On 12th October 1459 the Royal army inflicted a defeat upon the Yorkists at Ludford Bridge. The Battle/Rout took place just outside Ludlow. A combined Yorkist force of forces under the commands of Richard, Duke of York, the Earl of Salisbury and the Earl of Warwick was routed. As a consequence of the battle, York, Salisbury and Warwick fled into exile. It appeared that the Wars of the Roses may have been decisively won by the Lancastrian faction.
Following Loveday the Lancastrian faction had armed itself and prepared for war. In 1455 they had been caught relatively unprepared for a Yorkist attack. Now, the queen was not willing to risk this happening again. A Great Council had been called and, in their absence, charged York, Salisbury and Warwick with treason. This sparked preparations for war. At Blore Heath the retinue of the Earl of Salisbury had been intercepted by Lord Audley. Despite being outnumbered, the Yorkists had won. Now, the forces of the Yorkist leaders had combined at Ludlow.
Ludlow was well defended by the Yorkists. They had cannon at the head of their forces defending the southern bank at Ludford Bridge. Experienced men from the garrison at Calais had been brought to Ludlow by the Earl of Warwick. The Earl of Salisbury’s men, fresh from their victory at Blore Heath, were also present, along with the loyal local forces of the Duke of York.
Both the Yorkists and the Royal party engaged in diplomacy. King Henry VI offered a pardon to the Duke of York and Earl of Warwick. This followed a statement by Richard Neville about the reasons for the Yorkist actions. This read:
I. That the Commonweal and good politic laws had been piteously overturned.
II. That the crown property had been outrageously spoiled and robbed.
III. That sufficient was scarcely left for the sustentation of the royal household.
IV. That the merchants and people had, by illegal novelties, suffered great extortions, without payment, from the Ministers of the King’s household.
V. That the Government permitted great and abominable murders, robberies, perjuries and extortions; and favoured and cherished instead of punishing them.
VI. That the King from his own blessed conversation, and noble disposition, graciously applied himself to the commonweal; but that certain persons, from their covetousness, and (in order) that they might rule, had hidden all these evils from him.
Harleian MSS 543, cited in the Chronicles of the White Rose of York, p87
The offer of a pardon was perhaps only to be expected. Attempts at reconciliation had already taken place, notably through the Loveday held at St. Paul’s. Now, with two armies facing each other, King Henry VI was eager to avoid any bloodshed. However, the offer of a pardon was not acceptable to the Yorkist Lords in Ludford. Whetmanstede records the reasons that the Yorkists gave the king, on 10th October, for not accepting his offer of pardons:
I. Other pardons have been granted, but they availed nothing.
II. The Kind degraded both the Duke and the Earl to the nobles and commons; and had neither summoned them to his council, nor parliament.
III. The King’s relatives, with pride and obstinacy, did as they pleased.
IV. The Nobles ought to have been called to parliament, and have perfect liberty to go, stay or depart ; yet the Earl of Warwick had been wilfully so surrounded and pressed at Westminster, that but for the unexpected aid which rescued him, he would certainly have been destroyed.
The two sides approached each other at Ludford Bridge, outside the town. York’s men took a defensive position on the south bank of the river. Parley was attempted. The King offered a pardon to all except those responsible for the death of Lord Audley: this would not have pardoned the Earl of Salisbury. An offer such as this was unlikely to be accepted. Over the course of the night or 12th/13th October, cannon were fired toward the Royal lines.
The Parley demonstrated to some of the Yorkist troops that the king himself was present. The Royal Standard was clearly visible. Terms offered were in his name. For the men of Calais who had travelled with Warwick, it was not right for them to attack the King. All of the rhetoric in the years before had talked of the evil counsellors of Henry VI. Men such as the Earl of Somerset, they would fight against. They would not fight the king himself. During the night, the men from Calais switched sides.
With the Calais garrison having joined the Royalist army it was quite clear that engaging in battle would be futile for the Yorkists. York, Salisbury and Warwick left Ludlow in the dead of night.
In the morning, the Yorkist army found itself without commanders. They surrendered to the Royal party who pardoned them. Among those left behind at Ludlow were the live and some sons of Richard Duke of York. Ludford Bridge was an uncontested rout.
With the three strongest Yorkists out of the country it appeared that King Henry VI was once again secure in his position. However, the Yorkist faction regrouped very quickly and attacked in force in 1460 and 1461.
Richard Duke of York made his way to Ireland. Here he had support following his time as Lord Lieutenant. Earls Salisbury and Warwick made their way to Calais. Calais was held in Warwick’s absence by Lord Fauconberg, his uncle. The garrison remained loyal to him and repelled attempts to wrestle control for the Royalists.
Links on the Rout at Ludford
Rout at Ludford Bridge, 12 October 1459
Battles in the Wars of the Roses
First Battle of St. Albans – Battle of Blore Heath – Battle of Ludford Bridge – Battle of Northampton – Battle of Wakefield – Battle of Mortimer’s Cross – Second Battle of St. Albans Battle of Ferrybridge – Battle of Towton – Battle of Hedgeley Moor – Battle of Hexham – Battle of Edgecote Moor – Battle of Losecote Field – Battle of Barnet – Battle of Tewkesbury – Battle of Bosworth – Battle of Stoke Field
Documents, Maps and Evidence
People and periods
British History – The Wars of the Roses – The Plantagenets – The Tudors – King Henry IV – King Henry V – King Henry VI – King Edward IV – King Edward V – King Richard III – King Henry VII – Margaret of Anjou