This Day in History: 1461-03-29
After having assembled at Pontefract days before, on Palm Sunday, 29th March 1461, the Yorkist forces under Edward IV, the Earl of Warwick and Lord Fauconberg met with the Lancastrian forces under the Dukes of Northumberland, Somerset, Exeter at the Battle of Towton. Upwards of 50,000 men clashed at what would become England’s bloodiest battle. It was fought in a snowstorm, and many of the fleeing Lancastrians drowned in the rivers Cock and Wharfe. Reputedly, the pursuing Yorkists could cross the water using dead bodies as ‘stepping stones’. The Yorkist victory was overwhelming and led to Edward being officially pronounced the only King of England. Following the battle, the Wars of the Roses would continue for over 20 years. The picture is of the Battle of Towton by John Quartley in 1878. On this date also, Lionel de Welles, 6th Baron Welles, died at the Battle of Towton fighting on the Lancastrian side. He had helped Queen Margaret win the second Battle of St Albans in February 1461. Inheriting his baronetcy on the death of his grandfather in 1421, Lionel’s wardship was granted to his future father-in-law, Robert Waterton, ex-Constable of Pontefract Castle (he was to be re-appointed to this position by Henry VI in 1422). Lionel married Waterton’s daughter Jane (some say Joan or Cecily) and, secondly, Margaret Beauchamp, mother of Margaret Beaufort. By this marriage he became the step-grandfather of Henry VII. He was buried with his first wife in St Oswald’s Church, Methley.