Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Nothing much happening????

It's been pointed out to me that I haven't been blogging much lately. This is true. It's partly because the days go past so quickly. Those of you under 30 (if any) be grateful for the fact you currently have 36 hours in a day. By the time you get to my age you'll find it's more like 12. I have been doing some writing but I've also been engaged in quite a bit of more tedious stuff, and I often doss as my ailments make me the sort of lazy person my younger self would have held in contempt.

I have in mind some quite interesting write-ups about Edward IV and his crowd but before I write them I need to do you all the courtesy of checking my facts, given that this blog, at least, is not supposed to be part of my world of fiction.

In particular, I want to write about Edward IV and Henry Duke of Somerset, who for a time shared his bed even though they were not at all gay. It has also been pointed out to me that initially Somerset surrendered on terms to Warwick, and thus Warwick's alleged dissatisfaction with the favour shown to Somerset does not make entire sense. I suspect it was the degree of favour that was the problem.

However, before I try to make sense of it I need to work out the chronology of the surrender of the northern castles and the deeds and whereabouts of Queen Margaret and Henry VI, which is currently as clear as mud in my mind.

In the interim, another book recommendation for you: Malory by Christina Hardyment. There's some really interesting stuff in here, especially about the chaos that was England under Henry VI. If you don't 'get' why York and the other reformers were so unhappy with the set-up, this book will certainly help your understanding.

Monday, 18 July 2011

The Open Fetterlock

For anyone interested my new kindle 'book' The Open Fetterlock is now available from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and indeed Amazon.de for those who would prefer to pay in Euros.

There isn't a single complete story in here. It amounts to a collection from my 'cutting-room floor', which is why it's so cheap. Short sections from four incomplete novels (including two Ricardian ones and one light-hearted 'Yorkist' one). I hope some of you will enjoy it, and it will at least prove I have done slightly more than zip these last five years.

I am going to try to put it on Smashwords too, so those of you who haven't got a kindle can buy one of the other e-versions. PDF, for example. This is most unlikely ever to be a real book, unless I get really famous and people start bringing out anthologies and stuff. I don't flatter myself.

The Richard III Society have asked me for an Alianore short story and I am working on that right now. After the reception the last lot of fiction got in their letters page I'm surprised that they want it. Still I shall do my best, even though it's a bit like being asked to do stand-up at the Glasgow Empire.

I have also turned my thoughts to This New Spring of Time the Richard II/Anne of Bohemia novel. Don't be surprised if that ends being next up.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Edward and Elizabeth

Not a post as such, but a link to an interesting article by Eric Ives.

It's a pity that Ives doesn't quote his sources as his conclusions as to the nature of the initial relationship between Edward and Elizabeth are intriguing.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Edward IV and Eleanor Talbot

For those of you who wish to know more about Eleanor Talbot, I strongly recommend Eleanor, The Secret Queen by John Ashdown-Hill. Even if you disagree with Dr. Ashdown-Hill's conclusions - and if you are sceptical about Richard III you will feel obliged to - there is nothing wrong with the factual content of the book, which gathers together everything that can be known about this lady.

Instead of trying to give you a digest of this text, I shall give you the key points of my conclusions on Eleanor, following my study of this book.

1. She was quite definitely the daughter of John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, which (incredibly) has been doubted by some historians. Talbot's name is little known these days, but at the time he was a hero, roughly equivalent to Churchill or at least Field Marshal Montgomery.

2. It is wrong, therefore, to think of Eleanor as 'obscure'. Although her own marriage to Sir Thomas Butler of Sudeley was a modest one, her father was a leading nobleman and her sister was the Duchess of Norfolk. (The same Duchess of Norfolk who served as Principal Lady-in-Waiting at Margaret of York's wedding and was the mother of Anne Mowbray.)

3. Eleanor's mother was a Beauchamp - Margaret, eldest daughter of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. A lady of very high rank by birth, if this needs to be said, half-sister to Anne Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick. Which makes the 'Kingmaker' Eleanor's uncle. (Perhaps fortunately for Edward IV the family quarrel between the Beauchamp sisters meant this connection was not emphasised.)

