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Sunday, May 22, 2016
Battle of St. Albans
First Battle of St Albans
22 May 1455
First Battle of St Albans by Graham Turner Reproduced by kind permission of the artist www.studio88.co.ukIn August 1453 Henry VI was struck down with a mental illness that disabled him for eighteen months during which time his son and heir, Edward, was born. The duke of York became the protector and during this time he imprisoned his great rival, the duke of Somerset, but early in 1455, the king regained his senses and York was dismissed and Somerset released. York, together with the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick, were summoned to appear before the Council in Leicester but instead they led a force of around 3,500 men south. The king and Somerset left London and marched north to St Albans, their force estimated at 2,000 men. On 22 May the battle that is regarded as the opening of the Wars of the Roses (although it was little more than a skirmish) was fought. York's objective appears to have been the elimination of Somerset.
The royal host occupied St Peter's Street, just north of the market place, and included the Duke of Buckingham, the Earls of Pembroke, Northumberland, Devon, Stafford, Dorset, and Wiltshire and lords Clifford, Dudley, and Roos. York and his men approached St Albans from the east. He deployed his men in three units of infantry, the northernmost stationed at Cock Lane and the southernmost in Sopwell Lane. They were in position by 7 o'clock in the morning but York made an attempt at conciliation and sent delegates to the king assuring him of his loyalty but requesting him to deliver 'those who York would accuse'. The king refused to surrender Somerset and so between 11 o'clock and noon York attacked. The Lancastrians held off the attackers coming from the north and south but Warwick led a charge from the center through the gardens and houses between Shropshire Lane and Sopwell Lane and burst into the marketplace surprising the royalists. The Yorkist archers fired at the short range and wounded the king, Buckingham, and Dudley. The Lancastrians fell back and began to flee from the onslaught. Somerset, Northumberland, Dorset, Stafford, and Clifford were killed. With his greatest enemy dead, the victorious York made his homage to the king and together they left St Albans.