Battle of Mortimer’s Cross

Summary

The Battle of Mortimer”s Cross took place on February 2, 1461, during the War of the Two Roses, near Wigmore, Herefordshire near the Welsh border. The opposing forces were an army led by Jasper Tudor and his father Owen Tudor, nobles loyal to King Henry VI of the House of Lancaster, Queen Margaret of Anjou and their seven-year-old son Edward of Westminster, and the army of the future King Edward IV of England. This was a decisive victory for the House of York over the House of Lancaster.

Since the death of Richard of York at the battle of Wakefield on December 30, 1460, the Yorkists were led by his son Edward, 4th Duke of York and 18 years old. Edward sought to prevent the Lancastrian forces in Wales, led by Owen Tudor and his son Jasper, from joining the main Lancastrian army. The eldest Tudor was the second husband of Catherine of Valois, widow of King Henry V; their children, the half-brothers of Henry VI, were made earls and, as a result, this family became important and powerful in South Wales. His army was composed of Welshmen from the Lancastrian lands of Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, French and Breton mercenaries and Irish troops led by James Butler.

Edward, based at Wigmore Castle, assembled a force of about 5,000 men from the English and Welsh borders. Among his staunchest allies were John Tuchet, Reginald Grey of Wilton, William Herbert, Walter Devereux and Humphrey Stafford. After spending Christmas at Gloucester, he prepared to return to London but Jasper Tudor”s army was approaching, forcing him to change his mind in order to block Jasper”s advance and prevent a meeting with the main Lancastrian forces that were marching for London. To block their passage, he assembled about 5,000 men, including a large number of Welshmen commanded by William Herbert, and marched north from Gloucester to a ford on the river Lugg to be used by the opposing army.

On the morning of February 2, when Edward had his army in battle order, a strange meteorological phenomenon called parhelion occurred, three suns seemed to appear in the sky, and Edward used it to boost the morale of his troops, claiming that it was an omen of victory, as the three suns represented the Holy Trinity and that therefore God was on their side. Edward later used the Sun as his emblem. This event was dramatized by William Shakespeare in Henry VI (Part III) and in Sharon Kay Penman”s novel The Sunne in Splendour.

The Lancastrian army, about 4,000 men, sought to avoid battle, but when Owen Tudor saw that there was no other way to cross the Lugg, he ordered the assault. The left of the Lancastrian forces broke the lines of the Yorkist right wing and scattered them, but in the center the Lancastrians were twice pushed back and the Yorkist left wing routed the Lancastrian right flank. The battle was then won for the Yorkists and Owen Tudor was captured and executed. In all, 4,000 men are supposed to have died in this battle, which seems exaggerated given the total number of combatants.

Sources

  1. Bataille de Mortimer”s Cross
  2. Battle of Mortimer”s Cross
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