Battles and Sieges

Siege of London, 1471

The Siege of London, 1471, saw Thomas Neville, known as the Bastard of Fauconberg, raiding along the banks of the Thames between 10th and 14th May 1471.

One element of the Lancastrian plan in 1471 was to seize London. In particular, the Tower, as this would hopefully result in the return of King Henry to his own supporters.

Thomas Neville held a command in Calais. His role in the Lancastrian invasion was to use the Calais Fleet and a supporting army against London. Early sources give varying sizes for the fleet, the Arrivall suggesting 43 ships, others noting that Fauconberg had command of all of the fleet previously held by Warwick and another saying 46 ships.

And in the same time that the battle of Tewkesbury was, Sir Water Wrottesley and Geffrey Gate, knights of the Earle of Warwick’s, were governors of the town of Calais, did send Sir George Brooke knight out of Calais, with ccc. of soldiers unto Thomas Bastard Fauconberg, that was on the sea with the Earle of Warwick’s navy, that he should the navy save, and go into Kent, and to raise all Kent, to that intent to take King Harry out of the tower and destroy King Edward, if he might.

Sir Thomas was adopting a well rehearsed strategy, previously used by the Yorkists in 1460. His small fleet landed in Kent, checked on the level of support that they had, mustered men for their land campaign, then sailed on.

At first, the fleet sailed up and down the Thames, attempting to harass Yorkist forces and encourage the City of London to support their cause. Artillery was fired at the Tower of London and at other places along the river.

The harassing lasted several days until the land-based Lancastrian force was in place to lay siege to London with supporting artillery fire from the Calais Fleet.

Fighting in this siege of London was quite fierce at times. The Croyland Chronicle records that:

But, while these things were going on, and while king Edward, graced with this twofold victory, would seem, in the judgment of all, most undeniably to have proved the justice of his cause, the fury of many of the malignants was not averted, and especially in Kent ; for the hands of these people were still extended [against the king]. Some men of this description, being instigated by certain of the remains of the earl of Warwick’s mercenaries, mariners and pirates from Calais, met together and placed themselves under the command of one Thomas, the Bastard of Falconbridge ; after which, some by land, and others by the river Thames, reached London from the most distant parts of the county. Here having surveyed all the inlets and outlets of the city, they studied with all their energies how they might possibly subject this most opulent city to their ravages. For this purpose, they brought up ships, which they had prepared for the purpose, almost into the very port, in order that, putting on board the whole of their spoil, they might obtain subsistence by means thereof in other quarters. With this object, many of them collected together upon London Bridge, and many others on the opposite side of the city at the gate which bears the name of * Bishopsgate’ ; where they made most furious assaults, and laid waste everything with fire and sword, in order, by some means or other, to effect an entrance. The vestiges of their misdeeds are even yet to be seen upon the said bridge, as they burned all the houses which lay between the draw -bridge and the outer gate, that looks towards the High Street of Southwark, and which had been built at a vast expense.

God, however, being unwilling that a city so renowned, and the capital of the whole kingdom of England, should be de- livered into the hands of such wretches, to be plundered by them, gave to the Londoners stout hearts, which prompted them to offer resistance on the day of battle. This they were especially aided in doing by a sudden and unexpected sally, -which was made by Antony, earl Rivers, from the Tower of London. Falling, at the head of his horsemen, upon the rear of the enemy while they were making furious assaults upon the gate above-mentioned, he afforded the Londoners an opportunity of opening the city gates and engaging hand to hand with the foe; upon which they manfully slew or put to flight each and every of them. Then might you have seen all the remnants of this band of robbers hastening with all speed to their ships and other hiding-places.

Croyland Chronicle

The Yorkist force returning from the Battle of Tewkesbury was able to overcome the threat posed by Fauconberg. Earl Rivers and the Duke of Gloucester’s men secured the Tower, the walls and drove off the Lancastrian force, which retreated down the Thames and eventually to Sandwich.

Fauconberg negotiated with the Yorkists and for a period was retained in their company before eventually being executed. Early accounts, however, suggest he was taken and executed at Southampton before the end of the mayoral year, in October.


Tewkesbury Battlefield Society, the Bastard of Fauconberg

Thomas Fauconberg’s family: Son of Sir William Neville, 1st Earl of Kent. Grandson of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmoreland. Nephew of Richard Neville, 5th earl of Salisbury and Cecily Neville, Duchess of York. Cousin of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick. Cousin of Edward IV, George duke of Clarence, and Richard duke of Gloucester.

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