The First Battle of St Albans
by Ellen Castelow
During the 15th century struggle for power between the rival houses of Lancaster and York, the First Battle of St Albans fought on 22nd May 1455, marked the beginning of the Wars of the Roses.
Following their exclusion from court, Richard Duke of York and his ally Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, had assembled their private armies in the north and now marched south to confront the Lancastrian King Henry VI at St Albans, just north of London.
The 2,000 strong Lancastrian army under the command of the Duke of Buckingham arrived at the town first and set about organising its defences.
Following several hours of failed negotiations the slightly larger Yorkist force launched a frontal assault on the town.
In the bloody fighting that followed through the narrow streets of St Albans, the Yorkists suffered heavy casualties. The Lancastrian defences finally broke after a small force under the Earl of Warwick, having picked their way through the smaller back lanes and rear gardens, made a surprise appearance in the town’s market square.
Quickly Warwick ordered his men to charge the main body of Henry’s army who were being held there in reserve. Meanwhile the Lancastrian defenders, realising they had been outflanked, abandoned their barricades and fled the town.
Warwick’s longbowmen reigned arrows onto Henry’s bodyguard, killing Buckingham and several other influential Lancastrian nobles and wounding the king. The wounded Henry was later escorted back to London by York and Warwick.
With York restored as Lord Protector of England, he now effectively ruled the country. Henry’s wife Queen Margaret, along with their young son Edward of Westminster, fled into exile.
The site of the First Battle of St Albans is located in the heart of the city centre close to the Skipton Building Society on St Peter’s Street.
Date: 22nd May, 1455
War: Wars of the Roses
Location: St Albans, Hertfordshire
Belligerents: Lancastrians and Yorkists
Numbers: Lancastrians 2,000, Yorkists 3,000 – 6,000
Casualties: Both sides negligible
Commanders: King Henry VI and Edmund, Duke of Somerset (Lancastrians), Richard, Duke of York and the Earl of Warwick (Yorkists)
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|