Battle of Empingham
Empingham, Rutland The 12th of March 1470 AD
The Wars of the Roses were about the family, but not in some cosy and comfortable way. They saw those at the top of the English tree grasp power and protect their own, or die trying. Empingham, also known as Losecoat Field, is a stark illustration of this.
After the battle at Edgecote the previous year Edward IV had fallen under Warwick’s ‘protection’. But the country demanded a king to rule it, and for all the attempts to calumniate Edward as illegitimate Warwick’s brother the Duke of Clarence was not an acceptable alternative. Of the two kings in custody Warwick chose Edward rather than Henry to rule again.
But Edward was not content to rule in Warwick’ shadow, and rapidly gathered support to take him back into the light. Within a year of Edgecote then Warwick and Clarence engineered another rebellion.
Sir Robert Welles raised an army of sorts in the East Midlands, bitter about his father Lord Welles being held by the king. He was to join Warwick and Clarence at Leicester , though they were still ostensibly loyal to Edward, marching to support him.
Sir Robert fatally decided to face Edward’s army, and marched on Stamford without his allies. At Tickencote Warren near the village of Empingham the king’s men and Sir Robert’s faced one another on the 12th of March. Lord Welles and his friend Sir Thomas Dymmock were executed in sight of the rebels, a vicious masterstroke by Edward that sapped the morale of the rebels before battle was joined – they could not free a dead man, and they knew at a stroke, or two, that Edward was determined to be utterly ruthless.
Edward had learned from previous campaigns, and his preparations included gathering a great battery of cannons. A bombardment by these weapons turned rebel to rabble, and Sir Robert’s army quickly fled. The alternative name for the battle, Losecoat Field, is said by some to come from the rebels shedding their incriminating livery as they ran away, though it didn’t save those who were caught and slaughtered in the nearby woods later dubbed Bloody Oaks.
Sir Robert was captured and suffered the same fate as his father a week later. His lieutenant Richard Warren died with him. Letters were taken at the battle that proved Warwick’s complicity. Even though Warwick had not taken part in the battle, Empingham was the beginning of the end for the erstwhile Kingmaker.
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