The Wars of the Roses, 1455 - 1487  
First St. Albans, Northampton, Wakefield, Mortimer's Cross, Second St. Albans, Towton and Hexham (1455-1464)

IIn May 1455 the queen and Somerset summoned a Council, to which no prominent Yorkist was invited, and ordered a gathering of the peers at Leicester to take steps for the king's safety. York marched south to secure a fair hearing from the king, while the court moved towards Leicester, escorted by a large number of nobles and their retainers. The king and Somerset did not learn of York's actions until they were en route to Leicester. They tried to assemble an army, but there was insufficient time; at nightfall on 21 May, when the two sides camped only 20 miles apart, the king's 'army' still consisted of just his escort and their retainers.
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Первый бой при Сент-Олбанс, 22 мая 1455 г.

Both sides decided to advance against their adversary during the night, and these marches became a race for the chief town of the area, St. Albans. The king's army arrived there at 7am, and York halted at Key Fields, east of the town, at about the same time. There followed a pause of three hours while reconciliation was attempted, York offering to withdraw if the king would surrender Somerset, whom York considered a traitor. The king (i.e. Somerset!) refused, and York ordered the attack(see map).

Warwick was to lay down a barrage of arrows in support of flank attacks by York and Salisbury. However, these attacks were repulsed and Warwick therefore ordered his archers to concentrate on their own front. He then attacked the center, broke through to the Chequers, and here established a rallying point. Falling back to prevent their divided forces from being outflanked by Warwick, the Lancastrians weakened their defense of the Sopwell and Shropshire Lanes, and the forces of York and Salisbury almost immediately burst into the town. The Lancastrians began to falter, panicked, and broke, to be pursued up St. Peter's Street by the triumphant Yorkists.

Somerset and some retainers took cover in the Castle Inn while Lord Clifford, with Percy, Harington and some other knights and esquires, fought on outside the inn. When those outside were slain, Somerset led his men in one last charge. He killed four men before being felled by an axe. The king, the Duke of Buckingham, and the Earls of Devon and Dorset were captured; Clifford, Somerset, Stafford, Percy and Harington were amongst those killed.

York was appointed Protector in October and Warwick became Captain of Calais, the city which possessed the only standing army of the king. For the next three years there was an uneasy peace. York lost the protectorship at the beginning of 1456 and returned to Ireland. Margaret gained control of court and government, but Warwick refused to surrender Calais to her, and this city thus became a refuge for the Yorkists, from which an attack might be launched at any time.

In the late summer of 1459 both sides began arming again, and in October York's forces were defeated at Ludford – mainly due to the treachery of Andrew Trollope, captain of a body of professional soldiers sent over from Calais by Warwick. York was forced to flee to Ireland again and his troops dispersed.

In June 1460 Warwick landed at Sandwich with 2,000 men of the Calais garrison, accompanied by the Earl of Salisbury and York's son Edward, Earl of March. The king and queen were at Coventry when they received news of the landing. Hastily gathering an army from his chief supporters – the Percies, Staffords, Beauforts, Talbots and Beaumonts – the king began to march south. However, in the meantime the men of south-east England had flocked to the standard of the popular Warwick, and on 2 July he entered London with 5,000 men. Only the Tower, commanded by Lord Scales, held out for the king and, hearing that London had gone over to the Yorkists, the king halted at Northampton and took up a defensive position to await reinforcements.

Pausing only to establish a siege force round the Tower, Warwick led his army northwards, arriving between Towcester and Northampton on the 9th. Early the next morning - 10 July 1460 – he deployed for battle, but first attempted to negotiate a settlement. At 2pm, no agreement having proved possible, Warwick gave the order to advance, with the three 'battles' in 'line astern'.
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Бой при Нортхэмптоне, 10 июля 1460 г.

