With the destruction of the Lancastrian cause in 1461 at Towton, the Yorkist contender Edward, Earl of March, had secured the throne as Edward IV. However during 1469-1470 several rebellions took place. This represented the next phase of action of the Wars of the Roses, when Edward IV came under threat from disaffected supporters. Most notable amongst these was Earl of Warwick, the ‘Kingmaker’, who originally had been Edward’s strongest supporter. Warwick in particular felt threatened by the rise of the Woodville family, who received both political and financial advancement following Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. Moreover, Edward was increasingly taking independent control of the reins of power, which Warwick had come to treat as his own. Edward took political decisions which conflicted with Warwick’s actions, as when Edward allied with the Duke of Burgundy against the French, and as Edward’s popularity grew so Warwick’s declined.
Warwick was sent to Calais, then an English territory, in an attempt to weaken his ability to undermine the king. But already, with other disaffected Yorkists, Warwick had planned to re-ignite the dynastic conflict and intended to replace Edward with the latter’s brother, the Duke of Clarence. In early June 1469, with Warwick’s support, there was a rebellion in the north. The initial rebellion was ill timed and easily put down. But in late June, again in the north, Sir William Conyers, under the name Robin of Redesdale, raised another rebellion. This soon received Warwick’s open support. The latter now crossed back into England and raised forces to support the rebellion. Edward, who had marched north to crush the rebellion, found it on a far large scale than expected and thus he called for further forces to assemble at Nottingham. There he waited for these troops in order to be able to challenge the rebels, who were marching south.
Redesdale marched south to join with Warwick’s forces, bypassing the king at Nottingham. Meanwhile, the Earls of Pembroke and Devon marched north east with thousands of troops to join the king at Nottingham. Before the respective forces could unite, Redesdale’s and Pembroke’s armies encountered each other in Northamptonshire. The first encounter was close by some woodland near Northampton, when the rebels were attacked in line of march by a large detachment of Pembroke’s cavalry. But the rebels beat of the attack, forcing the cavalry to retreat to the main army, which had by now reached the Banbury area.
The two armies were clearly maneuvering in south and west Northamptonshire but it is unclear from the primary sources exactly which routes they were following. By the night of the 25th July 1469 the Earls of Pembroke and Devon were in Banbury while the majority of the forces seem to have been several miles to the north east. They had probably advanced along the road towards Daventry, en-route for Nottingham. Meanwhile it seems likely that the rebel army was marching south westward from Northampton, possibly along the Banbury Lane, though others have suggested an approach via Daventry and then south west towards Banbury. That night the two armies, each aware of the other, lay in close proximity near Edgcote. After a skirmish took place close to Pembroke’s camp, a battle had become almost inevitable.
Numerous books on the Wars of the Roses provide a context within which to view the Edgecote campaign. However the most detailed which is linked directly to a discussion of the battle itself is:
- Haigh, P A. Where Both Hosts Fought : The Rebellions of 1469-1470 & Battles of Edgecote & Lose-cote-field. Stockton on Tees: Battlefield Press, 1997