Today, in 1471, one of the major figures from the Wars of the Roses, died, on the field of battle.
He died on the opposite side than he had started the war, many years earlier.
Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, also known to history as the ‘Kingmaker’, had switched to the Lancastrian side around a year earlier, following a number of disagreements with the Yorkist King Edward IV (whom he is credited with putting on the throne, gaining him the Kingmaker moniker).
He had attempted, unsuccessfully, to place his daughter on the throne by marrying her to the Yorkist heir, George of Clarence. When this had failed, he saw a better chance of power on the Lancastrian side, in charge, he thought, of the insane King Henry VI.
He may have ended his life as a traitor, but his successes as a warrior stand tall to show his bravery and leadership ability.
In the early years of the Wars, working to place his brother in law, the Duke of York, on the throne instead of the mad Lancastrian King, Warwick was at the head of most of the charges and was the most feared of the warriors of the day. York trusted his heir, Edward to Warwick, which was to prove a good move when York and his son were caught out at Pontefract and slaughtered by Queen Margaret and her armies.
Warwick led the new Yorksit claimant to war in retaliation and won, leading him to London to claim his crown.
The first disagreement would come over Edward’s choice of wife. Warwick favoured a rich foreign match, but Edward had already pledged his troth in secret, to an English widow (possibly more than one, depending what evidence you believe).
The relationship between the relatives (Warwick’s sister Cecily was married to the Duke of York, hence was mother to King Edward, this made Warwick his uncle) deteriorated rapidly, Warwick not being given the power at court that he thought he deserved.
Soon Warwick would return to the battlefield, this time in opposition to the Yorkist King. He won a few small battles but lost overall and was forced to flee the country.
He returned to the country in 1470, after making an agreement with the Lancastrian Queen Margaret, taking Edward by surprise and forcing the King to flee instead. Replacing the insane King Henry on the throne, Warwick had power over him briefly until the return of his domineering Queen.
She would land on the morning of the Barnet battle, but her armies headed towards Wales looking for recruits under the Tudor banner there. The end to her hopes would come soon after, at the battle of Tewkesbury, where her only son and the Lancastrian heir was killed and she was taken prisoner.
In history, Warwick is seen as a somewhat controversial figure, but then, aren’t most strong historical characters?? He was a man of his time, fighting to get the best for himself and his family. Maybe he made dodgy decisions along the way, but we all do that to some extent. His decisions were just more prominent than most people’s were and affected far more people!