Battle of Mortimer’s Cross

The Battle of Mortimer’s Cross took place in early February 1461. Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, was marching a new army from his Welsh lands to meet with the Queen. Edward, Earl of March, intercepted the Lancastrian army in his own lands near Hereford. The battle saw Edward achieve his first victory as a commander and is the first battle in the campaign that saw him firmly established as King of England by the end of the year.

Battle of Mortimer's Cross

Context: The Battle of Mortimer’s Cross

Shortly after receiving the news of his fathers death in the Battle of Wakefield, Edward received news that a Lancastrian force had landed in south Wales. The force, led by Jasper Tudor, was recruiting men as it travelled and making its way towards England. Edward had been resident in Wiglow Castle and Gloucester gathering troops and ensuring that the Welsh Marches were safe. Instead of joining with the Earl of Warwick’s army, he now had to face off the threat posed by Tudor’s army.

Edward, who had inherited his fathers claim to the throne, readied his men in Ludlow. His troops were fresh, well fed and in terrain that they knew very well. In contrast, Tudor led an army that had recently fought in France and had marched over 100 miles in a week. Edward needed to prevent the Lancastrians from advancing into England. If Tudors army was to join with Queen Margaret, it would be a formidable force. To maximise his chances of engaging the Lancastrians he set up camp at Mortimer’s Cross, in Herefordshire.

The Battle

Jasper Tudor, the Earl of Pembroke, could have marched past Edward’s army. However this would leave his supply lines exposed, so he opted to attack. Historians and Archaeologists are uncertain of the exact location of the Battlefield. The camp was near Mortimer’s Cross and the battle occured on either the 2nd or 3rd of February 1461.

The sky was filled with a bright light as the Yorkist army formed up. Edward, proclaimed it to be a sign that victory was to be theirs. The light was caused by a natural phenomenon called a parhelion.

The Yorkist army made good use of their local knowledge. The Lancastrian force had to advance across open land.  Yorkist archers may have been located on higher ground. An account suggests that a force of archers was deployed to force the Lancastrian infantry towards the River Lugg. Note that primary sources do not provide sufficient detail of battle formations. Much of the outline of how the battle was fought is based on supposition by researchers and historians.

The Lancastrian army was routed at Mortimer’s Cross . Contemporary accounts do not provide enough depth to state exactly what happened. Some suggest that Owen Tudor’s detachment was overcome, followed by swift defeat. There are tales of the Lancastrians being chased as far as Hereford.

Consequences of the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross

The Yorkists captured several leading Lancastrians in the battle. In Hereford, the Yorkists executed Owen Tudor. As Herefordshire was Edward’s land, the men their were reliant upon his success for their own security and wellbeing. That level of motivation, coupled with the probable superiority of numbers and equipment on the field of battle help to explain the Yorkist victory.

The battle was Edward’s first victory as a military commander. As leader of the Yorkist faction he soon proclaimed himself to be the king and launched the Towton campaign that saw that claim come to fruition.

Causes of the Wars of the Roses – Course of the War of the Roses – Events of the War of the Roses

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

The Rous Rolls – Paston Letters – Edward IV Roll

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

Schoolshistory – teaching resources for Key Stage 3, GCSE and A Level history