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The War of the Roses

ACT TWO: Warwick's Betrayal


The House of Neville

Nothing that takes place from here will make any sense unless we first discuss the House of Neville.

There are two things to know about the Nevilles.  

First and foremost, the Neville wives reproduced at an unimaginable, unfathomable rate.

Second, they were the richest family in England which is a good thing because they had a lot of mouths to feed. 


So far we have talked about the Plantagenets, the Anjevins, the Lancasters, the Beauforts, and the Yorks.  Now it is time to discuss the Nevilles.

Like everyone else in this story, John of Gaunt is somewhere in the background of the House of Neville.  However, so is Joan Beaufort.  The House of Beaufort will soon figure prominently in our story. 

In particular, Richard Neville, or 'Warwick' as he was known, intermingled with the family of Richard, Duke of York.  For starters, Warwick's Aunt, Cecily Neville, was Richard of York's wife.

Warwick had two daughters.  Isabella Neville married George, son of Richard of York.  Anne Neville married Edward, Prince of Wales, but then later married Richard III, son of Richard of York. 


Cecily Neville and Richard of York

Cecily Neville married Richard of York in 1429.  Oddly enough, they grew up together in the same household.

Richard's mother, Anne Mortimer, died giving birth to him.  Richard's father, the Earl of Cambridge, was beheaded in 1415 for his part in the Southampton Plot against the Lancastrian King Henry V.  Although the Earl's title was forfeited, he was not 'attainted'.  The four-year-old orphan Richard became his father's heir.

Within a few months of his father's death, Richard's childless uncle, Edward of Norwich, 2nd Duke of York, was slain at the Battle of Agincourt on 25 October 1415.  King Henry V allowed Richard to inherit his uncle's title and the lands of the Duchy of York.  The lesser title of the Earldom of March also descended to him on the death of his maternal uncle Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March.

Here is what is interesting.  Richard of York may have been an orphan, but he was also to become the wealthiest and most powerful noble in England, second only to the king himself.

As he was an orphan, Richard's income was managed by the Crown.  The Wardship of such an orphan was therefore a valuable gift of the crown.  In October 1417 this was granted to Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, who adopted Richard probably because Ralph Neville didn't have enough children of his own.  Mind you, I am telling a little joke here.  Ralph Neville had a problem... he had lots of daughters and needed some suitable husbands for them.  Neville had fathered an enormous family (twenty-three children, twenty of whom survived infancy, through two wives).  With so many daughters needing husbands, Ralph Neville basically went out and bought one for Cecily.

As was his right, in 1424 Ralph Neville betrothed the 13-year-old Richard to his daughter Cecily Neville, then aged 9.  This was a bit on the weird side since Cecily was growing up right beside Richard.  This was like Greg marrying Marcia on the Brady Bunch.  However, they obviously overcame any reticence.  Cecily and Richard would have 13 children.  Like I said, those Neville girls knew how to reproduce.

The major point is that Richard of York grew up as a Neville and maintained close ties with the family throughout his life.  Richard's wife Cecily was a Neville and Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, i.e. The Kingmaker, was his closest advisor. 


Elizabeth Woodville

While the thirty year War of the Roses was quite the bloody matter, it had the redeeming quality of being centered around a very curious romance.   Believe it or not, Edward had the nerve to marry an upstart.  And get this... Edward did for it love.  Can you imagine that?  

The scandal was unbelievable.  No one married for love back in Old England.  Strangely enough, Edward's decision was so upsetting that it would create Chapter Two of the War of the Roses.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, 'The Kingmaker', was the man who had put Edward IV on the throne.  Warwick and Richard of York saw eye to eye on many things.  After Richard of York died at Wakefield, Edward IV, depended greatly on the patronage of Warwick for advice, for fighting men, and for political influence. 

Edward was 19 when he became king and Warwick was 33.  One can imagine Warwick's relationship with Edward was that of an older brother and a mentor.  At this point, Earl of Warwick saw himself as Edward's closest confidant and the power behind the throne.  One can also imagine that Warwick believed that Edward 'owed him' for making him King in 1461.  Three years had passed.  At the moment, Warwick was in France pursuing a suitable political marriage on behalf of Edward. 

Warwick had made preliminary arrangements with King Louis XI of France.  Edward would either marry either Louis' daughter Anne or his sister-in-law Bona of Savoy.  Warwick had done a good job... he had the daughter of the King of France lined up.  Not bad.   

But then Edward went and botched everything up.  Ordinarily an English King marries a suitable girl.  Then if by chance he met a hottie in the woods, he has the sense to take the young lady to a convenient cottage somewhere.  That is exactly what Edward had in mind when one day he just happened to meet Elizabeth Woodville in the forest of all places.  Their meeting reads like a Fairy Tale.  The only way to make it any better would be to name the forest 'Woodville' as well. 


Who was Elizabeth Woodville and what she doing here in Woodville?  Elizabeth was an impoverished widow with two hungry sons to feed.  In 1452 Elizabeth had married Sir John Grey.  John Grey was a supporter of the Lancastrian cause who died fighting at the Second Battle of St Albans in 1461 against Edward, Duke of York. 

Disastrously for Elizabeth, after Grey's death, her mother-in-law refused to pay her dower from the family estate.  Only the king himself would be able to enforce her rights.

As the wife of a leader on the losing side, Elizabeth Woodville was now a penniless outcast without an estate. She was forced to return to live with her parents in Grafton.

Three years had passed since her husband's death.  One day in 1464, Elizabeth learned that Edward was in the area to recruit new men for his army.  Even better, the king was hunting in a forest near Grafton.  Elizabeth deliberately hid behind a tree and stepped out onto the road with her two boys as young King Edward passed by on his horse.


Edward was a known ladies man with a different mistress stashed in virtually every shire of the Kingdom.  Noticing that Elizabeth was unusually beautiful, the king stopped. 

Edward climbed off his horse and began to chat.  Elizabeth used her opportunity to plead for the return of her husband's estates.  Edward was smitten.  He immediately suggested they meet at a nearby cottage to further discuss the matter of Elizabeth's lost estate, but Elizabeth turned him down.  Edward, a notorious womanizer, was unaccustomed to rejection.  He continued to pursue Elizabeth and she continued to keep him at arm's length. 

Elizabeth may have been a commoner, but she knew how to use her uncommon beauty to great effect.  Edward became very intrigued.  Here was a woman who had so much to lose if he failed to grant her wishes.  She maintained her virtue nonetheless.  Edward began to admire Elizabeth not just for her beauty, but for her determined refusal to be his mistress.

Finally Edward couldn't take it any more.  Edward was full of desire for this fetching woman.  Elizabeth not only had the beauty he desired in a wife, she possessed a strong, virtuous character.  Edward proposed and the two of them had a secret marriage. 

Soon after, King Edward IV, England's most eligible bachelor, shocked the nation when he announced he had taken a bride.  Elizabeth Woodville, the impoverished widow with two young sons, was the new Queen of England.


Angry Reaction to the Edward's Surprise Marriage


The wealthy elite of England were aghast.  The match was badly received by the Privy Council.  "Surely, Edward, you must have known that this is no wife for a prince such as yourself."

Yes, Edward knew full well that he was in trouble.  He had knowingly backed out of an arranged marriage without consulting Warwick, the man who had gone to considerable trouble to arrange a suitable marriage for Edward.  Warwick was furious about Edward's surprise marriage.  Edward had gone and done something stupid without even speaking to him.  Warwick was the one who would have to apologize to the King of France.  Warwick felt humiliated and betrayed.  After all he had done to help Edward, he expected to see some respect and maybe even a little gratitude. 

Margaret of Anjou was disgusted.  Margaret was still determined to win back her son's inheritance.  After the Battle of Towton, she fled with her son and husband to Scotland and then on to France. From there, Margaret fumed.  As soon as Edward had a male heir, it was all over for her son.

Edward's mother Cecily Neville was unusually bitter at her oldest son.  Cecily Neville was at the very top of the social scale in late medieval England, and held the highest status any woman could enjoy.  Cecily felt both Elizabeth and the entire Woodville family were social upstarts

"I think of this commoner strumpet waiting for the King of England under an oak tree, as if she just happened to be by the roadside, a hedge-witch casting her spells on a gullible fool such as yourself.  I did not raise you to fall for the amorous glance of a slut strutting her well-worn wares in the forest."


The Kingmaker

Warwick became the central figure in the Second Chapter of the War of the Roses.  He bore a grudge towards Edward that simply grew worse.  In a sense, he possessed the same burning ambition as his deceased ally Richard of York.  Warwick knew he could not be king, but he was willing to settle for being the man who decided who would be the king.  And for that matter, Warwick was determined to make one of the two daughters, Isabella and Anne, the next Queen. 

