3 Mortimer’s Cross, Battle of

Mortimer’s Cross, Battle of

   The Yorkist victory at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross on 2 February 1461 boosted the confidence of Edward, earl of March (see Edward IV, King of England), then conducting his first independent command, and brightened the future of the Yorkist cause, then reeling from the recent death of Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, at the Battle of WAKEFIELD. In January 1461, while campaigning along the Welsh border, the eighteen-year-old earl of March heard of his father’s death. Anxious to return to LONDON and join forces with his chief ally, Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, March was preparing to leave Gloucester when he learned of a Lancastrian army marching out of WALES from the northwest. This force, commanded by Jasper TUDOR, earl of Pembroke, half brother of HENRY VI, and James BUTLER, earl of Wiltshire, consisted of Pembroke’s Welsh tenants and a band of French and Irish MERCENARIES. Turning north, March encountered the Lancastrian force about seventeen miles northwest of Hereford near a place called Mortimer’s Cross. After several hours of maneuvering for position, the two armies clashed at midday on 2 February. Wiltshire, leading the experienced mercenaries, overpowered the Yorkist right wing and drove it from the field. Owen TUDOR, Pembroke’s father, tried to outflank the Yorkist left under Sir William HERBERT, but Tudor was himself outflanked in the process, and his force disintegrated. In the center, March eventually overcame stiff resistance from Pembroke’s men and swept the field of Lancastrians. After re-forming, Wiltshire’s mercenaries supposedly sat down, awaiting the outcome of the battle.When Pembroke’s line broke, the mercenaries marched off in search of an employer who could pay them. Pembroke and Wiltshire both escaped the field, but Owen Tudor was taken and executed in the marketplace at Hereford. After the battle, March revealed that at dawn on 2 February he had seen three suns rise, a miraculous sight that he had taken as an omen of victory in the coming battle. March was so affected by this sign that he later adopted the sunburst as his emblem (see Sun in Splendor/Sunburst Badge). Filled with confidence after his victory, March returned to London, where one month later he was acclaimed as King Edward IV.
   Further Reading: Haigh, Philip A., The Military Campaigns of the Wars of the Roses (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1995); Hodges, Geoffrey, Ludford Bridge and Mortimer’s Cross (Herefordshire: Long Aston Press, 1989).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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