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Battle of Northampton

Battle of Northampton


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The Battle of Northampton was part of the Wars of the Roses and took place on the 10th July 1460. It was a major victory for the Yorkists.

Having been defeated at the Battle of Blore Heath, it was not until the end of June 1460 that the Yorkists became strong enough to risk a return from exile.

Being joined by Yorkist supporters, the Earls of Warwick and Salisbury – along with Edward, Earl of March (the future Edward IV) – had gathered enough support to attack London. Here they succeeded in capturing the city, except for the Tower of London, which remained in the hands of the Lancastrians.

Leaving the Earl of Salisbury and a small band of troops to defend their gains in London, Warwick set off to confront Henry VI before he had time to rally his forces. Henry, meantime, had been in Coventry and decided to move his troops to Northampton to forestall the Yorkists in their march north. Having ensconced himself near Northampton close to Delapre Abbey, Henry settled in to await the Earl of Warwick. The battle took place on 10th July.

The battle itself was a short affair, despite the presence of large forces on both sides. Victory went to the Earl of Warwick and the Yorkists, after treachery within the Lancastrian ranks. At this juncture, the Duke of York felt it was safe to return from Ireland.

After the victory, the Yorkists forced Henry VI to sign an Act of Succession, which named the Duke of York as his heir, even though he had a son of his own. This, of course, alienated his wife, Queen Margaret, and the two sides were soon under arms once more.

Today it is difficult to see much evidence of the battle, but some areas of Northampton Battlefield are still accessible through the remains of the park at Delapre Abbey. Public footpaths give access to some of the rest of the area.


This important battle occurred on 10 July 1460 and led to the capture of Henry VI. The Earl of Warwick and the Earl of March (he was later to become Edward IV) landed at Sandwich in June 1460 after sailing across to England from Calais. Warwick eventually marched north to intercept a Lancastrian army that was on its way south to Coventry and was led by King Henry VI.

The Lancastrians learned of this plan and elected to stop at the town of Northampton and create a defensive position. Instead of attacking straight away once he arrived at the town, Warwick wanted a peace settlement and was hoping to speak to the king. After fruitless talks, the Yorkists launched their attack.

As I mentioned in the introduction, treachery was a feature of the War of the Roses and it reared its ugly head at Northampton. Lord Grey had been commanding a section of the king&rsquos army but when he faced Warwick in battle, he ordered his men to lay down their arms and allow the Yorkists through.

Had Lord Grey not taken this action, it is likely that the Battle of Northampton would have been a bloody one as the combined strength of the two armies was around 30,000. Instead, the entire conflict was over in about half an hour as Warwick captured the king and killed several important Lancastrian nobles. A number of Lancastrian foot soldiers tried to escape via the River Nene but it was overflowing so many of them drowned. These deaths made up most of the casualties which totalled only hundreds. Incidentally, Grey switched sides because the Yorkists offered support in a property dispute he was having!

It appeared as if the war was over now that the king had been captured but his queen, Margaret of Anjou, had other ideas as she assembled an army in Wales.


Boon's Mill, Battle of

Located in Northampton County, Boon's (or Boone's) Mill was the site of a Civil War Federal repulse by Confederate forces under Brig. Gen. Matt W. Ransom on 28 July 1863. Boon's Mill was situated on the main road from Jackson, the county seat, to Garysburg and Weldon, where the vitally important Wilmington & Weldon Railroad ran north to Petersburg, Va. It was by this road that the Federal force hoped to capture and burn the Weldon Bridge, thus disrupting the flow of supplies from Wilmington to Petersburg, Richmond, and the Army of Northern Virginia.

On 26 July Federal ships off Winton unloaded regiments from Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island commanded by Maj. Gen. John G. Foster to support Col. Samuel P. Spear and a brigade of cavalry expected hourly from Virginia. This combined Union force totaled approximately 5,000 men.

Spear's arrival on 27 July, as well as Foster's the day before, was quickly discovered by Confederate intelligence. Orders were then passed to recently promoted Brig. Gen. Matt W. Ransom to move his brigade southward from its camp near Petersburg, where it had been helping to defend Richmond from Federal forces that occupied Williamsburg.

Ransom's brigade, consisting of elements of the 24th, 35th, and 49th North Carolina Regiments and two guns of Georgia Artillery, reached Garysburg around daybreak of 28 July. Ransom ordered his force of about 200 men to Boon's Mill, choosing this site because it was located on the main road running through Gumberry Swamp. The pond and swamp made it an excellent defensive position. Ransom and his staff left the men and rode to Jackson in an attempt to gather information about Spear's Federal force. On their return, one-half mile from Jackson, Union cavalry exploded from the county seat to give chase. With the Federals not more than 250 yards behind, it was literally a horse race back to the mill for Ransom and his staff, who were fired upon the entire way. Dashing across the bridge at Boon's Mill, Ransom ordered his men to take up the planks and to form ranks.

