Medieval War of the Roses

Battle of Tewkesbury 1471

The forces of Lancaster under the Duke of Somerset were defeated at The Battle of Tewkesbury, against the Yorkist King Edward IV

Leading up to the Battle of Tewkesbury, King Edward IV learnt that Queen Margaret of Anjou had raised a Lancastarian army, and was marching towards Wales. Edward IV gathered a substantial Yorkist army together at Windsor Castle in Berkshire. The Yorkist army marched towards Gloucester to stop Margret’s force from crossing the River Severn to reach Wales.

30th April 1471 Queen Margret’s Lancastarian army had reached Bath, she then briefly diverted to Bristol to secure artillery and reinforcements. Edwards IV’s army had reached Cirencester.

3rd May 1471 the Lancastrian army had evaded the Yorkist by marching through the night. Once reaching Gloucester, they were refused entry by the governor Sir Richard Beauchamp, 2nd Baron Beauchamp. Margaret realised she did not have enough time to storm the city before the Yorkists would arrive.

Queen Margaret ordered the Lancastrain army to march to Upton-upon-Severn in Worcestershire, the next crossing point on the River Severn. Edward IV Yorkist army had marched through Cheltenham during the afternoon.

The Lancastarians abandoned some of the artillery to march quicker. The Yorkists took advantage by capturing the artillery.

Once the Lancastarians had reached Tewkesbury, they made camp to recover from the miles covered marching. Queen Margaret stayed at the Gobes Hall in town during the night. The Yorkist Scouts reported that Margaret had made camp at Tewkesbury. Edwards IV pressed on and stopped within 3 miles of the Lancastarians.

Battle of Tewkesbury

the battle of tewkesbury 1471
The Battle of Tewkesbury 1471, by Graham Turner

4th May 1471, during the morning the Lancastarians army of 6,000 men positioned themselves into three sections, just south of Tewkesbury. The River Severn was to their rear as well as Tewkesbury Abbey a former Benedictine monastery.

Edward IV also positioned his army of just under 6,000 men into three sections. Richard Plantagenet, Duke of Gloucester commanded the centre section. William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings commanded the rear. Some spearmen had been sent to a wooded area to stop the Lancastarians from using it.

The Yorkist started to advance towards the Lancastrain positions. The artillery and archers gave covering fire, showering the Lancastrians with arrows and shot.

Edmund Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset led his men to attack the Yorkist left flank. The Yorkist spearmen came out from the woods and now joined in the beating back of the Lancastarians. The Duke of Gloucester’s section also joined in on the fighting, making the Lancastrians break up and retreat.

Lancastarians bloody retreat

the battle of tewkesbury 1471
The Battle of Tewkesbury, by Graham Turner

The Duke of Somerset’s troops made an attempt to flee across the River Severn, they had become mostly cut down. The meadow had become covered in blood and slaughtered bodies during the retreat. The Lancastarians under John Wenlock, 1st Baron Wenlock had not given any support.

The Duke of Somerset got on his horse, then rode across to Lord Wenlock and struck him with a battleaxe. Lord Wenlock now laying dead on the battlefield amongst others that had been slain. The Lancastrian leaders John Beaufort, Marquess of Dorset and John Courtenay, 15th Earl of Devon had been killed during the battle.

As the morale had collapsed, the remaining Lancastarians fled to a Swilgate crossing the River Avon. Some of the men drowned attempting the crossing, while others had become killed by the pursuing Yorkists.

George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence and his Yorkist men had captured Edward, Prince of Wales in a small wooded area. The 17 year old Prince Edward had pleaded for his life, before he became beheaded on a makeshift block. Edward the son of Henry IV had been the Lancastrians heir to the throne. Queen Margaret had become captured by Sir William Stanley.

Sanctuary at Tewkesbury Abbey

edward iv withheld by a priest from pursuing lancastrian fugitives into tewkesbury abbey
Edward IV withheld by a priest from pursuing Lancastrian fugitives into Tewkesbury Abbey, by Richard Burchett

The Duke of Somerset and some Lancastarian nobles and knights fled to Tewkesbury Abbey seeking sanctuary.

After the battle, Edward IV attended prayers at the Abbey. He gave permission for the Prince of Wales and other killed to be buried at the Abbey and other areas of the town.

Two days later, the Duke of Somerset, Hugh Courtenay, Sir John Langstrother amongst other leaders became dragged out of the Abbey. They had been taken to the town centre and executed, on the orders of the Duke of Gloucester and John de Mowbray, 4th Duke of Norfolk.

After the Battle of Tewkesbury

capture of queen margaret of anjou after the battle of tewkesbury
Capture of Queen Margaret of Anjou after the Battle of Tewkesbury, by John Gilbert

Queen Margaret of Anjou taken and imprisoned at Wallingford Castle, and then moved to the Tower of London.

21st May 1471, Henry VI had been murdered while imprisoned within the Tower of London. He had struck in the back of his head, while kneeling down for prayer.

Those loyal to the House of Lancaster suffered defeat, along with any direct claimant to the throne. England now had political stability, until the King Edward IV died in 1483. His only son became King Edward V. Two months later he had become murdered within the Tower of London. Richard, Duke of Gloucester had become proclaimed as the rightful King.

Richard III and Henry Tudor came together at the Battle of Bosworth, the outcome from the battle would decide who would be King of England.