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Medieval Woodcut of a Battle

The Battle of Edgecote (July 26, 1469)

THE BATTLE OF EDGECOTE (July 26, 1469), was fought between the insurgents, led by "Robin of Redesdale," and the troops of Edward IV, under the Earl of Pembroke. The former were completely victorious. Pembroke was defeated with great slaughter, and he and his brother were taken prisoners, and put to death by the rebels.

Edgecote is in Northamptonshire, a few miles from Banbury.





The Dictionary of English History. Sidney J. Low and F. S. Pulling, eds.
London: Cassell and Company, Ltd., 1910. 404.




Battlemap of the Battle of Edgecote in the Wars of the Roses


ROBIN OF REDESDALE'S RISING
by C. Oman

Edward seems to have been so engrossed with Lancastrian plots during the autumn of 1468 and the spring of 1469, that he had little attention to spare for a much more dangerous conspiracy that was brewing. Warwick had made arrangements for an insurrection, and had enlisted Clarence in all his plans. The whole Neville house was organised for a rising; Fauconberg was dead, Latimer was now an old man, but their places in the family council were taken by their sons, Henry Neville, heir of Latimer, and Thomas Neville, the "Bastard of Fauconberg"; with these were associated Sir John Conyers of Hornby, husband of Fauconberg's daughter Alice; Lord Fitzhugh, Warwick's cousin, and Sir John Sutton, who had married Henry Neville's sister. The ex-chancellor, George Archbishop of York, was deep in the plot; but there is some doubt whether Warwick's other brother, Montagu, who professed loyalty to the king, was implicated.

In April, 1469, Warwick went over to Calais with his wife and daughters; as he was still captain of that great fortress his conduct roused no surprise. In May he paid a visit to the new Duchess of Burgundy at St. Omer, apparently with the object of blinding both her and his master at home to the imminence of his hostile intentions. It was at this juncture that he met the Burgundian chronicler Wavrin, who confesses that he was entirely deceived by the earl's frank geniality, and never suspected what he had in hand.

In June the earl fired his train: according to his arrangements the troubles began in Yorkshire. The whole county was bidden to rise in the name of "Robin of Redesdale," a nickname which seems to have covered the personality of Sir John Conyers.1 At first we are told that the rebels were led by "unnamed gentlemen," but soon all the Nevilles in the north were seen at the head of their tenants under the mysterious Robin's standard. The situation was much complicated by the outburst of a separate, and apparently a Lancastrian, rising at the same moment; it was headed by one Robert Hilyard who, in rivalry with the other leader, called himself "Robin of Holderness ". This insurrection had as its war cry the restoration of the attainted Percies to their old estates. But Montagu put down Hilyard's bands in the name of King Edward, and slew their leader at York. Whether he acted as an honest adherent of the king, or whether he was merely determined that his new earldom should not go back to the Percies, it is impossible to say. At any rate he executed Robin of Holderness and left Robin of Redesdale alone.

Early in July the Yorkshire insurgents began to move southward, having just published a manifesto in the same style as that which the Lords Appellant had issued against Richard II. It stated that the realm was out of governance, that the king was in the hands of corrupt and treacherous favourites, that his revenues were being wasted, and that his taxation was intolerable, a most unjust charge to bring against a sovereign who had asked extraordinarily little from his parliaments. Of course it was added that the king had excluded from his counsels "the true lords of his blood," and preferred to be guided by "seductious" persons such as Rivers, Scales, and Herbert. Plain reference was made to the fact that Edward II and Richard II had fallen from similar exhibitions of folly and perversity.

The moment that King Edward heard of the Yorkshire rising, he gave orders for the raising of an army, and advanced to Nottingham (July 9). But he had little armed force with him save a bodyguard of 200 mounted archers which he had raised in 1468, and was constrained to wait for the arrival of his lieutenants before going further; Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, was bringing him the troops of Wales and the Marches; Humphrey Lord Stafford, who had been created Earl of Devon only three weeks before, had been entrusted with the conduct of the men of the south and the west.

When Warwick knew that Edward had started for the north, and had his attention fixed on Robin of Redesdale, he developed the second half of his plan. On July 11 the Duke of Clarence was wedded to Isabella Neville at Calais by the Archbishop of York, in open disobedience to the king's commands. Next day Warwick, his new son-in-law, and his brother published a manifesto, to the effect that they adhered to the cause of the "king's true subjects," now up in arms, who had "called upon them with piteous lamentations to be the means to our Sovereign Lord the King of remedy and reformation". They republished the manifesto of the Yorkshire rebels, testified to its righteousness, and promised to be at Canterbury within four days, where all good men were invited to meet them "defensibly arrayed". Warwick was as good as his word; he crossed the straits at the head of the Calais garrison, was joined by many thousands of the Kentishmen, and marched on London unopposed, at the moment when all the king's forces were moving northward. The capital opened its gates without resistance; the name of Warwick was still greater than that of the king with the Londoners. The earl then moved northward on Northampton, to attack the royalists in the rear. But before he had reached the front the campaign was over.

