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Battle of Tewkesbury

Battle of Tewkesbury

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The Battle of Tewkesbury, which took place on 4 May 1471, was one of the decisive battles of the Wars of the Roses
Wars of the Roses
The Wars of the Roses were a series of dynastic civil wars for the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the houses of Lancaster and York...

. The forces loyal to the House of Lancaster
House of Lancaster
The House of Lancaster was a branch of the royal House of Plantagenet. It was one of the opposing factions involved in the Wars of the Roses, an intermittent civil war which affected England and Wales during the 15th century...

 were completely defeated by those of the rival House of York
House of York
The House of York was a branch of the English royal House of Plantagenet, three members of which became English kings in the late 15th century. The House of York was descended in the paternal line from Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, the fourth surviving son of Edward III, but also represented...

 under their monarch, King Edward IV
Edward IV of England
Edward IV was King of England from 4 March 1461 until 3 October 1470, and again from 11 April 1471 until his death. He was the first Yorkist King of England...

. 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
Henry VI of England
Henry VI was King of England from 1422 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471, and disputed King of France from 1422 to 1453. Until 1437, his realm was governed by regents. Contemporaneous accounts described him as peaceful and pious, not suited for the violent dynastic civil wars, known as the Wars...

, who was a prisoner in the Tower of London
Tower of London
Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, more commonly known as the Tower of London, is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England. It lies within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space...

, died or was murdered shortly after the battle. Tewkesbury restored political stability to England until Edward's death in 1483.


The term, the Wars of the Roses, refers to the informal heraldic badges of the two rival houses of Lancaster and York which had been contending for power, and ultimately for the throne, since the late 1450s. In 1461 the Yorkist claimant, Edward, Earl of March
Edward IV of England
Edward IV was King of England from 4 March 1461 until 3 October 1470, and again from 11 April 1471 until his death. He was the first Yorkist King of England...

, was proclaimed King Edward IV and defeated the supporters of the weak, intermittently insane Lancastrian king Henry VI at the Battle of Towton
Battle of Towton
In 1461, England was in the sixth year of the Wars of the Roses, a series of civil wars between the Houses of York and Lancaster over the English throne. The Lancastrians backed the reigning King of England, Henry VI, an indecisive man who suffered bouts of madness...

. Lancastrian revolts in the far north of England were defeated in 1464, and the fugitive King Henry was captured and imprisoned the next year. His Queen, Margaret of Anjou
Margaret of Anjou
Margaret of Anjou was the wife of King Henry VI of England. As such, she was Queen consort of England from 1445 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471; and Queen consort of France from 1445 to 1453...

, and their thirteen-year-old son Edward of Westminster
Edward of Westminster
Edward of Westminster , also known as Edward of Lancaster, was the only son of King Henry VI of England and Margaret of Anjou...

, were exiled and impoverished in France. Edward IV's hold on the throne appeared temporarily to be secure.

Edward IV owed his victory in large measure to the support of his cousin, the powerful Earl of Warwick. They became estranged when Edward spurned the French diplomatic marriage that Warwick was seeking for him and instead married Elizabeth Woodville, widow of an obscure Lancastrian gentleman, in secret in 1464. When the marriage became public knowledge, Edward placed many of his new queen's family in powerful positions that Warwick had hoped to control. Edward meanwhile reversed Warwick's policy of friendship with France by marrying his sister Margaret
Margaret of York
Margaret of York – also by marriage known as Margaret of Burgundy – was Duchess of Burgundy as the third wife of Charles the Bold and acted as a protector of the Duchy after his death. She was a daughter of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, and Cecily Neville, and the sister of...

 to Charles the Bold, the Duke of Burgundy
Duke of Burgundy
Duke of Burgundy was a title borne by the rulers of the Duchy of Burgundy, a small portion of traditional lands of Burgundians west of river Saône which in 843 was allotted to Charles the Bald's kingdom of West Franks...

. The embittered Warwick secured the support of Edward IV's brother George, Duke of Clarence, for a coup, in exchange for Warwick's promise to crown Clarence king. Although Edward was imprisoned briefly, Clarence was unacceptable as monarch to most of the country. Edward was allowed to resume his rule, outwardly reconciled with Warwick and Clarence. Within a year, he accused them of fresh treachery and forced them to flee to France.

