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CHAPTER X TOWTON FIELD
The dispersion of the Yorkist army seems to have been so complete that Warwick could not gather together more than four or five thousand of the thirty thousand men who had stood in line at St. Albans. With this small force he considered himself unable to protect London, and he therefore retreated not southward but westward, intending to fall back on his own Midland estates, to raise fresh troops, and join the Earl of March in the west. He only sent to London to order that his young cousins George and Richard of York—now boys of eleven and nine respectively—should be sent over-sea to take refuge in Flanders.

Accordingly Warwick now marched by vile cross-country roads, and in the worst days of a February which was long remembered for its rains and inundations, across Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire to Chipping Norton. Here he met with the Earl of March, whose proceedings during the last month require a word of notice.

Edward was at Gloucester when the news of Wakefield reached him, and saw at once that troops must be raised to help Warwick to defend London. Accordingly[Pg 108] he moved into the Welsh Marches, and hastily called together some ten or eleven thousand men. With these he would have marched east, if it had not been that Mid Wales had risen in behalf of Queen Margaret, and that he himself was beset by forces headed by Jasper Earl of Pembroke, Jasper's father Owen Tudor, the husband of the Queen Dowager, and James Earl of Wiltshire. Before he could move to succour Warwick, he must free himself from these adversaries in his rear. The campaign in the West was short and sharp. The Earl of March met the Welsh at Mortimer's Cross, in north Herefordshire near Wigmore, on February 2nd, and gave them a crushing defeat. Owen Tudor was taken prisoner and beheaded, and his head was set on the highest step of the market-cross at Hereford. "And a mad woman combed his hair and washed away the blood from his face, and got candles, and set them about the head burning, more than a hundred, no one hindering her." The Earls of Pembroke and Wiltshire escaped, and joined Queen Margaret with the wrecks of their army.

The moment that he had crushed the Welsh Lancastrians and settled the affairs of the March, Edward had set out for London, hoping to arrive in time to aid Warwick. He could not achieve the impossible, but he had passed the Severn, crossed the bleak Cotswolds, and reached Chipping Norton by February 22nd. Having left some of his troops behind in Wales, he had not more than eight or nine thousand of his Marchmen with him, under Hastings—destined one day to be the victim of Richard of Gloucester—Sir John Wenlock, and William Herbert the future Earl of Pembroke.

[Pg 109]

The news that reached Warwick and the Earl of March at Chipping Norton was so startling that it caused them to change their whole plan of operations, and to march straight upon London, instead of merely gathering fresh strength to make head in a new campaign in the west Midlands.

The course of events after the fight of St. Albans had been exactly the reverse of what might have been expected from the Queen's fiery temper and the reckless courage of the Northern bands that followed her.

The battle had been fought upon February 17th, the troops of Warwick had retired westward on the 18th, the victorious army was within thirteen miles of London, and there was nothing to prevent the Queen from entering the city next day. It is one of the most curious problems of English history to find that the Lancastrians lay for eight days quiescent, and made no endeavour to replace the King in his capital. Knowing the extraordinary apathy which the citizens displayed all over England during the Wars of the Roses, we may be sure that the Londoners, in spite of their preference for York, would not have ventured to exclude the Northern army when it claimed admittance at their gates.

But on this one occasion Queen Margaret displayed not only her usual want of judgment, but a want of firmness that was foreign to her character. King Henry, asserting for once some influence on politics, and asserting it to his own harm, had determined to spare London and the home counties the horrors of plunder at the hands of the Northern hordes. Not an armed force but a few envoys were sent to London, while the main[Pg 110] body of the troops were held back, and the van pushed no farther than Barnet. Simultaneously the King issued strenuous proclamations against raiding of any kind. This ordinance caused vast murmuring among the Northern Men, observes the Abbot of St. Albans, on whom the King was quartered, but had not the least effect in curbing their propensity to plunder.

The Londoners had quite made up their minds to submit; their only thought was to buy their pardon as cheaply as possible at the King's hands. On the 20th they sent the Duchesses of Bedford and Buckingham—the widows of the great Regent of France and of the Lancastrian Duke slain at Northampton—together with certain aldermen, to plead for grace and peace at the hands of the Queen. The King and Queen were found at Barnet, whither they had moved from St. Albans, and gave not unpropitious answers, although that very morning Margaret had doomed to execution the unfortunate Bonville and Kyrriel. As a proof of their good intentions they undertook to move back their army out of reach of the city; accordingly on Thursday the 25th the Northerners, in a state of deep disgust, were sent back to Dunstable.

