War of the Roses, 1455-1485

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Background

The Major Players
The House of Lancaster
The House of York
The Neville Family
The Percy Family
The Beaufort Family

The First War - 1455-1464
From Exile to Northampton, October 1459 to July 1460
The Lancastrian Fight-Back - Wakefield and the Second battle of St. Albans
The Emergence of Edward IV
Mopping Up Operations - 1461-64
The short peace

The Second War - 1469-1471
Warwick's Revolt
The Lancastrian Interlude
Edward IV's Return from Exile
The long peace

The Third War - 1483-1487
The Bosworth Campaign
The Last Embers of the Wars

The Wars of the Roses (1455-1485) were a series of fairly brief civil wars fought between the Houses of York, Lancaster and eventually Tudor and their supporters. They began as a struggle for control of the court of Henry VI but turned into a battle for the throne that was won twice, first by the Yorkist Edward IV and then after his death by the first Tudor monarch, Henry VII.

Although the Wars of the Roses lasted for thirty years most of this period was actually peaceful. The fighting can be split into three main periods of conflict. The first lasted from 1455 until 1464 (with gaps) and saw Edward IV established as king. The second lasted from 1469-71 and saw Edward IV briefly deposed by Warwick the Kingmaker and the supporters of Henry VI. After Edward regained the throne the rest of his reign was peaceful and the fighting only resumed after his brother Richard III came to the throne in controversial circumstances. This final phase of the war contained its most famous battle, at Bosworth, and ended with the establishment of the Tudor dynasty.

Background

At its heart the Wars of the Roses were a series of conflicts between the descendents of Edward III and their supporters. The House of Lancaster was descended from Edward's third son John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. The House of York was descended from his fourth son, Edward Duke of York.

Henry Tudor, the future Henry VII, was directly descended from Edward III on his mother's side via John of Gaunt's second son John Beaufort, earl of Somerset. His father, Edmund, earl of Richmond, was a half-brother of Henry VI, sharing the same mother (Katherine of France, who married Owen Tudor after the death of Henry V).

A wide range of possible causes of the war have been advanced by historians - over-mighty subjects with their own private armies, financially impoverished subjects fighting over access to the court to maintain their position, the dynastic clash between York and Lancaster, disappointment after the final French victory in the Hundred Years War or the failings of Henry VI amongst others.

Whatever underlying causes there may have been, it was the minority and later weakness of Henry VI that left England vulnerable to civil conflict. The senior aristocracy had plenty of feuds of their own, while control of the young king and his council, and later control of the court during Henry's periods of mental instability, added a new level of conflict. In the previous century the inept rule of Edward II and of Richard II had both led to civil war and the same would be true under Henry VI.

The trigger for all of the conflict that followed was the unexpected death of Henry V in 1422. His son Henry VI was only nine months old at the time, and so a regent was needed. The role was split between Henry V's brothers. John, duke of Bedford, became regent in France, where he continued to win victories. Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, had personal charge of Henry VI, but wasn't appointed Protector of the Realm and thus had to share power with the Royal Council. The council was led by Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester, the last surviving son of John of Gaunt and thus a great uncle of the child king.

Things also started to go wrong in France. The long siege of Orleans ended in failure (8 May 1429) after Jean of Arc helped revitalise the French cause. Joan herself was captured in 1430 and burned at the stake in 1431, and later in the same year Henry VI was taken to Paris and crowned as king of France, but the English position soon began to deteriorate. On 15 September 1435 John duke of Bedford died, removing the most successful English commander. A few days later England lost her main ally in France when Burgundy switched sides. In April 1436 Charles VII of France captured Paris.

Later in the same year Richard, duke of York was appointed lord lieutenant of France, the first of two spells in that post. The second spell, a five year appointment as lieutenant-general and governor of France and Normandy, began on 2 July 1440. York performed well in a difficult task, doing particularly well in 1441 when he was able to lift the siege of Pontoise, but his talents appear to have been diplomatic rather than military.

Things began to turn sour for York in 1443 when Henry decided to appoint John Beaufort, duke of Somerset as lieutenant and captain-general of France and Gascony for seven years. Somerset was given a bigger army and more money than York, who now began to struggle to get paid. Henry's policy in France now began to go badly wrong. In 1445 he married Margaret of Anjou. Soon after this Henry began to negotiation the surrender of Maine, believing that this might help create a secure peace. Instead it encouraged the French.

Le Mans was surrendered on 16 March 1448. In 1449 an English army sacked the Breton town of Fougères. At this time the duke of Brittany was an ally of France, although the terms of the surrender of Le Mans had included him as an English ally. This attempt at legal trickery failed and the French declared war. Rouen fell on 29 October 1449. An English army was defeated at Formigny on 15 April 1450 and with that most of the rest of Normandy was lost. Somerset returned to England, but it was William de la Pole, duke of Suffolk, the king's main advisor, who took the blame.  He was impeached by Parliament, banished by Henry VI and murdered by sailors on his way into exile. Somerset, who had actually been in charge in Normandy at the time, managed to avoid the worst of the fallout and remained in favour at court. The court was shaken by Jack Cade's revolt, which broke out at least partly in response to a Royal threat to punish Kent for the murder of Suffolk. The rebels briefly captured London but then got out of hand and Cade disbanded most of his army. Inevitably his free pardon was ignored and he was killed.

The return of Somerset angered the duke of York, who since 1447 had been lieutenant in Ireland. He had delayed crossing the Irish Sea and didn't move until 1449. After a short spell in Ireland, a period in which he still managed to establish a power base there, York returned to England in September 1450. For the rest of his life York would be the head of the opposition to Henry VI's court. At first his aim was to become Henry's main advisor, but eventually York attempted to seize the throne himself.

Over the next few years events in England and in France both began to build to a crisis. In France the last vestiges of English rule were being swept away. Bordeaux fell to the French on 12 June 1451. John Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury, was the English commander in the area and he was able to restore the situation. On 23 October 1452 he recaptured Bordeaux and regained control of most of Gascony. This success would be short-lived. Charles VII of France sent a large army into Gascony, and on 17 July 1453 Talbot was defeated and killed at Castillon, the last battle of the Hundred Years War. The news reached England in August, and probably played a part in the start of Henry VI's first spell of mental illness.

In England York's attempts to overthrow Somerset met with little success, and he retired to his castle at Ludlow in the Welsh Marches. He emerged in the autumn of 1451 when he intervened in a feud in the south-west. The argument was between York's ally Thomas Courtenay, earl of Devon, and William Bonville, lord Bonville of Chewton. The two men had been feuding for some years, but in September 1451 the feud escalated into violence. The earl of Devon raised a small army and besieged Bonville in Taunton Castle. Henry VI's government didn't act, giving York a chance to prove himself. He raised an army, marched to Taunton and forced the two rivals to come to terms. Courtenay disbanded his army, Bonville surrendered Taunton, and York believed that his prestige had risen far enough for him to risk military action against Somerset.

In February 1452 York attempted to trigger a popular revolt in his favour. This failed, and amongst the peerage only the earl of Devon and Lord Cobham were willing to join him. York led his small army towards London, but he was refused access to the city. He then moved to Dartford in Kent where he fortified his position and waited for the king. On 1 March the king arrived with a much larger army that contained many more peers, including York's natural allies, the Neville earls of Salisbury and Warwick. York was forced to negotiate. He thought he had gained the king's agreement to put Somerset on trial, but this wasn't the case. Instead York was treated like a prisoner. He was taken to London and was forced to renew his oath of allegiance and promise not to resort to arms again. Some of his followers were tried at the Duke's castle of Ludlow, mainly to drive home how badly he had failed. After this setback York withdrew from politics until Henry's mental illness changed the balance of power.

1453 also saw an armed clash between the Nevilles and the Percies that helped deepen the clash between the two families and further ensured that they would be on opposite sides in the civil wars that followed. On 24 August Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury, was leading his son Thomas's wedding party across Heworth Moor on their way to Sheriff Hutton. The party was attacked by Thomas Percy, Lord Egremont, son of the earl of Northumberland. Although the Nevilles reached their destination relatively safely, this marked an increase in the level of violence in their feud and became known as the 'battle' of Heworth

13 October 1453 saw the birth of Prince Edward of Lancaster, the only son of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou. Prince Edward thus became the heir to the throne, displacing York. Margaret now had a son to fight for, and her efforts on his behalf would greatly lengthen the civil wars to come.

Henry's mental breakdown left the court party in a difficult position. Despite his near-rebellion York was still the senior member of the peerage with the best claim to be Protector of the Realm. Margaret of Anjou felt that as queen and mother of the heir to the throne she should hold the post. The royal council delayed appointing York for as long as they could, although late in 1453 they agreed to confine Somerset to the Tower of London and try him for the events in France. The standoff was broken on 22 March 1454 by the death of the Chancellor, Cardinal Kemp. The council didn’t have the authority to appoint a new chancellor, but a Protector would. They attempted to get some reaction from Henry that might tell them what to do, but when this failed they had no choice and on 27 March 1454 York was named Protector of the realm during the King's illness.

York's behaviour during his first protectorate played a major part in the outbreak of civil war. His determination to prosecute Somerset would only pay off if the trial could be completed before the king recovered. He made Salisbury Chancellor, giving his ally a post that normally went to a churchman. In the north his hand was rather forced by Egremont, who allied with Henry Holland, duke of Exeter in a rather half-hearted revolt. York moved north rather too quickly and then had to wait for his troops to catch up, but once they did Exeter fled to London where he attempted to enter sanctuary. York returned south and arrested Exeter, who joined Somerset in the tower. Meanwhile in the north the Nevilles defeated Egremont at Stamford Bridge (31 October or 1 November 1454). Egremont was captured, tried for his part in a series of attacks on Neville estates and then jailed in debtor's prison. Even this success would backfire, for it forced Henry Percy, second earl of Northumberland, into the Lancastrian camp. By December 1455 York appears to be in a strong position, with his main enemies in custody and control of the government, but everything depended on the king's health. 

The Major Players

The Wars of the Roses dragged in most members of the senior aristocracy. Their ever-changing titles (and allegiances) can make an account of the war rather confusing, so here we attempt to provide brief biographies of the major players, their titles and their fate.

The House of Lancaster

The House of Lancaster came to the throne when Henry of Bolingbroke overthrew his first cousin Richard II. Bolingbroke was the son of John of Gaunt, Edward III's third son to survive childhood. He thus had less of a direct claim to the throne than the Mortimers, who were descended from Edward III's second son to survive childhood, but Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March wasn't involved in the revolts against Henry IV and was a loyal supporter of Henry V.

Henry VI (1421-1471)

Henry VI came to the throne before his first birthday. Even after he came of age he proved to be an ineffective monarch, with little interest in the day-to-day business of government. He was dominated by favourites, and thus alienated other members of the aristocracy. His mental health was poor and his first breakdown opened the way for Richard of York's first protectorate. Henry was deposed early in 1460, but unusually was kept alive. He was briefly restored in 1470-71, but was murdered after Edward IV regained the throne. He had been popular amongst the people, but his incompetence was the main factor in the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses.

Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482)

Margaret of Anjou was the daughter of René, duke of Anjou. She married Henry VI in 1445, and after the birth of her son Edward in 1453 she became dedicated to his cause. She was the effective leader of the Lancastrian cause after Henry VI's recovery in 1455, and especially during the campaigns of 1459-61. She was active in Northumberland for a few years after the defeat at Towton, but was then forced into exile. She returned in 1471, but only to see her army defeated and her son killed at Tewkesbury. After that she rather faded from history, and died in poverty in France in 1482.

Prince Edward of Lancaster (1453-1471)

Son and heir of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, Prince Edward never really emerges as an individual. He was born during his father's first mental breakdown. In 1460 he was officially disinherited, and after the Lancastrian defeat at Towton he went into exile. By 1471 he was a teenager, and was apparently dedicated to the defeat of the Yorkists, but by the time he reached England his main ally had been killed, and his one active campaign ended with his defeat and death at Tewkesbury.

