Medieval War of the Roses

Battle of Barnet 1471

King Edward IV army defeated the Lancastarian army, lead by the defected Earl of Warwick at Battle of Barnet in 1471.

The build up to the Battle of Barnet began when King Henry VI had been restored back on the throne with the help of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick.

14th March 1471, Edward IV had been exiled in Burgundy. He crossed the channel with 36 ships and 1,200 men and landed at the coastal town of Ravenspurn in East Riding of Yorkshire. This was the start of a campaign to retake the throne.

Edward IV marched towards York and then southwards, evading John Neville, 1st Marquess of Montagu’s Lancastrian army. Once he had reached the town Warwick, he had gathered more support and proclaimed himself King of England.

The Earl of Warwick had been in Coventry, preparing to block the advance of Edward IV before reaching London. George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence appealed to the Earl of Warwick to surrender, but he refused.

2nd April 1471, the Duke of Clarence had accepted a pardon from Edward IV at Coventry.

Battle of Barnet

mistaken identity at the battle of barnet 1471
Mistaken identity at the Battle of Barnet – painted by Graham Turner

14th April 1471, Edward IV was joined at Barnet by his brothers, Richard Plantagenet – Duke of Gloucester, and the Duke of Clarence. Since landing back in England, the Yorkist army gathered more support. The Yorkist army had become outnumbered by the Lancastarians.

Edward IV planned for an early attack at around 4 o’clock in the morning, there was thick fog. He quickly roused his men to engage the Lancastrians.

Both sides fired their cannon and arrows before laying into each other with polearms. John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford’s men quickly overwhelmed William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings. Yorkist soldiers fled towards Barnet, and had became chased by the Lancastrians.

The Earl of Oxford rallied 800 of the men, and led them back into the battle. Due to the fog the visibility was low. The two forces failed to notice the Earl of Oxford’s victory had over Lord Hastings.

The fighting between the forces of Edward IV and the Lord Montagu had become evenly matched and intense. Duke of Gloucester exploited the misaligned forces and beat the Henry Holland, 3rd Duke of Exeter back. Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick ordered most of his reserves to help ease the pressure on the Duke of Exeter.

As the fog started to dissipate, Edward IV saw the Lancastrian centre in disarray, he sent in his reserves, hastening its collapse. Cries of the Duke of Exeter’s demise from a Yorkist axe resounded across the battlefield. Lord Montagu had also struck in his back and killed. The Duke of Exeter had become stripped of his armour and left for dead on the battlefield. He was alive though gravely injured.

Death of Warwick

the earl of warwick slain by the yorkists while he was trying to flee the battle of barnet
The Earl of Warwick slain by the Yorkists while he was trying to flee the Battle of Barnet.

The Earl of Warwick aware that the battle had become in favour of the Yorkists, he made for his horse in an attempt to flee. Edward IV recognised his victory was at hand, deciding that the Earl of Warwick was more valuable alive than dead. Edward IV sent his guards to bring the Earl of Warwick back alive.

Other Yorkist soldiers ignorant of Edwards IV order, found the Earl of Warwick first. They pulled him down, pried open his visor and fatally stabbed him through the neck. Edward IV’s guards found the Earl of Warwick’s corpse, mutilated and stripped of its gilded armour.

The bodies of the Earl of Warwick and his brother Lord Montagu had been taken to St Paul’s Cathedral in London. The bodies then displayed to stop any rumours of them still being alive.


After withdrawing from the battle, the Earl of Oxford fled to France. He continued his campaign against Yorkist rule, by attacking English ships.

The Duke of Exeter made a full recovery while imprisoned at the Tower of London. However, he did eventually submit to the rule of Edward IV.

Henry VI now quite feeble, had become imprisoned at the Tower of London.

Queen Margaret of Anjou and Prince Edward had arrived back to England on the day of the Battle of Barnet. Edward IV had found out that Margaret had formed a Lancastarian army, he sent a Yorkist army in response. Both armies came together at the Battle of Tewkesbury.