The first demand which the Queen had made on London was for a supply of provisions for her army; and on Friday the 26th the Mayor and aldermen gathered a long train of waggons, laden with "all sorts of victuals, and much Lenten stuff," and prepared to despatch it northward. The city, however, was in a great state of disturbance. Public feeling was excited by the plundering of the Lancastrians, and news had arrived that the cause of York was not lost, and that a[Pg 111] Yorkist army was marching to the relief of London. To the horror of the more prudent citizens, a mob, headed by Sir John Wenlock's cook, stopped the carts at Newgate, plundered the provisions, and drove the waggoners away.

Such an act was bound to draw down punishment, and that same afternoon a great body of Lancastrian men-at-arms, under Sir Baldwin Fulford, was pushed up to Westminster to overawe the city. The Londoners had to make up their minds that Friday evening whether they would fight or submit, and many were the heart-searchings of the timid aldermen; but on Saturday morning their grief was turned into joy. News arrived that Warwick and the Earl of March were at hand: Fulford's men abandoned Westminster and fell back northward; and ere the day was out the travel-stained troops of the Yorkist lords were defiling into the city. By nightfall ten thousand men were within the gates, and all thought of surrender was gone.

Thus King Henry's good intentions and Queen Margaret's unexpected irresolution had lost London to the Lancastrians. But their army still lay in a threatening attitude at Dunstable, and it seemed inevitable that the Earl of March would have either to fight a battle or to stand a siege before he was a week older.

But before the fate of England was put to the arbitrament of combat there was one thing to be done. The cruel deaths of York and Salisbury had driven the quarrel between York and Lancaster beyond the possibility of accommodation. In spite of all the personal respect that was felt for King Henry, it was no longer possible that the heir of Duke Richard should be content to pose[Pg 112] merely as the destined successor to the throne. Now that Henry was again in the hands of his wife and the Beauforts, it was certain that the royal name would be used to the utmost against the Yorkists. They must have some cry to set against the appeal to national loyalty which would be made in the name of King Henry.

No doubt Warwick and Edward had settled the whole matter on their ride from Chipping Norton to London, for their action showed every sign of having been long planned out. On the Sunday morning, within twenty-four hours of their arrival in the city, their army was drawn out "in the great field outside Clerkenwell," and while a great multitude of Londoners stood by, George Bishop of Exeter, the orator of the Neville clan, made a solemn statement of Edward's claim to the throne. At once soldiers and citizens joined in the shout, "God save King Edward!" and there was no doubt of the spontaneity of their enthusiasm. The heart of the people was with York, and it only remained necessary to legalise their choice by some form of election.

Save the three Nevilles, Warwick, Fauconbridge, and Bishop George, there seems to have been no peer with Edward at the moment. Warwick felt that it would not look well that his cousin should ostensibly receive his crown from the Nevilles alone, whatever might be the reality of the case. Accordingly the few Yorkist peers within reach were hastily summoned. The Archbishop of Canterbury came in from Kent, where he had been "waiting for better times." The Duke of Norfolk, Lord Fitzwalter, Lord Ferrers of Chartley, and the Bishop of Salisbury appeared ere two days were out. Then these eight peers, spiritual and temporal, with a dozen or so[Pg 113] of knights, and a deputation of London citizens, solemnly met at Baynard's Castle and declared Edward King. There had not been an instance of the election of a monarch by such a scanty body of supporters since the meeting of the Witan that chose Henry the First. The house of Neville and their cousin of Norfolk were practically the sole movers in the business.

Next day, Thursday March 4th, Edward rode in state to Westminster with his scanty following of notables. There before the high altar he declared his title, and sat on his throne, with the sceptre of Edward the Confessor in his hand, beneath a canopy, receiving the homage and fealty of his adherents. Then embarking in a state barge he returned by water to the Tower where he fixed his abode, deserting the York family mansion of Baynard's Castle. Meanwhile the heralds proclaimed him at every street corner as Edward the Fourth, King of France and England, and Lord of Ireland.

Every one had been expecting that the coronation would be interrupted by the news that Queen Margaret's army was thundering at the gates; but no signs of the approach of an enemy appeared, and that same day it was known that the Queen had broken up from Dunstable and marched away northward. Her troops were in a state of incipient disbandment: they had refused to obey the King's proclamation against plunder, and had melted away by thousands, some to harry the Home Counties, some to bear off booty already obtained. The men that still adhered to the standards were so few and so discontented that the Lancastrian lords begged the Queen to retreat. They had heard exaggerated[Pg 114] rumours of the strength of King Edward, and dared not fight him. Accordingly Henry, his wife and son, and his nobles, with their whole following, rode off along the Watling Street, sending before them messengers to raise the whole force of the North, and to bid it meet their retiring army on the borders of Yorkshire.

