Chapter 8: 1490 Hell Unleashed
Hell Unleashed: Europe 1483-1495 J Watts 1994
As 1490 began King Charles VIII of France put his plan into motion. The King had to break the Treaty of Calais and show it to be impotent, and to this end he had two aces up his sleeve. In late 1489 the Earl of Oxford had been sprung from his prison at Hammes near Calais and taken to Paris to meet the King. De Vere was the final die-hard of the Lancastrian cause, and had been captured after Tewkesbury in 1471. Yet Edward IV had shown his typical mercy and sent him to Hammes with a small guard and staff to live out his days in a sort of house arrest. Consequently, it was relatively easy for French agents to release him, although it soon became clear that this rescue would come at a price. Oxford was introduced to the French King and his pet project: Laurent Foucare.
The origins of Laurent Foucare have been lost to History, but it is believed that he came to the attention of Charles VIII in the autumn of 1489. Foucare was around 30 years old, tall, muscular with a straight face and long blond hair, yet crucially he had in his possession a number of Lancasttrian relics; a crowned swan on a golden chain and a royal seal from the age of Henry VI. The provenance of these items must surely be spurious but if accurate, their origin must surely have come from Margaret of Anjou, widow to Henry VI, who died in 1482 in a convent in Anjou. Regardless, Foucare possessed the necessary items, and also the looks, to pass for Edward of Westminster, the son of Margaret and Henry VI. That the real Edward had perished on the field of Tewkesbury aged 18 was considered a minor point; Charles VIII had prepared an elaborate story that Edward had in fact escaped the battle and sought the protection of Oxford before having escaped to France with his mother, waiting for her passing before taking up his rightful throne. The Edward killed at Tewkesbury, so the story went, was an imposter killed by Edward IV designed to kill off the Lancastrian line for ever. The price for Oxford’s freedom would be his sponsorship and support of ‘Edward of Lancaster’ in an invasion of England to place the Prince on his ‘rightful’ throne. Oxford was vital to gain legitimacy but also Lancastrian sympathisers as a few still remained.
These plans were expedited in the spring of 1490 after Edward V’s new taxation was not well met in the south west and in Wales; Oxford intended to use this discontent to increase his support. The plan was to gain clandestine allegiance from the more minor nobility and gentry deemed sympathetic and then launch an invasion through one of these areas, draw out the royal army and then destroy it. To aid him in his plan Oxford was given a force of 5,000 Swiss mercenaries under Martin Schwartz and a further 2,000 men from the Royal Scots Guards. However what Oxford and Foucare cannot have known at this time was that this was a diversion. It is unclear whether Charles genuinely believed that this plan could have succeeded, and although he gave it significant backing, it faced an uphill struggle against the young king and his entrenched court. Instead, given later events, it would seem that the Remnant Rebellion, as this plan became known, was merely intended to divert the English throne from the true threat. As Oxford readied his multinational force, Charles raised a grand army of 40,000 men including scores of newly devised and cast culverins and other artillery designed to break the walls of Calais and Bruges, not only severing the link between England and Burgundy geographically, but also politically as the English would break their promise under the treaty of Calais to support Burgundy. It was certainly an ambitious plan, but in the spring of 1490 it posed a serious threat to Edward V.
Remnant by Conn Iggulden 2011
Jasper Tudor, Lord Moreton, sat by the roaring fire in his hall, the flames spitting with the rain coming down the chimney, the wind howled outside. In his hand he held a small pendant: a white swan with a golden crown around its neck, hanging from a long golden chain. It was exquisite and had clearly taken a lot of skill and money to make. Tudor held the pendant up against the light from the fire and studied it carefully.
‘And he gave this as proof of his identity?’ he said to his steward, Rhys.
‘Yes my Lord’ replied Rhys. ‘He said it would convince you of his name and his cause’
‘Hm’ mused the elderly lord, he would be 70 next year he thought, but his mind had lost none of its sharpness or his eyes none of their curiosity. ‘Very well’ he said at length. ‘Have Thomas bring him in.
With a bow Rhys left to carry out his task, leaving Jasper Tudor to his thoughts and the swan jewel. His mind carried him back to a past life, and a younger man, to Coventry in the 36th year of King Henry’s reign. The Queens’ council, strange how he could remember it like it was yesterday, there was his brother Edmund, the old Duke of Buckingham, Somerset who never had a smile on his face, Oxford a young man then, and at the head of the table Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England, this jewel clutched in her hand. So long ago now, a past life, and one which Tudor had believed was long dead and buried, but now it was here, back to haunt him.
With that thought, the door to the hall creaked open as Thomas, one of Tudor’s guards, stepped into the dark room, the pommel of his sword gleaming in the flickering fire-light. Behind him came a hooded man, even now dripping small drops of rain onto the rushes strewn across the floor.
‘Thank you Thomas’ said Jasper ‘Please wait in the corner, I may have need of you yet.’
As Thomas retreated, the hooded figure stepped forward towards the rim of light from the fireplace. He did not take the empty chair and he was not offered it.
‘Where did you get this?’ Demanded Tudor holding up the Swan pendant.
‘From its rightful owner my Lord’, said the man as he removed his hood sending more rain gushing onto the floor. The man was old, grey swirls chasing the black hair across his head and down into his beard. His face was lined, but his grey eyes still sparkled in the light. It had been a long time since Jasper Tudor had seen the man, in that old life, the one he thought dead; he felt that he was staring at a ghost.
