Chapter 14 : Resurgence of Edward IV
Edward of York was not content to lose his throne. In early 1471, he was supplied with a small flotilla by Charles of Burgundy and made for the English coast. There were sufficient Lancastrian forces in East Anglia to prevent his landing there, but he arrived more or less unopposed at Ravenspur in Yorkshire. Whilst he did not have a huge following, the city of York was persuaded to allow him to enter when he claimed that he sought only to have his dukedom of York reinstated.
Clarence now realised that he had no hope of becoming King and presumably decided that it was better to play second fiddle to his brother Edward IV than to his brother-in-law, Edward of Lancaster. He therefore rejoined his brother. Edward marched south, gathering support en route and entered London unopposed on 11 th April. He had always enjoyed the support of London and he immediately took control of government, dispatching Henry VI to the Tower once more.
Oxford, together with Warwick, brought their troops to Barnet just north of London. Unfortunately for the Lancastrians, owing to the similarity between Oxford’s banner of the star and that of Edward’s sun-in-splendour, there was confusion amongst the troops and the Lancastrian centre fired on Oxford’s men. Oxford believing that this was treachery on the part of Warwick, left the field taking the remainder of his troops with him.
Both Warwick and his brother Montague were killed. Amongst the Yorkist army was Henry Stafford, husband of Lady Margaret Beaufort. Although he had been requested to send troops to the Duke of Somerset’s Lancastrian force he had decided to continue his allegiance to Edward.
Following the Battle of Barnet, Oxford and Somerset headed south west to meet with Marguerite, Edward of Lancaster, his wife, Anne Neville, and Anne’s mother, the Countess of Warwick, who had arrived from France. They had landed at Weymouth and had been met by a number of Lancastrian supporters including Dr John Morton, who later played a significant role in the ultimate victory of Henry VII.
Marguerite and her entourage headed for Cerne Abbey and it was there, on 15 th April, that she heard of the defeat at Barnet. Her immediate reaction was to return to France but Jasper and the other Lancastrian lords, Wenlock, Somerset, Devon and Dorset, as well as her own son, persuaded Marguerite that they should fight. Jasper travelled swiftly to Wales to begin raising troops, whilst the remnants of the Lancastrian troops from Barnet joined Marguerite’s force.
Edward of York, who had re-entered London, soon heard of the Lancastrian plans. Unsure as to whether Marguerite’s intention was to march west to join with Jasper or to move straight for London, Edward headed for Cirencester, which he reached on 29 th April. It soon became apparent that the Lancastrians were heading for the Severn crossing to meet Jasper, and probably gain recruits from Cheshire.
Somerset and his men had been welcomed at Bristol, but the city of Gloucester, receiving urgent messages from Edward, closed its gates to the Lancastrian forces who, having undertaken a night march of 36 miles were thus forced to continue to the next crossing point on the Severn at Tewkesbury a further 24 miles, an astonishing feat of endurance. It was matched only by the march of Edward’s men from Sodbury Hill to Tewkesbury, so quickly that the Lancastrians had no time to cross the river.
The Lancastrians had no option but to fight with the army they had. Marguerite herself went on to the battlefield to encourage her troops before retiring with the other women to a nearby manor house. Young Edward of Lancaster was present at his first battle – which also proved to be his last, when the Lancastrians were annihilated. There are differing accounts of whether Edward of Lancaster was killed in the battle or whether he was executed in cold blood by Edward IV and his brothers, Clarence and the 18 year old Richard of Gloucester after the battle. The other Lancastrian leaders who had sought sanctuary in Tewkesbury were forced out, and executed on the orders of Gloucester, using his authority as Constable of England.