The above is taken from my website, you can read about this battle in context here:
On this day in 1455, following their exclusion from court, Richard Duke of York, along with Richard Neville Earl of Warwick, assembled their forces in the north and marched south to confront the Lancastrian King Henry VI at St Albans.
The roller coaster ride continued and the tension mounted but eventually it all came to blows at St Albans, considered by some, to be the first battle of the civil war. In a battle that lasted just one hour, a number of notable Lancastrian nobles including, Henry Percy, Thomas Clifford, and Thomas Vaughan’s patron, Edmund Beaufort were killed. After the battle Henry VI was captured, York assured Henry of his loyalty and along with Warwick accompanied the king to London. Just under two months later, at the beginning of July the king opened Parliament and following that Henry, along with Margaret and their son were moved to Hertford Castle. That November saw the Duke of York appointed as Protector for a second time, and just like the first protectorate it was short, it ended in the last week of February 1456, but York remained an important member of the Royal Council. Three very trouble years ensued and the end of which the Duke of York, with Richard Neville as his enforcer, would make his play for the crown of England.
The above is taken from my website, you can read about this battle in context here:
On this day in 1460, the death of one of my all time heroes, Richard, Duke of York.
In the afternoon of the 30th December 1460, the Battle of Wakefield took place, this battle brought an end to the lives of Richard, Duke of York and his second eldest son Edmund, Earl of Rutland.
In the October of 1460, the Act of Accord acknowledged the Duke of York as the heir to Henry VI and effectively disinherited Henry's son Edward. It was hoped that this agreement would put an end to the political tension that had caused so much trouble in previous years, but it was not to be. The Act of Accord naturally left the Lancastrian's foaming at the mouth, many were angry that the act had swept the rules of primogeniture under the carpet, a rule that had protected the rights of the noble family for decades, without which there would be chaos.
Many Lancastrian's rallied to the cause resulting in a number of revolts occurring in the country with Henry's queen, Margaret of Anjou, at its helm. The first serious clash happened in Yorkshire, just over two months after the Act of Accord was signed. As Margaret had headed to Wales, the Duke of York, now heir apparent made his way towards Sandal Castle to meet the forces of the opposing army on the fields you see in the above images, even though York's force outnumbered the Lancastian's by two to one the battle went the the way of Lancaster.
Richard Duke of York died among his men that day at Wakefield, a noble but untimely death you could say, his second son, Edmund Earl of Rutland died that day too only his death was taken in vengeance.
David Hume in his History of England writes of York's death
"The Duke himself was killed and beheaded, and when his body was found among the slain, the head was cut off by Margaret's orders and fixed on the gates of York, with a paper crown upon it, in derision of his pretended title.'
As the country woke to welcome in the new year, the residence of the City of York rose to find the Duke of York’s head had been placed on a pike at the very top of Micklegate Bar. In a pitiless act of humiliation it was plain to see what Margaret of Anjou was saying when she ordered a paper crown placed on his head.
On the 27th September in 1442, John de la Pole, son of William de la Pole and Alice Chaucer was born.
John, known as the Trimming Duke, for reasons I am yet to fathom, was married in the February of 1450, at the age of seven, to the six year old to Margaret Beaufort, but this marriage was annulled. This was probably due to the disgrace of his father's downfall and exile, but more than likely it was the fact that Margaret Beaufort was a rich heiress and had Lancastrian blood running through her veins. In 1453 Henry VI deemed that Edmund Tudor, who was twelve years her senior, would be a better husband for Margaret. Her vast inheritance and a need for a back up for the succession were contributing factors.
When John became Duke of Suffolk three months following the murder of his father, his family was one of the least wealthy titled families in the country. In 1458 he married Elizabeth, the daughter of Richard Duke of York and Cecily Neville. The fifteen-hundred pounds that she brought to the marriage made little difference to his finances, and most certainly was not a patch on what Margaret would have brought.