Jasper gave a tired sigh. ‘Its been a long time my friend, and now you darken my door with this…..this claim?’ He wasn’t sure what to call it yet.
‘My Lord, I can assure you that the claim is genuine’ replied Sir Henry Bodrugan. ‘My master is the rightful king of England, Edward of Westminster, now styling himself as Edward of Lancaster, King Edward V, the rightful King of England and France, lord of Ireland and Prince of Wales.’
Jasper Tudor did not have patience for this. ‘stop, stop, Henry and do remove that cloak and have a seat.’
Bodrugan did as he was bid, hanging the cloak on a hook by the fire. As he settled in the chair, Tudor began again.
‘Edward of Westminster is dead Henry, I got word of that myself days after Tewkesbury, whoever this imposter is he is nothing more than a plant from the French King designed to sow division in this realm, and I would have thought you would know better.’ he continued ‘and the country is restless now, these new taxes are not going down well with the lesser folk and the last thing I need now is mad talk of the long lost heir of Lancaster emerging to claim his so called birthright.’
He studied Henry Bodrugan closely, the younger man did not avert his gaze. ‘My Lord, the peasantry are chafing under a usurper and illegitimate King, Edward is the rightful King, and he requests your aid in his cause, will you accept?’
‘Ha! You mean Charles Valois requests my aid. No Henry I will not chase after this folly with you and John de Vere, Lord above knows I have had my fill of all this nonsense.’
‘But Jasper you once swore your allegiance to this boy and his mother and father, you even captured Harlech for them, why do you abandon them now?’
‘BECAUSE THIS IS MADNESS!’ Barked Tudor, he had lost his patience now, and Bodrugan’s attempt to desperately appeal to him using his name had not helped. ‘No it is well Thomas’ Tudor said with a slight hand towards the swordsman in the corner, who had taken half a step forward. Tudor took a deep breath and stared at Bodrugan across from him. The Cornishman was unmoved by the outburst and sat there, almost like a statue with the fire drawing dancing shapes in the shadows of his face, waiting for a reply.
‘Henry, I once was that man you speak of, I know my own past. I know I once pledged to serve the House of Lancaster. But those days are gone; dead on the fields of Barnet and Tewkesbury, it is best to leave the dead where they are buried, not dig them up to make mayhem and mischief. Lancaster and its line are dead Henry, I feel it in my bones, the last claim lies in Henry and he has left that well behind him, the cause is ended. There is no good in bringing up this….this remnant.’ Tudor held up the swan jewel and peered at it, memories of a past life drifting before him. ‘I suppose you would not tell me any of your masters’ plans?’
‘No my Lord, I am sworn to secrecy’ replied Bodrugan ‘and I sense you will not be answering his call, and therefore I ask for safe passage from your land.’
Jasper Tudor thought about that for a moment. ‘I am the King’s Seneschal Henry I cannot ferment rebellion against him.’ Another pause ‘Yet we were friends once, you and I, and I did bear Margaret no ill will. For her sake I shall grant your request.’
Sir Henry Bodrugan finally elicited a small reaction, a relieved sigh that could easily have been an exhalation. ‘Thank you my Lord.’ He said rising to his feet and giving a small bow, he extended his hand slightly for the swan jewel.
‘No I shall hang onto this I think.’ Said Tudor. ‘I am giving you your life Henry, I am not about to give you the means to cause chaos as well, ride for Milford and leave this country, if I see you again I shall have no choice but to exact the King’s justice.’
Bodrugan had donned the wet cloak, now merely damp. ‘Thank you my Lord’
‘Thomas, see Sir Henry back to his horse and give him provisions for two days, take him as far as Canaston and see he is on his way to Milford.’
As the two left and the door creaked shut, Tudor turned back to the fire, by now dimming to a lower ember yet radiating heat. In the failing gloom he held up the Swan and its crown so that it glinted in the fire. He thought of Margaret, now dead, and Henry, now dead, Edmund, dead, Buckingham, dead, Somerset, dead, only he and de Vere still remained. ‘Leave the past buried’ he muttered to himself as he threw the Swan into the hearth where it gave a small thud. Jasper Tudor, loyal servant to Edward V of the house of York watched as the Swan glowed and oozed and then quickly melted to molten lump of lead amid the dying embers of a once great flame.
Hell Unleashed: Europe 1483-1495 J Watts 1994
Prince Richard of York was betrothed to Princess Margaret of Austria in spring 1490 in the great Cathedral at Aachen. In attendance was a large English delegation led by his two Uncles, Anthony Earl Rivers and Edward, Lord Grafton. Margaret was represented by her father Maximillian, Holy Roman Emperor and so a large number of his vassals and lords were also present. Contemporary scholars noted the extreme crush in the city and that ‘there was not a bed nor pot of ale to be had for a days walk’, and also the lavish pageantry as the Black Eagle of Habsburg mingled with the White Rose of York, Richard’s personal emblem. The scarcity of resources cannot have been helped by the large numbers of men-at-arms all delegations brought with them, for fear of a French plot, neither Rivers nor Maximillian were taking any chances.
Richard departed on a tour of the Empire with a small guard, leading Rivers to discuss business with the Emperor. Thus Rivers and Grafton, along with perhaps 100 men, made the journey back to Calais in early April 1490. What happened next has been much debated and disagreed over by historians both French and English. The most likely suggestion is that this armed band encountered a French force somewhere in Artois and that after a short stand-off a skirmish ensued which resulted in the English party becoming broken up and Rivers only barely escaping back to Calais with a leg-wound he would carry for the rest of his life. Even worse was that a significant portion of the English force, the cream of the Calais garrison never returned, and neither did Edward Woodville, Lord Grafton whose head would eventually return to Calais on the end of a French pike.
