Wars of the Roses in the North

Wars of the Roses in the North East 1460-1485

The Wars of the Roses were fought between titled rival royal houses of York and Lancaster. They were factions of the French-rooted Plantagenet dynasty that had nothing to do with the counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire. The weakened king Henry VI (great grandson of John of Gaunt, Duke Lancaster) was increasingly troubled with insanity. He was defeated by Edward, Duke of York at the Battle of Towton who became Edward IV. Henry and his queen, Margaret, the effective leader of the Lancastrians, controlled Northumbrian castles at Alnwick, Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh but lost three Northumbrian battles. Her only hope was the powerful ‘Kingmaker’ Richard Neville of Middleham in Yorkshire who switched his allegiance to the Lancastrians. Yet the Yorkists would hold power until the Battle of Bosworth and the reign of Henry Tudor in 1485.

Middleham Castle
Middleham Castle, Wensleydale, Yorkshire © David Simpson 2021

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1450s – The Rise of Neville ‘the Kingmaker’

Richard Neville, whose principal seat is Middleham Castle in Wenseydale, Yorkshire, is the wealthiest and most powerful figure in England and will be at the centre of events in the Wars of the Roses. Neville is a member of a family of Norman origin, from a junior branch of the Neville family of County Durham whose family seats were at Raby and Brancepeth. Inheriting the Neville castle at Middleham, he later through marriage acquired the title of Earl of Warwick, in 1449. His powers and political influence increased rapidly during the 1450s. Such was his influence that he came to be known as ‘Warwick the Kingmaker’.

Middleham, North Yorkshire
Middleham, North Yorkshire © David Simpson 2021

1459 – Mixed fortunes in early battles

Early battles in the Wars of the Roses took place at St Albans in Hertfordshire and at Blore Heath in Cheshire in 1459. Both were victories for the Yorkists under Richard Neville and Richard, Duke of York. However, King Henry VI remained in power. A victory for the king and the Lancastrians follows later that year at Ludford Bridge in Shropshire and the Duke of York fled to Ireland. Warwick heads across the Channel and holds the English-owned port of Calais against the Lancastrian onslaught.

Dec 21, 1460 – Battle of Wakefield

King Henry is captured at the Battle of Northampton in July 1460 but factions continue to battle for control of the king. The rebellious Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, who is titled ‘Protector’ of England battles once again in his pursuit of power. He is defeated by the Lancastrians near Wakefield in Yorkshire. Richard, a descendant of King Edward III, takes refuge in nearby Sandal castle only to be killed when he finally emerges. Yorkist support now turns to Richard’s son, Edward, the new Duke of York.

Dec 30, 1460 – Duke’s head displayed at York

The severed head of Richard, Duke of York is displayed on the gateway of Micklegate Bar on the city walls of York. A paper crown is placed on the head as a sign of mockery. York is a focal point for Yorkist support.

Micklegate Bar, York
Micklegate Bar, York © David Simpson 2021

Feb 17, 1461 – Lancastrian victory at St Albans

In the second battle to take place at St Albans in Hertfordshire, the Yorkists are defeated and Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick is injured. The victorious Margaret of Anjou, rescues her husband, King Henry VI from Yorkist control. However, this will be a short-lived celebration for the Lancastrians as all the subsequent battles in the ongoing civil war will see victory for the Yorkists.

March 4, 1461 – KING EDWARD IV

Edward, Duke of York is proclaimed King Edward IV, King of England.

March 29, 1461 – Edward IV victorious at Towton

After an inconclusive encounter at Ferrybridge the previous day, the Yorkists are victorious in a heavy snowstorm at the Battle of Towton near York. Victory falls to Edward, Duke of York who is already claiming to be King Edward IV, though yet to be crowned. The prominent Lancastrian supporter Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland is among those killed in the battle. The deposed King Henry VI and his queen, Margaret, are on the run.

1461 – Kingmaker’s brother acquires Alnwick

The Lancastrian Percy castle at Alnwick is acquired by John Neville, who is the brother of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick.

Alnwick Castle
Alnwick Castle : Lancastrian stronghold seized in 1461. Photo © David Simpson 2018

April 1461 – Berwick back in Scottish hands

Margaret of Anjou, acting on behalf of her husband Henry VI, cedes Berwick-upon-Tweed back to Scotland. Margaret and Henry have received support from the Scottish king James for their Lancastrian cause. They flee north to Scotland.

