Monday, 25 June 2012

Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, part 6

As an aside, I notice from the site statistics that more people from the USA and Russia read this blog than do those from the UK. Anyway, wherever you are from, you are very welcome!

Montagu conferred with Warwick at York, but the Great Man evidently decided that his younger bro. was more than capable of dealing with Somerset and his small force. However, he reinforced Montagu with Lords Greystoke and Willoughby. These men were both former Lancastrians - but then again, who wasn't? They were to prove faithful to their new allegiance, though this may have been more to Neville than to York.

Montagu returned to Newcastle, and there received intelligence that Somerset was near Hexham, some way off to the west towards Carlisle. A rapid march discovered the enemy camp, and after placing some of his men so as to cut off any possible retreat, John Neville launched a fierce attack. (15 May 1464.) The fighting did not last long, and the Lancastrian leaders were almost all captured or killed. Somerset himself was executed without further ado, on the battlefield itself. There does not appear to have been even a rudimentary trial for him or any of the others - matters had gone beyond such niceties.

Lord Hungerford and several knights were beheaded in Newcastle. Two more knights suffered at Middleham, and a whole batch were kept until Edward IV could reach York and executed in his presence. (26 May.)

Among those who did get away were Somerset's brothers, Edmund and John. They eventually managed to secure safe refuge in Burgundy, where they were made welcome by Duke Charles.

As for Henry VI, he had been left in Bywell Castle. Hearing the result of the battle he wisely made himself scarce, making his way over many miles of rough and high ground until he was eventually found wandering by a shepherd near Ravenglass in what is now Cumbria. The lord of the local castle (Muncaster) gave the king shelter, and Henry stayed there for some time. After such a formidable tramp the poor man was probably exhausted. He left the family his glass drinking bowl as a token of thanks and this may still be seen at the castle.

Oh, by the way, on 1 May 1464, while all this was going on, Edward IV found time to slip away and make a secret marriage with Elizabeth Woodville. If he was involved with Eleanor Butler he was obviously no longer interested in that lady. The political aspects of the marriage were now irrelevant. Is the timing of Edward's Woodville marriage just a coincidence? Maybe. There is no way to prove the matter one way or the other.

Next post will be about the execution of the Earl of Oxford and his son. Which, if critics of Richard III wish to be consistent, they will be compelled to declare murder. But strangely no one has ever called Edward a murderer on this account...

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