The Battle of Tewkesbury took place on the morning of Saturday 4 May 1471. Edward VI’s army had marched approximately thirty-six miles in the blistering heat before they arrived at the battle site. The army then camped, getting what rest they could before the battle the following day. Edward IV set up his army in the traditional three lines with the vanguard commanded by his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester. It is not recorded under what commander William Brandon fought. It has been suggested that the Wingfields were associated with Richard, Duke of Gloucester and therefore fought in the vanguard. William Brandon was a close associate of the Wingfields, so it is possible that he too fought in the vanguard. If so, then Brandon would have been in the very thick of the battle.

The Lancastrian army was arranged with the Duke of Somerset and Sir Edmund Beaufort leading the right flank, Lord Wenlock holding the middle and the Earl of Devon leading the left.  Edward had ordered two hundred horsemen to stay back close to a nearby wood so they could keep watch and ensure the Yorkist army could not be outflanked.

First, the gunners fired and then the archers and, while the Yorkist arrows reached their mark, the Lancastrian archers fell short. Somerset knew he had to attack. He secretly manoeuvred his men through bracken and wooded terrain, so they were coming down a slope to attack the flank of the Yorkist army. Edward IV’s men turned and attacked. Richard of Gloucester turned his men to help his brother. The combined strength of Edward and Richard’s men helped to push the Lancastrians back. The two hundred men that Edward IV had set aside to watch the wood attacked and these combined forces hit the Lancastrians hard and men began to retreat and scatter. Many Lancastrian soldiers were slaughtered, and the field into which they had fled became known as Bloody Meadow.

After this Edward IV turned his attention to the second Lancastrian battle formation commanded by Lord Wenlock. When Somerset attacked, and Edward IV and Richard’s men counterattacked, it is unclear why Lord Wenlock, who was leading the centre forces of the Lancastrian army, did not immediately attack but paused at this critical juncture so that the Lancastrian forces lost momentum. The Yorkist army drove forward, and the Lancastrian forces were resoundingly defeated. During this final phase of the battle Prince Edward, Henry VI’s son and heir was killed. With Prince Edward’s death, the Lancastrian cause was lost.

Bloody Meadow (Photo by me).

Sources:

Bruce, John, Historie of the arrivall of Edward IV in England and the final recouerye of his kingdomes from Henry VI A.D. M.CCCC.LXXI (United Kingdom: J. B. Nichols and son, 1836).

Clarke, David, Barnet 1471: Death of a Kingmaker (Great Britain: Pen and Sword Books, 2007).

Shaw, William Arthur, The Knights of England. A complete record from the earliest time to the present day of the knights of all the orders of chivalry in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and of knights bachelors, incorporating a complete list of knights bachelors dubbed in Ireland, London (London: Sherratt and Hughes, 1906).

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