Post-classical history

The Fourth Period

Rise and Fall

In April 1469, a small uprising was swiftly subdued by John Neville, Earl of Northumberland, brother of Warwick. John had acquired the earldom following the Percy family's disgrace and was loyal to Edward. The rebellion did not die though and a list of grievances was circulated that bore a striking resemblance to those wounding Warwick's pride. The rebels wanted the pernicious Woodville family removed from power. The rebel leader was identified as Robin of Redesdale, Robin being a standard name by this time for a rebel seeking to right wrongs for the people's benefit. Although his identity is not known for certain, it has been suggested that Robin of Redesdale was, in fact, Sir William Conyers, a Neville family ally. Whoever he really was, it seems likely that Warwick was the instigator.

Confident of crushing the uprising, King Edward raised a small force and began to march north to meet them. When the scale of the insurrection became clear, Edward turned back to wait for reinforcements at Nottingham. William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke and Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Devon were called upon to assist. Stafford was a distant relative of the Earls of Stafford and owned a large portion of land in the south west of England.

The smoke screen created by this uprising covered the landing of Warwick and Clarence on the south coast. They made their way through Kent and men flocked to Warwick's banner. The earl was immensely popular and Kent, it seems, was always ready to rise. With a swelling force, they made their way north to join the rebels. When the northern rebels attempted to bypass the king's army and meet Warwick, they ran into the reinforcements of Pembroke and Devon near Banbury in Oxfordshire.

The two royal armies had camped a distance apart on 25th July and the rebels took the opportunity to attack Pembroke on the morning of 26th whilst Devon and his force of Welsh archers were several miles away. Pembroke was forced back until Devon arrived to assist, but at the same moment, Warwick's army arrived to reinforce the rebels. Pembroke's men took flight at the spectacle of Warwick's liveried professionals taking the field. Pembroke himself was captured and executed the following day, Devon sharing his fate a few days later. The Battle of Edgecote Moor had reignited the Wars of the Roses.

Immediately after the battle, George Neville, Archbishop of York took the king into his custody and delivered the prize to his brother, Warwick. Richard Woodville, Earl Rivers and his son John were captured and executed also. Warwick had taken a measure of revenge upon the upstarts who had barred his door to power. King Edward was kept as Warwick's prisoner until September of 1469 when it became all but impossible to rule without the person of the king. Warwick was forced to release Edward.

An uneasy peace was endured for several months between the king and his mightiest subject, but then Edward chose to send a very clear message to the earl. John Neville had held the Earldom of Northumberland since 1465, but the late Percy Earl's son Henry had sworn fealty to King Edward and petitioned for the return of his paternal inheritance. In a move either self destructive or by its design instructive to Warwick, Edward agreed to Henry Percy's restoration. John Neville was forced to quit the title and lands of the Earldom of Northumberland in favour of the Neville family's bitter and disgraced rivals. Edward was seeking to demonstrate to his erstwhile controller just who held the reins of power. John was created Marquess of Montagu by way of compensation, but the title was a clear demotion and left John with a much depleted income and pride as bruised as that of his brother. John's son George Neville was created Duke of Bedford and promised a match with King Edward's eldest daughter Elizabeth of York. If the king thought that he had appeased Montagu, he was sorely mistaken.

In March 1470, unrest in Lincolnshire erupted into open conflict when Richard, Lord Welles, second cousin to Warwick, attacked the manor of Sir Thomas Burgh, Master of the King's Horse. Edward decided to intervene personally. Lord Welles was summoned to London to explain himself but in his absence, his son Robert raised a fresh rebellion. King Edward raised a force and headed north to meet them. The two forces met on 12th March 1470 at Empingham. As a demonstration of the king's resolve, Lord Welles was executed in front of Edward's army before fighting began. The Lincolnshire rebels panicked at the sight of the king's army and fled. In their hurry to escape and perhaps to avoid identification, many shed their surcoats and the battle became known as the Battle of Losecote Field.