Edward's marriage to Elizabeth initiated the rift in 1464.  The animosity between the two men widened year by year.  Warwick was angry about everything to do with Edward.  And he hated Elizabeth just as much.  Elizabeth considered Warwick dangerous to the extreme.

Elizabeth was right, but her husband constantly sought to appease his former mentor.  It did not good.  Warwick did not approve of anything Elizabeth did.  With the arrival on the scene of the new queen came many of her relatives.  Elizabeth's twelve unmarried siblings suddenly became very desirable matrimonial catches.  Warwick watched with disdain as Elizabeth's marriage greatly enriched her siblings and children.  Some were appointed to royal offices, some married into the most notable families in England, some did both. 

The major reason for Warwick's hostility was his increasing loss of political influence.  These people were upstarts, pretenders. These people were getting in his way.  Warwick's animosity grew as the Woodvilles opposed policies favored by Warwick.  Seeing the upstarts successfully exploit their influence with the king to defeat him grated at Warwick no end.  Warwick refused to let his alliances with the most senior figures in the English Council and the divided royal family be compromised.  When Elizabeth Woodville's relatives, especially her brother Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, began to challenge Warwick's pre-eminence in English society and political circles, Warwick decided he had to do something.

Three years had passed since Edward's marriage to Elizabeth.  During this time, Warwick had become progressively more alienated from King Edward.  Now his intentions turned toward treason.


Games of Thrones Revisited

Rick's Note: Let's put our story on pause for a moment while I remind everyone that there are entire websites devoted to comparing the real life characters in the War of Roses to George RR Martin's fictional Game of Thrones characters.

Margaret of Anjou is Cersei.  Richard of York is Ned Stark.  Ned Stark had his head on a pike.  So did Richard of York.

Lord Walder Frey is the equivalent of Warwick.  Lord Frey supported Robb Stark’s military action by letting Robb's army cross the bridge.  However, Lord Frey expected compensation for his indispensable support.  Robb Stark promised to marry his daughter.  When Robb Stark reneged to marry for love, Walder Frey arranged the infamous Red Wedding. 

Game of Thrones is not a direct parallel of War of the Roses.  But there are times when the similarities are uncanny. 

Given my fascination with Game of Thrones, it is easy to understand why I am just as fascinated by the War of the Roses.  Look what ambition does to people.

Click the picture or this link War of Roses-Game of Thrones to view a fabulous video which explains the War of Roses in 6 minutes.  You will understand the whole story so much more clearly. 



Warwick bore a grudge towards Edward that had become intolerable.  Years of hostility and a battle of wills had turned into open discord between King Edward and Warwick.  Warwick decided to switch his allegiance to the Lancastrian cause.  If a Kingmaker can make a King, then a Kingmaker can unmake a King. 

In the autumn of 1467, Warwick withdrew from the court to his Yorkshire estates.  Now out of sight, Warwick covertly instigated a rebellion against the king with the aid of Edward's disaffected younger brother George, Duke of Clarence, as well as encouragement from Edward's bitter mother, Cecily.  Keeping in mind that Cecily Neville was Warwick's niece, Warwick had little trouble gaining her support. 

Cecily had never forgiven Edward for marrying such a low-life.  From the start, Cecily had refused to subordinate herself to the new queen, styling herself as the true Queen, or 'Queen by right' as she put it.  Cecily had never quite gotten over the fact that she would have been the queen had Richard of York not been murdered.  Now her son Edward expected Cecily to show respect to this low-born woman.  Cecily would have nothing of it.  This Elizabeth woman was beneath her, so how could her son ever expect her to bow to such a woman who was beneath her? 

Edward could see there was no love lost between Cecily and her daughter-in-law Elizabeth.  To lessen tensions at court, Edward IV had new Queen’s chambers built at Westminster for Elizabeth just so Cecily could remain in her old chambers.  He had tried to mollify his mother, but it did no good.  Cecily had left for good in a show of disgust.  She had a meeting with Warwick to attend.


George Plantagenet, Brother of Edward

If someone was looking for a part to play in this ongoing drama, George Plantagenet was one role to avoid for sure.  First a loser, then a winner, then a loser again, this guy would eventually suffer a miserable fate.  The poor guy couldn't even get a decent picture drawn. 

George, born 1449, was the middle brother between Edward, born 1442 and Richard, born 1452.  When Edward became king, he treated both of his brothers well.  The new king was generous to his two younger brothers.  George, 11, was made the Duke of Clarence in 1461 and the younger, Richard, 8, became the Duke of Gloucester.  From this point forward, George became better known as 'Clarence'.

There must be something very seductive about the idea of becoming king.  Rather than settle for the good life he had, George was ambitious to become king himself.  Consequently George was easy prey for the Kingmaker's promises in 1469.  Not only could George marry his daughter Isabel, Warwick would make George the next King.  How could George refuse an offer like that?   So what if his generous brother Edward had to go?  Tough luck, bro.  George allowed himself to be used like a pawn in the ugly power struggle between Warwick and King Edward.


Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

This excerpt from the White Queen written by best-selling author Philippa Gregory.  Here Edward is speaking to his wife Elizabeth about rumors of Warwick's plot.

‘But now I have to go north and deal with this,’ Edward complains to me.

‘There are new rebellions coming up like springs in a flood. I thought it was one discontented squire but the whole of the north seems to be taking up arms again. It is Warwick, it must be Warwick, though he has said not a word to me. But I asked him to come to me; and he has not come. I thought that was odd – but I knew he was angry with me – and now this very day I hear that he and George have taken ship. They have gone to Calais together.

God damn them, Elizabeth, I have been a trusting fool. Warwick has fled from England, George with him, they have gone to the strongest English garrison, they are inseparable, and all the men who say they are out for Robin of Redesdale are really paid servants of George or Warwick.’

Elizabeth thinks to herself, 'I am aghast. Suddenly the kingdom which had seemed quiet in our hands is falling apart.'

"It must be Warwick's plan to use all the tricks against me that he and I used against Henry." 

Edward hesitates, then begins thinking aloud.

"He is backing George now, as he once backed me. If he goes on with this, if he uses the fortress of Calais as his jumping point to invade England, it will be a brothers' war as it once was a cousins' war. This is damnable, Elizabeth. And this is the man I thought of as my brother. Warwick is my kinsman and my first ally. For God's sakes, this was my greatest friend. And now he has turned on me! And turned my brother as well.  And now I hear even my mother.  My God, my own mother."

Philippa Gregory, The White Queen

The Curious Blaybourne Allegation



The following remarkable conversation takes place in 1464 shortly after Edward has finally revealed his secret marriage to his mother Cecily Neville.  This excerpt was written by Philippa Gregory in her best-selling novel The White Queen

Jacquetta Woodville is known as the Lady of the Rivers due to her unusual gifts of second sight.  She is rumored to have remarkable powers of divination.  Cecily Neville is well aware that the Woodvilles are Lancasters.  Not only that, Jacquetta became a close confidante of none other than Margaret of Anjou, the virago Queen herself, long before all the fuss started. 

As we know, the Duchess of York absolutely hit the roof upon discovery of the marriage. To her, Elizabeth is the enemy.  Desperate to calm his mother, Edward asked Jacquetta to meet with Cecily, the Duchess, and attempt to restore peace in the family.  

Jacquetta is not welcome here.  No doubt it is Jacquetta's relationship with Margaret of Anjou, sworn enemy of the Neville family, that has raised Cecily Neville's darkest suspicions about Elizabeth Woodville.  Furthermore, Jacquetta was the only person in attendance at the secret wedding of Edward and Elizabeth besides the priest.  It is upon Jacquetta's word that Cecily Neville has to believe the wedding even took place. 

In attendance during this tension-filled meeting are several of Cecily's daughters including Margaret of York as well several of Jacquetta's daughters including Anne Woodville. 

Anne Woodville, Jacquetta's second daughter, narrates the story here.

Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, is speaking to Jacquetta and the various daughters in the room. 

"Nonetheless, Elizabeth was not my choice, nor the choice of Lord Warwick."

Her Grace is upset, her voice trembling with anger.

"It would mean nothing if Edward were not king. I might overlook it if he were a third or fourth son to throw himself away..."

My mother (Jacquetta) replies, 

"Perhaps you might. But it does not concern us. King Edward is the king. The king is the king. God knows, he had fought enough battles to prove his claim."

Cecily Neville retorts,

"I could prevent Edward from being king," Cecily rushes in, temper getting the better of her. "I could disown him, I could deny him, I could put George on the throne in his place.

