Battles and SiegesLancastrians

Surrender of Harlech Castle, end of Britain’s longest siege

The siege of Harlech came to an end as the garrison surrendered on 14th August 1468. The siege began in 1461, making it the longest siege of the Wars of the Roses. Harlech was a significant stronghold in terms of its location. Situated on the shore of Tremadog Bay, Harlech Castle provided the Lancastrians with the means to continue resistance in Snowdonia. Supplying the castle, and sending additional manpower there, was often possible by sea routes across the Irish Sea. Whilst the surrounding terrain made it an unlikely staging post for a full blown invasion, it was ideal as a base for raiding, harassing, and disruption of Yorkist rule. 

Siege of Harlech Castle: The Context

Following the defeat of the Lancastrian army at the Battle of Towton, the Yorkists were dominant. They did not have total control, though. A large pocket of resistance existed in the North- East of England, which saw the Neville brothers engaging in battles and sieges for several years until the region was secured. In Wales, there was also opposition.

Much of Wales was loyal to its ties to Jasper Tudor, who was an ultra loyal uncle of King Henry VI. William Herbert was granted the Earldom of Pembroke in South Wales and had been given the task of flushing out opposition throughout Wales as Edward’s chief official in the principality.

Most castles in the south surrendered reasonably quickly. Jasper Tudor’s army was defeated at Twt Hill. Tudor sailed to exile in Ireland, leaving garrisons in his northern castles. One by one, the castles surrendered. Harlech refused.

By John Speed, 17th century cartographer - John Speed's "The Counties of Britain", 1610, Public Domain.
Harlech Castle as depicted by John Speed in 161

In the 15th century, Harlech was coastal, and the Lancastrians resupplied the castle via the sea. It became the site from which plots and even a small, attempted invasion of Northern Wales would take place over the course of 7 years.

The siege was not one of continuous warfare. For much of the time, the Yorkists were content to simply isolate the castle and rely on poor weather disrupting supplies.  After seven years of intermittent attacks, Harlech finally surrendered on 14th August 1468. To date, it is the longest siege to have taken place in the British Isles.


Dan Spencer – The Castle in the Wars of the Roses

Howell T Evans – Wales in the Wars of the Roses

Julian Humphrys – Enemies at the Gate: English castles under siege from the 12th century to the Civil War (English Heritage)

Plan of Harlech Castle. The design and topography of the region helped the castle to wistand siege until it surrendered on 14 August 1468
Plan of Harlech Castle

Image Credits

Featured Image: Harlech Castle, via Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Open Government Licence version 1.0 (OGL v1.0).

By John Speed, 17th century cartographer – John Speed’s “The Counties of Britain”, 1610, Public Domain.

Plan of Harlech Castle By Cadw – via Wikipedia.

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