4. Another Beauchamp sister, Eleanor, married the Somerset killed at St. Albans. So, Henry Duke of Somerset and his brothers were Eleanor's first cousins.

Of course it is impossible for Ashdown-Hill, or anyone else to prove that Eleanor's alleged secret marriage to Edward IV took place. By the nature of such marriages no evidence can be extant, the witnesses being long dead. Then again, we have almost as much evidence for the ceremony as we have for that between Edward and Elizabeth W. It's really Edward's acknowledgement of the latter ceremony that makes the difference. The event itself was equally irregular.

Edward was evidently attracted to women some years older than himself and preferably widows - Eleanor, Elizabeth, 'Jane' Shore and Elizabeth Waite/Lucy all seem to fit the template.

However, let's forget personal attractions for a minute. Could there have been a political reason for Edward to marry Eleanor? Possibly, just possibly. Edward was keen to conciliate Somerset (an issue to which I shall return in due course) and in that context his marriage to Somerset's cousin might have been seen as a white rose/red rose union. With the added bonus of bringing the powerful Talbot family on board into the bargain. Given that Warwick and Montagu were very annoyed by Edward's pardon of Somerset, it would be in line with Edward's trouble-avoidance philosophy to keep the matter temporarily secret. And then when Somerset defected to the other side again, it would give a reason for an angry Edward to dump Eleanor and turn to the gorgeous Elizabeth.

It's a fascinating subject for speculation, but it can't be proved. What Ashdown-Hill has proved is that Eleanor had land which a) she did not inherit b) she did not hold by dower or jointure c) which she could not afford to buy. This land was almost certainly granted to her by Edward; and since Edward did not go around granting lands to random females, there is something there that cannot easily be explained away.

Anyway, read the book, see what you think.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The New Look

I hope people like the new look. As Blogger has decided to give us all these wonderful new design facilities it seemed churlish not to use them. I can always change to something different if I get fed up with it.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The Character of Edward IV

I don't feel like writing about anything deep today, so I thought I'd write something about the character of King Edward IV. An interesting topic, in my opinion.

I find Edward hard to pigeon-hole, as he was certainly a complex and multi-layered individual. So let's examine a few aspects.

Edward as warrior. Arguably, he was one of England's greatest warrior kings. Certainly he never lost a battle, although this may be partly because, as Alianore Audley remarked, he always knew when to run away. Seriously though, folks, that is not a bad quality in a general. It takes intelligence and a certain humility to judge when a withdrawal makes sense. Richard III might have benefited from a similar view of life at Bosworth,as indeed might Lee at Gettysburg, to name two obvious examples of commanders who might have been better advised to fight another day.

Of course, Edward was never tested against a foreign enemy, and on the one occasion he met the French army he chose to make peace. But see above. I suspect Edward made peace because he judged a battle was likely to be lost. He was no mug.

There is a view in some circles that a man can only be judged a great general if he has battered foreigners. This would rule out both Edward and Oliver Cromwell (unless you count the Irish)and leave (probably) Marlborough as the greatest English general of all time. I am not convinced - I think Edward is up there. He fought a whole lot of battles and never lost once. That has to be down to more than luck. He's certainly entitled to be spoken of in the same breath as the above-mentioned Cromwell and Marborough plus Fairfax, Edward I and Henry V (spit). And, to be very blunt, his track record exceeds Richard III's as the sun does the moon.

Edward as politician. We need to remind ourselves that he came to the throne at 18. What were you like at 18?* It's probably true to say 'lacking in mature judgement'. Edward was probably too lenient in his dealings with certain individuals early in his reign - I'm looking at you, Henry Somerset - but this was surely a benign fault. Better to be overly merciful than a blood-stained tyrant. He learned and became somewhat less forgiving of opponents in later life. By 1471, if you had showed yourself to be an implacable opponent, he was likely to have your head. However, he could still be accommodating to former Lancastrians (Morton for example) and many of his attempts at conciliation bore fruit. People like the Woodvilles/Wydevilles and Lord Audley are good examples of former enemies Edward converted to faithful supporters.