Although this marriage allied de la Pole to the Yorkist party he is noted as having not shown any true support for either side. However, in 1461 he had made his decision, fighting for the Yorkist at the second Battle of St Albans and at Towton, but like others 'sat on the fence' at Bosworth and managed to survive under Henry VII rule at his home at Winglfield in Suffolk.
John and Elizabeth were parents to eleven children, he would outlive five of them. The three son who did survive their father were Edmund, William and Richard all would suffer due to their Yorkist blood and all would try their best to oust the Tudor king, but as you probably know they were unsuccessful.
On the 29th of April in 1450 at Wingfield John's father prepared himself for exile, in doing so he wrote a heartfelt and moving letter to his eight year son.
You can read this here:
The events of the years between 1450 and 1459 can be equated to a giant roller coaster ride, with both sides at differing times, riding the front car.
It comes as no surprise that such a high state of tension would eventually come to blows, and it did at St Albans in the May of 1455. St Albans is considered by some to be the first battle of a civil war that has come to be known as the Wars of the Roses.
In a battle that lasted just one hour, a number of notable Lancastrian nobles including, Henry Percy, Thomas Clifford, and Edmund Beaufort were killed. After the battle Henry VI was captured, Richard, Duke of York assured Henry of his loyalty and along with the Earl of Warwick accompanied the king to London. Just under two months later, at the beginning of July the king opened Parliament and following that, Henry, along with his Margaret of Anjou and their son were moved to Hertford Castle. That November saw the Duke of York appointed as Protector for a second time, and just like the first protectorate it was short, it ended in the last week of February 1456, but York remained an important member of the Royal Council. However, three very troubled years ensued and at the end of which the Duke of York, with Richard Neville as his enforcer, would make his play for the crown of England.
In those intervening years two battle's took place The Battle of Ludford Bridge in the October of 1459 and the Battle of Blore Heath on the 23rd September 1459, where Margaret of Anjou is said to have watched from the tower of a local church.
Following the Yorkist victory at St Alban's and with the kings health unpredictable Margaret had been determined to rid the country of any Yorkist who she considered was a threat to her and who would take her husband's crown. At the same time the Duke of York had decided it was time action was taken and had given an order that his forces and that of Richard Neville, the Earl of Salisbury should assemble at Ludlow. It was while Salisbury's forces were marching south from Middleham, that they were intercepted by a Lancastian force under James Tuchet, Baron Audley and John Sutton, Baron Dudley.
The geography of Blore Heath battlefield featured a large wood, but was mainly open heath with Hempmill Brook running along the bottom of the battlefield. Archaeological work suggests that the brook may have been dammed at the time and this would have made the terrain wet and soft. The battlefield straddles what is now the A53, a road that runs south-west across the country. In 1459 the lay out of the land favoured the Lancastrian's for they outnumbered the Yorkist forces by at least two to one, however in the first attack the Lancastian forces lost men when they were forced out from their position by a planned retreat by the Earl of Salisbury whose force doubled back ensnaring the enemy. In the second attack Audley's men successfully crossed the brook on whose muddy banks many of the Lancastian force had perished in the previous attack, it was in this second attack that Audley lost his life.
Edward Halls writes:
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. The fight was sore and dreadful. The earl desiring the saving of his life, and his adversaries coveting his destruction, fought sore for the obtaining of their purpose, but in conclusion, the earl's army, as men desperate of aid and succour, so eagerly fought, that they slew the Lord Audley, and all his captains, and discomfited all the remnant of his people...
Following Audley's death John Sutton took command and the battle continued for the rest of the day, eventually the Lancastrian assault collapsed and many on the losing side would flee through the water and mud, pursued and then slain.
The total combined forces at Blore Heath has been estimated at between eleven and nineteen thousand. The Yorkist losses were few, however the Lancastrian's deaths numbered about two-thousand.
