1460: All Roads Lead to Sandwich Castle


Today we’re following up on where we left off in 1459 as we tick through the early years in the Wars of the Roses.


Jacquetta Woodville, Duchess of Bedford, her husband, Lord Rivers, and their son, Anthony Woodville, are lodged in Sandwich. Without warning, Sir John Dynham, acting on the orders of the Earl of Warwick, occupies the town, capturing ships and the three members of the Woodville family. They are unceremoniously hauled off to Calais. Several days later, they are brought before Warwick, his father, the Earl of Salisbury, and the Duke of York’s eldest son, the Earl of March, where they are upbraided for their Lancastrian loyalty and their lowly status.

The incident is ironic with hindsight, of course, for March would go on to marry the eldest Woodville daughter in 1464. At the time, the family was perhaps best known for the scandal that the marriage between Jacquetta and Lord Rivers caused. Jacquetta was a daughter and sister of the Counts of St Pol, while her sister was married to one of Marguerite of Anjou’s uncles. Her first marriage had been to John, Duke of Bedford, Henry V’s younger brother, but her second marriage to Woodville was conducted in secret and without the King’s permission.

The morning after the confrontation, Jacquetta is allowed to return to England. She immediately goes to Queen Marguerite, who was upset for both the capture of her friends and what she believed to be a warning of the coming Yorkist attack on England.


The government learns that Warwick has left Calais to meet York and his second son, the Earl of Rutland, in Ireland.


By the spring, the government believes itself ready to defend against a Yorkist invasion.


Henry VI’s half-brother, Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, is given control of Denbigh Castle, previously held by York. York’s men refuse to hand it over, thus prompting Jasper to besiege it until it falls to him in May.

In Ireland, Warwick and York draw up a manifesto listing out their grievances, as well as a plan to distribute it to the public. Among the claims in the document is that Henry is being advised to conquer to Ireland and that the King had personally asked for his help in doing so. The Irish are told that if they join York’s cause, they will not only be protected, but they will be allowed to plunder southern England.

When news gets out, Marguerite is livid and she issues a response under her and Prince Edward’s name denying the accusations.

Henry goes to Coventry to continue defense preparations. He chooses Kenilworth Castile as his chief base.

On the 25th, York’s son-in-law – and loyal Lancastrian – the Duke of Exeter sails from Sandwich with 15 ships and 1,500 men to intercept Warwick.


On June 1, Exeter and his fleet lay off the coast of Cornwall, allowing them to see if Warwick attempt to return to Calais. Unfortunately, most of his men are sympathetic to York and complaining about a lack of pay and rations. Exeter anchors at Dartmouth and dismisses them. By default, Warwick has control of the Channel.

Marguerite, Edward and all of court remain with Henry in Coventry until the 26th. That same day, Warwick, Salisbury and March land at Sandwich with 2,000 men. Marguerite sends ships to prevent them from sailing out of the harbor, but her men mutiny and the Yorkist lords move easily.

The three lords move for Canterbury, the leaders of which turn over the keys. There, they prayed at the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket and receive the blessing of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who agrees to ride with them.


Prominent Lancastrians in London took refuge in the Tower of London for safety. On July 2, the gates of the city are opened and the Yorkist lords enter with an army of around 40,000 men. Crowds swarm the streets to welcome them, while Lord Scales fires guns from the Tower in warning – the enemy is unscathed, but women and children are hit.

The next day, the lords address the Convocation of Canterbury at St Paul’s Cathedral. They swear an oath of loyalty to Henry.

Henry and Marguerite still believe that York will join Warwick from Ireland, and thus don’t move south to defend London. Warwick and March eventually move north, leaving Salisbury and others behind in London with 2,000 men to occupy the city.

Henry plans to march to Northampton. He takes leave of Marguerite and Edward, urging his wife not to join him unless she receives a secret token whose meaning is only known to them. Once he departs, Marguerite and Edward move to Eccleshall Castle for safety.

On July 10, Warwick arrives in Northampton. He tries to avoid battle with the King by sending the Bishop of Salisbury to Henry asking him read the manifesto drafted in Ireland. Henry refuses. Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham urges Henry not to pay the Yorkist protestations any attention.