Spear brought up his artillery and shelled the Confederate position for over an hour. Then he ordered his dismounted cavalrymen to attack down the road toward the mill however, concentrated Confederate fire broke this initial advance. Next Spear attempted flanking movements to the left and right, hoping that the dense undergrowth of the swamp would offer cover. But Ransom moved his guns forward and swept the woods with grape and canister. This maneuver, along with Confederate infantry fire, forced Spear to call off his assault after five hours of fighting. Convinced that he could not break through and aware that the entire area was aware of his presence, Spear retreated back to Jackson under the cover of darkness.

Federal casualties from the fight at Boon's Mill were listed at 11 dead, buried on the field. Confederate losses were reported as 1 soldier from the 49th Regiment killed and 3 from the 24th Regiment wounded.

John G. Barrett, The Civil War in North Carolina (1963).

Walter Clark, ed., Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War, 1861-1865, vols. 2-4 (1901).


Historic Northamptonshire Guide

Population: 690,000
Famous for: Shoemaking, Grand Union Canal
Distance from London: 1 – 2 hours
Airports: None
County town: Northampton
Nearby Counties: Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Lincolnshire, Rutland

Welcome to Northamptonshire! This county boasts several grand historic houses including Althorp, ancestral home of the Spencer family and home to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial. Magnificent Boughton House near Kettering, dubbed “England’s Versailles”, is the Northamptonshire home of the Dukes of Buccleuch and Queensberry. Royal connections continue with 12th century Fotheringhay Castle near Oundle, the site of the execution of Mary Queen of Scots and also the birthplace of King Richard III in 1452.

Not far from Boughton is Geddington where you will find perhaps the best example of an Eleanor Cross. These crosses were erected by Edward I wherever the cortege of his queen Eleanor rested on its journey to London.

Also close by is the peculiar triangular lodge at Rushton. Designed by Sir Thomas Tresham, the father of one of the Gunpowder Plotters, this folly celebrates the Holy Trinity and his Roman Catholic faith.

There is a fine example of an intact Anglo-Saxon church at Brixworth. All Saints Church was built around 670 using Roman bricks from a nearby villa and boasts a 9th century tower built to repel Viking attacks.

One of the most important battles of the English Civil War was fought on Northamptonshire soil at Naseby on 14th June 1645. This was to be the final key battle of the war and resulted in a victory for the Parliamentarians.

Northamptonshire lies in the centre of England and boasts excellent transport links including canals. No longer important for the transportation of goods and freight, the canals are now popular with boaters and holidaymakers. The Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne on the Grand Union Canal gives the visitor a fascinating insight into the history of the canals. The historic village of Braunston near Northampton is set at the junction of the Oxford and Grand Union Canals and is also well worth a visit.


Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England

The marriage between Margaret of Anjou and King Henry VI of England came with high expectations. It was meant to bring peace between England and France who had been at war for over a hundred years and she was expected to give birth to an heir to continue the Lancastrian dynasty of English kings. The marriage in fact brought no peace with France, didn’t help avoid losses of French territory and actually led to intermittent civil war in England.

Margaret was born on March 23 or 24, 1430 either at Port-a-Mousson in France or Nancy in Lorraine. She was the daughter of Rene, Duke of Anjou and Isabelle, daughter and heir of Charles II, Duke of Lorraine. Rene was directly related to the French monarchy although he had little in the way of a patrimony of his own. His sister Marie was the wife of King Charles VII of France. While he inherited many other titles, he had a difficult time holding on to any of them.

While Rene was preoccupied with his rising and falling political fortunes, Margaret remained in the care of her mother and later with her paternal grandmother, Yolande of Aragon. Yolande was a formidable woman, acting as regent in her son Rene’s absence. Margaret received an excellent education and was exposed to literature and the arts as both her grandmother and father were great patrons. Rene was a poet and artist himself. Margaret would learn the foundations of good government from her grandmother. She grew up to be beautiful, highly educated, passionate, energetic, strong-willed and proud with a forceful personality.

Marriages discussed for Margaret included Emperor Frederick II, a son of the Count of St. Pol, Charles, Count of Charolais, the future Duke of Burgundy, and Charles, Count of Nevers. Talks were initiated for a marriage with King Henry VI in 1439 in the hopes of bringing an end to the long and expensive war between England and France. Beginning in 1443, Margaret spent time at the French court under her aunt Queen Marie’s care where she received acclaim for her beauty, accomplishments and character.