Three months later the wheel of fortune would turn again this time favouring Henry VI's forces. On the 12th October the Yorkist regrouped at Ludford Bridge, but discouraged by the size of the Lancastian army they retreated when they found themselves opposite their enemy across the River Teme. During the night many of York's army deserted, and this was followed by a retreat the next morning, the Duke of York and his son Edmund of Rutland headed for Ireland, Richard Neville, his father and York’s eldest son Edward, later Edward IV fled to Calais.
Following Blore Heath John Sutton, Audley's commander, was captured but later released and eventually made Treasure of Henry VI's household. He was a survivor of the Wars of the Roses, in later years he was pardoned by both Edward IV and Henry VII.
The Yorkist leader, the Earl of Salisbury, would lose his life just over a year later at the Battle of Wakefield.
The third day in May, thirty-one years apart, saw the birth of two women who played their part in an era that was dominated by men. They were Cecily Neville and her daughter Margaret of York.
Cecily, the Rose of Raby was born in 1415 at Raby Castle in County Durham, the daughter of Ralph Neville and Joan Beaufort.
"Cecily Neville was at the very top of the social scale in late medieval England, and held the highest status a woman
could enjoy. She was the eighteenth child of her parents, and her marriage to Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, was a
suitable match between two families of great status. Besides wielding considerable political power in an age when few
women did so, Cecily administered a large feudal estate, with all the interlocking duties and responsibilities which
Margaret, Cecily's third daughter, was born to Richard, Duke of York in 1446 at Fotheringhay Castle. Following her marriage to Charles the Bold the Duke of Burgundy, she would be known as Margaret of Burgundy. Margaret was very much her father's daughter. She was a supporter of the Yorkist cause, a capable ruler and a massive thorn in the side of Henry VII.
The Wars of the Roses were a series of battles that took place over a thirty year period. The official start date was the 22nd May 1455 with the Battle of St Albans, but it is my belief that the seeds of this conflict were the issues between York and Somerset that were sown into a country that had real problems following the death of Edward, the Black Prince and the reign of Richard II.
The year 1485 saw the death of Richard III at Bosworth, but there was a battle at Stoke near Newark, that is not shown on this map, that took place two years later following an uprising centered around Lambert Simnel, a Yorkist pretender.
You can read about my first experience of the re enactment of the Battle of Bosworth here
And about my visit to Stoke Field last year here:
On the 12th October 1459 the Yorkist army regrouped at Ludford Bridge following their victory at Blore Heath less than a
month earlier. Discouraged by the size of Henry VI's army, the Yorkist retreated finding themselves opposite the Lancastrians across the River Teme. During the night many of York's army deserted, followed by a retreat the next morning, many of York's men following the traitor Andrew Trollope who had decided to switch sides.
The Battle of Ludford Bridge saw no noble deaths (because there was no battle), but as you can imagine with such a large desertion in the Yorkist ranks the victors of the 'battle' were the Lancastrians.
THE ROLL OF THE PARLIAMENT HELD AT COVENTRY, IN THE THIRTY-EIGHTH YEAR OF THE REIGN OF KING
HENRY, THE SIXTH SINCE THE CONQUEST.
Encampment at Ludford
And on the Friday, the vigil of the feast of the translation of St Edward, king and confessor, in the thirty-eighth year of your most noble reign, at Ludford in the county of Hereford, in the fields of the same, the said Richard, duke of York, Edward, Earl of March, Richard, Earl of Warwick, Richard, earl of Salisbury, Edmund, earl of Rutland, John Clinton, Lord Clinton, John Wenlock, knight, James Pickering, knight, the said John Conyers and Thomas Parre, knights, John Bourchier and Edward Bourchier, esquires, nephews of the said duke of York, Thomas Colt, late of London, gentleman, John Clay, late of Cheshunt
in the county of Hertford, esquire, Roger Eyton, late of Shrewsbury in Shropshire, esquire, and Robert Boulde, brother to Henry Boulde, knight, with other knights and people whom they had blinded and brought together by wages, promises and other carefully calculated methods, brought certain persons before the people to swear that you were dead, causing mass to be
said and attending it, all to make the people less afraid to give battle.
