1450: Duke of York enters London brandishing his sword

On 23 November 1450, Richard 3rd Duke of York entered London brandishing his sword. In scenes more commonly seen amid later events, the Duke made a show of force to try and attain change. 

The Parliament of 1450 began at a time of great unrest. Earlier in the year, there had been two rebellions. The revolt led by Jack Cade being the most serious. The complaints of those rebels were shared by some of the nobility. The Dukes of York and Norfolk were chief among those complainants. This parliamentary session was set to be a contentious one. The ‘loyal opposition’ argued that the government was being mismanaged by men such as the Duke of Somerset.

To reinforce their position and influence parliament, the Yorkist lords made a show of strength. Each of them riding into London in armour and at the head of a body of men.

Richard Duke of York enters London brandishing his sword

Bale’s Chronicle summarises the events of 23 November and the following days:

‘the Duke of York, with him 3000 men and more, came riding through the city, his sword borne before him, and rode to Parliament and the King. And on the following morning, came riding through the city the Duke of Norfolk with a great crowd of men in body armour, and six trumpets blowing before him. The, on the following morning, the Earl of Warwick came through the city with a great company arrayed for war, and there was [on the 30th] a dreadful storming and noise of the commons, crying and saying to the lords: ‘do justice upon the false traitors or let us be avenged.’

This show of strength is partly to press for reform and target the Duke of Somerset, who was a political foe of the Yorkists. The action can be seen as the start of the road to Dartford’ where the two factions faced each other without blows in 1452.


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