Wednesday, 2 March 2016

The English Are Revolting...
The Finale of The Wars of the Roses

A 19th Century lithograph believed to have been taken from a Late 15th Century woodcut of the Battle of Barnet 1471. The details are intriguing as they are possibly one of the few representations of English arms and armour from around the turn of the 16th Century. Most intriguing perhaps is the mounted handgunner exiting stage right.

England's involvement in the Franco-Burgundian War was minimal to say the least. Despite Edward IV's sister Margaret being the now Dowager Duchess of Burgundy, her appeals to her brother for military aid to support her step-daughter were ignored initially. Just a year or so before Edward IV had accepted French gold and a regular pension, as had a number of his nobles, to return with their army to England and not make war against France for a seven year period.

For the time being this pay-off was far more important than supporting the Burgundians, despite the unforeseen death of Duke Charles. The suggestion that Edward's recently widowed brother George should marry Duchess Marie, was likewise not taken up; not least that it would have handed more power and wealth to George than Edward possessed himself. With George's track record for loyalty it is perhaps understandable why. Visions of George deposing his brother at the head of a Burgundian army probably sprang easily to Edward's mind.

Edward was apparently to regret his decision, if reports of his final days are accurate, but other than indulging Sir Thomas Everingham's  request to be given leave to take a force into Burgundy, nothing was done. Everingham's force began as a single hundred-man company, but had swelled to 300 by 1479. Margaret petitioned her brother once more in 1480 and he gave Sir John Middleton, Sir John Dichefield and Everingham, permission to recruit 6,000 archers for the service of the 'Duc of Ostreich'. A first draft of 2,000 were signed up under Margaret's hand on behalf of the 'Duc of Burgoyne'. Whether other drafts actually followed is not known however.



Margaret Dowager Duchess of Burgundy, sister 

to Edward IV and Richard III and a right royal 
pain in the ass for Henry VII. 


If England largely stayed out of continental affairs, the same could not be said of either the Burgundians or the French. For Louis XI a divided England kept them from thinking about war with France, an attitude which proved correct given the invasion mounted by Edward in 1475. If Charles the Bold had not become distracted by the Siege of Neuss and reneged on his alliance with Edward, things could have been difficult for Louis to say the least. As it was providing tentative support for Queen Margaret in the 1460s and also underwriting the Earl of Warwick's defection and rapprochement with the Lancastrians in 1469, kept things fluid at little cost to himself.

Burgundian support for the Yorkists was equally low-key. Edward IV and his brothers were sheltered in Flanders from 1457 to 1460 and again from 1469 to 1471. In both cases their eventual return was preceded by a gift of money and leave to recruit men to form the core of their 'invasion forces'. At Bosworth in 1485, at least one Burgundian commander, Juan de Salazar, was with Richard III's army; although whether as an observer or a leader of men is not known. Correspondingly Henry Tudor benefited from French largesse and it is believed that as many as 4,000 French troops were provided by the French Regency council.

At Stoke Field in 1487 the 'Germans and Switzers' in the Earl of Lincoln's Army came thanks to Margaret once more, despite all of her brothers now being dead. Their captain Martin Schwartz was also a man who had Archduke Maximilian's favour and was not the itinerant mercenary captain usually portrayed in the history books. Schwartz was an 'Obrist' of one of the first bodies of 'Landsknechts' raised in Flanders by Maximilian in 1486. It is probable that his 'regiment' was loaned outright to the expedition and paid for by Margaret.

The biggest involvement in continental affairs by the English was during Henry VII's reign and despite the support given by France in 1485, was on the side of Burgundy and Breton rebels against France. The details of the force sent to Brittany in 1492 have survived and shed new light on English forces of the time. Details of the 7,000 strong army sent to aid Maximilian against the rebelling Flemish cities the same year are not so easily determined, but nevertheless are significantly larger forces than had previously been involved, other than Edward IV's army of 1475.    

'Wars' of the Roses? 

The Wars of the Roses did not abruptly end with the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

There is an embarrassing truth about gaming the Wars of the Roses and that is that they were hardly wars at all. A more apt description might be the 'Short and abruptly settled squabbles of the Roses'. The actual campaigns were very short in duration and there were no extended military campaigns to speak of. The longest continuous period was that from the Duke of York setting out from London to Wakefield in December 1460, to Edward IV's mopping up the defeated Lancastrians after the Battle of Towton in 1461; a period of four months.

Otherwise periods of military activity were very short. From the Yorkist lords being aware of a council being assembled to indict them in late April of 1455, to the Battle of St. Albans on 22nd May, a mere four weeks had passed. The period between Edward IV landing at Ravenspur on 14th March 1471 and the Battle of Tewkesbury on 4th May, was just under two months. From Henry Tudor's landing at Milford Haven to the Battle of Bosworth was a mere fifteen days. 

There was none of the endemic raiding and border clashes that were usual in Europe and sieges were relatively short-lived, being settled by pardons and gold, rather than by bombards and assaults. Even the low-level feuds I enjoy digging up and reading about might go a decade between someone actually raising men to settle an issue.