The festivities of the coronation had not prevented the Yorkist lords from keeping the imminence of their danger close before their eyes. The ceremony had taken place on Thursday afternoon; by early dawn on Friday Mowbray had ridden off eastward to array his followers in Norfolk and Suffolk. On the Saturday Warwick himself marched out by the great North road, with the war-tried troops who had fought under him at St. Albans and accompanied his retreat to Chipping Norton. He moved on cautiously, gathering in the Yorkist knights of the Midlands and his own Warwickshire and Worcestershire retainers, till he had been joined by the whole force of his party. For four or five days after Warwick had set forth, the levies of the Southern Counties continued to pour into London. On the 10th the main body of infantry marched on to unite with the Earl; they were some fifteen thousand strong, Marchmen from the Welsh Border and Kentishmen; for Kent, ever loyal to York, had turned out its archers in full force, under a notable captain named Robert Horne. Finally, King Edward—who had remained behind till the last available moment, cheering the Londoners, bidding for the support of doubtful adherents, getting together money, and signing the manifold documents which had to be drawn up on his accession—started with his personal following,[Pg 115] amid the cheers of the citizens and cries for vengeance on King Henry and his wife.

Warwick had pushed forward cautiously, keeping in his front some light horse under John Ratcliff, who claimed the barony of Fitzwalter. King Edward, on the other hand, came on at full speed, and was able to over-take his vanguard at Leicester. Mowbray, with the troops from the Eastern Counties, was less ready; he was several days behind the King, and, as we shall see, did not come up till the actual eve of battle.

There had been some expectation that the Lancastrians would fight on the line of the Trent, for the Northern lords tarried some days at Nottingham. But as Warwick pushed on he had always found the enemy retreating before him. Their route could be traced by the blazing villages on each side of their path, for the Northern men had gone homewards excited to bitter wrath by the loss of the plunder of London. They had eaten up the whole country-side, swept off the horses, pulled the very houses to pieces in search of hidden goods, stripped every man, woman, and child they met of purse and raiment, even to the beggars who came out to ask them for charity, and slain every man that raised a hand against them. Beyond the Trent, they said, they were in an enemy's country. In the eyes of every Southern man the measure of their iniquities was full.

When Warwick and King Edward learnt that the Queen and the Northern lords had drawn their plundering bands north of the Trent, they had not much difficulty in settling the direction of their march. It was practically certain that the Lancastrians would be found on[Pg 116] one of the positions across the Great North Road which cover the approach to York. Now, as in every age since the Romans built their great line of communication between north and south, it would be on the line between York and Lincoln that the fate of Northern England would be decided. The only doubt was whether the Lancastrians would choose to defend the Don or the Aire or the Wharfe, behind each of which they might take up their position.

On the Friday, March 26th, the Yorkists crossed the Don unmolested, but the news was not long in reaching them that the enemy lay behind the next obstacle, the Aire, now swollen to a formidable torrent by the spring rains, and likely to cause much trouble ere it could be crossed. King Henry with his wife and son lay at York, but all his lords with their retainers lay in the villages about Tadcaster and Cawood midway between the Wharfe and Aire, with their central camp hard by the church of Towton, which was destined to give its name to the coming battle.

To secure the passage of the Aire was now the task that was incumbent on the Yorkists. Accordingly their vanguard under Lord Fitzwalter was sent forward in haste on to Ferrybridge, where the Roman road crosses the stream. Contrary to expectation the place was found unoccupied, and its all-important bridge secured. The line of the Aire was won; but the Friday was not destined to pass without bloodshed. The Northern lords, cursing the carelessness which had lost them their line of defence, determined to fall on the advanced guard of the enemy, and beat it out of Ferrybridge before the main body should come up. Lord[Pg 117] Clifford, who commanded the nearest detachment, rode off at once from Towton, and charged into Ferrybridge while the newly-arrived Yorkists were at their meal. Fitzwalter had kept as careless a watch as his enemies; he was taken unprepared, his men were routed, and he himself slain as he tried to rally them. At nightfall Clifford held the town, and slept there undisturbed.