Edward stood victorious upon the battlefield, his dominance reasserted. A week later, Robert Welles was executed, though not before he had confessed his part in full and implicated both Warwick and Clarence in the plot. Documents were also supposedly found detailing the extent of Warwick and Clarence's involvement. The earl and duke had stalked Edward north with an army of their own, hoping to trap the king once more. When Welles' force was routed, they turned back, fleeing to France when it became clear that they had been exposed.

A tragic episode ensued as Lord Wenlock, who controlled Calais in Warwick's absence, refused to allow his old master to dock. Edward had ordered Wenlock to deny them entry and he did so. Sadly, Isabel was with her husband and was nine months pregnant. Even as she went into labour, they were denied permission to land and although Isabel survived, the duke and duchess's first child, a daughter, was stillborn. Burgundy also prevented Warwick from landing within their territory and they were forced to eventually make port at Honfleur in France.

The Bear And The She-Wolf

King Louis XI of France acquired the nickname 'The Universal Spider' for his delicate political web weaving. He knew his enemies well and was always keen to make mischief for them. During their earlier negotiations, it appears that Louis had taken a liking to Warwick and he now saw a chance to promote the Lancastrian cause of Margaret of Anjou, if only he could reconcile these two most bitter of enemies. Margaret had been dubbed a ‘She-Wolf’ for her aggressive nature. Warwick’s badge was the bear and ragged staff. Louis now sought to ensnare these two wounded animals in his latest web. Somehow, he managed to convince them of their common cause - perhaps advising them that the enemy of their enemy was the only friend that they had.

Warwick and Margaret met in mid July at Angers. Warwick got down on bended knee to pledge his loyalty to Margaret. She in turn made him stay there for over a quarter of an hour before agreeing to an alliance with the man who had aided in removing her husband’s crown. Warwick was promised men and funds if he were to put the Lancastrians back upon the throne. Margaret was no doubt told that whatever she may think of him, Warwick represented her and her son's last chance of a return to England. Once restored, the Lancastrians were to assist Louis in cowing Burgundy as he sought to subsume all of the independent Duchies that ringed France. To seal the alliance, Warwick's younger daughter Anne was to be married to Edward of Westminster, son and heir to Henry VI and Margaret, imbedding Warwick's Neville blood within the royal family. Everyone was set to win, except Edward, and one other person.

One of Warwick's brothers-in-law sparked fresh unrest in the north. Edward, recognising the success of Losecote Field, decided to act personally and decisively once again. He marched north and the uprising evaporated, its instigator fleeing over the border to Scotland. By early September 1469, Edward was on his way south again, stopping in the Midlands. Meanwhile, Warwick had landed on the south coast, accompanied by Clarence, John de Vere, Earl of Oxford (another brother-in-law to Warwick) and Jasper Tudor who was seeking restoration of his own Earldom of Pembroke. The support that flowed to the charismatic Warwick was now swelled further by Lancastrian loyalists, emboldened to show their hand. The force grew daily as it marched north to depose King Edward and restore King Henry. The north was traditionally Lancastrian and was, too, made brave by the resurgent fortunes of that House. The final straw was the defection of Montagu to his brother's side. He had not forgiven Edward and now meant to seize him. Edward was caught between a hammer and the anvil and took the only step open to him - a sideways one. Riding to Kings Lyn, he procured a ship and on the 2nd October 1469 he fled to his sister Margaret and brother-in-law, Charles, Duke of Burgundy.

Taking ship alongside their king were Anthony Woodville, now Earl Rivers, Lord Hastings, a close personal friend and advisor to Edward and his young brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester. The date that they boarded the ship to flee into exile was, in fact, Richard's eighteenth birthday. In light of their brother George, Duke of Clarence's betrayal, Richard's loyalty at this point was to set the benchmark for the next fourteen years. Richard had been raised in Warwick's household, mainly at Middleham Castle in Yorkshire. As was traditional, he had been placed in the care of a senior noble for his education and training. It is conceivable, or perhaps even likely, that Warwick sought to recruit Richard to his cause too. Whether he did or not, the young duke stood with his brother and other steadfast Yorkists as they sailed for Burgundy and began to plan their return.