Readeption of Henry VI

With no hope of a reconciliation with Edward, Warwick's best hope of regaining power in England lay in restoring Henry VI to the throne. Louis XI of France
Louis XI of France
Louis XI , called the Prudent , was the King of France from 1461 to 1483. He was the son of Charles VII of France and Mary of Anjou, a member of the House of Valois....

 feared a hostile alliance of Burgundy under Charles the Bold and England under Edward IV. He was prepared to support Warwick with men and money, but to give legitimacy to any uprising by Warwick, the acquiescence of Margaret of Anjou was required. Warwick and Margaret were previously sworn enemies, but Margaret's attendants (in particular Sir John Fortescue
John Fortescue
thumb|right|John FortescueSir John Fortescue was an English lawyer, and the author of the De laudibus legum Angliae, an influential treatise on English law.-Early life:...

, formerly Chief Justice during Henry VI's reign) and Louis eventually persuaded her to ally the House of Lancaster with Warwick. At Angers
Angers is the main city in the Maine-et-Loire department in western France about south-west of Paris. Angers is located in the French region known by its pre-revolutionary, provincial name, Anjou, and its inhabitants are called Angevins....

, Warwick begged her pardon on his knees for all past wrongs done to her, and was forgiven. Prince Edward was betrothed to Warwick's younger daughter Anne
Anne Neville
Lady Anne Neville was Princess of Wales as the wife of Edward of Westminster and Queen of England as the consort of King Richard III. She held the latter title for less than two years, from 26 June 1483 until her death in March 1485...

. (The marriage was eventually solemnised at Amboise
Amboise is a commune in the Indre-et-Loire department in central France. It lies on the banks of the Loire River, east of Tours. Today a small market town, it was once home of the French royal court...

 on 13 December 1470 but may not have been consummated, as Margaret was seeking a better match for Edward once he was King.) Finally, they swore loyalty to Henry VI on a fragment of the True Cross
True Cross
The True Cross is the name for physical remnants which, by a Christian tradition, are believed to be from the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.According to post-Nicene historians, Socrates Scholasticus and others, the Empress Helena The True Cross is the name for physical remnants which, by a...

 in Angers Cathedral. However, Margaret declined to let Prince Edward land in England or to land there herself until Warwick had established a firm government and made the country safe for them.

Warwick landed in the West Country on 13 September 1470, accompanied by Clarence and some unswerving Lancastrian nobles, including the Earl of Oxford
John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford
John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford , the second son of John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford, and Elizabeth Howard, was one of the principal Lancastrian commanders during the English Wars of the Roses...

 and Jasper Tudor, the Earl of Pembroke. As Edward made his way south to face Warwick, he realised that Warwick's brother John, Marquess of Montagu
John Neville, 1st Marquess of Montagu
John Neville, 1st Marquess of Montagu KG was a Yorkist leader in the Wars of the Roses, best-known for eliminating Lancastrian resistance in the north of England during the early part of the reign of Edward IV of England....

, who had up till then remained loyal to Edward, had defected at the head of a large army in the North of England. Edward fled to King's Lynn
King's Lynn
King's Lynn is a sea port and market town in the ceremonial county of Norfolk in the East of England. It is situated north of London and west of Norwich. The population of the town is 42,800....

 where he took ship for Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

, part of Burgundy, accompanied only by his youngest brother, Richard of Gloucester
Richard III of England
Richard III was King of England for two years, from 1483 until his death in 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty...

, and a few faithful adherents.

In London, Warwick released King Henry, led him in procession to Saint Paul's cathedral
Old St Paul's Cathedral
Old St Paul's Cathedral is a name used to refer to the medieval cathedral of the City of London which until 1666 stood on the site of the present St Paul's Cathedral. Built between 1087 and 1314 and dedicated to St Paul, the cathedral was the fourth church on the site at Ludgate Hill...

 and installed him in Westminster palace. Warwick's position nevertheless remained precarious. His alliance with Louis of France and his intention to declare war on Burgundy was contrary to the interests of the merchants, as it threatened English trade with Flanders
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

 and the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

. Clarence had long been excluded from Warwick's calculations. In November 1470, Parliament declared that Prince Edward and his descendants were Henry's heirs to the throne; Clarence would become King only if the Lancastrian line of succession failed. Unknown to Warwick, Clarence secretly became reconciled with his brother, King Edward.