Henry sent an embassy to France headed by William de la Pole, earl of Suffolk in 1444. On May 22, a treaty of truce was signed guaranteeing peace for two years. Margaret’s betrothal to Henry was celebrated at the church of St. Martin in Tours. It was attended by the king and queen of France, Margaret’s parents, the Dukes of Calabria, Brittany and Alençon, the Dauphin and the Dauphine Margaret Stewart, the Counts of St. Pol and Vendôme and Margaret’s uncle, Charles Count of Maine. After the ceremony, eight days of celebrations commenced hosted by King Charles VII’s mistress Agnes Sorel. From that point on, Margaret was treated with the status of Queen of England.

Margaret’s dowry was meager. It included the truce, her mother’s empty claim to the kingdom of Majorca and twenty thousand francs. She renounced her claims to her father’s possessions. There was some controversy over whether the county of Maine was to be returned to France or not which caused problems later. Suffolk returned to France in November with a large escort to bring Margaret to England. This expedition and the marriage itself cost over fifty-five hundred pounds which caused resentment among the English people.

From November until April of 1445 there is some confusion about the sequence of events but it appears there was a proxy marriage at Nancy in early March. On March 15, she entered Paris and was welcomed at the Cathedral of Notre Dame the next day where her brother officially delivered her to the Duke of Suffolk. After the ceremonies ended, as Margaret took leave of her father and King Charles, they all wept. Rene was so overcome he could hardly speak.

The Duke of York, with six hundred archers, welcomed her on behalf of King Henry and gave her a palfrey caparisoned with crimson and gold velvet embroidered with gold roses. It was a gift from her husband. York then accompanied Margaret to Rouen where she was York’s guest at two state dinners. Relations between the two parties were nothing but cordial. During this part of the trip, Margaret was short of funds. She had little in the way of trousseau or plate and she had to pawn what modest plate she had to the Duchess of Suffolk to pay the wages of her sailors.

York, Suffolk and several noble ladies accompanied her through Normandy to the coast. Her ship sailed but was buffeted by the wind of a terrible storm during which the ship lost both its masts. Margaret landed at Portchester on April 9, 1445 where the people of the town had planned a great welcome. But Margaret was so exhausted and ill, she could only stagger her way to a small cottage where she promptly fainted. Shortly after her arrival, Henry visited her in disguise, dressed as a squire to deliver a letter he himself had written. He was able to scrutinize her appearance while she read the letter. She dismissed him without acknowledging his identity. Whether she knew it was him or not is impossible to say.

The marriage of Henry VI and Marguerite d’Anjou, by Martial d’Auvergne, illuminated by the work Vigils de Charles VII, Paris, France, fifteenth century

On April 21, Margaret and Henry were married in a private ceremony at Titchfield Abbey officiated by the bishop of Salisbury. She wore a white satin wedding dress embroidered with silver and gold marguerites (daisies). She traveled from the area of Southampton to London, entertained by many lords and welcomed by the mayor and alderman. Large crowds turned out to greet her. She rode with nineteen chariots of ladies and gentlewomen and the conduits of the city ran with red and white wine. As she rode in triumph through the streets, she witnessed eight pageants. She was crowned on May 30 at Westminster followed by three days of feasting and tournaments.

Henry arranged to have the queen’s apartments in his palaces renovated before her arrival. Margaret loved riding and hunting and she and her husband shared a love of horses. He ordered several of them for their first anniversary. Margaret was an able administrator and showed concern for and was generous to her servants. She attended mass regularly and gave to many charities. She worked to increase England’s wool trade by importing skilled craftsmen from Flanders and Lyon. She introduced silk weaving to England by bringing in foreign weavers and encouraging women to take up the trade. She became the patron of the guild called the Sisterhood of Silk Women which was based in Spitalfields. She also financed the building of English merchant ships which sailed to ports in the Mediterranean.

Illuminated image of Margaret of Anjou from the Books of the Skinners Company. A. D. 1422

Although in the early years, Margaret and Henry got along well, it probably wasn’t long before she began to realize her pious and peaceful husband was weak and indecisive. The real power behind the throne was the Duke of Suffolk along with other noblemen who exploited the king for authority and to enrich themselves. Margaret herself was close to Suffolk and relied on his advice. But this caused resentment and tension among other nobles at court. On top of all this, Henry’s piety and reliance on the advice of his confessor caused him to avoid sexual relations with Margaret. As a consequence, she didn’t get pregnant for the first eight years of the marriage.

On March 30, 1448, Henry granted a license for the founding of Queen’s College, Cambridge upon Margaret’s request. In 1450, England lost its claim to Normandy which had been conquered by Henry’s father Henry V during the Hundred Years War. The loss was mostly due to the incompetence of Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset. This led directly to the disposition and murder of the Duke of Suffolk. The colossal loss of territory, the debt caused by the war, local grievances and concern for the corruption and perceived abuse of power by the king and his closest advisers led to the breakout of a rebellion. The leader of the rebellion was called Jack Cade or Jack Mortimer.

