Second Battle of St Albans

While Edward, Earl of March was battling forces at Mortimer’s Cross, his ally Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick was travelling north from London to intercept the main Lancastrian army, preventing them from getting to London. When leaving London, he took the imprisoned King Henry VI with him.

Warwick set his defences up just north of St Albans on Watling Street. Warwick himself, lead the main division, John Neville, Lord Montagu led the left and John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk on the right.

The Lancastrian leaders, Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset; Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland; and John, Lord Clifford, having learnt of Warwick’s defensive measures from the treacherous Henry Lovelace changed direction, and captured the town of Dunstable.

Using the cover of darkness, the Lancastrians advanced on St Albans, arriving early on the morning of 17 February 1461.

Initially the Lancastrian army were driven back by Yorkist archers, but without support, after several hours the archers were overcome.

The Lancastrian army led by Somerset turned north to confront Montagu’s army at Bernard’s Heath. The damp and snowy conditions caused many of the Yorkist cannons not to fire, and with the snow blowing directly into their faces the Yorkist army were fighting at a disadvantage.

Messages were sent to Warwick to supply support to Montagu, but he was unwilling to leave his position, fearing treachery. He finally agreed and led his army in support of Montagu, but he was too late, Montagu’s division were beaten and fleeing for their lives.

The Lancastrians continued to attack the main and left Yorkist forces led by Warwick and Norfolk, but Warwick realising that he was outnumbered, withdrew his remaining army and marched them to Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire.

The Second Battle of St Albans had resulted in a Lancastrian victory. Margaret of Anjou could now lead her army unopposed to London, however London barred entry to her and she was forced to withdraw and march her army north to Yorkshire.

After the battle was over, King Henry VI was found sitting under a tree. He was later reunited with his wife Margaret of Anjou.

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