Berwick upon Tweed and the Old Bridge
Berwick upon Tweed and the Old Bridge. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Jun 28, 1461 – King Edward crowned

Edward officially becomes King Edward IV following his coronation at Westminster. The new king, a descendant of King Edward III, is the son of the late Richard, Duke of York and Cecily Neville of Raby Castle who was known as the ‘Rose of Raby’. Cecily would of course be the mother to two kings as Edward’s brother Richard (Richard III) would later succeed him in 1483.

Raby Castle
Raby Castle in Teesdale, County Durham. was home to Cecily Neville, ‘The Rose of Raby’ who was the mother of King Edward IV and Richard III © David Simpson.

Oct 25, 1462 – Lancastrians capture castles

Margaret of Anjou lands at Bamburgh with an army of French. After a long siege, the Lancastrian Margaret, Queen of the deposed Henry VI, captures Bamburgh and Alnwick Castle with the help and support of the Scots.

Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle Photo © 2018 David Simpson

Jan 5, 1463 – Neville attacks Alnwick

Richard Neville of Middleham Castle in Yorkshire besieges the Lancastrian stronghold of Alnwick Castle which had recently been in his possession.

April 3, 1463 – Roses battle at Hexham

The first Battle of Hexham takes place between Yorkists under John Neville and the Lancastrian supporters of Queen Margaret. Ralph Percy, the owner of Bamburgh, switches allegiance to the Lancastrians who are defeated and flee to Scotland.

Hexham Abbey
Wars of the Roses battles were fought near Hexham in 1463 and 1464. Photo © 2018 David Simpson

July 1463 – Scots retreat from Norham

James III of Scotland retreats from Norham-on-Tweed after the arrival of John Neville and Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. James had invaded England to support the Lancastrians.

Norham Castle
Norham Castle © David Simpson 2021

Dec 9, 1463 – Anglo-Scottish truce

A truce is signed at York between the English and Scots with a promise of peace between the two nations. A further truce will be signed here in 1464 after the peace efforts break down.

Apr 25, 1464 – Battle at Hedgeley Moor

A Wars of the Roses battle takes place at Hedgeley Moor in Northumberland. The Yorkist John Neville is attacked by Lancastrians who include Ralph Percy and Sir Ralph Grey. Neville and the Yorkists are victorious.

May 5, 1464 – Another battle at Hexham

The second War of the Roses battle at Hexham takes place. The Lancastrians under Margaret are defeated once again by the Nevilles.

May 1464 – Lancastrian castles surrender

The Lancastrian-held castles of BamburghDunstanburgh and Alnwick in Northumberland surrender to King Edward VI.

Dunstanburgh Castle
Dunstanburgh Castle Photo © 2017 David Simpson

May 27, 1464 – Neville, Earl of Northumberland

John Neville, Lord Montagu, brother of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, is appointed Earl of Northumberland at York. This makes Neville the most powerful political figure in the North.

Mar 1465 – Neville the Archbishop

George Neville, another brother of the increasingly powerful Richard Neville of Middleham is appointed the Archbishop of York.

July 13, 1465 – Henry captured in Lancashire

The troubled King Henry VI, is captured at Clitheroe in Lancashire, uncovered by members of a family called Tempest. Margaret of Anjou, Henry’s queen, is currently in exile in France.

1465 – Future king resides in Wensleydale

Richard, Duke of Gloucester (who will later become Richard III), lives at Middleham Castle in Wensleydale, Yorkshire. The castle is the home of Richard Neville ‘Warwick the Kingmaker’.

A Wensleydale scene © David Simpson 2021

1467 – Neville and king fall out

Richard Neville falls out with Edward IV over foreign policy and switches his allegiance to the Lancastrian side. The king dismisses Richard’s brother, George Neville as Archbishop of York.

Aug 1469 – Edward IV captured

King Edward is imprisoned at Middleham Castle by Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Edward was captured by Richard’s brother George Neville, the former Archbishop of York, in Northamptonshire. In September, Edward is thought to have escaped from captivity but he may have been released by Richard Neville.

