3rd Duke of Somerset, 3rd Duke of York, 3rd Earl of Northumberland, 9th Baron de Clifford, Battle of Saint Albans, Battle of Wakefield, Henry Beaufort, Henry Percy, House of Lancaster, House of York, John Clifford, King Henry VI of England, Margaret of Anjou, Richard Plantagenet, Wars of the Roses
On June 26, the Earl of Warwick and Salisbury landed at Sandwich. The men of Kent rose to join them. London opened its gates to the Nevilles on July 2. They marched north into the Midlands, and on July 10, they defeated the royal army at the Battle of Northampton (through treachery among the king’s troops), and captured King Henry VI whom they brought back to London.
The Duke of York remained in Ireland. He did not set foot in England until September 9 and when he did, he acted as a king. Marching under the arms of his maternal great-great-grandfather Lionel of Antwerp, 1st Duke of Clarence, he displayed a banner of the coat of arms of England as he approached London.
A Parliament was called to meet on October 7, and it repealed all the previous legislation of the Coventry parliament. On October 10, Richard, Duke of York arrived in London and took residence in the royal palace. Entering Parliament with his sword borne upright before him, he made for the empty throne and placed his hand upon it, as if to occupy it.
Richard, Duke of York may have expected the assembled peers to acclaim him as king, as they had acclaimed Henry Bolingbroke in 1399. Instead, there was silence. Thomas Bourchier, the Archbishop of Canterbury, asked whether he wished to see the king. York replied, “I know of no person in this realm the which oweth not to wait on me, rather than I of him.” This high-handed reply did not impress the Lords.
The next day, Richard advanced his claim to the crown by hereditary right in proper form. However, his narrow support among his peers led to failure once again. After weeks of negotiation, the best that could be achieved was the Act of Accord, by which the Duke of York and his heirs were recognised as King Henry VI’s successors.
However, in October 1460 Parliament did grant the Duke of York extraordinary executive powers to protect the realm, and made him Lord Protector of England. He was also given the lands and income of the Prince of Wales, but was not granted the title itself or made Earl of Chester or Duke of Cornwall. With the king effectively in custody, the Duke of York and the Earl of Warwick were the de facto rulers of the country.
Final campaign and death
While this was happening, the Lancastrian loyalists were rallying and arming in the north of England. Faced with the threat of attack from the Percys, and with Margaret of Anjou trying to gain the support of the new King of Scotland, James III, York, Salisbury and York’s second son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, headed north on December 2.
They arrived at York’s stronghold of Sandal Castle on December 21 to find the situation bad and getting worse. Forces loyal to King Henry VI controlled the city of York, and nearby Pontefract Castle was also in hostile hands.
The Lancastrian armies were commanded by some of York’s implacable enemies such as Henry Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset, Henry Percy, 3rd Earl of Northumberland and John Clifford, 9th Baron de Clifford, whose fathers had been killed at the Battle of Saint Albans, and included several northern lords who were jealous of York’s and Salisbury’s wealth and influence in the North.
On December 30, the Duke of York and his forces sortied from Sandal Castle. Their reasons for doing so are not clear; they were variously claimed to be a result of deception by the Lancastrian forces, or treachery by northern lords who York mistakenly believed to be his allies, or simple rashness on York’s part.
The larger Lancastrian force destroyed York’s army in the resulting Battle of Wakefield. Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York was killed in the battle. The precise nature of his end was variously reported; he was either unhorsed, wounded and overcome fighting to the death or captured, given a mocking crown of bulrushes and then beheaded.
Edmund of Rutland was intercepted as he tried to flee and was executed, possibly by Clifford in revenge for the death of his own father at the First Battle of St Albans. Salisbury escaped, but was captured and executed the following night.
The Duke of York was buried at Pontefract, but his severed head was put on a pike by the victorious Lancastrian armies and displayed over Micklegate Bar at York, wearing a paper crown. His remains were later moved to Church of St Mary and All Saints, Fotheringhay.