How would you like that as the outcome of your so-called private wedding, Lady Rivers?"

The duchess' ladies blanch and sway back in horror.  Margaret (Margaret of York) who adores her brother Edward, whispers, "Mother!" but dares say no more.

Edward has never been their mother's favorite.  George, Edward's younger brother, is his mother's darling, the pet of the family.  Richard, the youngest of all, is the dark-haired runt of the litter.  It is incredible that the Duchess speaks of putting one son before another, out of order.

"How?" my mother says sharply, calling the Duchess' bluff. "How would you overthrow your own son?"

The Duchess replies,

"If he was not my husband's child..."

"Mother!" Margaret wails.

"And how could that be?" demands my mother, as sweet as poison.

"Would you call your own son a bastard? Would you name yourself a whore? Just for spite, just to throw us down, would you destroy your own reputation and put cuckold's horns on your own dead husband? When they put Richard's head on the gates of York, they put a paper crown on him to make mock. That would be nothing compared to putting cuckold's horns on him now. Would you dishonor your husband? Would you dishonor your own name? Would you dare shame your husband worse than his enemies did?"

There is a little scream from the women, and poor Margaret staggers as if to faint. My sisters and I are half-fish, not girls. We just goggle at our mother and the king's mother go head to head. It is like a pair of slugging battle-axe men in the jousting ring, each saying the unthinkable.

"There are many who would believe me," the king's mother threatens.

Mother stares at the Duchess with contempt.

"More shame to you then," my mother says roundly.  "The rumors about Edward's fathering reached England.  Indeed.  I was among the few who swore that a lady of your house would never stoop so low.  But I heard, we all heard, gossip of an archer named – what was it –’ my mother pretends to forget and taps her forehead. ‘Ah, I have it: Blaybourne. An archer named Blaybourne, who was supposed to be your amour.  But I said, and even Queen Margaret d’Anjou, sworn enemy of your husband, said that a great lady like you would not so demean herself as to lie with a common archer and slip his bastard into a nobleman’s cradle."

The name 'Blaybourne' drops into the room with a thud like a cannonball. You can almost hear it roll to a standstill.  My mother is afraid of nothing.  Mother is not through yet.

‘And anyway, if you can make the lords throw down King Edward, who is going to support your new King George?  Could you trust his brother Richard not to have his own try at the throne in his turn?  Would your kinsman Lord Warwick, your great friend, not want the throne on his own account?

Philippa Gregory, The White Queen


Now we fast-forward five years.  It is 1469 and Warwick is planning a revolt.  Warwick's plan is to unseat Edward IV and replace him with George, Duke of Clarence.  Warwick thought it useful to undermine Edward's legitimacy prior to launching the battle campaign by spreading an ugly rumor.  Mind you, Cecily Neville, 54, was Warwick's aunt and George's mother.  One has to assume that Warwick and George would not act without her permission. 

In 1469 both Warwick and George began to spread rumors that the king was a bastard.  People were asked to believe that his true father was not Richard, Duke of York, but rather an obscure archer named Blaybourne.  (Those Archers have always caused trouble!) 

With Warwick pushing for the crown to pass to her second son, George, Duke of Clarence, there is evidence that Cecily cooperated with the public shaming of her son.  Although Cecily said little about the matter in public, she didn't deny it either. 

After all, this was a woman who lived for her high status in the Royal Court.  This was not exactly the kind of information one typically uses to advance their social standing in snooty circles...

'Hey, girls, wanna hear some juicy gossip?  Guess what?  I fucked some archer kid back in 1442 and got knocked up!  Blimey, we've got a bastard for a king!  If that doesn't beat everything...'

One would assume a woman of Cecily Neville's importance would have spoken up after being accused of adultery. 

Instead... silence.  That speaks volumes without saying a word.

So was the Blaybourne rumor true or not?  There are four pieces of circumstantial evidence to support the claim.

 During the critical time needed for Edward's conception his father Richard, Duke of York, was away from his home base in Rouen, France, for a period of five weeks.  He was busy overseeing the Siege of Pontoise over a hundred miles away, a distance which necessitated several days of marching.  In his absence, his wife Cecily was (allegedly) having an adulterous fling with an archer by the name of Blaybourne.

  Further evidence reveals that Edward's ho-hum baptism ceremony was held in a side chapel in stark contrast to the glorious baptism of his next brother, Edmund.  

  Cecily Neville did not publicly recant.

 Oh, one more thing, Edward was tall and fair and did not look a bit like his father, short and dark

So was Edward illegitimate?   Maybe.  Maybe not.  650 years after the fact there are lengthy blogs all over the Internet written by people who claim to know the truth.  Each person offers compelling reasons why they are right and why the next guy or gal is wrong. 

If the allegation was true, the assumption would have meant that George was the rightful king.  Therefore Warwick was using this as his rationale to put the rightful king on the throne.  Oh, how noble of Warwick to spare England the shame of yet another illegitimate king!!

What makes all of this so hypocritical is that William the Conqueror was illegitimate.  No one questioned his right to rule, so why should it matter in the case of Edward?  After all, Edward's father never said a word.  No doubt Richard was able to count the weeks as well as anyone.  If anyone should be upset, it should have been him.  Therefore, what difference did it make? 

Here are the facts.  Richard of York loved his son Edward and the feeling was mutual.  Edward risked his life in battle after battle trying to make his father the next king.  When Richard fell, it was Edward who vowed to avenge his father.  Edward won the brutal Battle of Towton, the most horrible skirmish in English history, despite being badly outnumbered.  It takes considerable guts to stand up and fight against larger forces.  28,000 men died and now suddenly people are supposed to care who his mother slept with?  If anything, the entire nation should have been up in arms against his mother.  This was her doing, not Edward's.  I guess one has to be British to understand.

Why would Cecily and Warwick stoop so low?  Oh, forget about Warwick.  He had no more scruples than a shyster lawyer.  To me, the real story here is that Edward's mother would cooperate with this mockery.  Even if this story was true, what did Edward ever do to his mother to deserve her treachery?  Okay, so Edward married a sexy wood nymph instead of a proper French girl with a pedigree and a big dowry.  Get over it!!  

A normal mother would have been proud out of her mind.  Not Cecily.  Cecily allowed her contempt to dominate her sense of decency. 

Look at Edward... a courageous man who had fought bravely to become the King of England!!!!   Whether Edward was legitimate or illegitimate, for God's sakes, why would a mother hurt her son like this?  Even if Edward was illegitimate, it wasn't his fault.  Cecily had abandoned her son.  What in the hell was wrong with this woman?


1469 Rebellion

In 1469, with his influence at the English court waning, Warwick had won over Edward's brother George.  With full approval of Warwick's aunt Cecily Neville, Warwick pledged his daughter Isabel in matrimony and promised to install George as the next king with Isabel as queen.  The nineteen-year-old George had shown himself to share many of the abilities of his older brother, but was also jealous and overambitious.  In July 1469, the two sailed over to Calais where George was married to Isabel.  From there they returned to England, where they gathered the men of Kent to join the rebellion in the north.

Edward had taken his eye off the ball.  The main part of the King's army (without Edward) was defeated at the Battle of Edgecote Moor on 26 July 1469.  This defeat would not have been decisive if Edward himself had remained at liberty, but he walked right into a trap.  Heading north to meet up with his retreating army, Archbishop Neville, brother to Warwick, had been lying in wait.  Edward was subsequently captured at Olney.  Although treated with formal respect, Edward was nonetheless imprisoned.

Sad to say, Edward was largely to blame for the humiliating debacle of July 1469.  His complacency shows that he underestimated the extent to which he had lost popular sympathy.  In addition, he seemed unable to accept the extent of treachery within his own family.  Denial was the only possible explanation for his hopeful loitering for three weeks while the rebels organized.

His blunder into captivity further underscored his lack of appreciation for the danger he was in.  Above all, Edward had failed to appreciate just how little his government had succeeded in winning popular support when faced with a rival of Warwick's considerable reputation.

However, strangely enough, Warwick was unable to exploit his stunning victory.  He found himself politically isolated.  The English Council refused to cooperate.  Warwick needed more backing for his illegal usurpation, especially he intended to shove George, Duke of Clarence, down their throats.

The people of London took Warwick's triumph as a license for violence.  They began to riot and pillage.  There were local revolts throughout the land when some of the nobility seized the chance to settle their private quarrels without interference from the government.  To his dismay, Warwick discovered he could get no response to his proclamations calling for troops as long as the people believed the king was a prisoner.  Warwick shrugged his shoulders in bewilderment and resignation.  The people of England had spoken. Only the moral authority of the king could command their obedience.  In disgust, Warwick was forced to release Edward on 10 September 1469.  By October Edward's power was restored.  An important lesson had been learned here.  In order to rule a Kingdom, even a powerful man like Warwick could not succeed without the will of the people.  The coup d'état may have failed, but this was a very close call.  