The King's Preparations
After making a speech to all the lords, knights and nobles in your host in so witty, so knightly, so manly and so cheering a style, with such a princely bearing and assured manner, in which the lords and people took such joy and comfort that their
only desire was to hasten the fulfilment of your courageous knightly wish; because the ways were obstructed and narrow, and blocked by water, it was nevertheless nearly evening before you could take up a suitable position for battle, display your banners, place your divisions and pitch your tents. They being in the same fields on the same day and place, traitorously placed their troops, fortified their chosen ground, set carts with guns in front of their troops, made skirmishes and laid their ambushes there to take your army unawares.
The Duke of York Gives Battle
And they, intending the destruction of your most noble person, on the same Friday and in the same town, falsely and traitorously raised war against you in the field there, and fired their said guns then and there, and fired at your most royal person, as well as at your lords and people then and there with you. But God, in whose hands are the hearts of kings, caused it to be known that they whose hearts and desires were only intent on untruth, falseness and cruelty, under the sly pretence of a feigned zeal for justice, meant the greatest falseness and treason, and the most immoderate greed which ever was wrought in any realm: in that Robert Radcliffe, one of the fellowship of the said duke of York and the earls of Warwick and Salisbury, confessed at the point of death that they would have translated both the crown of England and the duchy of Lancaster at their will and pleasure.
The Said Duke and Earls Fled into Wales
But Almighty God, who sees into the hearts of people and from whom nothing is hidden, suddenly struck the hearts of the
said duke of York and earls from that most presumptuous pride into the most shameful cowardice imaginable, so that at
about midnight that night they stole away from the field, under the pretence that they wished to refresh themselves awhile in the town of Ludlow, leaving their standards and banners displayed directly opposite your positions, and fled out of the town unarmed with a few persons to Wales; realising that the hearts of your people raised by them, blinded by them previously,
had for the most part been converted by God's inspiration to repent and humbly submit themselves to you, and ask your
grace, which most of them did; to whom you freely imparted your grace, at the reverence of Our Lord and St Edward. But, sovereign lord, it must not be thought that had it been at all possible they would have wished anything other than to accomplish their cruel, malicious and traitorous intention, to the complete destruction of your most royal person. And furthermore to demonstrate the continuance of their most detestable fixed traitorous purpose and desire against you,
sovereign lord, andyour royal majesty, and the weal of your realm and subjects, some of them have arrived in your town of Calais, whereby the town is in danger, as are the goods of all your merchants of the staple there.
nDWhilst looking for inspiration for my introduction, I came across Dan Snow's article in the Guardian about the social media site Twitter, in which he wrote that Twitter brings " new and varied experts into your orbit" and this is
certainly true of Matthew Lewis.
Twitter was how I first became acquainted with Matthew, it was during those exciting months of 2013 when every Ricardian's eyes were glued to their Twitter feed, waiting for the next update following the find, in Leicester, of the remains of Richard III. During the following four years Matthew became the author of a number books, both fiction and non fiction. This year he published a much needed biography of Richard, Duke of York.
Matthew never keeps his wealth of knowledge to himself, and I am pleased to say that he has very kindly agreed to write an article on Richard III, the last English king to be killed in battle, on the anniversary of his birth, this day in 1452.
Some time between 1455 and 1460, a poem was written detailing the multitude of children that Richard, Duke of York and his wife Cecily Neville had been blessed with, though many had not survived infancy. The last portion of the poem ran;
John after William next borne was
Which both be passed to God’s grace.
George was next, and after Thomas
Born was, which son after did pace
By the path of death to the heavenly place.
Richard liveth yet; but the last of all
Was Ursula, to Him whom God didst call.
Ursula had been born late in 1455 and the poem appears to have been written whilst York was still alive, so before 30 December 1460. This sections tells of William and John, who both passed away young, then George, later Duke of Clarence, followed by Thomas who did not survive, then Richard and finally Ursula.