The House of York

Richard Plantagenet, duke of York (d.1460)

Richard, duke of York, had two claims to the throne, both traced back to the sons of Edward III. His strongest claim was on his mother's side. She was Anne, daughter of Roger Mortimer, Fourth Earl of March and granddaughter of Lionel of Clarence, Edward III's second son to reach adulthood. York appears to have been politically inept - his attempt to seize the throne in 1460 failed, but if he hadn't been killed in battle at Wakefield he may eventually have achieved his ambition.

Edward IV, King of England, 1442-1483

Edward IV was the most able member of the House of York. When his father was killed at Wakefield in 1460 Edward was only eighteen, but he proved to be a capable leader, winning a series of battles and establishing himself on the throne after his victory at Towton in 1461. He was briefly deposed after falling out with the earl of Warwick in 1469-70 but made an impressive comeback in 1471. Warwick was killed at Barnet and Prince Edward of Lancaster at Tewkesbury and after that Edward enjoyed a peaceful reign.

Edward was known by several different titles during the wars. When he first emerges he was earl of March, a title inherited from the Mortimer family. After the death of his father in 1460 he became duke of York, but he is rarely given this title as he quickly claimed the throne as Edward IV.

Richard III (1452-1485)

Richard III was the youngest son of Richard of York. He first came to prominence during the crisis of 1469-71, and for the rest of his brother's reign was a loyal supporter of Edward IV. Soon after Edward's death Richard deposed his son Edward V and took the throne as Richard III. His short reign was very controversial, and he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth during Henry Tudor's successful invasion.

The Neville Family

The Neville family was one of the most powerful in the country. The family fortunes had been made by Ralph Neville, earl of Westmorland (1354-1425), a long term supporter of the Lancastrian cause. After his death his large family was split by its own feud. His children by his first wife inherited the title of earl of Westmorland, but his older son by his second wife, Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury, inherited most of his lands. The Westmorland branch remained loyal Lancastrians while Salisbury and his able children supported the Yorkists.

The Salisbury Nevilles

Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury (d.1460)

The eldest son of Ralph Neville and his second wife Joan Beaufort, he became earl of Salisbury by marrying the heiress to the title. He sided with Richard of York during the Wars of the Roses, and was killed with York at the battle of Wakefield in 1460.

Richard Neville, earl of Warwick (d.1471)

Warwick the Kingmaker was the oldest son of the earl of Salisbury, and became the chief supporter of the Yorkist cause after the death of his father. Having helped Edward IV to the throne Warwick didn't feel that he had been rewarded properly and in 1469 he switched sides. After briefly restoring Henry VI to the throne Warwick was killed at the battle of Barnet in 1471. The estates then passed to Warwick's daughters, who were married to Edward IV's brothers. 

The Percy Family

Henry Percy, second earl of Northumberland, d.1455

Northumberland spent most of his active career attempting to rebuild his family fortunes after his grandfather lost everything in a rebellion against Henry IV. The feud with the Nevilles forced him to join the Lancastrian camp to gain support against them, and he was killed at the first battle of St. Albans.

Henry Percy, third earl of Northumberland, d.1461

The third earl of Northumberland was also a Lancastrian supporter. He inherited the earldom intact after the death of his father, and became a determined enemy of Richard of York. He fought at Wakefield, where York and Salisbury were both killed. He was also present at the second battle of St. Albans but was killed in the great Yorkist victory at Towton. The earldom of Northumberland was awarded to John Neville, although Percy's son regained the title in 1470.

Henry Percy, fourth earl of Northumberland (1446-1489)

Henry Percy, son of the third earl, was arrested by Edward IV after the battle of Towton and remained a prisoner until 1469 when Edward released him. He regained the earldom of Northumberland in 1470, and remained neutral in the fighting of 1470-71. This gave Edward a chance to establish himself in the north and then win back his throne, and Northumberland was rewarded for his lack of action. He was also rewarded by Richard III. When Henry Tudor invaded in 1485 Northumberland joined Richard III's army, but his men were never committed to battle at Bosworth. He was briefly arrested by Henry VII but was soon freed and restored to his officers. After surviving the great upheavals of his time he was killed by Yorkshire rebels in 1489 during a tax dispute.

Thomas Percy, Lord Egremont, 1422-1460

Thomas Percy, Lord Egremont, was the second son of Henry Percy, second earl of Northumberland. He played a major part in the Neville-Percy feud of the 1450s, attacking Neville estates across the north. In August 1453 he attacked a Neville wedding party at Heworth. In the following year he was captured by the Nevilles at Stamford Bridge and spent the next two years in debtor's prison. After his escape he became a key supporter of Henry VI, but he was killed at the battle of Northampton in July 1460.

The Beaufort Family

The Beaufort family were descended from John of Gaunt, giving them a claim to the throne, but that claim was tainted by illegitimacy. They were the children of John of Gaunt and his long term mistress Katherine Swynford. The couple married in 1396, by which time they had four adult children. In 1397 Richard II legitimized all four children, and this was confirmed by their half-brother Henry IV in 1407, although at the same time he barred them from the succession to the throne. Henry Tudor's claim to the throne came through his mother Margaret Beaufort.

Edmund Beaufort, second duke of Somerset, (c.1406-1455)

Edmund Beaufort, second duke of Somerset, was a younger son of John Beaufort, earl of Somerset, the oldest of the original four Beaufort children. He served in the wars in France from the 1420s, and had some successes. He succeeded his brother John as earl of Somerset in 1444 and was made lieutenant of France in 1446. This angered the duke of York, who had previously held the post. Somerset was unable to hold Normandy. This made him unpopular in England and deepened the feud with York. Somerset was a key supporter of Henry VI in the early 1450s. He was placed in the Tower of London during Henry's first period of illness but freed and restored to power after Henry recovered at the end of 1454. The duke of York responded by raising an army and Somerset was killed at the resulting first battle of St. Albans (22 May 1455).

Henry Beaufort, third duke of Somerset, 1436-1464

Henry Beaufort, third duke of Somerset, inherited his titles after the death of his father Edmund at the first battle of St. Albans. Henry had been present at the battle, where he was wounded. He became a bitter rival of Richard of York. He took part in an attempt to ambush York in 1458 before being forced into a public reconciliation with York by Henry VI. After the outbreak of renewed civil war in 1459 Somerset was appointed captain of Calais but was unable to take control of the town. He commanded the Yorkist army that defeated and killed York and Salisbury at Wakefield in December 1460 and won again at the second battle of St. Albans (February 1461). He was the defeated commander at Towton (March 1461). He fled into exile in Scotland, where he joined Margaret of Anjou. In December 1462 he was forced to surrender Bamburgh Castle to Edward IV and was captured. He was pardoned and restored to his lands in 1463 but later in the year returned to the Lancastrian fold. He was defeated at Hedgeley Moor in April 1464 and again at Hexham in May. After this battle he was captured and executed.

Edmund Beaufort, fourth duke of Somerset (1439-1471)

Edmund Beaufort, fourth duke of Somerset was the younger son of Edmund Beaufort, the second duke and the brother of Henry Beaufort, the third duke. After his brother's death at Hexham in 1464 he was recognised as fourth duke of Somerset by the exiled Lancastrians, but not by the victorious Yorkists. He spent the period from 1464 to 1471 in exile. He returned to England in 1471 where he waited for the arrival of Queen Margaret and her son Prince Edward. He was in command at the battle of Tewkesbury, where Edward IV destroyed the house of Lancaster. Prince Edward was killed and Somerset was executed two days after the battle. His younger brother John died in the battle, and so the direct male line died out with Edmund. This meant that the Lancastrian claim to the throne passed to Henry Tudor, son of his cousin Margaret Beaufort.

The First War - 1455-1464

The first phase of the wars lasted from the outbreak of open warfare in 1455 to the defeat of the last Lancastrian field army in 1464. Even during this period there were several bursts of campaigning with large gaps.

The war began after Henry VI recovered his sanity in 1454. Within a few months the duke of York had raised an army, and Henry was defeated at the First Battle of St. Albans. York became the dominant figure for the next few years, but by 1459 he was out of favour again. This led to the second short burst of conflict, which saw the Yorkists victorious at Blore Heath but humiliated at Ludford Bridge. The Yorkist leaders fled into exile, from where they prepared to make a dramatic return.

This led to the main fighting of this part of the war. In the summer of 1460 the Yorkists invaded. Warwick defeated the Royalists at Northampton, and captured Henry VI. York tried to take the throne, but found that he lacked any support and was forced to back down. He was then killed at the battle of Wakefield, attempting to defeat the northern Lancastrians. His son Edward continued the fight, and during 1461 won the battles of Mortimer's Cross and Towton, allowing him to take the throne as Edward IV.

1462-63 was fairly quiet, although the fighting continued in Northumbria. This phase of the wars came to an end in 1464 with the Yorkist victories at Hedgeley Moor and Hexham. These saw the last Lancastrian armies defeated. Margaret of Anjou went into exile, while in the following year Henry VI was captured, spending the rest of the decade in the Tower of London.

The road to war began when Henry VI recovered from his first period of illness on Christmas Day 1454. Early in 1455 York resigned as Protector, the post no longer being needed. Exeter and Somerset were both released from the Tower and in March Salisbury was forced to resign as Chancellor. York, Salisbury and Warwick clearly believed that they were in some danger and they left court without taking their leave.

Henry and Somerset responded by called a council at Leicester, to be held on 21 May. The council would 'provide for the King's safety', a vague phrase that could be read as a threat to the Yorkists. They certainly took it to be a threat, and began to raise an army in the north and on the Welsh borders. They then began to march south, possibly in an attempt to intercept the King before he could reach Leicester.

This news reached Westminster on 18 May. Somerset and his allies raised as many men as they could, before on 21 May they set off for St. Albans. By this time messages had begun to arrive from York, in which he claimed to be a loyal supporter of Henry and only opposed to Somerset. While these messages were flowing the Yorkists were moving quickly, and by the early morning of 22 May they were camped outside St. Albans.

The King's party left Watford early on 22 May, intending to stop for lunch at St. Albans. They still believed the Yorkists were some way to the north, and so were greatly surprised when they found them outside the town. Henry decided to move into St. Albans and attempt more negotiations. By 10am these had failed and the Yorkists moved to attack. The resulting first battle of St. Albans (22 May 1455) ended as a Yorkist victory. Henry Percy, second earl of Northumberland and Thomas Clifford, Lord Clifford, were killed during the main part of the battle while Somerset was cornered in a tavern and killed when he attempted to break out. Henry was wounded and captured. He was treated well, with York still treating him as monarch, but for the moment the king was effectively a captive of the Yorkists.

In the immediate aftermath of the battle York made sure that his supporters were well rewarded. He took the post of constable, Viscount Bourchier became treasurer and Warwick became constable of Calais, a post that came with command of the most effective permanent military establishment in English control. Parliament was called and began on 9 July. Parliament's first job was to pass a bill that blamed Somerset and two of his allies for all of the recent troubles and that granted immunity to York and all of his supporters for their actions before and at St. Albans. Parliament then dispersed for the summer before returning in November to appoint York as Protector for a second time.

His first task was to bring to an end an undeclared war in the south-west being fought between the Courtenay earls of Devon and Lord Bonville. The earl of Devon seized control of Exeter and besieged Powderham Castle, then owned by Sir Philip Courtenay, a member of a rival faction of the family. The conflict went on until York appeared on the scene, at which point Devon surrendered and was sent to the Tower. His next problem was a mutiny at Calais, caused by massive arrears of pay. Warwick wasn't able to enter the town until the summer of 1456, and it became a key Yorkist stronghold for the rest of the war.

