Thursday, July 14, 2011

England, 1460

My replaying of the Wars of the Roses has been on hiatus for a while, as my massive expansion and re-organising plan for my miniatures progresses. Following lots of brushwork and swearing, I think it's high time to nudge things on. First though, a recap is probably a good idea.

The initial period of 1455 to 1459 has been played, and already history has gone out of the window. The opening 1st Battle of St Albans took place as the Battle of Lutterworth, where animosity between the ambitious Duke of York and the corrupt 'court faction' led by the Duke of Somerset exploded from metaphorical into literal warfare. Poor Henry VI found his royal procession brutally attacked and his entourage slaughtered by a pack of outlaws (or loyal subjects, depending on inclination) led by the Duke of York and his Neville Family co-conspirators. Several of the court faction big-knobs were brutally murdered (or righteously slain, depending on what end of the sword you're on.) Old Northumberland and Clifford both perished, but the head bad-guy himself (Somerset) managed to slip away from the scene. Henry VI, on account of being mentally unhinged, pardoned York for attacking him and accepted that he really didn't mean it and anyway, it was all going to be all right from now on.

The exiled Somerset didn't agree, and frankly neither did Queen Margaret of Anjou. Steadily working to limit York's powers, Margaret set up the king in a new court in the Midlands, and gathered her supporters. Likewise, York lurked off to his strongholds in the Welsh Marches and his chief ally Warwick took over the Calais garrison. It soom came to a fight once again and the country turned briefly into an armed camp in 1459 where the Lancastrian faction rallied round Henry VI in the midlands while York stayed put in his bolt-hole at Ludlow. Finally, with it looking like the combining Lancastrian hosts were about to flatten either York in the west or Warwick in the East, York struck out in a desperate all-or-nothing attack against the main Lancastrian army and caught it unawares.

At the battle of Lawford Heath, the Yorkists routed the Lancastrian army and captured the king. The cost was high, however - York himself fell in the desperate struggle and only much heroic derring-do from his son Edward, the Earl of March, stopped the whole thing from ending in catastrophic defeat. With Henry once more in the hands of the Yorkists and once more proclaiming that they didn't really mean it and it was going to be all right from now on, Margaret & Somerset fled to France along with many of the most senior peers of the realm. Edward, Earl of March (now also Duke of York, inheriting his father's title) swiftly took over the reins of his father's faction & cause.

All thinks considered, it's a pretty dicey situation. Most of the country is decidedly cool on this whole 'feuding nobles' thing and is either actively Anti-Yorkist or pretty uncommitted to the new regime. Only a small core of pro-Yorkist nobles, such as the powerful Neville family, are active backers. Now it's 1460 and time for the exiled 'French Lords' to make their return to oust the last Yorkist remnants, leaving Somerset & Queen Margaret once more calling the shots.

The small number of active pro-Yorkist nobles have to watch all areas of England against invasion. Edward himself sticks to his power-base in the Welsh Marches. Warwick, his effective 'number two' in the regime, is in London along with King Henry VI, making sure his majesty is nice and snug in the Tower. For his own safety, obviously. John de Mowbray, the pro-Yorkist Duke of Norfolk, is in charge of the East Anglia coast. Richard Neville, the Earl of Salisbury, is up in North Yorkshire to keep the North of England secure. Edward's younger brother & Earl of Rutland, the 17-year old Edmund Plantagenet, is based at Derby to act as a central reserve.

This is the Yorkist regime's strength in England, at any rate. If they hold out long enough however, there's two sources of overseas assistance which can be coutned on. One is William Neville, 'Little Fauconberg' himself - the stone-cold veteran of the Hundred Years' War (no, not all of it) who holds the Captaincy of Calais. He's got good Yorkist credentials, what with Warwick being his nephew and the deceased York being his Brother-in-Law, so he's got the plum position controlling both the Calais garrison and also the option to bring all manner of desperado European Mercenaries into England. The other source is the Yorkist stronghold of Ireland, where Edward's young brother George Plantagenet is being kept out of harm's way. He's only ten years' old, so it's not exactly likely he'll be called upon for his experience. However, in a pinch he could be a figurehead to gather support through dynastic obligations. Some more level-headed captains will have to be used to baby-sit him and lead the troops if it actually comes to a fight.

(The lovely Map above is from Columbia Games' marvellous 'Richard III' board game - of which more shortly!)

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