559 years ago, momentous and history-changing events were taking place here in Yorkshire. Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, (pictured) had recently failed in his attempt to depose his ineffectual cousin, King Henry VI, but succeeded (via the Act of Accord) in being named Henry’s heir-apparent and Lieutenant of England. In response, Lancastrian loyalists, spearheaded by Henry’s furious Queen, Margaret of Anjou, began mustering a large army at Pontefract, and harassing the Duke’s estates around Conisbrough, Wakefield and Thornhill – the opening phase of a cunning strategy to crush the rival House of York once and for all.
It had the desired effect of drawing Richard, his second son Edmund, Earl of Rutland, and his brother-in-law Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, up from London to deal with the threat. So on this day in December 1460, the Yorkist army would have been marching up the Great North Road, recruiting as it went. Unbeknown to the Duke, he was heading for a collision with the Duke of Somerset’s and Earl of Wiltshire’s troops, en route from Corfe Castle in Dorset to join the Lancastrian army. The troops clashed near Worksop around December 21st then completed their journeys to Pontefract and Sandal Castle, where they spent what must have been a tense Christmas, resting and preparing to meet in battle. However, the Lancastrian commanders knew something that Richard of York did not, making them confident of victory when their forces met at Wakefield on Tuesday 30th December 1460...
If you’d like to know more about what took place on that fateful day, you can find details in my book, which will be on sale at Sandal Castle during the Battle of Wakefield commemoration event on Sunday 29th December from 12 noon – 3 pm; I’ll also be leading a guided tour of the Castle from 1 pm – 1.45 pm.
Or if you’re feeling more energetic, you can follow a special parade from Wakefield Cathedral, with the Bishop of Wakefield leading costumed re-enactors from the Frei Compagnie and Harrington Household. The timetable for the march is as follows:
11.45 Re-enactors muster at Wakefield Cathedral
11.55 Depart Wakefield Cathedral
12.15 Arrive at Chantry Chapel and lay a posy of white roses for Edmund, Earl of Rutland
12.45 Depart Chantry
13.15 Arrive at the Duke of York’s monument on Manygates Lane and lay a wreath of white roses for Richard, Duke of York
13.45 Arrive at Sandal Castle
14.00 Lay a wreath of red and white roses for the slain of both armies, followed by memorial service by the Bishop of Wakefield
15.00 Event ends
Keep your fingers crossed for a fine day and I’ll look forward to seeing you there – in the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas!