After the Battle of Barnet in April 1471, Yorkist King Edward IV had defeated Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick who had betrayed him for the Lancastrian cause.
He had also reclaimed his throne, and Henry VI was imprisoned within the walls of The Tower of London.
However, his other threat, the Lancastrian Queen of Henry VI, Margaret of Anjou and her son, Edward of Westminster were still standing in the way of him sitting comfortably upon his throne.
Edward of Westminster was Henry VI’s heir, and the Lancastrian hope after Henry VI to assure a Lancastrian dynasty.
Margaret had allied with Warwick and it was planned that once Warwick had defeated Edward, Margaret would land in England with her son Edward and reinstate him to his inheritance.
Previous to the Battle of Barnet, Warwick had placed the hapless Henry VI back on the throne after victories against Edward and the wheel of fortune seemed to be turning back towards the Lancastrians.
Fate would have it that Margaret would land at Weymouth on the day of the Battle of Barnet.
After learning of Warwick’s defeat, Margaret and her army, lead by her long time supporter Edmund, Duke of Somerset, marched towards Wales to join forces with a Lancastrian supporter Jasper Tudor.
They initially planned to cross the River Severn at Gloucester, however Gloucester remained loyal to Edward.
Edward, certain that Gloucester would remain firm, marched his army to Tewkesbury, knowing that Tewkesbury had the only other crossing over the Severn, 1 mile from the great Abbey.
The Lancastrians, thwarted at Gloucester did exactly what Edward had predicted, they headed towards Tewkesbury, and had to meet the Yorkist army in battle, less than a month after the Battle of Barnet.
Battle of Tewkesbury
By the time the Lancastrian army arrived at Tewkesbury, they were exhausted. This was no wonder seeing they had been marching for days and had covered the last 24 miles in 16 hours.
They knew the Yorkist army had caught up with them and that they had to prepare for battle.
It is thought there were ca. 5000 Lancastrians to ca. 4000 Yorkists, but this wasn’t going to prove an issue.
Edward commanded the main part of his army, with his brother George, Duke of Clarence alongside him.
His younger brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III) commanded the Vanguard. Although Richard was only 18, he was experienced in battle having commanded a division of the Yorkist army at the Battle of Barnet and had won his brothers trust and respect.
Edward’s long time friend Lord Hastings, who also fought commendably at the Battle of Barnet commanded the rear.
The Yorkists proved too powerful for the Lancastrians and the battle was lost for the Duke of Somerset.
Many of the retreating Lancastrians were slain, and many drowned as they tried to escape across the river.
Edward of Westminster, Margaret’s only hope was killed in the fighting, and some days later the Duke of Somerset and other leaders of the Lancastrians were dragged from the Abbey at Tewkesbury where they had been seeking sanctuary and executed.
Edward gave the order for them to be buried within the Abbey, and did not proceed with the usual quartering of traitors.
I think this is partly due to his character, and interesting as he didn’t treat Edward of Westminster in a similar way to how Margaret of Anjou had spiked his father and brother’s heads of the walls of York.
Margaret was captured and taken to the Tower of London, where she remained imprisoned for 4 years before being ransomed back to the King of France. She lived out the rest of her life in France in relatively poverty, living another 11 years after the battle and dying at the age of 52.
Edward returned to London, and spent a few nights at the Tower of London before continuing on to Kent to put down a rebellion.
It was during this time that Henry VI died, with the official report saying that he died from ‘displeasure and melancholy due to the death of his son’ but this is very unlikely, and it is thought that he was murdered to finally end the Lancastrian cause.
He was buried at Chertsey Abbey, and re-interred in St. Georges Chapel at Windsor Castle by Richard III in 1484.
Chertsey Abbey was destroyed during the 16th Century Reformation.
For all of my photos from my visit to Tewkesbury, please visit my Flickr