This was the battle that should have ended the War of the Roses. In 1461 Edward IV of the House of York had successfully seized the throne. Henry VI was captured and the Lancastrian Prince of Wales Edward of Westminster and his mother Queen Margaret of Anjou fled to France. England settled into a calm after the first phase of the War of the Roses. Nine years later the peace broke down. Edward alienated his cousin Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick by marrying the widow of a Lancastrian sympathizer Elizabeth Woodville instead of the princess chosen for him. Warwick along with Edward’s ambitious brother George, Duke of Clarence revolted and fled to France. There they allied with their old enemy Queen Margaret and invaded England.
Taken by surprise, it was the turn of Edward and his youngest (and most loyal) brother Riichard to flee. Edward IV returned in March 1471. George of Clarence defected to his brother. On April 14, 1471 Warwick was defeated and killed in a confusing battle fought in the fog at Barnet. Henry VI was recaptured by Edward IV. Delayed by storms, Queen Margaret and Prince Edward landed in England the same day as the Battle of Barnet. After learning of the disaster of Barnet they decided to gamble for the throne instead of returning to France. They decided to link up with the armies being raised in Wales by Jasper Tudor (uncle of the future Henry VII). Edward IV gave pursuit and caught up with the Lancastrians at Tewkesbury on the River Severn.
Forced to give battle, the Lancastrians were routed with most of their casualties coming in the rout. Edward of Westminister was captured in a grove by George, Duke of Clarence (who had sworn him fealty the previous year) and summarily executed. He was the only Prince of Wales to die in battle. Two days later the Duke of Somerset and the surviving Lancastrian leaders who had sought refuge in Tewkesbury abbey were executed. The Battle of Tewkesbury essentially eliminated the Lancastrian cause. Dispirited by the death of her only son Queen Margaret surrendered. Henry VI was murdered the day Edward IV returned to London.
The heir of Lancaster was now the young Henry Tudor whose lineage was tainted by bastardy. England was at peace and Edward IV lived the rest of his days in hedonistic prosperity. This battle should have ended the War of the Roses. Unfortunately Edward’s unfortunate marriage and his excessive favoritism towards his wife’s Woodville relations made it impossible. The treacherous George, Duke of Clarence was arrested and executed a few years later. On his death Edward IV named the loyal Richard of Gloucester regent for his son but the Woodville’s tried to have the young Edward V crowned and proclaimed of age. With a precedent for the judicial murder of a royal Duke just a few years old, the stage was set for Richard’s military coup and the inevitable stage of events that led to his usurpation of the throne for self-preservation. This gave a new lease of life on the moribund Lancastrian cause and eventually led to the Battle of Bosworth that finally ended the war of the Roses.