The War of the Roses: the Historical Facts of the Tudor Myth (Shakespeare’s Histories)

  E. F. Jacob, The Fifteenth Century (1961); P. M. Kendall, The Yorkist Age (1962, repr. 1965); S. B. Chrimes, Lancastrians,

The War of the Roses: the Historical Facts of the Tudor Myth (Shakespeare’s Histories)

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e his position in the north against Queen Margaret's army, which was reported to be massing near the city of York. Richard took up a defensive position at Sandal Castle near Wakefield at Christmas 1460. Although Margaret's army outnumbered Richard's by more than two to one, on December 30 York ordered his forces to leave the castle and mount an attack. His army was dealt a devastating defeat at the Battle of Wakefield. Richard was slain during the battle, and Salisbury and Richard's 17 year old son, Edmund, Earl of rutland, were captured and beheaded. Margaret ordered the heads of all three placed on the gates of York.

The Act of Accord and the events of Wakefield left the 18 year old Edward, Earl of March, York's eldest son, as Duke of York and heir to the throne. Salisbury's death meanwhile left Warwick, his heir, as the biggest landowner in England. Margaret travelled north to Scotland to continue negotiations for Scottish assistance. Mary of Guelders, Queen of Scotland agreed to provide Margaret with an army on condition that England cede the town of Berwick to Scotland and her daughter be betrothed to Prince Edward. Margaret agreed, although she had no funds to pay her army with and could only promise unlimited booty from the riches of southern England, as long as no looting took place north of the river Trent. She took her army to Hull, recruiting more men as she went.

Edward of York, meanwhile, met Pembroke's army, which was arriving from Wales, and defeated them soundly at the battle of Mortimers Cross in Herefordshire. He inspired his men with a "vision" of three suns at dawn (a phenomenon known as "parhelion"), telling them that it was a portent of victory and represented the three surviving York sonshimself, George and Richard. This led to Edward's later adoption of the sign of the sunne in splendour as his personal emblem.

Margaret was by now moving south, wreaking havoc as she progressed, her army supporting itself by looting the properties it overran as it passed through the prosperous south of England. In London, Warwick used this as propaganda to reinforce Yorkist support throughout the souththe town of Coventry switching allegiance to the Yorkists. Warwick failed to start raising an army soon enough and, without Edward's army to reinforce him, was caught off-guard by the Lancastrians' early arrival at St Albans. At the Second Battle of St Albans the queen won the Lancastrians' most decisive victory yet, and as the Yorkist forces fled they left behind King Henry, who was found unharmed under a tree. Henry knighted thirty of the Lancastrian soldiers immediately after the battle. As the Lancastrian army advanced southwards, a wave of dread swept London, where rumours were rife about the savage Northerners intent on plundering the city. The people of London shut the city gates and refused to supply food to the queen's army, which was looting the surrounding counties of Hertfordshire and Middlesex.

Edward was meanwhile advancing towards London from the west where he had joined forces with Warwick. Coinciding with the northward retreat by the queen to Dunstable, this allowed Edward and Warwick to enter London with their army. They were welcomed with enthusiasm, money and supplies by the largely Yorkist-supporting city. Edward could no longer claim simply to be trying to wrest the king from his bad councillors. With his father and brother having been killed at Wakefield, this had become a battle for the crown itself. Edward now needed authority, and this seemed forthcoming when the Bishop of London asked the people of London their opinion and they replied with shouts of "King Edward". This was quickly confirmed by Parliament and Edward was unofficially crowned in a hastily arranged ceremony at Westminster Abbey amidst much jubilation. Edward and Warwick had thus captured London, although Edward vowed he would not have a formal coronation until Henry and Margaret were executed or exiled. He also announced that Henry had forfeited his right to the crown by allowing his queen to take up arms against his rightful heirs under the Act of Accord; though it was by now becoming widely argued that Edward's victory was simply a restoration of the rightful heir to the throne, which neither Henry nor his Lancastrian predecessors had been. It was this argument which Parliament had accepted the year before.