Henry was released from the Tower of London and proclaimed the rightful king, termed his 'readeption to royal power'. It was clear, though, that Henry was a puppet in the proceedings. It was also clear that this suited Warwick perfectly. Lancastrians emerging from hiding traded places with Yorkists who sank into the shadows. The only significant Yorkist executed was John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, possibly a personal revenge for his previous hanging, drawing and quartering of twenty of Warwick's supporters.Elizabeth Woodville took sanctuary in Westminster Abbey where she was to give birth to a son, named for his absent father. Edward and Richard were disinherited and Warwick set about ruling in Henry's name.

All seemed to be going well. Henry was greeted rapturously. Warwick was named Protector of the Realm and Great Chamberlain of England. He also took back the Captaincy of Calais. Jasper Tudor regained his earldom, riding to Hereford to take custody of his young nephew Henry Tudor from William Herbert's widow. Parliament confirmed Henry as king, Prince Edward as his heir and, should that line fail, George, Duke of Clarence was to succeed. In the meantime, Clarence became Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Still, given that their original aim was to place Clarence upon the throne, the haughty duke may have viewed this settlement as unsatisfactory. He was viewed with caution by Lancastrians, wary of the exiled former king's brother, yet simultaneously seen as a traitor by Yorkists. His position was precarious and he was growing isolated.

Two Kings, One Crown

The beginning of 1471 saw Edward gathering support from Burgundy, now under attack from France with English aid promised, while Margaret of Anjou and her son prepared to leave France and return to England. Margaret delayed, spending Christmas 1470 in Paris and then awaiting Warwick's arrival to escort her to England. Warwick protested that lack of funds made the journey impossible and whilst this is probably true - he had spent heavily to see Henry returned to the throne and, without a source of tax revenue, was personally funding the royal household - it is also possible that he viewed Margaret's return with the Prince of Wales as a threat to his own position.

While Margaret prevaricated, Edward left Burgundy with a small force of just over a thousand men. Having attempted to land at Cromer and finding no welcome, Edward skirted the east coast until storms that further delayed Margaret's departure swept his fleet north. Eventually, Edward landed at Ravenspur, the very place where King Henry's grandfather, Henry Bollingbroke, had returned to England to begin a journey that ended upon the throne. The omens were no doubt good.

York allowed Edward to enter on condition his army remained outside the city and the former king began to claim, as Bollingbroke had done, that he sought not the Crown but only the restoration of his Ducal lands and titles. Significantly, neither Montagu nor the restored Henry Percy sought to hinder or apprehend Edward. Though they did not overtly support him, neither did they block his progress. Beginning to move south, he gathered support and men as he entered more friendly territory in the Midlands.

Warwick was alerted to Edward's return and, leaving his brother George Neville in control of London, he took an army north and sent out a call to arms. Now, Margaret's hesitations and delays began to play into Edward's hands. Jasper Tudor, Edmund Beaufort, John Courtney, heir to the Dukedom of Devon and others were not keen to take up arms for Warwick. The turning of his coat left him swathed in suspicion, and their loyalty was to Henry and the more competent Margaret, not to Warwick. Lord Stanley also chose to ignore the summons, preferring to use the turmoil to pursue a feud with the Harrington family over possession of Hornby Castle. Oxford and Clarence did begin to mobilise and when he arrived at Coventry, Warwick still held the upper hand. Edward was blocked to the south by Warwick, the north by Montagu and on either flank by Oxford and Clarence.

Caught in a tightening noose, Edward acted decisively. He marched directly at Warwick, who promptly sealed himself within Coventry and awaited aid. Around this time, Clarence appears to have decided that his best hope now lay back with his brother and defected once more. Finding Coventry impenetrable, Edward could not lay a lengthy siege when other forces closed in about him. Edward decided to make a huge gamble. He rode for London, hoping to secure the city, the person of King Henry and a base from which to operate with authority. Now it was London caught in the jaws of a dilemma. Margaret was due to arrive any day. Edward was marching to the City with a large force of men and Warwick had sent word that under no circumstances was Edward to be allowed to enter. The earl was traditionally incredibly popular in London, but fear got the better of the City.

