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Where The Rival Roses Warred page 2


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This was the most bloody battle that had ever been fought on English soil-and never since has there been greater carnage on any field. It is estimated that thirty thousand men lost their lives, of whom by far the largest number were Lancastrians.

It is impossible to follow here the course of events closely during the period of pacification which followed the battle of Towton. The outstanding feature of the period was the indomitable courage of Margaret of Anjou, who seemed to be quite incapable of realizing the fact that she had been defeated. So successful was she in rallying her shattered forces that three years later the Lancastrians were able to fight two more battles. These were at Hedgeley Moor, on April 25, 1464, and at Hexham, on May 15, in the same year. In both of these engagements the Yorkists, under Montagu, were victorious; and after Hexham the unhappy King Henry was a hunted, skulking fugitive for about a year. He retained his liberty simply owing to the loyalty of the peasants; but eventually he was betrayed into the hands of his enemies by the treachery of a monk of Abingdon, named Cantlow.

Warwick, the mighty "King-maker," quarrelled with Edward the Fourth, the king whom he had placed upon the throne. The cause of the quarrel was, first and foremost, that Edward had deceived Warwick. While the Earl was negotiating a marriage between the king and Princess Bona of Savoy, the sister of the Queen of France, Edward had frustrated all his efforts by contracting a secret marriage with a beautiful young widow, Elizabeth Woodville, whose husband, Sir John Grey, had been killed in the second battle of St. Albans, while fighting for the Lancastrians. Warwick was furious, and when the king, not content with making him appear ridiculous, advanced all his wife's needy relations, whom he allowed to flout the authority of the mighty earl, his passion could not be controlled; and in order to be avenged upon the ungrateful king he entered into secret negotiations with Edward's younger brother, George, Duke of Clarence, to whom he married his daughter Isabel.

Their plan was to overthrow Edward, and it very nearly succeeded; for after the battle of Edgecote, in Northamptonshire, six miles from Banbury, the king fell into Warwick's hands, and was kept as a prisoner for a short time. A so-called reconciliation was then effected, and Edward successfully crushed a revolt in Lincolnshire by defeating the rebels at Empingham, in Rutlandshire, on March 10, 1470. Information which Edward then obtained implicated Warwick in a plot against the crown, and the earl was attainted as a traitor, and fled to France. While in exile, Warwick was brooding vengeance against Edward, and laying plans for the recovery of his power; and eventually, goaded by his outraged pride, he formed an alliance with Margaret of Anjou.

Warwick landed at Dartmouth, in Devonshire, on September 8, 1470; and King Edward, who had rapidly deteriorated from a dashing soldier, who led a life of stern self-denial, into a voluptuary, was not ready to meet his formidable antagonist. He fled from England, therefore, setting forth from Lynn on October 3 in a small boat which carried him safely across to Holland, where he joined his brother-in-law, Charles Temeraire, Duke of Burgundy.

It had taken Warwick exactly eleven days from the time of his landing to secure England for Henry; and the unhappy king, who had been a well-treated prisoner in the Tower since 1465- but still a prisoner - was released and placed upon the throne once more. But Edward was certainly not a coward, whatever his other vices may have been; and he was determined not to abandon the struggle so tamely, and with a very mixed levy of about fifteen hundred men he landed at Ravenspur, on the Yorkshire coast, on Thursday, March 14, 1471. With this small force as a nucleus, Edward marched to York, where he was joyfully received, when he declared that he had come to take possession of his estates as Duke of York, not to overthrow King Henry; and then, with ever-increasing forces, he advanced towards London, to make one final bid for the crown.

When the news that Edward had landed was brought to him, Warwick immediately left London, and hastened to Warwick Castle, whence he sent out summonses to his supporters, bidding them take up arms to oppose the progress of " the man Edward," whose presence was a menace to the peace of the realm; and as he could not stop Edward's advance with the small force which he had at his command, he sought shelter in Coventry until reinforcements should arrive under Clarence and Somerset. Directly he reached Coventry, Edward invited Warwick to meet him in battle, but the earl declined; and when Clarence deserted him, and joined his brother Edward, Warwick realised that he could not risk what he knew would be a decisive engagement.

Some time was wasted in negotiations and in the issuing of unaccepted challenges; and then Edward marched towards London, leaving Warwick in a very awkward position. Immediately Edward arrived the gates of the capital were opened to admit him; and by that master-stroke he gained an ascendancy which he never again lost.

Warwick followed closely upon the heels of his enemy; and when he came to Gladmore Heath, in the neighbourhood of Barnet, in Hertfordshire, about ten miles from London, he had an army of twenty thousand men at his disposal. Edward advanced from London with a large force, which was being constantly augmented by the arrival of fresh bands of supporters; and in the evening of April 13 the rivals were face to face on Hadley Green, ready for the battle which was to decide once for all who should be King of England. The numerical superiority of Edward's force was somewhat discounted by the fact that Warwick was able to choose his position. The earl, who fully realized that it was a case of death or victory, made the most of this piece of good fortune; and in order to take full advantage of the formation of the land, he marshalled his men along a ridge between the valleys of the Lea and'Colne, and with Enfield Chase to his rear.