*If 18 or below please ignore this question.

Edward could be ruthless when he needed to be, particularly in the second part of his reign. Executing your own brother is pretty ruthless by any standards. He was also rather careless of the rules of inheritance, and grabbed lands for his family by quite blatant abuse of his power as king. This did not come back to haunt him, but it was undoubtedly a factor in creating the aristocratic discontent that smoothed Richard III's path to to the throne.

It's a neat question whether Edward could have handled Warwick and the Nevilles better. They were family, and they had more or less put him on the throne. His quarrel with them could easily have led to his deposition and death. On the other hand, if he had cut them much more slack he could easily have ended up as nothing more than Warwick's puppet. The conflict had to be resolved somehow, and there were undoubtedly faults on both sides. A greater king might have found a way to conciliate the Nevilles while retaining his own authority, but it would have been a big ask.

His foreign policy fell to pieces in the latter days of his reign. This was largely due to his failure to support Burgundy in its hour of crisis (because of the fat French pension he was receiving) but when considering this you should bear in mind that Burgundy had proved a somewhat inadequate ally (to put it mildly) while Louis XI - a truly brilliant mind and a great ruler - had built France into a power that England was simply not equipped to defeat in either war or diplomacy. An alternative foreign policy, based on aggression towards France, might well have led to even worse disasters.

Edward as a person  My impression of Richard, Duke of York, is that (however arrogant and pig-headed he may have been) he was genuinely interested in good government and reform. My impression of his eldest son is that he didn't give a rat's about such things and was much more interested in having a good time while acquiring as much land and money for himself as possible.

Edward undoubtedly liked women, though I think some of his exploits may have been exaggerated. In particular, he had a liking for handsome widows somewhat older than himself. His decision to marry Elizabeth Woodville/Wydeville/Whatever may be romantic in some eyes, but politically it was a crowning folly, irrespective of whether or not he was previously married to Eleanor Talbot/Butler/Botiller. To be blunt, it was irresponsible and almost cost him his throne. It alienated key members of his family (including, almost certainly, his own mother) and ultimately led to the downfall of the House of York.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Busy with stuff

I'm rather busy with stuff at the moment, so please don't expect a plethora of posts on The Yorkist Age or indeed my other blogs, as I don't have the time. Will get back to this in time, though.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Sir William Herbert and the mess in Wales

Just as Edward was inclined to leave the far North to the Nevilles, so he was inclined to leave Wales to his supporters there, of whom the most remarkable was Sir William Herbert. (It appears that originally Edward planned to campaign in Wales in the summer of 1461, but in the event he never got further than Ludlow and returned to Westminster to hold his first Parliament.)

Herbert was a Welshman, and was to be the first of that nation (barring King Henry VI's Tudor half-brothers, who were a bit of a special case) to be granted an earldom. He undoubtedly earned this honour, and was to pay a terrible price for it in the fullness of time. Knighted by King Henry in 1449, William Herbert had fought in the French wars under Somerset, but despite this - or maybe because of it - became a strong Yorkist supporter. Edward was swift to appoint him to his Privy Council and in May 1461 made him Chamberlain and Chief Justice of South Wales.

The main Lancastrian threat in Wales was organised by Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, who had of course fought at Mortimer's Cross and was to continue to be a thorn in the side of the Yorkist dynasty all the way to Bosworth. Jasper was undoubtedly a warrior of some ability and he appears to have enjoyed some popularity in Wales - at least he was always able to find some Welshmen willing to fight for him. (It is a little odd that Wales was as pro-Lancastrian as it was, given the treatment handed out to that country by Henry IV and his son, but there you are.)

Herbert captured the formidable castle of Pembroke on 30 September, then defeated Tudor, Exeter and the main force of Welsh Lancastrians at Twt Hill near Caernarfon on 16 October. On 4 November Herbert was rewarded with a barony, as Lord Herbert, and granted the castle, town and lordship of Pembroke. The promotion was obviously fully merited.

