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The barmaid who decided a battle

By tboullemier, Aug 7 2017 11:40PM

THE biggest ever battle fought in Northamptonshire was at Naseby. Right or wrong?


Around 25,000 slogged it out in the Civil War clash that finished Charles l and ushered in Parliamentary democracy.

But as many as 40,000 fought in the little-heralded Battle of Edgcote, on July 26th 1469.

When I walked the peaceful pastures on its anniversary I was disappointed to hear they will eventually be traversed by the High Speed Trainline.

But I was astonished to hear that the victory was probably decided by a barmaid from nearby Banbury.

The clash took place during the Wars of the Roses but it wasn’t between Yorkists and Lancastrians. It was more or less Yorkists v Yorkists.

The Earl of Warwick had fallen out with King Edward lV over his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville and the growing influence of the Woodville family.

The devious Warwick got a mysterious ally named Robin of Redesdale to raise a rebel army and the king was assembling forces to deal with it.

Edward’s Royalist army, composed mainly of Welsh and led by the earls of Pembroke and Devon, was marching to join him at Nottingham when they camped overnight on the Oxfordshire-Northamptonshire border.

But the noble earls then fell out over who should spend the night with a seductive barmaid from nearby Banbury.

Pembroke seems to have won and Devon marched off in a sulk, taking all his troops, which included a large contingent of Welsh archers. This seriously weakened Pembroke’s force.

The following day he found himself confronted by Redesdale’s rebels and was seriously outnumbered.

Pembroke’s mounted troops held the high ground but were forced off it by the rebels’ own archers and came down to the plain where they were soon locked in desperate hand to hand fighting.

At this stage a new force appeared from the east wearing red tunics. Pembroke’s men clearly thought this was the vanguard of a fresh army led by Warwick himself.

They were, in fact, “500 rascals from Northampton” including the sweepings of the town’s jails.

But in a situation reminiscent of Bannockburn, when the English army was fooled into thinking Scottish camp followers who appeared over the hill were real fighting men, Pembroke’s men broke and fled.

Some 5,000 were cut down in the pursuit and a little later, 169 Welsh noblemen were executed at Northampton’s Queen Eleanor Cross.

This was watched by Warwick who was by now in open rebellion. Soon afterwards he imprisoned Edward lV, thus bringing two kings under his control and two months later his men also captured the Earl of Devon and beheaded him.

But there are no reports whatsoever of what became of the seductive Banbury barmaid.

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