Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Requiescant in pace

Today is the 539th anniversary of the Battle of Barnet and hence the deaths, among thousands of others, of the Neville brothers - John Neville, Marquis Montagu and Richard Neville,Earl of Warwick and Salisbury.

The manner of their deaths vary with the author and the audience they were writing for and becomes more bizarre the further from the events one gets.

I believe John was caught up in the confusion surrounding Oxford's return to the battle after chasing Gloucester's men from the field (see earlier post); Warwick was holding together a disparate force and it isn't difficult to believe that thoughts of betrayal were not far from some minds. Though John had made an impassioned speech to the readeption parliament giving his explanation for remaining with Edward's camp, for some he had possibly remained a Yorkist too long and some may have found his hounding and execution of the Lancastrians after the Battle of Hedgely Moor in April 1464 difficult to forgive. But wearing Edward's livery under his own? Nope. John was Warwick's brother and in the end the Neville blood was thickest and when they rode out that morning they were true brothers-in-arms.
And Warwick. Scrambling for safety and a horse? We are talking here about the man who fought at Towton with an arrow wound in his leg; the man who fought at sea, where there is no escaping from an enemy once engaged! I prefer to have him make a noble last stand, circled by his enemies like the bear of his badge circled by dogs in the pit. Realistically he had nowhere to run to, having been let down by King Louis of France, and telling him in a terse letter exactly what he thought of him! And the thought of Warwick kneeling to Marguerite with a leering Somerset at her side after losing a battle doesn't bear contemplation! I prefer to think that Warwick knew that either he or Edward would die that day; when he lost the Battle of Barnet, Warwick knew he had lost everything. In July 1470 he had sworn on the True Cross in Angers Cathedral to fight for Lancaster and I believe that's exactly what he did to his last breath.

'Requiescat in pace'


Susan Higginbotham said...

A lovely tribute!

Caroline said...

Great post-and thank you for posting the photos from the Tower of London and St George's Chapel. Hopefully someday (soon) I'll be able visit England and see those sites in person!

Ragged Staff said...

Su, it's all done and over for me here in my time zone, and I think you're absolutely right - whatever the manner of their deaths, he and John both knew they were either going to walk away winners or not at all.

Su_H said...

Thanks Susan.
Caroline - those photos are from a research trip for the next WIP! Primarily to put myself in Will Hastings's place on that fateful day and then to visit his resting place.
Karen - the Nevilles - and Warwick in particular - always weighed up the odds carefully I think.

Ragged Staff said...

Su, I think you're right again, but my own view is that Warwick wasn't particularly good at seeing the big picture nor all that far ahead. What he was good at, amongst other things, was thinking on his feet and salvaging what he could from a bad situation. I don't believe that he ever, right up till the moment of his death, however that actually occurred, imagined there could ever be a time when all was lost. Barnet represents to me the waste of two fine lives and two good men, both pretty much my favourite people in the whole of human history.

Su_H said...

He certainly is sometimes quite surprised by situations he thinks he has thought through - prime example when he 'captures' Edward in 1469. He thinks he holds all the aces and seems genuinely puzzled when the nobility doesn't fall into line! And further puzzled when they won't sign up to fight Humphrey Neville and the Lancastrians without Edward's say-so. But the way he orchestrates his return from exile is pretty amazing - King Louis is pushing him all along but he won't go until everything is as he wants it - and it works - until he is let down by others that is! Even though the first time I encountered him was in books by historians who detest him I thought he was incredible - head and shoulders above anyone else - certainly it seemed there was nothing he couldn't do and he thought so too. Ah, if only there had been PM's. :-)