In the hours before the Battle of Northampton, as was tradition, King Henry knighted a number of his men. Little did they know that in just over twenty years, several of them would be instrumental in the downfall of Richard III.
Henry Stafford(4 September 1455 – 2 November 1483)
Henry was the grandson and heir of Humphrey Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham and Earl of Northampton, his own father dying at the Battle of St. Albans five years earlier.. Henry was not even five years old when he was knighted at Northampton. On his grandfather’s death at Northampton, he soon became the ward of Elizabeth Woodville, so he probably spent much of his youth with the Woodville’s at Grafton Regis in Northamptonshire. Sometime around 1465 and before he was ten years old, Henry married Elizabeth’s sister Catherine, three years his junior. Although three of his four grandparents were descended from Edward III, Henry played little part in politics of the time. That is until he seems to have become close confidant of Richard of Gloucester, helping him to take the throne. In 1483, Buckingham led a major rebellion against Richard which ended in failure and his execution.
Thomas Stanley (1435 – 29 July 1504)
No doubt through his father’s influence, Thomas had become a Squire to King Henry by 1454. After the death of his father in February 1459, Stanley inherited his father’s titles, including those of Baron Stanley and King of Mann as well as his extensive lands and offices in Cheshire and Lancashire. He therefore, probably came to Northampton in 1460 at the head of the infamous Cheshire archers. His brother William seems devoted to the Yorkist cause and if one chronicle can be believed, sacked the Royal baggage train at Gayton in Northamptonshire after the battle. Thomas would go on to help his stepson Henry Tudor to the throne, whilst his wife Margaret Beaufort would retire to Collyweston in north Northamptonshire.
Sir William Norris (1433-1506)
Norris was the son of John Norris of Yattenden and Bray in Berkshire, and married to Jane, daughter of John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford. After the battle, he too changed sides, and in 1462, took part in Edward’s invasion of Scotland. His wife became a lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth Woodville and by 1468 he was Sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire. He must have been trusted by Edward as in 1483 he was created a Knight of the Body. After Edward’s death he was at the coronation of the new King, Richard III on 6 July, but then in the October, joined Buckingham’s rebellion. Initially he was one of the leaders in the Newbury area then with John Cheyne led a force blocking the way from Poole to Westminster. On 23 Oct Norris was proclaimed a rebel and attained, but by this time had probably fled to France to join Henry Tudor. When Henry Tudor returned in 1485, Norris was part of his army, fighting at Bosworth. He would go on to command part of the royal army at the Battle of Stoke Field in 1487 and again against Perkin Warbeck ten years later.
Thomas Dymoke (ca.1427- 1470)
Thomas was the son of Sir Philip Dymoke and Joan Conyers and was married to Margaret, third daughter of the Lancastrian commander, 6th Lord Welles. After the battle he seems to have changed sides as on 28 June 1461, he is noted as being King Edward IV’s champion at his coronation. However, in 1469 he joined with his brother-in-law, Richard Welles, 7th Lord Willoughby in supporting Warwick’s plot to restore Henry. In 1470, along with Lord Welles, his son, Sir Robert Welles and Sir Thomas de la Launde, he attacked the manor of Sir Thomas Burgh in Lincolnshire. Both Dymoke and Lord Welles were subsequently commanded to appear before the Privy Council, but because of Edward’s rapid move north, they were sent after the army. On hearing that Edward wanted them to explain Sir Robert’s conduct, they took sanctuary in Westminster; after being pardoned, they promised to disband his army, which they failed to do. Dymoke was arrested along with Lord Welles when Robert Welles army began to march south. King Edward with his own army moved to intercept them. On 12 March 1470, the two sides met at the Battle of Empingham better known as Losecote Field. On the same day, both Dymoke and Welles were executed at Stamford in Lincolnshire.
Thomas Thorpe (died 1461)
Thorpe was of unknown parentage, but was almost certainly a native of Northamptonshire, where he later acquired the manors of Barnwell All Saints and Lilford. He obtained employment in the exchequer, where by about 20 July 1437 he was a summoner. He probably owed his subsequent advancement to the patronage of the Beauforts, with whom Thorpe was associated in the grant of a wardship in 1443. His parliamentary career began in Oct 1449 when he was elected junior knight of the shire (MP) of Northamptonshire along with Thomas Tresham. By 1452 he was the Third Baron of the Exchequer and Knight of the Shire for Essex. In 1453, he was elected Speaker for the first part of the 19th Parliament of King Henry VI. However, the following year, he was imprisoned in the Fleet Prison for falsely confiscating property of the Duke of York and was replaced as Speaker by Sir Thomas Charlton.
