The Battle of Tewkesbury

[April 16 - May 4] 1471

After all these things had thus befallen, the Tuesday in Easter week, the 16th day of April, came certain tidings to the king how that Queen Margaret, her son called Prince of Wales, the Countess of Warwick, the Prior of St John, at that time called treasurer of England, Lord Wenlock, and many other knights, squires, and others of their party, who long had been out of the land with them had arrived and landed in the west-country, upon Easter Day, at Weymouth, after long awaiting passage, and being on the sea, and landing again for default of good wind and weather. And so at divers times they took the sea, and forsook it again, till it was the 13th day of April, Easter Even. That day they passed. The queen, Margaret, and her son went from where she landed to an abbey near by, called Seern and all the lords, and the remnant of the fellowship with them. Thither came unto them Edmund, called Duke of Somerset, Thomas Courteney, called the Earl of Devonshire, with them, and welcomed them into England, comforted them, and put them in good hope that, although they had lost one field, whereof the queen had knowledge the same day, Monday, the 15th day of April, and was therefore right heavy and sorry, yet it was to be thought that they should have right good speed, and that, for that loss, their party was never the feebler, but rather the stronger, and that they doubted nothing but that they should assemble so great a power of people in divers parts of England, truly assured unto their party, that it would not lie in the king's power to resist them; and in that country they would begin. And so, forthwith, they sent all about in Somerset, Dorset, and part of Wiltshire, for to get ready and raise the people by a certain day and they raised the whole might of Cornwall and Devon, and so, with great numbers of people they departed out of Exeter and took the right way to Glastonbury and thence to the city of Bath and as they went they gathered the able men of all those parts.

The king being at London and having knowledge of all this their movements from time to time, at once provided for the relief of his sick and hurt men, who had been with him at Barnet field, which were right many in number and sent to all parts to get him fresh men and at once prepared all things that were thought necessary for a new field of battle so he provided artillery, and ordnance, guns, and other things for the field, in great plenty. And for as much as they at that season were in an angle of the land, and needs must take one of two ways or else they, not thinking themselves powerful enough to have an encounter with the king and therefore, perhaps, would draw northward into Lancashire and Cheshire, trusting also to have in their way the assistance of Welshmen; for which considerations, the king caused great diligence to be done by means of scouts. If they had taken their way eastwards, his intention was to have encountered them as soon as he could, but for as much as he understood well they took the other way, towards the northwest, he hastened with his host as fast as he could, upon the purpose that he had taken to stop them. They therefore endeavoured greatly to deceive the king's party in that matter, for which cause and purpose they sent their advance riders straight from Exeter to Shaftesbury, and afterwards to Salisbury, and took the straight way to Taunton, and to Glastonbury, to Wells, and thereabouts whence, another time, they sent advance riders to a town called Yeovil and to a town called Bruton, to make men understand that they would have drawn towards Reading and London. Such manner of riding nevertheless served them of two things; one was, to call and raise the people to make towards them for their help out of all those parts; another was to have deceived the king in his approach towards them, but, thanked be God, he was not unaware of it, but by good and serious advice, provided for every way, as may appear in telling forth his progress from Windsor towards them. And he had knowledge that they, understanding his approaching and marching near to them, had left their purpose of giving battle, and turned aside, and went to Bristol, a good and strong walled town, where they were greatly refreshed and relieved, by such as were the king's rebels in that town, of money, men, and artillery. Therefore they shortly took their decision to go the next way to Tewkesbury, whither they came the same day, about four after noon, by which time they had so travelled with their host the previous night and day that they were right weary with their travelling. For by that time they had travelled 36 long miles, in a foul country, all in lanes and stony ways, between woods, without any good refreshment. And for as much as the greater part of their hosts were footmen, the other part of the host, when they were come to Tewkesbury, could not have laboured any further unless they had wilfully forsaken and left their footmen behind them, and those who were horsemen were right weary of that journey, as were their horses. They therefore determined to abide there the chance that God would send them in the adventure they had taken in hand. And for that reason the same night they pitched camp in a field, in a close just at the town's end with the town and the abbey at their backs; before them, and upon every side of them, foul lanes, and deep ditches, and many hedges, hills and valleys, a right evil place to approach....