Whether the Battle of Five Ways, as the skirmish became known, was a co-ordinated assassination attempt on the Marshall of England or merely an unfortunate coincidence it was clear that war now existed between England and France, and it would not be one Rivers would forgive easily. Indeed, it is most likely that this was a preemptive strike for within a month both Calais and Bruges were invested by French forces led by the Duke of Orleans and Charles VIII respectively.This was clearly part of Charles’ plan as his army at Bruges numbered some 30,000 men and the lion's share of the new artillery. These guns were able to pound the city walls for almost 3 months with Charles remaining west of the main canal through the city and aiming to pound it into submission rather than starve it out. He also blocked the waterway north and south of the city which severely curtailed trade.
Meanwhile roving bands of Frenchmen harried the countryside to prevent any organised resistance and destroyed bridges leading to Bruges to impede a Burgundian response. At Calais, Orleans laid the works for a more traditional siege and was able to block the mouth of the harbour with a Genoese galley, Rosita, which prevented any access to any larger English ships, thus making resupply and reinforcement difficult. The situation was clearly dire for the Brgundians and English, but before Edward could respond, matters at home exploded.
The Remnant Rebellion of 1490, J Gillingham in The Oxford History of the 15th Century (Bolton & D Carpenter Eds) 1988
Many have debated whether the Remnant Rebellion was a Lancastrian Rebellion, a tax uprising, or merely a French plot, it was most likely a combination of all three. Indeed, such was the unexpected potency of the event that it in all likelihood relied on all three elements. The Lancastrian element was led by John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, with ‘Edward of Lancaster’ (Laurent Foucare) as the figure-head. Oxford had been sending agents to old Lancastrians across England and Wales since the start of the year, and these men had also assessed the state of the peasantry in these areas.
In many parts of the realm, the situation was not good. New taxes in 1489 and early in 1490 to pay for the impending war had not gone down well in areas distant from the home counties: the north, Wales and West country. In Yorkshire and Northumberland the peasantry were unhappy at essentially funding a French war, as they believed their obligations to defend the Scottish border were enough. In the West recalcitrant Cornishmen, fermented by Sir Henry Bodrugan, were incensed at the taxation and the new Council of the West which they saw to be no more than meddling. Finally Wales was in the most precarious position; Buckingham’s rebellion had in fact destroyed some valuable local officials which Edward had been slow or unable to adequately replace. Furthermore the sons of some of the slain Lords, most notably Gruffydd ap Thomas, were itching to rebel again and these grievances melded with the Welsh chafing under harsher taxes to create a powderkeg ready to explode.
Oxford was able to exploit this fractured local situation to his prime advantage with different contingents sent to each area. Henry Bodruagn was given around 500 men recruited from Europe, mostly malcontents and opportunists, and landed in Penzance in the first week of May with the local population rising in support of him and his master ‘Edward of Lancaster’ in the name of ‘good governance’. It is estimated that within a month he had around 2,000 men marching on Exeter. In the north Thomas, Lord Scrope of Masham provided the locus for another uprising although it is estimated that he only raised 1,000 men before Humber and Northumberland were able to squash him under a combined force near York.
However Wales remained the main focus, and here Oxford benefitted from some great fortune. Within a week of the Battle of Five Ways a group of Welsh rebels were able to gain secret entry to Carnarfon Castle and slay the Guardian of the Castle and the surrounding area, Richard Grey. Grey had never been liked, and lacked the local knowledge and contacts to secure the area. In fact it seems it was one of his Bailiffs who led the attack. With north Wales in disarray and leaderless the main rebel army was able to land near Carnarfon in May 1490. This army was led by the Earl of Oxford, Edward of Lancaster and Martin Schwartz the mercenary commander. Alongside Schwarz’s 5,000 Swiss mercenaries (comprising a mixed force of pikes and handguns) were 2,000 men from the French Royal Scots Guards, a largely ceremonial unit but one with some fighting skill with crossbows and longswords. Additionally the Earl of Ormond had crossed from Ireland with around 3,000 Irish men, although many of these were little more than Brigands, it is estimated that around 600 were well equipped and experienced warriors. With a further 1,000 exiles and Lancastrian sympathisers under Oxford himself the rebel army consisted of around 11,000 men, a substantial force.
By the end of May 1490 Edward of Lancaster had been crowned Prince of Wales at Carnarfon and joined by around 4,000 Welsh rebels from across the north and west of the country whilst Gruffyd ap Thomas led a campaign of pillaging and disruption in the south to keep Jasper Tudor busy. Tudor’s decision to side with the crown has elicited much debate, with some suggesting he was merely hedging his bets. However, given later events, it is clear that Tudor had finally committed to the Yorkist cause and was not willing to betray it for a claimant of spurious provenance. Nonetheless the rebel army made slow progress south-east towards Shrewsbury, well supplied by sympathetic Welshmen who it seems would fight for anyone if it meant lower taxes and more autonomy (it seems Thomas had been promised the overlordship of Wales in return for his service).
From the Yorkist perspective the rising was a disaster; it showed that the control over the shires was extremely hollow in places and many of the new Seneschals were unable to react quick enough, with three of them being murdered. The betrayal of a few minor lords was also a bitter blow but the biggest was the death of Grey in Carnarfon as it effectively left north Wales to the rebels. Edward scrambled to secure his kingdom, the grim news from France having to be ignored for now. The royal family were locked down in the Tower of London whilst Gloucester raised an army from the south and east. Hastings went to assist Dorset in the West against Bodrugan whilst Northumberland was hastily added to defences in the north after his defeat of the Scrope rebels, the only good news so far. Edward and Gloucester clearly intended to head towards Wales with their army, but they instructed local Lords to slow down the rebels as best they could, and so this led to the disaster at Dudleston Heath.
On the 2nd of June 1490 a combined force of 6,000 men under the Earl of Shrewsbury and Sir William Stanley attempted to hold the rebels in Wales by defending the narrow crossing over the Dee and Ceiriog rivers. It seems this attempt failed and the army pulled back 5 miles to Dudleston Heath to defend the low brow of a hill. According to legend Shrewsbury ordered a brave defense of the rise, and was emboldened by the absence of a small portion of the rebel army meaning he only faced 9,000 men, and these largely made up of Welsh and Irish peasantry. However the night before the Battle William Stanley was able to get a message to Oxford a mile away and promise to betray Shrewsbury in exchange for a Council position, and to marry his daughter to Edward of Lancaster.
Many have labelled Stanley a greedy, scheming, opportunist, but it must be remembered he had been sympathetic to the Lancastrian cause, more so than his brother the Earl of Derby. Furthermore circumstantial evidence has arisen that Stanley had declared, possibly to the Bishop of Chester, that he would not raise arms against Edward of Lancaster if he transpired to be the Lancastrian heir. What is most clear is that Stanley had suffered for a number of years in a land dispute with Shrewsbury over the manors of Chirk and Whittington, and had lost a few of his household to the spat. There was clearly no love lost between the men and this it seems was largely the force behind Stanley’s decision to defect.
Regardless of the veracity of these theories on the 3rd of June the forces drew up across Dudleston Heath with the Royal army on a slight brow of a hill giving them an advantage over the rebels. As the rebel army closed on Shrewsbury’s position Stanley’s force of 3,000 men turned and attacked his flank with the Shropshire men folding within half an hour. Stanley then joined his men to the rebels swelling their forces to around 17,000 men. The army marched on south eastwards and the town of Shrewsbury fell within a week. The hill would become known as traitor’s brow until this day.
King Edward was at Oxford when he heard of the defeat at Dudleston Heath. At this time his army was still mustering and numbered perhaps 8,000 men. The army was ‘led’ by Edward V but in reality Gloucester probably called the shots, and he certainly commanded the vanguard. They were accompanied by Norfolk, Arundel. Kent and Lords Grantham, Lovell and Egremont amongst a few others, Lord Fineux had been left to defend London with Thomas Howard patrolling the channel. This was certainly a formidable force with the core made up of many veterans from previous battles, but Edward must have realised he was outnumbered. Nonetheless he had little choice but to advance against the rebels, and he made slow progress across the south midlands angling towards Shrewsbury as June rolled on.
Yet all was not lost, news on the road reached him that a force of 4,000 Welsh were marching through Hereford under Lord Moreton, having eliminated Gruffyd ap Thomas, whilst his nephew Henry, Earl of Richmond commanded some 6,000 Northerners alongside the Earl of Humber. Finally the Earl of Derby marched south from Chester with another 5,000 men but given his brothers’ defection Edward cannot have been confident in his support. Nonetheless these disparate forces represented a semi-encirclement of the rebel army, by now numbering 18,000 men, although it would have still been easy for Oxford to eliminate each of these smaller forces in turn.
From Banbury on the 15th of June Edward, by now commanding 9,000 men, made a bold and momentous decision. Having heard that Oxford was near Worcester and heading south towards Tudor’s force Edward made a forced march towards Stratford upon Avon thus taking the rebels by surprise and seeming to threaten their flank. This had the desired effect and Oxford had no choice but to turn his force east to face the King, after all he did outnumber him by almost two to one. Again Edward, or more likely Gloucester made a brilliant tactical decision, they opted to defend a well-chosen crossing on the river Avon at Welford some 5 miles downstream from Stratford. The site was perfectly chosen as the town of Stratford was well-defended and so denied adequate river crossing for some 10 miles upstream whilst the next crossing downstream was too close to Tudor’s force to make a safe crossing bloodless. Meanwhile on the ‘royal’ side of the river the Royal army was aided by the curve of the river which created an upside-down ‘u’ bend with the bridge in the centre of the arc pointing north. Thus the rebel army had to cross the narrow bridge and then occupy the narrow space between the arms of the Avon which protected Edward’s flanks and negated the rebel advantage of numbers. It was an inviting but treacherous proposition for the rebels
Here a tense stand-off occurred on the 18th of June, with Oxford apparently negotiating for a royal retreat and claiming that Tudor had been eliminated and Derby’s army had declared for the rebels. This fact was unknown to Edward who could only have known that Derby was some 15 miles away and was shadowing the rebels, and had not formally declared for either side. Nonetheless the royal army remained unmoved and so it was that battle was joined on the 19th of June. In the final analysis it appears that Oxford actually had little choice but to give battle as the northern army of Richmond and Hull were only 10 miles away that morning and so Oxford risked being surrounded.
