Friday, June 10, 2011


Early in the morning of 15 February preparations for the come battle began in both camps. The center of the Beaufort forces were under the personal command of the Duke of Somerset, the right flank was under commanded of Somerset’s heir Henry Beaufort, and the left flank was put under the command of Oxford. Across the field on the Yorkist army were divided in two, the Nevilles on the left and Richard III on the right. The Neville force was further divided with Warwick commanding the left flank that included all the men who had fought at Nottingham, Salisbury commanding the center, and Fauconberg commanding the right flank. The King’s force was also divided into three segments with Richard III commanding of the center with Cobham leading the left flank and Devon the right. Frost was still on the ground as the commanders assembled their ranks and peered across the fields outside Bosworth to the other side, save Warwick and the Neville left that seemed to be slow to take their position.

The Battle of Bosworth began when Oxford led the Beaufort left against the far right flank of the Yorkist host lead by Devon, but then Warwick and his men appeared behind the Beaufort army. In a risky maneuver, Warwick and his men had risen and assembled early before circling around their opponents’ right flank in a forced march that positioned them in-between center and right flank of the Beaufort army. The surprise rear assault caused mass confusion in the Beaufort army that Salisbury and Fauconberg quickly took advantage of as they attacked the isolated right flank of the Beaufort army. Richard III ordered Cobham to engage Somerset’s center before leading the center of his army to cut off the attacking left flank of the Beauforts. The confused and cut off Beaufort right flank quickly collapsed in the face of the Neville brothers’ assault and the fleeing troops escaped in the only direction they could find, right towards the center of Beaufort army. The Beaufort center had already engaged Cobham’s attack while fending off Warwick in the rear when their fleeing comrades raced into their ranks with Salisbury and Fauconberg’s men chasing after them. Somerset ordered a retreat and attempted to move whatever he could closer to Oxford’s forces, he found his way suddenly blocked by Richard III and his men not having yet engaged the attacking Oxford. The Beaufort army completely disintegrated as men ran for their lives or surrendered wholesale. Henry Beaufort had been killed when his men collapsed in face of the assault of Salisbury & Fauconberg while the Duke of Somerset was injured as he attempted to escape and was captured by Warwick himself. Oxford, having done the best he could, retreated towards Stamford.

By early in the afternoon the Battle of Bosworth was a complete Yorkist victory as the Beaufort forces were either dead, fled, or captured. Warwick presented the wounded Somerset, under heavy guard, to Richard III. The King ordered his rival to be put in chains and his wound given attention so that he could not escape justice for the crime of treason. Richard III then pardoned all the commoners that had fought for Somerset and commanded that the decree should be read in every church so that none should fear for his life then allowed those captured to return home, but with the warning that if they committed any crimes on their return home their lives would be forfeit for committing treason. As for the knights and nobles that had been taken captive, Richard III kept them prisoner so that they could be judged after his coronation. The King then allowed his army the right to take booty from the Beaufort camp. After the formalities of victory, Richard III retired to his tent with his commanders and ate a celebratory meal.

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.

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.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Contenders Take the Field

The succession crisis had lasted for nearly four months without any resolution between York and Beaufort with the only battles occurring between their supporters. But on 10 December 1453 one of the contenders finally took the field, the Duke of York along with Edward, the Earl of March, and Edmund, Earl of Rutland, led a force from Tewkesbury of 12,500 strong supported by Norfolk and Bourchier. The Yorkist army headed south towards Bradford-on-Avon where Ormond was maneuvering his nearly 3,000 strong force opposite Devon’s comparable force in southern Gloucester. On 13 December, Devon joined with York in northern Wiltshire and the nearly 15,000 strong forced headed to Swindon.

On 14 December, the Earl of Ormond came upon a column of the Yorkist army outside of Swindon and attacked it believing it to be just Devon’s force only to found himself facing a host that vastly outnumber his own. The battle was over in 90 minutes and those among Ormond’s force not dead either fled back to their homes or were captured. The Battle of Swindon gave York a victory, but considering that he almost outnumbered the Beaufort supporters nearly 5-to-1, it wasn’t a major one. However, Yorkist propaganda went into effect and the news was spread that the styled Richard III defeated a supporter of the usurper Somerset but graciously forgave the commoners and sent them home. After the battle, York presented his son Edward to the contingent of Cornish soldiers that Devon had recruited. Edward was then proclaimed the Duke of Cornwall, a title usually assumed by the king’s eldest son, and put him in command of the soldiers, if only nominally.

After Swindon, Ormond escaped to Southampton where he boarded a ship that took him to his estates in Ireland. The Duke of York with his eldest son followed with about 5000 men after Ormond but arrived too late to capture him. The two then started along the coast securing the port cities for the Yorkist cause, but didn’t seem to be heading towards London, which seemed odd. But a near 10,000 man army nominally led by Edmund, but with the Norfolk and Devon in actual command, headed towards London. The split of the Yorkists seemed very strange, especially with York commanding the smaller force that wasn’t heading to London.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Somerset had set off from Barnet to St. Alban’s on 12 December then headed up towards Olney then Northampton with an army of around 10,000 men sporting badges and banners with a large red rose prominently displayed. Somerset’s strategy had been to lure York out of Tewkesbury; however when news reached him of the Battle of Swindon and then the split in the Yorkist army it made him pause in Northampton for several days. The Beaufort commanders were divided with some suggesting that they go after the force led by Norfolk and Devon while others thought they should gain control of the Midlands since York seemed to have northern and southern England virtually in his control, this plan would including capturing York’s lands in the west of England and in Wales. Somerset decided to embarrass York by raiding his land, even perhaps capturing his family, and proceeded towards Ludlow via Coventry. Upon his arrival at York’s seat at Ludlow, Somerset discovered that York’s wife, younger sons, and daughters weren’t there. It turned out that York had sent his family to the city of Gloucester where they could escape to safety if the advance of Beaufort forces made it necessary. After letting his army sack Ludlow, Somerset then headed northward towards Shrewsbury.