October 29th, 2019

The Quire And Chancel of Tewkesbury Abbey

The Battle of Tewkesbury was fought to the south west of the Abbey: on the one side an invading Lancastrian army headed by Margaret of Anjou, wife of the deposed King Henry VI and on the other the Yorkists led by King Edward IV and his brothers, the Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester. It's said that Margaret watched the action from the Abbey's central tower. Edward was fresh from his victory at Barnet and his troops were in better shape and better supplied. He also had more guns.

When the Lancastrians broke they fled towards the river and the Abbey. The Yorkists followed, killing as they went. The story goes that Abbot Strensham marched down from the high altar carrying the sacrament and ordered the Yorkists to stop murdering those who had sought sanctuary in his church.

Strensham was obeyed but the killing carried on outside- some of it quasi-judicial. Among those who died in questionable circumstances was Edward, Prince of Wales, a youth of seventeen, Henry and Margaret's son and heir. He is buried in front of the Abbey's high altar. A small plaque marks the spot. The Yorkists later refurbished the area around his grave in celebration of their victory, installing a fabulous new roof in which their symbol of "the sun in splendour" is repeated again and again.

The Yorkists "glorious summer" lasted a mere 14 years- during which time one of the victors of Tewkesbury- the Duke of Clarence was murdered by his brother and came to be buried a few yards from Prince Edward, in a vault directly below the high altar. It came to an end with the defeat and death of Richard III, erstwhile Duke of Gloucester, at Bosworth in 1485.