Medieval Yorkshire (Part 3)

We last left of our history Yorkshire at the start of the Hundred Years War in 1349, after the ruin of the Black Death weakened the position of the English kings. The next few hundred years of history, saw several bloody wars fought in Yorkshire including a few peasant rebellions and the infamous War of The Roses. With one of the two families at the centre of the war, the House of York, clearly aligned with Yorkshire, many decisive battles of the conflict happened in this county.

Year of 1460-1461

This year marked the first battle of the Wars of the Roses to be fought on Yorkshire soil – despite one of the belligerent claimants to the throne being Richard of York. Richard and his forces marched North to fight Henry VI’s army. They ended up meeting at the Battle of Wakefield, near Leeds. This first fight lead to a decisive victory for the Lancastrian forces that backed Henry and Richard was slain along with his son Edmund. Their heads were displayed on the ends of pikes at Mickelgate Bar, the main entrance to the old city of York.

However, the Yorkist forces did not let that end their fight, and Richard’s son Edward VI was proclaimed king. The newly crowned Edward returned North less than a year after his father’s defeat and death. He met the Lancastrian forces in Yorkshire once again, this time at Towton in the North of the county. Fought on Palm Sunday, in a violent blizzard, the Battle of Towton was one of the bloodiest engagements ever fought on British soil. Some 25,000 plus men were said to have died on that day. The result was a crushing victory for the Yorkists, leading to the exile of Henry VI for a full nine years afterwards.

What Followed

After the death of Edward VI in 1483, his brother Richard III took the throne. His life was later immortalised in the famous Shakespeare play of the same name and he remains one of the most well-known British monarchs of the Medieval period – despite only reigning for two and a half years.

Richard was very popular in the north. He spent a lot of time in Yorkshire, holding office for several years from Middleham Castle near Wensleydale. So when he lost to a Lancastrian relative by the name of Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth and Henry became king, the people of Yorkshire were not pleased.

Especially so when Henry VII tried to claim extra taxes to finance his continuing campaigns in France. An unpopular king, claiming taxes for an unpopular war, from people he had only visited twice in five years. This was never going to end well with the proud people of Yorkshire, and in 1489 they revolted. However, the revolt was short-lived and their leader John à Chambre was hanged for treason in the same year.