Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Political and Martial Victories

On 21 December, the Yorkist army led by Norfolk and Devon arrived at Eton making Oxford very nervous as he remained at a stalemate with the forces of Cobham outside London. A week later in Canterbury, the Duke of York and Edward arrive with their 5,000 man force to cheers and shouts from the townspeople. York and March went to the cathedral and worshipped at the shrine of Thomas a Becket. When the news reached Cardinal Kempe in Barnet he excommunicated the priests that had given York and his son the mass, however the propaganda value that York received from this action was invaluable and increased the view of the commoners that he was the rightful King. The next day, York and March then headed from Canterbury towards London linking up with the forces of Cobham by nightfall. Upon hearing the news of York’s advance from Canterbury, Oxford retreated from south of London to Barnet where Somerset’s younger son, Edmund Beaufort, was staying with a small force.

On 30 December, Edmund, Norfolk, and Devon joined up with York, Edward, and Cobham outside London. The Yorkist army was welcomed into London, securing the Tower and the city. Late in the afternoon the Duke of York entered the City of London before heading for Westminster Hall where he sat upon the throne and was formally proclaimed Richard III by those present. The Yorkist control of London, Canterbury, and southern England combined with the York-supporting Nevilles domination of the North made the proclamation very near reality. However, when Somerset heard the news he attained all those that followed the ‘false king Richard,’ before continuing his march northwards on the road to Chester.

As 1454 began, Richard III took control of the government bureaucracy in London while sending his forces to the cities of Barnet, St. Alban’s, and Oxford to clear them of Beaufort loyalists. The Earl of Oxford and Edmund Beaufort escaped from Barnet with their forces to Norwich. In the north, the Nevilles had been gathering forces for Richard and with Somerset so close it was decided by Salisbury, Warwick, and Fauconberg to march south. The three men each took a third of their total force and started on different routes southward, hoping to lure Somerset towards a fight. By that time Somerset was leaving Chester and turned eastward and the city of York.

On 16 January, outside Nottingham the forces under Warwick confronted a part of the Beaufort army and fighting quickly ensued. Warwick’s smaller force held its own the entire day as his father and uncle raced to reinforce him, however the winter weather was hampering everyone. Unfortunately, the entire Beaufort army was closer and Warwick found his force at a numerical disadvantage even though they were controlling the field. The young Neville sent a small charge to push the Beaufort army back to allow the rest of his force to disengage from the field and head towards Newark where he linked up with his father and uncle. The Battle of Nottingham was a draw with Warwick gaining a tactical victory by preserving his force to fight another day while inflicting heavy losses to the enemy in both actual numbers and proportion of the total force killed, however it was a strategic victory for Somerset in forcing Warwick from the field and stopping the overall Neville advance. And according to the Beaufort propaganda it was a major defeat for Warwick, who was portrayed as a coward running from the battlefield. That humiliation would have major ramifications weeks later.

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