York's period of undisputed power soon came to an end. On 25 February 1456 Henry, who had recovered from a second spell of illness, came to parliament and ended the Protectorate. York remained an important member of the council, but over the next few years his influence declined. The key figure on the Lancastrian side during this period was the queen, Margaret of Anjou. She felt that York's actions had been an attack on the court itself and not just on bad advisors and she was determined to make sure that he never held power again. In the summer of 1456 she moved out of London and in August Henry VI joined her. Most of York's appointments of 1455 were soon reversed, with Lancastrians appointed keeper of the privy seal, chancellor, treasurer and bishop of Durham.

The main voices for moderation and peace during these years were the king himself and the duke of Buckingham, and in March 1458 their efforts appeared to have borne fruit. A determined effort had been made to reconcile the heirs of Somerset, Northumberland and Clifford with York, Salisbury and Warwick. The 'Loveday' of 24 March 1458 saw the enemies march hand-in-hand to St Paul's Cathedral in a visible symbol of reconciliation - the new earl of Somerset with Salisbury, the new Northumberland with Warwick and the Queen with Richard of York. In addition York, Salisbury and Warwick agreed to found a chantry at St Albans where prayers would be said for the souls of those men killed in the battle. 

The impact (if any) of the 'Loveday' was short-lived. The last of York's men to have kept their post was the earl of Warwick at Calais, but he had been starved of money and the garrison's pay was once again in arrears. Partly in response to this and partly because French ships had raided Sandwich in August 1457 Warwick began to raise his own fleet, which he then used for piracy. In May 1458 he attacked a Spanish fleet and this was followed by an attack on the Hanseatic fleet. These successes at sea increased Warwick's popularity and allowed him to pay the garrison but they were blatantly illegal, and in October 1458 he was summoned to London to account for his actions. This was a tense visit which ended in a brawl. Warwick escaped to Calais and ignored demands that he surrender.

This was effectively a rebellion, and it triggered the next phase of open warfare. In the first half of 1459 the government began to arm itself and in June a great council was called. The Yorkist lords were excluded from the summons and charges of treason was made against York, Salisbury and Warwick. Both sides then began to raise armies.

The fighting resumed in earnest in September 1459. The Yorkists had three main forces, each of which was dangerously isolated at the start of the month. Warwick sailed from Calais and landed at London, then advanced north-west towards Warwick. Salisbury raised his forces around Middleham in Yorkshire, and moved south. York raised his men in the Welsh borders, where he found less support than he had hoped.

The court also raised several armies and attempted to prevent the Yorkists from uniting. Their main target was Salisbury and his northern army. The Royal forces spread out across the Midlands. Lords Audley and Dudley were in the west with a force raised in Cheshire. Queen Margaret and Prince Edward were at Chester, Henry VI was at Nottingham and the earl of Somerset was in the gap. In the event none of the main Royal armies had any success - first Warwick was able to evade Somerset and join York at Ludlow and then the Queen missed a chance to intercept Salisbury near Newcastle-under-Lyme. Salisbury then ran into Audley and Dudley at Blore Heath in Shropshire (23 September 1459), but defeated the larger Lancastrian army and was able continue on his way south. Salisbury was able to join the main Yorkist army at Ludlow, although his two sons were captured during the journey.

The climax of the campaign came at Ludford Bridge on 12-13 October 1459. As the Lancastrians approached Ludlow the Yorkists took up a pre-prepared defensive position at Ludford Bridge. They were badly outnumbered, and things got worse on the night of 12-13 October when the Calais contingent, led by Andrew Trollope, refused to fight against an army that included the king in person and switched sides. On the night of 13 October the Yorkist leaders fled, abandoning their army. York escaped to Ireland, while Warwick, Salisbury and the young earl of March all fled to the coast where they found a ship and eventually reached safety at Calais. By the end of 1459 the Yorkist cause looked to be in tatters. The Lancastrians had summoned a Parliament at which York and his main supporters were condemned as traitors and attainted, preventing their heirs from inheriting).

From Exile to Northampton, October 1459 to July 1460

This brings us to one of the most dramatic periods of the Wars of the Roses. At the start of 1460 the Yorkist lords were in exile, Henry VI was sane and secure on his throne and the most recent Yorkist attempt to seize power had ended in a shambles. This would all change within the course of a dramatic nine month period. In June the Yorkist leaders at Calais invaded. In July they defeated and captured Henry VI at Northampton. York attempted to claim the throne but failed to gain any support. Despite this setback he was still acknowledged as Henry's heir, but in December he was killed in battle at Wakefield. The Yorkist claim passed to his son Edward, earl of March. He would now prove himself to be a very able commander. On 2 February 1461 he won the battle of Mortimer's Cross, securing his position in Wales. On 17 February Warwick was defeated at the Second Battle of St. Albans, and Henry VI was liberated, but on 29 March Edward won the battle of Towton, probably the biggest battle of the entire war. This time it was the Lancastrian leaders who were forced into exile. Edward had already claimed the throne, and on 28 June, a year and two days after the initial invasion from Calais, his official coronation took place. The first reign of Edward IV had begun.

The main weakness in the Lancastrian position at the start of 1460 was Calais. This last English outpost in France was garrisoned by the most powerful English standing army of the period and it also acted as a naval base for the earl of Warwick. The court appointed Edmund Beaufort, duke of Somerset (son of the Somerset killed at First St. Albans) as their Captain of Calais. He made a series of energetic attempts to capture Calais, but without success. A second Lancastrian force, under the command of Richard Woodville, Earl Rivers, was placed at Sandwich, with the Lancastrian fleet.

Warwick now took the initiative. First he sent a raiding force across to Sandwich (15 January 1460). This force captured Rivers, his wife and his son and the fleet and took them to Calais. With the new ships at his disposal Warwick decided to visit York in Ireland. The two men probably came up with a plan for a two-pronged invasion of England, although there would be a three month gap between Warwick's invasion of the south of England and York's return from Ireland. On the way back Warwick ran into a Lancastrian fleet under Henry Holland, duke of Exeter. When Warwick decided to offer battle Exeter retreated back into port, allowing Warwick to return safely to Calais.

In early June Warwick sent a second raiding force across to Sandwich. Once again the commander of the garrison was captured, but this time the Yorkists left their own garrison in the port. This would become the beachhead for their invasion, and on 26 June Warwick, Salisbury and the earl of March landed at Sandwich at the head of around 1,300-2,000 men. As the Yorkists advanced across Kent they gained support, although contemporary reporting that they had as many as 20,000-40,000 men when they reached London can be dismissed. The Yorkists were admitted to London on 2 July. The Lancastrian defenders of the city, under Lord Scales, retreated to the Tower from where they bombarded the city and made themselves very unpopular. On 4 July the Yorkist vanguard left the city, followed on 5 July by the main army. Salisbury was left to watch the Tower.

When Warwick arrived at Sandwich the Lancastrian court was at Coventry. Henry VI, accompanied by many of his most important supporters, advanced south-east towards London. They stopped at Northampton, where they took up a defensive position to the south of the River Nene (on the opposite bank to the town). Queen Margaret and Prince Edward were sent away to safety, and the Lancastrians prepared to defend their position.

When the Yorkists arrived from the south they began by attempting to open negotiations, but this time they were unable even to gain access to the King. The battle of Northampton began in heavy rain at about 2 in the afternoon on 10 July 1460. The rain meant that the Lancastrian guns were unable to fire, but the real turning point of the battle was the treachery of Lord Grey of Ruthin. His men allowed the Yorkists into the camp, and may even have helped them over the defences. With their enemy inside the defences the Lancastrian cause was doomed. Several senior Lancastrians were killed around the King's tent, including Buckingham, Thomas Percy Lord Egremont, John Talbot earl of Shrewsbury and John Beaumont, Lord Beaumont. Henry himself was captured. Once again Warwick and the Yorkist leaders acknowledged Henry as their king and once again he returned to London as a virtual prisoner.

The Yorkists were now faced with the same problem as in 1455. They had possession of the King, but as long as he remained sane it was very hard to limit his authority. York's dominance after the first battle of St. Albans hadn’t lasted for long, and with Queen Margaret and Prince Edward still at large there was still a focus for Lancastrian resistance. Whatever agreement they were able to force out of the king could easily be repudiated later.

Warwick's first moves included the appointment of his brother, George Neville bishop of Exeter, as chancellor. Henry, Viscount Bourchier was made treasurer (a post he had held in the 1450s before falling foul of Queen Margaret). Parliament was called, and plans were made to reverse the judgements of the Lancastrian parliament held after Ludford Bridge. He also had time to return to Calais where he came to an agreement with Somerset, who surrendered Guines and went into exile in France.

The biggest weakness of Warwick's position during this period was the absence of the Duke of York, who remained in Ireland until early September. When he finally returned to England it was clear that he intended to try and claim the throne. He made a leisurely progress across the country, flying the royal standard and with his sword carried before him (a symbol of royalty). 

York had badly misjudged the situation. Warwick's success had been partly due to his repeated proclamations of loyalty to Henry VI, and there was little appetite in Parliament for a change of king. Henry had been less that competent but he hadn't been malign, and he was still personally very popular. On 10 October York entered the Parliament chamber and placed his hand on the empty throne, then awaited the acclamation of the peers. He didn't get it. Instead he was greeting with stunned silence before the Archbishop of Canterbury asked if he wanted to see the king. York was furious, and stormed out of parliament.

Eventually a compromise was agreed. Parliament was asked to formally consider York's claim and rejected it. Instead Prince Edward was deposed as heir to the throne and replaced by the Duke of York and his heirs. Henry was to remain king for the rest of his life. This 'Act of Accord' of 24 October 1460 was a remarkable echo of the earlier Treaty of Troyes in which Henry V had been recognised as heir to the King of France. Just as with the earlier treaty its main beneficiary wouldn't survive for long enough to take advantage of it.

The Lancastrian Fight-Back - Wakefield and the Second battle of St. Albans

While York and his allies were arguing their case in London the Lancastrians were gathering strength in the south-west, Wales and the north. By deposing Prince Edward the Yorkists had provided the Lancastrians with a rallying call and had alarmed many members of the land-holding aristocracy - the same threat to the normal process of inheritance had helped undermine Richard II.

In the north the earl of Northumberland, Lord Clifford and Lord Roos had almost taken control, and were raiding Neville and York estates. In Wales supporters of Jasper Tudor, earl of Pembroke were active. In the south the duke of Somerset had returned from France and reached Corfe Castle., where he gained the support of the earl of Devon. Queen Margaret was in Scotland, where she attempted to gain support. Yorkist control was limited to the south-east and the midlands.

In November Somerset and Devon abandoned their base in the south-west and moved north, joining the Percies at York. This created a real crisis for the Yorkists and they responded by splitting up. Warwick remained in London to guard Henry and the south coast. Edward, earl of March, was sent into the Marches to watch Wales. The main Yorkist army, around 6,000 strong, moved north under the command of the Duke of York. With him went his second son Edmund Plantagenet, earl of Rutland, the earl of Salisbury and his son Sir Thomas Neville.

This move ended in disaster. York reached Sandal Castle, south of Wakefield, on 21 December. He found the countryside held against him by a larger Lancastrian army, and soon ran short of supplies. On 30 December, in unclear circumstances, York emerged from his castle and attacked a much larger Lancastrian army. York and Sir Thomas Neville were both killed in the fighting. Rutland was killed attempting to cross Wakefield Bridge. Salisbury was captured late in the day and beheaded in Pontefract on the following day. York, Rutland and Salisbury's heads were then put on poles outside York, and York was given a paper crown, mocking his claims to the throne.

The Emergence of Edward IV

The Yorkists still had two armies - Warwick had a large army at London and Edward, earl of March, had his army in the Welsh borders. Edward was now Duke of York, although within a month he had claimed the throne and so is rarely given this title. His first instinct after learning of the disaster at Wakefield was to head towards London, but he then learnt that a fresh Lancastrian army had appeared in Wales. This was led by Jasper Tudor, earl of Pembroke and James Butler, earl of Wiltshire and Ormond. Edward took up a position at Mortimer's Cross, south-west of Ludlow, and waited to see where the Lancastrians would go. They crossed mid-Wales and emerged on the River Wye, then advanced north-east to attack Edward. The resulting battle of Mortimer's Cross (2 February 1461) was Edward's first battlefield victory. Pembroke and Wiltshire both escaped, although Pembroke's father Owen Tudor was captured and executed. With the key Lancastrian leaders still at large Edward remained in the Marches.

