The Battle of Wakefield Revisited: A Fresh Perspective on Richard of York’s Final Battle, December 1460
By Helen Cox
YPD Books, 2010
On 30th December 1460, a battle took place which changed the course of English history. Richard, Duke of York, had recently been named heir-apparent to King Henry VI by the Act of Accord. But Henry’s wife, Queen Margaret of Anjou, refused to accept the Act and mustered a mighty army to oppose the Duke and restore the succession to her son Edward, the Lancastrian Prince of Wales. Their forces clashed near the city of Wakefield, where the Duke was killed along with his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland and many of their supporters – and the reason why York led them out from the safety of Sandal Castle to face certain defeat by a much larger army has puzzled historians ever since.
Some people believe that the Duke was reckless and stupid, an ageing commander past his prime who made a bad decision – or that he charged out in blind fury because the enemy had sent heralds to insult him. Others think he made a heroic but futile attempt to rescue some of his foragers who were under attack; or that he didn’t realise how big the Lancastrian army was, because many of their troops were cunningly hidden in nearby woodland, waiting to charge out and ambush him.
But I’ve never been convinced by these theories, which aren’t well supported by contemporary reports of the battle. So in The Battle of Wakefield Revisited I’ve tried to pull together and re-examine all the surviving historical and archaeological evidence relating to the encounter – and I think I’ve come up with a far simpler and more plausible explanation of why the Duke of York rode out to face his enemies that day…
Our Video Review of the Book
Herstory Writing and Interpretation – website of the author, Helen Cox
Review from HistoryTimes.com – The Battle of Wakefield Revisited is the fullest and most significant work on the battle to date. It is based on a meticulous study of the available evidence (including archaeological evidence), supplemented by useful local knowledge. This is a thoughtful and engaging book that will appeal to a wide range of readers, including military enthusiasts, local historians and all those interested in the Wars of the Roses.
Want more medieval? Take a look at our digital magazine – The Medievalverse – Click here to see our latest issues