Medieval War of the Roses

First Battle of St. Albans 1455

Richard, Duke of York won the First battle of the War of the Roses against the Lancastrians at the First Battle of St Albans in 1455.

The First Battle of St Albans became the first battle of the War of the Roses. Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham commanded the Lancastarian army of 2,000 men. Once they had arrived at St Albans, they prepared to defend the town.

Richard Plantagenet – 3rd Duke of York led a Yorkist army of 7,000 towards London. They made camp just outside of St Albans. A series of letters exchanged from Richard, Duke of York to King Henry VI. A compromise had not been reached.

First Battle of St Albans

22nd May 1455, Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick led a reserve force of Yorkists through the narrow streets of St Albans that had not been guarded.

The Earl of Warwick made a surprise appearance in the towns market square. The Lancastarian army had been resting when they came into view. The Yorkists charged towards the Lancastarians, a bloody battle commenced. Henry Percy, 2nd Earl of Northumberland had been killed, the Lancastarians defences broke.

the first battle of st albans 1455
The first Battle of St. Albans 1455

Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset took refuge at the Castle Inn. Once the Yorkists had the building surrounded, the Duke of Somerset came out and started fighting. He become struck down and killed in the main street, along with Thomas Clifford, 8th Baron Clifford.

The Earl of Warwick gave the order for the Yorkist archers to fire upon the bodyguards surrounding Henry VI, resulting in killing several men.

Realising they had been outflanked, the Lancastrian army abandoned their barricades and fled St Albans. Earl of Warwick’s longbowmen fired arrows into Henry IV bodyguard, killing several of the men.

After the battle

Richard, Duke of York had won the battle, it had resulted in several of the Lancastrian leaders killed.

Henry Beaufort, 2nd Earl of Dorset survived the battle, although severely wounded. After the battle the Yorkists found Henry VI hiding in a local tanners shop, he had suffered a bout of mental illness. He had a slight wound to his neck by an arrow.

The Earl of Warwick took both Henry VI and the Duke of Buckingham prisoner back to London. Queen Margaret of Anjou and her young son Edward fled into exile. Richard, Duke of York became Protector of England.

The following years

Both sides tried to reconcile their differences, but the original problems that caused the conflict soon re-emerged. The main problem was the issue that if Richard, Duke of York or Henry VI and his infant son Edward (Prince of Wales) would succeed to the throne. Margaret would not accept any solution that would stop Edward getting to the throne.

February 1456, King Henry VI recovered from his mental illness enough to relieve Richard, Duke of York of his position of Protector of England.

Henry VI and his wife went on a royal visit in the Midlands where they were still popular. While Henry VI had been away, the country suffered a decline in trade and widespread disorder. There had also been piracy by the French Fleets along the South coast.

1458, Thomas Burchier the Archbishop of Canterbury, arranged a reconciliation. He negotiated some complex settlements to resolve the blood-feuds that had persisted since the First Battle of St Albans.

1459, Both sides had become increasingly wary of each other, they would be at battle again at Blore Heath.