If you game the Wars of the Roses therefore, there is a certain suspension of disbelief you need to take on-board, particularly in terms of campaigns and especially when you consider that most of the troops were only required to serve for forty days. A campaign of over that length would need careful planning, so as to ensure that men returning home and new contingents arriving, did not produce a period where an army's numbers were dangerously low.

Buckingham's Revolt and Beyond...

The Duke of Norfolk's division attacks the Earl of Oxford's Division at Bosworth. Oxford probably commanded the Swiss-trained French professionals loaned by France and which were probably like nothing the English had faced before in battle. Certainly Oxford's order that no man was to be more than ten feet from their standard implies they were troops capable of fighting in close order.

Norfolk's men are often shown in red livery, although Norfolk's livery was actually blue (and as Lord Howard it was black). Interestingly Richard III gave an order in 1483 that all troops raised for royal service were to wear 'his livery' (red). Previously such troops wore the livery of whoever was responsible for raising them, hence the large orders for livery jackets such as the Duke of Buckingham's for 3,000.

Norfolk's purchase of cloth in the same year shows large purchases of red cloth, as well as that of the normal blue. Norfolk also requested troops for royal service from one of his retainers and added that extra men were required for his own household, hence the instruction to 'ordain them jackets of my livery' frequently quoted.

Likewise the Stanleys' men are referred to as being in red in a source, despite their own liveries being gold and green (Lord Stanley) and blue and white (Sir William Stanley). It is therefore possible that the entire royal army, except for the individual households of Richard's supporters, were the original 'red coats'.  

While I find the Wars of the Roses fascinating as a whole, it is the period from Edward IV's death in 1483, to the Battle of Stoke Field in 1487 that I find most interesting. In terms of my medieval project as a whole, it also fits neatly after the Death of Marie of Burgundy and before Maximilian begins to seriously suppress the cities of Flanders in 1487. It is a period of great unrest and military activity, beginning with Richard III's coup d'etat, then Buckingham's rebellion, followed by the Bosworth Campaign and that of Stoke Field. Plots, riots and rebellions are present and possible, it is essentially what we imagine the entirety of the Wars of the Roses to be.

At this point there is no Lancaster and York to consider, as with the exception of a handful of exiled nobles, they had all gone to the block in 1471. What we have is a division within the Yorkist ranks, between Edward IV's largely southern 'Old Guard' and Richard III's largely northern affinity, who he placed in key positions after he gained the throne. This literal North-South Divide was somewhat responsible for events over the next four years. Buckingham's rebellion seems to have been a case of a failure by Richard III to reward those who felt they should be rewarded, or who were rewarded but not to the degree they felt they should be.

The extent of the planned rebellion was surprising, even for the time. A large number of Kentish gentry were involved, as were others in Devon, Dorset and Wiltshire. Buckingham's own holdings in Mid-Wales were not inconsiderable and if he could link his forces with those gathering in the South-West, it would have been quite an army. The Kentishmen and others from the South-East were to march on London, while the men in the South-West, along with Buckingham and Henry Tudor's small force that would arrive from Brittany, would seek out a battle with whatever Richard III could scrape together.

In the event the Kentishmen jumped the gun and the rebellion there was put down by the Duke of Norfolk. The Duke of Buckingham found his forces were shadowed on the opposite bank of the Severn, by the men of his distant kinsman Sir Henry Stafford and others from the Midlands, who blocked or destroyed bridges. Richard III's Welsh supporters harried Buckingham's rear and eventually even the weather turned against the hapless duke. His army melted away overnight and after attempting to avoid capture for some days, he was eventually betrayed by one of his own stewards.

This left the men of the West Country facing Richard III himself at the head of a hastily raised army of Northerners. The rebellion was suppressed in a matter of weeks, so that by the time Henry Tudor's ships had bested the weather and arrived in Devon, it was Richard's men encouraging him to come ashore and not his own supporters. The rebellion certainly opened Richard's eyes however and the next year and a half is spent preparing for the arrival of Henry Tudor and likely yet another rebellion in support of him.

After the Battle of Bosworth calm was not restored and there were a number of rebellions that had to be dealt with by the new king. In October a rising in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire featured the aliases of Robin of Redesdale and Master Mend-All being trotted out once more. Francis Viscount Lovell, the Harringtons and their followers, were clashing with Lord Strange at the head of Stanley retainers around the same time in Furness Fells. Humphrey Stafford was clashing with the Harcourts over disputed inheritances of the Earl of Devon and ultimately it was Sir John Savage who dragged them out of sanctuary to stand trial for their rebellion.

In December 1485 Lords Strange and Fitzhugh were combating both rebels and Scots in the North at Berwick. In February of 1486 Henry VII was forced to send his uncle Jasper, Earl of Pembroke into Wales to deal with an uprising there. In March Francis Viscount Lovell attempted to take King Henry at York and the Earl of Northumberland apparently saved the King on St. George's Day (April 23rd). In May 1486 their were riots in London aimed at unseating the King. Sir Henry Bodrugan had raised Cornishmen against the King and even in the aftermath of Stoke Field, the Lords Scrope of Bolton and Masham made an attack on the City of York.

In terms of military activity there was certainly a lot going on, certainly more than the 'official Tudor histories' attempted to convey. For the wargamer there is almost four years of strife, which is more than enough to base armies and campaigns around.

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