The Arrival of King Edward IV

King Edward IV

The Historie of the Arrivall of King Edward IV was widely circulated in Europe in 1471 in the form of a newsletter written in French. It was then amended and extended in English later but probably by the original author. A copy of this was version was kept by the Elizabethan antiquary John Stow. It tells the story of Edward’s return to England rolling his flight to the Low Countries and the court of his brother-in-law the Duke of Burgundy the previous year. Margaret of York was married to Charles the Bold. The couple provided Edward with ships and money allowing him to return to England in March 1471. He arrived off Norfolk on the 12 March but the Earl of Oxford’s hold on the region was too tight for the Yorkists to make a safe landing. Instead, he made landfall at Ravespur on Holderness where Henry of Bolingbroke had landed in 1399. Like his predecessor Edward initially claimed that he was only returning to claim his dukedom. It was only at Nottingham that his numbers began to swell with men loyal to the House of York.

Nicholas Harpisfeld who was one of four clerks of the king’s signet had been with Edward throughout his exile and was with him when he returned. Nicholas may have gone with the king out of loyalty or because he grew up speaking French. Later his good service to Edward and his brother Richard of Gloucester during their time of exile would be remembered. It was Nicholas’ job to travel with the king preparing warrants and letters patent and proofreading completed documents to check that their original copy was the same as the official transcript prepared by other clerks. The Harpisfelds were in Richard of York’s service in 1445 – accounts reveal that he was in Rouen. There was also a Harpsifeld serving Richard in Ireland in 1460 demonstrating the trust that had built up between Edward and Nicholas through the family affinity to the House of York.

Throughout the period there were disputes with St Albans Abbey about the ownership of lands which belonged to the Harpisfeld family. Nicholas was accepted as the rightful owner in 1463 but even in 1484 there was an enquiry about the ownership of the estates which the abbot of St Albans still protested as belonging to the abbey. By that time the family had benefited from their association with the House of York and were the owners or leaseholders of several lands.

Harpisfeld’s eyewitness account of 1471 included the king’s march from Yorkshire to London, the defeat of the Lancastrians led by the Earl of Warwick at Barnet after he failed to gather sufficient troops in the Midlands, as well as the earl’s death and the death of his brother Lord Montagu. It went on to provide details of Margaret of Anjou’s very badly timed arrival off the south coast at Weymouth, the Lancastrian decision to recruit an army led by the Duke of Somerset and to join up with Jasper Tudor in Wales where he was recruiting his own army. It provides information regarding the forced march that saw the Lancastrians pursued from Bristol via Gloucester and Berkeley to Tewkesbury and the battle of the 4 May 1471 that saw Margaret’s son killed and Somerset executed.

The Arrival is an eye-witness account told from a Yorkist perspective and as a consequence we do not know Margaret of Anjou’s exact location during the Battle of Tewkesbury or in which monastic foundation she was eventually captured along with her daughter-in-law, fourteen year old Anne Neville.

The Camden Society reprinted The Arrival in 1838 and can be read via Google books (in English) :