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The battles of 1471

There were two major battles in England in 1471. The first was fought at Barnet on 14 April and the second at Tewkesbury on 4 May. Richard, the eighteen year-old Duke of Gloucester, was engaged in both and they were to form his first major campaign.

We know that Gloucester led one wing of the Yorkist army and William, Lord Hastings, the other at both battles and we are told by several sources that Gloucester was in the “vanguard” (from avant-garde) , which would lead the army. For the Lancastrians, the Earl of Oxford led one wing and is said to have overcome and seriously wounded his opposite commander, yet the positions were unchanged just twenty days later. Which one was this: Gloucester, as they maintain in Cairo*, or Hastings?

Whilst the regular mediaeval pitched battle is absent from modern society, we can best understand it as a succession of football matches. Is it credible that any team would give a teenager a debut in a critical position and then retain him there for the next fixture if he is routed by his direct opponent? Surely not. A more experienced campaigner is a different matter as he can recover quickly from an off-day. Our question is, therefore, answered and there is additional evidence from the “Arrivall of Edward IV”: After Tewkesbury, Edward gave a speech comparing his brother’s performance with Hector.

* particularly the one who contradicts all of the evidence about Bosworth by suggesting that Richard was retreating when he died, charging “Tudor”‘s personal guard (just in case the phrase “… fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies” doesn’t spring to mind immediately).

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One thought on “The battles of 1471

  1. Jasmine on said:

    AFAIK there is only one source who says that it was Richard that was routed and given that that same source reports that London was full of rumours that Edward IV had been killed, then it seems likely that this source (Fabyan) was mistaken about which commander was routed.

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