One has to wonder.  Edward had been betrayed the man who had once been like a father to him.  He had been betrayed by his brother.  And he had been betrayed by his own mother of all people.

Prior to reading this story, the only place where people behaved this badly was on the Game of Thrones.  It is shocking to discover what I thought was escapist nonsense could be possible in the Real World.


An Uneasy Peace

During Edward's capture, Elizabeth had been terrified her husband would simply be murdered.  Why Warwick didn't simply murder Edward is an interesting question.  Warwick was apparently content with the overthrow of the Woodvilles.  Believing that he had secured Edward's submission, perhaps Warwick .  No doubt if Margaret of Anjou had been involved, Edward would be dead now.  The one thing Elizabeth knew was that Edward would never be safe as long as Warwick was around.  She was right. 

Edward had been released unharmed in October 1469.  At this point, Edward did not seek to destroy either Warwick or Clarence.  He allowed them to retain their estates and sought reconciliation instead.  In retrospect, Edward should have listened to his wife who had suggested destroying both of them for treason. 

Although the king refrained from punishing the rebels, he sought to reestablish a northern counterweight to the Nevilles by restoring the earldom of Northumberland to the dispossessed heir, Henry Percy. This turned out to be a fateful move because it meant depriving John Neville, who had remained loyal to the king when his brothers rebelled, of his title, lands and offices.

Edward sought to retain John's allegiance by compensating him with estates in the south-west, the new title of Marquess of Montagu, and the betrothal of his young son George Neville to the king's eldest daughter and current heir, Elizabeth of York. George was made Duke of Bedford in recognition of his future prospects.  All this, however, evidently failed to sufficiently mollify Montagu.

Soon after a private feud broke out in Lincolnshire between Sir Thomas Burgh of Gainesville and Lord Welles.  Warwick saw this as an opportunity to lure Edward up north into a trap.  In March 1470, Warwick and George helped enflame this ongoing skirmish into a serious problem.  Now King Edward was certain to ride up to the area and restore peace.  Edward did not suspect that Warwick and George would be waiting for him.  Their plan was to ambush Edward and assassinate him during the ensuing battle, thereby suffering the same fate as his father had at Wakefield ten years earlier. 

Warwick's plan had bad luck.  Sir Robert Welles, a co-conspirator, gave battle at Losecoat Field prior to planned trap and was utterly defeated.  He was captured holding documents that proved the complicity of Warwick and George.  Welles confessed his treason and named Warwick and George as the 'partners and chief provokers' of the rebellion.  Welles was beheaded, but Warwick and George were able to flee the country and go to France.

Warwick was relentless.  He vowed to try again.


The Unholy Alliance

Now an outlaw, Warwick turned to Louis XI to see if the French king would help him mount another rebellion.  Louis XI had a suggestion for Warwick.  Why not go talk to Margaret of Anjou?? 

Margaret despised Warwick.  They had been rivals for twenty years.  How could Margaret forget the Second Battle of St Albans?  This was the day she personally defeated the Yorkist forces of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick.  Her triumph rescued her husband Henry VI being held illegally by Warwick.

With Louis XI acting as peacemaker, with some difficulty Warwick showed rare humility and reconciled with Margaret of Anjou.  Both parties reached the same conclusion... I don't like this person, but the enemy of my main enemy is my friend.

In return for the help of Margaret and Louis XI, Warwick vowed to restore King Henry VI back to the English throne.  Warwick also agreed to marry his second daughter Anne Neville, 14, to Margaret's son Edward of Lancaster, 17, to seal the deal. 

Louis was so pleased, he offered to back the next invasion.  Warwick was heard to say, "Louis, I think this is the start of a wonderful friendship."  Or was it someone else who said that?


The Little Monster

Edward of Lancaster or Edward of Westminster or Edward V, whatever, was the only son of Margaret of Anjou.  If Margaret's counterpart on the Game of Thrones is Cersei, can you guess who Edward's counterpart on the show might be?  Think about it.  I will answer in a moment. 

As presumptive heir to the throne, Edward was literally Margaret's only reason to carry on.  Margaret had likely committed adultery to conceive him, she had engaged in endless plots to restore his birthright, and she now she had done the unthinkable by accepting help from Warwick, the Devil himself.  Warwick was virtually Edward's last remaining hope of becoming king of England.

Prince Edward had been born right in the midst of Richard of York's surge to power in 1453.  Consequently, Edward's entire life had operated as a leitmotif for the War of Thrones, or Game of Wars, whatever.  Who could possibly count how many men had already died so this little kid could keep hoping to be king someday?  Nor was it over.  It was now 1470 and Warwick planned to attack again. 



Edward is none other than Joffrey, definitely the most hated character on the show (or at least he was until Ramsey Bolton came along).  There was an incident in Season One where young Joffrey told a horrible lie.  This lie caused the death of an innocent butcher boy as well as the execution of the loyal direwolf that had protected Arya from being stabbed by Joffrey's sword.  Watching that magnificent animal die broke my heart.

It turns out that Edward was just as vile as his fictional counterpart.  Reports paint Edward of Westminster as a bad seed, violent and obsessed with war.  There is a well-documented story that took place at the 1461 Second Battle of St Albans.  In this battle, Margaret clearly outfoxed Warwick and his brother Montagu.  Soundly beaten, Warwick and Montagu had no choice but retreat.  In the process, Warwick left behind the bemused King Henry, who had spent the battle sitting under a tree, singing.

Two Yorkists knights, Lord Bonville and Sir Thomas Kyriell, had sworn to let their prisoner come to no harm during the battle.  Even now after the fighting had ended, they remained beside him to ensure a safe transfer.  King Henry had promised the two knights immunity, but Margaret gainsaid him and ordered their execution.  

Margaret wanted vengeance, so she put the men on trial at which her son presided.

"Fair son", Margaret asked, "what death shall these knights die?"  

Despite Henry's desperate pleas for mercy, Prince Edward, 8, replied that their heads should be cut off.  The boy clapped gleefully as the men suffered their cruel fate.


There is an interesting footnote to this story.  As we know, what goes around, comes around.  John Neville, aka Montagu, was also captured in this battle, but he had been spared a similar execution.  It turned out he was saved by the Duke of Somerset, Margaret's main military advisor.  Somerset feared that his younger brother who was currently in Yorkist hands might be executed in reprisal.

Montagu was forced to watch in horror as these two innocent men were cruelly put to their death with Margaret and Edward laughing in the background. This cruelty left an indelible memory. 

Two years later, Montagu presided over the skirmish known as the Battle of Hexham.  Montagu was handed thirty leading members of the Lancaster side following the battle.  Recalling Margaret's vengeance, Montagu executed every one of the men without hesitation. 


Third Time is the Charm

Queen Margaret, our precious Queen Margaret, in desperate exile in France, running out of money and lost without soldiers, agreed to an alliance with the snake Warwick, formerly her greatest adversary.  Amazingly, she let her precious son Edward, Prince of Wales, marry Warwick’s younger daughter Anne.  The two parents agreed to invade England.  If they were successful, perhaps they could give the newlyweds a bloodbath for a honeymoon gift and put Margaret's son and Warwick daughter on the throne of England.

Warwick was getting pretty good at this.  First Warwick staged an uprising in the north to draw Edward away from London.  Then, with the King totally fooled and headed north, Warwick and George came in from behind.  They landed at Dartmouth and Plymouth on 13 September 1470, picked up a large following in Kent, then headed to London.

Among the many who flocked to Warwick's side was his younger brother John Neville, known as Montagu.  Montagu had decided to betray Edward. 

So what was Montagu's beef?   Montagu had been a York loyalist for over ten years.   Montagu had fought with his father and brother Thomas at the Battle of Blore Heath in 1459, and was captured and imprisoned in Chester Castle by the Lancastrians, for which he was attainted.  That problem was corrected a year later when John Neville became Lord Montagu in 1460 thanks to Richard of York's return to England.  Montagu was captured again at the Second Battle of St Albans in 1461.  Following his second release from imprisonment, he led the Yorkist forces in the north of England, defeating the Lancastrians at Hedgeley Moor and again at Hexham (both 1464).

In reward for driving out the Lancastrians, in 1464, King Edward IV made Montagu the Earl of Northumberland, a title which had long been held by the disgraced Percy family.  Montagu was awarded the Percy estates confiscated after the Battle of Towton.