It was raining hard as the Yorkists arrived and Edward's 'battle', consisting entirely of men-at-arms, made slow progress over the sodden ground. As they came within bow range they were met by a fierce barrage of arrows and this, together with a ditch and stakes, prevented the Yorkists from getting to close quarters. At this critical moment Lord Grey suddenly displayed Warwick's ragged staff badge and ordered his men to lay down their weapons. Indeed, the men of Grey's command actually assisted their enemies over the defenses and, once established within the defenses in sufficient numbers, Edward and Warwick led their men-at-arms behind the king's archers in the center to strike Buckingham in flank and rear. Unable to maneuver within the narrow confines of the defenses, the Lancastrians soon broke and fled, many being drowned in the shallow but wide river at their backs. The Duke of Buckingham, Earl of Shrewbury, Thomas Percy, Lord Beaumont and Lord Egremont were among the Lancastrian dead. The king was captured again, taken to London, and compelled to sanction a Yorkist government.

York arrived from Ireland in mid-September and in October put forward a claim to the throne. The peers rejected his claim (while Henry lived) but made him Protector in view of the king's periods of insanity.

The queen and her son, who had remained at Coventry, fled to north Wales, then to the North, where she began to gather a new army. With these forces she overran Yorkshire, and a large number of Lancastrian supporters from the West Country began to march across the Midlands to join her. York sent his son Edward, Earl of March, to the Welsh borders to recruit an army and to handle the minor local troubles stirred up by the Earl of Pembroke. He left Warwick in London to ensure the capital's support and guard the king; and on 9 December he led the Yorkist army northwards to deal with the queen. He took with him his younger son Edmund and all the artillery then available at the Tower of London.

On the 16th York's 'vaward battle' clashed with the West Countrymen, suffered heavy losses, and was unable to prevent the Lancastrians from moving on to join the queen. Learning that Margaret's main force was at Pontefract Castle, York marched to his castle at Sandal, two miles south of Wakefield and only nine from Pontefract. He arrived at Sandal Castle on the 21st and, learning that the queen's army was now almost four times as numerous as his own, remained in the castle to await reinforcements under Edward. The Lancastrian forces closed round the castle to prevent foraging.

On 30 December 1460 half the Lancastrian army advanced against Sandal Castle as if to make an assault, but under cover of this movement the 'vaward battle', commanded by the Earl of Wiltshire, and the cavalry under Lord Roos, unobtrusively took up positions in the woods flanking the open fields.

York, believing the entire Lancastrian army to be before him, and much smaller than he had been told, deployed for open battle, and led his troops straight down the slope from the castle to launch an attack on Somerset's line. The Lancastrians fell back before the advance, drawing the Yorkists into the trap, finally halting to receive the charge.
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Бой при Уэйкфилде, 30 декабря 1460 г.

The Yorkist charge almost shattered Somerset's line and the Lancastrian reserve under Clifford had to be committed to stem the advance. But then Wiltshire and Roos charged from the flanks, and the battle was over. York, his son Edmund, his two uncles Sir John and Sir Hugh Mortimer, Sir Thomas Neville (son of Salisbury), Harington, Bourchier and Hastings were among those killed. The Earl of Salisbury was captured, and subsequently beheaded by the Percies because of their feud with the Nevilles.

The death of Richard of York was a severe blow to the Yorkists; but Warwick in London and Edward, now Duke of York, in the Welsh Marches, were both raising new armies. In the Welsh Marches, in particular, men flocked to Edward's banner to avenge Richard and their own lords who had died with him, and by the end of January 1461 Edward had a fair-sized army gathered round Hereford.

From here he set out to unite with Warwick, probably at Warwick Castle, in order to halt the queen's march on the capital. However, shortly after starting out he learned that the Earls of Pembroke and Wiltshire were moving towards Worcester from the west with a large force and, in order to avoid being caught between two Lancastrian armies, Edward moved northwards 17 miles to Mortimer's Cross, not far from Ludlow and only three and a half miles from his own castle at Wigmore, ancestral home of the Mortimers. Here the River Lugg, flowing south to join the Wye, was bridged for the main road from central Wales and the Roman road from Hereford, the two roads meeting close by the bridge. Edward deployed his army at this important crossroads and river crossing early on the morning of 2 February 1461.
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Бой при Мортимерс Кросс, 2 февраля 1461 г.

