Fact of the day: 14th April.

On this day in 1471 Edward IV resumed the throne after his victory at the Battle of Barnet.

The battle lasted from two to three hours, and was over by the time the fog lifted in the early morning. As usual in most battles of the time, the routed army suffered the most casualties; fleeing men were cut down from behind. Contemporary sources give various casualty figures; the Great Chronicle of London reports 1,500 dead, whereas The Warkworth’s Chronicle states 4,000.

Edward Hall and Raphael Holinshed, both 16th century chroniclers, say that at least 10,000 men died in the battle. The Yorkists suffered half as many casualties as the Lancastrians. Royle favours the recorded approximate figures of 500 Yorkists and 1,000 Lancastrians dead.

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The Battle of Barnet was an important engagement in the Wars of the Roses: it brought about the death of a prominent figure and secured the throne for another. Despite its importance to history, contemporary records about the battle are rare. The sole chronicle based on an eyewitness account—The Arrivall of Edward IV—was written by someone within Edward’s council, which presents a biased account of the battle.

Another first-hand observation was found in the Paston Letters, written by the Lancastrian Sir John Paston. Other records, such as The Warkworth Chronicle, offer only bits and pieces about the battle. Therefore, deficits in historical understanding must be filled through field research and discoveries of mediaeval documents.

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