This left Warwick to face the main Lancastrian army as it advanced south. On 12 February Warwick led a sizable army out of London, but he only advanced as far as St. Albans, where he stopped and took up a defensive position. His scouting was poor. On 16 February the Lancastrians overwhelmed an outpost at Dunstable, twelve miles to the north-west, but this didn't alert Warwick to their presence. On 17 February the Lancastrians smashed into the centre of St. Albans. They were repulsed twice in the town, but then turned on the Yorkist vanguard, which was posted on Barnet Heath, north of the town (second battle of St. Albans, 17 February 1461). The Yorkist response was confused. Warwick and the main part of his army played little part in the battle, and eventually the vanguard was defeated and Warwick's brother Lord Montagu was captured. The rest of the Yorkist army dissolved. Warwick fled west to try and find Edward, abandoning Henry VI, who had been with the Yorkist army (officially as commander of the army, but really as a not very carefully guarded prisoner). Henry was reunited with his wife and son.

After the battle the Lancastrians advanced towards London, but found the gates shut against them. While Queen Margaret attempted to negotiate her way into the city Edward moved east. On 19 February, the day that the news of St. Albans reached Edward, Queen Margaret moved her army back to Dunstable in an attempt to convince the Londoners of her good faith. This just made it easier for Edward to reach the city and on 26 February March and Warwick were welcomed into London.

Once again the Yorkists made a claim to the throne, this time in the name of Edward, earl of March. This time the affair was much better organised. After the battle of Northampton, Richard of York attempted to gain the throne by asking for the acclaim of the Lords in Parliament. This had failed embarrassingly, so in 1461 the Yorkists decided to rely on those Lords they knew they could trust and the acclaim of the people of London. Public acclaim was organised on 1 March. George Neville, bishop of Exeter, addressed a large crowd which called for Edward to take the throne. On 2 March Edward was officially proclaimed as King Edward IV. On 3 March a 'great council' was called, although the Yorkists still only had the support of a minority of peers - the most important figures at the council were the surviving Nevilles, the Archbishop of Canterbury and John, duke of Norfolk. Finally, on 4 March, Edward took the coronation oath, marking the start of his reign Edward IV. He didn't hold a formation coronation at this stage - that would come on 29 June after the crucial victory at Towton.

In the first half of March the two armies moved north. The Lancastrians eventually reached York, and then decided to make a stand. Edward IV sent his advance guard out of London and then followed on 13 March. By 27 March he reached Pontefract. The two armies were now separated by the River Aire. The Lancastrians had left York and advanced as far as Towton, on the south side of the Wharfe. The first clash between the two armies came on 27-28 March at Ferrybridge, where the Lancastrians attempted to stop the Yorkists crossing the river. Edward outflanked the Lancastrians, and was able to cross the river.

On 29 March the two armies met in the Battle of Towton, probably the largest battle of the Wars of the Roses. We don't really know how many men fought at Towton, but modern estimates suggest that around 50,000 men were present on each side. The Lancastrians had the larger army, and not all of Edward's army was present at the start of the battle.

The battle was fought on a plateau to the east of the valley of Cock Beck, with the London Road to the east of the battlefield. The Lancastrians were successful on the western half of the battle, pushing the Yorkist left wing back, but they were less successful on the Yorkist right. Late in the day Edward received reinforcements when the Duke of Norfolk's men arrived up the London road, hitting the Lancastrian left. The Lancastrians, who seem to have been close to victory, broke and fled the field, but because their line had rotated to the left many of the fleeing troops found themselves trapped against the Cock Beck. Contemporary estimates of the casualties ranged from 9,000 up to 28,000 and a large number of Lancastrian lords were killed. Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland was killed on the battle as were Lords Dacre, Neville, Clifford (at Ferrybridge), Wells, Willoughby and Mauley, as well as Sir Andrew Trollope. The earls of Wiltshire and Devon were captured after the battle.

The only blot on Edward's victory was the escape of the Lancastrian royal family. King Henry, Queen Margaret and Prince Edward had remained in York when their army advanced to Towton, and they were able to escape north to Scotland. They were followed by Somerset, Exeter, Lords Hungerford and Roos and Chief Justice Fortescue. For the next few years the Lancastrian cause would be kept alive in the north of England, but Edward IV was now secure on his new throne.

Mopping Up Operations - 1461-64

Lancastrian resistance in Wales was led by Jasper Tudor, earl of Pembroke. While the Lancastrians could still hope for French support this posed a serious threat to Edward, and in July he began to raise an army for a campaign in Wales, which he was to lead in person. After the French threat receded Edward decided to leave the fighting in Wales to Sir William Herbert. Edward made a brief visit to the Welsh Borders, reaching Hereford on 17 September. He then moved to Ludlow, before leaving for London on 26 September. His army must already have been in the field, for Herbert captured Pembroke Castle on 30 September. Herbert then followed Pembroke into North Wales. The two sides clashed at Twt Hill (just north of Caernarvon) on 16 October 1461. Herbert was victorious and Pembroke had to flee into exile in Ireland. Denbigh and Carreg Cennen castles were captured, but Harlech held out. The famous siege of Harlech dragged on into 1468, but the rest of Wales was held by the Yorkists.  

The main fighting over the next three years took place in Northumberland. After Towton the castles of Alnwick, Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh were all held for Henry VI by retainers of the Percy family. Over the next few years they would change hands repeatedly. Edward himself wasn't involved in this fighting, leaving most of the work to the Earl of Warwick.

In September 1461 Warwick took Alnwick. In October Sir Ralph Percy, the long standing constable of the castle, surrendered Dunstanburgh. Edward was determined to win over the key northern families and so he pardoned Percy and left him in charge of the castle. This would prove to be a mistake. In November a Lancastrian army commanded by Sir William Tailboys captured Alnwick and Dunstanburgh.

In the summer of 1462 the Yorkists regained Alnwick, which fell in June after a short siege led by Sir John Howard and William Hastings, Lord Hastings. Bamburgh surrendered in July.

In late October 1462 the balance briefly changed yet again. Queen Margaret had successfully raised a mercenary force in France, led by Pierre de Brézé. This army captured Alnwick and Bamburgh, but when Warwick's army approached from the south Queen Margaret retreated, leaving Henry Beaufort, duke of Somerset and Sir Ralph Pecy to defend Bamburgh.

In December 1462 Warwick began sieges of all three Northumbrian castles. William Neville, earl of Kent, Anthony Woodville, Lord Scales and John Tiptoft, earl of Worcester lead the siege of Alnwick. John Neville, Lord Montagu was in charge at Bamburgh. Lords Scrope, Greystoke and Powis were in command at Dunstanburgh. All three castles fell quickly. Bamburgh, where Somerset and Sir Ralph Percy were besieged, surrendered on 26 December. Somerset and Percy were allowed to leave after swearing allegiance to Edward IV. Dunstanburgh surrendered on 28 December. Alnwick held until a Scottish relief force under de Brézé and the earl of Angus arrived on 5 January 1463. Warwick decided not to fight and instead allowed Robert Hungerford, Lord Hungerford, the Lancastrian commander of the castle, along with the garrison, to withdraw into Scotland.

Once again Edward tried to win support in the north. Sir Ralph Percy was allowed to retain command of Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh castles, while Alnwikc was given to Sir Ralph Grey. In March 1463 this policy failed yet again. Queen Margaret landed on the Northumbria coast with a Lancastrian-Scottish army. Percy and Grey both changed sides and once again all three castles fell into Lancastrian hands.

In June 1463 the Scots made their main effort of this phase of the war. A joint Lancastrian and Scottish army laid siege to Norham Castle. The 12 year old James III of Scotland was present, as was his mother and the Lancastrian royal family. Warwick and Montagu led an army towards Norham, and in July they surprised the Scots and Lancastrians, who fled. Scottish enthusiasm for the war now began to wane, and in December Edward IV and James III's government signed a ten month long truce. This was intended to give Edward the time he needed to recapture the three Northumbrian castles, but instead the campaign in the north would be decided in two battles.

In November 1463 Somerset, who had been pardoned and restored to favour by Edward IV, decided to revert to his Lancastrian loyalty and made his way to Henry VI's court at Bamburgh. He then led a successful campaign across Northumberland, and took control of most of the county.

Somerset's success would be short-lived. In the spring Edward sent Montagu north to collect Scottish commissioners who were coming to York for talks. Somerset attempted to ambush Montagu on his way north, but failed. Montagu reached Newcastle, and then advanced towards the border. On 25 April 1464 he found the Lancastrian army at Hedgeley Moor, north-west of Alnwick, and inflicted a heavy defeat on Somerset's men. Somerset escaped but Sir Ralph Percy was killed. Montagu then continued to the border, collected the commissioners and escorted them to York before returning to Newcastle.

Somerset was aware that Edward IV was finally planning to come north himself. He decided to try and win a victory before the Royal army could arrive, and in May left his base at Alnwick to march into the Tyne valley, taking Henry VI with him. When Montagu learnt of this move he decided to act and led his army up the Tyne to Hexham. On 15 May 1464 Montagu's men caught Somerset by surprise close to Hexham. The Lancastrians were quickly defeated. Somerset was captured and executed on the day after the battle. Lords Roos and Hungerford were also take and executed two days later. 

The remains of Somerset's army retreated to Alnwick, where they surrendered to Warwick on 23 June. Dunstanburgh surrendered two days later. Bamburgh, where Sir Ralph Grey was in command, held out for the longest, but in July 1464 Grey was knocked senseless by falling masonry during an artillery bombardment and his second-in-command surrendered to Warwick. Northumberland was now pacified. Henry VI was still at large and Harlech still held out for him, but the first phase of the Wars of the Roses was effectively over, and Edward IV had emerged as the undisputed victor.

The short peace

After Towton Edward IV was free to return to London for his official coronation, which took place on 28 June 1461. He then concentrated on establishing his rule. Most of the fighting against the remaining Lancastrian rebels was carried out by others, with Warwick prominent amongst them, while Edward focused on establishing stability, restoring the treasury and the important diplomatic negotiations with Scotland. After the summer of 1464 the country was almost quiet, with only Harlech Castle still holding out against him. Edward became a popular and capable king, but remarkably this period of peace and stability would only last for five years.

The problems began on 1 May 1464 when Edward sneaked away from his court and secretly married Elizabeth Woodville. The marriage remained a total secret for several months and wouldn't be publicly acknowledged until the end of the year. It would cause problems for three reasons. First was the status of the bridge. Elizabeth's mother Jacquetta of Luxembourg was a member of the highest levels of the European aristocracy, claiming decent from Charlemagne, but her father, Richard Woodville, had been born into a minor gentry family. He had risen in rank after his marriage, but his daughter was still not a suitable queen. Her family caused a second problem, in that she had five brothers, seven unmarried sisters and two sons by her first husband, all of whom now became a potential drain on the treasury. Finally the marriage would cause the first major rift with Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, now the most important man in the realm after Edward. Warwick spent some of 1464 attempting to negotiate a marriage between Edward and a French princess, so the announcement of the Woodville marriage must have come as something of an embarrassment.

Warwick was well rewarded by Edward, but not as well as he clearly believed that he deserved. Warwick expected to be the power behind the throne, but he found that the young king was his own man, and a fairly effective monarch who distributed the patronage at his disposal across a wide group. The Woodville family did cause Warwick one particular problem - he had two daughters and no sons and struggled to find suitable husbands for his daughters. Edward refused to marry them to his brothers George, duke of Clarence and Richard, duke of Gloucester, as this would have placed Warwick far too close to the throne (ironically in the end the elder daughter Isabel would be married to Clarence in secret in 1469, dying in 1476 after producing four children, while the younger daughter Anne would briefly be married to Prince Edward of Lancaster and then to Richard, duke of Gloucester, dying during his short reign as Richard III).

