Tag Archives: Mary of Guelders

The Northern borders during the Wars of the Roses-an overview of 1461-64

images-17images-9In March 1461 Edward of York won the Battle of Towton and became Edward IV of England and Wales. The great northern earls of Northumberland and Westmorland died during the battle as did many other men from the northern marches including Lord Dacre of Naworth Castle whose title and lands were inherited by his brother – though for limited time because he too had fought at Towton on the losing side.

Meanwhile Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou seeing which way the wind was blowing, fled into Scotland handing over Berwick-Upon-Tweed to the Scots on April 25 1461 which rather helped the Lancastrian cause in Scotland as did the fact that Margaret of Anjou got on famously well with the dowager Queen of Scotland, Mary of Guelders.  For a while a marriage was proposed between Prince Edward of England (Henry and Margaret’s son) and Mary, the eldest sister of young James III who was nay eight at the time that Margaret of Anjou first arrived in Scotland.

Meanwhile Edward IV marched as far as Newcastle, where the Earl of Wiltshire (Sir James Butler) was executed on May 1. H Edward’s journey back to the south left several large castles in Lancastrian hands.  He left the borders in the care of the earl of Warwick.  Warwick was also given the power to negotiate with the Scots who sent ambassadors to speak with the new English king, clearly being of the opinion that it was a good idea to hedge their bets.  Edward commissioned Sir Robert Ogle from the eastern marches to work on a truce with Scotland. Rather confusingly, and unsurprisingly, another branch of the family were firmly Lancastrian in their sympathy.   He also set about negotiating a treaty with the Lord of the Isles who became Edward’s liegeman with a pension, as did several of his cronies, and permission to  hold as much of the northern parts of Scotland as he could get his hands upon.  The earl of Douglas was also in receipt of a pension from Edward, suggesting that Edward felt that if the Scots were busy fighting one another they wouldn’t be fighting him.

Meanwhile Margaret of Anjou went to France to raise support from Louis XI in order to regain her husband’s kingdom.  He wasn’t really that interested but gave her a small body of men and a noble called Breze to be her general. Breze who wasn’t terribly popular with the new french king.  In fact, he was let out of prison in order to command the little force that set off for Northumberland.  He took control of the castle at Alnwick where he and his five hundred men were besieged by Lord Hastings, Sir Ralph Gray and Sir John Howard.

They in their turn were troubled by George Douglas, earl of Angus who had received grants of land from Henry and Margaret during their time in the Scottish court.  Angus was a Scottish border warden so was able to gather a body of men to ride to Breze’s rescue in July. Breze and Angus returned to Scotland.  Ridpath makes the point that the reason Breze was able to exit from the postern gate of Alnwick without any trouble was that there was an agreement between the Scots and the Yorkist besiegers army.

Margaret of Anjou arrived in Northumberland in October.  The North did not rise but Alnwick became Lancastrian once more.  This was either because Sir Ralph Gray had a change of heart after time spent as Yorkist governor of the castle or because there was insufficient food to withstand siege.

Edward IV marched north with an army again.

Margaret fled into Scotland. This description is beginning to feel like a large scale game of game of snakes and ladders for poor Margaret.    She went north by sea, taking  Breze with her.  Luck was not on her side. A storm blew up dispersing the Lancastrian vessels.  Margaret finished up in Berwick whilst Breze foundered off Holy Island.  His boats were, quite literally, burned. Four to five hundred of his men were either killed or captured at the hands of John Manors or the rather descriptively named, Bastard Ogle; both of whom I need to find more about. Breze managed to hail a fishing boat and get away to Berwick where he joined Margaret.

Edward and his army arrived in Durham where Edward promptly caught measles. Warwick took command of the army but since there was now no Lancastrian force  in the field he besieged Alnwick, Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh which were in the hands of Lancastrians and had been since 1461. Bamburgh surrendered on Christmas Eve 1462. The other two were in Yorkist hands by the new year.

It is worth noting that one of the Yorkists besieging the Lancastrians was a certain Sir Thomas Malory who had done considerable amounts of porridge during Henry VI’s reign for breaches of the peace. He would write the Morte d’Arthur during another stint in prison.

The duke of Somerset and Sir Ralph Percy were both pardoned by Edward IV in an attempt to bring old animosities to an end. Other Lancastrians were not afforded the same generosity.  The earl of Pembroke and Lord Roos escaped or were escorted back to Scotland depending on which account you read. The earl of Pembroke a.k.a Jasper Tudor was supposed to have gathered a force to land in Beaumaris, Anglesey in 1462 having tried to rally support in Ireland in the early part of the year but had failed to do this.  Instead ‘Plan B’ involved him joining with the conflict in the north of England  travelling via Brittany and Scotland whilst the three Lancastrian castles mentioned above were being besieged.  His job was a to lift the sieges. The Yorkists had more men than him so he’d been forced to take a place inside Bamburgh Castle.

