Battle of Blore Heath

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Battle of Blore Heath
Part of the Wars of the Roses
York victory over Lancaster.svg
Date23 September 1459
Location
Result Yorkist victory [1]
Belligerents
White Rose Badge of York.svg House of York Red Rose Badge of Lancaster.svg House of Lancaster
Commanders and leaders
Neville arms.svg Earl of Salisbury
Neville arms.svg Sir Thomas Neville
Neville arms.svg Sir John Neville
COA Tuchet.svg Lord Audley  
Sutton baron dudley.png Lord Dudley   White flag icon.svg [2]
Strength
5,000 [3] 10,000 [4]
Casualties and losses
1,000 [5] 2,000 [6]

The Battle of Blore Heath was a battle in the English Wars of the Roses. It was fought on 23 September 1459, at Blore Heath in Staffordshire. Blore Heath is a sparsely populated area of farmland, two miles east of the town of Market Drayton in Shropshire, and close to the towns of Market Drayton and Loggerheads, Staffordshire.

Wars of the Roses Dynastic civil war in England during the 15th-century

The Wars of the Roses were a series of English civil wars for control of the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival cadet branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the House of Lancaster, associated with the Red Rose of Lancaster, and the House of York, whose symbol was the White Rose of York. Eventually, the wars eliminated the male lines of both families. The conflict lasted through many sporadic episodes between 1455 and 1487, but there was related fighting before and after this period between the parties. The power struggle ignited around social and financial troubles following the Hundred Years' War, unfolding the structural problems of bastard feudalism, combined with the mental infirmity and weak rule of King Henry VI which revived interest in the House of York's claim to the throne by Richard of York. Historians disagree on which of these factors to identify as the main reason for the wars.

Staffordshire County of England

Staffordshire is a landlocked county in the West Midlands of England. It borders Cheshire to the northwest, Derbyshire and Leicestershire to the east, Warwickshire to the southeast, West Midlands and Worcestershire to the south, and Shropshire to the west.

Market Drayton market town in Shropshire, England.

Market Drayton is a market town and electoral ward in north Shropshire, England, close to the Welsh and Staffordshire borders. It is on the River Tern, between Shrewsbury and Stoke-on-Trent, and was formerly known as "Drayton in Hales" and earlier simply as "Drayton" . Market Drayton is on the Shropshire Union Canal and on Regional Cycle Route 75. The A53 road by-passes the town. The counties of Staffordshire and Cheshire are both close by.

Contents

Background

Map for Battle of Blore Heath by James Henry Ramsay (1892) Map for Battle of Blore Heath by Ramsay.jpg
Map for Battle of Blore Heath by James Henry Ramsay (1892)

After the First Battle of St Albans in 1455, an uneasy peace held in England. Attempts at reconciliation between the houses of Lancaster and York enjoyed but marginal success. However, both sides became increasingly wary of each other and by 1459 were actively recruiting armed supporters. Queen Margaret of Anjou continued to raise support for King Henry VI amongst noblemen, distributing an emblem of a silver swan to knights and squires enlisted by her personally, [7] whilst the Yorkist command under the Duke of York was finding plenty of anti-royal support despite the severe punishment for raising arms against the king.

First Battle of St Albans 15th-century battle traditionally marking the beginning of the Wars of the Roses

The First Battle of St Albans, fought on 22 May 1455 at St Albans, 22 miles (35 km) north of London, traditionally marks the beginning of the Wars of the Roses in England. Richard, Duke of York, and his allies, the Neville earls of Salisbury and Warwick, defeated a royal army commanded by Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, who was killed. With King Henry VI captured, a subsequent parliament appointed Richard of York Lord Protector.

House of Lancaster English noble family

The House of Lancaster was the name of two cadet branches of the royal House of Plantagenet. The first house was created when Henry III of England created the Earldom of Lancaster—from which the house was named—for his second son Edmund Crouchback in 1267. Edmund had already been created Earl of Leicester in 1265 and was granted the lands and privileges of Simon de Montfort, 6th Earl of Leicester, after de Montfort's death and attainder at the end of the Second Barons' War. When Edmund's son Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster, inherited his father-in-law's estates and title of Earl of Lincoln he became at a stroke the most powerful nobleman in England, with lands throughout the kingdom and the ability to raise vast private armies to wield power at national and local levels. This brought him—and Henry, his younger brother—into conflict with their cousin Edward II of England, leading to Thomas's execution. Henry inherited Thomas's titles and he and his son, who was also called Henry, gave loyal service to Edward's son—Edward III of England.

