Battle of Tewkesbury


Battle of Tewkesbury

The Battle of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, which took place on May 4, 1471, completed one phase of the Wars of the Roses.

It put a temporary end to Lancastrian hopes of regaining the throne of England. There would be fourteen years of peace before another political coup in the form of Henry Tudor finally settling the dispute between the two dynasties.

Background

At the time of Tewkesbury, the mentally-unstable Lancastrian king, Henry VI of England, had just been deposed for a second time by his rival, the Yorkist Edward IV of England, who throughout his career was never defeated in battle. This change in circumstances had come about because Edward had become estranged from Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, "the Kingmaker", who had formerly been Edward's most important supporter and advisor. With the aid of Edward's jealous younger brother George, Duke of Clarence, Warwick had forced Edward into exile and reinstated Henry.

Within months Edward had returned to England, helped by his brother-in-law, the Duke of Burgundy. His brother, George, switched sides again and supported him. After recapturing London, Edward's army fought Warwick's at the Battle of Barnet. In a confused fight in thick fog, Warwick was defeated and killed.

The remaining Lancastrian forces were now led by Henry's Queen, Margaret of Anjou, and her seventeen-year-old son, Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales. Had Margaret, landing in England to the shocking news of Warwick's final defeat, been able to join forces with her ally, Jasper Tudor (uncle of Henry Tudor), she might have stood a chance against the Yorkist forces of King Edward. Her only hope was to cross the River Severn at Gloucester, and this she failed to do when access to the crossing was denied by the Yorkist governor of the town and castle at Gloucester, Sir Richard Beauchamp.

The end of the Lancastrian Royal Family

Margaret relied heavily on the Duke of Somerset, her remaining experienced commander, but his skills were no match for those of the King. The Yorkists were superior in artillery, and Somerset, deploying on ground cut up by hedges and woods, misjudged his battle position just enough to allow the King's young brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later King Richard III of England), to attack his flank. In a further display of tactical cunning, Edward had positioned a group of approximately 200 mounted spearmen to ambush the Lancastrian rear.

Panic set in amongst the retreating Lancastrians, and Somerset is alleged to have killed one of his own commanders, Lord Wenlock, as punishment for his fatal lack of initiative or possible treachery. There are some who contend that there is evidence Wenlock survived the day and was allowed to escape by the Yorkists (until Warwick's recent rebellion, Wenlock had been a Yorkist captain of long standing). In a field known as the "Bloody Meadow", perhaps as many as half of Somerset's forces were slaughtered. Some fled to the nearby Tewkesbury Abbey, where their enemies are said to have pursued them.

One of the casualties was Edward, Prince of Wales, though whether he died fighting or was executed after the battle is uncertain. He remains the only Prince of Wales to have died in battle. All the Lancastrian commanders, including Somerset, were summarily executed shortly afterwards, leaving Queen Margaret and her daughter-in-law, Anne Neville, captured and imprisoned. King Henry VI, already imprisoned in the Tower of London, was murdered there a few days later.

Re-enactment

Every year the battle is re-enacted in the second week of July at the Tewkesbury Medieval Festival. The event is now in its 25th year, and is the largest event of its kind in Europe, attracting enthusiasts from all over the world.

References

* [http://www.hillsdale.edu/personal/stewart/war/Ren/1471-Tewkesbury.htm A contemporary account] This reference should be to the 1838 translation of a contemporary chronicle on http://www.hillsdalesites.org/personal/hstewart/war/Ren/1471-Tewkesbury.htm.

The fragment below of the original account appears without reference on the Tewkesbury Battlefield Society's home page, http://www.tewkesbury.org.uk/battlefield/:"The Kynge apprailed hymslfe, and all his hooste set in good array: ordeined three wards: 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: approachinge to their filde, which was strongly in a marvaylows strong grownd pyght, full difficult to be assayled."

External links

* Goodchild, Steven J. [http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/?product_id=828 "Tewkesbury 1471"] , Pen and Sword Books Ltd, Barnsley, 2005, ISBN 1844151905


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