Meanwhile earlier in the year, on the other side of the country, Margaret of Anjou, slightly foiled but not deterred, had turned her attention to the West March.  She, a group of Lancastrians and some over-optimistic Scots arrived in the outskirts of Carlisle in June 1462.  Margaret had told the Scots that if they could take Carlisle they could have it.  There was the inevitable siege and a fire that burned down the suburbs which did not win friends for the Lancastrian cause in the city. John Neville, Lord Montagu (Warwick’s kid brother) arrived later that same month and raised the siege by July.

Humphrey Dacre, whose elder brother had  been killed at Towton and  to whom Neville was related through Dacre’s mother, was now required to hand over Naworth Castle near Brampton to the Yorkists having been attainted for his own role fighting the Yorkists at Towton.

1463 saw Margaret experience another rear disaster when she encountered Neville’s Yorkist forces near Hexham.. She and Prince Edward “by the aid of a generous robber,” (Ridpath: 295) reached the coast and safety. It was said that Margaret fled with only her son and a single squire into Dipton Wood where the outlaw probably intent on mischief was duly inspired to provide assistance and hiding in a cave.  Sadler, who does not trust the story of the ‘Queen’s Cave’  and  notes that Margaret trusted this man so much that she left Prince Edward in the man’s care whilst she attempted to locate her husband. He quotes for Chastellain whose account came from Margaret herself. She was transferred to the coast and from there took ship to the Continent to plead for more cash to try again.

By the spring of 1464 it was all over for the Lancastrians so far as a Scottish alliance was concerned.  Margaret no longer had the ear of the dowager queen who had died in 1463.  The Scots preferred to make a truce with Edward IV. It is worth noting that Edward wasn’t ruling a peaceful kingdom counties across the country were up in arms.

Margaret of Anjou on the other hand didn’t take no for an answer and was able to do a spot of rabble rousing with the promise of loot.  She entered Northumberland along with her husband and son though the accounts do not always agree as to whether Henry was with her or was in Northumberland all along.  Once more Sir Ralph Gray, who seems to have changed sides more often than he changed his doublet and hose, was on hand to take Alnwick for Margaret and once more the duke of Somerset and Sir Ralph Percy who’d been pardoned by Edward IV upon receipt of sizeable amounts of dosh changed sides back to their original Lancastrian red. It didn’t look good for the Yorkists.

Sir John Neville (the earl of Warwick’s kid brother) stepped into the breach. He wasn’t terribly amused in any event.  He’d been sent north to escort James III of Scotland to York to sign a peace treaty with Edward.  En route he encountered the earl of Somerset near Alnwick at Hedgely Moor on April 21 1464.  Somerset’s forces blocked the road.  There was the usual fisticuffs. Sir Ralph Percy found himself encircled and was killed.  Three weeks later, on May 15, Sir John confronted Somerset at Hexham. Somerset ad Lord Roos were captured. Both men were taken to Newcastle where they were executed as were other Lancastrians.

Back at Bamburgh, Sir Ralph Gray perhaps realising that another change of side wasn’t really an option attempted to hold out until he realised it would avail him little and attempted to negotiate surrender.  He was executed at Doncaster.

Sir John Neville, Lord Montagu received his reward in York where the English and the Scots finally signed their peace treaty.  Montagu became the earl of Northumberland which perhaps did not take into account the loyalty of the men of the east marches to their ancestral overlord.

Meanwhile Henry VI who’d sought shelter at Bywell Castle escaped into the hills where he remained for a considerable time sheltered by loyal Lancastrians until he was captured and taken to London.

jaspertudor.jpgI must admit to being interested in Jasper Tudor’s peregrinations in the north of England. The details of his route to and from Scotland are sketchy other than for his presence in the East March. I am also intrigued by  the sides taken by the various border families, although I suspect as with the battles between England and Scotland, men such as the Grahams were Yorkist when they wished and Lancastrian at other times but on all occasions men who looked after their own cares first.

Breverton, Terry. (2014) Jasper Tudor: Dynasty Maker. Stroud: Amberley

Ridpath, George. (1970). Border History. Edinburgh: The Mercat Press

Royle, Trevor. (2009).  The Wars of the Roses. London:Abacus

Sadler, John. (2006). Border Fury. London: Pearson

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Wars of the Roses