House of York Cadet branch of the English royal House of Plantagenet

The House of York was a cadet branch of the English royal House of Plantagenet. Three of its members became kings of England in the late 15th century. The House of York was descended in the male line from Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, the fourth surviving son of Edward III, but also represented Edward's senior line, being cognatic descendants of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, Edward III's second surviving son. It is based on these descents that they claimed the English crown. Compared with the House of Lancaster, it had a senior claim to the throne of England according to cognatic primogeniture but junior claim according to the agnatic primogeniture. The reign of this dynasty ended with the death of Richard III of England at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. It became extinct in the male line with the death of Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, in 1499.

The Yorkist force based at Middleham Castle in Yorkshire (led by the Earl of Salisbury) needed to link up with the main Yorkist army at Ludlow Castle in Shropshire. As Salisbury marched south-west through the Midlands the queen ordered Lord Audley to intercept them. [8]

Middleham Castle 12th-century castle in Middleham, England

Middleham Castle is a ruined castle in Middleham in Wensleydale, in the county of North Yorkshire, England. It was built by Robert Fitzrandolph, 3rd Lord of Middleham and Spennithorne, commencing in 1190. The castle was the childhood home of King Richard III, although he spent very little of his reign there. The castle was built to defend the road from Richmond to Skipton, though some have suggested the original site of the castle was far better to achieve this than the later location. After the death of King Richard III the castle remained in royal hands until it was allowed to go to ruin in the 17th century. Many of the stones from the castle were used in other buildings in the village of Middleham.

Yorkshire Historic county of Northern England

Yorkshire, formally known as the County of York, is a historic county of Northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Due to its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform. Throughout these changes, Yorkshire has continued to be recognised as a geographical territory and cultural region. The name is familiar and well understood across the United Kingdom and is in common use in the media and the military, and also features in the titles of current areas of civil administration such as North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and East Riding of Yorkshire.

Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury 15th-century English noble

Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury was an English nobleman and magnate based in northern England who became a key supporter of the House of York during the early years of the Wars of the Roses. He was the father of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, the "Kingmaker".

The battle

Audley chose the barren heathland of Blore Heath to set up an ambush. [9] On the morning of 23 September 1459 (Saint Thecla's day), a force of some 10,000 men took up a defensive position behind a 'great hedge' on the south-western edge of Blore Heath facing the direction of Newcastle-under-Lyme to the north-east, the direction from which Salisbury was approaching.

Thecla 1st-century saint

Thecla or Tecla was a saint of the early Christian Church, and a reported follower of Paul the Apostle. The earliest record of her life comes from the ancient apocryphal Acts of Paul and Thecla.

Newcastle-under-Lyme market town in Staffordshire, England

Newcastle-under-Lyme, sometimes called Lyme, is a market town in Staffordshire, England. At the 2011 census it had a population of 75,082. It is part of the borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme, which had a population of 128,264 in 2016, up from 123,800 in the 2011 Census.

Yorkist scouts spotted Lancastrian banners over the top of a hedge and immediately warned Salisbury. As they emerged from the woodland, the Yorkist force of some 5,000 men realized that a much larger enemy force was awaiting their arrival. Salisbury, instead of disbanding or withdrawing his army, [10] immediately arranged his troops into battle order, just out of range of the Lancastrian archers. To secure his right flank, he arranged the supply wagons in a defensive laager, a circular formation to provide cover to the men. Fearing a rout, Yorkist soldiers are reported to have kissed the ground beneath them, supposing that this would be the ground on which they would meet their deaths.

The two armies were separated by about 300 metres on the barren heathland. A steep-sided, wide and fast-flowing brook ran between them. The brook made Audley's position seemingly impenetrable.

Initially, both leaders sought unsuccessfully to parley in an attempt to avoid bloodshed. In keeping with many late medieval battles, the conflict opened with an archery duel between the longbows of both armies. At Blore Heath, this proved inconclusive because of the distance between the two sides.

Parley is a discussion or conference, especially one between enemies over terms of a truce or other matters.

Medieval warfare History and description of warfare in the European Middle Ages

Medieval warfare is the European warfare of the Middle Ages. Technological, cultural, and social developments had forced a severe transformation in the character of warfare from antiquity, changing military tactics and the role of cavalry and artillery. In terms of fortification, the Middle Ages saw the emergence of the castle in Europe, which then spread to Western Asia.

English longbow weapon

The English longbow was a powerful medieval type of longbow about 6 ft (1.8 m) long used by the English and Welsh for hunting and as a weapon in warfare. English use of longbows was effective against the French during the Hundred Years' War, particularly at the start of the war in the battles of Sluys (1340), Crécy (1346), and Poitiers (1356), and perhaps most famously at the Battle of Agincourt (1415). They were less successful after this, with longbowmen having their lines broken at the Battle of Verneuil (1424), and being completely routed at the Battle of Patay (1429) when they were charged before they had set up their defensive position.

