The Battle of Towton

The Battle of Towton on 29th March 1461 was possibly the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil…

The Battle of Towton on 29th March 1461 was possibly the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil.

Although the Lancastrian King Henry VI had transferred the right of succession to the English throne to Richard, Duke of York and his heirs, his wife Queen Margaret was not prepared to accept an arrangement that deprived her son of his birthright without a fight.

England was effectively a country with two kings, a predicament that could only be settled on the battlefield.

Following the death of his father at the Battle of Wakefield, the 18 year-old Yorkist Edward marched his followers northwards to depose Henry through force.

The two huge armies, estimated at between 50,000 – 65,000 men, confronted each other in the middle of a snowstorm on an open field between the villages of Towton and Saxton, in North Yorkshire on Palm Sunday.

The fierce fighting continued for several hours with neither side gaining the upper hand until towards the end of the day, the Lancastrian line finally crumbled. Prior to the battle, both sides had been issued with the order to give no quarter and the Yorkists were intent on following this instruction to the letter.

The fleeing Lancastrians were cut down from behind as they fled the battlefield; many were killed after they had surrendered including, according to one source, 42 knights.

Towton proved to be a decisive victory for the Yorkists. With a death toll said to number 28,000, the Lancastrians were unable to muster a field army for another three years. The Lancastrian cause was far from over however, as King Henry and his wife Margaret, along with their son and heir had all escaped to Scotland. It would be another 25 years before the political struggle and fighting would finally end.

Click here for a battlefield map.

Key Facts:

Date: 29th March, 1461

War: Wars of the Roses

Location: Near Towton, Yorkshire

Belligerents: Lancastrians and Yorkists

Victors: Yorkists

Numbers: Lancastrians 30,000 – 35,000, Royalists 25,000 – 30,000

Casualties: A total of around 28,000 dead, unknown wounded or captured

Commanders: Henry Beaufort (Lancastrians), King Edward IV of England (Yorkists) 


The Battle of Tewkesbury

More Battles in the Wars of the Roses

First Battle of St Albans 22 May, 1455
Battle of Blore Heath 23 September, 1459
Battle of Northampton (1460) 10 July, 1460
Second Battle of St Albans 17 February, 1461
Battle of Towton 29 March, 1461
Battle of Barnet 14 April, 1471
Battle of Tewkesbury 4 May, 1471
Battle of Bosworth Field 22 August, 1485
Battle of Stoke Field 16 June, 1487
Background to the Wars of the Roses  

Next article

The Wars of the Roses

By Ben Johnson

A chronology of the major events during the Wars of the Roses between the Houses of Lancaster and York 1455 to 1485

Read story