However, when Henry Percy was rehabilitated in 1470, Montagu was forced to give up the earldom and many important offices in favor of his former foe.  Edward had felt compelled to do this for fear that troops from Northumberland would not be loyal.  Percy would keep them in line better Montagu.  Montagu was compensated with other territories, but without suitable estates or income to support such a dignity.  Montagu had not taken part in Warwick's first or second last rebellion.  He was disappointed when his loyalty to the king had not been rewarded with the restoration of his earldom in Norhumberland. 

Once a Neville, always a Neville.  Besides, what has Edward done for me lately?   Unbeknownst to Edward, John Neville, 1st Marquess of Montagu, decided to switch to the Lancastrian side

This time the trap set for the king worked Edward was completely caught out of position.  Once he learned of Warwick's sneak attack in London, he hurried back south.  Edward saw Montagu's forces waiting for him on the road and let down his guard.  Montagu was on his side.  Or was he?  Something about the way Montagu's army approached tipped him off.  Edward realized he would soon be surrounded.  Realizing he had been betrayed again and that Warwick's brother Montagu was against him, Edward headed for the English Channel as fast as he could.  On 2 October Edward fled to the Netherlands. 

The story of Montagu is interesting because it shows that Warwick and Edward were so evenly matched that even one defection could alter the balance of power in the flicker of a moment. 

Back in England, King Henry, now 49, was released from the Tower of London and restored to the throne.  Henry VI was just as doddering as ever.  He had to be led by the hand when he paraded through London.  He was so frail in body and feeble of mind, it is unlikely Henry even knew he was king again.  No matter.  Warwick got what he wanted.  Now for the second time, he acted as the de facto ruler of England in his capacity as Henry's lieutenant.  At parliament in November, Warwick made sure Edward was attainted of his lands and titles

The rebellion had forced the King to flee the country.  Right now things were looking pretty good for Warwick.  George too.  For his loyalty, George was awarded the Duchy of York.  George was the new Duke of York, just like his father and brother had once been.

As anyone who has watched the Game of Thrones will tell you, treachery can be very profitable.  Apparently it works in reality too.


Charles the Bold

Charles the Bold was the mortal enemy of Louis XI, King of France.  Charles held vast amounts of territory in France, more even than Louis himself.

Charles was offered the hand of Louis XI's daughter Anne.  The wife he ultimately chose, however, was his second cousin Margaret of York, sister to Edward IV.  Charles did this in order to ally himself with Burgundy's old ally England.

Louis XI had a fit and tried to prevent the marriage with Margaret.  He demanded the Pope refuse to allow the marriage (the pair were cousins in the 4th degree), he promised trade favors to the English, and he undermined Edward's credit with international bankers to prevent him from paying Margaret's dowry. 

Louis even sent French ships to waylay Margaret as she sailed to France.  Too late.  In 1468, Edward and Charles became good friends as they celebrated their new alliance over French wine.


Return of the Jedi

After being exiled from England, Edward landed in Flanders, the southern part of Holland, in early October 1470.  He had few men and little money.  Edward made his way to see Charles of Burgundy, his brother-in-law.   Charles greeted him warmly. Edward was also delighted to be reunited with Margaret of York, his favorite sister.


Although Charles was glad to see Edward, at first he refused to assist him.  Margaret pled Edward's case to her husband.  She pointed out that Edward's overthrow had considerably lessened Margaret's dynastic worth.  This, together with her regard for her brother who been cheated of his throne made her plead passionately that Charles support Edward and make measures to restore him.  It did no good.  Charles held his ground and paid little attention to Margaret's begging.

Then something curious happened.  You know how I am about 'Fate'.  Edward caught a huge break when Louis XI suddenly declared war on Charles the Bold.   After Warwick completed his overthrow, he sent a message to Louis XI, King of France, that he would send men to help Louis XI overthrow Charles of Burgundy, the hated enemy of Louis.  Louis was really excited.  Maybe this overthrow lightning could strike twice!

Charles was more irritated than threatened.  On a whim, he decided it was in his best interests to oppose the Lancastrian rule of England, backed as it was by this pipsqueak Louis XI.  Wouldn't it be fun to give Warwick and Louis the lesson they deserved?

On 4 January 1471, Charles agreed to help the King-in-exile regain the English throne.  At last furnished with money, on 14 March 1471, Edward and his youngest brother Richard landed with a small force at Ravenspur.  Doing their best to avoid detection, Edward first returned to city of York.  Suspicious, York opened its gates to Edward only after he promised that he had just come to reclaim his dukedom.  This was literally the same scenario as Henry Bolingbroke had taken seventy years earlier.  Lightning would indeed strike twice, just not the lightning Louis XI had hoped for. 

Edward was not about to settle for regaining the Duchy of York.  His ambitions were much larger.  As he marched to London over the next month, Edward picked up support.   The first to join him were Sir James Harrington and William Parr, who brought 600 men-at-arms to Edward at Doncaster.  Then someone unexpected joined him. 



On the way from York to London, Edward decided to make a detour to Coventry and challenge Warwick who was encamped there.  Although Warwick's force had more men than Edward, the earl refused the challenge.  He was waiting for the arrival of Edward's brother George in order to use their combined strength to overwhelm the Yorkists.

When Edward IV learned what Warwick was waiting for, Edward sent his brother Richard to speak to George.

Six months earlier, Edward's brother George had opposed him during Warwick's successful third rebellion.  After sending Edward fleeing to France in exile, George was awarded the Duchy of York for his loyalty, making him the new Duke of York.  Surely that made George happy.  But it didn't.  George was beset with guilt and misgivings. 

Previously Warwick had promised to rebel specifically to put George on the throne.  That failed.  The second plot also had George headed to the throne.  That also failed.  Then the objective had changed for the third rebellion.  George first realized something was wrong when Warwick had his younger daughter, Anne Neville, marry Henry VI's son Edward of Lancaster in December 1470.  

Currently feeble old Henry VI was on the throne, not George.  When feeble old Henry did finally bite the dust, that would be Margaret's nasty son Edward taking Henry's place, not George.  Now that George was out of the loop, he realized Warwick could not have cared less about him. 

George was starting to catch on.  George was married to Isabel Neville and Edward, 17, was recently married to Anne Neville.  If his daughter Anne became Queen instead of his daughter Isabel, either way Warwick got what he wanted... one of his two daughters would be the next Queen and the Kingmaker would be in control. 


At this point, all Warwick wanted from George was more fighting men.  He realized that his loyalty to his father-in-law was misplaced.  Aware that his father-in-law was a lot less interested in making George the king than in serving his own interests, George realized he had been played.

Meanwhile, Warwick was taking George for granted.  Warwick assumed that George would be satisfied to stay on the Lancaster team because he was married to Isabel, Warwick's first daughter, and because he had just been handed the valuable Duchy of York.  Furthermore, through Isabel, George was currently co-heir to the vast Warwick estate.  Why would George jeopardize his current land holdings, plus his future inheritance from Warwick, the richest man in England? 

Nevertheless, George felt cheated.  There was no way in hell Warwick would ever put him on the throne.  George had a startling realization... his fortunes would be better off as brother to the king than as a nobody under Henry VI and then eventually Edward of Lancaster, the new Prince of Wales.

Right now his younger brother Richard had just asked to speak to him.  George knew what Richard wanted.  He suspected Richard had come to ask George to return to the House of York.  What should he do?  Shakespeare's 'false, fleeting, perjured Clarence (George)', discontented to now find himself fighting to maintain the Lancastrian dynasty, wanted desperately to reinstate himself in his brother Edward IV's favor.  George deserted his erstwhile ally Warwick, and rejoined his brother's forces

Reconciled, the three royal brothers moved towards Coventry.  Now George urged Warwick to surrender.  Infuriated with his son-in-law's treachery, Warwick refused to speak to George. 

Edward was not about to risk attacking Warwick with smaller numbers, so he turned again towards London.  Days later, when Edward entered London unopposed, George and Richard were at his side.  The old king greeted his usurper warmly and offered himself into custody, saying that he trusted Edward.  "My life will be in no danger in Edward's hands."

And with that, poor old King Henry VI was sent back to the Tower of London.  


The Battle of Barnet

Warwick was still fuming over George's last-minute defection back his brother Edward.  Was this a bad omen?  Montagu, Warwick's brother, had once been Edward's best commander.  It had been Montagu's defection during Warwick's third rebellion that had turned the tide against Edward in the first place.  Now George was defecting back to his brother's side.