Edward and Warwick were also driven apart by their different approaches to diplomacy. Warwick wanted a French alliance against Burgundy, while Edward slowly developed a pro-Burgundian attitude, with the intention of renewing his claim to the French throne. Edward's plans included a marriage between his sister Margaret and Charles of Charolais, heir to the Duke of Burgundy. During 1467 Edward sent Warwick to France to negotiate with Louis XI while the king negotiated with Burgundy. In September the news of upcoming marriage and of the alliance came out, and Warwick stormed off to his northern estates. Although he was later publicly reconciled with the court, this probably marked the point at which he began to actively plan against Edward IV.

The marriage was delayed by other issues, but finally took place on 3 July 1468, by which time Charles had already become Duke. On 3 August 1468 Edward and Charles agreed an alliance, in which Edward promised to supply English troops to help the Duke against the French. Edward received a grant of taxation to pay for the expedition, but the war ended in something of a farce. The French attacked Burgundy, and Duke Charles the Bold came to terms with them, agreeing the treaty of Peronne on 14 October. Edward's fleet put to sea, and did manage to recapture Jersey, but it had cost £18,000 and the whole affair helped to reduce Edward's popularity.

The Second War - 1469-1471

The second phase of the Wars of the Roses saw as many dramatic changes of fortune as the period between the battles of Northampton and Towton. It began with local revolts in Yorkshire which were probably backed by the Earl of Warwick, and that pulled Edward IV out of position. Warwick then invaded, defeated Edward's allies at Edgecote Moor (26 July 1469) and took control of the King. He then learnt the same lesson as Richard of York - a live King was very difficult to control, and in September Warwick was forced to release the king. Edward was able to raise his own army and defeated Warwick's men at 'Losecote Field' (12 March 1470). After this defeat Warwick and Edward's brother Clarence were forced to flee into exile.

The war now took a very different twist. Warwick agreed an alliance with Margaret of Anjou, in exile in France. In September 1470 he led a second invasion of England. Once again Edward was caught out of position and it was now his turn to flee into exile.

In March 1471 Edward returned to England, landing on the Yorkshire coast. He was able to work his way down to London, then turned back to defeat and kill Warwick at Barnet (14 April 1471). On the same day Queen Margaret and Prince Edward landed back in England. They were able to raise an army, but suffered a crushing defeat at Tewkesbury (4 May 1471). Prince Edward was killed on the battlefield, ending the immediate hopes of the House of Lancaster. A few days later Queen Margaret was captured and by the end of the month Henry VI was dead. Edward IV was now firmly established on the throne, and ruled for another decade, until his early death in 1483.

Warwick's aim in 1469 appears to have been to take control of Edward IV and rule through him. He convinced Edward's oldest brother George, duke of Clarence, to support him, and they agreed that Clarence would marry Warwick's daughter Isabel. At this point Edward had no sons, so Clarence was his heir. If Edward could be controlled (and presumably prevented from having sons), then Clarence and Isabel's children would inherit the throne, and Warwick would be the grandfather of the new monarch.

Warwick's Revolt

The fighting began with two revolts in Yorkshire in April 1469. The revolt of Robin of Holderness aimed to restore the Percy family, who had been powerful in that area. 'Robin of Redesdale' is a more shadowy figure at this stage, but later in the year the name was almost certainly used by Sir William Conyers of Marske, a member of Warwick's affinity. Both revolts were put down by Montagu (now earl of Northumberland), and a relieved Edward decided to visit the shrines at Bury St. Edmunds and Walsingham.

Robin of Holderness had been executed, but 'Robin of Redesdale' had never been captured, and in June his revolt broke out again. Edward decided to put down the revolt in person and began to build an army. The first orders were issued at Norwich. He then began a fairly leisurely movement north, spending a week at Fotheringhay. He was in Stamford on 5 July, from where he wrote to Coventry asking for 100 archers.

By 9 July Edward had heard the first rumours that Warwick and Clarence might be moving against him. This was not the first time this had happened, and he limited his response to writing to them asking them to deny the reports. On 10 July the King was at Newark, where he discovered much to his horror that Robin of Redesdale was moving south in command of an army that was said to be three times larger than Edward's own army, and that included a core of experienced men from Warwick's own northern affinity. Amongst the rebel leaders were Warwick's nephew Sir Henry FitzHugh and his cousin Sir Henry Neville. The rebels issued a proclamation that matched Warwick's own complaints that lords of his blood were excluded from the council (meaning Warwick presumably) and that greedy favourites were too close to the King.

While Edward had been moving north, Warwick had been active in the south. His brother George Neville, archbishop of York, had gained a dispensation for the marriage between Clarence and Isabel, despite Edward's ban on the marriage. On 4 July Warwick and the wedding party set sail for Calais, and on 11 July the marriage took place. On 12 July they issued a manifesto that was very similar to that of Robin of Redesdale, and they ordered their supports to meet them at Canterbury on 16 July. This was open rebellion, and Warwick quickly dropped any pretence that he wasn't working with Redesdale.

There were soon four armies in play. Warwick landed in Kent and made his way to London, then send a cavalry force to find Redesdale's men. Robin of Redesdale eluded Edward's force at Nottingham and moved south. Edward had the core of the army he had been preparing to lead north. Finally he had ordered William Herbert, earl of Pembroke and Humphrey Stafford, earl of Devon, to raise an army, and that force was now moving north-west toward Northampton.

The only battle of this campaign took place at Edgecote Moor on 26 July 1469. Pembroke and Devon had allowed their contingents to become separated, and Redesdale's men were able to defeat Pembroke's men-at-arms while Devon's infantry withdrew. Pembroke and his brother were captured and beheaded on Warwick's orders. Devon was killed by a mob in mid-August and Warwick had Earl Rivers and his son Sir John Woodville executed.

Edward IV left Nottingham on 29 July, still unaware of the disaster at Edgecote Moor. When the news reached his army most of his men deserted him, and on the same day Edward was captured by George Neville, archbishop of York.

For the moment Warwick held the upper hand, but it wouldn’t last. With the king obviously been held prisoner, first at Warwick and later at Middleham, law and order began to break down. A Lancastrian revolt broke out on the northern border, private feuds broke out into open fighting in many parts of the country, and when Warwick attempted to raise an army to deal with the Lancastrians hardly anyone responded to his call. Most of 'his' northern rebels went home once the 'evil councillors' had been deposed. It was also clear that Warwick had little support amongst the peers. In many ways this was a repeat of the events of 1455 and of 1460 when Richard of York had achieved military success but had been unable to turn that into permanent power.

By mid September Warwick had been forced to release Edward IV. The King had no problem raising troops, and the Lancastrian revolt was quickly suppressed. Its leader, Sir Humphrey Neville, was captured and executed. Edward was able to summon his allies to join him, and surrounded by his council he returned to London in triumph.

Probably to everyone's surprise Edward decided to act as if nothing had happened. Warwick and Clarence officially remained in favour, although Warwick did lose a number of posts on the Welsh border. Early in 1470 Warwick's brother Montagu lost the earldom of Northumberland when Edward decided to restore Henry Percy, the heir to the title in order to provide a balance to Neville power in the north.

John Neville, earl of Northumberland (Montagu) had been an effective and loyal supporter of Henry, so he was compensated with the lands of Humphrey Stafford, earl of Devon, while his son married Edward's daughter Elizabeth and became duke of Bedford. John Neville became Marquess Montagu, an unusual title for England. This was a careful balancing act, as Montagu had remained loyal during Warwick's revolt, and it didn't really work. In the following year Montagu supported his brother and helped force Edward into exile.

Edward's attempt at a peaceful reconciliation didn’t last for long. Warwick was soon looking for another chance to regain power, and he found one in Lincolnshire. A feud had broken out between Sir Thomas Burgh, Edward's master of horse and Richard, Lord Welles and Willoughby. During the winter of 1469-70 Welles and his men attacked and destroyed Burgh's manor house. On 9 February Edward announced that he would muster an army at Grantham on 12 March in order to restore order. He also summoned Welles and his ally Sir Thomas Dymmock to court, where they submitted and were pardoned. Warwick and Clarence decided that this was their chance. They were soon in contact with Welles and planned to try and repeat their ploy of the previous year, using revolts around the country to isolate the king. Warwick would trigger a revolt in the north (led by Lord Scrope of Bolton and Sir John Conyers) while Clarence would raise the Courtenay affinity in the south-west. At the same time Warwick began to raise troops in Warwickshire, officially as part of Edward's army. They also spread rumours that Edward was heading north to exact revenge for Redesdale's Rebellion.

This time Edward moved more quickly than in 1469. He left London on 6 March. On 7 March he learnt that Lord Welles's son Sir Robert had issued a proclamation in which he declared himself to be the 'great captain of the commons of Lincolnshire' and had raised a sizable army. Edward summoned Lord Welles and Sir Thomas Dymmock and then continued to advance north at great speed. On 9 March Welles and Dymmock were questioned and confessed their part in the revolt. Edward got Lord Welles to write a letter to his son ordering him to stand down, otherwise Welles and Dummock would be executed.

On 11 March Edward was at Fotheringhay. The Lincolnshire rebels, who had been on their way to join Warwick, changed course and headed for the Royal army in an attempt to rescue Lord Welles. At this stage Warwick and Clarence were shadowing the king to the west, and messages were being exchanged between the two armies in which Warwick claimed to be loyal. On 12 March Edward reached Stamford, and learnt that the rebels were near by at Empingham. Pausing only to execute Welles and Dymmock he led his army towards the larger rebel force and routed it in a battle so one-sided that it became known as 'Lose-cote Field' after the rebels abandoned their padded coats in order to flee faster. The rebels were heard to call out 'A Clarence!' and 'A Warwick!' as their war cries, some were in Clarence's livery (including Sir Robert Welles) and Warwick's envoy to the rebels was killed and his letters found. It was now clear that Warwick and Clarence were part of the revolt. Edward had defeated one enemy, but he still faced Warwick and Clarence's army to the west and the Yorkshire rebels to the north.

On the day after the battle the diplomatic dance began. Edward sent a message to Warwick and Clarence ordering them to disband the shire levies they had raised and to come to him with only their normal escorts. The message reached Warwick and Clarence at Coventry. They promised to do as asked, and only attend with 1,000 or 1,500 men. They then set off north-west on the road towards Burton upon Trent. In the meantime Edward continued north, gaining strength as he went. Warwick and Clarence claimed that they would meet him at Retford but their actual plan was to try and join the Yorkshire rebels at Rotherham. The tone of the letters between the two armies changed as they moved north, with Warwick and Clarence asking for safe conducts and pardons. By 19 March Edward was at Doncaster, where Sir Robert Welles was executed. Warwick was starting to suffer from desertions. It finally looked as if battle might come at Rotherham on 20 March, but when Edward's advance guard reached the town they discovered that Warwick and Clarence had fled west. Their plan was to head to Lord Stanley at Manchester and attempt to gain his support. Edward lacked the supplies to follow them so instead he headed to York, where he could block any possible junction between the Yorkshire rebels and Warwick's men. From York he gave Warwick and Clarence until 28 March to submit to him, and also sent orders to Ireland and to Calais in an attempt to prevent them from finding refuge in either place.

Things went Edward's way while he was at York. Scrope and Conyers submitted and were pardoned. On 25 March Henry Percy was restored to the earldom of Northumberland, and John Neville was made Marquess of Montague. Warwick and Clarence were unable to convince Lord Stanley to help them, and decided to escape into exile. They headed south, reaching Bristol and then the Devon coast, from where they sailed. Edward followed and was at Salisbury by 25 April, but by then Warwick and Clarence had left the country.