Cade led about five thousand troops to Blackheath outside London. He entered London and declared himself mayor. Two members of the king’s household were put on trial and executed for treason. The troops rioted causing the Londoners to turn against them. Cade was killed but not before the Duke of York was implicated in the rebellion forcing him to return to England from Ireland to defend himself. He declared his loyalty to King Henry when he attended Parliament later that year.

Margaret’s lack of producing a child had a long lasting adverse effect on Henry’s reign. She must have felt tremendous pressure. In the spring of 1453, she visited Our Lady of Walsingham, a shrine that was supposed to aid women in getting pregnant. Shortly after this visit, she was certain she was with child. But then the unthinkable happened. Henry suffered an acute attack of mental illness and went into a deep catatonic state.

Margaret made her way to Westminster on September 10 for her lying in and she gave birth to a son on October 13. He was named Edward and created Prince of Wales on March 15, 1454. Margaret was in the ascendancy and had some political power but it was based on the premise that she was subordinate to her husband and under his authority. This undermined her ability to exercise any real power.

Chateau D’Angers in the Loire Valley of France where Margaret lived (Photo copyright of The Freelance History Writer)

Margaret and the Duke of Buckingham presented the infant to Henry for his blessing but he was incapable of acknowledging the child. The government of the country was unresolved and many lords were arming themselves for an expected showdown. Margaret petitioned Parliament to be regent with a request of five articles. These included the right to appoint all state officers and sheriffs, the treasurer and the keeper of the Privy Seal, the patronage of the bishoprics and all other benefices belonging to the king and for sufficient funds to be assigned to her for the king, her son and her own livelihood.

Although this was a lot to ask, it was not unprecedented. Henry III had appointed his Queen, Eleanor of Provence as his regent while he was away on the continent. Margaret really had no backing by the lords who would have resented rule by a woman. She failed in her request and the Parliament named the Duke of York as Protector for as long as Henry was incapacitated and the Duke of Somerset became Henry’s adviser. This created conflict with York and he raised men to unseat Somerset. The king and Somerset raised men also. Margaret took refuge in the Tower of London with her son.

But Henry came out of his stupor at Christmas. The prince was presented to Henry and he rejoiced in his birth. York was dismissed as Protector. York was not pleased as he was opportunistic, self-righteous and easily affronted. He continued to insist the king was surrounded by bad advisers and flaunted his troops to assert his rights.

The First Battle of St. Albans was fought on May 22, 1455. Margaret was in Greenwich with her ladies for safety. The Duke of Somerset was killed along with other Lancastrian nobles, Henry was wounded and York was victorious. By July, York was constable again and the king was constrained from raising his own forces. Margaret’s income was reduced to ten thousand marks and she was deprived of the power to bequeath the revenues she received from the Duchy of Lancaster. She realized at this point she could not put her faith in her husband. She could count on no one for the security of her husband or her son. She certainly would have felt anxiety over York’s pretensions. She would need to find ways to gain authority for herself.

York and his adherents were proclaiming their loyalty to Henry but working to undermine his authority at every turn. It was at this point that the House of Commons of Parliament were asking the king to take back grants he had rewarded during his reign in an effort to regain solvency for the crown. York supported this idea but many of the nobles objected as they had the most to lose unless they could obtain an exemption. The discussion moved on to restricting the king’s authority to give exemptions. By doing this they were undermining the king’s authority. If the king’s authority could be restricted, the holder of that authority could be replaced.

Margaret would work to resist the resumption of grants and also to resist the Protectorate of York. It was about this time the rumors started about Margaret’s infidelity and the possibility that the Prince of Wales was illegitimate. York may have started the rumors to press his own case to be heir to the throne. There is no concrete evidence Margaret ever took a lover. Henry acted in every way as though the child was his.

During the Parliament of February 1456, York brought armed men thinking he may be discharged. The lords of Parliament were not pleased and Henry dismissed York from his position of Protector with the consent of the Lords. At this point, Margaret left London for the Midlands where Henry joined her that summer. She worked for the next two years to consolidate what power she had available to her as the queen.

In 1458, York was granted conditional forgiveness and acceptance. On March 25, a Loveday was celebrated. The king, the queen and all parties subject to the settlement made their way in a public procession to St. Paul’s Cathedral in thanks to God for reaching an accord. It was probably made at the king’s insistence. First in line came Somerset, Salisbury, Exeter and Warwick. Then the king walked alone in his robes. He was followed by Margaret, holding York’s hand. York swore an oath to keep the peace, raise no troops and obey the king’s command. This display acted as a reminder of the Queen’s reinforced power but in reality it was a sham.