Denbigh and Carreg Cennan castles fell to the Yorkists in early 1462, but Harlech still held out, and was to continue to do so until 1469. One must assume that it was so remote that King Edward did not see its capture as a priority.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Sir John Mortimer Redux

Stephen Lark kindly referred me to the Hull geneology site which suggests that Sir John was the legitimate brother of the 4th earl Roger (killed 1398) and Sir Edmund. However, further digging about on the web reveals that the 3rd earl only referred to two sons (Roger and Edmund) in his will and therefore the Hull site has almost certainly got to be wrong.

Elsewhere on the web Douglas Richardson points out that if John Mortimer was male heir to the Earl of March (as he allegedly claimed) he would have to be of legitimate descent. This is true as far as it goes, although people making wild claims rarely bother about technicalities. After the 5th Earl of March's death, his claim to the throne went (through his deceased sister, Anne) to his nephew, Richard, Duke of York. The Salic law cannot be used here, as that would make the Lancastrians legitimate kings and wipe out the Mortimer claim altogether! I suppose that an extreme stretch he might have had a claim to the title, Earl of March, but the lands were evidently not entailed to the male heir so this would not have helped him much. But if we assume Sir John Mortimer was of legitimate descent, the most likely explanation is that he was a grandson of one of the two younger brothers of the 3rd earl. Unless you know better?

But, hang about. It was the 3rd earl who married Philippa of Clarence. So his younger brothers and their heirs might have some sort of claim to the Mortimer lands and titles but they would have no claim whatever to the throne as they were not descended from Lionel of Clarence. I still can't make sense of this - at the moment I can't see any way that Sir John Mortimer had any right to the throne, but if he didn't why did the Lancastrian government consider him such a threat?

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Wiltshire and Ormonde

I have just noticed a contradiction in my sources as to the execution site of James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire and Ormonde. In a previous post I implied he had died at Cockermouth, but since then I have discovered (according to Charles Ross) he was beheaded in Edward's presence at Newcastle. I may as well frankly admit that I don't know for sure which account is correct, though I should be surprised if Ross is mistaken. I shall look into this and get back to you, but for the time being please assume he was captured at Cockermouth and beheaded at Newcastle, as I suspect that's what happened.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Trouble in t'North

Although Edward's policy, after the executions following Towton, was one of conciliation and pardon, there were still a large number of irreconcilable Lancastrians at large, not least those in exile in Scotland or lying low in the far north of England. The King did not see fit to deal with this problem himself - admittedly he must have had many other matters on his plate - but was content to leave it to his Neville kinsmen, especially Warwick and Warwick's brother, John, Lord Montagu.

Margaret of Anjou, meanwhile, had concluded an alliance with Queen Mary of Guelders, the Scottish regent, on the basis that the Scots would receive Berwick in return for military assistance. Edward himself had been trying to come to terms with Scotland, but the offer of Berwick effectively outbid him. For the time being his enemies, including Henry VI and Margaret, had a secure base.

Edward's reaction was to make use of the Earl of Douglas and his brother, Scots lords exiled in England, to make approaches to other discontented Scots with a view to a little regime change across the border. This had little immediate effect and in June a combined Scottish/Lancastrian force made an attempt on Carlisle. John Neville rapidly raised the siege, if siege it could be called.

Later the same month Henry VI himself, backed by Lord Roos and other Lancastrian nobles, came to Brancepeth Castle, where they raised the standard of revolt. Again, this incursion was easily suppressed, this time by the Bishop of Durham who had evidently decided that his loyalties now lay with Edward IV.

In late summer Warwick managed to establish Yorkist control over much of Northumberland, taking Alnwick and Dunstanburgh Castles, the former a Percy stronghold, the latter a windswept outpost of the Duchy of Lancaster. Sir Ralph Percy, brother of the Northumberland killed at Towton, was allowed to continue as Constable of Dunstanburgh. This may have been part of the general policy of conciliation; equally it may simply be the case that no one else was available who had both Yorkist sympathies and local clout.

Yorkist control of the area remained tenuous. A few months later a Lancastrian force under William Tailboys was able to recapture Alnwick, while Lord Dacre of Gisland took up residence in his own castle of Naworth, near Carlisle, and offered defiance to the government. There was still a great deal of fighting to be done.

