1455: Somerset For Lancaster


Picking up where we left off in a series covering the the first half of the Wars of the Roses. You can catch up on 1454 here.


Henry VI is finally presented with his son, Prince Edward, who is now nearly 15 months old. Reportedly, he says that he must be a child of the Holy Spirit, doing nothing to dampen rumors he is Marguerite of Anjou’s bastard with Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset.


On February 9, Henry appears before Parliament, astonishing its members. He quickly dismissed Richard, Duke of York as Lord Protector and a number of his sympathizers, who he had placed in high office, including his brother-in-law, Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury.

Loyal Lancastrian Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter, who had been imprisoned during York’s supremacy, is released – notably, he is in fact York’s son-in-law, married to his eldest daughter, Anne.

Somerset is released a week later and restored as the Constable of England and Captain of Calais. Upon hearing of Somerset’s freedom, York retires to Sandal Castle, near Wakefield. Salisbury returns to his northern home, Middleham Castle.

March – April 

Battle lines are firmly drawn, with Marguerite and Somerset plotting to bring about York’s downfall for good. Salisbury’s son, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, travels to York when he learns that Somerset and Marguerite are planning a secret conference at Westminster. York and Salisbury decide to raise an army as a precaution.


The Lancastrian conference is held in Leicester. In the background, the Yorkist armies are assembled, with York, Salisbury and Warwick writing letters of loyalty to Henry. They are intercepted by Marguerite’s supporters and never delivered.

Henry issues orders to Salisbury and Warwick to present themselves before Council, but three days before they have been asked to appear, Henry finally gives notice to Somerset to go ahead and raise his own army upon intel that York is approaching London at the head of 7,000 armed men.

On May 20, York arrives in Royston at Hertfordshire and issues a manifesto that he means Henry no harm. It is sent to Henry, but once again intercepted and destroyed. The next day, they march into Ware and learn that the Lancastrian army is advancing towards them via Watling Street. He tries yet another appeal to Henry, but it is similarly destroyed.

On May 22, Henry and his army are marching towards St Albans and York turns to meet them. Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham was a neutral party, albeit one who had little interest in committing treason, and he urges Henry to meet with York. The effort doesn’t work and battle moves forward, ending in the deaths of Somerset, Lord Clifford and the Earl of Northumberland, while Henry and Buckingham are both injured. It’s a Yorkist victory.

York, Salisbury and Warwick find Henry tending to his wound in a tanner’s house after the battle. York argues to Henry that he was left with no recourse but to fight him. The following day, all three men escort Henry into London, with Warwick carrying the King’s sword.


York, Salisbury and Warwick begin re-filling a Yorkist government, with a number of Lancastrian lords doing their best to compromise and find ways to work together. Among these men were Buckingham and even Henry’s half-brother, Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke.

Throughout this, Marguerite remains with Prince Edward at Greenwich, where she had moved before the battle. She is forbidden from entering London.


On July 9, Parliament meets at Westminster in Henry’s presence, who is again suffering from mental illness. York soon assumes complete control of the government.


Henry’s other half-brother, Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, marries Somerset’s niece, Lady Margaret Beaufort. The wedding takes place at Bletsoe Castle in Bedfordshire and soon after, the couple leaves for the Welsh border.


On November 12, Parliament is recalled. Within five days, York is once again appointed Protector.

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