“Thus far our fortune keeps
An upward course,
And we are graced with wreaths of victory.
But in the midst of this bright shining day,
I spy a black, suspicious, threatening cloud,
That will encounter with our glorious sun,
Ere he attain his easeful western bed;
I mean, my lords, those powers, that the Queen
Hath raised in Gallia, have arrived our coast,
And as we hear, march on to fight with us.
Scene—The Field of Battle near Barnet.
Third part of King Henry VIth, Act 5th, Scene 3rd.
RAPIN, after describing the landing of Edward IV. at Ravenspur, under his father’s title, as Duke of York only, and his arrival shortly afterwards in London, on the 11th of April, 1471, gives an account of the battle of Barnet, as follows :—
“Edward had not time to make a long stay at London. Two days after his arrival, he departed to put himself at the head of his army, hearing the Earl of Warwick was advancing to St. Albans. Undoubtedly the earl was extremely embarrassed; he had decamped from Coventry, and marched with great diligence, in expectation that the city of London would keep Edward at least a few days before the walls, and the news of his approach hinder the inhabitants from receiving him; but he saw the metropolis lost, King Henry in prison, and the whole kingdom as it were ready to declare for his enemy. In this extremity there was no other refuge but to fight and vanquish Edward. A victory was the only means of restoring his affairs; but on the other hand, though he had a good army, it was far from being so strong as Edward’s, which he had continually increased since his being master of London. In short, after many reflections upon the posture of his affairs, flight being difficult and dishonourable, and the success of battle yet uncertain, he concluded his only way was to venture a battle, and die honourably, if victory declared for his enemy. But withal he resolved so to order it that the Marquis of Montague, his brother, should run the same fortune with him, since it was the event only that could assure him of his fidelity. In this resolution he marched from St. Albans to Barnet, 2 which is but ten miles from London, where he met Edward, who was likewise advancing to fight there, upon the 14th of April, 1471, being Easter-day. A terrible battle ensued, which decided the fate of the two competitors. Edward had brought Henry with him, not daring to commit him to any one’s custody.
“The battle began early in the morning and lasted till noon. 3 Never, perhaps, had two armies been seen to fight with more bravery and obstinacy. Every one considering himself as a rebel in case the enemy was victorious, no favour was expected. The barbarity usually practised in civil wars was well known, and more especially in this, where sundry revolutions in favour of both parties had carried animosity to the highest degree. This probably was the true cause of the continuance of the battle. The Earl of Warwick’s troops, though inferior in number, fought desperately, being determined, by the example of their general, either to conquer or die. They had even reason to hope, for some time, that victory was going to declare in their favour. Some squadrons, detached by the Earl of Warwick from the third 1ine gained so much ground upon their enemies that several posted to London with the news of their defeat. But Edward not losing the presence of mind so necessary to a general on such perilous occasions, ordered a body of reserve to advance, who falling upon the victorious enemy in the flank, put them into extreme disorder. The small number of the Earl of Warwick’s troops suffered him not to make a detachment to oppose that body. At the same time the Earl of Oxford, who had beat back Edward’s troops, 4 considering he had left the line, where he was stationed, too much exposed, wheeled about to return to his post. This precaution, though prudent, occasioned the Earl of Warwick’s defeat. The Earl of Oxford’s badge upon his arms and colours was a star with streams, and Edward’s, device was a sun 5 A small mist which arose during the battle hindering the Earl of Warwick’s troops from discerning the difference, they furiously charged these squadrons as they were returning to their post, and put them to rout before the Earl of Oxford had time to remove their mistake. This bred extreme confusion in the army; some imagining they were betrayed, because they were attacked by their own men, ran away to the enemy. Others seeing them fly that way, thought themselves attacked in the rear, and knew not what course to take. Meanwhile, Edward, improving this mistake, cut in pieces the troops that were flying towards him. The Earl of Warwick perceiving the disorder, did his utmost to remedy it, but it was to no purpose. At last, willing to animate his troops by his example, he rushed, though on foot, among the thickest of his enemies, where he quickly fell covered with wounds. The Marquis of Montague, his brother, desirous to rescue him, perished in the attempt a few moments after. 6 Thus ended the battle about noon, by the entire defeat of Warwick’s army, ten thousand whereof were slain on the spot.7
“It is said Edward, 8 who in all other battles was wont to publish, before the fight, that the common soldiers should be spared, and the officers put to the sword, had ordered now that no quarter should be given. The Earl of Oxford and the Duke of Somerset fled into Wales to the Earl of Pembroke, who was levying troops for the Earl of Warwick. The Duke of Exeter was left for dead among the slain, but soon after reviving, he crawled to the next house whence he found means to be carried to London, where he took sanctuary in Westminster Abbey.
