The Battle of Towton (pronounced /ˈtaʊtən/) took place on a snowy 29 March 1461 (Palm Sunday) on a plateau between the villages of Towton and Saxton in Yorkshire (about 12 miles (19 km) southwest of York and about 2 miles (3.2 km) south of Tadcaster).
Some of the earliest handguns used in battle in England were fired on this day.
The battle was part of the Wars of the Roses, fought between the Houses of York and Lancaster for control of the English throne. The battle was a decisive victory for the Yorkists. The Lancastrian army suffered heavy losses and ceased to exist as an effective fighting force.
Towton was the largest battle fought in Britain. It is estimated that between 50,000 and 80,000 soldiers fought in the battle, including 28 lords (almost half the peerage at that time), mainly on the Lancastrian side. One of the most commonly quoted figures is 42,000 for the Lancastrians and 36,000 for the Yorkists. All estimates for the battle agree that the Lancastrians started the battle with the larger force.
It is also regarded as the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil. Exact losses are a matter of continuing debate, and are extremely difficult to assess with any accuracy, however estimates of about 28,000 (perhaps more) casualties are frequently cited: such a figure would represent roughly 1% of the entire English population at the time.
The Wars of the Roses first broke out in 1455, between the supporters of King Henry VI (the Lancastrians), and those of Richard, Duke of York (the Yorkists). York, the most powerful and wealthiest noble was out of favour with the court and had been seeking a role in government for the preceding five years. Henry, who ascended the throne as an infant, had placed all his reliance in his majority on a clique of nobles, leading to severe inequity of government even by the standards of the age. He was also afflicted by bouts of insanity. His Queen, Margaret of Anjou, became the most determined opponent of York and anyone else who threatened the birthright of her son, the infant Edward of Westminster.
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