War of the Roses

Second Battle of St. Albans

Date: 17th February 1461   Victory: Lancastrian
House of York
Richard Neville (16th Earl of Warwick)      
House of Lancaster
Margaret of Anjou      

The Earl of Warwick with the captive King Henry VI in his train, positioned his army at St. Albans (20 miles northwest of London) to block Margaret of Anjou's army's route to London. Warwick set up several fixed defenses, including cannon and obstacles such as caltrops and pavises studded with spikes. Warwick waited for Edward, Earl of March's army to join him.

Although strong, Warwick's lines faced north only and Margaret knew of Warwick's position, through Sir Henry Lovelace who was the steward of Warwick's own household. Lovelace had been captured by the Lancastrians at Wakefield but had been spared from execution and released, he believed he had been offered the vacant Earldom of Kent as reward for betraying Warwick.

16th February 1461, Margaret's army swerved sharply west and captured the town of Dunstable. From Dunstable, Margaret's forces moved south-east at night, towards St Albans. Before the Yorkists could join forces the leading Lancastrian forces attacked the town shortly after dawn. Storming up the hill past the Abbey, they were confronted by Yorkist archers in the town centre who shot at them from the house windows.

The Lancastrians regrouped at the ford across the River Ver and sought another route into the town. A second attack was launched along the line of Folly Lane and Catherine Street, this attack met with no opposition and the Yorkist archers in the town were now outflanked. They continued to fight house to house, but were finally overcome after several hours.

Having gained the town, the Lancastrians turned north towards Warwick's rear, positioned on Bernards Heath. The damp conditions dampened the gunpowder, many of the Yorkists cannon and handguns failed to fire.

As dusk set in Warwick realised that his men were outnumbered and increasingly demoralised, he withdrew with his remaining forces of about 4,000 men to Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire. As Warwick fled, he left his hostage a bemused King Henry VI under a tree, where the King spent the battle sitting under a tree, singing.

2nd March 1461 Edward, Earl of March and the Earl of Warwick entered London.

4th March 1461 Warwick proclaimed the young Yorkist leader as King Edward IV, the country now had two Kings.