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Wars of the Roses: Battle of Edgecote

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Battle of Edgecote - Date & Conflict:

The Battle of Edgecote was fought July 26, 1469, during the Wars of the Roses (1455-1485).

Armies & Commanders

Lancastrians

  • Robin of Redesdale (Sir John Conyers)
  • Earl of Warwick
  • Strength: Unknown

    Yorkists

  • Earl of Pembroke
  • approx. 5,000-6,000 men

  • Battle of Edgecote - Background:

    In the wake of the Yorkist victory at the Battle of Towton in 1461, England entered a period of relative peace as the Lancastrian cause had largely been defeated. During this time, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who had been instrumental in the ascent Edward IV, became disenfranchised with the king as his influence at court steadily waned. The situation further worsened when Edward informed Warwick that he had married Elizabeth Woodville despite the latter's efforts to secure a French wife for the king.

    Further insult was added when Edward refused to allow his younger brother, the Duke of Clarence, to marry Warwick's daughter Isabel. As discontent against Edward's policies began to spread, Warwick contemplated changing allegiances and rebelling. In doing so, he found an ally in the jealous Clarence who was the heir to the throne. Uniting, the two men inspired a series of rebellions in northern England before departing for Calais in July 1469. While there, Clarence married Isabel. Forced to react to the rebellions, Edward began marching north, allowing the two conspirators to land in Kent and build an army.

    Edward soon found that the rebel forces outnumbered his own and he fell back to Nottingham to await reinforcements. Among those moving to his aid were troops led by the Earls of Pembroke and Devon. On July 12, Warwick and Clarence declared their support for the rebels who were led by Robin of Redesdale. Though his precise identity is not known, Redesdale is believed to have been Sir John Conyers, one of Warwick's retainers. Six days later, Warwick began moving north with a large army to reinforce Redesdale. Learning of Warwick's movements, Redesdale began moving south, bypassing the king at Nottingham.

    The Battle of Edgecote:

    In doing so, the rebel army neared the approaching forces of Pembroke and Devon. On July 25, the two men entered Banbury and learned that the enemy was near. In the course of the day, Pembroke and Devon supposedly argued over billets causing the latter to withdraw south to Deddington Castle with his men. This greatly weakened the Yorkist force as Devon possessed the army's archers. The following morning, Pembroke moved his men to the Danes Moor where he occupied a strong hilltop position. Approaching the field, Redesdale deployed his army near Thorpe Manderville and moved to attack.

    Unleashing volleys of arrows at the Yorkists, Redesdale inflicted losses upon the enemy. Lacking archers, Pembroke was unable to reply in kind and was forced to abandon the high ground. Moving down the slope, his troops clashed with the rebels and a melee ensued. In two to three hours of hand-to-hand fighting, Pembroke's men began to gain the upper hand and Redesdale may have been killed. With victory in sight, the Yorkists were alarmed to see rebel reinforcements approaching the field. These were the advance elements of Warwick's forces led by Sir John Clapham.

    Believing that Warwick's entire army was about to enter the fray, the Yorkists began to break and flee the field. In the rout, large numbers of Pembroke's troops were killed while he was captured the next day and executed.

    Battle of Edgecote - Aftermath:

    Edgecote is one of the poorest documented battles of the Wars of the Roses and there has been a variety of confusion regarding the precise location and details of the action. Losses are not known with precision though Yorkist estimates range from 2,000 to 5,000 men. In the wake of the battle, Edward's army melted away and he was taken into "protection" by Warwick. Also, many of the king's close advisors, including Earl Rivers and John Woodville, were captured and executed. Fleeing south, Devon was also taken and killed.

    Warwick briefly regained power and reconciled with Edward. This truce proved short-lived as he was forced to flee to France in 1470 after the Battle of Losecoat Field. Warwick would continue to intrigue until his death at the Battle of Barnet in April 1471.

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