Edward's landing and the death of Warwick

With Warwick in power in England, it was Charles of Burgundy's turn to fear a hostile alliance of England and France. As an obvious counter to Warwick, he supplied Edward with money (50,000 florins), ships and several hundred men (including handgunners). Edward set sail from Flushing
Flushing, Netherlands
Vlissingen is a municipality and a city in the southwestern Netherlands on the former island of Walcheren. With its strategic location between the Scheldt river and the North Sea, Vlissingen has been an important harbour for centuries. It was granted city rights in 1315. In the 17th century...

 on 11 March 1471 with 36 ships and 1200 men. He touched briefly on the English coast at Cromer
Cromer is a coastal town and civil parish in north Norfolk, England. The local government authority is North Norfolk District Council, whose headquarters is in Holt Road in the town. The town is situated 23 miles north of the county town, Norwich, and is 4 miles east of Sheringham...

 but found that the Duke of Norfolk
John de Mowbray, 4th Duke of Norfolk
John de Mowbray, 4th Duke of Norfolk, KG , known as 1st Earl of Surrey between 1451 and 1461, was the only son of John de Mowbray, 3rd Duke of Norfolk and Eleanor Bourchier. His maternal grandparents were William Bourchier, Count of Eu and Anne of Gloucester.In 1451 the earldom of Surrey was...

, who might have supported him, was away from the area and that Warwick controlled that part of the country. Instead, his ships made for Ravenspurn
Ravenspurn was a town in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, which was lost due to coastal erosion, one of more than 30 along the Holderness Coast which have been lost to the North Sea since the 19th century. The town was located close to the end of a peninsula near Ravenser Odd, which has also...

, near the mouth of the River Humber, where Henry Bolingbroke
Henry IV of England
Henry IV was King of England and Lord of Ireland . He was the ninth King of England of the House of Plantagenet and also asserted his grandfather's claim to the title King of France. He was born at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire, hence his other name, Henry Bolingbroke...

 had landed in 1399 on his way to reclaim the Duchy of Lancaster and ultimately depose Richard II
Richard II of England
Richard II was King of England, a member of the House of Plantagenet and the last of its main-line kings. He ruled from 1377 until he was deposed in 1399. Richard was a son of Edward, the Black Prince, and was born during the reign of his grandfather, Edward III...


Edward's landing was inauspicious at first; the ships were scattered by bad weather and his men landed in small detachments over a wide area on 14 March. The port of Kingston-upon-Hull refused to allow Edward to enter, so he made for York, claiming rather like Bolingbroke that he was seeking only the restoration of the Duchy of York. He then began to march south. Near Pontefract Castle
Pontefract Castle
Pontefract Castle is a castle in the town of Pontefract, in the City of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England. It was the site of the demise of Richard II of England, and later the place of a series of famous sieges during the English Civil War-History:...

 he evaded the troops of Warwick's brother Montagu. By the time Edward reached the city of Warwick
Warwick is the county town of Warwickshire, England. The town lies upon the River Avon, south of Coventry and just west of Leamington Spa and Whitnash with which it is conjoined. As of the 2001 United Kingdom census, it had a population of 23,350...

, he had gathered enough supporters to proclaim himself King again. The Earl of Warwick sent urgent requests for Queen Margaret, who was gathering fresh forces in France, to join him in England. He himself was at Coventry
Coventry is a city and metropolitan borough in the county of West Midlands in England. Coventry is the 9th largest city in England and the 11th largest in the United Kingdom. It is also the second largest city in the English Midlands, after Birmingham, with a population of 300,848, although...

, preparing to bar Edward's way to London, while Montagu hastened up behind the King's army.

Edward however, knew that Clarence was ready to turn his coat once again and betray Warwick, his father-in-law. He marched rapidly west and joined with Clarence's men who were approaching from Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire is a county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dean....

