The Battle of Tewkesbury - 4th May 1471


Edward IV (House of York) had seized the English crown some ten years earlier after his overwhelming victory at the Battle of Towton in 1461. He held the deposed King Henry VI (House of Lancaster) as a prisoner, however Henry's wife, Margaret of Anjou and their son, Edward Prince of Wales remained at large and ran a "Court in Exile" from France whilst plotting how to regain the English crown, if not for Henry, then for their son Edward. When Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (known as "the Kingmaker") changed his allegiance from the Yorkists to the Lancastrians, Edward IV was forced to flee the country only to return not long after with his mind set on stamping out the Lancastrian claim to the throne for good.

At the Battle of Barnet on 14th April 1471, Edward IV won a resounding victory. Richard Neville was killed and Henry VI again was captured and placed in the Tower of London. By coincidence on the same day, Henry's wife, Margaret and their son Edward, landed in England again, at Weymouth, with a fresh Lancastrian army. Hearing of her husband's defeat as she arrived her heart must have sunk, however she quickly devised a plan to move her force swiftly to Wales where Jasper Tudor, Henry's half-brother, was positioned with more men. If they could link up and create a large army they could wipe out Edward IV. The race was on.

As Margaret moved north, Edward IV began a march from London to try and catch her. In need of supplies she lost time in Bristol gathering provisions, before marching north further, this time to Gloucester, the first crossing point over the River Severn and taking her into Wales. Gloucester was however loyal to King Edward, the city's elders and garrison refused to open the gates to let her pass through. With no time to force her way in, she opted to move further north still, to the next river crossing, situated in the small Abbey town of Tewkesbury. It was here that King Edward, after force marching across the country, caught up with the Lancastrian army who had little choice but to turn and face Edward for battle.


The Battle of Tewkesbury - 4th May 1471

ORDERS OF BATTLE

YORKIST ARMY

Left Division

Richard Duke of Gloucester (future Richard III) - sub commander

Dismounted Knights (200 men) 8 figures - Full Plate Armour, Superior Fighters, Elite, Veterans, 2 Handed Weapons

Billmen (400 men) 16 figures - Armoured, Excellent Fighters, Trained, Veterans, 2 Handed Bills

Archers (750 men) 30 figures - Light/Minimal Armour, Trained, Veterans, Longbows

Artillery - 2 models - "Organ" gun - Light cannon, trained crew

Centre Division

King Edward IV - Commander in Chief

Dismounted Knights (200 men) 8 figures - Full Plate Armour, Superior Fighters, Elite, Veterans, 2 Handed Weapons

Billmen (400 men) 16 figures - Armoured, Excellent Fighters, Trained, Veterans, 2 Handed Bills

Archers (750 men) 30 figures - Light/Minimal Armour, Trained, Veterans, Longbows

Artillery - 2 models - "Organ" gun - Light cannon, trained crew

Right Division

Lord William Hastings - sub commander

Dismounted Knights (200 men) 8 figures - Full Plate Armour, Superior Fighters, Elite, Veterans, 2 Handed Weapons

Billmen (400 men) 16 figures - Armoured, Excellent Fighters, Trained, Veterans, 2 Handed Bills

Archers (750 men) 30 figures - Light/Minimal Armour, Trained, Veterans, Longbows

Artillery - 2 models - "Organ" gun - Light cannon, trained crew

Cavalry Detachment

Currours (200 men) 8 figures - Light Armoured Cavalry, Trained, Vetrens, Lance


LANCASTRIAN ARMY

Left Division

John Courtenay, Earl of Devon - sub commander

Dismounted Knights (250 men) 10 figures - Full Plate Armour, Superior Fighters, Elite, Veterans, 2 Handed Weapons

Billmen (500 men) 20 figures - Armoured, Excellent Fighters, Trained, Veterans, 2 Handed Bills

Archers (1000 men) 40 figures - Light/Minimal Armour, Trained, Veterans, Longbows

Artillery - 1 model - "Organ" gun - Light cannon, trained crew

Centre Division

Lord John Wenlock - Commander in Chief

Edward Prince of Wales - sub commander

Dismounted Knights (250 men) 10 figures - Full Plate Armour, Superior Fighters, Elite, Veterans, 2 Handed Weapons

Billmen (500 men) 20 figures - Armoured, Excellent Fighters, Trained, Veterans, 2 Handed Bills

Archers (1000 men) 40 figures - Light/Minimal Armour, Trained, Veterans, Longbows

French Crossbowmen (200 men) 8 figures - Medium Armour, Trained, Mercenaries, Crossbow

Artillery - 1 model - "Organ" gun - Light cannon, trained crew

Right Division

Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset - sub commander

Dismounted Knights (250 men) 10 figures - Full Plate Armour, Superior Fighters, Elite, Veterans, 2 Handed Weapons

Billmen (500 men) 20 figures - Armoured, Excellent Fighters, Trained, Veterans, 2 Handed Bills

Archers (1000 men) 40 figures - Light/Minimal Armour, Trained, Veterans, Longbows

Artillery - 1 model - "Organ" gun - Light cannon, trained crew


THE BATTLE AS IT HAPPENED


The battle opened with an exchange of massed archery and artillery fire, the Yorkist army having the numerical advantage having brought theirs and captured guns from Barnet. Lord Somerset then split his division, leaving a screen of archers in their original position, he led a flanking action of knights and billmen in an attempt to catch the Duke of Gloucester in the side. King Edward had foreseen this plan and had hidden 200 Lancers in woods on a small hill to the left. As Somerset advanced passed the hill and charged Gloucester's flank, the cavalry themselves charged into Somerset's rear. Even so, Somerset's men began to push back Gloucester's force before the cavalry attack in the rear began to take it's toll. Bizarrely, both Wenlock and Devon's divisions simply stood and watched.

After fierce hand to hand fighting, Somerset's men made a run for it, many being cut down in an area now known as "Bloody Meadow". Lord Somerset himself only just escaping capture, ran to Lord Wenlock in a fury at his men not supporting his advance, and promptly killed Lord Wenlock, cleaving his skull with a battle axe. At this Edward IV ordered a general advance and all three Yorkist divisions charged the Lancastrian army. With Wenlock dead, and no overall commander, the Lancastrian army struggled to fight with any cohesion. In the ensuing melee, Edward Prince of Wales was slain and soon the entire Lancastrian army was in rout. Hundreds of fleeing men were either cut down or drowned trying to escape.

Lord Somerset and several other nobles took sanctuary inside Tewkesbury Abbey, the Abbot initially refusing any armed pursuers inside. After a couple of days though he realised that Edward IV was going to be King for a while longer now he had won such a decisive victory, and upsetting the King may not be such a good idea. He therefore let Somerset and his companions be removed from the Abbey where they were beheaded.

With Edward, Prince of Wales dead, as well as Somerset and Richard Neville, the Lancastrians had few people left to lead their cause. To make sure they had even fewer, Edward IV now ordered the captured Henry VI to be killed too, leaving himself as undisputed sovereign of England until his death in 1483, when "The Wars of The Roses" would start again.




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