Sunday, December 30, 2012

Richard Duke of York is Killed at the Battle of Wakefield - 1460

The Battle of Wakefield took place in Sandal Magna near Wakefield, in West Yorkshire on December 30, 1460. It was a major battle of the Wars of the Roses. The opposing forces were an army led by nobles loyal to the captive King Henry VI of the House of Lancaster, his Queen Margaret of Anjou and their seven year-old son Edward, Prince of Wales and opposed by the army of Richard, Duke of York, a rival claimant to the throne. The Duke of York was killed in the battle and his army was destroyed. 

On October 7, 1460, Parliament recognized the Duke of York’s stronger claim to the throne and agreed that Henry VI should rule England until his death when the crown would pass to York. King Henry agreed to this but his queen certainly did not; no sooner was the Act of Accord passed than Queen Margaret marched south with an army of twenty thousand men under the command of the Duke of Somerset. In a desperate position, York resorted to sending his eldest son, the Earl of March, to tackle an emerging Lancastrian rebellion in Wales led by Jasper Tudor. Then, leaving Warwick with orders to guard the King, York left London with an army of seven or eight thousand men and headed north. With him went his second son the Earl of Rutland, the Earl of Salisbury and his son Sir Thomas. 

York and his army arrived at Sandal Castle on the 21st of December. Reaching his northern stronghold, York decided to settle in for the winter and put his men to work digging ditches, improving the defenses and mounting guns on the walls. Thus entrenched in near-impregnable positions the Duke sat down to wait for reinforcements. Though he could not distinguish their exact whereabouts, York knew there were five or more Lancastrian armies in the vicinity and dared not face battle. The exact reason why York left the safety of Sandal Castle on December 30, 1460 is not known. All but abandoning the castle, York hurried down to the skirmish on Sandal Common only to be attacked on both flanks by Andrew Trollope and Lord Roos. Soon York realized that he would be totally surrounded, and overrun. He ordered his seventeen-year-old son, Rutland, to flee the battlefield but the boy was promptly captured on Wakefield Bridge and stabbed to death. Lord Clifford meanwhile brought his men up the Yorkist rear and sealed their line of retreat. York himself was unhorsed, and after refusing quarter, was brutally hacked to death. With York dead the battle ended. Half the Yorkist army lay dead and of their leaders only Salisbury (temporarily) escaped. The Earl was captured during the night and executed the following day. The heads of York, Salisbury and Rutland were later impaled on spikes and left to rot on Mickelgate Bar in York. Two of York’s son’s would ascend to the throne as Edward IV and Richard III.  

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Great Britain’s Royal Tombs: A Guide to the Lives and Burial Places of British Monarchs. The book can be purchased from Amazon or Barnes and Noble through the following links: 

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