1470 – Stockton shipbuilding

Shipbuilding was carried out in Stockton from at least as early as this year when Bishop Booth of Durham had a wooden ship built here at considerable cost using timber felled in the extensive forests of Gateshead.

The Victoria Bridge, Stockton
A modern view of the River Tees at Stockton © David Simpson 2021 © David Simpson 2021

July 1470 – Neville makes peace with Margaret

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick makes peace with Henry’s queen, Margaret of Anjou further confirming his switch to the Lancastrian side. His daughter, Anne Neville is betrothed to Margaret and Henry’s son, Edward the Prince of Wales.

April 14, 1471 – Neville the Kingmaker killed in battle

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick ‘the Kingmaker’ is killed fighting Edward IV at the Battle of Barnet near London. On May 7th, Margaret is captured at the Battle of Tewkesbury in which her only son Edward, recently married to Warwick’s daughter is killed. Two weeks later the deposed King Henry VI dies during his imprisonment in the Tower of London. Margaret was later ransomed by her cousin King Louis of France and lived the rest of her days in exile in France.

Wars of the Roses Battle map
Wars of the Roses battles map © 2020 David Simpson and tangledworm.com

1472 – Future king Richard marries Anne Neville

In the Spring of 1472 after special dispensation from the Pope, Richard Duke of Gloucester, the younger brother of King Edward IV married the Raby Castle-born Anne Neville, the daughter of the Earl of Warwick and husband of the late Edward, Prince of Wales. Their matrimonial home is Middleham Castle, Wensleydale, in northern Yorkshire. The marriage to Anne brings with it extraordinary wealth.

Raby Castle
Raby Castle, the birthplace of Anne Neville © David Simpson 2021

1472 – Council of the North

The Council of the North is created in an attempt to improve prosperity and order in the northern counties. Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III) is its first president and will be succeeded by his nephew John De la Pole in 1483. It will operate until 1485 and is then revived during the reign of Henry VIII. This council, based at Sheriff Hutton and Sandal Castle encompasses the north in a very broad sense, covering the counties of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Durham, Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland.

1477 – Richard gains Barnard Castle

Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III), takes possession of Barnard Castle in Teesdale. It is thought to have been one of his favourite residences.

The castle, Barnard Castle
The castle, Barnard Castle © David Simpson 2021

Nov 1481 – Scots refuse to relieve Berwick

King James III attempts to assemble an army in the Borders to assist in the relief of the then Scottish town of Berwick which is under the siege of the English. The Scottish nobles who have become increasingly frustrated with James’ rule refuse to support him and the army is disbanded. James will be ousted as king by rebel Scottish nobles in July 1482.

Old Bridge, Berwick.
Old Bridge, Berwick. Photo © David Simpson 2018

Aug 24, 1482 – Richard takes Berwick for English

Richard, Duke of Gloucester, takes Berwick from the Scots following a renewed English siege. It has remained in English hands ever since.

Apr 1483 – EDWARD V : Princes in the Tower

Edward IV dies and is succeeded by his 12-year-old son, Edward V. The boy is placed under the protection of his uncle, Richard Duke of Gloucester. However, Edward V will never be crowned. He takes up residence in the Tower of London (effectively imprisoned) during May and on June 16 he is joined by his younger brother, Richard, Duke of York.

June 25, 1483 – RICHARD III

The two sons of the late King Edward IV, including the never-to-be-crowned Edward V, are declared illegitimate by Parliament and their uncle, Richard Duke of Gloucester is asked to become king. The two young princes, presumably murdered, will never be seen again. Richard is crowned on July 6, 1483.

April 9, 1484 – King’s son dies at Middleham

Richard III’s only son, the ten-year-old Edward Prince of Wales, dies at Middleham Castle in Yorkshire.

Middleham Castle
Middleham Castle © David Simpson 2021

July 1484 – Richard sets up Northern Council

Richard III has set up a northern council at Sandal near Wakefield in Yorkshire under his nephew John de la Pole, the Earl of Lincoln.

Aug 22, 1485 – Battle of Bosworth : King Henry Tudor

Richard III is killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in Leicestershire and the victorious Welshman Henry Tywdr (Tudor) is crowned Henry VII, King of England. The new king is descended from John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (died 1399) who was a son of King Edward III, so Henry Tudor includes this monarch in his ancestry.

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