The battle was consequently fought there, and lost, partly through
the treachery of Lord Wenlock. He remained sitting on his horse in the market-place
of Tewkesbury, when his aid was most required to drive back Richard of Gloucester,
to whom the victory was due. Richard led the van of the Yorkists, and was
confronted with the Duke of Somerset, who had taken up so strong a position,
fenced by dykes and hedges, that it seemed impregnable. But Gloucester practised
the ruse by which the Conqueror had gained the battle of Hastings. After
an attack and a short combat, he drew back as if in retreat. Somerset - rash
as he was obstinate - left his position to pursue the Yorkists; Gloucester
instantly turned, and attacked the Lancastrians so furiously and unexpectedly,
that they were driven back to their entrenchments, the Yorkists entering
with them. If Wenlock had then charged, he might have saved the day; but
he remained motionless, and Somerset, infuriated at his treachery or cowardice,
rode up to him and crying, "Traitor," dashed out his brains with his battle-axe.
The men under his banner fled and increased the confusion. The Lancastrians
were unacquainted with the ground, and when Somerset's men were driven down
the hill by King Edward's charge, into the meadow where the Avon falls into
the Severn, the weight of the hinder horsemen pushed the foremost into the
river, and many more were drowned than those who fell by the sword.
Queen Margaret beheld the flight of her troops with passionate indignation, and was obliged to be forcibly restrained from rushing into the thick of the fight, but at length she fainted, and was carried from Tewkesbury Park to a small nunnery near, where Prince Edward's wife, Anne of Warwick, the Countess of Devonshire and Lady Katherine Vaux had remained.
The Prince of Wales, whose valour could not retrieve the day, surrendered to Sir Richard Crofts. The Yorkists knew that the king had issued a proclamation, that whoever brought the prince to Edward should receive a hundred pounds reward and the Prince's life be spared. "Nothing mistrusting the king's promise, Sir Richard brought forth his prisoner, being a goodly, well-featured young gentleman of almost feminine beauty." 1 King Edward demanded sternly of the captive, "How he durst so presumptuously to enter his realm with banners displayed against him." "To recover my father's crown and my own," was the calm reply. Edward, enraged, struck him in the mouth with his gauntlet, and the Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester at once stabbed him to death. Our readers will recall Shakspeare's wonderful lines, in Clarence's dream when there passed him,-
The spot where Edward Prince of Wales fell was long known as the " Bloody Meadow." In the battle the Earl of Devonshire, Lord Wenlock, Lord John Beaufort, nine knights, and 3,000 Lancastrians were slain, the Duke of Somerset, Lord St. John, and about a dozen knights and esquires were dragged from the church, where they had taken sanctuary, and beheaded, May 6th.
Queen Margaret and Anne of Warwick were taken prisoners, and made ride in the triumphal procession with which Edward IV. entered London. Queen Margaret was sent to the Tower, and the day she entered it her unfortunate husband, Henry VI., was murdered in his prison. Thus the direct line of the house of Lancaster was utterly extinguished.
At the time of the dissolution the townspeople obtained the stately abbey church for the use of the parish. In it are buried Brictric, King of Wessex, Norman Fitz Hamon, Earl of Gloucester, Prince Edward, son of Henry VI., George of Clarence, his murderer, and his wife Isabel, the daughter of Warwick the king-maker.
The church is in the early Norman style, and has a central tower; the roof is finely groined and carved. The choir is hexagonal, and there are several chantries at the east end. Some of the monuments are for those who fell in the battle.
Tewkesbury was famous for its mustard in the sixteenth century.
"His wit is as thick as Tewkesbury mustard," says Shakspeare.
But to the nation now Tewkesbury is always associated with the last
cruel battle of the Roses.