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Wars of the Roses archer: John Nesfield's Retinue.
The Armies & the Losses


The royal army was commanded by the Earl of Pembroke and Earl of Devon, but Devon probably withdrew his forces the night before and took no part in the action. The latter may have numbered as many as 7-8000 and included the only substantial body of archers in the royal army, though according to Hall these archers numbered just 800. The loss of the archers in particular placed Pembroke at a great disadvantage in the opening stages of the battle, when in all he probably had between 5000 – 6000 Welsh infantry and cavalry. Just one of the primary accounts of the battle suggests a very different situation, for Waurin claims that Devon’s troops fought in the early stages of the battle but then retreated or fled when rebel reinforcements arrived.

Haigh suggests that the royal and the rebel armies both numbered some 20,000 troops when the battle began. Medieval chronicles are notorious for their inability to handle large numbers. At Edgcote in particular 20,000 seems a very large number for an action which involved only a part of the two armeis that were being assembled by the King and Warwick respectively.


The rebel army was commanded by Robin of Redesdale, probably a pseudonym for Sir John Conyers. It is unclear how many troops were under his command, but they certainly included a significant number of archers. In addition, towards the end of the battle reinforcements arrived under the command of John Clapham. Hall’s figure of 500 men seems a more realistic number for these reserves compared to the 15,000 listed in ‘Hearne’s fragment’.


Hall’s figure of 5000 Welsh troops, of the Earl of Pembroke, killed in the battle is undoubtedly an exaggeration. Warkworth gives a more believable 2000 and indeed there do appear to have been heavy losses, particularly on the royal side, for the contemporary chronicles name a substantial number of notable figures killed in the action. A composite list is given by Haigh.

• Haigh, P A. Where Both Hosts Fought : The Rebellions of 1469-1470 & Battles of Edgecote & Lose-cote-field. Stockton on Tees: Battlefield Press, 1997. Appendix 2.


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