The War in the North




Edward remains in York for three weeks, taking counsel on how to approach the management of the north now that so many of those once hostile to him are either dead or dispersed. The defeated Lancastrian leaders arrive at the Scottish court to find that the Scots are dealing with the aftermath of the untimely death of James II and the new king is only eight years old. To make matters worse, the Scottish regency council is split on the level of help that should be given to Queen Margaret.

25 April

Margaret is so determined to get Scottish military assistance that she hands over the town of Berwick to them. She intends to do exactly the same with Carlisle, although in this case a combined Scottish/Lancastrian force has to lay siege to the town first.


Edward moves to Newcastle, where he witnesses the execution of the Earl of Wiltshire, one of his father’s chief enemies. He then heads south again, leaving mopping up operations against the few remaining northern Lancastrians in the hands of the Earl of Warwick and his brother John Neville, Marquis of Montague.


Edward hears of the Scots threat to Carlisle and moves his coronation date forward to 28 June, in order that he can come north in person. In the event, Carlisle is saved by an army under John Neville and the king opts to remain in the south. His control of the country is still tenuous in places, and outbreaks of civil disorder flare up all across the southern counties as the summer progresses.


Edward plans a royal progress to reassert his authority and accordingly visits Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire. His original intention of combining this with a campaign against the Welsh Lancastrians is put on hold and in the end command is given to two men enobled in his coronation honours list; Sir Walter Devereux, Lord Ferrers and Lord Herbert. Between September 1461 and May 1462, Lancastrian support in Wales is systematically smashed until only Harlech castle remains in their hands.


Lancastrian support in Scotland ensures that over the next few months, the castles of Dunstanburgh and Naworth are back in Lancastrian hands. At this point, a concerted effort is made to bring pressure of a more diplomatic nature against the Scottish court. English support for the disinherited Earl of Douglas is coupled with pressure on Mary of Guelders (the mother of the young King James III) via her uncle, Duke Phillip of Burgandy.



Margaret of Anjou sails to France to seek further aid from the French king. While she is absent, the Yorkists make every possible effort to recover the initiative in Northumbria, aided by a short Anglo-Scottish truce that is made to last until the end of August.


Margaret obtains money and a limited number of troops from Louis XI of France – although the French price for this is Calais itself. However, the French army must cross Burgundian territory to reach Paris and Duke Philip refuses to give permission. War with Burgundy being the only other option, Louis soon loses interest in Margaret’s scheme. Margaret in the end leaves France with fewer than 1000 troops.


Margaret’s small fleet lands near Bamburgh on the 25th, which surrenders and is given into the keeping of the Duke of Somerset. Hearing of this, Sir Ralph Percy in Dunstanburgh Castle switches sides. The capitulation of Alnwick later in the month completes Lancastrian seizure of the three great border castles, but at this point their luck begins to change.


Edward IV marches north, issuing commissions of array as he goes. Supplies and ordnance are sent by sea to Newcastle and the Earl of Douglas is unleashed to harry the border area. Severely outnumbered, Margaret sets sail for Scotland. Worse is in store for her when a sudden storm wrecks most of her small fleet. She, king Henry and a few survivors barely reach Berwick alive.


As he is laid low with an attack of measles, Edward delegates command to the Earl of Warwick, who successfully co-ordinates simultaneous sieges of all three castles. News that a Scottish relief force has set out induces Edward to offer generous surrender terms to the three garrisons, whilst at the same time preventing news of the relief force from reaching them. Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh make a conditional offer of surrender in late December – an offer which to their surprise is accepted.

Edward’s peace terms of Christmas 1462 involve an unconditional pardon and reinstatement to all lands for the Earl of Somerset. A similar package is on offer to Sir Ralph Percy, who is allowed to take command of both Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh as soon as he has bent the knee to Edward.


The new year sees two of the northern castles change hands yet again and a large Scottish army threatens Norham castle. Fortunately, prompt action by Warwick and his brother John Neville raises the siege and forces a humiliating Scottish retreat. It is obvious to Margaret that she can hope for no further assistance from the Scottish court and she sets sail for France. Later that year Somerset reverts to type and begins to forment pro-Lancastrian unrest in Lancashire and Cheshire.



Lancastrian unrest in Wales is put down.


Somerset, accompanied by two other recently pardoned Lancastrians, Sir Ralph Percy and Sir Humphrey Neville, goes on the offensive in Northumberland. Norham, Langley, Hexham, Bywell and Prudhoe castles are all captured and the rebels are in a position to threaten the main Yorkist supply base at Newcastle. Edward postpones the Anglo-Scottish talks, which had been due to resume at Newcastle in mid-March. Montagu is given command of a small army and sent north to escort the Scottish envoys to the new venue for the talks in York.

15 April

On his way north towards Alnwick, Montagu evades several traps and ambushes set for him by Lancastrian sympathisers. His scouts warn him of a substantial Lancastrian force moving to intercept him.

25 April - The Battle of Hedgeley Moor

Montagu’s army is attacked by the main Lancastrian force under Somerset, Roos, Percy, Grey and Hungerford. Little is known about the fighting except that the Lancastrians are disconcerted by the death in combat of Sir Ralph Percy and begin to give ground. Montagu’s men press their advantage and their opponents flee in disorder.

The surviving Lancastrian leaders hear of a massive royal army mustering at Leicester under the leadership of king Edward. Its mission is nothing less than the final solution of the northern problem. Seeking a morale-boosting victory, the Lancastrians advance south into the Tyne valley with the unhappy figure of Henry VI in tow. The unfortunate king is ensconced at Bywell castle, 12 miles from Montagu’s base at Newcastle.


John Neville’s army takes the initiative and marches along the Tyne from Newcastle in search of Somerset’s forces.

15 May - The Battle of Hexham

John Neville catches Somerset by surprise in a poor position with their backs to the river. In a short while the Lancastrians are shattered, with Somerset, Hungerford and Roos all being subsequently captured and executed. In the three weeks following the battle, some thirty Lancastrian nobles are captured and summarily executed.

27 May

In reward for unstinting service to the crown, John Neville is created Earl of Northumberland.


The new Earl of Northumberland marches north with the royal army and its artillery train.

23 June

Alnwick and Dunstanburgh capitulate without a fight, but Sir Ralph Grey and Sir Humphrey Neville initially refuse to surrender Bamburgh, despite the threat of bombardment.

27 June

Two days of bombardment leave Grey badly wounded, the walls of Bamburgh crumbling and Neville suing for terms. Neville is pardoned but Grey brought to Doncaster and executed before the king. The war in the north is over.

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