On the morning of the 19th of June, it seems that the disposition of the forces were these: Oxford’s rebel army comprising 14,000 men were camped on the north bank of the Avon and they began to cross the river around mid-morning. A small contingent of archers occupied some buildings at the crossing to slow them down but this was only intended as a delaying force. Some 7 miles to the west at Evesham, the 4,000 men of Jasper Tudor, Lord Moreton, were carrying out a delayed retreat south over the Avon pursued by a similar number of Welsh rebels. Six miles to the north of Welford camped the army of Thomas Stanley, Earl Derby, some 5,000 strong which had not declared for either side. Finally to the north east some 10 miles away near Warwick advanced the 6,000 northern host on the ‘rebel’ side of the River.
Clearly Oxford’s objective must have been to use his superior numbers to advance on Edward’s army and decisively defeat it before turning and dealing with the others, whilst hoping that Derby would join his brother. The main battle commenced around noon with Oxford’s army having crossed the Avon and forming up south of the bridge. With limited cavalry Oxford formed his men up in the traditional three battles with Martin Schwartz’s 5,000 Swiss mercenaries holding the right and a mix of Welsh and Irish under Ormond on the left. In the centre were another 5,000 men comprising Stanley’s force and that of the Scots Royal Guard and other exile forces. Oxford and Edward of Lancaster held a small flying column of mounted soldiers in the rear. Opposite from them the royal army also drew up in 3 smaller battles: Gloucester commanded the vanguard as was his want with the best troops. Edward V commanded the centre with his own personal guard and Norfolk took the left flank alongside Lord Grantham, there were no royal reserve as all men were committed in holding the line until some force arrived to aid them or finish them off.
Remnant by Conn Iggulden 2011
Edward V breathed heavily. In his full plate armour, the world reduced to a narrow slit in front of his eyes. Through that gash Edward could see the rebel army advancing towards him across the damp meadow, and his heart sank as he saw just how many of them there were! He was rattled and he knew it. The Irish and Welsh had attacked Gloucester’s right wing just a few minutes ago, a howling and swirling scream of death and misery streaking across the field with total ferocity and Edward could hear the sound of battle even now. But he had to do this, he was a man of 19 now, trained for this his entire life, a year older than his father had been at Towton and Mortimer’s Cross, he could do this.
Edward lifted his mouth plate just enough to be heard and stealing himself let out a gruff bark to the nearby men-at-arms. ‘My brothers! Sons of England and York! These men are nothing but traitors and thieves, they come here with French and Irish and Scot to rape our women and take our land. But I say to you, not today! As God is my witness and on the bones of my father, not today!’ A cheer rose from the men around him which spread in ragged clank and scream across the whole formation. Wat, Edward’s personal bodyguard gave a guttural cry next to Edward and began slamming his sword on the metal rim of his shield, a rhythm picked up by the rest of the army. By God he could do this thought Edward and with a final nod to his right he stepped forward. A loud low horn wailed across the sunlit meadow and the royal army shuddered forward , breaking into a run.
Then in a flash the wave crashed against the rock of the rebel army and men began to die. Edward was four rows back, and he really only had to deal with weakened men who somehow made it past the forward line. Ahead he could see the red mist and steam from wounded and dying and fighting men. It seemed these rebels were Scots as the sound of pipes drifted from some far-off place. And then Edward was amongst them, the man in front felled by a Scotsman with a large axe, he saw the King and lunged with the axe, but he slipped in the blood of his last victim and Edward inflicted a vicious gash to the back of his head and he stayed down. With a roar Wat pounded into the gap, flicking his sword into the neck of a man to his right, and was followed by two more of the royal guard. Edward followed warily, finishing off another men who lay writhing, face down in the mud.
In the interests of time…
Edward’s arms ached. He had no idea how long the battle lasted, all he knew was the slither of light in front of his eyes, and that was full of dead and dying mean covered in blood and mud. The Scots appeared to have waned, but now he was amidst his own people, the three Stags of Stanley adorning the shields of some of his enemies. One of these came at him now, but Wat gave him a huge shove and a blow with the axe. Then another fell below Wat’s ferocity and he pulled his back again, and a billhook snared the head of the axe clean from his grasp. Edward mustered all the energy he had and launched into the man knocking him to the ground, Wat pulled a dagger (where had that come from?) and skewered his would-be murderer under the armpit.
Then a series of horn blasts shook the field, Edward stood back and looked, they were not his horns, and his blood ran cold, one came from behind Stanley’s men and another left of them. Then he heard a strange sound to his left; the ragged thump and crack of what sounded like thunder, but was far too regular and steady for that. An angry insect whipped past him followed by the acrid smell of burnt egg and pitch. Handguns. ‘Down!’ yelled the King as a man in front of him had his throat blown out, blood spewing everywhere. Dammit the Swiss had broken his left wing he released, where the fuck was Norfolk? As Edward hunkered behind his men he saw Wat on the ground a few steps ahead a wound to his lower leg, as he watched a large man with a black beard protruding from under his helm stepped forward and dispatched him a sword thrust to the throat. It was William Stanley.
The eye slit seemed to grow wider, the angry hail of shot seemed to drown out and Edward saw his target. This was nothing like the training ground, where he had spent hours dancing and parrying in light armour on a well-kept yard. Here this was merely survival, and animalistic impulse. Edward carefully stepped forward, Stanley saw him, and seemed to freeze for a moment, did he truly not think his rebellion could end this way? Edward made the most of it and ran straight at Stanley, getting quickly inside the range of the longsword. The older man may have had the strength and experience but it seemed he lacked Edward’s stamina and ferocity and he stumbled backwards and then fell, the King on top of him. His sword gone, Edward let instinct take over and he pounded on Stanley’s face plate with an armoured fist, his cheaper steel bending and buckling under the pressure. Then Edward remembered the small blade against his wrist, he pulled it out and jammed it through the thick beard into the chin beyond, and a warm gush of blood trickled into his gauntlet.