Warwick may have hoped to repeat his naval exploits of previous years, but this time he was defeated. His flagship was at Southampton, so as he passed he attempted to capture the Royal fleet, but this time he was repulsed. He then made for Calais, where he got a nasty shock. He had been expecting his lieutenant at Calais, Lord Wenlock, to let him in, but the garrison was split and the advice of Gaillard, Lord Duras, a Gascon exile who was loyal to Edward IV was taken. While Warwick was trying to get access to Calais his daughter gave birth at sea - the mother survived but her son died. After leaving Calais Warwick attacked a Flemish fleet, but he was then attacked by Edward's fleet under Lord Howard and suffered another defeat. Warwick's only option now was to seek refuge in France, where Margaret of Anjou had her court in exile.

The Lancastrian Interlude

What had been an internal Yorkist civil war now expanded into a full renewal of the Wars of the Roses, as well as gaining an important European element that it kept for the next two years. Warwick had long favoured a pro-French diplomatic policy, while Edward IV had favoured Burgundy. Louis XI of France decided that the best way to ensure a friendly England was to arrange for a reconciliation between Margaret of Anjou and Warwick. Not all of the exiled Lancastrians were in favour of a pro-French alliance - Edmund Beaufort, recognised as the fourth duke of Somerset by the Lancastrians (and later by the Tudors) spent most of his time at the court of Charles the Bold of Burgundy, and strongly advised against it, but his was an isolated voice. After some difficult negotiations Warwick met with Queen Margaret at Angers on 22 July 1470. He was forced to stay on his knees asking for forgiveness for a quarter of an hour, but an alliance was soon arranged. On 25 July Warwick's daughter Anne Neville was betrothed to the sixteen year old Prince Edward of Lancaster. Warwick would lead a pro-Lancastrian invasion of England and restore Henry VI, who was still alive and a prisoner in the Tower of London. Queen Margaret and Prince Edward would only cross to England once Edward IV had been defeated, and in the meantime they would be represented by Jasper Tudor. Anne Neville would remain in France, officially with her new fiancée but really as a hostage.

The new alliance was unstable almost from the start. If Warwick were to succeed he would have to find ways to reward his own supporters, any Yorkists who aided him and the Lancastrians who would return from exile. His immediate problem was military - Edward IV was expecting an invasion, and his fleet was still patrolling the Channel. He had also gained the active support of Charles of Burgundy after Warwick's attack on the Flemish fleet, and in mid-June the Burgundian fleet joined the English fleet and imposed a blockade of Warwick's fleet in the Seine estuary. In late June the blockade was briefly lifted and Warwick's fleet moved to Barfleur and Le Hogue, but the Channel was still held against him and the blockade was re-imposed in July.

Warwick planned to repeat his strategy of earlier years, triggering a revolt in the north that would force Edward to move north. He would then land in the south and catch Edward out of position. Warwick could rely on some support in Wales, where Jasper Tudor had followers, and he had received promises of support from Lord Stanley in the north-west and John Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury. The potential attitude of Warwick's brother John Neville, marquis of Montagu, would be crucial. He had been loyal to Edward IV during Warwick's revolt, but must have been aggrieved when he lost the earldom of Northumberland to the restored Henry Percy. Although his new title was technically a promotion, it clearly didn't make up for the set-back in the long feud with the Percies.

In late July revolts broke out in Cumberland and in the North Riding of Yorkshire. The Cumberland revolt was led by Richard Salkeld, who had previously served Warwick as constable of Carlisle Castle. In Yorkshire the revolt was led by Lord FitzHugh of Ravensworth, Warwick's brother in law. Both revolts included a large number of Neville retainers, many of whom were threatened by the Percy restoration. Edward IV responded by moving north at speed - he was at York by 14 August and Ripon on 16 August and the rebellions collapsed. Edward then stayed in the north for the rest of August and into September, perhaps in an attempt to make sure that John Neville was still loyal.

In France Warwick had been suffering from a lack of money, while the close blockade prevented him from making his move, but in early September a Channel storm scattered the blockading fleets. On 9 September Warwick and Clarence set sail, and a few days later they landed near Exeter. Jasper Tudor was sent into Wales, while the main army moved north-east to Coventry. Salisbury and Stanley both joined the invaders, and they soon had a large army.

Edward IV responded by moving south to join the army he had ordered to muster at Nottingham. The scene appeared to be set for another major battle, but Edward's position collapsed with startling speed. Edward was at the heart of the army he had taken north to deal with the revolts, but the main powers in the north were John Neville, whose loyalty had just been tested by the Percy restoration, and Henry Percy himself. The Percies had been dedicated Lancastrians since 1455 and had suffered for the cause - two earls of Northumberland had been killed in the wars (one at the First Battle of St. Albans, the second at Towton) and the current Henry Percy had spent years in the Tower of London before being restored. The Percy affinity had suffered badly at Towton and had been forced to watch their hated rivals the Nevilles gain power ever since. It would have been very hard for Percy to convince his men to fight for Edward IV, despite his recent restoration.

In the event Percy remained effectively neutral in both 1470 and 1471, a decision that played a crucial part in Edward IV's eventual victory. It was John Neville who decided to change sides at this crucial moment and join with his brother. Neville kept his decision secret almost to the last moment, and came very close to capturing Edward. On the evening of 2 October Edward was preparing to eat in his quarters at Doncaster when the news arrived. Montagu was nearby with several thousand troops. Edward's own men were scattered in small parties as they hadn’t expected any danger. Edward took the only option available to him and fled. Along with a small party he reached the Lincolnshire coast, crossed the Wash and reached King's Lynn. From there the refugees crossed to the Low Countries. They were nearly intercepted by a Hanseatic fleet (Edward had recently suspended the Hanseatic League's commercial privileges during a trade dispute), but were rescued by Louis of Gruthyse (or Gruuthuse), the Burgundian governor of Holland. For the next two months Edward stayed with Gruthyse, before finally being granted an audience with his brother-in-law Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy.

Edward IV's Return from Exile

There were now three centres of potential political power for England. Warwick had entered London in triumph on 6 October, five days after Edward's wide Queen Elizabeth took sanctuary at Westminster. On 2 November she gave birth to their first son, Prince Edward, the future Edward V. Warwick behaved well towards the Queen, sending her help in sanctuary. Henry VI was found in the Tower, released and acknowledged as king, but for the moment Warwick was the head of the 'readeption' government. He appears to have been fairly popular in London, but struggled to gain much support amongst the peers, and had to cope with the first wave of returning Lancastrian exiles.

The second centre of power was in France, where Queen Margaret remained for far too long. On 13 December Prince Edward and Anne Neville were married, and preparations were put in place for their return to England, but they didn’t actually land on the south coast until 14 April 1471, the same day that their cause suffered a blow when Edward defeated Warwick at Barnet.

The third centre of power was in Burgundy, where the exiled Edward IV attempted to gain the support of his brother in law. At first Charles the Bold was neutral - he had family connections to the Lancastrians and was close to Edmund Beaufort. Charles needed England as an ally against the French, but it didn’t really matter if that ally was led by Edward IV or by Henry VI. Charles is said to have sent Beaufort to Calais in an attempt to stop Warwick allying with the French, but these efforts failed. One of the reasons Warwick had turned against Edward in the first place was his desire to ally with France, and he was hardly going to change his attitude now Louis XI had helped him back into power.

On 3 December 1471 Louis XI repudiated the Peace of Peronne, the agreement that ended the previous Franco-Burgundian War, and declared all of Charles's French lands to be forfeit. Although this didn't trigger an immediate return to war, it did encourage Charles to support Edward and on 2 January 1471 the two men met for the first time since Edward had gone into exile. Charles agreed to support Edward, although at first this was kept secret. On 31 December 1470 Charles granted Edward £20,000 to help with the invasion, provided troops and helped him gather ships. On 6 January the Burgundian town of St. Quentin was taken by the French, further encouraging the Duke to support Edward.

By mid-February Edward had gathered a fleet of thirty-six ships, including fifteen Hanseatic ships gained by promising commercial concessions. He also got in touch with potential supporters in England, including the restored earl of Northumberland and the duke of Norfolk. Most importantly he made efforts to detach Clarence from his new friends. The new arrangements in England didn't offer Clarence much hope - he had gone from being close to the throne to being an awkward reminder of the expelled Yorkist dynasty. The best he could hope for was to be made duke of York, replacing Edward IV, who held that title.

In England Warwick prepared for an invasion. His brother Montagu was put in charge in the north. Jasper Tudor, Clarence and Warwick were to raise troops in Wales and the Marches, while Clarence, Scrope of Bolton, the earl of Oxford and Warwick received commissions of array for the rest of England. His agents watched Edward's fleet grow, but Warwick's own fleet was under-funded and too easily distracted by chances for piracy.

On 2 March 1471 Edward embarked his 1,200 soldiers on his fleet at Flushing. He would have to rely on finding allies in England if he wanted to depose Warwick, and so couldn’t afford any setbacks. As a result he refused to let his men disembark when the winds kept them at Flushing, and they stayed onboard ship until they could finally sail on 11 March. The journey was hit by storms, and the fleet was scattered as it made its way up the east coast. An attempt to land in Norfolk was cancelled after it became clear that Edward would find no support, and on 14 March he finally landed at Ravenspur, on the east coast of Yorkshire. This long disappeared port (built on what is now Spurn Point, a movable feature that is slowly migrating west up the Humber) was the same place where Henry of Bolingbroke had landed in 1399 on his way to seize the throne.

At first Edward's return didn't go well. On the first night he only had 500 men with him, but the rest of his force straggled in on the next day. He was faced with a larger local army under Martin de la See. Edward claimed that he had only returned to reclaim the Duchy of York, and this was enough to get him past de la See (legally it was later argued that this was true, as technically the duke of York was also rightful king of England). Hull refused to let him in. When he reached York the city only allowed him to enter with a small escort, but after a few hours Edward had charmed the city leaders and they let his army spent the night in the city. From York he moved to Sandal, and the first potential crisis of the expedition - Montagu with a sizable army of his own was only seven miles away at Pontefract, and could probably have crushed Edward's army quite easily. Instead he did nothing and allowed Edward to slip past him. Even at the time his motives were the subject of some debate. The most likely explanation is that the earl of Northumberland remained neutral, and without his support Montagu struggled to raise a powerful enough army to risk a battle.

Edward's army grew slowly as he moved south. William Dudley joined him at Doncaster with 160 men, while Sir William Parr and Sir James Harrington arrived with 600 men at Nottingham. Even so Edward was outnumbered by the local Lancastrians under the duke of Exeter, the earl of Oxford and Lord Beaumont, who were reported to have 4,000 men nearby at Newark. Edward's response was typically bold - he led his smaller army straight towards Newark. The Lancastrian leaders panicked and fled, giving Edward some breathing space.

He badly needed it - Montagu was now closing in from the north and Warwick was approaching Leicester, while Exeter and Oxford's army soon recovered. Once again Edward's reputation for boldness probably helped - as he advanced south Warwick pulled back to Coventry, arriving on 27 March. Edward reached Leicester, where he was joined by 3,000 men sent by Lord Hastings. Edward now advanced towards Coventry, and on 29 March issued a summons to battle. Warwick refused, possibly because Clarence had been advising him to wait until he arrived with reinforcements. Edward moved to Warwick, where he prepared for the arrival of Clarence.

This was the decisive moment of the campaign so far. As Clarence approached he decided to change sides, and on 3 April Edward and his brother were reunited in a theatrical meeting held between their two armies. The family rift was at least temporarily healed, and Edward had gained 4,000 fresh troops. There was now a real chance that a major battle would soon take place - both of the two main armies were now united and faced each other across a short distance, but Warwick refused to fight. Instead he stayed inside the walls of Coventry, presumably hoping to force Edward into a costly siege or at least delay him until Queen Margaret's long-expected arrival would bring him reinforcements.

