Military history

Illustrations

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Charles VI, King of France

Henry VI inherited both the Kingdom of France and his schizophrenia from Charles VI, his maternal grandfather.

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Henry V, King of England

Hero of Agincourt and poised to become King of France. His untimely death brought, within months, the succession to both kingdoms of his baby son.

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Christine de Pisan in her study

This extraordinary woman gained financial independence through a diverse range of writing, from poetry and romance to military theory. The accuracy of her pithy summary of the key elements needed for victory in battle was to be chillingly demonstrated at Towton, more than three decades after her death.

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The birth of Henry VI, 1421

Baby Henry with his mother, Queen Catherine. Henry VI was born and is buried at Windsor.

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Nine-year-old Henry VI with St Catherine and the Madonna and Child

This is an illustration from Henry’s own psalter.

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The tomb of Richard Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick and tutor to Henry VI

The tomb of Henry V’s great lieutenant has been rightly described as a medieval masterpiece. A dispute over the vast Beauchamp inheritance was to destabilise the Lancastrian polity. On the tomb’s facing side are five male figures in mourning: four of them were to be killed or executed at different battles within eight years; the fate of the fifth was decided at another battle ten years later. They are identified in ‘Selected Places to Visit and Related Organisations’ (p. 234).

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John, Duke of Bedford, Regent of France

The elder of Henry V’s two surviving brothers and effective ruler of the English Kingdom of France for most of Henry VI’s minority. His victory at Verneuil was second only to Agincourt in terms of contemporary importance. Bedford had to return periodically to England to manage a visceral antipathy between his younger brother (Humphrey of Gloucester) and their uncle (Henry Beaufort), one that was to have lasting consequences.

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Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, Protector but not Regent of England

A learned but vainglorious man, who was later to be characterised as ‘Good Duke Humphrey’ in Yorkist propaganda.

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Jan van Eyck painting of a Cardinal dated 1430–5

Long considered to be a portrait of Cardinal Albergati, the historian Malcolm Vale has controversially re–identified the sitter as Henry Beaufort. What is incontrovertible is the clear superiority of Burgundian art at this time.

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Ralph, 1st Earl of Westmorland

Founder of the Neville family’s fortunes, with sons

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John, Countess of Westmorland

Half-sister to Henry IV, full sister to Cardinal Beaufort, with daughters

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Eton College

The schoolyard at night, with the chaped to the right

The shadowy statue in the foreground is of Henry VI, the school’s founder.

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The Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge

Henry’s other great foundation

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The defeat and massacre of the English at Formigny, 1450

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The siege of Caen, 1450. Note siege cannon.

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Richard, Duke of York

In stained glass – Trinity College, Cambridge

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Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou

Being presented with a wedding present by John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, England’s warrior general at the end of the Hundred Years War. The manuscript, in the British Library, contains Christine de Pisan’s ‘Le Livre des Faits d’Armes et de Chevalerie’.

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Legate Coppini’s two Masters:

Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan

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Pope Pius II

England was strongly affected by the backwash of Italian power politics.

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Micklegate Bar, York

The heads of some of the greatest men in the land were impaled on the top of the tower.

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Rival Kings:

Henry VI

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Edward IV

Posthumous portraits produced in c.1540 – probably as a pair. Sadly, there are no similar ‘likenesses’ of Warwick the Kingmaker.

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Replica of a knight in the Milanese-style armour of Richard Beauchamp’s tomb effigy crafted in 1453. This type of top-of the-range armour would have been worn by some nobles at Towton. In the knight’s right hand is a hand-and-a-half sword. In his left is a rondel dagger.

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Maces. Beautifully crafted and balanced, the mace, like the horseman’s hammer, could rain down repeated blows with horrific force against a disarmed and under-protected enemy.

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The business end of a poleaxe, the staff weapon of choice of the knightly classes.

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Towton in a snow storm

The edge of the escarpment dropping down to the valley of Cock Beck below.

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Photograph taken from Cock Beck looking upwards to highlight the downward slope off the battle? eld for a fleeing army being funnelled down Towton Dale. What it can-not show is the treacherous conditions underfoot of frozen snow and slush for men hurtling towards the swollen icy waters of the medieval River Cock in full spate.

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The battlefield at Towton from the Lancastrian lines looking diagonally across towards the Yorkist right.

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Three Towton battle victims, excavated in 2005.

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Edward IV receiving a dedicated manuscript from Jean de Waurin.

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