In 1459, York raised troops against the king again. The royal army, which was superior in number, approached Ludlow where York was stationed. Realizing they were outnumbered, the Yorkist lords fled in confusion to Ireland. Parliament attainted them. In the summer of 1460, York returned to England, quickly raising an army and entering London with a drawn sword before him indicating royalty. He was signaling a challenge to the king and asserting his right to the throne.. Henry was at Coventry and advanced with his troops taking position on the banks of the Nene River close to Northampton. The Yorkists attacked them there and the Lancastrians were completely routed.

The king was taken prisoner and Margaret emerged as the leader of a Lancastrian faction. She refused to acknowledge York as the supreme power in England. As she headed toward Wales, one of her servants robbed her of all she had along the way and even threatened to kill her and the prince. While the servant was searching through her luggage, she managed to escape and made her way to Jasper Tudor and Harlech Castle where she and the prince were warmly welcomed. In the meantime, York made a bid at the palace of Westminster to take the throne. He did not receive a positive reception. In fact, many of the nobles were offended by his audacity. He did get an agreement stating he was Henry’s heir, thereby disinheriting Prince Edward.

Margaret did not take kindly to this insult to her son. She managed to get a ship and took refuge at the court of Scotland where Mary of Guelders was regent for her young son, James III. Margaret raised an army in the north and met York and his men at Wakefield on December 31, 1460. York and his son Edmund were killed.

Margaret took advantage of her victory and with an army comprised of Scottish supporters and men from the north of England, the Lancastrians met Yorkist forces under the Earl of Warwick at St. Albans on February 17, 1461. Her army was victorious and she regained control of her husband. She headed for London and tried to gain entrance with her troops but was unable to do so.

Yorkist forces under Edward, Earl of March, the son of Richard Duke of York were bearing down and Margaret was forced to withdraw to the north. The bloody Battle of Towton on March 29, 1461 was a significant defeat for the Lancastrians. Margaret, the king and the prince were forced to flee to Scotland. Edward, Earl of March was crowned King Edward IV on June 28. Margaret was attainted before Parliament for intending the destruction of the realm with the aid of northerners, the Scots and the French. (The attainder against her would be reversed by the Tudor/Lancastrian King Henry VII in 1485).

During their exile in Scotland, Margaret tried unsuccessfully to get aid from King Charles VII of France and later King Louis XI of France. In October of 1462, she arrived at Bamburgh with about eight hundred troops paid for by Pierre de Brezé of France. But after getting word that Edward and the Earl of Warwick were on their way, she fled to her ships at sea. Her fleet got caught in bad weather and she and the prince barely made it to shore in a small boat. Most of her troops drowned or were captured.

After this disastrous adventure to Scotland she returned to France where she lived in penury. She had little clothing and sometimes no food. She was down to a coterie of seven women. She tried to rally support from the courts of France, Burgundy, Brittany, Germany and Portugal. Eventually she had to retreat to her father’s estate of St Michel-sur-Bar where she lived on a scanty pension from him. In 1465, she appealed for help from Louis XI again but he only mocked her due to her weak position.

Henry was exceptionally adept in being hidden, hiding and escaping. He was attended by only two or three devoted servants and lived a miserable existence until he was captured in Lancashire in July of 1465. His feet were tied to the stirrups of his horse and he was escorted to London where he was kept in gentle custody in the Tower of London for the next five years.

King Louis negotiated a truce with King Edward, agreeing not to support the Lancastrians. In 1470, the Earl of Warwick was disenchanted with King Edward IV and defected to the Lancastrian cause. King Louis, in an effort to gain an alliance with England against Burgundy, used all his powers of persuasion with Margaret to convince her to make an alliance with Warwick to release Henry from the Tower and gain back the throne. As a condition of the alliance, she made Warwick beg on his knees for forgiveness. Warwick’s daughter Anne Neville was married to Margaret’s son Edward over her strong objections.

Angers Cathedral where Margaret is buried (Photo copyright of The Freelance History Writer)

Warwick managed to oust Edward IV and Henry VI was back on the throne from October 1470 to April 1471. Margaret hesitated to sail to England but she and her son did eventually return. When she arrived, she was devastated to learn of the defeat of the Lancastrians at the battle of Barnet and the death of the Earl of Warwick in the fight.

Edward captured Henry and returned him to the Tower. But Margaret rallied her troops and on May 4, 1471 at the Battle of Tewkesbury, the Lancastrians were defeated and Margaret’s son Edward was killed. She was found a few days later hiding in a religious house with her daughter-in-law and brought to London. She was put on display as she processed through the streets seated in a chariot. On that night, May 21, King Henry VI was murdered in the Tower on the orders of King Edward.