“Such was the success of this bloody day, and such the end of the famous Earl of Warwick, who since the beginning of the quarrel between the houses of Lancaster and York, had made in England the greatest figure of any subject before him. In a word, he had made and unmade kings as he pleased; nothing more glorious could be said of a private man, if true glory consisted in excess of power.
“Edward having thus obtained a complete victory, which seemed to secure to him the crown, returned to London, where he was triumphantly received. The king’s first care was to return God thanks for the victory, at St. Paul’s church, after which he ordered the unfortunate Henry to be sent to his old prison.”
Thus terminated the battle of Barnet, 9 the fatal issue of which again placed a rebellious subject on the throne, and paved the way for the murder of the most virtuous, but certainly one of the weakest princes that ever wore the British diadem, as well as that of his son, Edward Prince of Wales, who after the engagement at Tewkesbury, was murdered in cold blood by the butchering Clarence, the deformed Gloucester, and others.
Adjoining Hadley Green (formerly Glademoor Heath) stands the parish church, over the western door of which is a small tablet sculptured at the corners, on the dexter side a rose, on the sinister a wing, in the centre the date 1494, in the characters of that day. That the rose would bear any allusion to the Yorkists, and the wing to the opposite party, is not probable, as at this date the two houses were united in the persons of Henry VII. and E1izabeth daughter of Edward IV.
I should be tempted to believe that the bodies of the slain were interred at this spot, it being the same distance from Barnet, viz, half a mile, as the scite on which the chapel was said to have been built; but a circumstance, recently made known to me, militates against this so strongly, that the position is by no means tenable. Whoever visits this church 10 (and it is well worth visiting) will observe a brass plate fixed against the eastern staircase, to the memory of Philip, the son of Walter and Elizabeth Grene. The date of the inscription 15, A. D. MCCCCXLII.
This plate, there can be no doubt, had originally been placed over a grave in the church, and as its date is 1442, being twenty-nine years anterior to the battle of Barnet, it precludes the possibility of the church claiming its origin from that event, unless we presume the plate to have been removed from some other place, which is not 1ikely. 11 There are other very curious monuments in this building worthy of notice, but none apparently of so early a date as this inscription, or even of the time of Edward IV.
Once more reverting to the battle, it is presumed that the range of it extended northward, as before stated, towards St. Albans. That some of the chief nobility who fell in this engagement were there interred, no one will dispute, as a few years since a brass plate which had been placed over one who fell in the contest, and which was sacrilegiously torn from the tomb by some unhallowed hand, came into my possession, and there is no doubt it was disposed of by one of the persons attached to the place, whose duty lay, not in anticipating the ravages of time, by destroying and mutilating those monuments of past ages which are left to us, but in preserving them with fidelity and care. It has subsequently been restored to its original position over the grave, a prey most likely for some future official barbarian, who will consider it his perquisite. Much as these protectors of our tombs are to be blamed, and I trust and hope there are but few thus deserving of censure, they are not more to be blamed than others, my own countrymen, who in this one instance, I am ashamed to say, are beneath foreigners, both in tempting those in trust, by giving a reward for their spoliations, and likewise slyly taking small portions as mementos of what they have seen, a finger or a toe of some by-gone beauty, 12 or celebrated man, which seems a desirable morceau to be carried home, put into a drawer, its local interest gone, and become entirely useless, except as a witness—Of what ?—of vitiated taste, and a barbarous custom. That it is not the enlightened part of the community, or those who possess a real taste for antiquity, who would so commit themselves, I am aware; but that the untutored should so far forget what they owe to common decency and decorum, or that there should be found persons, either at St. Albans, or any other part of this country, who would lend a hand to such practices, is deeply to be regretted.
