Skip to main content

Font Size: A+ A-

Share This Post

The Second Battle of St Albans

Posted on: 17th February 2016 By: Verulamium Museum

Recently, as part of the research for our project 'Objects on Demand', one of our volunteers, John looked into a pair of paintings by Ron Noble who painted the First and Second Battles of St Albans in 1997.  

Both paintings are executed in acrylics on canvas boards and this second one measures 60cm wide x 50cm high and is in a gilt frame.
The artists himself describes this second work as:
“a mediaeval style painting in acrylics depicting the Second Battle of St. Albans 17th February 1461 (second phase) based on the battle plan of the day and displaying the authentic heraldic blazons on shields, surcoats and horse trappers of the period."

John was particularly interested in the pertinence of the work as back in 2014, while celebrating 900 years from the foundation of St. Leonard’s Church, Sandridge mounted a re-enactment of the Second Battle of St. Albans on Bernards Heath, which was part of the parish in the Middle Ages.
(You can see the 'First Battle of St Albans' painting here >.)

If you’d like to know more about what the second battle was all about…
Richard Neville "the Kingmaker" positioned his army at St Albans where he waited for Edward's army to join him. Before the Yorkists could link-up, the Lancastrians attacked and won a decisive victory. The Yorkists under the Earl of Warwick attempted to bar the road to London, north of the town. The rival Lancastrian army used a manoeuvre to take Warwick by surprise, cut him off from London, and drive his army from the field. The victors also released the feeble King Henry VI, who had been Warwick's prisoner, from his captivity. They found the unharmed King sitting quietly under a tree.

Victors: Lancastrians
York Leadership:   Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (Richard Neville)
Lancaster Leadership:   Queen Margaret
Size of forces:   Yorkists - 25,000; Lancastrians - 25,000

The leading Lancastrian forces attacked the town shortly after dawn. Storming up the hill past the Abbey, they were confronted by Yorkist archers in the town centre who shot at them from the house windows. This first attack was repulsed. A second attack was launched along the line of Folly Lane and Catherine Street. This second attack met with no opposition and the Yorkist archers in town were now outflanked. They continued to fight and were not finally overcome for several hours.  Having gained the town itself, the Lancastrians turned north towards John Neville's Rear Battle, positioned on Bernards Heath. 
The Rear Battle, attempting to reinforce the defenders of the town, was engaged and dispersed. By late afternoon, the Lancastrians were attacking north-east out of St Albans to engage the Yorkist under Warwick and Norfolk. In the damp conditions, many of the Yorkists' cannon and handguns failed to fire as their powder was dampened. 
As dusk set in, Warwick realised that his men were outnumbered and demoralised, and withdrew with his remaining forces (c. 4,000 men) to Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire. Perhaps the most significant person to be killed at the second battle of Saint Albans, at least in terms of its dynastic results, was John Grey of Groby, whose widow Elizabeth Woodville became the queen of Edward IV in 1464.   

Read about the First Battle of St Albans (May 1455) in our other blog here>

You can explore other art from the St Albans Museum collection online as part of the BBC's 'Your Paintings' site>