. Clarence appealed to Warwick to surrender, but Warwick refused to even speak to him. Edward's army made rapidly for London, pursued by Warwick and Montagu. London was supposedly defended by the 4th Duke of Somerset
Edmund Beaufort, 4th Duke of Somerset
Edmund Beaufort, 4th Duke of Somerset, 6th Earl of Somerset, 3rd Marquess of Dorset, 3rd Earl of Dorset was an English nobleman and military commander during the Wars of the Roses....

, but he was absent and the city readily admitted Edward. The unfortunate and by now feeble Henry VI was sent back to the Tower of London. Edward then turned about to face Warwick's approaching army. On 14 April, they met at the Battle of Barnet
Battle of Barnet
The Battle of Barnet was a decisive engagement in the Wars of the Roses, a dynastic conflict of 15th-century England. The military action, along with the subsequent Battle of Tewkesbury, secured the throne for Edward IV...

. In a confused fight in thick fog, some of Warwick's army attacked each other by mistake and at the cries of "Treachery!" his army disintegrated and was routed. Montagu died in the battle, and Warwick was cut down trying to reach his horse to escape.

The Tewkesbury campaign

Urged on by Louis XI, Margaret had finally sailed on 24 March. Storms forced her ships back to France several times, and she and Prince Edward finally landed at Weymouth in Dorsetshire on the same day that the Battle of Barnet was fought. While Margaret sheltered at nearby Cerne Abbey
Cerne Abbey
Cerne Abbey was a Benedictine monastery founded in 987 AD in the town now called Cerne Abbas by Æthelmær the Stout. Ælfric of Eynsham, the most prolific writer in Old English was known to have spent time at the abbey as a priest and teacher....

, the Duke of Somerset brought news of the disaster at Barnet to her. She briefly wished to return to France, but Prince Edward persuaded her to gamble for victory. Somerset and the Earl of Devon
John Courtenay, 15th Earl of Devon
John Courtenay was a son of Thomas de Courtenay, 13th Earl of Devon and Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Devon.He was the younger brother of Thomas Courtenay, 14th Earl of Devon. It was his brother who knighted him on 29 December 1460 after the Battle of Wakefield...

 had already raised an army for Lancaster in the West Country. Their best hope was to march northwards and join forces with the Lancastrians in Wales, led by Jasper Tudor. Other Lancastrian forces could be relied upon to distract King Edward; in particular, a fleet under Warwick's relation, the Bastard of Fauconberg, was preparing to descend on Kent where the Nevilles and Warwick in particular had always been popular.

In London, Edward had learned of Margaret's landing only two days after she arrived. Although he had given many of his supporters and troops leave after the victory at Barnet, he was rapidly able to muster a substantial force at Windsor
Windsor, Berkshire
Windsor is an affluent suburban town and unparished area in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in Berkshire, England. It is widely known as the site of Windsor Castle, one of the official residences of the British Royal Family....

, just west of London. It was difficult at first to determine Margaret's intentions, as the Lancastrians had sent out several feints which suggested that they might be making directly for London, but Edward's army set out for the West Country within a few days.

On 30 April, Margaret's army had reached Bath, on its way towards Wales. She turned aside briefly to secure guns, reinforcements and money from the city of Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

. On the same day, Edward reached Cirencester
Cirencester is a market town in east Gloucestershire, England, 93 miles west northwest of London. Cirencester lies on the River Churn, a tributary of the River Thames, and is the largest town in the Cotswold District. It is the home of the Royal Agricultural College, the oldest agricultural...

. On hearing that Margaret was at Bristol, he turned south to meet her army. However, the Lancastrians made a feint towards Little Sodbury
Little Sodbury
Little Sodbury is an English village in South Gloucestershire, located between Chipping Sodbury, to the West, Old Sodbury to the South, Badminton, and the A46 road to the East and Horton and Hawkesbury Upton, to the north....