At first she was a prisoner in apartments in Windsor Castle and then in the Tower. Later she was sent to Wallingford Castle in the care of Alice Chaucer, dowager Duchess of Suffolk for four years. In 1475 she became the subject of terms in the Treaty of Picquigny between Edward IV and Louis XI. Louis agreed to a ransom of fifty thousand crowns to King Edward IV. She was forced to renounce all her claims to the throne. She returned to France and was forced to renounce all her rights to her inheritance of both parents’ lands. Louis paid her a pension and she died at the château de Morains at Dampierre-sur-Loire near Saumur on August 25, 1482 and was buried in Angers Cathedral. Upon hearing of her death, Louis XI demanded all of her dogs.


Roman, Saxon and Viking

It was one of the bloodiest and most important battles in British history yet its location remains a source of heated debate. In AD 60 or 61 a British army led by Boudicca was slaughtered by a much smaller a Roman army led by Gaius Suetonius Paulinus. The battle marked the end of resistance to Roman rule in Britain.

The precise location is not known, but most historians place it between London and Wroxeter in Shropshire, on the Roman Road now known as Watling Street. And, Northamptonshire has two possible sites for the battle. One is a small dip at Cuttle Mill, two miles south-east of Towcester, suggested by historian Martin Marix Evans, the other by John Pegg puts it at Church Stowe. Pegg’s theory can be seen at http://www.craftpegg.com/Battle_Church_Stowe_CP.pdf.

Saxon and Viking

Until the tenth century, the land that became Northamptonshire was an undifferentiated part of Mercia.

During the late 580’s it is recorded that Catocus, king of Gwynllg & Penychen and also a leading light of the British Church, was elected abbot of a large body of monks in what is traditionally known as Beneventum (Bannaventa). The king and saint was run through with a spear and killed during a raid, presumably by the Ciltern Saetan or Middil Engle. It is one of the few more accurately datable events in the kingdom. The same source suggests that Catocus had been living amongst Saxons in the area in order ‘to console the native Christians who had survived the massacres of the pagan invaders’.

Over time Watling Street seems to have become the boundary between Saxon and Viking England, and based on the discovery of two mass graves there may have been two large but unrecorded battles at Cuttle Mill and Church Stowe. Tradition has it that another big battle was fought near Chipping Warden at Danesmoor.

It was the Danes that first recognised the importance of Northampton itself, which had probably grown around a Roman Crossroads. The town became an inland port which they fortified by building a Burh which has been estimated to have had ramparts 3,000 ft (910 m) in length. A Danish Army led by earl Thurferth was also based in the town.

In 869, a Great Viking Army marched south and Ubba sacked Peterborough. Only a young boy survives who they keep as a pet.

In 921 The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles notes that “The same summer, betwixt Lammas and midsummer, the army broke their parole from Northampton and from Leicester and went thence northward to Towcester, and fought against the town all day, and thought that they should break into it but the people that were therein defended it, till more aid came to them and the enemy then abandoned the town, and went away.”

By 941 Northampton was ruled by Mercians when it faced an unsuccessful siege by King Olaf of York.

In 975 it is said that Leofsi son of Bixi, ‘an enemy of God,’ dispossessed Peterborough Abbey of Kettering for two years, but by the influence of Aethelwold, Bishop of Winchester, possession was regained.

The Danes came to the town again in 1010, this time commanded by “Thorkell the Tall” and the the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says that “Before the feast-day of St. Andrew came the enemy to Northampton, and soon burned the town, and took as much spoil thereabout as they would and then returned over the Thames into Wessex, and so by Cannings-marsh, burning all the way”

The Morcar Rebellion

When Siward, Earl of Northumbria and the first Earl of Northampton and Huntingdon died in 1055, it started a chain of events that would eventually lead to the Norman Conquest. As his son Waltheof was too young to inherit, the Northumbrian Earldom was given to Tostig Godwinson, brother of Harold (future King Harold). However, as soon as he was of age, Waltheof was created the first Earl of Northampton. In 1065, Morcar son of Ælfgar, earl of the Mercians, rebelled against Tostig. Gathering an army, he marched south, joined by the men of Nottingham, Derby, and Lincoln, members of the old Danish confederacy of towns, and met Edwin, Earl of Mercia, who was at the head of a force of Mercians and Welshmen stopping at Northampton. Harold, by this time the leading noble in the country was sent to negotiate. Hearing their demands, Harold returned south. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle tells what happened next: “But the Northern men did much harm about Northampton, whilst he went on their errand: either that they slew men, and burned houses and corn or took all the cattle that they could come at which amounted to many thousands. Many hundred men also they took, and led northward with them so that not only that shire, but others near it were the worse for many winters.” The Northamptonshire Geld Roll (c.1070) records 900 hides, about a third of the county, as waste. As a result, Tostig was deposed in favour of Morcar. Tostig then left England for Norway and the rest as they say is history.