Next morning, however, the situation was changed. Somerset, or rather the council of the Lancastrian lords, had taken no measures to support Clifford. He was left alone at Ferrybridge with the few thousand men of his original force, while the main army was slowly gathering on Towton hill-side eight miles to the rear. Meanwhile the Yorkist main body was approaching Ferrybridge from the south, and a detached column under Lord Fauconbridge, stoutest of Warwick's many uncles, was trying the dangerous passage at Castleford, three miles away, where there was no one to resist them. Hearing that Fauconbridge was already across, and was moving round to cut him off from his base, Clifford evacuated Ferrybridge and fell back towards his main body. He had already accomplished six of the eight miles of his journey, when near Dintingdale Fauconbridge suddenly came in upon his flank with a very superior force. Clifford had so nearly reached his friends that he was marching in perfect security. The Yorkists scattered his men before they could form up to fight, and killed him ere he had even time to brace on his helmet. The survivors of his detachment were chased in upon the Lancastrian main army, which was so badly served by its scouts that it had neither heard of Fauconbridge's approach nor taken[Pg 118] any measures to bring in Clifford's party in safety. Nay, so inert were the Lancastrian commanders, that they did not, after the skirmish, march out to beat off Fauconbridge, whose friends were still miles away, painfully threading the bridge of Ferrybridge or the ford at Castleford.

All through Saturday the Yorkists were slowly coming up to reinforce their vanguard, but the roads and the weather were so bad that the rear was still on the other side of the Aire when night fell. However, the main body was safely concentrated on a ridge south of Saxton village, and probably thirty-five thousand out of Edward's forty-eight thousand men were in line, though much famished for victuals. The belated rear-guard, which was destined to form the right wing of the army on the morrow, was composed of the troops from the Eastern Counties under Mowbray; with him were Sir John Wenlock and Sir John Dynham, two of Warwick's most trusted friends. They were not expected to come up till some hours after daybreak on Sunday morning. With the Yorkist main body were the King, Warwick, his brother John, his uncle Fauconbridge, Lord Scrope, Lord Berners, Lord Stanley, Sir William Hastings, Sir John Stafford, Sir Walter Blunt, Robert Horne, the leader of the Kentishmen, and many other South-Country knights and squires.

Two miles north of the Yorkist camp at Saxton, the Lancastrians lay in full force on Towton hill-side. They had with them the largest army that was ever put into the field during the whole war. Somerset, Exeter, James Butler the Irish Earl who had endeavoured to rival Warwick's power in Wiltshire, Courtney Earl of[Pg 119] Devon, Moleyns, Hungerford, and Willoughby had brought in the South-Country adherents of Lancaster, those at least of them whom the fields of St. Albans and Northampton had left unharmed and unabashed. Sir Andrew Trollope was there, with the remnant of the trained troops from Calais who had deserted York at Ludford in the previous year. But the bulk of the sixty thousand men who served under the Red Rose were the retainers of the Northern lords. Henry Percy of Northumberland appeared in person with all his following. The Durham vassals of the elder house of Neville were arrayed under John Lord Neville, the younger brother of Ralph of Westmoreland, though the Earl himself was (now as always) not forthcoming in person. Beside the Neville and Percy retainers were the bands of Lords Dacre, Welles, Roos, Beaumont, Mauley, and of the dead Clifford—of all the barons and knights indeed of the North Country save of the younger house of Neville.

The Lancastrian position was very strong. Eight miles north of Ferrybridge the Great North Road is flanked by a long plateau some hundred and fifty feet above the level of the surrounding country, the first rising ground to the west that breaks the plain of York. The high road to Tadcaster creeps along its eastern foot, and then winds round its northern extremity; its western side is skirted by a brook called the Cock, which was then in flood and only passable at a few points beside the bridge where the high road crosses it. The Lancastrians were drawn up across the plateau, their left wing on the high road, their right touching the steep bank of the Cock. One flank was completely[Pg 120] covered by the flooded stream, while the other, the one which lay over the road, could only be turned by the enemy if he went down into the plain and exposed himself to a flank attack while executing his movement. The ground, however, was very cramped for an army of sixty thousand men; it was less than a mile and a half in breadth, and it seems likely that the Lancastrians must, contrary to the usual English custom, have formed several lines, one in rear of the other, in order to crowd their men on to such a narrow space.

The Yorkists at Saxton lay just on the southern declivity of the plateau, within two miles of the Lancastrian line of battle, whose general disposition must have been rendered sufficiently evident by the countless watchfires along the rising ground.

