Barnet, Battle of

Barnet, Battle of
   Fought on Easter Sunday, 14 April 1471, the Battle of Barnet began EDWARD IV’s restoration to the throne and destroyed Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, and his political faction.
   On 11 April, one month after his landing in England, Edward entered LONDON unopposed. Warwick was at Coventry awaiting the arrival from the north of the forces of his brother, John NEVILLE, marquis of Montagu, while Edmund BEAUFORT, duke of Somerset, and other Lancastrian leaders were on the south coast awaiting the arrival from FRANCE of Queen MARGARET OF ANJOU and her son EDWARD OF LANCASTER, Prince of Wales. After taking custody of HENRY VI, whom he eventually dispatched to the TOWER OF LONDON, Edward went to Westminster Abbey, where he reunited with his wife, Elizabeth WOODVILLE, and saw for the first time the son (see Edward V, King of England) who had been born in SANCTUARY in the Abbey during the previous November. The next day, as Yorkist supporters flooded into the capital, Edward learned that Warwick had joined forces with Montagu and was marching on the city. To meet this threat, a Yorkist army of almost 10,000 left London on 13 April heading northwest on the road to St. Albans. Accompanied by Henry VI and over thirty magnates, including his newly reconciled brother George PLANTAGENET, duke of Clarence, Edward learned that evening that Warwick had deployed north of the town of Barnet, which lay midway between London and St. Albans. Edward advanced through Barnet and halted his troops only a short distance from Warwick’s larger force, although the onset of darkness meant neither army was aware of the other’s exact position. Warwick ordered his ARTILLERY to harass the Yorkist army that he knew was somewhere on his front. Because the two armies were so close, Warwick overshot the Yorkist position, which Edward refused to reveal by ordering his artillery not to respond.
   The battle began about 4 A.M. in a swirling fog, when the Yorkist army advanced in response to a barrage from Warwick’s ARCHERS and artillery. Only when the lines clashed did the commanders on each army’s right wing realize that the two forces were misaligned, with each right wing overlapping the enemy’s left. John de VERE, earl of Oxford, in command on Warwick’s right, quickly collapsed the Yorkist left, but then had trouble controlling his men, who streamed off the field to plunder Barnet. When Warwick’s left was similarly overrun by the troops of Edward’s brother, Richard, duke of Gloucester (see Richard III, King of England), in command on the Yorkist right, the entire battlefront shifted at right angles. This change of position, unrealized because of the fog, meant that when Oxford got part of his force back into the battle, he fell upon the rear of Montagu’s men. Mistaking Oxford’s badge of a star with streams for the Yorkist emblem of a sun with streams, Montagu ordered his archers to fire on the surprised attackers, who then threw Warwick’s whole line into confusion with shouts of “treason” (see Sun in Splendor/Sunburst Badge). Seeing the enemy in distress, Edward pressed his advantage; when Montagu was killed in this onslaught, Warwick’s line broke and the rout began. With his entire front collapsing, Warwick, who had been fighting on foot, tried to reach his horse, which, due to the shifting lines,was now far to the rear. Before Edward could intervene,Warwick was overtaken by Yorkist foot soldiers, who beat him to the ground and slew him. Shortly after Warwick met this end, Margaret of Anjou and her son landed at Weymouth. Met by Somerset and other old-line Lancastrians who had never trusted Warwick, the queen was persuaded to continue the fight.
   Further Reading: Haigh, Philip A., The Military Campaigns of the Wars of the Roses (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1995); Hammond, P.W., The Battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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