King Henry VI Captured Again The Battle of Northampton

Today on July 10, 1460, Edward of March and the Kingmaker quickly defeated the Lancastrian army at the Battle of Northampton.

The Battle of Northampton took place near the River Nene in Northamptonshire. It was a major battle during England’s tumultuous period known as the Wars of the Roses a conflict that began after Richard of York attacked King Henry VI’s army at St Albans. With the support of the Earl of Warwick (nicknamed the ‘Kingmaker’), Richard took the king back to London. He essentially held King Henry as a prisoner, forcing him to do his bidding. By mid-1459, Henry’s wife Queen Margaret of Anjou had decided enough was enough. She recalled Warwick from serving as the Captain of Calais to explain his recent unauthorized raids of Spanish merchant ships. But he wisely refused to meet with the king’s council for fear of being arrested.

Hostilities quickly erupted once again. In September 1459, the Yorkist army won a significant victory at the Battle of Blore Heath. However, they suffered a setback only a few months later at Ludford Bridge. In the following year, Richard of York and his son returned from Dublin and began mustering an army. On July 2, Warwick entered London unopposed with thousands of supporters. King Henry and Queen Margaret took up a defensive position in Northampton with 5,000 men-at-arms and some field artillery. The Battle of Northampton was historically significant as cannons were used for the first-time on English soil.

The Yorkist army was under the command of Richard’s son Edward and the Kingmaker. Prior to reaching Northampton, Edward made a secret deal with Lord Grey of Ruthin. Grey’s soldiers were to lay down their swords if Edward supported one of his land disputes. As Warwick led the Yorkist army towards the Lancastrian left flank, they were greeted with a hail of arrows. Heavy rain made it difficult for his soldiers to see but also rendered the cannons useless. As promised, Grey’s men simply watched as the Yorkist army charged through the defenses. Edward and Warwick entered the king’s tent together and respectively brought him back to London. Less than six months later, Richard of York was killed by Queen Margaret's army at the Battle of Wakefield.


This was the first battle in the War of the Roses and took place on 22 May 1455. Richard of York led a 3,000 man army to London but was intercepted by Henry VI&rsquos Lancastrian army at St Albans. It was led by the Duke of Buckingham but included the King and was comprised of around 2,000 men. Defensive barricades were set up by locals along with the king&rsquos soldiers and both sides attempted to negotiate. Once the talks broke down, the Yorkists attacked and the result was brutal fighting in the narrow streets of the town.

The Yorkist army suffered heavy casualties and the Lancastrians made a major breakthrough when they managed to sneak into the town&rsquos market square. The Earl of Warwick (The Kingmaker) was an ally of York at that time and he took a small group of men through a series of alleys and into the town. Once there, Warwick ordered an attack on the main reserve Lancastrian army that was still waiting within St Albans.

By now, the Lancastrian army knew the game was up and they elected to flee the town instead of trying to turn the tide. The remaining Lancastrian men were slaughtered by Warwick&rsquos longbowmen and Buckingham and several other important nobles were killed. King Henry VI was wounded in the battle but he managed to escape.

York now became the Lord Protector of England and was effectively the nation&rsquos ruler after St Albans. It was just the beginning of a long and arduous battle for the throne. There were a number of clashes between the two sides over the next five years including battles at Ludford Bridge and Blore Heath but the next major events occurred in 1460 where there were two crucial battles.


Battle of Northampton

10th July 1460, Henry VI forces took up a defensive position at Northampton. They were in the grounds of Delapre Abbey, with their backs to the River Nene. A water-filled ditch in front of them topped with stakes. The defending army was around 5,000 strong, consisting mainly of men-at-arms. The Lancastrians also had some field artillery.

At two o’clock the Yorkists advanced, as they closed to the Lancastrians. The Earl of Warwick had become met by a fierce hail of arrows. The result of the arrows were that they had rendered the Lancastrian cannons useless.

“Yorkist Gunnes” – Battle of Northampton 1460, by Matthew Ryan

Earl of Warwick reached the Lancastrian left flank, commanded by Edmund Grey, 4th Baron Ruthin. Lord Grey had his men lay down their weapons and let the Yorkists have easy access into the camp beyond. This treachery was the result of a secret message from Lord Grey to the Earl of March.

