This is quite a sketchy post, more a commemoration than anything particularly useful, as I have yet to undertake the required deep research into this battle.
The battle of Wakefield, 30 December 1460, like the first battle of St Albans some five years earlier, both helped to change the nature of the conduct of the Wars of the Roses and escalated the violence, both in and post-battle. One of the overriding images, for a lot of people, is that of the row of heads on Micklegate Bar in York, the duke of York’s wearing a paper crown.
No-one knows why York engaged the larger Lancastrian force that day and it seems sometimes that individual interpretations of events are based on partisanship and – in one case at least – on perceptions of York coloured by perceptions of his son, Richard duke of Gloucester, later Richard III.
In his video presentation of Sandal Castle, John Fox suggests that York would never have made such a fundamental mistake as riding out to rescue stranded foragers because he was a seasoned soldier who didn’t make fundamental mistakes. As Fox is a strong advocate for the rehabilitation of Richard III, and as it would seem he is of the school of thought that identifies the young Richard strongly with his father, his reluctance to allow York to be fallible may be based in this. Fox prefers the hypothesis that York was betrayed by one of his men.
Others, who are not particularly fond of the duke of York, subscribe to the idea that he was lured out of the castle by taunting Lancastrians.
In the only detailed exploration of this battle that I currently have (Dockray and Knowles articles in the Richard III Society offprint The Battle of Wakefield) each scenario is discussed but no firm conclusion is reached.
For me, the story of the stranded foraging party makes by far the most sense.
However it happened, York, his son Edmund, earl of Rutland, sir Thomas Nevill, the young lord Harrington, William Bonville, (husband of Thomas’s sister Katheryn) and his father, also William Bonville, amongst many others, fell in battle. The earl of Salisbury survived the day and was taken to Pontefract castle where he was, the following day, beheaded.
York’s widow, Cecily Nevill, never remarried, dying in 1495. The countess of Salisbury, Alice Montacute, died in 1462. Maud, lady Willoughby, widow of Thomas Nevill, married sir Gervase Clifton the following year, only to lose him to a violent death in 1471. He was executed after the battle of Tewkesbury. Lady Harrington, Katheryn Nevill, mother of Bonville’s only child, married William lord Hastings in 1462. He was beheaded by Richard duke of Gloucester in 1483.