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before the battle
August: Henry VI became king at nine months old. Factions grew up in the court. When Henry reached his majority the situation grew worse as he was weak, easily manipulated and unable to manage his government or control the factions within it. In time, those who felt excluded from government became known as the Yorkists (after the leading figure, the Duke of York) and their opponents the Lancastrians (after Henry’s royal line). Other leading Yorkists included the Earl of Salisbury, his son the Earl of Warwick (later known as the Kingmaker) and York’s eldest son Edward Earl of March (who became Edward IV).
April: Henry VI married Margaret of Anjou.
May: Revolt in Kent over how the government was run.
March: Act of Regency passed which made Duke of York Protector of the Realm while the king was unwell. December: Henry recovered from his mental breakdown, but the political situation continued to deteriorate.
May: The Wars of the Roses began with the First Battle of St Albans, a relatively small-scale but important battle won by the Yorkists. July. The Duke of York became Protector of the Realm for the second time. October. Henry VI suffered another period of mental illness.
February: Henry recovered from his mental breakdown and the Duke of York was no longer Protector of the Realm.
September: The Battle of Blore Heath (Shropshire) saw victory for Yorkist forces under the Earl of Salisbury. October: Less than an month later fortunes were reversed at the Battle of Ludford Bridge (near Ludlow in Shropshire). The Duke of York, Earl of Warwick and Edward, Earl of March fled into exile.
July: The Yorkists returned from exile and won the Battle of Northampton, where they captured the king. October: The Duke of York claimed that he should be king instead of Henry VI – both were descended from Edward III, but York through an elder son. A compromise was reached with the Act of Accord which made York and his heirs successors to Henry instead of Henry’s son Edward. Henry’s wife, Queen Margaret, was furious. December: The Lancastrians won the Battle of Wakefield. York was killed (Edward, Earl of March was now heir to the throne) and Salisbury was captured and executed.
February: A Yorkist army under Edward Earl of March, won the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross. February: A couple of weeks later a Yorkist army under the Earl of Warwick was defeated at the Second Battle of St Albans, also losing control of Henry VI. March: Margaret wanted to march on London, but the city only agreed to open its gates if she could ensure that her army would not live up to its reputation for plundering. Before she could decide how to act, Edward and Warwick entered London where they were greeted enthusiastically and Edward was proclaimed king March: Yorkists won the Battle of Towton in Yorkshire, after which Margaret and Henry fled to Scotland. It was the largest and bloodiest battle not only of the Wars of the Roses, but possibly ever in England. They fought during a snowstorm. June: Edward crowned King Edward IV.
April: The Yorkists won the Battle of Hedgeley Moor (Northumberland). May: Last of the Lancastrian forces defeated at the Battle of Hexham (Northumberland). Lancastrian-held castles in the north then surrendered or were defeated. September: At a Great Council in Reading, Edward IV announced his marriage to Elizabeth Grey (formerly Woodville). This was incredibly embarrassing for Warwick who had been arranging a diplomatic marriage with Edward with a French princess. Also, the Woodville family were Lancastrian supporters.
July: Henry VI was captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London.
Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was just one of many issues that divided him and Warwick. By 1468 the rift had grown too wide to be resolved.
Spring: Uprisings against the king and the increasing influence of the Woodville family began to break out, secretly encouraged by Warwick. July: At the Battle of Edgecote Moor (Oxfordshire) an army led by Warwick defeated an army led by the Earl of Pembroke in support of the king July: A few days later Warwick captured and imprisoned Edward, but without the backing of parliament, and facing a series of uprisings, was forced to release him.
March: At the Battle of Losecoat Field (near Empingham in the East Midlands), Edward defeated the leader of a rebellion earlier in the year. He confessed that the rebellion had been master-minded by the Earl of Warwick and the Duke of Clarence. They fled into exile in France. July: Warwick allied with his former enemy, Henry’s wife Margaret of Anjou. September: Warwick returned to England and built up an army. Edward marched to meet him, but was undermined by the defection of Warwick’s brother Montagu. This left him too weak for battle and he was forced to flee to Burgundy. October: In London Henry VI was crowned again and Warwick swore allegiance to him.
1471- The Battle of Barnet
March: Edward IV returned from exile, landing in Yorkshire with his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III). He marched south, his army increasing as he went. 4 April: George, Duke of Clarence deserted the Earl of Warwick and joined his brothers Edward VI and Richard, Duke of Gloucester. He brought with him a sizable army. 11 April: Edward entered London unopposed and again took Henry VI into his custody. 12 April: Warwick had been marching south to confront Edward, and reached St Albans. 13 April: Warwick arrived at Barnet, halting on high ground to the north of the town. Edward mobilised the same day and marched north, arriving in Barnet in the evening. 14 April: The Battle of Barnet started at around 5am and took place in thick fog. It lasted for 3 to 4 hours. The Yorkists were victorious. Estimates of the dead vary between 1500 and 4000. One of those killed was the Earl of Warwick. May: Just 3 weeks later Edward faced another Lancastrian army – this time at the Battle of Tewkesbury (Gloucestershire). Henry VI’s son Edward was killed, and the Lancastrian commanders who survived the battle were tried and executed. Margaret of Anjou was captured. May: Henry VI died in the Tower, probably on Edward’s orders. September: The last Lancastrian resistance ended with the surrender of Pembroke Castle and Edward began over a decade of peaceful rule.
aFTER THE BATTLE
April: Edward IV died and his 12 year old son succeeded him as Edward V. According to Edward’s wishes Richard, Duke of Gloucester, became Protector of the Realm. June: Parliament declared that Edward IV had been contracted to marry Eleanor Butler when he married Elizabeth Woodville and that the marriage was therefore invalid and his children all illegitimate, and proclaimed Richard, Duke of Gloucester the rightful King. July: Richard Duke of Gloucester was crowned Richard III. October: Richard III defeated a rebellion aimed at putting Henry Tudor, a distant Lancastrian claimant, on the throne.
August: Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field (Leicestershire). Richard died in the fighting. Henry took the throne. October: Henry Tudor was crowned Henry VII.
January: Henry VII married Edward IV’s daughter, Elizabeth of York. He claimed to be uniting the houses of York and Lancaster.
June: At the Battle of Stoke Field (Nottinghamshire) the remaining Yorkists unsuccessfully tried to put pretender Lambert Simnel (claimed to be Edward, son of the Duke of Clarence) on the throne. Henry VII won and almost all the leading Yorkists were killed at the battle. This is seen at the end of the Wars of the Roses.
A monument to the Battle of Barnet was erected at Hadley Highstone to commemorate the supposed site of Warwick’s death (it was moved a short distance northwards in 1840 to the junction of Hadley Highstone and Kitts End Road).
An archaeological dig found the body of Richard III.
The Barnet Battlefield survey, an archaeological investigation into the site of the Battle of Barnet, began.