Beaufort, Henry, Duke of Somerset

(1436–1464)
   The son and heir of Edmund BEAUFORT, second duke of Somerset, Henry Beaufort, third duke of Somerset, was one of the chief military leaders of the Lancastrian cause during the first phase (1459–1461) of the WARS OF THE ROSES.
   In May 1455, Beaufort was severely wounded at the Battle of ST. ALBANS, where BEAUFORT, HENRY, DUKE OF SOMERSET 25 he witnessed his father’s death at the hands of troops commanded by his father’s rival, Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York. Both dynastic and personal considerations made the new duke a staunch supporter of HENRY VI—the BEAUFORT FAMILY was a branch of the house of LANCASTER, and Somerset considered York guilty of his father’s murder. In early 1458, Somerset and the sons of the other noblemen slain at St. Albans brought large retinues to LONDON, where they demanded revenge against York and his chief allies, Richard NEVILLE, earl of Salisbury, and his son Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick. After attempting to ambush York and Salisbury, Somerset and his allies agreed to a reconciliation brokered by Henry VI and sealed by the LOVE-DAY of March 1458.
   When that settlement collapsed in civil war in 1459, Henry VI appointed Somerset captain of CALAIS. But being unable to dislodge Warwick from the town, Somerset returned to England in October 1460. In December, the duke led the army that defeated and killed York and Salisbury at the Battle of WAKEFIELD, and in February 1461 he commanded the victorious Lancastrians at the Battle of ST. ALBANS. Somerset commanded again at the Battle of TOWTON in late March, but fled into SCOTLAND with the Lancastrian royal family when EDWARD IV won the day. In March 1462, after failing to win help from FRANCE, Somerset returned to England where Queen MARGARET OF ANJOU entrusted him with the Lancastrian-held castle of BAMBURGH, which he surrendered in December. Edward IV pardoned Somerset in March 1463, and later reversed his ATTAINDER and restored him to his lands and titles. In late 1463, the duke reverted to his old allegiance, fleeing to the Lancastrian-held castles of Bamburgh and ALNWICK, from which he conducted a spring campaign that wrested much of northeastern England from Yorkist control. Defeated at the Battle of HEDGELEY MOOR in April 1464, Somerset regrouped and, placing Henry VI at the head of his army, marched south, encountering the forces of John NEVILLE, Lord Montagu, on 15 May. Defeated and captured at the subsequent Battle of HEXHAM, Somerset was executed shortly thereafter. Because Somerset was unmarried, the Lancastrians conferred his title on his younger brother, Edmund BEAUFORT.
   See also other entries under Beaufort
   Further Reading: Haigh, Philip A., The Military Campaigns of the Wars of the Roses (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1995); “Henry Beaufort,” in Michael Hicks, Who’s Who in Late Medieval England (London: Shepheard- Walwyn, 1991), pp. 313–315; Pollard, A. J., North- Eastern England during the Wars of the Roses (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990); Ross, Charles, Edward IV (New Haven, CT:Yale University Press, 1998).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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