1455 – 1485 Background
A series of civil wars was brought about as a result of weak leadership by the Monarch Henry VI. Involving the two rival Plantagenet houses – York and Lancaster. The wars began when Richard, Duke of York (as a child the Duke of York was kept for ten years a prisoner in the Tower of London, with Robert Waterton of Methley as his gaoler) claimed protectorship of the crown following the Kings mental breakdown. This ended with defeat of Richard the III by Henry Tudor at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 the peace was further cemented by the marriage of Henry to Elizabeth of York in 1486.
Warfare was intermittent throughout, marked by brutal executions and exacerbated by aristocratic feuds. Major battles were:- 1455 – St Albans a Yorkist success, 1460 -Wakefield, 1460 – Northampton, 1461 – Towton Moor, 1461 – 2nd battle of St Albans During the first phase of the wars, Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick (Kingmaker) championed the Yorkist cause, however after the battle of Towton he changed allegiance, and helped to change the outcome of the wars. Subsequent battles were 1471 – Tewkesbury, 1485 – Boswoth Field
Lionel Lord Welles, fell at the battle of Towton, fought on Palm Sunday, March 29th 1461 known locally as Palmsunday Field.
It was said that from thirty to forty thousand Englishmen were left dead upon the field. It is alleged that the body of Lord Welles was brought to Methley concealed in a sack and buried at St Oswalds, this to avoid his head being separated from his body and impaled on a spear to be placed at the Micklegate entrance to the city of York.
It is not recorded how many sons of Methley may have lost their lives or indeed fought in the battle in which surely some of them would have taken part, along with the Lord of the Manor.
Stories abounded in the village of his exploits at previous battles and skirmishes, and so they should. No mere baronial hanger on was our man. His import was noted having been a deputy governor of all Ireland, in addition to having witnessed the death at the stake of Joan of Arc at Rouen in 1431. His mission there, was to report back to the king that the Maid of Orleans had been accounted for.
Methley recognised the 550th anniversary of the battle of Towton when on 29th March 2011 St Oswalds church incorporated prayers for the dead of this immense and bloody battle at their mid weekly communion service.(see pic)
Source : Thoresby, The History of Methley
Earlier records indicate Methley’s association with the House of Lancaster. As with the Honour of Pontefract, Methley always supported the red rose and the House of Lancaster as did a great part of Yorkshire. Both parties fought under many colours and flags, the White Rose probably emanating from the French White Rose of Rouen.
At Bosworth and the defeat and death of Richard III the crown was taken by Henry VII who with great speed proceeded to marry Elizabeth of York and at a stroke unified the warring houses and created the Tudor dynasty complete with red and white rose.
The description ‘Wars of the Roses’ was made by Sir Walter Scott (Ivanhoe etc) some 300 years after the events