The Earl of Warwick had ordered his men not to attack those wearing the black ragged staff of Lord Grey’s men. After this, the battle lasted a mere thirty minutes. The defenders were unable to manoeuvre inside the fortifications. They fled the field as their line had become broken by the attacking Yorkists.

Death of the Earl of Shrewsbury at the Battle of Northampton in 1460

Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham, John Talbot, 2nd Earl of Shrewsbury, Thomas Percy, 1st Baron Egremont and John Beaumont – 1st Viscount Beaumont were all killed. They had been trying to save the Henry IV from the Yorkists closing on his tent. Three hundred other Lancastrians became slain in the battle.


This week 555 years ago one of the significant Wars of the Roses contests, the battle of Northampton, took place. Dr Simon Payling, Senior Fellow of the Commons 1422-1504 section, reveals a dark love story behind the battle…

On 10 July 1460 there was a brief but decisive battle just outside Northampton. A Yorkist army, commanded by Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, defeated a smaller Lancastrian one. Henry VI fell into Yorkist hands, and although fatalities were light they included the principal Lancastrian commanders, most notably Humphrey Stafford, duke of Buckingham. The battle marked a remarkable recovery in Yorkist fortunes. In the previous October, having failed in humiliating fashion to give battle when faced with a superior Lancastrian army near Ludlow, the Yorkist lords had fled into exile in Ireland and Calais. An Act passed in the Parliament of November 1459 confiscated their estates and briefly all seemed lost. On 26 June 1460, however, the earl of Warwick and the duke of York’s son, the earl of March, landed at Sandwich from Calais. They quickly gathered support as they marched through Kent, peacefully entered London and then travelled north to confront a Lancastrian army that had moved from its stronghold of Coventry to Northampton. Their victory set the course that, after various vicissitudes, was to lead to Henry VI’s deposition and the accession of the earl of March as Edward IV in the following March.

Two contemporary chroniclers preserve a story that gives the battle an interest beyond its place in the narrative of national history. One of those who fell on the Lancastrian side was Sir William Lucy, an elderly knight of long military experience in France who had represented Buckinghamshire in the Parliament of November 1449. The apparent circumstances of his death were so remarkable as to attract the notice of the chroniclers. The London chronicle identified with William Gregory, mayor of London in 1451-2, provides the best account:

And that goode knyght Syr Wylliam Lucy that dwellyd be-syde Northehampton hyrde the goone schotte, and come unto the fylde to have holpen the kynge, but the fylde was done or that he come an one of the Staffordys was ware of hys comynge, and lovyd that knyght ys wyffe and hatyd hym, and a-non causyd hys dethe.

There are some curiosities in this account of Lucy’s death. Why, for example, was he, a prominent Lancastrian, not in the King’s army at the outset of the battle, coming there only when he ‘hyrde the goone schotte’ and arriving only after the conflict was over? The story of the Gregory chronicler is probably not to be taken literally, but is rather intended to emphasise the element of treachery in the knight’s death. That death occurred after the battle was over and it was provoked not by the differing political allegiances of killer and killed (although they were on different sides) but by a base personal motive on the part of the former.

Other evidence indirectly implicates Lucy’s wife Margaret in the murder. Another chronicle account specifically identifies the killer as John Stafford, who, very soon after the battle, took Lucy’s widow as his wife. Thus one likely explanation for these events is that Lucy’s wife, who was some 40 years his junior, had begun a liaison with Stafford and that Stafford had then taken advantage of the chaos of battle to remove her troublesome husband.

Stafford’s interest in Margaret may have been as much financial as emotional. On his marriage to Margaret, his third wife, in 1457, Sir William had settled upon her a life interest in a valuable part of his extensive estates. As Stafford had few lands of his own, her hand promised him the acres he lacked. For Margaret the advantages of the match are less obvious, and, in any event, their marriage was to be very brief. A marriage that began with death in battle quickly ended in the same way. Stafford enjoyed a brief period of prominence due to Margaret’s lands, sitting as MP for Worcestershire in the Yorkist Parliament of October 1460 before being killed in the Yorkist ranks at the battle of Towton in the following March.

Margaret’s own subsequent history was also short. Having lost two husbands in the space of eight months, she found herself under pressure to marry again and took as her third, Thomas Wake of Blisworth (Northamptonshire), a servant of the earl of Warwick. She has also been tentatively and probably mistakenly identified as one of Edward IV’s mistresses.

Her eventful life ended on 4 August 1466 at the age of only about 28, and the probability is that she died of complications arising from childbirth. A son, John, had been born to her and Wake only three months before she died. A brass to her memory survives in the church of Ingrave in Essex. She may also have a unique claim to fame as the wife of two MPs, the second of whom was responsible for the death of the first.


Watch the video: Battle of Northampton 1460, Wars of the Roses, Episode 4 (January 2023).

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