Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday 15 May 2024

The Battle of Hexham 1464

Today is the 560th anniversary of the Battle of Hexham in 1464. Although not one of the principal battles of those years, and one of which little is known with certainty it did nonetheless mark a stage in the conflict and the effective end of organised Lancastrian resistance to Yorkist rule in Northumberland. What remained was cleared away in the following weeks and the leadership executed. For the next four years only Harlech Castle in North Wales remained defiantly Lancastrian. 

A decade ago I wrote a piece about the battle for this blog which can stil be seen at The Battle of Hexham

Apart from a few tiresome typos and the fact that most of the links no longer work I think it still worth looking at to introduce the battle and to assess its consequences.
To replace the lapsed links the Wikipedia lives of the two commanders are worth looking at. The one of the Yorkist  John Neville, 1st Marquess of Montagu is lengthy and detailed, that of Henry Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset less satisfying as Somerset’s relatively short career deserves retelling his role as politician, military commander, diplomat, jouster and active partisan in more detail. It makes makes him a character worthy of fiction - much as most historical fiction should be avoided. It is through his one illegitimate son that the Beaufort bloodline survived in the male line, and was to be one of the sources for identifying King Richard III. The Dukes of Beaufort are all descended from him, and he their male line link to the tenth century Counts of Anjou. 

Somerset and Montagu were related - Montagu’s grandmother was Somerset’s great aunt - and Montagu’s brother Warwick the Kingmaker was married to Somerset’s mother’s younger half-sister. That relationship and the disputed Warwick inheritance helped align tha two families on different sides as conflict developed.

Most accounts of these localised but fascinating canpaigns usually conclude with the reflection that life was now peaceful under King Edward IV but with Lancastrian plots being detected by late 1468. It was not until until Warwick and Montagu finally broke with him in 1469 that the weakness of his rule was exposed. However the seeds of that were certainly sown by May 1464 with the Nevilles feeling unrewarded for their efforts against the remaining Lancastrians, and, most damaging, the marriage on May 1 1464 of the Yorkist King to Lady Grey, Elizabeth Woodville. By so doing so, secretly and possibly bigamously, as he journeyed north to witness the end, as he doubtless expected, of the Lancastrians, King Edward had unconsciously set in motion the forces that were to destroy his own dynasty.

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