The Siege of Harcourt Stanton Church
One of the most interesting aspects of the Wars of the Roses was the general lawlessness, which often culminated in the large battles we know so well. However, because of the corruption and lack of justice, many wealthy families of the time developed personal feuds, some of which they were only able to resolve through battle. The Stafford family were not immune from this, and the more minor branch of the family from Grafton became embroiled in an argument with some supporters of the Duke of Suffolk. Suffolk was the King's favourite during the late 1440's and many of his retainers were involved in illegal acts, conducting a virtual reign of terror over most of East Anglia. Sir Robert Harcourt was one such fellow. Even other peer's were unable to take action due to Suffolk's influence and support from the King.
On May 1448, Sir Humphrey Stafford of Grafton, his eldest son Richard and a number of his servants were making for their Inn at Coventry, when they met Sir Robert Harcourt and his attendants. They immediately fell to blows. Harcourt struck Richard on the head with his sword, not seriously, for the young man made at Harcourt with his dagger. He stumbled and one of Harcourt's men stabbed him in the back, mortally. Sir Humphrey was also struck from behind and fell from his horse. A general melee ensued in which Stafford's servants killed two of Harcourt's men. The city coroner indicted Sir Robert the next day of murder and he was detained in Chester Castle for a while. However, he was soon released and had still not been brought to trial a year later, through Suffolk's influencing of the local Sheriff by a writ of the Privy Seal.
Tired of waiting for satisfaction by judicial means, the Staffords assembled some two hundred friends and tenants, travelling by night to Stanton Harcourt in Oxfordshire. Sir Robert had enough warning to make for the tower of the parish church. Which the Staffords laid siege to for more than six hours, loosing off over a thousand arrows and killing one Harcourt retainer. Tiring of this, they then threatened to set fire to the tower, which they did as he would not come out. However, Harcourt was fortunate and managed to hold out until they had to withdraw. Soon after Sir Humphrey was killed in London during Cade's Rebellion, although his bastard son Humphrey was able to exact revenge in 1469 when he finally killed Harcourt.