Richard was born on 2 October 1452 at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire, the traditional seat of power of the House of York where baby Richard’s great-uncle Edward, 2nd Duke of York had invested extensively, making additions to the nearby Church of St Mary and All Saints. The phrase ‘Richard liveth yet’ has been used to suggest that the last surviving child of the couple was sickly and there was concern that he might not survive but there is no other contemporary record of him being ill after birth and the line seems more likely a reference to the fact that he was not yet old enough to be considered out of danger, especially given that only one other of the six children listed, George, had survived.
Today, 2 October 2016, marks the 564th anniversary of the birth of a man who has become one of the most controversial and divisive figures in English and British history. There are a few examples of events around his birthdays that might offer insights into his development and character. For a start, he was born into uncertainty and tension. Seven months earlier, in March 1452, Richard, Duke of York had led an army to Dartford to protest against Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset’s hold on the government of Henry VI. The expedition had ended in York being duped, arrested and forced to swear an embarrassing oath at St Paul’s Cathedral. He was in the political wilderness facing an uncertain future when his last son was born. This in turn meant that Richard’s fate was far from clear. Although York was technically the senior noble in the country, he was out of favour. A decade earlier he had been an immensely wealthy man but his revenue had been falling for years, particularly from his Welsh estates. All of this meant that his fourth son was unlikely to acquire a huge inheritance and might perhaps have been destined for a role in the Church. At the very least, he was born into a deeply uncertain future.
As trouble within England escalated, York began preparations for another military effort to assert his position. By this point, York was basing himself at Ludlow Castle on the Welsh border. It was closer to the powerbase he owed to his Mortimer heritage and was a much stouter fortress than the family home a Fotheringhay. It is a mark of the mounting tensions that York decided to move his family to the safety of Ludlow too. Anne and Elizabeth, Richard’s sisters, were both married, but this is the first time that the rest of the Yorkist family were recorded as being in the same place at the same time. Along with the duke and his wife were their sons Edward, Earl of March (later King Edward IV), Edmund, Earl of Rutland, Margaret (later Duchess of Burgundy), George (later Duke of Clarence) and Richard. Also arriving at the castle and swelling the armed force there was York’s brother-in-law Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury and his famous son the Earl of Warwick. The preparations must have been exciting for the six-year-old Richard, who had his seventh birthday amidst the soldiers, sparring sessions and other hustle and bustle of a town full of men on a war footing. It seems doubtful that his birthday saw much celebration and a few days later his father and two oldest brothers left, heading toward London to confront the king. Within a couple of days they were back, made nervous by the presence of Henry himself at the head of an army marching toward them.
On 12 October 1459, just ten days after Richard’s seventh birthday, the Battle of Ludford Bridge took place, which was less of as battle and more of a retreat by the Yorkists. Faced by a larger army with the king at its head, York, March, Rutland, Salisbury and Warwick moved back to the castle in the middle of the night and fled, York and Rutland to Ireland and March, Salisbury and Warwick to Calais. Cecily, Margaret, George and Richard were left behind. When the royalist army entered Ludlow on 13 October, the town was sacked as punishment for supporting York. A legend sprang up that Cecily led her sons out to the market cross and that they faced the king’s army proudly. There is no direct evidence of this, but whether it is true or not the impact on a small boy just past his seventh birthday must have been considerable. Richard had watched the preparations, perhaps with ever increasing excitement, spent time with his brothers who he may not have seen much of – Edward was 6’4” tall and built like a warrior, making him impressive to anyone but particularly to a seven-year-old boy – only to see them leave, return and then flee in the night, leaving him to face a hostile army that sacked the town, after which he was taken into custody. Those few days around his birthday must have represented the fluctuating fortunes of England throughout Richard’s life and surely left a mark, perhaps in an increase in insecurity or the emergence of a fear of uncertainty and being out of control of situations that a recent psychological profile published by the Richard III Society pointed to.
