Tag Archives: Wars of the Roses

15 May 1464 Battle of Hexham

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The “Traditional” interpretation of the battle.

Hexham was a short, but significant engagement in the Wars of the Roses resulting in the capture and execution of Lord Somerset, one of the main Lancastrian supporters and leading to the capture of King Henry VI.

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The Beaufort Company are a re-enactment group portraying Somerset’s men

After the battle of Hedgeley Moor, the Lancastrians failed to prevent the Yorkists from concluding peace negotiations with Scotland in 1463, and soon found that their northern base of operations was now threatened. It was decided to mount a campaign in the North of England to gather Lancastrian support before a huge force under Edward IV could muster in Leicester and move north to crush the rebellion.
The Lancastrian army moved through Northumberland in late April 1464 under the Duke of Somerset, and gathered support from Lancastrian garrisons until it camped near to Hexham in early May. A Yorkist force under John Neville raced north in vanguard of Edward’s larger force and the two sides met outside Hexham on 14 May 1464.

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The Beaufort Company marching from their camp

The Lancastrian camp was near Linnels Bridge over theDevil’s Water found slightly to the south of Hexham. The Yorkists crossed onto the south bank of the Tyne on the night of 12th/13 May and were by the morning of the 14th in a position to attack Hexham. Presumably the Yorkist advance was at speed, as despite warnings by their own scouts the Lancastrians had little time to prepare for battle.

It is thought Somerset rushed his forces to a site near Linnels Bridge and deployed his troops in 3 detachments in a meadow near the Devil’s Water, here he hoped he could engage the Yorkist army before it moved past him into Hexham. No sooner had the Lancastrians taken their positions than the Yorkists charged down from their positions on higher ground. Upon seeing the Yorkist advance the right detachment of the Lancastrian army, commanded by Lord Roos, turned and fled across the Devil’s Water and into Hexham, before a single blow had been struck. The remnants of Somerset’s force were in a hopeless situation, hemmed in and unable to manoeuvre; the Yorkist troops charged through the one opening at the east end of Linnel’s Meadow and engaged the bewildered Lancastrian soldiers.

Lancastrian morale collapsed, and after some token resistance the remains of Somerset’s army was pushed into the Devil’s Water by the Yorkist infantry. A chaotic rout followed, men either drowned in the river or were crushed as they tried to climb the steep banks of the Devil’s Water in the retreat towards Hexham. Most, however were trapped in West Dipton Wood on the north bank of the river and were forced to surrender when the Yorkists approached.

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Beheading of Somerset at Hexham

John Neville showed little of Edward’s concilatory spirit, and had thirty leading Lancastrians executed in Hexham on the evening following the battle, including the unfortunate Duke of Somerset and Lord Roos. Sir William Tailboys was captured and executed shortly after as he tried to flee north with £2000 of Henry’s war chest. On the loss of its leadership and bank roll, the Lancastrian resistance in the North of England collapsed. The capture of Henry at Bolton By Bowland, Clitheroe, Lancashire meant the rebellion was effectively over. There followed a relative period of peace until the Earl of Warwick’s defection to the Lancastrian cause in 1469 and the wars started anew.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Hexham)

Hexham pages

There are two current interpretations of the battle/.  the positions are shown on the map.  The alternative interpretation is

There is an account on the Richard III Foundation page here

4 May 1471 Battle of Tewksbury

EXAMPLE RATINGThe Battle of Tewkesbury, which took place on 4 May 1471, was one of the decisive battles of the Wars of the Roses. The forces loyal to the House of Lancaster were completely defeated by those of the rival House of York under their monarch, King Edward IV. The Lancastrian heir to the throne, Edward, Prince of Wales, and many prominent Lancastrian nobles were killed during the battle or were dragged from sanctuary two days later and immediately executed. The Lancastrian king, Henry VI, who was a prisoner in the Tower of London, died or was murdered shortly after the battle. Tewkesbury restored political stability to England until the death of Edward IV in 1483.

The Lancastrians arrived at Tewkesbury first on 3rd May. They had marched swiftly for several days, covering the last twenty four miles in just sixteen hours, and so their troops were exhausted. With Edward hard on their heels Somerset chose to stand and fight, rather than risk his army being caught in a bottle-neck as they attempted the difficult crossing of the Severn at Lower Lode, a mile south of the Abbey.

Somerset had the choice of ground and he chose to set his camp in a pasture close called ‘Gastum’ (now The Gastons) to the south of the Abbey. The next morning, the 4th May, he probably deployed his army between the Gastons and Gupshill Manor, with his left flank against the Swillgate River (little more than a stream) and his right across the gently sloping ground to a stream on the west. Thus Edward arrived to find the Lancastrians already deployed and so he arrayed his army to the south of and parallel to Somerset’s.

The battle of Tewkesbury was to prove a decisive encounter, which ended the second phase of the Wars of the Roses. Edward IV’s victory and the death of Henry VI’s son and heir, shortly followed by Henry’s own death and Queen Margaret’s imprisonment, destroyed hopes of a Lancastrian succession and led to fourteen years peace.

There is an annual festival to commemorate the battle and the town  has recently erected new statures.

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1 May 1464 – the Royal wedding which re-ignited the wars of the Roses

1st May 1464 is regarded as the date of the wedding of Edward IVth the Yorkist claimant and defacto King  to Elizabeth Woodville,  the widow of   Sir John Grey of Groby; who  died at the Second Battle of St Albans, leaving Elizabeth a widowed mother of two sons.

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Elizabeth Woodville: “the most beautiful woman in the Island of Britain” with “heavy-lidded eyes like those of a dragon”

Edward’s marriage to this impoverished commoner was one of the reasons for the rift between Edward and his cousin  Richard Neville the Earl of Warwick, “The King maker.”  By marrying Elizabeth, Edward  had derailed Warwick’s plans to marry Edward  to a French princess and undermined Warwick’s position as Edward’s principle adviser.   The consequences of the rift would be the resumption of the Wars from the rebellions fermented by Warwick in the late 1460s and Warwick’s eventual ill fated alliance with Margaret of Anjou and adoption of the Lancastian cause.

It has been suggested that the reason that the young Edward agreed to marry Elizabeth was because he had been influenced by Elizabeth’s beauty and her insistence on marriage as a price for her remaining virtue. Or maybe, as suggested by popular fiction she had used some occult charms  on Edward.

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King Edward IV

However, the idea that Edward was head over heels in love with Elizabeth deems at odds with his  subsequent  behaviour throughout their marriage,  Edward was also an astute politician.  His marriage to Elizabeth, from a large, fecund and impoverished  family  was not without its advantages,  It gave Edward a clan of followers entirely reliant on him.  It may have been a  mere co-incidence that Elizabeth’s dowry included the services of talended in laws such as Earl Rivers was a very fine soldier, or perhaps an eye for an opportunity.   Marrying the widow of a Lanacastrian was a gesture of reconciliation to others who took up arms for Henry VI.  It is around this time that Edward had tried to effect a reconciliation with Somerset.

The winner of this war was Elizabeth Woodville, whose descendants still occupy the British throne.

Possible site of the hermitage at Grafton
Possible site of the hermitage at Grafton

Although there was a state wedding in 1465 the secret wedding is alledged toi have taken place at the Hermitage in the village of Grafton.   There has  some archaeological work to find the site of the hermitage, reported here

There is also a traditional site of where Edward met Elizabeth under an oak street and offered to marry her,  a historic site of a clash in the battle of the sexes.

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The Woodville Oak” was where, according to local tradition Edward first met Elizabeth. The original oak died in the 1990s . This is a replacement planted by Prince Charles.