, about 12 miles (19.3 km) north-west of Bristol. Nearby was Sodbury Hill, an Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 hill fort which was an obvious strategic point for the Lancastrians to seize. When Yorkist scouts reached the hill, there was a sharp fight in which they suffered heavy casualties. Believing that the Lancastrians were about to offer battle, Edward temporarily halted his army while the stragglers caught up and the remainder could rest after their rapid march from Windsor. However, the Lancastrians instead made a swift move north by night, passing within 3 miles (4.8 km) of Edward's army. By the morning of 2 May, they had gained the safety of Berkeley Castle
Berkeley Castle
Berkeley Castle is a castle in the town of Berkeley, Gloucestershire, UK . The castle's origins date back to the 11th century and it has been designated by English Heritage as a grade I listed building.The castle has remained within the Berkeley family since they reconstructed it in the...

 and had a head start of 15 miles (24.1 km) over Edward.

Edward realised that the Lancastrians were seeking to cross the River Severn
River Severn
The River Severn is the longest river in Great Britain, at about , but the second longest on the British Isles, behind the River Shannon. It rises at an altitude of on Plynlimon, Ceredigion near Llanidloes, Powys, in the Cambrian Mountains of mid Wales...

 into Wales. The nearest crossing point they could use was at the city of Gloucester
Gloucester is a city, district and county town of Gloucestershire in the South West region of England. Gloucester lies close to the Welsh border, and on the River Severn, approximately north-east of Bristol, and south-southwest of Birmingham....

. He sent urgent messages to the Governor, Sir Richard Beauchamp
Richard Beauchamp, 2nd Baron Beauchamp
Sir Richard Beauchamp, 2nd Baron Beauchamp of Powick, was born c. 1435.He married on 27 January 1447 Elizabeth, d. of Humphrey Stafford of Grafton. They had Sir John, died young; Elizabeth , married, Robert Willoughby, 2nd Baron Willoughby de Broke Sir Richard Beauchamp, 2nd Baron Beauchamp of...

, ordering him to bar the gates to Margaret and man the city's defences. When Margaret arrived in the morning of 3 May, Beauchamp refused Margaret's summons to let her army pass, and she realised that there was insufficient time to storm the city before Edward's army arrived. Instead, her army made another forced march of 10 miles (16.1 km) to Tewkesbury, attempting to reach the next bridge at Upton-upon-Severn
Upton-upon-Severn is a small town and civil parish in the Malvern Hills District of Worcestershire, England, on the River Severn. According to the national census 2001 it had a population of 2,859. Located from Malvern, the bridge at Upton is the only one across the river Severn between Worcester...

, 7 miles (11.3 km) further on. Edward meanwhile had marched no less than 31 miles (49.9 km), passing through Cheltenham
Cheltenham , also known as Cheltenham Spa, is a large spa town and borough in Gloucestershire, on the edge of the Cotswolds in the South-West region of England. It is the home of the flagship race of British steeplechase horse racing, the Gold Cup, the main event of the Cheltenham Festival held...

 (then little more than a village) in the late afternoon. The day was very hot, and both the Lancastrians and Edward's pursuing army became exhausted. The Lancastrians were forced to abandon some of their artillery, which was captured by Yorkist reinforcements following from Gloucester.

At Tewkesbury, the tired Lancastrians halted for the night. Most of their army were footmen, and unable to continue further without rest, and even the mounted troops were weary. By contrast, Edward's army was composed mainly of mounted men, who nevertheless dismounted to fight on foot as most English armies did at this period. Hearing from his "prickers" or mounted scouts of Margaret's position, Edward drove his army to make another march of 6 miles (9.7 km) from Cheltenham, finally halting 3 miles (4.8 km) from the Lancastrians. The Lancastrians knew they could retreat no further before Edward attacked their rear, and that they would be forced to give battle.

Lancastrian positions

As day broke on 4 May, the Lancastrians took up a defensive position a mile south of the town of Tewkesbury. To their rear were River Avon and the Severn. Tewkesbury Abbey
Tewkesbury Abbey
The Abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Tewkesbury in the English county of Gloucestershire is the second largest parish church in the country and a former Benedictine monastery.-History:...

 was just behind the Lancastrian centre. A farmhouse then known as Gobes Hall marked the centre of the Lancastrian position; nearby was "Margaret's camp", earthworks of uncertain age. Queen Margaret is said to have spent the night at Gobes Hall, before hastily taking refuge on the day of battle in a religious house some distance from the battlefield. The main strength of the Lancastrians' position was provided by the ground in front, which was broken up by hedges, woods, embankments and "evil lanes". This was especially true on their right.

