Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Don't Forget The Battle of Towton



You may have forgotten, like me, that yesterday was the 555th anniversary of the Battle of Towton, in Yorkshire, England. Something like 28,000 men died on that day, or 1% of the population, making it one of England's bloodiest actions.

Here's a description of the battle, in which Edward, soon to be Edward IV, fought with 48,000 men against Queen Margaret of Anjou's army of 60,000, in a blizzard:

Soon they were being driven into a wetland that swiftly became a deathly pool of blood: their only escape was to scramble uphill from the left flank and attempt to flee. Doing so, however, meant climbing up wet and churned-up turf with the blizzard on their backs. As they tried to run they were mown down by the Yorkist cavalry, who swept over the open ground, cudgelling and lancing their enemies with abandon. Even those who made it past Towton suddenly found themselves trapped once more: before the battle the Lancastrians had broken the wooden bridge further up Cock Beck, and they were now penned in at the far end of the battle-site. As the cavalry closed in on them, men threw off their armour and tried to wade or swim through the brisk water. Weary, wounded or half-frozen, they drowned by the dozen, until eventually the beck was so dammed with corpses that their colleagues could scramble to safety over what became known as the Bridge of Bodies.

The Lancastrian defeat turned into a slaughterous frenzy of killing and mutilation:

With men dying in their thousands, the Lancastrian line dissolved by midafternoon, and the leaders took flight. Behind them, defeat became a devastating rout. On Edward’s orders, no mercy was shown in victory. Skulls later found on the battlefield showed the most horrific injuries: faces split down the bone, heads cut in half, holes punched straight through foreheads. Some men died with more than 20 wounds to their head: the signs of frenzied slaughter by men whipped into a state of barbaric bloodlust. Some victims were mutilated: their noses and ears ripped off, fingers snipped from hands to remove rings and jewellery in the plunder of the dying.

Edward went on to become King of England and Margaret fled to France, returning to England to lead an army against Yorkist forces in 1471, at the battle of Tewkesbury. She was defeated and her son, Edward, was killed. The fierce Queen was imprisoned, her spirit broken, and eventually ransomed by her cousin, Louis XI of France.




Margaret lived the last 7 years of her life in France, dying at the age of 52 in Anjou. She was buried in Angers Cathedral next to her parents and remained there until her tomb was desecrated by revolutionaries who pillaged the cathedral in the French Revolution.

Here endeth the lesson,

LSP

13 comments:

Brighid said...

Interesting history, saddly we never seem to learn from it.

Michael Peterson said...

I never liked winter training, with all the comforts of modern army gear. The idea of soldiering for real in a medieval winter, knowing that if things go badly, they go very very badly .. feck.

LSP said...

Ain't that the truth, Brighid.

LSP said...

Towton was a right massacre, Padre. 28,000 killed, in the blizzard, in 1461...

LL said...

The War of the Roses was particularly brutal. England suffered a few wars of succession/civil wars. Power is a terrible intoxicant, isn't it?

Borepatch said...

I'd never heard this story. Thanks for posting it.

LL said...

Many of the old monarchs have their equals in the modern day. Some modern rulers remind me of the in-bred crowned heads of Europe, some suffering the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome and syphillis...the Obama/Nero connection is too close to be ignored.

LSP said...

It's odd, Borepatch, but the Wars of the Roses aren't too well known. Complex and ferocious.

LSP said...

But LL, wasn't Nero considerably more talented than Obama?

LL said...

Nero was far more talented than Obama. Obama tangoed/golfed. Nero fiddled.

LSP said...

And he was a playwright. What plays has Obama written? He's too busy clowning around on the dance floor and the golf course. And not fighting ISIS.

Gerald said...

Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.

LSP said...

Thanks, Gerald.