George Neville paraded King Henry through the streets in an attempt to firm up support, but the sight of the bewildered Henry being led by the hand by the Archbishop had the very opposite of the desired effect. Without any concept of the magnitude of the situation, Henry was like a spectator, not the main attraction, and support evaporated. Citing fear of casualties and an inability to resist an army, London opened its arms to Edward. Philippe de Commines offered other reasons for Edward's welcome, stating that merchants hoped for the repayment of substantial loans made to Edward whilst he was king and their wives hoped for a return to Edward's bed, persuading their husbands to support the return of the Yorkist king.

Edward installed his family in the Tower for safety, meeting his first born son and namesake for the first time, but he had no time for familial pleasantries. Warwick was bringing a huge army south. Gathering all of the men that he could, Edward marched north and the two forces met at the Battle of Barnet on Easter Sunday, 14th April 1471. Warwick had around 15,000 men led by Oxford, Montagu and Exeter whilst Edward commanded only about 10,000, leading the centre himself with Hastings on his left and his inexperienced young brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester getting his first taste of battle on the right flank.

The fighting was close and confused. In the darkness of the night the forces had drawn up close to each other and offset. Added to this, the dawn was foggy. Seizing the initiative, Edward ordered an all out attack. As the misaligned forces clashed there was confusion until Oxford's force overcame Hastings and moved to support their own middle. Mistaking Oxford's Stars with Rays badge for Edward's Sunne in Splendour emblem, the Lancastrian centre attacked their reinforcements and in the confusion treason and betrayal was screamed into the fog. In the debacle that followed, John Neville was slain. Seeing his brother felled, Warwick made for his horse to flee but was apprehended by Yorkist soldiers who dragged him to the ground and stabbed him in the neck. The Neville brothers' bodies where publically displayed in St Paul's Cathedral as proof of their final demise before being laid to rest in the family vault at Bisham Abbey. So ended the Maker of Kings.

Edward had little time to rest. Margaret had landed. Somerset was given charge of her army and now the Earl of Devon and Jasper Tudor mobilised. Edward mustered more men in London before setting out to meet the Lancastrian forces. The opposing armies manoeuvred along the Severn before they finally met at Tewkesbury. On 4th May 5,000 men lined up with King Edward, his commanders once more the loyal Hastings and Gloucester, who had proven himself no mean warrior at Barnet. The Lancastrian force of 7,000 was commanded by the Duke of Somerset and Earl of Devon. Crucially, Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales was also upon the field. At 17, he was ambitious and perhaps expected his father to abdicate in his favour when all was resolved. With the two key protagonists of each side upon the battlefield, it would be settled that day.

The Yorkist force routed the Lancastrians and in the retreat, Edward of Westminster was killed. With him died any real hope for the future of Lancastrian rule. Somerset was captured and executed. The distraught Queen Margaret was taken prisoner and paraded through London as King Edward returned in triumph on 21st May. That night, King Henry VI died in the Tower of London. It was reported publically that he died of 'pure displeasure and melancholy' upon hearing the fate of his son and the failure of his cause. It seems far more likely though that Edward ordered him killed. Whilst he had an heir, it had suited Edward to keep the ineffectual Henry alive. His death then would have revitalised the Lancastrian cause in his much more promising son. With that son dead, Henry was now only a liability. Once Tewkesbury had been lost, Henry's fate had been sealed.

The Battle of Tewkesbury saw the extinction of the Lancastrian line. The Beaufort family, their distant cousins and potential heirs, were also wiped out in the male line. All that remained was the daughter of the 1st Duke, Lady Margaret Beaufort and her son, Henry Tudor, who was whisked to the continent by his uncle Jasper at the age of fourteen. Edward had won. York had won. Peace had arrived.

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