Richard Duke of Gloucester passed judgement on captured Lancastrians at Tewkesbury

On 6 May 1471, Richard Duke of Gloucester, sat in judgement over Lancastrians captured after the Battle of Tewkesbury. These senior Lancastrians had sought sanctuary within Tewkesbury Abbey. Yorkists forced them out, resulting in a hastily convened trial.

Richard Duke of Gloucester, Constable of England

As Constable of England Richard Duke of Gloucester was able to preside over the trial of perceived traitors. After the Battle of Tewkesbury, several leading Lancastrians had been captured.

Others had sought sanctuary in Tewkesbury Abbey. The Yorkists were in no mood to leave these men safely in the Abbey. So, 2 days after the battle, they were dragged out to face an immediate trial.

Tewkesbury Abbey where some senior Lancastrians sought refuge. Photograph Dan Moorhouse. All rights reserved.
Tewkesbury Abbey and part of the battlefield

Trials following the Battle of Tewkesbury

The Dukes of Gloucester and Norfolk took charge of proceedings. The Duke of Somerset was the most senior Lancastrian within the Abbey. He was quickly found guilty and executed. So too was Hugh Courtenay and the influential Sir John Langstother and other lesser nobles also being condemned.

Breaking of Sanctuary rules? Justifucations for Yorkist actions

Such actions have been questioned: was it, or was it not a breach of sanctuary rules? Was it right to execute the nobles? The answer to the latter was clearly yes from the perspective of the Yorkist regime. The Lancastrians had rebelled against the Act of Accord. In power, they had attained leading Yorkists several times, and had some executed. They broke promises and plotted with people, resulting in changes of allegiance. For Edward and his advisors, this needed to be put to an end and executions would do just that.


Sanctuary Seekers: Edward IV and the desecration of sanctuary at Tewkesbury.




Leave a Reply