Richard Nevill, Earl of Warwick, was known as the Kingmaker. He helped Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, and his son Edward IV take the Crown of England back from the Lancastrian Henry VI in 1461. Henry VI and his Queen, Margaret of Anjou, were beaten but not taken prisoner. They fled to Scotland and then to France, working to return to power.
By 1469, Warwick had changed sides. Although he had spent most of his life and fortune supporting York, he had received little thanks from Edward. Instead, Edward heaped titles, lands, and offices on his wife Elisabeth Wydville’s family. In September 1470, Warwick and the Lancastrians invaded England from Calais. They regained the throne for Henry VI, temporarily.
Edward returned in the spring of 1471, and took Henry prisoner in London. His army met with Warwick’s at Barnet on Easter Sunday, April 14, 1471. This was the turning point for the house of Lancaster.
As the fighting began that morning, a dense mist kept the commanders from seeing where the armies were. Each group’s right flank routed the opponent’s left, but no use was made if it because nobody knew. At one point, the Earl of Oxford left his position in the Lancastrian lines with his 800 troops to chase the Yorkist left wing through the town of Barnet. When they returned, the mullet badge that they wore was mistaken for Edward of York’s personal badge, the sun in splendor. A. C. Fox-Davies wrote in “A Complete Guide to Heraldry”:
“The mullet occurs in the arms of Vere, and was also the badge of that family. The part this badge once played in history is well known. Had the De Veres worn another badge on that fatal day the course of English history might have been changed.”
The Lancastrians fired several volleys of arrows at them, so Oxford’s men fled crying “Treason! Treason!”. The word “treason” spread like wildfire through the Lancastrian army and shattered morale. The tide of battle was turned. Men panicked and ran from the fighting. Warwick was killed, and the battle was over before 8:00am. The fog hadn’t even lifted yet.
Thus the House of Lancaster and Warwick the Kingmaker both fell because of poor heraldry.
- Fox-Davies, A. (1978). A complete guide to heraldry. New York: Bonanza Books.
- Dennys, R. (1982). Heraldry and the heralds. London: Cape.
- Moncreiffe, I., & Pottinger, D. (1979). Simple heraldry. New York: Mayflower Books.
Wars of the Roses References:
Weir, A. (1995). The Wars of the Roses. New York: Ballantine Books.
Weir, A. (1994). The princes in the tower. New York: Ballantine.
Seward, D. (1996). The Wars of the Roses : through the lives of five men and women of the fifteenth century. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
Penn, T. (2012). Winter king : Henry VII and the dawn of Tudor England. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Baldwin, D. (2013). Richard III. Stroud: Amberley.