Salisbury, aware that any attack across the brook would be suicidal, employed a ruse to encourage the enemy to attack him. He withdrew some of his middle-order just far enough that the Lancastrians believed them to be retreating. The Lancastrians launched a cavalry charge. After they had committed themselves, Salisbury ordered his men to turn back and catch the Lancastrians as they attempted to cross the brook. It is possible that the order for this Lancastrian charge was not given by Audley but it had the effect of turning the balance in favour of Salisbury. The charge resulted in heavy casualties for the Lancastrians.

The Lancastrians withdrew, and then made a second assault, possibly attempting to rescue casualties. This second attack was more successful with many Lancastrians crossing the brook. This led to a period of intense fighting in which Audley himself was killed, [10] possibly by Sir Roger Kynaston of Myddle and Hordley.

The Earl of Salisbury, which knew the sleights, strategies and policies of warlike affairs, suddenly returned, and shortly encountered with the Lord Audley and his chief captains, ere the residue of his army could pass the water. The fight was sore and dreadful. The earl desiring the saving of his life, and his adversaries coveting his destruction, fought sore for the obtaining of their purpose, but in conclusion, the earl's army, as men desperate of aid and succour, so eagerly fought, that they slew the Lord Audley, and all his captains, and discomfited all the remnant of his people... [9]

The death of Audley meant that Lancastrian command fell to the second-in-command, Lord Dudley, who ordered an attack on foot with some 4,000 men. As this attack also failed, some 500 Lancastrians joined the enemy and began attacking their own side. At this point, all remaining Lancastrian resistance collapsed and the Yorkists had only to advance to complete the rout.

The rout continued through the night, with the Yorkists pursuing the fleeing enemy for miles across the countryside.

At least 2,000 Lancastrians were killed, [6] with the Yorkists losing nearly 1,000. [11]

Aftermath

Salisbury was concerned that Lancastrian reinforcements were in the vicinity and was keen to press on southwards towards Ludlow. He made his camp on a hillside by Market Drayton that later took the name Salisbury Hill. He employed a local friar to remain on Blore Heath throughout the night and to periodically discharge a cannon in order to deceive any Lancastrians nearby into believing that the fight was continuing.

Audley is buried in Darley Abbey in Derbyshire.

Commemorations

Audleys Cross Audleys Cross, Blore Heath near Market Drayton (geograph 5608318).jpg
Audleys Cross
Plaque on commemorative stone Blore Heath Plaque - geograph.org.uk - 8184.jpg
Plaque on commemorative stone
Re-enactors of the Battle in 2007 Battle of Blore Heath - geograph.org.uk - 566451.jpg
Re-enactors of the Battle in 2007

Audley's Cross was erected at Blore Heath after the battle to mark the spot where Audley was slain. [12] It was replaced with a stone cross in 1765. [13]

The battle was commemorated by a re-enactment each year in September at Blore Heath until 2009.

See also

Bibliography

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References

  1. Trevor Royle, Lancaster Against York: The Wars of the Roses and the Foundation of Modern Britain, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 161.
  2. Anthony Goodman, The Wars of the Roses:Military Activity and English Society, 1452-97, (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981), 27.
  3. Michael Hicks, The Wars of the Roses, (Yale University Press, 2010), 143.
  4. Ralph A. Griffiths, The Reign of King Henry VI, (University of California Press, 1981), 820.
  5. A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East, Vol. II, ed. Spencer C. Tucker, (ABC-CLIO, 2010), 346.
  6. 1 2 Trevor Royle, Lancaster Against York: The Wars of the Roses and the Foundation of Modern Britain, 161.
  7. Bertram Wolffe, Henry VI, (St. Edmundsbury Press, 2001), 317.
  8. Anthony Goodman, The Wars of the Roses: Military Activity and English Society, 1452-97, 27.
  9. 1 2 Edward Hall. The Union of The Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre & Yorke (1548; reprinted as Hall's Chronicle 1809; quoted in English Heritage Battlefield Report: Blore Heath 1459)
  10. 1 2 Michael Hicks, The Wars of the Roses, 143.
  11. A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East, Vol. II, ed. Spencer C. Tucker, 346.
  12. "Audley's Cross (Caption)". Picture Gallery. The Blore Heath Heritage Group (BHHG). Archived from the original on 12 June 2011. Retrieved 23 September 2009.
  13. Trevor Royle, Lancaster Against York: The Wars of the Roses and the Foundation of Modern Britain, 162.

Coordinates: 52°54′49″N02°25′29″W / 52.91361°N 2.42472°W / 52.91361; -2.42472