Battle moves forward with Henry, Buckingham and Shrewsbury commanding the Lancastrians and March and Warwick leading the Yorkists. The fight ends in a Yorkist victory, with Buckingham and Shrewsbury losing their lives. The dead are buried at Delapre Abbey. Henry is taken prisoner by Warwick and March after they find him alone in his tent. They fall on their knees and again plead loyalty. They then march him to Delapre Abbey, and from there to Northampton.

When Marguerite learns the news, she takes Edward and flees across the Welsh border to Harlech Castle where Jasper Tudor lives with his young nephew, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond. Jasper advises her to move to Denbigh Castle, which she does, but she begins a rumor that she and her son have escaped to France to confuse the Yorkists.

On July 16, Henry is escorted into London by Warwick and March. Lord Scales attempts to escape by boat to Westminster, but London boatmen capture and murder him.


Marguerite, meanwhile, leaves Wales with Edward and gets safely across the Scottish border. She means to seek refuge with James II, but on August 3, he is killed by an exploding cannon. His young son is duly made James III, but it is his wife, Mary of Guelders, who now runs the government. Marguerite and Edward are taken to Dumfries and lodged as Queen Mary’s guests at Lincluden Abbey.

Mary responds enthusiastically when she learns of her English guests and brings her young son to the Abbey to greet them. For 12 days, the two queens remain in residence, planning out how they might help one another. They decide that Mary will provide men and money, while Marguerite will cede the town of Berwick to Scotland.

The new Yorkist council orders Jasper Tudor to surrender Denbigh, but he refuses. The Yorkists are never able to regain their hold on the Welsh border.


On September 8, York finally leaves Ireland, landing in North Wales.

Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset surrenders Guines to Warwick. He return to England and takes up residence in Corge Castle in Dorset.


York arrives in London just as Parliament begins to meet. Henry attends the opening ceremony, but almost immediately withdraws for Marguerite’s private apartments. Yorkist lords are duly appointed to positions of power.

Three days later, York rides into the city at the head of his retinue, but he has ordered pomp and ceremony and begins to look like a smug upstart to the people, not the humble reformer he claims to be. At the door to Westminster Hall, York dismounts and walks in with a sword of state on his hip. He walks past the crowds to the royal dais and places his hand on the throne – he is, finally, claiming the crown. He turns, expecting cheers, but is met only by stunned silence.

The Archbishop of Canterbury finally speaks, suggesting that Henry join them so that they could all discuss York’s claims, but the Duke is livid and instead tries to confront his cousin directly. The two men argue, but Henry maintains he is the rightful king and heir to his father (Henry V) and grandfather (Henry IV).

Far from backtracking, York makes a formal claim to the throne a few days later, showing his descent from Henry III. Henry asks the Lords to draw up a list of objections, but he is also hardly in a position to fight back. On the 24th, a new order of succession is drawn up that allows Henry to live out his life on the throne, but York is to be named his heir, displacing Edward. On the 28th, left with no choice, he agrees. He is then forced to order Marguerite to come to London with their son – the Yorkists need to have possession of the Lancastrian heir. He does not, apparently, send the secret token, and thus she is well-aware the orders are made under duress.


On November 8, York is formally made heir apparent and Lord Protector. Parliament swears allegiance to both him and Henry.

Marguerite, meanwhile, is livid. Her army fully gathered and her Lancastrian supporters summoned, she begins marching south from York. As they pass through, she allows her army to sack the homes of York and Salisbury.


On the 9th, York and Salisbury ride out from London. Warwick is left behind. The Yorkists confront Somerset’s men at Worksop, which serves to make clear the Lancastrian army vastly outnumbers their enemy’s. York marches to Sandal Castle, preparing to observe the holiday and settle in until March. Somerset and the Earl of Northumberland, meanwhile, are prepared to hold battle immediately in the hopes of taking advantage of their stronger position. They surround the castle, keeping food and supplies from entering.

The two armies ostensibly reach an agreement to hold peace until January 6, but on the evening of December 30, York leaves the Castle. It isn’t clear why he allows himself to be lured out, but the two sides set for battle. York, Salisbury and Rutland ride out over the drawbridge into Wakefield Green. There, the waiting Lancastrian center charges them, while the flanks emerge from the woods to envelope them from all sides. York is killed in the fighting.

Rutland manages to escape with the help of his tutor, but he is followed by Lord Clifford and murdered.

The following night, Salisbury is captured, but when he attempts to escape, he is seized by members of the public and beheaded.

The heads of all three men are placed on spikes and displayed to the public.

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