Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rendezvous with Destiny

After the Battle of Nottingham, the Beaufort forces remained in the city as they stared down the Nevilles in Newark. There were minor clashes between small groups of soldiers from both forces over the next two weeks but a major confrontation couldn’t happen because of the weather. In and around London, Richard III and his supporters had been increasing their forces to combat Somerset while also securing their hold on government. Meanwhile King James II of Scotland had been watching the movements of the English factions and in late January sent a small army over the border to captured Berwick while laying siege to Roxburgh Castle. Then in early February, Richard III headed for Dunstable where an army of nearly 20,000 men had assembled leaving his sons the now proclaimed Princes Edward and Edmund in London, which was under the command of Norfolk and Richard’s brother-in-law Bourchier. Richard left the nobles with orders that if he were to die to immediately crown Edward as the new King with the two men as co-Regents. The Yorkist army then headed northward to engage the Beauforts. However in amassing such a large force, the news had reached Somerset in Nottingham giving him an advantage on where to choose to fight, if he moved quickly.

On 7 February, the nearly 10,000 strong army led by Somerset headed south to Stamford where it was joined by a force led by the Oxford swelling its number to nearly 13,500. On 9 February, the Richard III’s army arrived at Northampton to learn that Somerset was headed for Coventry by way of Leicester. On 12 February, the Neville army marched into northern Leicestershire and headed towards a rendezvous with Richard III in the western part of the county hoping to intercept Somerset. On the afternoon of 14 February, units of all three armies arrived around the small town of Bosworth during the rest of the day the small village swelled to a city with the arrival of a combined 49,000 armed men from both sides, with Richard III outnumbering Somerset roughly 5-to-2.

As night fell, Somerset decided that he would engage Richard’s larger army as early the next day as possible for the element of surprise and in the ensuing chaos either get the victory or give himself time to retreat to fight on more favorable terms against either one of the Yorkist armies. However, Oxford tried to persuade him to attack and defeat the Neville army then retreat before the larger army of Richard could engage them. The self-styled Edmund I decided against Oxford’s plan as it could have been seen as if he was frightened of Richard. Meanwhile in the Yorkist camp, the King held a council of war with his senior commanders and the consensus was for the Nevilles to attack Somerset’s right while the King attacked Somerset’s left. Warwick in particular was vocal in this and many believed he had something up his sleeve in response to the humiliating propaganda that the Beauforts had put out against him. After the council, Salisbury and Fauconberg told the King they would do their best to ensure Warwick wouldn’t do anything reckless.

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