1459: And So It Begins


Moving on from 1458, let’s keep marching through the Wars of the Roses’ first half with 1459:

January – February

Marguerite of Anjou is in Coventry. Sir William Herbert, only recently come to the Lancastrians’ side, urges her to battle the Yorkists sooner rather than later, lest they organize.


Marguerite persuades Henry VI to issue writs commanding the magnates to meet them at Leicester in May with enough money to cover two months of expenses. Meanwhile, Richard, Duke of York issues a manifesto that this form of military aid – conscription – is foreign to the English. (He wasn’t wrong.)


Henry’s half-brother, Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, is given a tower within the Palace of Westminster so that he could defend the palace in the event of an attack.


Henry and Marguerite depart for their summer progresses through Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire. They bring their son, Prince Edward, with them. All three convene a council in Coventry attended by loyal Lancastrians.

York begins to raise an army in response to what he views as a looming attack, while and the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick are notably absent from Coventry alongside other Yorkists. York and Salisbury send an urgent message to Warwick in Calais that battle is imminent.

July – August

Warwick raises men at arms and archers, all decked out in his livery. Among them is a man named Andrew Trollope, who commands a portion. By the end of the summer, they leave Calais and land at Sandwich in England, making their way to London.


On September 21, Warwick and his men enter London. They leave the next day for Warwick Castle in the north, where he means to meet up with York and Salisbury. Their plan is to then travel to Kenilworth Castle together, meet Henry and once again lay out their grievances.

Before they can do so, Marguerite and her army reach Warwick Castle, while Henry and his army march north from Coventry so as to block Warwick from meeting up with Salisbury. In response, Warwick pivots west to meet York at Ludlow Castle.

Marguerite and Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset send a large contingent to intercept his movement, but he manages to avoid it. Meanwhile, Salisbury leaves Middleham, hoping to meet York and Warwick at Ludlow.

When Marguerite learns of Salisbury’s movement, she decides to cut him off at Staffordshire and sends word to Lord Stanley to block him. She then moves to Eccleshall Castle with her son, where Henry joins them.

On September 23, Salisbury is on his way to Market Drayton when he learns that his path is blocked by Lancastrians. He quickly moves his men into battle formation near Blore Heath. Battle commences in the afternoon and results in a Yorkist victory, with the Lancastrians losing twice as many men.

Worried that Lancastrian reinforcements are nearby and still eager to get to Ludlow, he sets up camp by Market Drayton and leaves behind a cannon to periodically discharge so as to make passersby think the fighting is still ongoing.

Marguerite watches the battle from Mucklestone Church – when it becomes clear her side is losing, she takes Edward and leaves, reversing their horses’ shoes so that it will be difficult to follow them. In the morning, Henry and Marguerite ride at the head of an army to surprise Salisbury’s troops, but find only a deserted camp.


Having met at Ludlow, the Yorkist army marches towards Worcester and London, but the royal army blocks them on the road between Kidderminster and Westminster. The Lancastrians gear up for another battle, but the Yorkists retreat. From Worcester Cathedral, all of the Yorkist lords swear an oath of loyalty to Henry. Remember, at this point, there is no public declaration that York means to depose Henry from his throne, only to remove corrupt lords surrounding him.

The royal army follows the Yorkists to Worcester and then Tewkesbury. York then makes for Ludlow and his army camps on the shore of the River Tern, near Ludford Bridge. The royal army reaches the area on October 10th, sets up camp and prepares for battle.

York’s army again sends Henry a letter claiming their loyalty and listing out their demands. Marguerite intercepts it and forges a reply that the King will meet them on the field. Henry, unknowingly, sends a herald that he will pardon all of the Yorkists who submit to him with the exception of Salisbury, who led the Battle of Blore Heath.

That evening, Andrew Trollope sends a message to Somerset that he means to defect. He moves into the Lancastrian camp and defects. His betrayal is realized the following morning. Battle commences on the morning of October 12 and ends in a Lancastrian victory. With loss a foregone conclusion, York, Salisbury and Warwick announce they are returning to Ludlow Castle, however once there they then disappear into the night, making for safety across the Welsh border.

On the morning of October 13, the Yorkist army finds themselves abandoned, while York’s wife, Cecily Neville, and his three youngest children – Margaret, George and Richard – are without recourse. The Lancastrian army duly sacks the town of Ludlow, while Cecily and her children are rounded up as effective prisoners. Cecily is taken to London and placed under house arrest with Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, who is married to her sister, Anne. Victorious, Henry and Marguerite ride to Coventry where they disband their army.

The Yorkist lords scatter for exile – York and his second son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, end up in Wales, while Salisbury and Warwick travel with York’s eldest son, Edward, Earl of March and end up in Calais. They are joined there by Warwick’s wife, Anne Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick, and her daughters, Isabel and Anne.


On November 20, Parliament convenes at Coventry. Marguerite orders an attainder of treason for York, Salisbury, Warwick, March, Rutland and other Yorkist lords. They are duly declared guilty and, if they return to England, face arrest and execution. Since none are present for the verdict, Cecily is brought in to hear it on their behalf.

Confiscated Yorkist lands are given divvied out among the Lancastrians, with the majority going to Jasper Tudor and his father (Henry’s stepfather), Owen Tudor.

Finally, all magnates are asked to swear a new oath of allegiance to Henry, Marguerite and Edward. Even so, the rest of the country hasn’t given up on York – when the Earl of Wiltshire is sent to Ireland to declare York guilty of treason, the Irish government arrests him and he is hanged, drawn and quartered.

Meanwhile, Somerset arrays an army of 1,000 under Andrew Trollope and sails for Calais, capturing Guisnes Castle. Warwick retaliates by capturing two Lancastrian lords, including one of Buckingham’s sons.


Early in the month, a handful of Warwick’s ships are seized on the Channel, while Richard Woodville, Lord Rivers and Sir Gervase Clifton begin assembling reinforcements nearby.

We’ll return with 1460 in a few days.

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