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• Page 1 Introduction & Origins •  2 Origins continued •  3 The Battle and After •  4 Duke of York's Monument •  5 Warwick The Kingmaker •  6 The Plantagenets 

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The Battle and Afterwards (continued from page 2)

For a full account of the Battle of Wakefield, the book "The Battle of Wakefield 1460" by PA Haigh, is recommended.

Queen Margaret was opposed to the Act because it deprived her son, Prince Edward, of the throne. Although Henry VI was still "protected" by the Yorkists. Margaret sent word to her supporters in the North of England - the Earl of Northumberland and Lord Clifford - and another conflict was soon under way. There was much activity in the country and a great deal of unrest.

The Duke of York travelled north from Baynard's War of the RosesCastle in London to the Lancastrian heartland of Yorkshire. There was a skirmish at Worksop in which the Lancastrian forces under Somerset defeated the Yorkist vanguard. The Lancastrians then continued to the large Lancastrian castle at Pontefract, the centre of the Honour of Pontefract. The Honour almost encircled the Yorkist Manor of Wakefield and the Yorkist castle at Sandal, smaller than Pontefract, but nevertheless impressive. The Yorkist party eventually arrived at Sandal Castle between 21st and 24th December 1460 to await reinforcements.

In summary, it seems that the Yorkists were ill-prepared for any sort of conflict or siege at Sandal. The Lancastrians were well prepared and controlled the surrounding countryside. It seems that an armistice was negotiated covering the Christmas period. There may have been treachery which resulted in the Yorkist garrison being depleted as a result of sending out parties to forage for provisions.

The Lancastrians marched the 9 miles or so from Pontefract Castle to Sandal Castle, through Crofton and close by to Walton, to arrive at Wakefield Green to the north of the castle at around about the 28th December 1460. For whatever reason, and Haigh's work explores this, the Yorkist force, although inferior in numbers, 5,000 - 6,000 against 17,000 - 18,000, sallied forth to engage the Lancastrian army on Wakefield Green on 30th December 1460 (there are alternative dates of 29th and 31st December suggested by some sources).

Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York was slain near the spot today commemorated by a memorial in Manygates Lane in Sandal Magna. An estimated 2,000 to 2,500 Yorkist soldiers died in the battle, together with most of their commanders.

The duke's son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, said in some accounts to have been as young as 12 years, but more likely a youth of 17 years, was slain whilst attempting to escape with his tutor. He had probably fought in the battle until he was captured by the Lancastrians. The place of his death seems to have been between Fall Ings (between Sandal and Wakefield), Wakefield Bridge (with its Chantry Chapel) or the old Six Chimneys Inn across the bridge in Wakefield. Edmund Plantagenet was slain by Lord Clifford as he knelt before him: "By God's blood, thy father slew mine, and so I will do thee and all thy kin". Clifford became branded as the Butcher and Bloodsupper.

Other leading Yorkists slain on the battlefield included Thomas Neville (son of Richard, Earl of Salisbury), William Lord Harrington (the son-in-law of Salisbury), Edward Bourchier, Sir Henry Radford, Sir James Pickering and Sir Thomas Harrington.

Richard Neville Earl of Salisbury survived the battle but was captured the following night and taken to the Earl of Somerset, Henry Beaufort (his father Richard had been killed at the Battle of St Albans).

The Earl of Salisbury was taken alive, and led by the said Duke of Somerset to the castle of Pomfret [Pontefract], and for a great sum of money that he should have paid had grant of his life. But the common people of the country, which loved him not, took him out of the castle by violence and smote off his head. (English Chronicle, pp. 106-107)

Lord Clifford returned to York to rendezvous with Queen Margaret, bearing the head of Richard Plantagenet and other slain Yorkists to be displayed above Micklegate Bar.

The same night (as the battle) the Earl of Salisbury was taken by a servant of Andrew Trollope. And the next day the Bastard of Exeter slew the said Earl of Salisbury at Pontefract where, by the counsel of the lords, they beheaded the dead bodies of the Duke of York, the Earls of Salisbury and Rutland, Thomas Neville, Edward Bourchier, Thomas Harrington, Thomas Parre, James Pickering and John Harrow, mercer, and set their heads upon divers parts of York. ... in contempt they crowned the head of the Duke of York with paper. (Annales, p 775)

It has been suggested that Richard went into battle expecting support from a further 8,000 men led by Lord Neville and it was Neville's treachery that sealed the fate of the Yorkists. In any event, the Duke of York's defeat was, according to some, the foundation for the mocking nursery rhyme, The Grand Old Duke of York. (Unlikely though, read more...)

Despite a setback at the Second Battle of St Albans on 17th February 1461, the Lancastrians did not reap the fruits of their victory. Queen Margaret decided not to attack London, a Yorkist stronghold, and the unpopular northern army of Lancastrians retreated north.

Meanwhile, Richard Duke of York's eldest son, Edward Earl of March defeated the Lancastrians at Mortimer's Cross, joined forces with Warwick the Kingmaker, and made a triumphal entry into London, where he seized the throne and became Edward IV.

Knight in armour bannerEdward IV's army engaged the Lancastrians at Towton and the Lancastrians suffered a bloody defeat. After Towton (March 1461). Edward IV was preoccupied still with defeating the Lancastrians. The remains of his father Richard Plantagenet and his brother, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, had been interred in St Richard's Friary, Pontefract - their heads had been recovered from York and reunited with their bodies. Once Edward IV had gained control of the country he arranged for a fitting funeral for his father and his brother at Fotheringhay.

The Lancastrian victory at Wakefield was short-lived, and their slaughter of the Yorkist nobles (instead of the more usual ransoming) rebounded upon them when they, in turn, were killed without mercy by the Yorkists when they triumphed over the Lancastrians at Towton.

continued on page 4 /..


Sandal Castle, The Plantagenets, The Wars of the Roses and The Battle of Wakefield: Reference Sources & Further Reading
1. The London Chronicle for 1446-52.
2. The Battle of Wakefield 30th December 1460, P.A. Haigh, Sutton Publishing Ltd., 1996.
3. The Battle of Wakefield, Keith Dockray and Richard Knowles, from the The Ricardian, the Journal of the Richard III Society, June 1992. Reprinted 1999 for Wakefield Metropolitan District Council.
4. The Plantagenet Chronicles, General Editor: Elizabeth Hallam, Colour Library Books Ltd., 1995.
5. The Chronicles of The Wars of the Roses, General Editor: Elizabeth Hallam, Bramley Books, 1996.
6. From Wakefield to Towton, Philip A. Haigh. In the series: Battleground England, The Wars of the Roses. Lee Cooper, 2002.
7. The English Chronicle 1458 - 1461 (anonymous) edited in 1856 by JS Davies for the Camden Society.
8. Annales Rerum Anglicarum (anonymous Latin compilation ending in 1468).

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