Edward and Warwick next marched north, gathering a large army as they went, and met an equally impressive Lancastrian army at Towton. The Battle of Towton, near York, was the biggest battle of the Wars of the Roses thus far. Both sides had agreed beforehand that the issue was to be settled that day, with no quarter asked or given. An estimated 40-80,000 men took part with over 20,000 men being killed during (and after) the battle, an enormous number for the time and the greatest recorded single day's loss of life on English soil. The new king and his army won a decisive victory, and the Lancastrians were decimated, with most of their leaders slain. Henry and Margaret, who were waiting in York with their son Edward, fled north when they heard of the outcome. Many of the surviving Lancastrian nobles now switched allegiances to King Edward, and those who did not were driven back to the northern border areas and a few castles in Wales. Edward advanced to take York where he was confronted with the rotting heads of his father, brother and Salisbury, which were soon replaced with those of defeated Lancastrian lords like the notorious Lord Clifford of Skipton-Craven, who had ordered the execution of Edward's brother Edmund, Earl of Rutland, after the Battle of Wakefield.

Henry and Margaret fled to Scotland where they stayed with the royal court of James III, implementing their earlier promise to cede Berwick to Scotland and leading an invasion of Carlise later in the year. But lacking money, they were easily repulsed by Edward's men who were rooting out the remaining Lancastrian forces in the northern counties.

Edward IV's official coronation took place in June 1461 in London where he received a rapturous welcome from his supporters as the new king of England. Edward was able to rule in relative peace for ten years.

In the North, Edward could never really claim to have complete control until 1464, as apart from rebellions, several castles with their Lancastrian commanders held out for years. Dunstanburgh, Alnwick (the Percy family seat) and Bamburgh were some of the last to fall. Last to surrender was the mighty fortress of Harlech (Wales) in 1468 after a seven-year-long siege. The deposed King Henry was captured in 1465 and held prisoner at the Tower of London where, for the time being, he was reasonably well treated.

There were two further Lancastrian revolts in 1464. The first clash was at the Battle of Hedgeley Moor on April 25 and the second at the Battle of Haxham on May 15. Both revolts were put down by Warwick's brother, John Neville, 1st Maquess of Montagu.

The period 146770 saw a marked and rapid deterioration in the relationship between King Edward and his former mentor, the powerful Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick"the Kingmaker". This had several causes, but stemmed originally from Edward's decision to marry Elizabeth Woodville in secret in 1464. Edward later announced the news of his marriage as fait accompli, to the considerable embarrassment of Warwick, who had been negotiating a match between Edward and a French bride, convinced as he was of the need for an alliance with France. This embarrassment turned to bitterness when the Woodvilles came to be favoured over the Nevilles at court. Other factors compounded Warwicks disillusionment: Edward's preference for an alliance with Burgundy (over France), and Edward's reluctance to allow his brothers George, Duke of Clarence, and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to marry Warwick's daughters, Isabel Neville and Anne Neville, respectively. Furthermore, Edward's general popularity was also on the wane in this period with higher taxes and persistent disruptions of law and order.

By 1469 Warwick had formed an alliance with Edward's jealous and treacherous brother George. They raised an army which defeated the King at the Battle of Edgecote Moor, and held Edward at Middleham Castle in Yorkshire. Warwick had the queen's father, Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers, executed. He forced Edward to summon a parliament at York at which it was planned that Edward would be declared illegitimate and the crown would thus pass to Clarence as Edward's heir apparent. However, the country was in turmoil, and Edward was able to call on the loyalty of his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and the majority of the nobles. Gloucester arrived at the head of a large force and liberated the king.

Warwick and Clarence were declared traitors and forced to flee to France, where in 1470 Louis XI of France was coming under pressure from the exiled Margaret of Anjou to help her invade England and regain her captive husband's throne. It was King Louis who suggested the idea of an alliance between Warwick and Margaret, a notion which neither of the old enemies would at first entertain but eventually came round to, realising the potential benefits. However, both were undoubtedly hoping for different outcomes: Warwick for a puppet king in the form of Henry or his young son; Margaret to be able to reclaim her family's realm. In any case, a marriage was arranged between Warwick's daughter Anne Neville and Margaret's son, the former Prince of Wales, Edward of Westminster, and Warwick invaded England in the autumn of 1470.

This time it was Edward IV who was forced to flee the country when John Neville changed loyalties to support his brother Wa

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