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The Battle of Shrewsbury

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The Battle of Shrewsbury

King Henry IV of England

Photograph Source: Public Domain

Conflict:

The Battle of Shrewsbury was the climatic battle of rebellion against King Henry IV of England.

Date(s):

July 21, 1403

Commanders & Armies at the Battle of Shrewsbury:

Royalist Forces

  • King Henry IV
  • Henry, Prince of Wales
  • approximately 10,000 men

Rebel Forces

  • Sir Henry "Hotspur" Percy
  • Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester
  • approximately 5,000-7,000 men

Results of the Battle of Shrewsbury:

The battle ended in a decisive victory for King Henry IV and resulted in Henry "Hotspur" Percy's death. Also, the Earl of Worcester was captured and executed for his part in the rebellion. Approximately 2,000 were killed in the fighting, with records suggesting that Royalist forces sustained the heaviest casualties.

Battle Summery:

In 1403, unhappy with King Henry IV, the powerful Percy family rose in rebellion. The family's dissatisfaction stemmed from a feeling that they had been mistreated by the king after helping him gain his crown in the wars against King Richard II. Raising an army from among the Richard's former supporters, Sir Henry "Hotspur" Percy moved south with the goal of destroying a small Royalist force at Shrewsbury commanded by the 16-year old Prince of Wales. As he marched, Hotspur was joined by his uncle, the Earl of Worcester, who brought with him almost 1,000 men who had defected from the Prince's army.

As Hotspur moved south, King Henry IV was marching north towards the Percy's lands in Northumbria. Arriving at Nottingham on July 12, and hearing of Hotspur's activities, he turned his army west and moved to aid his son. He arrived at Shrewsbury on the 20th, just in time to prevent Hotspur from assaulting the town. With the arrival of the king's forces, the rebels withdrew northwest towards the village of Berwick. Not wanting the rebels to escape, King Henry VI pursued and made camp three miles from the rebels.

The following morning, Hotspur lined up his army along a low ridge while King Henry IV approached from the south. By mid-day, both armies were in position, though neither side seemed inclined to open the fight. Hoping to prevent bloodshed, the abbots of Shrewsbury and Haughmond attempted to mediate. While Hotspur appeared receptive, it was Worcester who went to meet the king. Unwilling to give into Worcester's demands, the king sent him away and the battle opened two hours before sunset.

As the king's men advanced, Hotspur's archers opened fire, inflicting heavy casualties and forcing them to return to their original lines. Seeing an opportunity, Hotspur ordered a general counterattack. Leading the charge himself, the rebel troops slammed into the Royalist lines. In the melee that ensued, Hotspur was killed. As the fighting continued, the Prince of Wales, whose division was outside of the fray, wheeled his men around and attacked the rebels in the flank. This assault broke the rebel's lines and drove them from the field, completing the victory for Henry IV.

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