When the battle began, at about four o'clock in the morning of Easter Sunday, April 14, 1471, a dense fog hung over the field-so dense that the combatants could not distinguish friends from foes.

At first Warwick gained a distinct advantage,but at about ten o'clock the mist began to disperse, and it was at that moment that a fatal mistake was made which decided the issue. In the deceptive light Somerset and his archers mistook the radiant star, which was the badge of the Earl of Oxford, who was a Lancastrian, for the radiant sun of York, and opened up a fierce fire upon their friends.

"Treason! We are betrayed!" shouted the terrified Lancastrians, as they broke and fled from the field of battle.

By a superb personal effort Warwick strove to regain the advantage he had once held, and wherever the fighting was fiercest there was the great earl to be found, on foot and shoulder-to-shoulder with his men. But even the magic of his name, and his splendid display of reckless courage, could not stem the flood-tide of defeat which was rolling upon him.

There stands on Hadley Green, near Barnet, an obelisk which has been erected to commemorate the battle that placed King Edward the Fourth securely upon the throne.

Margaret of Anjou was not even then defeated; and almost immediately after the Battle of Barnet came the news that she was in the west country, rallying a force to fight for the rights of her son.

By forced marches Edward led his men across England, and found Margaret's army at Tewkesbury, in Gloucestershire. The battle which ensued was fought on Saturday, May 4, 1471, at a place called the Bloody Meadow, two miles to the south of Tewkesbury, and ten miles from the City of Gloucester. The result was an almost foregone conclusion, for Margaret had had very little time to rally her supporters, and when the flying remnant of the Lancastrian forces rushed from the stricken field in utter confusion, the last hope of even the indomitable queen vanished for ever-for amongst those who perished in the fight was young Prince Edward, who was then a handsome boy in his eighteenth year.

Here it is unnecessary to follow the course of events between the year 1471 and the year 1485. Suffice it to say that King Edward the Fourth reigned in comparative peace and security from 1471 until the day of his death, on April 9,1483-nearly eight months after Margaret of Anjou, the stormy petrel of the struggle, had breathed her last at Saumur, in France.

Immediately after the death of King Edward the Fourth, his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, claimed the crown, contending that his nephew, who had succeeded his father as Edward the Fifth, was ineligible; and as the usurpation was likely to be seriously challenged the young king and his little brother, the Duke of York, mysteriously disappeared in the Tower of London, where they had been lodged by their uncle for safe keeping. It is generally supposed that they where smothered in their sleep by hired assassins, and it may be regarded as almost an established fact that the crime was ordered by their uncle, Richard of Gloucester.

Undoubtedly it was owing to his iniquities that Nemesis, in the person of Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, overtook King Richard on the field of Bosworth, where the last battle in the long struggle of the Wars of the Roses took place on Monday. August 22, 1485.

Having landed in South Wales, Richmond advanced rapidly and overwhelmed the royal army by the fury of his attack. With a courage that was worthy of the great traditions of the Plantagenets, Richard turned to bay, and he died fighting in the thickest of the fray, his dented armour bearing witness to many a hard blow. Immediately after the battle the crown, which had rolled or had been taken from the helmet of the dead king, was found in a bush and placed upon the brow of the victor.

Thus did the Wars of the Roses come to a close, and with their termination ended the Middle Ages, for the accession of Henry of Richmond brought to the throne the line of strong, autocratic and able sovereigns of the House of Tudor, by whom England's prestige was enhanced, while the foundations of the British Empire were being laid in lands beyond the sea.

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Pictures for Where The Rival Roses Warred page 2

Mortimers Cross Memorial
Mortimers Cross Memorial >>>>
Landmark of Battle of Mortimers Cross, Near Leominister
Landmark of Battle of Mortimers Cross, Near Leominister >>>>
Holywell, St. Albans: Scene of Victory of Warwick the King-Maker
Holywell, St. Albans: Scene of Victory of Warwick the King-Maker >>>>
Tewkesbury Abbey and its Associations with the Roses
Tewkesbury Abbey and its Associations with the Roses >>>>
The Bloody Meadow, Tewkesbury Field
The Bloody Meadow, Tewkesbury Field >>>>
Hedgeley Moor and Hexham: Percy Cross, Northumberland
Hedgeley Moor and Hexham: Percy Cross, Northumberland >>>>
Ruins of Sandal Castle, a Yorkist Stronghold
Ruins of Sandal Castle, a Yorkist Stronghold >>>>
Coast Light at Point of Ayre, on the Isle of Man
Coast Light at Point of Ayre, on the Isle of Man >>>>

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