The Yorkshiremen, seeing that Edward was at Nottingham with only a small force, had resolved to throw themselves between him and the succours that were advancing to his aid. Marching by Doncaster and Derby, they reached Leicester, thus cutting off the king from his reinforcements. Edward, who had just heard of Warwick's landing, was at last seriously alarmed; the spirit of his army was bad, and Lord Mountjoy warned him that if he wished his men to fight he had better send away the unpopular Woodvilles from his camp. Accordingly Rivers and his son John fled to the Welsh border, and took refuge at Chepstow Castle, while Scales joined his sister, the queen, at Cambridge. The king then moved south to Northampton, perhaps hoping to join his reinforcements by a circuitous route.

But the rebels were too quick for him: Conyers and Henry Neville, whose generalship seems to have been excellent, had pushed southward once more, and brought the royalists to action. Pembroke, with his Welsh and Marchmen, and Devon, with the levies of Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, and Devon, had met at Banbury on July 25. There the two earls had a fierce personal dispute, and Devon, refusing to march with Pembroke, fell back ten miles. Next morning the northern host appeared, and Pembroke was challenged to battle on Danesmoor, near Edgcott, six miles north-east of Banbury. He refused to wait for Devon, attacked the enemy, and was thoroughly beaten, "for want of archery," his Welsh forces being nearly all spearmen.

The fight was fierce and indecisive, till there came on the field an advance party of Warwick's army from London, headed by Thomas Clapham, and containing some of the earl's household men and of the garrison of Calais.2 Their arrival turned the fate of the day; Pembroke and his brother, Sir Richard Herbert, were taken prisoners, and a great slaughter was made of their followers, of whom it is said that 168 knights, squires, and gentlemen perished, with 2,000 of the common soldiery. The victory had been by no means bloodless; the rebels had lost Henry Neville, the heir of Latimer, Sir James Conyers, the son of their general, Sir Oliver Dudley, another of the Neville family group, and many more. The Earl of Devon, arriving too late for the fight, saw his levies disperse, and fled back into the south.

The Yorkshiremen next morning beheaded Pembroke and his brother at Northampton, undoubtedly with the approval, if not by the actual command, of Warwick, who came up on that day, July 27. Meanwhile King Edward, hastening south from Nottingham, found his enemies all around him, while his own force began to disperse on the news of Edgcott field. Only a few faithful followers still lingered about him when on the 28th he was beset at Olney,3 by a body of Warwick's retainers, headed by the Archbishop of York. They captured him and took him off to the earl. It is unfortunate that no chronicler records the details of the meeting of the entrapped king and his revengeful cousin. Edward heard hard words, and learnt that he was only to keep his throne on hard conditions. But life and crown were safe, for Warwick was still the champion of Yorkist interests.

For a month the king was the earl's captive, first at Warwick and Coventry, afterwards in the great Neville stronghold of Middleham. While he was thus detained his conqueror took vengeance upon the favourites who had supplanted him. The Earl of Devon was seized and beheaded at Bridgwater. Lord Rivers and his son John Woodville were captured in Chepstow Castle, from whence they were brought to Kenilworth and there executed, without any pretence of legal trial. Scales had escaped and taken sanctuary. His enemies being dead, Warwick proceeded to release his master, after having compelled him to sign pardons for all who had been engaged in the late insurrection, including himself and Clarence.



1. So Warkworth, Chronicle, in The Chronicles of the White Rose of York, London: James Bohn, 1845, p. 110,
a better authority than Hall and the others who make him someone else.
2. Hearne's Fragment in The Chronicles of the White Rose of York, London: James Bohn, 1845, p. 24.
3. Olney in Bucks, on the edge of Northamptonshire (Warkworth, p. 112), seems to be the place,
despite the statements of Hall and Wavrin. Honiley, which some have suggested, does not seem
a likely spot for the king to have reached.




Oman, C. The History of England.
London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1906. 431-5.




Other Local Resources:




Books for further study: Hicks, Michael. The Wars of the Roses 1455-1485.
           New York: Routledge, 2003.

Weir, Alison. The Wars of the Roses.
           New York: Ballantine Books, 1996.





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Causes of the Wars of the Roses
The House of Lancaster
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The First Battle of St. Albans, 1455
The Battle of Blore Heath, 1459
The Rout of Ludford, 1459
The Battle of Northampton, 1460
The Battle of Wakefield, 1460
The Battle of Mortimer's Cross, 1461
The 2nd Battle of St. Albans, 1461
The Battle of Towton, 1461
The Battle of Hedgeley Moor, 1464
The Battle of Hexham, 1464
The Battle of Edgecote, 1469
The Battle of Losecoat Field, 1470
The Battle of Barnet, 1471
The Battle of Tewkesbury, 1471
The Treaty of Pecquigny, 1475
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The Battle of Stoke Field, 1487

Henry VI
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Edward IV
Elizabeth Woodville
Richard Woodville, 1. Earl Rivers
Anthony Woodville, 2. Earl Rivers
Jane Shore
Edward V
Richard III
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Ralph Neville, 2. Earl of Westmorland
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Margaret Beaufort
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Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke
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Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham
Humphrey Stafford, E. of Devon
Thomas, Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby
Sir William Stanley
Archbishop Thomas Bourchier
Henry Bourchier, Earl of Essex
John Mowbray, 3. Duke of Norfolk
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John Howard, Duke of Norfolk
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Images:

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Medieval English Drama

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