The Lancastrians deployed for battle on the morning of the 2nd and advanced against the Yorkist line about noon. After a fierce struggle the Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond succeeded in forcing Edward's right flank back across the road (see map), but at the same time Pembroke's 'main battle' was completely defeated by Edward. Ormond's 'battle' reformed and moved on to the center to support Pembroke but, finding him already defeated, for some inexplicable reason halted and sat down to await the outcome of the fighting on the other flank.

Owen Tudor's 'battle' was the last to become engaged, having swung right in an attempt to outflank the Yorkist position. In carrying out this maneuver the Lancastrians exposed their own left flank, and the waiting Yorkists promptly seized the opportunity to charge, cutting the Lancastrians in two and scattering them in all directions. A general retreat by the Lancastrians in the direction of Leominstcr followed, quickly transformed into a bloody rout by the Yorkists. Owen Tudor was captured and later executed.

After the battle of Wakefield the queen's army of borderers, Scots, Welsh and mercenaries had begun to march on London, pillaging as it went and leaving a 30-mile-wide swathe of ruin in its wake: Margaret, whose aim was now to rescue the king, was unable to pay her army and had promised them the whole of southern England to plunder in compensation. London was panic-stricken, and Warwick found himself faced with the problem of being unable to raise enough men either to stop the Lancastrian advance or to defend the city. Edward's victory at Mortimer's Cross solved this problem, for men flocked to Warwick's banner when news of the battle reached London on about 10 February; and on the 12th Warwick was able to leave London with a force large enough to attempt to halt the queen, sending word to Edward to join forces as soon as possible.

Warwick marched to St. Albans and began to prepare a defensive position there with a three-mile front barring the two roads to London which passed through Luton and Hitchin. Detachments were also placed in St. Albans and Sandridge to watch the flanks, and in Dunstable to guard the Watling Street approach to St. Albans.

The queen left York on 20 January, marching down Ermine Street towards London. At Royston she swung left and moved south-west as if to prevent a junction between Edward and Warwick. On 14 or 15 February the queen received details of Warwick's deployment from Lovelace, who had commanded the Yorkist artillery at Wakefield but who had been spared by the Lancastrians. Margaret allowed the borderers to continue ravaging the countryside due south from Hitchin to divert Warwick's attention, and took the rest other army on a hard march south and west past Luton to Dunstable, intending to follow this with another march against St. Albans from the west, so turning Warwick's defensive line.
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Второй бой при Сент-Олбанс, 17 февраля 1461 г.

The queen's army arrived at Dunstable late on the 16th, took the Yorkists detachment there by surprise, and killed or captured every man. After a brief halt the Lancastrians set out on a 12-mile night march to St. Albans, arriving on the south bank of the River Ver before dawn. After a short pause to rest and organize an attack, at about 6am on 17 February 1461 the 'vaward battle' crossed the river and entered the town. The Yorkists were again taken by surprise but, as the Lancastrians rushed up George Street towards the heart of the town, they were halted by a strong detachment of archers left in St. Albans by Warwick, and eventually were driven back to St Michael's church.

Shortly afterwards scouts reported an unguarded entrance through the defenses via Folly and Catherine Lanes, and at about loam the town fell to the Lancastrians. The king was found in a house in the town.

Warwick's defense line had been rendered useless and he was now faced with the task of re-aligning his army in the presence of the enemy. His 'rearward battle', stationed by Beech Bottom Ditch, was wheeled to face south, and Warwick then rode off to bring up the 'main' and 'vaward battles'.

The Lancastrian army now attacked the Yorkist 'rearward battle' which, after a long and brave struggle, finally broke and fled towards the rest of the army. Warwick was already on his way to reinforce them with the 'main battle', but this now broke up as the fugitives streamed past, joining in the general flight. Warwick rode off to bring up his 'vaward battle', but on reaching it he found that Lovelace's detachment had deserted to the enemy and the remainder was badly shaken. Somehow Warwick managed to form a new line and held off further Lancastrian attacks until dark, when he managed to extricate about 4,000 of his men and march westwards to join Edward.