Although they knew themselves to be outnumbered by the enemy, Warwick and King Edward were determined to attack. Each of them had a father to revenge, and they were not disposed to count heads. Before it was dawn, at four o'clock on the morning of that eventful Palm Sunday, the Yorkist army was drawn out. The King rode down the line bidding them remember that they had the just cause, and the men began to climb the gentle ascent of the Towton plateau. The left wing, which was slightly in advance of the main body, was led by Fauconbridge; the great central mass by Warwick in person; the King was in command of the reserve. Of the details of the marshalling we know no more, but the Yorkist line, though only thirty-five thousand strong, was drawn up on a front equal to that which the sixty thousand Lancastrians occupied, and must therefore have been[Pg 121] much thinner. When Norfolk and the missing right wing should appear, it was obvious that they would outflank the enemy on the side of the plain. Warwick's plan, therefore, was evidently to engage the Lancastrians so closely and so occupy their attention that Norfolk should be able to take them in flank without molestation on his arrival.

In the dusk of the March morning, with a strong north wind blowing in their faces, the clumps of Yorkist billmen and archers commenced to mount the hill. No opposition was made to their approach, but when they had advanced for one thousand yards along the summit of the plateau, they dimly descried the Lancastrian host in order of battle, on the farther side of a slight dip in the ground called Towtondale. At the same moment the wind veered round, and a heavy fall of snow commenced to beat in the faces of the Lancastrians. So thick was it that the two armies could only make out each other's position from the simultaneous shout of defiance which ran down each line. Fauconbridge, whose wing lay nearest to the enemy, determined to utilise the accident of the snow in a manner which throws the greatest credit on his presence of mind. He sent forward his archers to the edge of the dip in the plateau, with orders to discharge a few flights of arrows into the Lancastrian columns, and then to retire back again to the line of battle. This they did; the wind bore their arrows into the crowded masses, who with the snow beating into their eyes could not see the enemy that was molesting them, and considerable execution was done. Accordingly the whole Lancastrian line of archers commenced to reply; but as they were shooting against the[Pg 122] wind, and as Fauconbridge's men had withdrawn after delivering their volley, it resulted that the Northeners continued to pour a heavy flight of arrows into the unoccupied ground forty yards in front of the Yorkist position. Their fire was so fast and furious that ere very long their shafts began to run short. When this became noticeable, Fauconbridge led his men forward again to the edge of Towtondale, and recommenced his deadly volleys into the enemy's right wing. The Lancastrians could make little or no reply, their store of missiles being almost used up; their position was growing unbearable, and with a simultaneous impulse the whole mass facing Fauconbridge plunged down into Towtondale, to cross the dip and fall on the enemy at close quarters. The movement spread down the line from west to east, and in a few minutes the two armies were engaged along their whole front. Thus the Lancastrians, though fighting on their own chosen ground, had to become the assailants, and were forced to incur the disadvantage of having the slope against them, as they struggled up the southern side of the declivity of Towtondale.

Of all the battles of the Wars of the Roses, perhaps indeed of all the battles in English history, the fight of Towton was the most desperate and the most bloody. For sheer hard fighting there is nothing that can compare to it; from five in the morning to mid-day the battle never slackened for a moment. No one ever again complained that the Southern men were less tough than the Northern. Time after time the Lancastrians rolled up the southern slope of Towtondale and flung themselves on the Yorkist host; sometimes they were driven[Pg 123] down at once, sometimes they pushed the enemy back for a space, but they could never break the King's line. Each time that an attacking column was repelled, newly-rallied troops took its place, and the push of pike never ceased. We catch one glimpse of Warwick in the midst of the tumult. Waurin tells how "the greatest press of the battle lay on the quarter where the Earl of Warwick stood," and Whethamsted describes him "pressing on like a second Hector, and encouraging his young soldiers;" but there is little to be gathered about the details of the fight.[5] There cannot have been much to learn, for each combatant, lost in the mist and drifting snow, could tell only of what was going on in his own immediate neighbourhood. They have only left us vague pictures of horror, "the dead hindered the living from coming to close quarters, they lay so thick," "there was more red than white visible on the snow," are the significant remarks of the chronicler. King Henry, as he heard his Palm-Sunday mass in York Minster ten miles away—"he was kept off the field because he was better at praying than at fighting," says the Yorkist chronicler—may well have redoubled his prayers, for never was there to be such a slaughter of Englishmen.

