The Battle of Edgecote Moor is not one that immediately springs to mind when you consider the great battles of British history. Yet this bloody and brutal skirmish that took place on 26 July 1469 was significant because it saw the deaths of more Welsh soldiers than any other battle of the 15th century.

The Wars of the Roses had been raging for some time when the forces of the 16th Earl of Warwick – Warwick the Kingmaker as he was known – clashed with those of his cousin, Edward IV, at a crossing of a tributary to the River Cherwell some six miles north of Banbury.

Warwick and Edward had been comrades in arms and, after the Battle of Towton, Warwick was allowed to become effectively the ruler of the country. Then the two men fell out for a whole variety of reasons. Edward, by nature indolent and lazy, had a sudden burst of energy and began to claw back some of the control he had allowed Warwick to hold.

When Warwick's scheming to set up a royal marriage between Edward and the French princess foundered in the face of Edward's secret betrothal to Elizabeth Woodville, Warwick was incensed. After many uneasy months, he decided he had had enough. He rebelled and gathered together an army to join an existing rebellion in the north.

At this time Edward was in Nottingham waiting for the Earls of Pembroke and Devon who were coming with reinforcements, many of them Welsh archers and foot soldiers. These were men who owed allegiance to or were employed by the two Earls.

The plan was for Edward to wait until Pembroke and Devon joined him, then march out and defeat the northern rebels, led by one Robin of Redesdale. He did not know that, as well as Pembroke and Devon, Redesdale and the Earl of Warwick were also heading quickly towards him.

The advance guards of the two armies met at Edgecote Moor on the morning of 26 July. For several hours the two sides battled it out until the arrival of Warwick's trained soldiers swung the skirmish his way. The forces of the two Earls broke and ran, hundreds of them being cut down as they fled.

It is estimated that somewhere between 2,500 and 5,000 Welsh soldiers were killed that day in a few hours of bloody combat. Most of them were archers, men whose value was immense as long as the enemy was at a distance. In a close fought, hand-to-hand encounter they would have been no use against trained and well-equipped footmen.

 

Warwick went on to capture the king and hold him as a virtual prisoner for several months. Another uneasy truce descended but Warwick's days were numbered and after a brief period of success when the king was forced to flee to the Netherlands, he was eventually killed at the Battle of Barnet in April 1471.

The Wars of the Roses were almost over. Edward IV brought a degree of stability to Britain but he died young and it was not until Henry Tudor came to the throne in 1485 that true peace returned to the country.

Henry was aided and supported by many Welsh soldiers during his march to victory at Bosworth Field. And it is quite likely that many of them would have had relatives who had been killed at Edgecote Moor. Revenge at last.

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  • Comment number 1. Posted by Lucy

    on 26 Aug 2013 18:19

    In the case of all the men enlisted to fight, Welsh and otherwise, they so often had no choice. Doesn't it seem crazy that all these men had to fight just because they were tenants or servants of a wealthy Lord/Earl or similar? These men weren't even able to choose which side to fight for. At least now we can choose for ourselves.

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