Medieval War of the Roses

Battle of Northampton 1460

Lancastrians defeated at the Battle of Northampton, resulting in the capture of King Henry VI by the Earl of Warwick Yorkists army.

During lead up to the Battle of Northampton, the Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, and Edward Plantagenet, Earl of March landed at Sandwich with 2,000 men at arms. King Henry VI and Queen Margaret of Anjou were at Coventry with their small army. The Earl of Warwick entered London on 2nd July 1460, with an Yorkist army of 10,000 men.

battle of northampton 1460
“Battle of Northampton – 1460”, by by Matthew Ryan

Battle of Northampton

10th July 1460, Henry VI forces took up a defensive position at Northampton. They were in the grounds of Delapre Abbey, with their backs to the River Nene. A water-filled ditch in front of them topped with stakes. The defending army was around 5,000 strong, consisting mainly of men-at-arms. The Lancastrians also had some field artillery.

At two o’clock the Yorkists advanced, as they closed to the Lancastrians. The Earl of Warwick had become met by a fierce hail of arrows. The result of the arrows were that they had rendered the Lancastrian cannons useless.

yorkist gunnes at battle of northampton 1460
“Yorkist Gunnes” – Battle of Northampton 1460, by Matthew Ryan

Earl of Warwick reached the Lancastrian left flank, commanded by Edmund Grey, 4th Baron Ruthin. Lord Grey had his men lay down their weapons and let the Yorkists have easy access into the camp beyond. This treachery was the result of a secret message from Lord Grey to the Earl of March.

The Earl of Warwick had ordered his men not to attack those wearing the black ragged staff of Lord Grey’s men. After this, the battle lasted a mere thirty minutes. The defenders were unable to manoeuvre inside the fortifications. They fled the field as their line had become broken by the attacking Yorkists.

death of the earl of shrewsbury at the battle of northampton in 1460
Death of the Earl of Shrewsbury at the Battle of Northampton in 1460

Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham, John Talbot, 2nd Earl of Shrewsbury, Thomas Percy, 1st Baron Egremont and John Beaumont – 1st Viscount Beaumont were all killed. They had been trying to save the Henry IV from the Yorkists closing on his tent. Three hundred other Lancastrians became slain in the battle.

Capture of King Henry IV

Earl of Warwick kneels to King henry vi after the kings capture by the yorkists at the battle of northampton on 10th july 1460
Earl of Warwick kneels to King Henry VI after the King’s capture by the Yorkists at the Battle of Northampton on 10th July 1460, by Graham Turner

Henry IV became a prisoner, taken from his tent by the Earl of Warwick, Earl of March and William Neville, 6th Baron Fauconberg. Henry IV was taken to Delapre Abbey, followed by a short stay at Northampton. He was moved on to London to be confined in the Bishop of London’s palace. The Henry IV agreed that the Yorkists were the rightful heirs to the throne. Many thought this would end the war of the roses.

Queen Margaret was busily assembling an army in Wales in order to continue the struggle. On 30th December 1460, fighting to claim the throne continued at the Battle of Wakefield.