The Lancastrian army numbered approximately 6,000. As was customary at the time, it was organised into three "battles". The right battle was commanded by the Duke of Somerset. A stream, the Colnbrook, flowed through his position, making some of the ground difficult to traverse. The Lancastrian centre was commanded by Baron Wenlock
John Wenlock, 1st Baron Wenlock
Sir John Wenlock KG was an English soldier, courtier and politician. He fought on the side of both the Yorkists and the Lancastrians in the Wars of the Roses...

. Unlike the other principal Lancastrian commanders, Wenlock had deserted the Lancastrian cause after the First Battle of Saint Albans, only to revert to the Lancastrians when he was deprived by Edward IV of the Lieutenancy of Calais. Prince Edward was present with the centre. At eighteen, Prince Edward was no stranger to battlefields, having been given by his mother the task of condemning to death Yorkist prisoners taken at the Second Battle of St Albans, but he lacked experience of actual command. The left battle was commanded by the Earl of Devon
John Courtenay, 15th Earl of Devon
John Courtenay was a son of Thomas de Courtenay, 13th Earl of Devon and Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Devon.He was the younger brother of Thomas Courtenay, 14th Earl of Devon. It was his brother who knighted him on 29 December 1460 after the Battle of Wakefield...

, another devoted Lancastrian. His battle, and part of the centre, occupied a low ridge known locally as the "Gastons". A small river, the Swilgate
River Swilgate
The River Swilgate is a river in Gloucestershire, England.Rising at the confluence of Hyde Brook and Wymans Brook at Elmstone Hardwicke, before flowing north west and north to Tewkesbury where the Swilgate joins the River Avon close to its confluence with the Severn....

, protected Devon's left flank, before curving behind the Lancastrian position to join the Avon.

Edward's moves

The Yorkists numbered 5,000 and were slightly outnumbered by the Lancastrians. Like the Lancastrians, Edward organised his army into three battles.

Edward's vanguard was commanded by his youngest brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester
Richard III of England
Richard III was King of England for two years, from 1483 until his death in 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty...

. Although he was only eighteen years old, Richard was already an experienced commander and had led a division at the Battle of Barnet. Edward himself commanded the main battle, in which Clarence was also stationed. Edward was twenty-eight years old, and at the height of his prowess as a soldier. His lifelong friend and supporter, Lord Hastings
William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings
William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings KG was an English nobleman. A follower of the House of York, he became a close friend and the most important courtier of King Edward IV, whom he served as Lord Chamberlain...

, commanded the rear. He too was an experienced commander and like Richard, had accompanied Edward into exile in the Low Countries and had led a battle at Barnet.

Although by tradition, the vanguard occupied the right of the line of battle, several authors have conjectured from descriptions in near-contemporary accounts (such as the Historie of the Arrivall of Edward IV) that Richard of Gloucester's division actually took position to the left of Edward's battle or that the divisions of Edward's army advanced in line ahead, with Edward's division leading.

King Edward made one other important tactical disposition. To the left of his army was a thickly wooded park. Concerned that hidden Lancastrians might attack from this quarter, he ordered 200 mounted spearmen to occupy part of the woods and prevent the Lancastrians making use of them, or act on their own initiative if they were not themselves attacked. He then "displayed his bannars: dyd blowe up the trompets: commytted his caws and qwarell to Almyghty God, to owr most blessyd lady his mother: Vyrgyn Mary, the glorious Seint George, and all the saynts: and advaunced, directly upon his enemyes"


As they moved towards the Lancastrian position, Edward's army found that the ground was so broken up by woods, ditches and embankments that it was difficult to attack in any sort of order. However, the Yorkist archers and artillery showered the Lancastrians with arrows and shot. The Yorkists certainly had more guns than their enemies, and they were apparently better served.

