Alnwick Castle

(1461–1464)
   Along with the other Northumberland fortresses of BAMBURGH and DUNSTANBURGH, Alnwick Castle demonstrated the insecurity of EDWARD IV’s throne by falling several times into Lancastrian hands between 1461 and 1464.
   After the Yorkist victory at the Battle of TOWTON in March 1461,Alnwick was one of several northern strongholds that remained under the control of RETAINERS loyal to the Lancastrian Percy family (see entries under Percy). The castle fell to Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, in September, but was lost again in November to a Lancastrian raiding party from SCOTLAND under Sir William TAILBOYS. Realizing that the Northumberland fortresses were vulnerable so long as the Lancastrians could cross the border, Edward IV negotiated a three-month truce with Scotland to begin in June 1462. Edward used the ceasefire to retake the lost castles, with Alnwick falling in July after a short siege conducted by William HASTINGS, Lord Hastings, and Sir John HOWARD. Once again,Yorkist control of the fortress was short-lived, for in late October Alnwick capitulated to MARGARET OF ANJOU and her newly landed force of French MERCENARIES under Pierre de BRÉZÉ. The Lancastrian royal family and de Brézé retired to Scotland in November upon receiving news of an approaching Yorkist army. By early December 1462,Warwick was coordinating sieges of all three castles, with the Alnwick operation under the command of William NEVILLE, earl of Kent; Anthony WOODVILLE, Lord Scales; and John TIPTOFT, earl of Worcester. On 5 January 1463, a Scottish relief force under de Brézé and the Scottish earl of Angus appeared at Alnwick. Warwick, perhaps conscious of the low morale of his men, who had been maintaining a difficult siege in midwinter, declined to fight. Robert HUNGERFORD, Lord Hungerford, commander of the Alnwick garrison, marched his men out of the castle and withdrew into Scotland with de Brézé’s force.Warwick installed a Yorkist garrison in Alnwick, but Hungerford retook the castle in March when the Yorkist commander, Sir Ralph Grey, defected and allowed the Lancastrians to enter the fortress unopposed. By June,Warwick and his brother John NEVILLE, Lord Montagu, were again marching north. The Nevilles surprised a large Scottish army as it was besieging Norham Castle; the Scots force, which included not only JAMES III and his mother MARY OF GUELDRES, but also the Lancastrian royal family, fled in panic before the Yorkist army. This defeat cooled Scottish support for the Lancastrians and allowed the negotiation of a ten-month Anglo-Scottish truce in December.
   With Scotland thus neutralized, the Yorkists began a campaign to end Lancastrian activity in Northumberland once and for all. In April 1464, Montagu defeated a Lancastrian force under Henry BEAUFORT, duke of Somerset, at the Battle of HEDGELEY MOOR west of Alnwick. The Lancastrian survivors of that battle gathered at Alnwick, where, under the nominal leadership of HENRY VI himself, they reformed and marched out to again face Montagu. At the Battle of HEXHAM on 15 May, Montagu defeated and captured Somerset, while the demoralized remnants of Somerset’s force retreated to Alnwick, which they surrendered to Warwick on 23 June. Alnwick was henceforth Yorkist, and the Northumberland phase of the civil wars was over.
   Further Reading: Haigh, Philip A., The Military Campaigns of the Wars of the Roses (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1995); Pollard, A. J., North-Eastern England during the Wars of the Roses (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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