Friday, 25 March 2011

The Aftermath of Towton - King Edward on Tour

It was perhaps no more than common sense for Edward to remain at York for some weeks after Towton. The North was strongly Lancastrian in sympathy, and he had to at least try to reconcile its people to his rule. (It must be remembered that, apart from Warwick's immediate family and their supporters most of the northern nobility and gentry had been engaged against him at Towton. Many husbands, fathers, sons and brothers had died there, and there was no doubt considerable bitterness against him, as well as uncertainty about the future. Moreover, the leadership of northern society had been - in some cases literally - decapitated.)

Edward moved on to Durham (22 April) where he appointed the Bishop, Lawrence Booth, as his confessor. This was an act of conciliation as Booth had previously been associated with Queen Margaret. He then progressed to Newcastle, where he witnessed the execution of James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire and Ormonde, who had escaped the rout at Mortimer's Cross but now paid the penalty for being too prominent a member of the Lancastrian establishment. This execution was perhaps something of a show of force, because the Yorkist hold on the far north was tenuous at best. The strong local loyalty to the Percy family was never successfully overcome and was to lead eventually to the reinstatement of the Percy heir.

The King did not linger in this area but returned south by way of Lancashire and Cheshire. Again, it was useful to 'show the flag' in these counties, which were very far from being Yorkist in sympathy. He then moved into the north midlands, where the Lancastrian element was also strong. I think it's a safe bet that Edward used all of his personal charm, and was to an extent successful in winning 'hearts and minds'. His coronation was being arranged in London, but Edward was in no hurry to arrive there or to take charge of the Westminster machinery of government. Instead he made his way to Norwich.

Norfolk was, in contrast to much of the tour, pretty much Yorkist territory. The dukes of Norfolk (especially) and Suffolk were Edward's men while the Earl of Oxford, the other local magnate, was a moderate Lancastrian who suffered from ill health that had certainly been bad enough to keep him from Towton.

Edward would therefore have received a good welcome in East Anglia. Here I turn to speculation. The Duke of Norfolk had a son, John, Earl of Warenne, whose wife was Elizabeth Talbot. Her sister, Eleanor, Lady Butler, was already a widow at this time and quite possibly living in Norfolk's household under Elizabeth's protection. She had legal problems with her lands that needed the King's favour to resolve. Was this when they met? It's impossible to say, one way or the other. All we can say is that Edward was to prove that he had an eye for a good-looking widow.

More on this another day. Whatever delights he found or did not find in Norwich, duty eventually called him away. On Friday, 26 June he made his state entry into London.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

William, Lord Hastings

Relatively few men were knighted in the immediate aftermath of Towton, but one of them was William Hastings. Hastings came from a family with a long record of service to the House of York. In addition, William was a remote cousin of Edward IV, being descended from the Mortimers via Hotspur's widow, Elizabeth Mortimer's second marriage to Lord Camoys. More importantly he was a close personal friend of Edward and few men, if any, had more influence over the new King.

Although remotely related to the 14th century Hastings earls of Pembroke, William's circumstances were quite modest, more gentry than nobility, and in less interesting times he might have remained an obscure squire. After Ludford Bridge he was pardoned for his life only, and his fortunes were very low indeed. Now, knighted on the field, he was soon afterwards promoted to the peerage as Lord Hastings of Hastings (Sussex). He was also made Lord Chamberlain which gave him control of Edward's personal staff and the key advantage of being able to regulate access to the King's person. Unless you were very grand indeed, if you wanted to access Edward you had to go through Hastings. This was obviously a source of profit, as were the various additional lucrative offices that Hastings was able to secure for himself over the rest of the reign.

Hastings seems to have been a popular figure; even Warwick at his most aggressive never took against him. Of course Hastings was (inevitably) married to one of Warwick's sisters, but close kinship was not always a protection from the great earl's wrath. Hastings was to share Edward's more intimate moments - some have suggested that he was more or less or exactly a royal pimp - but there was more to him than this. He was a political manager on a grand scale, a man of unquestionable loyalty, and a good personal friend. Monarchs tend to find such friends in short supply.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Towton - the aftermath

King Henry VI, Queen Margaret and the Prince managed to escape, eventually to Scotland. With them were Somerset and Exeter, who presumably had very good horses.

