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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: September 2012

6 - The Strength of Lancastrian Loyalism during the Readeption: Gentry Participation at the Battle of Tewkesbury


The reasons why men choose to support one side or the other in any civil war are usually complex and difficult to determine. In seventeenth-century England and nineteenth-century America choice between king and parliament or Union and Confederacy was often personal rather than ideological and based on long-standing loyalties as much as on current politics. This was equally true of the gentry who fought for the house of Lancaster in the successive crises between 1469 and 1471. There were those who were Lancastrian because their fathers had been and they had been brought up to support the good old cause, as Jacobite sons of Jacobite fathers did in 1715 and 1745. There were those who had suffered directly from Edward IV's governance, or the lack of it, between 1461 and 1469 and, it must be acknowledged, there were those, perhaps the majority, who, as in any civil war and to use the words of the Arrivall, were prepared to sit still and do nothing. For most of them this seems to have been a quite deliberate decision although there must have been some too old or too timid to fight. Consequently, it now seems generally accepted that the Wars of the Roses were fought primarily by lords, their retainers and above all by the tenants of both lords and retainers. Pragmatism is seen as the defining characteristic in 1459–61 and again in 1469–71. Evidence of this behavior has already been identified in some county and regional studies. In Warwickshire Carpenter has argued that neither the Lancastrian government nor Richard Neville, earl of Warwick could persuade the gentry to provide military assistance and a similar response, or rather a lack of it, has also been found in other Midland counties where the duchy of Lancaster was the major landlord, in Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Leicestershire.