Wednesday, June 23, 2010

1459 - The White Swans

And so, the second part of the military campaigning begins with a genuine head-to-head between the Yorkists and Lancastrians. From north to south the setup reads like a layer-cake, with alternating York/Lancaster forces assembling. I'll spare you a detailed account of the helpless swirl that resulted, but give a rough overview so you have the flavour of it!

York starts in the Welsh marches in a fortified camp at Ludlow. Warwick starts out overseas in Calais, but Salisbury is in the Yorkshire Ridings to the north. There are also many inactive nobles in the SE of England who can probably be counted on to rally to the Yorkist faction.

Meanwhile the Lancastrians' main army (with the Queen and King) gathers in the Midlands. In the south an army under Henry Beaufort (heir to the Dukedom of Somerset) is recruited in Devon & Cornwall, while up in the very far north the Percies gather forces along the Scottish Border - including York's Arch-Enemy Edmund Beaufort, the Duke of Somerset returned from his exile in Scotland!

At first, everybody sits tight and recruits across the counties by issuing Commissions of Array and pulling in every favour-owed family of supporters to provide them with troops. Warwick rather unfortunately fails to make it over the channel at first, being delayed by weather. Lots of the potential Yorkist nobles in SE England take their cue from this and fail to recruit to the Yorkist side, deciding sitting it out is much more sensible.

Once everybody has at least a decent army, it's a question of who can combine forces the quickest. Salisbury begins to take a circuitous route southwards, aiming to join York in the Welsh Marches. With their forces combined, plus Warwick's hoped-for arrival in the enemy rear, they should be able to drive the Lancastrians out of their central position in the country.

It's not to be, however! The Lancastrian main army heads north at full-speed and catches Salisbury at Lathom. Outnumbered 2:1, Salisbury is beaten in a half-fight, half-retreat in which his forces are scattered [the unequal fight was played out with the campaign resolution-rules rather than a tabletop battle, and Salisbury managed to cling on long enough to retreat.] The Earl manages to personally flee southwards after the rout and reaches York in person (plus a belatedly reformed personal retinue) but his army has been routed and destroyed (no doubt with the Queen watching in satisfaction from a nearby church steeple.)

The wheel of fortune has now taken a decidedly nasty spin for the Yorkists - now there are only Lancastrian armies in England, north and south - plus any union between them will see him crushed. Even worse, fragile Yorkist morale has taken a big blow through news of Salisbury's rout at Lathom, and everybody seems to be looking over their shoulder, coming up with excuses, etc. York runs east to Northampton in the hope of meeting up with Warwick, when the combined Yorkist force could then throw itself at one of the isolated Lancastrian armies and restore the situation. Warwick, thankfully, manages to arrive back in England and his arrival in London manages to rouse the Yorkist capital and boosts the faction's morale back to decent levels. Then the Lancastrians make a blunder...

The main Lancastrian army moves back into Coventry, aiming to take a central position from which all the outlying armies can reach him and combine, but in so doing he puts himself within striking reach of York. If York quits Northampton instead of waiting for Warwick to arrive and join him, he can catch the king's army with near equal numbers. Waiting for Warwick would almost certainly allow similar or larger numbers of reinforcements to reach the Queen. York decides that he can't take the chance of that happening, leaves only an apologetic note for Warwick in Northampton, then rushes off himself to seek the decisive battle!

I checked out Google Earth for a place near Coventry and in the direction of Northampton, and came up with 'Lawford Heath.' This took my fancy because the historical battle around this campaign was Blore Heath, so the 'Heath-yness' of the name made it for me! Below is a list of the two armies for the battle, plus the inset names are a couple of the 'minor nobles' I have drafted in to command companies for the major magnates. In fact, I only have two companies led by unnamed captains, the rest all being led in the correct style by those of noble blood. To arms!


Duke of York 1860 men
Baron Wenlock
[unnamed captain]
Earl of March 1800 men
Baron Clinton
[unnamed captain]
Baron Ferrers 660 men
Baron Grey of Powys 820 men
Earl of Salisbury 360 men
Total of 5,500 men


Duke of Buckingham 1540 men
Baron Dudley
Earl of Shrewsbury 1140 men
Lord Grey of Rougemont
Earl of Wiltshire 420 men
Viscount Beaumont 480 men
Lord Audley 1140 men
Duke of Exeter 180 men
Total of 4,900 men

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New Miniatures & Work

In preparation for the next Wars of the Roses encounter, I have been both making and buying a few extras. First up, I decided to look into getting some banners made for the relevant nobles. The Perry Miniatures boxed sets come with free banners in the form of a randomly inserted sheet (I got four boxes - and four identical sets of banners for Bosworth, naturally!) Although they were no good for what I was searching out, I did get a size template from them. I drew it out onto a sheet of decent-quality paper and then got to drawing and painting myself! The results:

Excuse the temporary stands on some of them, but the banners here are Lancastrian (l-r) Audley, Buckingham, Beaumont, Wiltshire, Shrewsbury & Exeter.