Many Lancastrians were less fortunate. Northumberland died of his wounds, which almost certainly saved him from the block. Wiltshire managed to get away from the battle but was eventually captured at Cockermouth (of all places) probably on his way home to Ireland. He was promptly executed.

Devon was also executed, along with more than 40 Lancastrian knights. Edward's mood was probably not improved by finding his father's, brother's, and uncle's heads still displayed over the gates of York when he arrived. Replacing them with Devon's was doubtless some consolation. (Ironically Devon had been one of York's early supporters.)

After this initial blood-letting Edward's policy became more moderate. Many pardons were eventually issued including ones in favour of Earl Rivers and Lord Fitzhugh. Rivers and his family seem quite genuinely to have changed sides at this time, perhaps swayed by Edward's personal charisma. Fitzhugh on the other hand is an example of a man whose heart probably remained loyal to Henry VI. He was Warwick's brother-in-law and from now on can perhaps be understood better as a satellite of Warwick rather than a devoted subject of King Edward.

Battle of Towton Phase 2

One thing the Battle of Towton was not was Lancashire v Yorkshire. I am sure that most of you are well aware of this, but I find that many people are under the delusion that the Wars of the Roses were a Lancashire v Yorkshire fixture. Cricket may have caused this confusion. Or maybe stupidity.

Anyway, passing lightly on. The commanding general on the Lancastrian side was Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, a young man of 25 and a veteran of both the battles of St. Albans and of Wakefield. (He had commanded at 2nd St.Albans and Wakefield, so had a winning track record.) King Henry VI, Queen Margaret and Prince Edward were all safely left behind in York, a prudent and sensible precaution.

We can safely assume that Somerset commanded the Lancastrian centre. Their right was under Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland. His flank was usefully protected by the Cock Beck. It is less clear who commanded the left but a fair guess is Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter, by virtue of his rank. (He had few other qualities, but his rank was undeniable.)

On the Yorkist side, Edward IV commanded the centre in person. Their right was under Lord Fauconberg whose performance the previous day was soon to be equalled on this one. Warwick is the most likely commander of their left, facing Percy.

Snow began to fall, and as the morning drew on it turned into something of a blizzard. Fortunately for the Yorkists, the wind was blowing from the south, into the very faces of their opponents. Fauconberg advanced his men, who shot arrows into the Lancastrian left wing. The Lancastrians naturally tried to reply in kind, but because of their conditions their arrows fell short, while the Yorkist ones were 'wind assisted.' The Yorkists eventually ran out of arrows to shoot, but by stepping forward a little way were able to replenish their stocks with the Lancastrian arrows that had fallen short.

The Lancastrians now advanced so as to fight at close quarters. Although doubtless badly mauled by the arrow storm, there were still plenty of them left and anxious to give a good account of themselves. The lines locked together, and an almost unimaginable slugfest ensued, men hacking at one another in the snow.

The blizzard eased somewhat, but it seems likely that visibility was limited and that most of those engaged were only aware of their own local situation. From time to time men drew off to rest; possibly they did so by silent, mutual agreement. However the conflict was always renewed, and it went on for hours, through daylight and beyond. The strength and courage of all concerned must have been tested to the limit. Slowly, faced with superior numbers, the Yorkists were forced back.

Suddenly, out of the gloom, the Duke of Norfolk's division arrived to reinforce the Yorkists. Norfolk, who had been seriously left behind the advance of the main Yorkist force, evidently marched in haste to the 'sound of the guns' or the general racket of a major battle. His men peppered the Lancastrian left with arrows and then fell upon its flank. After what it had already endured that day it's not surprising that the Lancastrian left faltered and broke before this new onslaught.