There was no time to savour the victory; a pair of hands grabbed him under his right arm and he spun in alarm until he glanced at the white rose of York on this man’s armour, and behind it the white tower of Grantham, fresh men running into the fight to defend their king. With a start Edward realised the enemy in front of him were melting away, something must be drawing them. Then to his left he saw a peculiar sight; a bristling hedge of pikes going out in all directions like the spine of some grotesque hedgehog, an occasional crack and puff of smoke showing handguns still going off. As the King watched he saw the formation change, flowing like water, and then a wall of pikes were coming at him. ‘On me!’ he bellowed and the men around him formed an armoured fist. Edward thought of all the tactics and training he had been given, and then his memory shifted to Stanley lying on the ground. With a strangled yell he leapt forward and the men followed into that hedge of pikes. Edward ducked and spun beyond the end of a pike and then he was amongst them hacking and slashing in close quarters. A crack near his head as a gun went off and he was dazed. Then another horn, this time behind him and he saw some of the Swiss in front of him shuddering and turning pale as the pounding of hooves clattered into their flank somewhere beyond Edward’s vision. And then he saw: the Dragon of Cadwaladur, encircling the rear of the pike formation and then it was over as men threw down pikes and handguns alike, the King slumped to one knee to catch his breath.
The Remnant Rebellion of 1490, J Gillingham in The Oxford History of the 15th Century (Bolton & D Carpenter Eds) 1988
The Battle of Welford was a resounding victory for the house of York, but it be would naive to think that it was a foregone conclusion; Edward’s army certainly acquitted themselves well, but the death of Norfolk and the collapse of the left wing left the Swiss free to roam the battlefield causing mayhem in an extremely effective formation, one which certainly would have an impact on the young King. In the centre Stanley was slain, some sources claim by Edward V himself, although this appears fanciful. To the right Gloucester eventually repelled the Celtic charge only to be shaken again by Oxford’s charge which prevented him from aiding Edward’s beleaguered centre. The entire History of England could have swung right there but for three chance interventions. Firstly the northern army arrived and began crossing the Avon in force to strike the rebel rear. Secondly Derby, seeing this, committed his men against the rebel detachment to the west to prevent them giving aid to the main force. Finally Jasper Tudor, Lord Moreton, arrived with some 2,000 of his mounted archers from the south, the remainder protecting their rear, and was able to finally break the stubborn resistance of the Swiss mercenaries. In conclusion it is perhaps farest to say that the battle was won, and the rebellion defeated, by a combination of military skill on the part of the royal army, combined with impeccable timing and luck from their supporting forces.
All told the Battle of Welford was one of the most destructive battles since Towton; some 16,000 men lay dead and dying, 12,000 of them the rebel army. All rebels save the leaders and the Swiss mercenaries were given no quarter with the Welsh, Irish and Scots, not to mention the handful of English, being massacred to a man. Martin Schwartz was killed in the fighting but his second, Johan de Graff, actually offered his services to the King, which were accepted. Meanwhile Ormond died at Gloucester’s hand and Stanley’s to Edward’s (if legend is believed) whilst Oxford himself was injured and captured along with Edward of Lancaster. On the royal side, the Duke of Norfolk was by far the biggest casualty, although Lord Grafton was gravely injured and would be handicapped for life.
It is perhaps remarkable that the final battle fought by an English King on English soil should have been so brutal, and that the last battle of the Wars of the Roses should have had so little genuine connection to the original Wars. Most scholars now in fact lump the battle and the wider Remnant Rebellion into the wider War of French Aggression, for that is truly what it was. The royal army may have been victorious, but the real war was just beginning, and a reckoning would need to be given to the French in blood.
Edward V, G Bradshaw 2001
July and August 1490 were spent in a fit of activity. Edward and the royal army returned to London with Jasper Tudor dispatched to Wales to mop up and bring Gwynedd to heal. Meanwhile in the south west Dorset was able to strike another blow against the French plans. Henry Bodrugan had laid siege to Exeter with his rough army of peasants and brigands, hoping merely to cause chaos and a distraction by his presence. It was here on the 22nd of June that Dorset, commanding a small force accompanied by the earl of Lincoln, was able to launch a night-time raid on the rebel camp. Estimates suggest Bodrugan’s 2,000 men outnumbered the royal force by three to one but Dorset and Lincoln were able to by-pass the dunken sentries - inebriated through recently pillaged wine - and set fire to a number of tents and wagons. In the chaos, the majority of the rebels fled into the night with Bodrugan and his die-hards becoming encircled whilst they tried to regain order. Bodrugan was hauled up to London to stand trial alongside Oxford his master and ‘Edward of Lancaster’ now revealed as the imposter Laurent Foucare.
