludford Bridge the main Yorkist leaders had been forced into exile. Richard, Duke of York, had gone to Ireland. Earls Salisbury and Warwick, to Calais. The Lancastrian faction attempted to kill off any hopes of a Yorkist resurgence. Attempts were made to capture Calais. These were rebuffed by a strong force that remained loyal to Warwick. In January 1460 a raiding party of Yorkist troops attacked Sandwich. Here they captured the Lancastrian fleet and Earl Rivers.

Having captured the Lancastrian fleet, the Yorkists had control of the English Channel. Warwick sailed, unopposed, to meet with Richard Duke of York, in Ireland. Here they planned their next move.

In June 1460 the Yorkists once again landed at Sandwich. This was no raiding party. A force of around 1200 men landed, took the town and held it. After shoring up the towns defenses, Warwick, Fauconberg and Salisbury landed, on 26th June.

After securing a base in Sandwich the Yorkists moved north. An initial force numbering fewer than 2000 men soon grew. Lancastrian commanders in Canterbury changed allegiances. Supporters of the Yorkist faction joined as the army moved to London. Upon arriving at the capital, the force is said to have numbered at least 20000. The Lancastrian Commander withdrew his forces into the Tower of London. The Yorkists entered London on 2nd July. They did not did not stay long. On 4th July, the bulk of the army marched North. Earl Salisbury remained in London and besieged the Tower of London.

The Lancastrians knew that the Yorkist army was on the march. They moved from Coventry to Northampton. Here, they built a fortified camp which was surrounded by a small moat. The camp was defended by cannon and had the River Nene to its rear.

The Yorkists maintained that they had no argument with the King himself. It was the counsellors with whom they claimed to have issue. Attempts at Parley were made by the Yorkists. They were refused by the Duke of Buckingham who would not allow the heralds access to the King. After several attempts, Warwick informed the Lancastrians that they would be attacked at 2pm if no agreement had been made.

The Yorkist army assaulted the Lancastrian position. As it advanced, the Lancastrians did not fire their cannon. The reasons are unknown but it is possible that the gunpowder had become damp. As they reached the barricade one of the defenders, Lord Grey, switched sides. His men joined the Yorkists and this gave the attacking force a large breech in the defenses into which they could advance. With a river behind them and surrounded by their own defensive moat, the Lancastrians could not form up effectively.

Many men fled the battlefield: the River Nene is not all that deep. Around the Kings quarters, a number of leading Lancastrian lords were slain. Their number included the Duke of Buckingham, Thomas Percy, the Earl of Shrewsbury and Lord Beaumont. The King was left stranded in his tent. Once again, he was captured by Yorkist troops.

The Battle was quite short. Relatively few are believed to have died. The consequences were great. Once again the king was in captivity. The Yorkists had killed many of their leading opponents. King Henry VI was still reigning though and his queen was at large. Richard Duke of York returned to England shortly after the Battle of Northampton. A compromise was made with a view to settling the conflict. Henry would be allowed to continue his rule. However, Richard was now named as heir, with inheritance to pass through him to his sons. Prince Edward was excluded from inheriting the throne. Infographic: What happened in the Wars of the Roses?

Sir William Harrington's Companye

The 10th July 1460 saw a major battle of the Wars of the Roses at Northampton. This year, the event is being commemorated at the Delapre Abbey site, with an event featuring the Companye. As part of the run up to this event, our tame historian Mike has created a daily update of the events leading up to the battle. Check back here daily for updates!

26 June 1460.

The Calais Lords, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick Edward, Earl of March and William Neville, Lord Fauconberg landed at Sandwich with 2,000 men.

27 June 1460.

The Calais lords arrive at Canterbury. Robert Horne, John Scot and John Fosse and their men, sent by King Henry to stop them change sides and help negotiate the surrender of the city.

28 June 1460

Yorkists send out letters summoning help from the Cinque Ports. At least Rye and Winchelsea send men. After paying respects at the shrine of St. Thomas, a growing number of Yorkists leave Canterbury heading for London via Rochester and Dartford.

29 June 1460

The Common Council of London agree to resist the rebels but refuse to let the Lancastrian Lord Scales to act as the cities Captain. Men at Arms are placed on London Bridge. A deputation is sent to the advancing Yorkists warning them they would be refused entry to the city. Thousands flock to the Yorkist standard ‘like bees to the hive’.

1st July 1460

The Yorkist army reaches London and camps at Blackheath. As well as the Calais Lords it was said to include ” the many footmen of the commons of Kent, Sussex and Surrey”. By this time, according to some observers their number was between 20,000 and 40,000.

2 July 1460

11 Aldermen of London rebel in support of the Yorkists. The Yorkists enter London and are met by the Bishops of Ely and Exeter in Southwark. There is a crush on London Bridge and 13 Men at Arms are trampled when they fell.

3 July 1460

The Calais Lords make an oath of allegance to King Henry on the cross of Canterbury at St. Pauls. Warwick announces that they had come with the people to declare their innocence or else die in the field.