It was not long before the rest of the Lancastrian army followed suit, as soaring Yorkist morale pushed their men forward in one last effort. Before long the battle had turned into a pursuit and slaughter, halted only by the gathering darkness of night. Many Lancastrians drowned trying to ford the Cock while others were trapped in a killing ground next to it and slaughtered. Edward had ordered that there should be no quarter. The days of 'kill the lords and spare the commons' were over.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Battle of Towton - Phase 1

Edward reached Pontefract on 27 March, having passed through Cambridge and Nottingham. Here he concentrated his forces, but the Duke of Norfolk was not yet arrived. Norfolk was sickly (he was to die on 6 November 1461) and his troops may have been commanded (nominally) by his young son, John Mowbray or (in practice) by his kinsman, Sir John Howard. Anyway, the Mowbray East Anglians were missing in the initial phases, putting Edward at a serious disadvantage.

Edward ordered Lord Fitzwalter to take the bridge over the Aire at Ferrybridge. Fitzwalter initially secured the bridge (which had not been guarded) but early next morning was taken by surprise by a Lancastrian force under Lord Clifford (aka 'Butcher Clifford.') In a fierce fight the Yorkist contingent was driven off, with the deaths of Fitzwalter and Sir Richard Jenney (Warwick's illegitimate half-brother.)

This was bad news indeed for the Yorkists, but Edward did not panic. Instead he sent Lord Fauconberg (Warwick's uncle) to take the bridges over the Aire at Castleford and then attack Clifford in the rear. Fauconberg undertook this task with great success, taking the Lancastrians by surprise and more or less wiping out their contingent. Clifford himself was among those killed. The road was now open for the main Yorkist army (still missing Norfolk) to cross the Aire and take up positions ready to attack the Lancastrians next day, 29 March, which was Palm Sunday.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

An Irrelevant Post - Edward II

I have lately been wound up by various people who insist on believing the fable that Edward III was fathered by William Wallace.

Let me set it out in plain terms for the hard of thinking. He wasn't! Edward III was not born until several years after Wallace's death. Human biology teaches us that the normal term of pregnancy is nine months, not seven years! Moreover, Queen Isabella was only 9 or 10 years old at the time of Wallace's execution, and she was still in France.

Edward and Isabella had several children and Edward also had at least one outside marriage. Fact - it is possible for a gay man to father children. Many if not all of us descend from such men in our ancestry, given that until very recently it was common for them to marry and give the appearance of being 'normal'.

There really is no reason to believe that Edward III was fathered by anyone other than Edward II - but he certainly wasn't fathered by William Wallace.

Rant over!

Monday, 10 January 2011

A bit overdue for a Post so here it is.

I know I am a bit overdue for a post. Have I been ill? Yes, but apart from Christmas when I felt like I was dying, no more than usual, which is not enough of an excuse. Have I tired of the project? No, but I'm not in any haste to complete it. Am I lazy? Yes, probably. Unproductive? Yes, tend to be.

Anyway, a few preliminary words about Towton. Obviously a Yorkist v Lancastrian fixture, but in some ways more. Progressives versus traditionalists. The Establishment versus the Outs. Neville v Percy. Neville v Beaufort. Mowbray (a thoroughly pissed off Mowbray) v Lancaster. Warwick v anyone keeping him from the light. South v North. There are probably more sub-plots I haven't thought of.

Edward IV's support among the nobility was a bit limited at this stage. Just one earl fought for him, and that was Warwick. If, instead of a battle, they'd had a vote in the House of Lords there's little doubt Henry VI would have won. Despite his inadequacies, the depth of the continuing loyalty to King Henry should not be underestimated.

Towton is sometimes said to be the largest battle ever fought on English soil. The other contender is Marston Moor in the Civil War, also fought within a few miles of York. I will offer no opinion on this, except to say Towton was certainly a very large battle indeed, with almost the whole nobility engaged. Even Lord Stanley was there, an almost unique event. This was an achievement in itself, a bit like getting me to a current-day football match.

The Yorkists advanced from London in three groups, led by Edward himself, Warwick and Norfolk. They each went by a different route, probably as a means of achieving maximum recruitment to their colours. However, logistics and supply must also have been an issue, because by medieval English standards the forces raised were simply massive.