Tuesday, July 10, 2012

6th July, St Albans

Conference Weekend Battlefield Visit

It has become customary for at least some of the travelling fraternity to gather for lunch on the Friday of COW at a site of miltary historical interest - and this year Mike Elliott showed us around medieval St Albans.

 (rainy explorers finding the ditch defence of medieval St Albans)

The so-called Wars of the Roses (discuss ...) began here in 1455 when the Duke of York and Neville Earls of Warwick and Salisbury pressed their claim in the face of Henry's Royal Standard - outright rebellion.

Henry raised his standard in St Peter's Street in the centre of the town, and the Yorkists chose not to defer but attacked the defences from the East, broke through the houses and yards and made their way to the town centre.

(the Battle of St Albans from the Maltings Car Park)

We got our best impression of all this from the roof of the Maltings multi-storey car park.

In the picture above, Henry and his household were stationed in the centre of the town, then, as now, running from St Peter's Church (just off to the right) and the precinct of St Albans Abbey where the king had appartments ...

Amidst the confusion of battle (and the general confusion that surrounded Henry VI customarily), it is almost certain that they were taken by surprise when Warwick's men broke throught the timber and daub walls of the medieval shops and burst into Chequer Street.

(all this in the sight of an Eleanor Cross - just as would happen at Northampton, 5 years later ...)...

Mike has identified the point where Warwick broke through, the buildings of which lasted pretty much until the first War ... so have their traces in early photographs. 

Although the 'battle' took only about half an hour, the melee in the town centre saw the Lancastrian champion, Edmund Beaufort (Duke of Somerset) killed along with Northumberland and Clifford ... and as was to become a feature of the period, Henry, himself, captured.   The anti-Yorkist faction was decapitated and the Nevilles were in the ascendance.

We finished our tour at the abbey ...

(Romanesque details in the historic abbey)

... and reconvened at COW for a weekend's wargaming and symposia ...

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