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1461: 29 March - Towton

After St. Albans Henry was reunited with his queen, but he refused to let his army advance on London (a costly mistake), and instead the Lancastrians headed North again, plundering as they went. Meanwhile, Warwick acted swiftly and, at the beginning, had Edward proclaimed King in London. Edward fully realized that there could not be two Kings in England and, on about 12 March, he set out for the North. Lord Fauconberg had marched in advance and Warwick had been dispatched to raise troops in the Midlands. Somewhere north of the Trent, Edward assembled his large army of about 40,000 soldiers. A slight Yorkist reverse was suffered at Ferrybridge, where Lord Fitzwalter’s troops were surprised and their commander killed in an attack led by Lord Clifford; but Clifford’s forces were soon caught and Clifford himself killed. The Yorkists then proceeded to the higher ground, where the Lancastrians were drawn up between the villages of Towton and Saxton.

The battle fought on this windswept plateau lasted for nearly the whole day. Rather more than 80,000 men took part, and this time the snowstorm that set in favoured the Yorkists. The advantage seemed to go first to one side then to the other in this fiercely contested battle. About midday the Duke of Norfolk’s troops arrived on the field and took position on the Yorkist right flank. With his numbers thus increased, Edward was at last able to turn the Lancastrian left and gradually - still fighting desperately - they began to fall back, closely pressed by the Yorkists. Eventually discipline snapped and in the mad rush to cross the Cock Beck and gain the London road, thousands of Lancastrians perished. The exact numbers of those who died on the field of battle, or in the marshy fields of the beck, are not known; but there has been no greater slaughter in any battle fought on British soil.