Warwick dismissed the thought.  With George at his side, Warwick's victory was a slam-dunk certainty.  However, even with the defection, Warwick knew Edward faced long odds at Barnet, a small town about 12 miles northwest of London.  Warwick's army heavily outnumbered Edward's.  Lancastrian strength ranged around 15,000 men to 10,000 on the Yorkist side.  Furthermore, Warwick had the advantage of choosing the battleground.  Warwick chose a valley with rolling hills on either side.  In so doing, Warwick wisely chose the higher ground to the north.

Edward hurried to meet the Lancastrians hoping to surprise them.  Warwick knew the enemy was near, but since they arrived in the night was unsure of their exact location.  Edward deployed his trusted friend Lord Hastings on the left and entrusted his brother Richard (Gloucester) on the right flank. 

Edward asked George to fight at his side in the center.  He complimented George on his fighting ability as the reason, but in truth it was easier to keep an eye on their twice-defected prince there. 

As night fell, Edward put his plan for surprise morning attack in motion. Under a strict order of silence, the Yorkist army crept closer to the Lancastrians.  During the night, neither Warwick nor Edward spotted the opposing army, an event that proved crucial in the battle the next day. 


During the night, Montagu approached his brother Warwick to advise him that he felt the troops were skittish.  Montagu suggested that, as the highest-ranking commanders, he and his brother should fight on foot throughout the battle instead of riding on horse.  Soldiers believed that mounted commanders tended to abandon the men when the situation deteriorated.  By staying on foot, the two Nevilles would show their men that they were prepared to fight to the death, thus inspiring the troops to stand and fight harder as well. Warwick agreed and told his aide to go tether the horses to the rear near Wrotham Wood. 


Offset Lines

Two key things happened in the night. 

Warwick ordered his cannons to continually bombard the estimated position of the Yorkists' encampment.  This gave Edward the advantage of guessing where the enemy lie.  The Yorkists were able to sneak in so close that the Lancastrian artillery overshot their enemies.  Meanwhile the York side kept their cannons quiet and lit no fires so as to avoid betraying their location. 

The right wing of the Lancastrian army was commanded by John de Vere, Earl of Oxford.  Warwick and Montagu would command the center which straddled the road.  The Lancastrian left wing was headed by Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter.

Meanwhile, in the night, Edward had his brother Richard, the 18 year old Duke of Gloucester, extend his line hundreds of yards too far to the East.  Edward was unaware that there was no enemy to his front, just a muddy bog.  

What this meant was the opposing sides were not squared up.  On the western side, Lancaster's Lord Oxford was up on a hill looking down at the left flank of York's Lord Hastings.  These uneven lines would prove critical in determining the outcome of tomorrow's battle. 

As the dawn gave light, the opposing sides realized they were facing each other like a 3 on 3 basketball game.  Lord Oxford was on the hill opposite Lord Hastings, the Neville brothers and the Plantagenet brothers were in the center, but Richard of Gloucester was way off to the right squared off against a bog.

These offset lines would create remarkable consequences during the battle. 


Phase One:
Lord Oxford of Lancaster has the Upper Hand



The moment John de Vere, Lord Oxford (Lancaster), discovered that he was offset well to the outside of Lord Hastings (York), he ordered his men to charge down the hill before the York side could fully realign and defend themselves properly. 

In the mist, Lord Hastings had no idea he was outflanked by Oxford.  His men were not expecting such a strong force to attack them.  Oxford's group quickly overwhelmed the men under Lord Hastings who were caught off guard.

Yorkist soldiers panicked and fled towards Barnet, chased by the Lancastrians.   As it stood, some of the routed Hastings' men were so certain of defeat that they grabbed a horse and kept fleeing all the way to London twelve miles away.  There they spread tales of the fall of York and a Lancastrian victory.

The fog would work a strange magic all day long.  If the skies had been clear, the battle would have already been over.  The horror of seeing Edward's left line collapse would have caused the rest of Edward's men to quit on the fight and run for their lives.  Instead, due to the fog, visibility was low, so the two main forces failed to notice Oxford's victory over Hastings.  Unable to see what was going on around them to the west, the opposing center forces continued to fight.

Once Oxford's group of men reached Barnet, they were now an entire mile south of the main battle line.  Now this early success turned to disaster when Oxford's forces began pillaging.  Oxford's men lost interest in the battle and split off in order to begin looting the fallen enemies.  Assuming the battle was over, many of the men took the time to have a beer in Barnet and celebrate their victory. 

Lord Oxford was furious at the lack of discipline.  Receiving word from Warwick that he was still needed, Oxford began yelling and chasing after his men.  It took Oxford two hours to gather 800 men from the original 2,000 and lead them back up to the battlefield.  This unusual U-turn on the part of Lord Oxford's men combined with the fog and the offset lines would produce one of the strangest outcomes ever seen on a battlefield. 


Phase Two: Where is the Enemy?

'Fog of War' is a military term for the uncertainty experienced by participants in military operations.  Medieval battles were notorious for confusion because visibility and communication were often limited. 

In the case of the Battle of Barnet, the Fog of War took on a different meaning... the morning battlefield was totally covered in thick mist and fog. 

The fog created so much confusion that the fighting would have appeared almost comical if it weren't for the fact that brave men were dying on this day. 


At the same time as Lord Oxford collapsed the left side of Edward's line, over on the right, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, discovered there was no one in front of him.  In the fog, he could not see the enemy in front.  Confused, Richard decided his best option was to proceed forward and look for Lord Exeter's forces. 

And why was there no one in front of Richard?  On the previous day, Warwick had the luxury of setting his positions using the light of the day.  Seeing the swampy ground, Warwick correctly assumed no one would be stupid enough to attack through the wetlands.  Any attack would be easily repelled because the mud would bog down the enemy's momentum.  Warwick was pleased... this swamp would guard his left flank for sure!

While Oxford's men were busy in town having a beer, Richard was moving cautiously over on the right near the Hadley Woods.  Although Richard saw the ground was lowering, he continued forward.  When his men reached the boggy ground, Richard still could not see the enemy, but he was close enough that he could hear the sound of battle to the west. 

Richard suddenly realized the fog had given him a huge advantage.  His men could now attack Exeter from the side coming out of the fog to surprise them. Richard put his finger to his lips and whispered... "Silence!

The men slowly crossed the boggy ground like invisible ghosts.  They used the sound of the clashing steel to guide them.  Richard's men finally spotted Lord Exeter's Lancaster men at the edge of a muddy bog known as Dead Man's Bottom.

For the past hour, some of Exeter's men had helped fight in the center, but the majority just stood there looking for someone to fight.  Incredibly, because their enemy had lined up so far to the right, the Lancaster wing had no idea Richard's men were approaching.  Suddenly out of the gloom came 2,000 screaming maniacs running right at them!  The Lancaster men were terrified out of their minds.


Phase Three: The Sixty Degree Shift

Seeing Richard suddenly appear from the east was Lord Exeter's worst nightmare.  Shocked by the mysterious sudden appearance of the charging enemy, the Lancaster general did his best to rotate his line sixty degrees to face the east. 

Lord Exeter's bizarre rotation affected the center.  On the York side, Edward was forced to move to his men to the right to avoid splitting his forces.  The last thing he wanted was a gap between his men and Richard's.  Edward's movement to the right completely vacated the Great North Road.  Montagu had no choice but to give chase to Edward's movement.  As Montagu adjusted his forces, his men occupied the vacuum on the road.  First they moved to the south, then twisted towards the east. 

The ultimate result of this shift is that now Montagu's forces occupied the same spot on the Great North Road where Edward's forces had once been. 

Meanwhile, coming up from the south were Lord Oxford's 800 reinforcements.  Naturally they used the Great North Road as the fastest route back.  They had been ordered to attack Edward's men from the rear, an attack which would have been crippling under ordinary circumstances.   But these were not ordinary circumstances.  It was time for the Fog of War to change the course of history.


Phase Four: Betrayal

Think about this... who did Oxford's men expect to meet on that road? 

They expected to meet Edwards's men who had started the day occupying the southern part of that road. 

But who did Oxford's men meet on the road instead?   Montagu's men. 

Indeed, Oxford's ragged band of 800 men met Montagu's men who had rotated over and taken complete possession of the road.  And did the two Lancaster units merge to overwhelm Edward?   No. 

What happened instead is that Montague's soldiers assumed Edward's rear guard was coming in from the south to attack them.  Obscured by the mist , Lord Oxford's 'star with rays' banner was mistaken for Edward's 'sun in splendor' banner by Montagu's soldiers.  Without hesitation, Montagu's archers unleashed a deadly volley of arrows at their Lancaster comrades.

Lord Oxford's men quickly recognized that they were being shot at by their own men.  Oxford and his men immediately cried 'Treason!'  As staunch Lancastrians, they knew that Montagu, Warwick's brother, had previously fought for the York side.

