Happy Brexit Day everyone. I guess we’ll be okay in the long term. March 29th is the bloodiest day in English history, a day on which a London-dominated clique funded by the City defeated an army raised from the north and Midlands; history has since come to know it as the War of the Roses although it barely affected people who weren’t directly involved. (Historian John Gillingham even states that direct taxes went down and housebuilding continued, which is more than can be said for the past few years).
On that date in 1461, in a snowstorm in Towton, north Yorkshire, the young usurper Edward IV – only 18 years old – beat Lancastrian forces loyal to the insane Henry VI and his French wife Margaret of Anjou. At the end of the day as many as 28,000 men were dead, which would make it four times as bloody as Hastings, although the number is highly disputed and people tend to exaggerate numbers, then as now.
Towton was, in many ways, a fight between north and south. A few months earlier Queen Margaret had led an army towards London comprised of northerners and – even worse – Scots, something that caused terror in the capital. Abbot Whethamstede of Hertfordshire criticised ‘Northern people, faithless people, people prompt to rob’. The Prior of Croyland in Lincolnshire described ‘an execrable and abominable army’ coming down from the north ‘like so many locusts’.
Edward’s cousin the Earl of Warwick had raised money in London and the Home Counties by asking for help against the ‘misruled and outrageous people in the north parts’ who were ‘coming toward these parts to the destruction thereof’. When, in late 1460, the royal army had headed south from Wakefield there was a genuine terror in London that the northerners would sack the city.