This book is a blend of historical context, description of the battle itself and and illustrated guide to walking the battlefield. It manages all this plus tips on local hotels and restaurants in only 160 pages. Like all battles during the Wars of the Roses the details - even down to where the fighting took place - are by no means certain. The author puts forward his view with conviction, but also finds space for an overview of four other versions complete with maps. I am not saying that I entirely agree with his theory of exactly what happened on Saturday May 4th 1471, but the book is of excellent value for anyone who is interested in the Battle of Tewkesbury
Steven Goodchild’s ‘Tewkesbury 1471: Eclipse of the House of Lancaster’ comprises an introduction, six chapters and six appendices. There are black-and-white illustrations and five colour plates. The book is very comprehensive in trying to look at the battle from all angles. Goodchild has clearly done his homework and more, but as he points out, there is much that remains unknown. I try to summarise the book’s contents below.
The introduction summarises the events of the Wars of the Roses up to Warwick’s and Clarence’s flight to France. Chapter one see their return to England, the flight of Edward IV, his own return and the death of Warwick at the Battle of Barnet. Chapters two and three continue the build-up to Tewkesbury with greater detail the closer in time and topography that we come.
The fourth chapter brings us thus to Tewkesbury itself where Goodchild speculates over the details of where the Lancastrians encamped. Chapter five attempts to reconstruct the battle using the sparse documentary evidence that is available. The final chapter deals with the battle’s aftermath and the fate of the main participants.
Strangely, more than half the book is taken up with the six appendices, whose content could quite easily have been incorporated into the main text. But before we get to them the author takes us on a guided tour “exploring the battlefield” today. He uses the same route (more or less) as the Battle Trail issued by the local tourist office but recommends walking it in the other direction.
As for the appendices, the first looks at what can be seen in Tewkesbury and the surrounding area that has a link to the battle; the second gives brief biographies of the major players; the third is a brief look at the right of sanctuary (a right claimed by many at Tewkesbury Abbey after the battle); and the fourth focuses on the armies, arms, and tactics of the age as well as identification marks on the battlefield.
The fifth reviews the evidence of the battle – the archaeology, landscape, documents, and re-enactments. There is much detail here for the first two, but little on the last. Goodchild remarks how “Commentators have used combinations of these over the years to understand the battle and have come to very different conclusions.” The final appendix looks at some of these other theories proposed by former commentators, but Goodchild concludes that, “The only statements that can be made with any certainty about Tewkesbury are that there was a battle south of the town which King Edward won …”
There's very little documentary evidence remaining about the battle and no archeological evidence, so where the battle was fought is conjecture. However having read the book a number of times and been on one of Steve's walks I think he put's together the most compelling argument for his description being correct.
Steve describes the very convoluted history leading up to the Wars of the Roses, the politics of the time including the involvement of the Duke of Burgundy and King of France.