The other birthday that tells us a great deal about Richard and may have left a mark on him is his eighteenth. During 1469 and 1470, Richard’s brother, now King Edward IV, had been losing his grip on power as his relationship with the Earl of Warwick disintegrated. In September 1470 a northern uprising pressed south as Warwick and Richard’s other brother George raised opposition in the south. Edward had only a small number of men with him as the snare threatened to snap shut on him. The group pushed east, reaching Lynn, where they managed to obtain passage to Burgundy. Richard was with his brother the king but it seems unthinkable that he had not been courted by Warwick and George in their opposition to Edward. Richard had spent his teenage years in Warwick’s household and had grown up with George, so he was probably closer to those two men that to Edward. If Warwick and George did make contact, the answer they received is clear. As Edward took ship for exile in Burgundy, effectively surrendering his crown and travelling into uncertainty, Richard boarded with him and doesn’t appear to have thought twice. The ship set sail into an unknown future on 2 October 1470, Richard’s eighteenth birthday. It can’t have been a fun way to spend a milestone in his life, but he demonstrated his unconditional loyalty to his oldest brother and king.
Richard would die at Bosworth on 22 August 1485, six weeks short of his thirty-third birthday. He is remembered for his two years as king and the way in which he obtained the crown to the exclusion of his years of service to his brother, but a glimpse at three of his birthdays gives us an insight into the pressures and influences that contributed to shaping this fascinating man. Born into uncertainty, abandoned to an enemy army and willing to spend his birthday on a voyage into exile for the sake of loyalty, Richard divides opinion in many ways and will continue to do so. To some he is a monster, to some a hero and to others simply a man trying to survive difficult times. Whatever view of Richard III you subscribe to, it should be influenced by an understanding that he was a very real man, the product of his upbringing and the influences that surrounded him. An extreme view is unlikely to be accurate so understanding the subtleties of his character requires an appreciation of the subtle impacts of moments such as these, falling around a few of his birthdays. They are small pieces of a large jigsaw that can be endlessly fascinating.
I would like to thank Matthew for writing, at very short notice, this guest blog and supplying me with the above photographs.
Matthew's latest book, The Survival of the Princes in the Tower: Murder, Mystery and Myth was published in September. Matthew also has a website, runs a blog and as previously mentioned can be found on Twitter.
On the 21st September 1411 Richard, Duke of York, the second son of Richard of Conisbrough and Anne Mortimer was born.
Matthew Lewis in his much needed biography of the Duke of York shows us, what history has failed to do,
a real man who
"harboured dreams, desires, fears, insecurities, love and hated as any real person today"
P A Johnson in his 1988 biography of the duke writes he turned from politics to violence, but I ask what other option was
there, all the talking had been done.
York was a man who was prepared to stand up and fight for what he believed in, a man loyal to his king but who had
been pushed too far, he was not, as he has been called,
‘the most successful failure of the middle ages.’
Richard, Duke of York did not deserve to end up wearing a paper crown.
Matthew Lewis's Richard Duke of York: King by Right is available here:
17th May 1443
Accompanied by the words "Thy father slew mine; and so will I do thee and all thy kin" Edmund, Earl of Rutland is remembered for his tragic death, supposedly at the hands of John Clifford, than anything else.
Rutland was the second son of Richard, Duke of York and Cecily Neville and born in France while his father was Lord Lieutenant.
Sadly, this young boys life can be viewed through that of the last years of his fathers, that is the events following Ludford Bridge, Ireland and his time in France. He was with the Duke of York in early December quashing Lancastrian unrest in the north of the country and by the end of that month at Wakefield, where the poor boy met his death along with his father.
Forever in his fathers wake, Edmund has no real story of his own, his early death gave him no chance to shine as his two brothers Edward and Richard did, or to make a fool of himself like George.
Edmund, as you can see in this painting by Charles Robert Leslie is depicted as a child, when in fact, he was actually seventeen when he died. The Victorian artists liked to romanticise everything, a result of a shift from themes focused on the industrial revolution and fashion towards that of the medieval era. This one is my favourite - a very dramatic painting don't you think - the murder of an innocent child by a dastardly Clifford!