Edward broke the deadlock on 5 April by marching for London. This was a calculated gamble - if the city was held against him then Edward might be trapped between the walls and Warwick's army, but if it fell then Edward would have control of the government, not to mention the arms held in the Tower of London. London was held by two of the returned Lancastrian leaders - Edmund Beaufort, duke of Somerset and John Courtenay, heir to the earls of Devon. As Edward approached from the north news reached them that Queen Margaret was finally about to sail. Their loyalty was to the Lancastrian dynasty, not to Warwick, and so on 8 April they left London and headed west (perhaps rather oddly leaving Henry VI behind). Warwick's brother, George Neville, archbishop of York, made a brief attempt to defend the city but realised that it was a hopeless cause and on 11 April Edward was able to enter London. Henry VI was sent back to the tower and Edward then went to Westminster where he was united with his wife and new-borne son.

For the next two days Edward was busy preparing his army for the arrival of Warwick, who had followed him south. On 14 April the two sides clashed at the battle of Barnet (fought close to the site of the two battles of St. Albans), in a battle fought in thick fog. The battle ended in another major victory for Edward. Warwick and Montagu were both killed in the fighting. However on the very same day Queen Margaret and Prince Edward landed at Weymouth - the war was not yet over.

The news reached London two days after the battle of Barnet. Queen Margaret was able to raise a sizable army in the West Country, and decided to risk fighting on despite the loss of her main ally. The Lancastrians decided to try and break out of the West Country and head north into the Lancastrian heartlands in the north. This would also allow them to join up with Jasper Tudor and his Welsh troops. Edward couldn't be sure where they were planning to go, so he slowly advanced up the Thames valley. After spending 19-24 April at Windsor while his army mustered, he then moved to Abingdon on 27-28 April. At Abingdon he realised which way the Lancastrians were going, and on 29 April Edward's men made a long march to Cirencester.

At the same time the Lancastrians were approaching Bath, arriving on 30 April. Edward expected a battle to be fought somewhere to the north-east of Bath, and so moved south towards Malmesbury. This put him nearer to the Lancastrians, but further from the crucial crossings over the River Severn, the Lancastrian target. While Edward prepared for battle at Malmesbury, the Lancastrians turned west and reached Bristol (1-2 May). They managed to trick Edward again on 2 May. This time it looked as if they were planning to fight at Sodbury Hill, and so Edward advanced carefully towards Chipping Sodbury. When he got there he found no enemies - the Lancastrians had turned north and by the end of 2 May had reached Berkeley, heading up the Severn towards the bridge at Gloucester.

On the morning of 3 May the Lancastrians reached Gloucester, but there they met their first setback. Sir Richard Beauchamp, governor and constable of Gloucester, remained loyal to Edward and shut the gates against them. With Edward nearby the Lancastrians couldn't risk an attack on the town, and so that afternoon they continued their march, heading towards a ford over the river at Tewkesbury. This would have been a much slower crossing point, and so the Lancastrian leadership decided to stand and fight at Tewkesbury.

The final battle of the second phase of the Wars of the Roses took place south of Tewkesbury on 4 May 1471. The key event in the battle was an attempt by the duke of Somerset to attack Edward's flanks. At first this went well, but Edward was able to get reinforcements to that part of the battle. Somerset's battle was forced from the field. Edward was then able to turn on Prince Edward, destroying his part of the army. Prince Edward was killed in the battle, effectively destroying the House of Lancaster. Somerset was captured, tried and executed two days after the battle and on 7 May Queen Margaret herself was captured.

Although the main Lancastrian cause had now been crushed, Edward still faced opposition. After Tewkesbury he headed north to deal with yet another revolt in Yorkshire, but when the news of Tewkesbury reached them the rebels disappeared. There was a more serious revolt in Kent, led by Warwick's cousin Thomas Neville, the Bastard of Fauconberg. This revolt threatened London, and on 12 May Fauconberg launched an attack on the city. This attack was repulsed as was a major attack on 14 May and after this Fauconberg's army began to dissolve. By the time Edward entered London in triumph on 21 May the danger was over. During this first short visit to London Henry VI died, almost certainly at Edward's orders. The last serious focus of Lancastrian revolts was gone and the rest of Edward's reign would be almost free of domestic warfare.

The long peace

Edward IV ruled for another twelve years after the battle of Tewkesbury, and never had to fight another battle. There were still some Lancastrians in exile, most notably Jasper Tudor and his nephew Henry Tudor, who was now the Lancastrian claimant to the throne through his mother, Margaret Beaufort, a direct descendent of Edward III through his third son John of Gaunt. The Tudors spent the rest of Edward's reign in exile in Brittany, and posed no threat his throne.

Edward's reign was generally successful. He was supported ably by his brother Richard, duke of Gloucester, although Clarence continued to be a problem and was executed in 1478. Edward had a second son, Richard and his line appeared to be secure. This all changed in 1483. Edward was taken ill and died unexpected on 9 April, aged only forty. His heir, now Edward V, was twelve - way too young to rule and so a regency would be needed. Edward named his brother Gloucester as protector of the realm, presumably with every expectation that his brother would carry out that task loyally.

The new king's reign began with the almost tradition struggle for political power that followed the succession of a minor, but this time with an unusually bloodthirsty twist. When Edward IV died Richard was in the north and Edward V was at Ludlow. The young king was in the hands of his mother's Woodville relatives, and in particular his uncle, Earl Rivers. Gloucester could rely on quite a bit of support if he attempted to take the king from the unpopular Woodvilles. In particular he had the support of Lord Hastings, who was involved in a feud with the Woodvilles and of Henry Stafford, second duke of Buckingham, who despite having married a Woodville was excluded from political power.

Gloucester, Hastings and Buckingham arranged to intercept Edward V as he travelled from Ludlow to London. On 29 April Gloucester and Buckingham were at Northampton, where they entertained Earl Rivers and Sir Richard Grey. The next day both men were arrested, then Gloucester and Buckingham caught up with the king at Stony Stafford and took charge of him. His mother realised how dangerous this was, and briefly considered attempting a rescue, but Gloucester's move didn't trigger many alarm bells elsewhere - he was after all both the boy's uncle and his protector. That night the Queen, taking Edward's brother Richard duke of York with her, sought sanctuary at Westminster Abbey.

On 4 May Gloucester and Buckingham entered London. At this stage they claimed that they had saved the king from 'evil councillors'. The coronation, which had been planned for May, was put back to 22 June. Gloucester now had control of the king and London. The Woodvilles had lost most of their power, but they did still have control of a powerful fleet on the Kent coast. Gloucester moved quickly and an offer of a free pardon for all who deserted Sir Edward Woodville soon detached the fleet. Quite what the pardon was meant to be for isn't clear!

Gloucester now had control of the government, and could have ruled as protector for the next decade, but it soon became very clear that he actually intended to seize the throne for himself. The first move came on 13 June. Lord Hastings, Thomas Rotherham archbishop of York, John Morton bishop of Ely and Oliver King, the king's secretary, were all arrested while sitting in council in the Tower of London. Hastings was executed and the others were locked up. Richard claimed that he had discovered a plot, but the real reason for the dramatic murder of one of Gloucester's original allies isn't at all clear. It is possible that he had discovered Richard's plans to seize the throne, or that he opposed the use of force to remove Richard of York from sanctuary.

This was Gloucester's next move. On 16 June armed men surrounded the sanctuary and forced the queen to hand over the young Duke. He joined his brother in the Tower of London, officially so that he could be present at the coronation, which was only a few days away.

22 June did not go as Edward V might have hoped. Instead of his coronation he was the subject of a hostile sermon preached by Dr Ralph Shaw, brother of the mayor of London, at St Paul's Cross. Shaw claimed that Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville had never been legally married and their children were therefore illegitimate. He then invited Gloucester to take the throne. On 26 June Buckingham repeated the request, and this time Richard accepted. On the previous day Earl Rivers, Richard Grey and Sir Thomas Vaughan had been executed at Pontefract, removing more possible opposition. On 6 July Gloucester was crowned as Richard III, beginning one of the most controversial reigns of any English monarch. This also made 1483 the first year since 1066 to see three kings on the England throne.

The Princes in the Tower disappeared from view towards the end of the summer. By the autumn most people assumed that Richard III had murdered them. Richard was unable to display the living princes to disprove this theory. He had proved himself willing to kill to get to the throne, and as the death of Clarence had shown the House of York wasn't unwilling to kill its own members. Quite why Richard would have kept two Princes with a rival claim to his shaky throne alive in secret in the Tower for the next two years isn't at all clear. The balance of probability suggests that Richard was responsible for the deaths of his nephews. People certainly believed this to be the case at the time - even by the end of 1483 - and it played a part in his eventual downfall. 

The Third War - 1483-1487

Richard III's seizure of the throne triggered the third and final phase of the Wars of the Roses. This began with Buckingham's Revolt in 1483. In 1485 Henry Tudor invaded and defeated and killed Richard at Bosworth Field. For some this ends the Wars of the Roses, but only two years later Henry VII faced Lambert Simnel's revolt, a dangerous Yorkist uprising that was only ended by the battle of Stoke (16 June 1487). Perkin Warbeck's revolt in the 1490s played on some of the same Yorkist claims, but was a rather less serious affair and can be seen as part of the normal violent background of Medieval politics.

Although Richard's seizure of the throne had gone smoothly, it was not long before the opposition to him regained its balance and prepared for a counter-blow. Most of the men involved in this first revolt were either supporters of the Woodvilles or members of Edward IV's household. Queen Elizabeth, still in Westminster, was being carefully watched, but her brothers the marquis of Dorset and the Bishop of Salisbury played a major part in the plot. The plotters had strongholds in Kent, Devon and the Wiltshire and Berkshire area. At first the plotters was aiming to rescue Edward V and restore him to the throne, but this changed when the duke of Buckingham joined the rebels. By this point it appears that the rebels believed that Edward V and his brother were both dead, and so they moved their attention to Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond. Tudor's mother Margaret Beaufort, now married to Lord Stanley, one of Richard's chief supporters, was one of the key conspirators.

Richard was soon aware that something was afoot, but he placed Buckingham in charge of the efforts to deal with any problems in the south. The rebels appear to have planned a multi-pronged attack, with revolts in the south and in Wales, while Henry Tudor was to land on the south coast. The revolt broke out in early October. Kent was in arms by 10 October and Richard knew Buckingham was involved by 11 October. On the same day Richard summoned an army, which was to meet at Leicester on 21 October. On 23 October he offered a pardon to any yeoman and commoners who laid down their arms. Buckingham failed to gain much support amongst the peers. He began his march in bad weather in mid October, but soon panicked when he didn't receive as much support as he had hoped. He abandoned his army and attempted to seek safety, but was betrayed by one of his followers. With the duke captured the revolt in the south-west collapsed. Buckingham was executed at Salisbury on 2 November. Henry Tudor had made a very brief appearance on the south coast, but fled back to Brittany when it became clear that the uprising had failed.

Henry Tudor now became the centre of resistance to Richard. Sir Edward Woodville, the defeated commander of the fleet, arrived first with his two remaining warships (Trinity and Falcon). Later in the year the survivors of Buckingham's revolt began to arrive in Brittany, amongst them the marquis of Dorset, Bishop Peter Courtenay and a number of Edward IV's courtiers. Henry Tudor was already taking on some of the trappings of a 'unity' candidate, combining a Lancastrian claim to the throne with the support of parts of the Yorkist establishment, displaced by Richard's coup. He confirmed this status on 25 December when he vowed to marry Elizabeth of York, the eldest daughter of Edward IV, a marriage that would unite the two rival claims to the throne.

