I am not the first to make the slightly bad taste joke that the death of Warwick the Kingmaker on the battlefield at Barnet marked the end of the line for him as did for his brother Marquess Montagu on this day 550 years ago in 1471. Not being a great proponent of counter-factuals I will not speculate on what impact the Northern Line ( first opened in 1890 ) might have made in the events of the day had it been in existence in 1471.
Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and Salisbury from the Rous Roll of 1483-4
His shield displays the arms of the Salisbury earldom alone.
A modern depiction of the Earl and his heraldic achievements and badges
April 14 1471 was Easter Sunday and the battle of Barnet took place very early in the morning in mist and fog. One of the recorded effects of this was when some Lancastrian troops mistook the star and streamers standard of the Earl of Oxford, who was on their side, for the Sun in Splendour standard of the Yorkist King Edward IV and attacked it.
There is a detailed online account of the campaign preceding the battle and of the events of the day at Battle of Barnet: Death of a Kingmaker. Wikipedia has a shorter narrative at Battle of Barnet There is another, illustrated, account at Battle of Barnet 1471
The specific site of the fighting is somewhat debatable and there is a piece from The Times from 2015 about using possible archaeological evidence of early handguns, as were used at Towton a decade earlier, to ascertain that. What the investigation revealed does not appear. The original report can be seen at Handguns may reveal Battle of Barnet site.
Of those Lancastrian leaders who survived Barnet the Duke of Exeter appears to have been very lucky. His refuge and recovery, presumably in sanctuary, at Westminster doubtless saved him from King Edward IV’s vengeance, as well, perhaps, as the fact that he was married, if estranged, to the Yorkist King’s sister Anne. After a spell in the Tower of London he accompanied the King on his invasion of France in 1475, and somehow managed to fall overboard and drown on the return journey... The Earl of Oxford was a better survivor: after exile, capture, imprisonment and escape he joined King Henry VII at Bosworth and lived on into the early sixteenth century.
Following his early morning victory King Edward IV was able to attend St Paul’s in London, and later, for the next three days, the corpses of Warwick and Montagu, naked save for loincloths or their braies, were displayed in the cathedral to show that they were indeed dead. This is not the sort of visitor attraction the cathedral offers these days over the Easter weekend. Following that the bodies were interred at the Salisbury family burial place of Bisham Priory in Berkshire. Nothing remains above ground of the Augustinian priory, although the adjacent Montagu manor house, now styled Bisham Abbey, does survive. As the monastic site is unexcavated one may assume that the two brothers and their parents are still there awaiting a King Richard III style rediscovery and examination.
Image: David Nash Ford’s Royal Berkshire History
When he died Warwick the Kingmaker was only 42, yet for over twenty years he had been a major player in the politics of the country and beyond. There is an introduction to his life, including a useful introduction to the historiography about it, at Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick from Wikipedia.
For all his importance in his lifetime apart from the Rous Roll of a few years later the only other contemporary depiction of Warwick is as one of the weepers on the tomb of his father-in-law, Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick (d. 1439) in the church of St Mary Warwick
Warwick and his wife Anne, who died in 1492, from the Beauchamp tomb
The Earl’s appearance is not reassuring. He does not look like someone one would want an argument with, as quite a few found in the 1450s, 1460s and in 1470-71. The fourteen figures of the weepers do look like attempts at portraits. Warwick is dressed in his Parliamentary robes, but swathes them in a mourning cloak and, like others of the male figures, holds what is probably a Book of Hours or Breviary.
The Wikipedia summary of his historiography which I drew attention to assesses that in terms of how contemporary accounts shaped Edward Hall, Ralph Holinshead and William Shakespeare’s views, and how Warwick the Kingmaker was on the wrong side of history for the Whig interpretation of the past. Bulwar Lytton The Ladt of the Barons captures te spirit of that combined with nineteenth century romanticism. The Yorkists seem to continue to attract far more historical novelists to their camp than do the Lancastrians - but that is a matter for another post.
For many the best known biography of the Earl is that by the US based historian Paul Murray Kendall, and published in 1957. This has what might be described as a pro-Yorkist emphasis, and presents Warwick in a positive and dynamic way. I have not yet had occasion or opportunity to read the more recent biographies by the English academic historians Michael Hicks (1998) and A.J.Pollard (2007) These I imagine would revise Kendall’s view significantly - as the Wikipedia account suggests - and I really ought to look at them. I am not sure he was as successful a military man as he is sometimes presented, but lucky on significant occasions. As a politician he made the disastrous mistake of creating, but then underrating King Edward IV, and believed that the Lancastrians would forgive and forget. I doubt if they did, whatever the outward appearances. His tumultuous career ended bloodily that foggy morning at Barnet 550 years ago.
That same Easter Day Queen Margaret and her son the Prince of Wales arrived at Weymouth where they were joined by long-standing Lancastrian forces led by the Duke of Somerset, and who were to have their own appointment in Samarra at Tewkesbury at the beginning of May...