In 1455, Thorpe became Chancellor of the Exchequer and was with the King at St Albans where he was among those subsequently accused of having fled ‘and left ther harneys behynde them cowardly’. Afterwards the Duke of York accused him of intercepting messages to the King which might have prevented the Battle of St Albans and Thorpe was stripped of all his public offices. On his return to favour in 1457 he was made Keeper of the Privy Wardrobe in the Tower of London for life and in 1458 was appointed Second Baron of the Exchequer, serving until 1460. At the Parliament of Devils in 1459, he helped to draw up the bill of attainder declaring York and his leading followers to be traitors.
In 1460 he was captured at the Battle of Northampton and brought back to London as a prisoner first to Newgate and then Marshalsea. However he managed to escape disguised as a monk complete with tonsure, but was recaptured and sent to the Tower. He managed to escape a second time, but on 17 February 1461, was caught in Harringay by a London mob and summarily beheaded.
Sir Henry Lewys (1439 -1480)
Henry’s father was John Lewys of West Horndon and his mother Alicia, another one of John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford’s daughters. was another close associate of the Beauforts, marrying Sir Edmund Beaufort, Earl of Somerset’s daughter Elizabeth, sometime after the battle. Their daughter Mary would go on to marry Anthony Woodville, Lord Rivers . Sir Henry’s half-sister Margaret, from his father’s second wife Anne Montagu (d. 1457), who was the daughter of John Earl of Salisbury,was also married to Sir William Lucy. Lucy was also killed at Northampton along with his nephew and heir, Walter Hopton, and his great-nephew William Vaux. Margaret possibly had an affair (and a child) with King Edward but would later go on to marry Sir Thomas Wake. Wake was a prominent Northamptonshire squire, formerly sheriff, and Commissioner of Array, probably fighting for the Lancastrians at the Battle of Northampton. After the death of Buckingham he became a Warwick retainer, accusing his neighbour, Jacquetta, Elizabeth Woodville’s mother of witchcraft.
After Northampton, Sir Henry took part in the Battle of Towton on the Lancastrians side, managing to escape the carnage again. Along with his brother-in-law Henry Beaufort, he was attained during Edward’s first Parliament in 1461. And the following year, they were both at Dunstanburgh when it surrendered to Yorkist forces in Dec 1462. Both swore their allegiance to Edward, but by 1470 Henry was involved with Welles plotting and rebellion.
Confusingly there were two William Tyrrell’s knighted at Northampton. The first was William from Gipping in Suffolk, the younger son of John Tyrrell of Heron in Essex, chief steward of the Duchy of Lancaster. He was married to Margaret, the daughter of Sir Robert Darcy. Surviving Northampton, he fought for the Lancastrians at Towton but seems to have escaped an attainder. However, he seems to have not forgotten his Lancastrian sympathies. Tyrrell seems to have had connections to the Earl of Oxford who had a strong affinity in Essex and Suffolk, In 1462, some compromising correspondence between Oxford and Queen Margaret was intercepted. It was read, copied, re-sealed and carried on to Margaret. Her reply was dealt with in the same way, and the Government soon had the details of a possible French landing. King Edward IV immediately arrested the 12th Earl along with his oldest son Aubrey de Vere (who was married to the daughter of the 1st Duke of Buckingham), Sir John Tuddenham and Tyrrell. They were convicted of high treason before the Constable of England, John Tiptoft, 1st Earl of Worcester. Aubrey was executed on Tower Hill on 20 February 1462. Tyrrell followed three days later, and then Oxford on 26 February 1462.
The other William Tyrrell, was from Beeches in Rawreth, Essex, and like his namesake, survived Northampton and Towton without attainder. He was married firstly to Anne Fitz Simon, the daughter of William Fitz Simon, by whom he had his son and heir, Sir John Tyrrell, and secondly Philippe Thornbury, the daughter of John Thornbury. He also seems to have been in the retinue of the Earl of Oxford and was probably with him when he slain at the Battle of Barnet in 1471
John de Ashton or Assheton (died 1508),
John was the son of Sir Thomas, King Henry’s alchemist, and would become Knight of the Shire for Lancashire in 1472.
J.S. Roskell, Parliament and Politics in Late Medieval England.
W.A Shaw. The Knights of England Vol 2 (London 1906) p. 12
M. Hicks. Edward V: The Prince in the Tower
M. Hicks. Richard III and His Rivals: Magnates and Their Motives in the Wars of the Roses