4 July 1460

Francesco Coppini, Bishop of Turin and Papal Legate joined the Yorkists at Calais. His official mission from the Pope was to persuade the English to join a crusade. However, he has a secret mission from Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan (If you have seen “The Borgias” on TV you will get the idea), to help put the Yorkists on the throne. The French were becoming heavily involved in Italy and Margaret of Anjou’s brother wanted to be King of Naples, thereby threatening Milan. If the Yorkists were kings of England they might be persuaded to invade France and take the pressure of of Italy. At St. Pauls and by letter, Coppini issues a chilling warning to King Henry… ‘….out of the pity and compassion you should have for your people and citizens and your duty, to prevent so much bloodshed, now so imminent. You can prevent this if you will, and if you do not you will be guilty in the sight of God in that awful day of judgement in which I also shall stand and require of your hand the English blood, if it be spilt’

4 July 1460 Part 2.

Warwick’s Uncle, William Neville, Lord Fauconberg, advances north from London, with according to one chronicler, 10,000 men. Faucoberg was the Yorkist’s most experienced soldier having taken part in many of the later battles of the 100 Year War. He appears to have been heading for Ware. Warwick secures a loan of £1,000 from London to finance the coming campaign.

5 July 1460

The main Yorkist army commanded by Warwick leaves London heading north along Watling Street. They bring with them a train of artillery.

The Lancastrian’s make plans to leave their base at Coventry. Summonses are sent out to towns and to lords to assemble their forces. They too have a large train of artillery which they had been stockpiling at Kenilworth Castle.

Salisbury and Cobham stay in London to lay siege to the Tower

July 7 1460

The Lancastrians reach Northampton and begin to build a fortified camp in fields between Hardingstone and Delapre Abbey. Bishop of Winchester and Lord Chancellor of England , William Waynflete, surrenders the Great Seal to the King in ‘Hardingstone Field’ Then he and a number of other senior members resign and flee. According to one source part of the town is set on fire by Lancastrian cavalry as it arrives.

In the meantime the two separate Yorkist armies join at Dunstable where they wait for the artillery and slower foot soldiers to catch up.

9 July 1460

The Yorkist army approaches Northampton through Blisworth and camps for the night at the iron age hill fort of Hunsbury Hill.

The Lancastrian camp begins to swell with men as towns answer the King’s summons. Twenty men from Beverley arrive after their mayor threw a party for them before they left. Men from Shrewsbury are also there too. Northampton’s leading gentry and their men such as the Wake’s, Catesby’s, Vaux’s and Tresham’s all come in support of the King. The Duke of Buckingham, as earl of Northampton draws men from his local estates, as does the Queen who owns Kingsthorpe Village. The town itself calls out the militia which fights under the town’s ‘Wild Rat’ banner.

10 July 1460

King Henry knights ten of his men including Thomas Stanley and the five year old grandson of the Duke of Buckingham.Both would be heavily involved in the demise of Richard III, twenty four and twenty five years later

The Yorkists send Heralds and Bishops to the Lancastrian camp to negotiate, still maintaining they do not want to fight, only talk with the King. A Yorkist Bishop changes sides and urges the King not to negotiate but fight.Buckingham declares “The Earl of Warwick shall not come to the King’s presence and if he comes he shall die.”

Warwick finally replies “At 2 o’clock I will speak with the King or I will die”. It would be the last time that any negotiations would precede an English battle. Coppini, the Papal Legate excommunicates the Lancastrians and forbids them to have a christian burial. Warwick orders either spare the commoners or spare Grey’s men (depending on the source).

As Warwick approaches with his men a cavalry battle takes place with 1300-1400 Lancastrian’s which according to Waurin lasts over an hour. They are pushed back to the now lost St. Leonard’s Bridge and cut down. The Yorkist’s capture the bridge and the Lancastrian cavalry commander is captured and executed.

The Yorkists advance on the Lancastrian position, it would be the only time a fortified camp was assaulted during all thirty-seven years of the wars. Several accounts say that the Lancastrian guns fail to fire. Although the guns might not have worked, they were not defenseless and shower the Yorkists with up to 100,000 arrows. Despite this William Lucy in Dallington hears gunfire and races to join the King (was this then Yorkist gunfire?)

When Edward Earl of March (later King Edward IV) and his men reach the defences, Lord Grey of Ruthin commanding the Lancastrian left flank and his men start helping the Yorkists into the camp.

Its all over for the Lancastrian’s. A fight takes place around the King’s tent in which Buckingham, Egremont, Beaumont and Shrewsbury are all killed. So too is Vaux from Northampton. The King is captured by the Yorkists.

Many Lancastrians try to flee. With the bridge under Yorkist control and the river under flood plus a myriad of smaller waterways that flow east and west between the Abbey and the town, they can only go east and lots of miniature battles take place across the landscape. Many are recorded as dying as they try to cross the river (probably Rushmills).

William Lucy arrives on the battlefield only to be met by his wife’s Yorkist lover, who kills him with an axe. The two marry shortly after.


Between 5-7,000 killed. All the Lancastrian lords are killed. King Henry is captured. He stays at Northampton for three days and takes mass at Delapre. He is then led back to London in procession. Soon after Richard of York returns and for the first time lays claim to the throne. Margaret of Anjou escapes with the Royal baggage but is overtaken at Gayton. The rogue bishop is arrested and thrown into the dungeon at Warwick Castle.

Watch the video: A brief history of the humble sandwich. Episode 5. BBC Ideas (December 2021).