Surely this unprovoked attack was proof that Montagu had defected back to the Yorkist cause.  Oxford's men briefly struck back, then decided the best thing to do was withdraw from the battle.  The damage was done.  The shouts of treason were taken up and spread quickly throughout the Lancastrian line, breaking it apart as men fled in anger, panic and confusion.

As the fog started to dissipate, once Edward saw the Lancastrian center disintegrate, he sent in his reserves to hasten the collapse.  The Lancaster leaders began to fall.  Although not killed, Lord Exeter fell first.  Amidst the confusion, Lord Montagu was struck in his back and killed by one of Oxford's men bent on revenge for the supposed treachery.

Witnessing the demise of his brother, Warwick fled.  The mighty Warwick was killed fleeing the field in a desperate attempt to reach his horse.  The Devil was dead, the battle was over.

Tewkesbury Cat and Mouse

Margaret of Anjou had never trusted Warwick.  And who could blame her?  Margaret had adopted a wait and see attitude about Warwick and his Grand Alliance.  Margaret had been very slow to follow up on Warwick's expulsion of Edward IV back in October 1470.

Despite her eight year absence from England, Margaret was strangely hesitant.  She had been asked to delay her return to England until Warwick had enough control of the government to satisfy her patron and backer Louis XI.  Six months after Edward's October overthrow, Margaret lost her patience and finally got moving.  She sailed for England on 24 March.  Uh oh.  A storm came up.  Back to France for safety.  Then another storm came up.  Back to France for safety.  Slowed by storms, Margaret and Prince Edward were delayed by two weeks.  They landed at Weymouth on 14 April, Easter Sunday. 

Ironically, this was same day that the disastrous Battle of Barnet was being fought.  Perhaps if Margaret's forces had been at Warwick's side at Barnet, the outcome would have been much different.  Who can say?   

So why wasn't Margaret at Warwick's side? 

Keep in mind that communication was very slow in those days.  Although Margaret had received the promising report that Warwick was now running the government in England, she had not received the reports that Edward had landed on the English coast on 14 March.  Those same storms which prevented Margaret from leaving France also prevented ships from landing in France to give her the updated information on Edward's new threat.  If she had known of Edward's threat to Warwick, she would have headed directly for London with her army instead of landing two hundred miles away in Weymouth. 

While Margaret sheltered at Cerne Abbey near Weymouth, the Duke of Somerset, Edmund Beaufort, brought news of the disaster at Barnet to her.  What a blow it must have been for Margaret to discover Warwick's demise.  Margaret immediately wanted to leave and head back for the safety of France.  Edmund Beaufort suggested they stay and fight.  Now that Warwick had fallen, Beaufort pointed out they might not get another chance like this.  This moment carried the sense of 'Last Shot'. 

Edmund Beaufort, 33, was the new commander of Margaret's army.  Edmund was the son of Margaret's one-time lover Edmund Beaufort, the man who had died at the First Battle of St. Albans back in 1955.  Edmund was also the brother of Henry Beaufort who had commanded the Lancastrian forces for nine years following his father's death.  Henry had died at the Battle of Hexham in 1464.  Now it was the junior Edmund's turn to run the show along with his younger brother John Beaufort.  One can only wonder if either son knew that their deceased father was also the likely father of Margaret's son Edward.  In other words, Prince Edward was likely their half-brother. 

Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.


So what should Margaret do?  Margaret dearly wished to return to France, but her commander said that if they could join up with the powerful army waiting for them in Wales, they had an excellent chance of unseating Edward IV themselves.  Margaret turned to her 17-year-old son Edward and asked him what he wanted to do.

Prince Edward persuaded his mother to gamble for victory.  They had landed in Lancaster country.  Somerset and the Earl of Devon had already raised an army for Lancaster here in the countryside of west England.  Their best hope was to march northwards and join forces with the Lancastrians in Wales.  And with that, Margaret was persuaded. 

In London, King Edward learned of Margaret's landing.  Realizing the She-devil was loose in the west, Edward moved swiftly to meet her.  However he was unsure of her destination.  As it turns out, Wales was equidistant for both parties 125 miles away.  The advantage was on Margaret's side because she knew where she was going and Edward didn't.  However, Edward's advantage was that at first Margaret did not know he was chasing her, so she took her sweet time getting there.

The race to Wales was on. 


By 30 April, Margaret's army had reached Bristol on its way towards Wales.   On the same day, King Edward reached Cirencester, just 30 miles northeast of Margaret's position.  On hearing that Margaret was at Bristol, he turned south to meet her army. However, the Lancastrians made a feint towards Little Sodbury, halfway between Bristol and Cirencester.  Nearby was Sodbury Hill, an Iron Age hill fort which was an obvious strategic point for the Lancastrians to seize. When Yorkist scouts reached the hill, there was a sharp fight in which they suffered heavy casualties. Believing that the Lancastrians were about to offer battle, Edward temporarily halted his army while the stragglers caught up and the remainder could rest after their rapid march from Windsor. 

And with that, Margaret's trick had worked.  With Edward preoccupied with her Sodbury Hill diversion, she was able to sneak away.  The Lancastrians instead made a swift move north by night, passing undetected within 3 miles of Edward's army.  By the morning of 2 May, they had gained the safety of Berkeley Castle and had a head start of 15 miles over Edward in the race to the bridge at Gloucester.

Now King Edward guessed what Margaret was up to.  No doubt the Lancastrians were seeking to cross the River Severn into Wales. The nearest river crossing point they could use was at the city of Gloucester.  Edward sent his horsemen to deliver an urgent message  to Sir Richard Beauchamp, the Governor, ordering him to bar the gates to Margaret and man the city's defenses.  This was a critical move. 

Beauchamp's father had been a Lancaster.  What should he do?  Defy his king and let Margaret through?  If he told Margaret 'no', then he risked having her attack his city.  Given the mood she was in, this was a real possibility.  Why not let her through and avoid the bloodshed? 

Then it occurred to Beauchamp that he would likely have to face Edward the next day.  If he wanted to keep his head on his shoulders, he might want to follow Edward's orders.  Tough choice... risk the lives of the citizens of Gloucester or risk his own head? 

Edward was probably the better choice, so Beauchamp cleverly decided to support Edward IV.  On the morning of Friday, 3 May 1471, Beauchamp threw aside his father's Lancastrian ties and held the gates of Gloucester closed against Queen Margaret.  This prevented her army's use of the Severn Bridge and her escape route into Wales.  Beauchamp wasn't done yet.  As Margaret moved north, he harried the Lancastrian rear and captured some guns on the road to Tewkesbury.  Beauchamp fought at the battle of Tewkesbury and was knighted.  Quite likely, this one man changed the course of English history.

When Beauchamp refused Margaret's summons to let her army pass, Margaret and Edmund Beaufort had enough men to take the bridge by force... but they didn't have enough time.   Margaret realized she had insufficient time to storm the city before Edward's army arrived.   Instead, her army made another forced march of 10 miles along the river to Tewkesbury.  Margaret was racing Edward to beat him to the next bridge at Upton-upon-Severn, 7 miles further up the river.  

Edward meanwhile was in a hurry.  He had marched no less than 31 miles, passing through Cheltenham in the late afternoon.  The day was very hot, and both the Lancastrians and Edward's pursuing army became exhausted from all the marching.  The Lancastrians were forced to abandon some of their artillery, which was captured by Yorkist reinforcements trailing Margaret from Gloucester.  This would prove significant.

At Tewkesbury, the tired Lancastrians halted for the night.  Most of their army were footmen, and unable to continue further without rest.  Even the mounted troops were weary.  Hearing from his scouts of Margaret's position, Edward drove his army to make another march of 6 miles from Cheltenham to a spot near Tewkesbury, finally halting 3 miles from the Lancastrians. The Lancastrians knew they could retreat no further before Edward attacked their rear.  Edward had Margaret cornered.  It was time to stop running.  

The Battle of Tewkesbury


Margaret's decision to stand and fight at Tewkesbury was an all or nothing gamble, perhaps the last desperate roll of the dice for a queen robbed of a kingdomIt is likely there were plans for Prince Edward to take over from his ailing father Henry if the Lancasters were victorious today.  Prince Edward's reputation was riding on the outcome.  The Prince would need to prove that he was greater than his father, a weakling who had allowed England to slide into a crippling mess.  The Prince would need to prove that he was greater than his opponent, the formidable King Edward IV. 

That would not be easy.  King Edward had built his reputation on martial prowess and had won his throne in battle twice over... Towton and Barnet.  It must have been intimidating for Margaret and Prince Edward to see the three brothers - Edward, George, Richard - battle-tested, mounted on horseback, united in arms.  There was no escape route for Margaret and Edward.  Nor would there be any mercy.  This was it.  This was a fight to the finish, Prince Edward versus King Edward. 


