The second Battle of St Albans was fought on 17 February 1461 and the result may have come as a bit of a surprise to the Earl of Warwick – he lost. His young cousin Edward, Earl of March shortly to be King Edward IV beat the Lancastrians at Mortimer’s Cross only a short time previously with no experience in the battlefield but Warwick a battle hardened warrior lost the next confrontation between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians.
The story is as follows – Margaret of York and her allies advanced south from Wakefield. Her forces included Scots and Northumbrians and “northerners”. Warwick spread word in London that this group of people were akin to savages in terms of plunder, loot, pillage etc. In short he won the smear campaign. Londoners swiftly arrived at the conclusion that only Warwick could save them from the hordes of hairy northerners heading in their direction.
Warwick duly obliged by leaving London with a large army. Unfortunately he didn’t quite know where the hordes of aforementioned hairy bruits were so he had to deploy his force over quite a large front and when one of his scouts told him that they were at Dunstable Warwick dismissed the notion – which was unfortunate because the Lancastrians really were at Dunstable.
The next morning they arrived in St Albans. They were led by Andrew Trollope – who we’ve encountered before, son of a family of Durham dyers, hero of the Hundred Years War and possible deceiver of the Duke of York- he was the first to attack. By the end of the day he would be knighted.
Warwick and his brother John Neville, Lord Montagu (shortly to become Earl of Northumberland), and all their men, had to turn around because they were all looking in the wrong direction for the Lancastrians. Meanwhile Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset had found his way into the middle of St Albans and the Yorkist line of communications turned to to be rather dodgy. For some reason or another Montagu’s men did a runner, Montagu got himself captured by the Lancastrians and Warwick wasn’t where he was supposed to be.
The Yorkists left in a hurry – so much of a hurry in fact that they left King Henry VI sitting under a tree guarded by only two knights – Sir Thomas Kyrill and Lord William Bonville. They remained with Henry to protect him and might well have expected more honourable treatment than they received when the dust settled. Both were executed for their pains – which doesn’t do the Lancastrians credit. The only reason John Neville escaped the same fate was because of the possibility of a prisoner swap.
You’d have thought at that point it was all over bar the shouting but Margaret of Anjou hadn’t counted on the Londoners refusing her entry to the capital city on account of their concerns over the hairy northerners. So although the road to London was open and the royal Lancastrian family were all reunited Margaret of Anjou was still not victorious.
On the 22nd of February it was the Earl of Warwick and Edward, Earl of March who entered London where Edward was shortly afterwards declared king by popular acclaim.
It would take one more bloody battle before this particular game of chess saw a white rose king taking sole control of the board…for the time being at least.