On the 30th of June a trial was held in Westminster Hall in unprecedented circumstances. King Edward V, his brother Richard (returned from the continent with the help of the Hanseatic League), Gloucester, Chief Justice William Hussey and a number of other leading magnates were in attendance but the trial was orchestrated by John Fineux, Chair of the Star Chamber and presided over by his fellow justices. By all accounts there was always going to be one verdict, but the fact that the Star Chamber, not the King’s bench, tried the rebel leaders shows just how much growing power they had, and how much the King was willing to give them. Unsurprisingly De Vere and Bodrugan were found guilty and summarily executed within a week, but for Foucare, Edward had other plans. Fineux passed back to the King for sentence and for Laurent Foucare he showed mercy. Foucare was instead entrusted to Gloucester and placed in the tower, although eventually he would find his way into the service of Lord Grantham.
With the rebellion dealt with Edward V planned his next moves. The situation in Calais was stable but severe; Rivers had enough supplies to survive, especially with the occasional small ship running the blockade of the Rosita. Yet the city remained surrounded to land-ward by Orleans and would need swift intervention. Far more pressing was Burgundy; Charles had reduced Bruges to near ruin but the city refused to surrender, and the Burgundian army was struggling to cross open country to lift the siege whilst being hindered by roving bands of French cavalry and light guns. If the Treaty of Calais was to be salvaged Edward had to act swiftly, he had already been delayed too long by the Remnant Rebellion.
Edward summoned Thomas Howard, Admiral of England, and now Duke of Norfolk after the death of his father, and entrusted into his care the goal of clearing the blockade. Norfolk also took to sea with Prince Richard, sixteen years old and going into battle.
Concurrently Edward made preparations for liberation of Calais: Gloucester was to stay in England for fear of any other rebellions, assisted by Dorset (Council of the West), Jasper Tudor (Wales), Lincoln (midlands) and his own son Edward of Middleham (North) now Earl of Pembroke following his marriage to Elizabeth Herbert. Almost every other leading magnate and gentry was issued with commissions of array to London within a month. In this regard the newly appointed county Seneschals were vital in marshalling and dispatching men to London.
Within a month the royal army numbered some 20,000 men led by King Edward V himself and accompanied by Hastings, Derby, Richmond, Northumberland, Leicester, Westmorland, Hull, Warwick, Arundel, Wiltshire and Kent and Lords Grantham, Lovell, Bolton, Talbot, Egremont, Lisle, Gainsborough, Scrope and around ten others. Further present was Johan de Graf and around 3,000 Swiss mercenaries who had changed sides after Welford. This was an unprecedented force, not since Henry V had such an army been assembled for the task of waging war in Europe. By this time Norfolk and Prince Richard had cleared the Rosita from its position at the mouth of Calais harbour and cleared the way for the royal army to arrive.
By the end of August the Royal Army had made its crossing to Calais safely under the watch of Norfolk, and Prince Richard joined his brother on shore. The French were powerless to stop these landings, their Genoese allies blowing hot and cold, and the French navy under-strength. Meanwhile the Duke of Orleans was still surrounding Calais with a force of around 10,000 men and conventional siege weaponry but only a handful of cannon. Early on the morning of the 15th of August a cavalry force of some 3000 men sallied from the gates of Calais led by Rivers and Edward V to drive off the besieging force. The French tried to hold their ground, trusting in their siege works to protect them, but the ferocity of the English charge, accompanied by some 10,000 foot soldiers under the command of Derby, Prince Richard and Richmond, broke the French line in under two hours. Orleans was able to retreat in fairly good order to Amiens, but lost 2,000 men and all of his artillery in the process.
Calais was safe, but the Treaty of Calais was not. In order to rescue it, Edward had to move swiftly. The Battle of Calais had bought him some breathing room, and exposed King Charles’ flank at Bruges, but Orleans was still on the loose and the autumn rains were coming. Taking a bold decision, Edward and his army of 20,000 men left Calais on the 18th of August marching east along the coast, and shadowed by the Royal navy. In Calais Edward left Hastings with a well supplied garrison of 2,000 men and also destroyed a few local bridges to slow down any French counter-attack.
Within two days the English army was at Ostend, and liberated the port. Charles finally realised the threat to his position and struck camp whilst sending desperate instructions to his brother Louis of Orleans to protect his retreat. However Edward’s advance had been too quick, and Chalres foolishly chose to attempt to bring his expensive new cannons with him. Perhaps inevitably, Charles was cut off near the village of Torhout and battle was joined on the 22nd of August.
Hell Unleashed: Europe 1483-1495 J Watts 1994
For all the significance of the battle of Torhout, there are remarkably few confirmed details on the events of the day with English, French and Burgundian chroniclers all diverging from each other. The most reliable narrative has the English army occupying a low rise to the west of the main road south from Bruges. From a modern tour of the village it is possible to recognise this low ridge with a copse of trees on the southern end. Also remarkable is the pocket castle of Wijendale at the northern end of the ridge. Records show that this castle was built in 1490, although it would have had little defensive qualities. Wijnendale was built with large windows and a stone bridge crossing a narrow circular moat, and could have maybe held around 100 bowmen or handgunners at a squeeze. Instead the Castle was reportedly used as storage for the baggage train and to anchor the left hand end of the English line, supposedly commanded by Derby. Rivers commanded the right hand wing near the woods with the centre, commanded by Edward given some defence from the ditch/ stream south of the Castle.