J. Davy, Printer, 15, Queen Street, Seven Dials
1 Having alluded to this battle in page 83, the following more precise account may be agreeable to some of my readers.
2 Rapin does not mention Glademoor-heath, but it is thus noticed in Guthrie’s History of England:—“And they [the troops Edward] encamped to the north of Barnet, very near the Earl’s army, which lay upon a moor called Glademoor-heath, between Barnet and St. Albans.
3 In Edward’s army, the front was led by Richard Duke of Gloucester. Edward himself, and George Duke of Clarence, commanded the main body; and William Lord Hastings the rear In the Earl of Warwick’s army, the right wing was commanded by John Neville Marquis of Montague, and John de Vere Earl of Oxford; the left by the Earl of Warwick himself, and John Holland Duke of Exeter; and a body of archers, which was in the middle, by Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset.—Hak. fol. 217.
4 Hollinshed, p. 1335, says—“The number of King Edward’s troops did not exceed nine thousand.
5 The gold nobles of Edward IV. have in the centre of their reverses a sun. And on some of his groats we find the same emblem used as a mint mark.
6 The bodies of the earl and his brother were exposed for three days in St. Paul’s Cathedral, after which they were conveyed to Bisham Abbey, Berkshire, and there interred.
7 How this account can be reconciled with that given by Hollinshed, I know not, who states that Edward’s army consisted of only nine thousand men.
Hall, again, states that there were ten thousand slain on both sides; Fabian has but about fifteen hundred; Stow numbers them at four thousand, and which is correct it is impossible now to say. The bodies of the slain were buried in the field of battle, half a mile from Barnet, where a chapel was afterwards erected to their memory.
8 In the year 1789, the body of this prince was discovered. At that time workmen in the employ of Mr. Emblen, builder, were engaged in forming a new vault for the present Royal Family, and having occasion to excavate under St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, met by accident with the coffin of Edward IV. Before any of the authorities of the place could reach the spot, the lid was removed, and the body despoiled, one taking a lock of hair, another a bone, &c. A man of the name of John Hall, took the liberty to pocket a heel-bone and a lock of hair. These came into the possession of Mr. John Peckham, of Slough, and upon his decease into mine, more than forty years afterwards; and as they could not then be restored to the place from which they had been taken, they were deposited in the small museum of a gentleman in town (Mr. T. Purland) who will take much pleasure in permitting them to be seen. The bone has the appearance of mahogany, and the hair rather a sandy cast.
9 In the Archaeologia, vol. xxi. part 2, is an account of a manuscript on vellum, of the quarto size, divided into four parts, or chapters, and at the head of each is a highly finished miniature. It is preserved in the public library at Ghent. In the first miniature is a representation of the battle; the back ground being seen as open country between two ridges of rock, and on the right a large castellated building, or perhaps a town.
10 Here is seen the iron pitch pot, used formerly as a beacon, and which is placed on the top of the tower; it is likewise said to have been used, and probably for the last time, as a signal in the year of the rebellion 1745, when the Londoners were so terribly alarmed at the progress made by the army under the command of the pusillanimous Prince Charles Edward Stuart, (termed the young Pretender). From this tower is a splendid view of the shipping on the Thames, &c.
11 In a former note I have stated, that I could discover nothing, either to confirm my belief that Hadley Church was, or was not, built over those who fell at the battle of Barnet. At that period I was not aware of the existence of this plate.
12 Observe those splendid statues at Whitchurch Canons, (Edgeware), erected by the princely Chandos, statues which would be ornaments even in Westminster Abbey. Some miscreants have despoiled them of several of the fingers. This beautiful little church (almost unknown to the inhabitants of the metropolis) is well worth their notice. In it is the organ once the property of Handel, and on which, as he was professionally engaged at this church, he regularly played. For the use of this place he composed some of his finest anthems—“The light quirks of music,” of the ungrateful Pope, who in his essay satirises his benefactor and friend, then styled the great Duke of Chandos, and who built hard by a splendid palace, which was taken down by one of his successors, after standing about thirty years. On the same scite is the mansion of a lady highly esteemed (the Lady Plumer). The church is contiguous to the village of Edgeware.
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