The Western Campaign of 1461

In the winter of 1460-1 Edward, Earl of March (later king Edward IV), was based in the west of England. Between the strategically important towns of Shrewsbury and Gloucester, he was recruiting an army in support of his father Richard, Duke of York, in his campaign for the throne. After the death of his father at the battle of Wakefield, on 30th December 1460, Edward inherited the Yorkist claim to the throne. In response to this disaster, the Earl of Warwick was rebuilding their forces in the east while Edward continued to recruit in the west.

For much of the medieval period the Welsh Marches had been a power base of the Mortimer family, from which Edward was descended, and now it continued to be important to the Yorkist cause. Mortimer’s Cross, where the next battle was to be fought, lay near the heart of Mortimer territory. Wigmore Castle, just 4 miles to the north along the Roman road, had been one of their major residences, while other Yorkist supporters lived nearby, such as Sir Richard Croft of Croft Castle, two miles to the east.

The main Lancastrian army, fighting in the name of Henry VI but in reality under the direction of Queen Margaret, did not immediately advance into the south to take London after their success at Wakefield. But before Edward could march to secure the capital he had to deal with another army which was being brought together in the south west of Wales. There Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, together with his father Owen Tudor, was raising forces for the Lancastrian cause.  In January Jasper was joined by James Butler, the Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond, who had landed in Pembroke with mercenary troops from France, Brittany and Ireland. Their primary objective may have been to unite with the main Lancastrian army before engaging the Yorkists and not, as Hodges argues, to capture fortified towns and castles or lay waste the Yorkist territory in the Marches. This was after all just two weeks before the battle of St Albans, where the Queen’s army would defeat the Earl of Warwick, and the Lancastrians may have intended to unite their forces for the final advance on the capital. For Edward however such a conjunction could not be allowed. He must destroy this army before it could reach England. It should therefore probably be assumed that it was Edward who manoeuvred to intercept the Lancastrian army, which he finally confronted at Mortimer’s Cross.

Battle locations for The Western Campaign of 1461

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