Wars of the Roses
Part of the Wars of the Roses
Date December 30, 1460
Location Wakefield, in West Yorkshire, England
Result Decisive Lancastrian victory
Yorkshire rose.png House of York Lancashire rose.png House of Lancaster
Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York Margaret of Anjou
Unknown Unknown
Unknown Unknown
Wars of the Roses
1st St AlbansBlore HeathLudford BridgeNorthamptonWakefieldMortimer's Cross2nd St AlbansFerrybridgeTowtonHedgeley MoorHexhamEdgecote MoorLose-coat FieldBarnetTewkesburyBosworth FieldStoke Field

The Battle of Wakefield took place at Wakefield, in West Yorkshire, on December 30, 1460, and was one of the major actions of the Wars of the Roses. The opposing factions were a royal army, nominally commanded by Margaret of Anjou, and the supporters of Richard, Duke of York, rival claimant to the throne.

York had already succeeded in obtaining a promise from King Henry VI of England that, on Henry's death, the crown would pass to him and his heirs (The Act of Accord). Queen Margaret was unwilling to accept this promise, which had been obtained by force, and was determined to protect the inheritance of her only son, Edward, Prince of Wales, then aged about six. With a force outnumbering that of the Yorkists, she marched north to confront the Duke. Most people are more familiar with William Shakespeare's melodramatic version of events, notably the murder of York's second son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, but in reality nothing can be quite certain of what transpired. The actual date is not known for sure, as is the exact location of the battlefield itself, although the most likely site is to the north of Sandal Castle now known as Wakefield Green, now largely developed. The monument erected on the spot where the Duke of York perished is positioned slightly south of the more likely spot where an older monument stood, but which was destroyed during the English Civil War. It is very unlikely that Margaret was actually on the field of battle and was more likely to have been in Scotland at the time. The Earls of Somerset and Northumberland are much more likely to have led the Lancastrians into battle.

In Shakespeare's play, Edmund is depicted as a small child, and following his unnecessary slaughter by Lord Clifford, Margaret torments his father, York, before murdering him also. In fact, the Duke of York was killed during the battle, and his son, Edmund, at seventeen, was more than old enough to be an active participant in the fighting. York's defeat was probably the result of his own over-confidence, as he apparently refused to wait for reinforcements to arrive before leaving his stronghold at Sandal Castle to meet the Lancastrians, although it is also likely that the Duke was tricked by Lord Neville, riding under false colours, into thinking his force was greater than it actually was.

After the battle the heads of the Duke of York, his son Edmund and the Earl of Salisbury were stuck on poles and displayed in York at Micklegate Bar, The Duke wearing a paper crown and a sign saying 'Let York overlook the town of York'.

The outcome was important mainly because it left York's eldest son, Edward, as the Yorkist claimant to the throne. Edward, though young, would prove an outstanding battle commander and a consummate politician, and would eventually reign as King Edward IV of England.

The battle is said by some to be the source for the mocking nursery rhyme, The Grand Old Duke of York.

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