At some point during the middle of the day the French army, with around 22,000 men began to take fire from the direction of the Castle as they came into the village of Torhout. French sources claim that Charles was prepared for this and formed his army up in good order to drive off the English, leaving the baggage and cannon safely in the village. In contrast English chroniclers have Charles responding in a panic and leaving his baggage exposed to launch a desperate sally across the country in poor order. As expected, the consensus has fallen somewhere in the middle; Charles certainly was taken by surprise, the English partly concealed by trees, and certainly had no choice but to give battle. It is also fair to say that the French were perhaps unprepared for battle after 3 months surrounding Bruges, and now being forced to dash back to friendly territory. Comparatively the English were most likely fired up for battle; Edward had already won two battles against the French and their allies, they would have been confident in his abilities. In the final analysis the Count of Montpensier led a charge into the copse hoping to stop the English fire (it is suggested that these were light culverins and longbows, although it is likely they were mounted longbows). However Montpensier’s charge failed and he was killed, although how this occurred is not clear through any account. What is clear is that very soon, the French army was in complete disarray and was attacked on three sides; best guesses suggest that Rivers’ wing folded round to flank the main French army which was fixed by Edward’s centre.
What is clear that at some point the French baggage train was raided and looted by a flying column led by the Earl of Richmond, a task he seems to have been becoming especially proficient in. Doubtless this development is what caused the French army to finally fold, what men who could escape fleeing to the south and south east.
All told the Battle of Torhout could not have lasted more than three or four hours and was precipitated by an attack on the French column from a partially concealed position. How organised the French response was is open to debate but it is clear that Montpensier was killed in the counter attack, the French column enveloped and their baggage taken. French losses were anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 whilst English losses were correspondingly light and no major deaths were recorded, with approximately 500 to 1,000 losses. What is clear is that Charles’ army and his plan lay in tatters whilst the English were able to return to Calais victorious by the start of September.
Edward V, G Bradshaw 2001
The autumn and winter of 1490 saw the first English Parliament held outside London for many years. The ‘Canterbury Parliament’ was a necessity for Edward, but the situation with France meant that it could not be held at Westminster Hall. Instead the King traveled to Canterbury, braving the declining conditions in the channel. Rivers, Prince Richard and Johan de Graff were left in Calais with a sizable standing army of around 6,000 throughout the winter whilst the remaining Magnates returned home to oversee the harvest.
Nonetheless Edward called Parliament for Canterbury before All Hallow’s Eve and it would last for three weeks with Lord FitzWalter as speaker. The purpose was rather perfunctory; Edward needed taxation and pledges of support for the coming war with France when the campaigning season began again in Spring. It might be imagined that simply being at war would be enough to grant Edward the resources he needed, but KB McFarlane has shown that this was by no means a given in late Medieval Parliaments, even Edward IV at the height of his power had to be careful not to overreach his arm. There was also the issue of the previous spring’s response from the localities to taxation which had contributed to the Remnant Rebellion.
However to prevent further Tax rebellions Edward sought Benevolences and loans from the Church to go with the rather meagre taxation he levied on the commons, and in this regard he was singularly successful. Benevolences had been a tool which the King’s father had used to extract cash from the nobility; essentially forced loans with very little prospect of repayment. Their unpopularity had prevented their liberal use in the late Edward IV years and the start of Edward V’s reign. However given the remarkable battlefield success - and divine sanction of the King which could be inferred - and the fact that France was clearly the aggressor helped Edward to accrue almost £100,000 in Benevolences alone. Edward’s cause was also helped by his appointment of Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath to the Archbishopric of Canterbury in 1487. Stillington knew which side his bread was buttered, and his life long association with Richard of Gloucester enabled him to find a £40,000 loan for the King’s new army from the Church. Finally the Earl Rivers was able to use his European contacts to secure further lines of credit from a number of Italian Banking houses, including the Medici, taking the royal coffers to somewhere in the region of £200,000, an astronomical sum which would be put to good use. The intervention of the Italian Banks would herald another new area of focus for King Edward in the years to come.
The Battle of Torhout had shown Edward the physical strength and prowess of English arms, but it had also isolated their weaknesses. The English army were still rather reliant on the longbow and corresponding plate armour for the men-at-arms. Eminently fine equipment which had served the crown well for centuries, but Torhout had shown the advantages of swift cavalry and well-made cannon, although Charles had not been able to field his new-weaponry. What is more, the English had captured almost all of Charles’ Culverins, Serpentines and demi-cannon after the battle of Torhout, fine machines which were immediately copied and replicated by the foundries across the south-east of England, paid for by the spoils of war and the large sums of money gathered at Canterbury. Next time the English would have their own powerful cannon to rival that of the French.
As for horse, agents were dispatched to Castile to purchase the finest breeding stock of horses to expand the capabilities of the Royal Stables. The stables themselves were placed in control of the new master of horse Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, who was earning a reputation for himself as a fearless Chivalric Knight bravely charging into the enemy ranks, but one with as much intelligence as bravado. His role was to develop the Royal stables but also new cavalry tactics and he would soon earn the nickname of the ‘Flying Earl’. All of these developments were slow to get started but would certainly bear fruit within a year, and especially so into the new century.
Once funds had been secured, and arrangements for new arms set in motion, the Canterbury Parliament had little official role remaining, it was after all intended to respond to the crisis of the French War and little else. However there have been many rumours and speculation since, that the fringes of the Parliament were also used to plan the coming seasons’ campaign. Edward was almost spoiled by the choices laid open to him; both Brittany and Burgundy wanted to be involved in the inevitable counterattack against France and Charles VIII. He could clearly strike from Calais towards Paris or choose to reclaim the Plantagenet homeland of Normandy. It probably never occurred to many of the assembled Lords what the young King would do next.