Either to escape the cannonade and volleys of archery or because he saw an opportunity to outflank King Edward's isolated battle, the Duke of Somerset led at least part of his men via some of the "evil lanes" to attack Edward's left flank. Although taken by surprise, Edward's men resisted stoutly, beating back Somerset's attack among the hedges and banks. At the vital moment, the 200 spearmen Edward had earlier posted in the woods far out on the left attacked Somerset from his own right flank and rear, as Gloucester's battle also joined in the fighting.

Somerset's battle was routed, and tried to escape across the Severn. Most were cut down as they fled. The long meadow astride the Colnbrook leading down to the river is known to this day as "Bloody Meadow". Somerset galloped up to Wenlock, commanding the centre, and demanded to know why Wenlock had failed to support him. According to legend (recounted in Edward Hall
Edward Hall
Edward Hall , English chronicler and lawyer, was born about the end of the 15th century, being a son of John Hall of Northall, Shropshire....

chronicle, written several years afterwards though from first-hand accounts), he did not wait for an answer but dashed out Wenlock's brains with a battleaxe before seeking sanctuary in the Abbey.

As its morale collapsed, the rest of the Lancastrian army tried to flee, but the Swilgate became a deadly barrier. Many who succeeded in crossing it converged on a mill south of the town of Tewkesbury and a weir in the town itself, where there were crossings over the Avon. Here too, many drowned or were killed by their pursuers. Some 3,000 Lancastrians died in the battle or the pursuit.

Aftermath of the battle

Among the leading Lancastrians who died on the field were Somerset's younger brother John Beaufort, Marquess of Dorset
John Beaufort, Marquess of Dorset
John Beaufort, Marquess of Dorset, Earl of Dorset was a member of the Beaufort family during the Wars of the Roses.He was the third son of Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset and his wife, Lady Eleanor Beauchamp, daughter of Richard de Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick...

 and the Earl of Devon. Prince Edward was found in a grove by some of Clarence's men. He was summarily executed, despite pleading for his life to Clarence, who had sworn allegiance to him in France barely a year before.

Many of the other Lancastrian nobles and knights sought sanctuary in Tewkesbury Abbey
Tewkesbury Abbey
The Abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Tewkesbury in the English county of Gloucestershire is the second largest parish church in the country and a former Benedictine monastery.-History:...

. King Edward attended prayers in the Abbey shortly after the battle. He granted permission for Prince Edward and others slain in the battle to be buried within the Abbey or elsewhere in the town without being quartered
Hanged, drawn and quartered
To be hanged, drawn and quartered was from 1351 a penalty in England for men convicted of high treason, although the ritual was first recorded during the reigns of King Henry III and his successor, Edward I...

 as traitors as was customary. However, two days after the battle, Somerset and other leaders were dragged out of the Abbey, and were ordered by Gloucester and the Duke of Norfolk to be put to death after perfunctory trials. Among them were Hugh Courtenay, younger brother of the Earl of Devon, and John Langstrother, the prior of the military order of St. John's
Knights Hospitaller
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta , also known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta , Order of Malta or Knights of Malta, is a Roman Catholic lay religious order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature. It is the world's...

. The Abbey was not officially a sanctuary, though it is doubtful whether this would have deterred Edward even if it had been. It had to be re-consecrated a month after the battle, following the violence done within its precincts.

A few days later, Margaret sent word to Edward from her refuge that she was "at his commandment".

Fauconberg's repulse

Edward was unable to rest after the battle. Lancastrians under Jasper Tudor were still active in Wales, and there was an ineffective rising in the North. Edward went to Coventry
Coventry is a city and metropolitan borough in the county of West Midlands in England. Coventry is the 9th largest city in England and the 11th largest in the United Kingdom. It is also the second largest city in the English Midlands, after Birmingham, with a population of 300,848, although...

 in the Midlands to make dispositions against the northern and Welsh Lancastians, and give his army three days' rest. The most dangerous Lancastrian force however, was that commanded by the Bastard of Fauconberg. As anticipated, he had landed at Sandwich
Sandwich, Kent
Sandwich is a historic town and civil parish on the River Stour in the Non-metropolitan district of Dover, within the ceremonial county of Kent, south-east England. It has a population of 6,800....

