Battle of Wakefield

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The Battle of Wakefield took place at Sandal Magna near Wakefield, in West Yorkshire in Northern England, on 30 December 1460. It was a major battle of the Wars of the Roses. The opposing forces were a Lancastrian army, loyal to the captive King Henry VI, his Queen, Margaret of Anjou, and their seven year-old son Edward, Prince of Wales on one side, and the army of Richard, Duke of York, the rival claimant to the throne, on the other. The Duke of York's army was destroyed and he was killed in the battle.

Contents

Background

The House of Lancaster was established on the throne of England in 1399, when Henry Bolingbroke, the Duke of Lancaster, deposed his cousin, the unpopular King Richard II, and was crowned Henry IV.

Bolingbroke's grandson, Henry VI, became King in 1422 when nine months old. He grew up to be an ineffective king, and prone to spells of mental illness. There were increasingly bitter divisions among the regents and councillors who governed in Henry's name, mainly over the conduct of the Hundred Years' War with France. By the late 1440s, two opposing factions had formed behind Edmund Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset, and Richard of York, the wealthiest magnate in the land.[1] York, who for several years was Lieutenant in France, headed the party which sought to prosecute the war more decisively and believed that Somerset had deprived him of authority, funds and troops by launching a failed expedition to Gascony.

York's descent from King Edward III's third son Lionel of Antwerp and fifth son Edmund of Langley led to suspicions that he had ambitions to the throne. In 1450, he sought to be declared heir apparent, to succeed Henry if he died without issue. Richard's rival, Somerset, belonged to the Beaufort family who, like Henry, were descended from John of Gaunt, Edward III's fourth son, though they were barred from succeeding to the crown by the Act of Parliament which legitimated the children of Gaunt and his former mistress Katherine Swynford.

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