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Battle of Tewkesbury

The Battle of Tewkesbury[?] in Gloucestershire, which took place on May 4, 1471, completed one phase of the Wars of the Roses, and temporarily put an end to Lancastrian hopes of regaining the throne of England. There would be fourteen years of peace before another political coup finally settled the dispute between the two dynasties in the form of Henry Tudor.

At the time of Tewkesbury, the Lancastrian king, the mentally unstable Henry VI of England, had just been deposed for a second time by his rival, the super-warrior Edward IV of England. This change in circumstances had come about because of the interference of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, "the Kingmaker", who had at first supported Edward, then Henry. Warwick was now dead (killed at the Battle of Barnet three weeks earlier) and the remaining Lancastrian forces were led by Henry's queen, Margaret of Anjou, and her seventeen-year-old son, Edward, Prince of Wales. Had Margaret, arriving back in England to the shocking news of Warwick's final defeat, been able to team up with her ally, Jasper Tudor, (uncle of Henry Tudor), she might have stood a chance against the Yorkist forces of King Edward. Her only hope was to cross the river Severn at Gloucester, and this she failed to do.

Margaret relied heavily on the Duke of Somerset, her remaining experienced commander, but his skills were no match for those of the king. The Yorkists were superior in artillery, and Somerset misjudged his battle position just enough to allow the king's young brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later King Richard III of England]), to attack their flank. Panic set in among the retreating Lancastrians, and Somerset is alleged to have killed one of his own commanders, Lord Wenlock, as punishment for his fatal lack of initiative. In a field known as the "Bloody Meadow", perhaps as many as half Somerset's forces were slaughtered. Some fled to the nearby Tewkesbury Abbey, where their enemies are said to have pursued them. One of the casualties was Edward, Prince of Wales, though whether he died during or after the battle is uncertain. He remains the only Prince of Wales to have died in battle. All his commanders, including Somerset, were summarily executed shortly afterwards, leaving Queen Margaret and her daughter-in-law, Anne Neville, as the king's most prestigious prisoners. King Henry VI, already imprisoned in the Tower of London, was murdered there a few days later.

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