 and rapidly recruited a force from among the pro-Neville Kentishmen. Together with exiled Lancastrians and freebooters from several countries, his army may have numbered 16,000 or even 17,000 in total. On 14 May, he attacked London from the south. His men burned Southwark Bridge
Southwark Bridge
Southwark Bridge is an arch bridge for traffic linking Southwark and the City across the River Thames, in London, England. It was designed by Ernest George and Basil Mott. It was built by Sir William Arrol & Co. and opened in 1921...

 and part of the suburb of Southwark
Southwark is a district of south London, England, and the administrative headquarters of the London Borough of Southwark. Situated east of Charing Cross, it forms one of the oldest parts of London and fronts the River Thames to the north...

, but were beaten back at London Bridge
London Bridge
London Bridge is a bridge over the River Thames, connecting the City of London and Southwark, in central London. Situated between Cannon Street Railway Bridge and Tower Bridge, it forms the western end of the Pool of London...

. The next day, he attacked Aldgate
Aldgate was the eastern most gateway through London Wall leading from the City of London to Whitechapel and the east end of London. Aldgate gives its name to a ward of the City...

 and Bishopsgate
Bishopsgate is a road and ward in the northeast part of the City of London, extending north from Gracechurch Street to Norton Folgate. It is named after one of the original seven gates in London Wall...

 from the east, but was again beaten back by citizens defending their property. Had Fauconberg succeeded in capturing the city, he might also have captured Edward's Queen Elizabeth and their children and released King Henry from the Tower. However, on hearing that Edward's army was approaching, he retreated to Sandwich. Like Margaret, he appeared to be dispirited by the news of Tewkesbury and Prince Edward's death, and later rather tamely surrendered himself and his ships. He was executed five months later after attempting to escape from custody.

The end of the Lancastrian royal family

On his way to suppress Fauconberg and the Kentish rebels, Edward passed through London in triumph on 21 May, with the captive Queen Margaret beside him in a chariot. King Henry VI died in the Tower of London that night, at the hands of or by the order of Richard of Gloucester according to several contemporary accounts. It was announced in public that he had died "of pure displeasure and melancholy", but few believed this.

Gloucester later married Anne Neville, the younger daughter of Warwick and the widow of Prince Edward.

With the deaths of Somerset and his younger brother, the House of Beaufort, who were distant cousins of Henry VI and had a remote claim to succeed him, had been almost exterminated. Only the female line of Somerset's uncle, the 1st Duke of Somerset
John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset
John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset, KG was an English noble and military commander.-Family:Baptised on 25 March 1404, he was the second son of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset and Margaret Holland, and succeeded his elder brother Henry Beaufort, 2nd Earl of Somerset to become the 3rd Earl of...

, remained, represented by Lady Margaret Beaufort and her son Henry Tudor
Henry VII of England
Henry VII was King of England and Lord of Ireland from his seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 until his death on 21 April 1509, as the first monarch of the House of Tudor....

. Henry escaped from Wales with Jasper Tudor, his paternal uncle, and remained in exile in Brittany
Brittany is a cultural and administrative region in the north-west of France. Previously a kingdom and then a duchy, Brittany was united to the Kingdom of France in 1532 as a province. Brittany has also been referred to as Less, Lesser or Little Britain...

 for the remainder of Edward's reign. The year after the Battle of Tewkesbury however, Lady Margaret married Lord Stanley
Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby
Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, KG was titular King of Mann, an English nobleman and stepfather to King Henry VII of England...

, one of King Edward's supporters, who later turned against Edward's brother Richard of Gloucester when he became King as Richard III, and was instrumental in putting Henry Tudor on the throne.


Every year the battle is re-enacted on the second weekend in July at the Tewkesbury Medieval Festival
Tewkesbury Medieval Festival
The Tewkesbury Medieval Festival is a medieval fair held over the second weekend of every July near the town of Tewkesbury, United Kingdom. Its main feature is the re-enactment of the Battle of Tewkesbury, which was fought in 1471...

. The event founded in 1984 is the largest event of its kind in Europe, attracting enthusiasts from all over the world.

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