1471: 4 May - Tewksbury

On the Easter Sunday that saw Warwick’s defeat and death at Barnet, Queen Margaret, with her young son, landed at Weymouth and was soon joined by many Lancastrian leaders and the remnants of their fighting men. The Duke of Somerset took command of the assembled army and, realizing the impossibility of fighting without further reinforcements of men and materials, decided to move towards Wales and join forces with Jasper Tudor, collecting military stores from Bristol on the way. Edward was at Windsor for the feast of St. George and as soon as he learned of Somerset’s intention he set out on 24 April for the West Country. There followed an exciting chase with the Queen’s army trying to get across the Severn and Edward desperately anxious to bring her to battle. A little time was wasted in Bristol, Gloucester closed its gates to her and on arrival at Tewkesbury on the 3rd of May the Lancastrians were too tired and too hard pressed to cross the Severn. Somerset wisely decided, for he had the choice of ground, to stand and fight rather than risk a lengthy crossing with weary troops. He had about 6,000 men, which was rather more than Edward could put against him, and the Yorkists were in no better shape after their grueling march than their opponents. The next morning Edward opened the battle with a fairly heavy artillery bombardment, which induced Somerset to lead an attack on the junction of the Yorkist left and centre battles. The situation could have been dangerous for Edward had Somerset’s centre under Lord Wenlock supported him. As it was, fighting alone and attacked on two sides, Somerset’s men were driven back and the King advanced his battle to the attack. The Lancastrians, demoralized by the debacle on their right, offered little resistance to Edward and soon the whole line broke. The slaughter during the retreat was heavy; perhaps 2,000 men perished in the battle and on the banks of the Severn. Queen Margaret made good her escape, but her son was killed and Somerset was taken from the sanctuary of the abbey and executed.