Unlike the Battle of Barnet where Edward had won a fluke victory against a superior army, this time he had most of the advantages.  The new Lancaster leader, Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, had his back to the river with no easy escape routes.  Even if Beaufort's men ran, they were on foot while Edward had mounted men if necessary. 

Based on his experience at Barnet, Edward noted the Lancasters had chosen the location again.  Assuming there must be a reason, Edward was concerned about a thickly wooded park to the left of his army.  Suspecting that hidden Lancastrians might attack from this quarter, he ordered 200 mounted spearmen to occupy a corner of the woods and prevent the Lancastrians from making use of this cover to ambush his left flank.  Edward told the horsemen to act on their own initiative if they saw an opportunity. 

Another key move was to move Hastings to the right and Richard to the left.  Hastings, 40, was Edwards best friend.  Friendship aside, Edward put his brother Richard on the left next to those dangerous woods.  Edward was showing his experience.  He had fought so many battles at this point that he had become a superior general.  The Battle of Barnet had shown him that even though Richard was only 18, he was a talented fighter.


As usual, the Lancasters had more men.  Their 6,000 matched up well against the 5,000 Yorkists.  Edward soon discovered why Somerset had chosen this location.  The hilly terrain contained valleys, disguised gullies and thick hedges, all of which made it difficult for Edward to attack uphill.  So Edward was content to bombard the Lancasters with arrows and cannon. 

The War of the Roses was now in its 20th year.  The War had been going on for so long that artillery had recently been introduced.  Understandably, there was great terror attached to the horrible sound of the exploding cannons and the whistling cannonballs.  Beaufort could see his men were terrified under the onslaught.  The barrage of arrows was frightening as well.  Few of the men had shields and there was nowhere to go for protection.  The psychological aspect of the bombardment was devastating.  Since Somerset had left his artillery behind in order to pick up speed, he could not fire back. 

Although Commander Beaufort's position was almost unassailable, for some unknown reason, after the battle began, he moved down from the heights and attacked Edward IV's flank.  He must have felt trapped and could not sit still any longer... his men were dying without even fighting!  

Either to escape the arrows and cannonballs or because he saw an opportunity to outflank King Edward's isolated men near the woods, Beaufort (Somerset) decided to be aggressive.  He led part of his men through a gulley that hid them from sight to attack the York left flank defended by Richard, Duke of Gloucester.  Although taken by surprise, Richard and his men resisted stoutly, beating back Somerset's surprise attack among the hedges, tree and embankments.



At the vital moment, the 200 spearmen Edward had posted earlier in the woods attacked Somerset on his exposed right flank and rear.  This was the 'Kill Shot'.  Somerset's desperate gamble had failed.  Beaufort was assailed by both the king and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and was soon put to flight.  His rash conduct had decided the battle in favor of the Yorkists Now badly out of position, the Lancaster army was easily routed.  The surviving army tried to escape across the Severn River, but it did little good.  Most of them couldn't swim anyway.  Edward's horsemen gave easy chase, cutting the enemy down as they fled.

Edmund Beaufort was caught and beheaded.  His younger brother John Beaufort who had fought beside him was executed as well.  With the death of John and Edmund, the legitimate male line of the Beauforts ended.  This line which dated 120 years back to their forefathter John of Gaunt was gone for good. 

Edward, the Prince of Wales, was found full of grief in a grove.  Richard and George were summoned.  Edward tearfully pleaded for his life to George for mercy.  He reminded George that he had sworn allegiance to Edward in France barely a year before.  Edward begged George to honor his oath and set him free.   

If anything, that made George mad.  The original plan had been to make George king, not Edward.  George refused to listen to the Prince’s whining.  With little fanfare, he had the lad summarily executed on a makeshift block in the field.

United we Stand, Divided we Fall

The indomitable Queen Margaret was defeated at last.  She was crushed by the death of the son Edward she had fought so long and hard for.  After she was taken captive by William Stanley, Margaret and her senile husband Henry were taken back to London with King Edward.  Henry died in the Tower of London, presumably murdered during a midnight visit from Edward and Richard.  Henry was only 49, but seemed much older.  One can only assume his death was unannounced and that he was quickly forgotten.  What a sad epitaph. 

Margaret of Anjou stayed imprisoned in England for five years.  Those were surely difficult years for her.  Margaret was understandably heartbroken by the loss of her only son, her entire reason for existence.  During her imprisonment, she had plenty of opportunity to reflect on her decision to trust her fortunes to Richard Neville, the erstwhile Earl of Warwick better known as the Kingmaker. 

What bothered Margaret was just how close she had come to fulfilling her dream.  Margaret had never trusted Warwick, but cooperated anyway because he offered her the best chance to put her son on the throne.  Unfortunately, her distrust ending up costing her dearly.  

Her problem was deciding who she should listen to... Warwick or Louis XI. 


Warwick was in a tough spot.  After his overthrow of Edward in October 1470, he had promised King Louis XI to declare for France and against Charles in Burgundy.  Now to his consternation, Warwick's hands were tied.  He could not attack Charles because the London merchants preferred to support Charles the Bold of Burgundy for financial reasons.  Consequently the London bankers refused to loan Warwick enough money to help guard against a potential counterattack by Edward, much less attack Charles.  Louis XI lost his patience with Warwick and declared war on Charles the Bold himself.  Big mistake.  Charles had seen Edward's presence as a refugee in Flanders as a nuisance.  However, once Louis XI irritated him sufficiently, Charles decided to sponsor Edward's return to England to overthrow Warwick.  The politics backfired for virtually everyone in this story but Edward IV.

If Margaret had ignored Louis XI's command to delay her trip to England, the outcome would have likely been different.  There is one constant theme in these stories... the two sides were evenly matched.  It always came down to who defected at the last minute or who showed up at the last minute to shift the balance.  In Margaret's case, her delay cost her dearly.  By dawdling in France for six months after Edward's October 1470 overthrow, Margaret was unable to help Warwick thwart Edward's miraculous comeback.  


But then again, perhaps some things are meant to be.  The Lancasters should never have lost the Battle of Barnet.  Never.  If Margaret had been there, they would have been too strong.  If George had not changed sides at the last minute, they would have been too strong.  If not for the Fog of War, Montagu would never have mistaken Lord Oxford for the enemy. 

No doubt the Weymouth decision also weighed upon Margaret's thoughts.  The moment she landed in Weymouth, Margaret discovered that everything that could go wrong had gone wrong so far... Edward IV had returned, Warwick had been defeated at Barnet, and George, the Duke of Clarence, had defected back to his brother.  Margaret's instinct was to flee to safety while she still had ships in the harbor, but she had let her son talk her out of it.  So much for the wisdom of a cocky teenager with little military experience other than watching battles while hiding behind a tree at his mother's side.

The main upshot of the Tewkesbury defeat is that Edward and his brothers executed every last Lancaster of note who had fought against them in this battle.  Once Prince Edward was killed and Henry VI was executed, the noble House of Lancaster was officially eliminated in the male line.  Margaret of Anjou was faced with the bitter fact that the vast House of Lancaster had been exterminated trying to put her son on the throne. 

Margaret had gone from being Queen of England to being a childless widow. She remained in royal custody for the five years until she was finally ransomed by Louis XI in 1476 and returned to France.  While in France, she was practically disowned by her elderly father and was forced by the king to renounce any claim to her inheritance as a way of paying for her large ransom.

In 1482 Margaret, the woman who had acted as king, died alone.  She was a broken woman with little to call her own.  She was 52. This was indeed a tragic end for the woman who had once been so powerful in an age dominated by men.



This picture depicts a group of men meeting to discuss solutions to the animosity between the Lancasters and the Yorks.  In order to show where their loyalties lay, they each picked a red rose or a white rose ahead of time so that everyone in the group knew where they stood.

Margaret of Anjou was not the only desolate one.  Now that the House of Lancaster had lost all their leaders, the House became extinct in the male line.  The Lancastrian cause was lost forever.  Consequently, the Battle of Tewkesbury marked the end of hostility between the Houses of York and Lancaster.  Or did it?? 

One would assumed the Wars of the Roses ended at Tewkesbury Abbey, where the final petal of the red rose fell to the ground. 

Nevertheless, the War was not over.  The men were dead, but not the women!!   Although the War went dormant, it awaited another chance to erupt anew.  The new opponent would not be usual Lancasters.  That fight was over.   Instead, a whole new set of faces would appear to take up the ancient battle.  It ain't over till it's over.



Next Chapter:  War of the Roses III



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