At length the object for which Warwick's stubborn billmen had so long maintained their ground against such odds was attained. The column under the Duke of Norfolk, which was to form the Yorkist right wing, began to come up from Ferrybridge. Its route[Pg 124] brought it out on the extreme left flank of the Lancastrians, where the high road skirts the plateau. Too heavily engaged in front to suspect that all the army of York was not yet before them, Somerset and his colleagues had made no provision against a new force appearing beyond their left wing. Thus Norfolk's advancing columns were able to turn the exposed flank, open an enfilading fire upon the enemy's left rear, and, what was still more important, to cut him off from all lines of retreat save that which led across the flooded Cock. The effect of Norfolk's advance was at once manifest; the battle began to roll northward and westward, as the Lancastrians gave back and tried to form a new front against the unsuspected enemy. But the moment that they began to retire the whole Yorkist line followed them. The arrival of Norfolk had been to Warwick's men what the arrival of Blücher was to Wellington's at Waterloo; after having fought all the day on the defensive they had their opportunity at last, and were eager to use it. When the Lancastrians had once begun to retire they found themselves so hotly pushed on that they could never form a new line of battle. Their gross numbers were crushed more and more closely together as the pressure on their left flank became more and more marked, and if any reserves yet remained in hand, there was no way of bringing them to the front. Yet, as all the chroniclers acknowledge, the Northern men gave way to no panic; they turned again and again, and strove to dispute every step between Towtondale and the edge of the plateau. It took three hours more of fighting to roll them off the rising ground; but when once they were driven down[Pg 125] their position became terrible. The Cock when in flood is in many places unfordable; sometimes it spreads out so as to cover the fields for fifty yards on each side of its wonted bed; and the only safe retreat across it was by the single bridge on the Tadcaster road. The sole result of the desperate fighting of the Lancastrians was that this deadly obstacle now lay in their immediate rear. The whole mass was compelled to pass the river as best it could. Some escaped by the bridge; many forded the Cock where its stream ran shallow; many yielded themselves as prisoners—some to get quarter, others not, for the Yorkists were wild with the rage of ten hours' slaughter. But many thousands had a worse fortune; striving to ford the river where it was out of their depth, or trodden down in the shallower parts by their own flying comrades, they died without being touched by the Yorkist steel. Any knight or man-at-arms who lost his footing in the water was doomed, for the cumbrous armour of the later fifteenth century made it quite impossible to rise again. Even the billman and archer in his salet and jack would find it hard to regain his feet. Hence we may well believe the chroniclers when they tell us that the Cock slew its thousands that day, and that the last Lancastrians who crossed its waters crossed them on a bridge composed of the bodies of their comrades.

Even this ghastly scene was not to be the end of the slaughter; the Yorkists urged the pursuit for miles from the field, nearly to the gates of York, still slaying as they went. The hapless King Henry, with his wife and son, were borne out of the town by their flying followers,[Pg 126] who warned them that the enemy was still close behind, and were fain to take the road for Durham and the Border. Only Richard Tunstal, the King's Chamberlain, and five horsemen more guarded them during the flight.

When Warwick and King Edward drew in their men from the pursuit, and bade the heralds count the slain, they must have felt that their fathers were well avenged. Nearly thirty thousand corpses lay on the trampled snow of the plateau, or blocked the muddy course of the Cock, or strewed the road to Tadcaster and York; and of these only eight thousand were Yorkists. The sword had fallen heavily on the Lancastrian leaders. The Earl of Northumberland was carried off by his followers mortally wounded, and died next day. Of the barons, Dacre, Neville, Mauley, and Welles, lay on the field. Thomas Courtney the Earl of Devon was taken alive—a worse fate than that of his fellows, for the headsman's axe awaited him. Of leaders below the baronial rank there were slain Sir Andrew Trollope, the late Lieutenant of Calais, Sir Ralph Grey, Sir Henry Beckingham, and many more whom it would be tedious to name. The slaughter had been as deadly to the Northern knighthood as was Flodden a generation later to the noble houses of Scotland; there was hardly a family that had not to mourn the loss of its head or heir.

The uphill fight which the Yorkists had to wage during the earlier hours of the day had left its mark in their ranks; eight thousand had fallen, one man for every six in the field. But the leaders had come off fortunately; only Sir John Stafford and Robert[Pg 127] Horne, the Kentish captain, had fallen. So long indeed as the fight ran level, the knights in their armour of proof were comparatively safe; it was always the pursuit which proved so fatal to the chiefs of a broken army.


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