Yorkists here, with (l-r) Ferrers, York, March, Powys & Salisbury. It turns out the details of heraldry such as lions rampant, fleur-de-lis, etc. are nightmarishly hard to draw, but nonetheless a shapeless squiggle with the right colour is indistinguishable on a tabletop (always abide by the 'two-foot rule'!) The banners were drawn twice as mirror-images, cut out, folded over along the 'staff' side, then lightly glued on. Beyond making things, I have also bought a small addition in the form of a cannon, or 'Gonne' from Perry Miniatures.

A free word of advice, Perry Miniatures! - If you send out an order for a miniature in a small package, please don't place the parts in a small jewellery-style box! Otherwise my wife collects the post before I get home, convinces herself that I've bought her a surprise piece of jewellery as a present, then I'm stuck with the task later on of explaining how 'a large Culverin on a Burgundian-style carriage with four crewmen' actually counts as a thoughtful gift ("but this is better than a necklace dear, it has a practical purpose!") Nice work guys, thanks a bunch...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lancastrians 1455 - 1459

Ever had a person you couldn't stand, but can't do without? Queen Margaret does. York is now the leading magnate in the country, with his supporters in key positions following Lutterworth. However, the situation is not so bad on examination. Most of the nobility dislike the ambitious
York as he has obtained his position through violence & he has therefore got few (if critical) supporters.

Into this fertile situation we now have Queen Margaret moving Centre stage to lead the Lancastrians. Her husband is useless, her son's succession threatened by the protector York (who is his primary rival claimant to the crown.) The Queen may have no time for all this parliamentary nonsense and ruling in any way other than by decree, but she still has many potential followers - not least from sons of the dead at Lutterworth who feel they have scores to settle.

Queen Margaret gets York stripped of the Protectorate in 1456 & begins stuffing posts with Lancastrian supporters. The Yorkists are driven out and his main allies, the Neville family, find their rivals the Percies are getting more favour. Margaret leaves the unsafe London to set up a new court at Kennilworth in her Midlands power-base, buys cannon & gets the Royal armouries stock up. Clearly, a reckoning with the upstart York is on the way.

She would finish him off once and for all but York & Warwick are both needed for the moment because of French raids on the South coast mean the French-born Margaret is unpopular and - even worse - Warwick is required to sort it out as the Captain of Calais. Everybody in the capital and the southeast seems to like these Yorkist types a bit too much!

So, how do you get rid of the popular but disliked Warwick? You starve him of funds for one, but then he just resorts to piracy to pay the bills. You call him back to face charges and get him locked up, but his supporters fight with yours and he refuses to come, claiming you're trying to murder him. As if.

Everybody relocates to their centres of support. The Queen is at the Midlands; York is in the Welsh Marches; Warwick is in Calais. Most popular support in the country goes to the Lancastrians, and at long last the fight must inevitably be resumed - drive out the presumptuous Yorkist Traitors!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Early Days in the Wars 1455-1459

So, the battle of Lutterworth is over, and with it - the campaign. The Yorkists rout the Lancastrian army of Somerset and capture the rather confused king Henry, complete with his unfortunate arrow-wound in the neck, and York explains to the king just why he was compelled to take up arms to drive away his evil councillors, thus saving the realm - or at least, that's the official version. The battle of Lutterworth scales out as having about 1900 casualties, but as this is the first resort to arms it's likely the battle's death-toll would have been lower as many troops fled rather than fight to the death. (The historical equivalent of 1st St Albans, for example, had only around 50 to 300 dead and was more of a massive gang-rumble in the town's streets than a battle, which generally only revolved around the deaths of targeted Lancastrian commanders.)

None of the Yorkist commanders died, which is at least historical. Of the Lancastrians however we have the lords Devon, Northumberland & Egremont killed in the fighting. This is okay in game-terms by and large, as Egremont would be historically killed at Northampton in 1460 and merely exits a campaign or two earlier. Northumberland died historically, and while Devon survived the historic campaign he would die naturally in 1458 before the next outbreak of fighting. Clifford is captured by the Yorkists, but (since he was one of the very few targetted die-hards that were specifically killed at St Albans) he is executed as a traitor by York.

Somerset was historically (and famously) killed at St Albans, but here he routed from Lutterworth and successfully evaded capture. He has to flee the country to escape belated capture and execution – as the battle of Lutterworth is further north than the historic St Albans, he has time enough to flee to London and take a fast ship to exile, most probably in the Lancastrian bolt-hole of Scotland. His survival means the scenario was only an intermediate Yorkist victory. How Richard of York must have regretted his hated rival giving him the slip!

The Earl of Wiltshire and the Duke of Buckingham are both linked by marriage to Somerset, but were historically pardoned by York and so the same happens here. Buckingham especially was a conciliatory figure and so he is able to remain in London to see the city entered by the Yorkist army & King Henry VI. Wiltshire was York's one-time rival for the lieutenancy of Ireland, so he presumably keeps a far lower profile for safety.
A July parliament pardons all the Yorkists for Lutterworth, blames the absent Somerset for it and in November King Henry falls ill once again. York is proclaimed Protector and Buckingham works to help run the country, hopefully overcoming the one-off day of violence. Warwick gets rewarded with the plum post of the Calais captaincy. It's all great news for the Yorkists - what could possibly go wrong?