Margaret waited nine days at St. Albans while negotiating the surrender of London, only 20 miles away. London, panic-stricken by the behavior of the queen's army, which looted St. Albans after the battle, refused to open its gates to the queen and her king. The borderers began to desert in droves; and with Edward and Warwick united and advancing rapidly from the west, Margaret finally abandoned her attempt on the capital and withdrew to York with the king. Twelve days after second St. Albans the united forces of Edward and Warwick entered London: on 4 March Edward was proclaimed king by the Yorkist peers and by the merchants and commons of London.

Edward set off in pursuit of Margaret and Henry on 19 March, but his advance guard was defeated by a Lancastrian delaying force at Ferrybridge on the River Aire on the 27th. At dawn on the 28th the Yorkists forced their way over the bridge and all that day fought to push back the Lancastrian rearguard towards Towton, reaching the village of Saxton by nightfall. The next morning the queen's army, commanded by Somerset, was seen drawn up less than a mile away (see map).
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Бой при Тоутоне, 29 марта 1461 г.

At 9am on 29 March 1461, with heavy snow falling, the two armies advanced towards each other. When they were about 300 yards apart the Yorkists halted to discharge one volley of heavy armour-piercing arrows which, aided by a following wind, hit the Lancastrian line and caused some casualties. The Yorkist archers then fell back a short distance. The Lancastrians responded with several volleys, using the lighter flight arrows not normally used at all except short range. Impeded by the wind, these arrows fell short by some 50 yards, but the Lancastrians continued to discharge their arrows until their quivers were empty. The Yorkist archers then advanced again and poured a barrage of arrows into the Lancastrian ranks. Unable to respond, the Lancastrians moved forward to contact as quickly as possible.

The battle raged all day, but at about 3pm Lord Dacres, one of the senior Lancastrian commanders, was killed, and at the same time the Duke of Norfolk's force of several thousand men arrived to reinforce the Yorkist right flank. The Lancastrians began to ease off, the slackening of pressure increased to a withdrawal, and suddenly their whole line collapsed. About 12,000 Yorkists were killed or died of wounds and exposure, while some 20,000 Lancastrians were killed, making Towton the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil. It was also the most decisive battle of the wars, in the very heart of Lancastrian country, and firmly established Edward IV on the throne. The queen, Henry, and their son Prince Edward fled to Scotland.

The first years of Edward's reign were pro-occupied with stamping out all remaining Lancastrian opposition. Pembroke and Exeter remained at large in Wales, but the Earl of Oxford was executed in 1462 for an attempted landing on the cast coast. The bulk of the surviving Lancastrians retired to the Scots border with Margaret and Henry, seeking support from Scotland and holding the powerful border castles.
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Бой при Хэксхаме, 15 мая 1464 г.

In April 1464 a Yorkist force under Lord Montagu, Warwick's younger brother and Edward's lieutenant in the north, clashed with a Lancastrian force under the Duke of Somerset at Hedgeley Moor. The two Lancastrian wings, commanded by Lords Hungerford and Roos, promptly fled, but the men under Sir Ralph Percy stood fast and were annihilated. Montagu was unable to pursue, as he was escorting a Scottish delegation to York to discuss a peace. Somerset led his forces to Hexham and made camp two miles south of that town. As soon as Montagu had carried out his mission, he moved southwards to confront the Lancastrians again.

Early on the morning of 15 May 1464 Montagu attacked the Lancastrian camp, smashing through Somerset's center with a rapid downhill charge. Once again the two wings broke and fled. Somerset was captured and executed, along with Hungerford and Roos, among others. These executions almost completed the extinction of the old Lancastrian faction, and virtually ended Lancastrian resistance; and even the queen gave up, and fled to Anjou.

 
 
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Война Алой и Белой Розы, 1452 - 1460 гг. (172 Кб)
Война Алой и Белой Розы, 1460 - 1464 гг. (144 Кб)
Text by Terence Wise from Men-at-Arms 145: Wars of the Roses
© Osprey Publishing