A Warwick! A Warwick! – The Battle of St Albans*

Posted: April 6, 2010 in 1st St Albans, Richard Nevill, Earl of Salisbury, Richard Nevill, Earl of Warwick, Richard, Duke of York, The WIPs - Nevill

I am enmired in Snalbans at the moment – if one can be enmired in the main street of a town.

It’s a well documented battle, though you do have to wade through some very partisan accounts.  Fortunately, Armstrong (Politics and the Battle of St Albans) and Hicks (Propaganda and the First Battle of St Albans) are extremely helpful in separating the wheat from the chaff.
Making three hours of heralds trotting back and forth interesting has certainly been a challenge, but after several drafts and acres of red ink, I think I’ve done all right.  With This Herald and That Pursuivant clogging up the works, the place must have been lousy with white rabbits.  I haven’t got my hands on the Fastolf Relation yet (I could get off my lazy arse and go look for it, I mean, the ANU library and the National Library are barely an hour’s drive away…)  When I do, I’ll be able to smooth out what I’ve got and tie up some loose ends.

Something that I’ve been finding invaluable are the relevant Parliamentary Rolls (the internet and my credit card are a dangerous combination…)  The Parliamentary Pardon is a thing of beauty – there’s nothing quite like blaming the dead for taking the heat off.

It’s the stuff that happens immediately after the battle that’s a little vague.  Some bad men break into the abbey and threaten to kill the duke of Buckingham and the earl of Wiltshire (who’s already scarpered); York sends a herald to the king demanding they be handed over to him, and Buckingham is; though he was never taken prisoner, just into what might be called protective custody.  I’m not sure where York, Warwick and Salisbury were at this time, which herald was sent (as Mowbray Herald and (poss) Fastolf Pursuivant were probably observing from a safe distance, I’ve given the gig to Salisbury Herald, with absolutely no justification whatsoever) and how far into the abbey the bad men got.  I have them all separately converging on the abbey to deal with it.
Abbot Whetehamsted doesn’t seem to know just who’s taken sanctuary and who might have cut for it, and he’s very worried for the sanctity and security of his abbey.  (Cutting for it was a valid course of action after a spanking, but Wiltshire did seem to make a habit of it.) I’m assuming that York et al aren’t at the abbey at that stage, but there’s nothing that tells me where they were; where Buckingham was taken; just when Norfolk arrived and what might have passed between him and his not-quite-as-solid-as-they-think allies.  I’m assuming he was pleased to hear the news of Somerset’s death.  Buckingham was probably in a filthy mood by this time, and worried about his son, who was badly wounded.

The battle itself and the days leading up to it are told solely from Warwick’s pov.  The next chapter – from falling on their knees before the king, begging forgiveness and getting it, to wherever I’m going to end it – is back to multiple povs.  Just using Warwick for the first bit allows him to observe and comment on  the actions and demeanour of his father and uncle.  It also lets me get a bit further into his head than I have so far.

Did York actually order (even obliquely) Somerset’s death?  Probably.  One account says he was killed with an axe; one writer suggests that Warwick might have been personally responsible.  He did not die beneath the sign of the Castle tavern, ruminating about childhood prophecies.  (How would we know?  He died.)

Did the Nevills target at least Northumberland (if not Clifford as well)? Probably, though I tend to think that Clifford was a lucky accident.  He was knee deep in strife, defending the barricades.  I haven’t credited either of them with personally despatching Northumberland.

And I still want to know what the hell it was that Warwick thought Cromwell had done to make him lose his temper and blame him for the whole thing.  It’s too good a scene, dramatically, to leave out, but I have to find the motivation for it.  Cromwell wasn’t at St Albans, though he was somewhere in the vicinity.  With Chancellor Bourchier, Fauconberg and the earl of Devon all used as go-betweens, and with Mowbray Herald providing the bulk of the white rabbitry, was York expecting Cromwell to be a voice on their behalf as well?  I might go with this, until or unless I find out otherwise – and I’m not holding  my breath on that one.

*I suppose that should be the First Battle of St Albans, but I refuse to acknowledge any other battle that might have taken place in or around, say, St Albans.

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