Henry's biggest problem was that Brittany was vulnerable to English pressure. The duchy was always threatened by the French, and wanted England as an ally against any French expansionism (Duke Francis II's heir was his daughter Anne, and as the Bretons had feared she was eventually forced to marry Charles VIII of France, ending Breton independence). Richard played on that fear by engaging in a naval war with the Bretons in the Channel, and this may have helped play a part in Henry Tudor's removal from Brittany. In June 1484 the naval war came to an end, and by October Henry can be proved to have moved to France. Duke Francis's treasurer may have been involved in a plot to capture Henry and hand him over to Richard, but when the Duke recovered from an illness he continued to support Henry financially. The move to France was actually good for Henry - it put him out of Richard's reach, and it would be Charles VIII of France who helped fund his eventual invasion.

Richard had less luck at home. In February 1484 parliament had recognised his son Prince Edward of Middleham as heir to the throne, but in April the young prince died. Richard now had no heir. In March 1485 he suffered another blow when his wife Anne Neville died. As well as the personal grief, this soon caused Richard political problems. He had just come to terms with Edward IV's widow and she left sanctuary, but after the death of Anne rumours began to spread that Richard was planning to marry his niece Elizabeth of York. On 30 March Richard was actually forced to publically deny these rumours, which had threatened his connection to the Neville affinity in the north.

Henry was now attracting an increasing number of exiles. One of the most significant additions to his strength came when James Blout, captain of Hammes Castle (one of the outlying fortresses of Calais) and John Fortescue, gentleman porter of Calais, defected, taking with them John de Vere, earl of Oxford, a Lancastrian who had been a prisoner at Hammes for ten years. Richard was able to re-take Hammes during the winter of 1484-85, but no longer trusted the established leadership at Calais and made his illegitimate son John of Gloucester captain of Calais. John was still a minor and so in effect Richard was taking personal control of this crucial position.

Henry and Richard both spent 1484 preparing for the upcoming invasion. Richard spent most of the year in the Midlands, from where he could respond to any possible invasion. By December he was said to have become rather twitchy. On 7 December he issued his first proclamation against Henry Tudor. On 8 December he issued commissions of array for most English counties, preparing to raise an army. On 18 December he ordered a military census of the lords and gentry to be carried out, to find out how many men each could raise at half a day's notice. He was said to have been notably relieved early in 1485 when his spies reported that the invasion would come that summer.

Henry spent his time attempting to gain support in England and Wales. His uncle Jasper Tudor, earl of Pembroke, had been in exile for some time but might still have supporters in Wales. The Stanley family, powerful in north Wales, Cheshire and the north-west of England agreed to support him, as did Gilbert Talbot, the uncle of the fourth earl of Shrewsbury, Sir John Savage, a member of Edward IV's household and Rhys ap Thomas, one of the most powerful figures in south Wales. This decided Henry's course of action - when the invasion came he would land in Wales, collect his support there and then join up with the Stanleys before attacking Richard. If there was any agreement with Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland, it hasn’t survived but Percy's inaction at Bosworth would be crucial.

The Bosworth Campaign

In the spring of 1485 Henry moved to Rouen, where with French money he gathered a small fleet in the Seine estuary. Richard put his fleet to sea under the command of Sir George Neville, but it had no impact. In June Richard issued another proclamation against Tudor, this time concentrating on his illegitimate birth - both on the Beaufort side and on the Tudor side (Owen Tudor was also illegitimate). He issued commissions of array then went to Nottingham Castle, where he prepared for the invasion. If all went well Richard would have a sizable army. His own contingent was quite sizable and would probably outnumber Henry Tudor's army at Bosworth. The earl of Northumberland could provide several thousand men, and had been well rewarded by Richard during his short reign. The Stanleys were less certain, but even without them Richard could approach the upcoming battle with some confidence.

On 1 August Henry's fleet sailed from Harfleur, and on 7 August he landed at Milford Haven. He had several hundred English exiles and between 2,000 and 3,000 Norman troops under Philibert de Chandée (made earl of Bath in 1486), and so the success of his expedition would rely entirely on any support he would gain in Wales and England. At first this support wasn't forthcoming. There were rumours that Rhys ap Thomas had changed his mind, and at one point the army believed that Sir Walter Herbert was close with a hostile army, but neither turned out to be true. Henry marched up the west coast to Aberystwyth, then headed across north Wales towards Shrewsbury. Thomas joined him on the road, and at Shrewsbury he was joined by Gilbert Talbot.

News of the landing reached Richard on around 11 August. He summoned Northumberland, Norfolk, Surrey and the Stanleys to the muster at Leicester and prepared to resist the invader. The Stanleys found themselves in a difficult position. Lord Stanley had left court early in the year. Richard now ordered him to either attend in person or send his son Lord Strange. Strange reached court just before the news of Henry's invasion arrived. Lord Stanley was summoned again, and refused to comply, claiming to be sick. Strange attempted to escape, but was captured and admitted under questioning that Sir William Stanley was planning to help Henry, but claimed that Lord Stanley was still loyal. As Richard headed towards the inevitable battle he took Lord Strange with him as a hostage. This forced the Stanleys to conceal their support for Henry

From Shrewsbury Henry advanced to Stafford. Lord Stanley, who was at Lichfield with two or three thousand men, withdrew to the east, heading towards Richard's muster at Leicester in an attempt to convince the king of his loyalty. Henry moved to Lichfield, then to Tamworth. From Tamworth he went to Atherstone for a secret meeting with Lord Stanley and Sir William Stanley. Once again they assured Henry of their support, and promised to fight for him on the battlefield but refused to come out as his supporters before the battle.

On 21 August Richard marched out of Leicester. He outnumbered Henry's army, and had more peers with him. Henry Percy earl of Northumberland, John Howard duke of Norfolk and his son Surrey were all with the Royal army. On the morning of 22 August the two armies clashed in the battle of Bosworth, the last full scale battle of the Wars of the Roses. The historical battle is best known for the number of men who turned up but didn’t take part. Richard and Henry lined up their main armies ready for the battle. Henry Percy formed Richad's rearguard, watching Lord Stanley, whose powerful contingent formed up at an equal distance from the two main armies (Shakespeare's fictional version of the battle is much better known that the fairly badly documented actual battle). Percy didn’t take any part in the battle at all, and Stanley waited for the right moment to intervene.

The battle began with some hard fighting in the centre, but it was decided by a gamble on Richard's part. He spotted Henry Tudor's household in an isolated position, took his own household around the battle and charged in an attempt to kill his rival and thus behead the enemy army. This attack came close to success, and Henry is said to have been involved in hand-to-hand fighting. It also gave Sir William Stanley the chance to decide the battle (and effectively to pick which side won). He chose to stick by Henry, and his men overwhelmed Richard's household. Richard himself was killed fighting bravely, and with that the heart went out of the rest of his army. A number of Richard's closest supporters were killed on the battlefield, amongst them the duke of Norfolk. Lord Stanley is said to have crowned Henry on the battlefield after Richard's crown was found in a bush.

The Last Embers of the Wars

Although Bosworth is normally seen as the end of the Wars of the Roses, there were still credible Yorkist claimants to the throne. Edward, earl of Warwick, was the young son of Edward IV's brother Clarence and Isabella Neville. He was an unfortunate figure who spent most of his life imprisoned before finally being executed in 1499 after being tricked into an attempt to escape from the Tower (Henry was motivated by pressure from Spain during the negotiations for the marriage of Prince Arthur and Catherine of Aragon).  John de la Pole, earl of Lincoln, was the son of Elizabeth Plantagenet, the sister of Edward IV and Richard III. At first Lincoln appeared to be content with Tudor rule, but he played a part in the revolt of 1487. 

In the meantime Henry established himself securely on the throne. He was crowned as Henry VII on 30 October 1485, and carried out his promise to marry Elizabeth of York on 18 January 1486. His first parliament began on 7 November 1485. Richard III had begun by attainting over one hundred of his enemies, but Henry was much more moderate and only a handful of Richard's supporters at Bosworth lost their lands. 

Inevitably there was resistance to the new regime, especially in the north where Richard III's support had been strongest. The first revolt came in 1486. Humphrey Stafford and Lord Lovell had both reached sanctuary after Bosworth, but in 1486 they escaped and began revolts - Lovell in Yorkshire and Stafford in Worcestershire. Henry was actually in the north when the revolt broke out, and he quickly had it under control A mix of rapid movement and the offer of pardons dissolved Lovell's support - Lovell fled, first into north Lancashire and then to Flanders (he would reappear with Lambert Simnel). Most of his men were pardoned. Henry then turned south-west to deal with Stafford, but by the time the king reached the area the revolt had collapsed. Stafford was captured and executed and for the moment the country was at peace.

This peace would be disturbed by a bizarre plot that gained the support of Margaret of Burgundy, Edward IV's sister and now the widow of Charles the Bold of Burgundy. She was wealth, powerful and for the next decade determined to overthrown Henry VII. In 1487 her hopes revolved around Lambert Simnel, the son of a carpenter. He was trained to impersonate Edward, duke of Warwick, and was taken to Ireland, where he was accepted as genuine by Gerald Fitzgerald, eighth earl of Kildare. Kildare had been lord deputy of Ireland under Edward IV and Richard III, and remained loyal to the Yorkists. Unlike Richard III, Henry was able to respond by having the real earl of Warwick paraded through the streets of London on 17 February.

Henry soon faced a second threat. Early in 1487 Lincoln fled to Flanders where he joined Margaret of Burgundy, his aunt. Henry expected to face an invasion from Flanders, but instead Lincoln chose to join Simnel and Kildare in Ireland. On 5 May he landed at Dublin with 2,000 German mercenaries (and Lord Lovell), and on 24 May Simnel was crowned as Edward VI.

The rebels now attempted yet another invasion of England. On 4 June they landed on the Furness peninsula (then northern Lancashire, now part of south Cumbria). The rebel army crossed the Pennines, marched down Wensleydale to Masham (8 June), where they got in touch with Lords Scrope of Bolton and Scope of Masham, but they failed to gain significant support. They then turned south and heading into Nottinghamshire. By 15 June they were close to Newark.

Henry VII was approaching from the south. By 11 June he was at Loughborough and by 14 June at Nottingham, where he paused to scout out Lincoln's route. On the same day Lord Strange arrived with the Stanley contingent, said to have been large enough to have won the battle by itself.

The two sides clashed at the battle of Stoke (16 June 1487), fought near the village of East Stoke. There was some hard fighting, but mainly involving the Royal vanguard. The rebel line broke and the rebels fled. Lincoln was killed in the fighting, and Simnel was captured. Henry treated him remarkably well, first giving him a job in the royal kitchen and then making him a falconer. He was later allowed to leave the royal service and died in obscurity in the 1520s or 1530s.

Kildare proved to be a remarkably resilient man. In 1488 he submitted to Henry VII, was pardoned, and continued as deputy. He was deposed in 1494 after becoming involved in Perkin Warbeck's revolt, but was restored again in 1496 and this time remained in favour until his death in 1513.

In August Henry VII travelled across the north, unravelling the last elements of Richard's old affinity, mostly by offering generous pardons. The Scropes were arrested and were imprisoned for some time. After their release they weren't allowed to travel north of the Trent. This expedition seems to have achieved its aims, and the rest of Henry's reign was remarkably peaceful. A second Yorkist pretender, Perkin Warbeck, was active in the 1490s, but he was more of a diplomatic threat and an attempt to start an uprising in Cornwall failed.

Henry VII finally ended the long chaos of the Wars of the Roses. Over thirty years only one monarch, Edward IV, had died of natural causes, although if he had lived much longer then the final stage of the wars probably wouldn't have happened. The true cost of the wars will probably never be known, but they were clearly very disruptive during the short but intense periods of active warfare. Although few aristocrat families died out, many suffered several generations of losses with an unusually high number of peers killed in or soon after battles. Each swing of fortune affected everyone in the affinities of the defeated peers, so the impact will have been felt across wide parts of society. Not every aristocratic family was involved in the fighting and not every region of the country saw conflict, but the relief with which Henry VII was welcomed on his way to London after Bosworth demonstrates how tired of war the country had become.

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J. (20 January 2014), War of the Roses, 1455-1485, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/wars_roses.html

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