The king, the same morning, Friday, early advanced his banners, and divided his whole host into three battles, and sent before him his forerunners, and scouts on every side of him, and so, in fair array and order, he took his way through the open country called Cotswold, making all his people, of whom there were more than 3,000 footmen, travel that Friday, which was a right hot day, thirty miles and more. His troops could not find, anywhere along the way, horsemeat or man's meat, or so much as drink for their horses, save in one little brook, where there was very little relief, it was as soon muddied with the carriages that had passed through it. And all that day the king's host was within five or six miles of his enemies; he in open country and they among woods, having always good reconnoitring of their position. So continuing that journey he came, with all his host, to a village called Cheltenham, only five miles from Tewkesbury, where the king had certain knowledge that, only a little before his coming thither, his enemis had come to Tewkesbury and there were taking a field. Whereupon the king did not tarry long, but comforted himself a little and his people with such meat and drink as he had caused to be carried with him for the victualling of his host; and at once set forth towards his enemies, and took the field, and lodged himself and all his host within three miles of them.

Upon the morrow following, Saturday, the 4th day of May the king apparelled himself, and set all his host in good array, displayed his banners, did blow up the trumpets, committed his cause and quarrel to God, and advanced directly upon his enemies who were pitched strongly in a marvellously strong ground, very difficult to assail. In front of their field were such evil lanes and deep dikes, so many hedges, tree, and bushes, that it was very hard to approach near and come to hand fighting. But Edmund, called Duke of Somerset, having that day the vanguard advanced with his troops somewhat on one side of the king's vanguard, and by certain paths and ways previously surveyed, and unknown to the king's party, he departed out of the field, passed a lane, and came to a close, just in front of the king and from the hill that was in one of the closes, he set right fiercely on the end of the king's division. The king, in manly fashion, at once set upon them won the dike and hedge and with great violence pushed them back up the hill, assisted by the Duke of Gloucester.

Here it is to be remembered that when the king had come to the field, before he attacked, he considered that, upon the right hand of the field was a park, with many trees. He, thinking to provide a remedy in case his said enemies had laid any ambush of horsemen in that wood, he chose, out of his troops, 200 spears and set them in a group together, about a quarter of a mile from the battlefield, charging them to keep a close watch on that part of the wood, and to do what was necessary if the need should arise, and if they saw no such need to employ themselves in the best way they could. This provision came as well to the point at this time of the battle as could well have been devised, for the said spears of the king's party, seeing no likelihood of any ambush in the said corner of the wood, and seeing also a good opportunity to employ themselves well, all at once burst out upon the Duke of Somerset and his vanguard from one side, unexpectedly. Upon this his men, seeing that the king gave them enough to do before them, were greatly dismayed and abashed, and so took to flight in the park, and into the meadow that was near, and into lanes and dikes where they best hoped to escape the danger. Nevertheless, many were distressed, taken, and slain; and even at this point in their flight the king courageously set upon that other part of the field, where was Edward, called prince, and in a short while put him to discomforture and flight. And so it befell in the chase of them that many of them were slain, and at a mill, in the meadow by the town, many of them were drowned. Many ran towards the town, many to the church, to the abbey, and elsewhere, as best they might.

In the winning of the field such as endured hand-strokes were slain at once. Edward, called prince, was taken, fleeing towards the town, and slain in the field. There were also slain, Thomas, called the Earl of Devonshire, John of Somerset; called Marquis Dorset; Lord Wenlock; with many others in great numbers.

When this was done, and achieved with God's might, the king took the direct way to the abbey there to give unto Almighty God praise and thanks for the victory that of his mercy he had that day granted and given him.

Anonymous. Historie of the Arrivall of Edward IV in England. This version by J. Bruce, ed. (London: 1838).

This document was originally stored at Hillsdale College (original URL). That version seems to have expired; this copy was retrieved from Google's cache. (HTML formatting modified by Andrew Plotkin, Aug 22 2007.)