More than one battle?
For the most part, the battle of Northampton has generally been described as simplistic, over quickly and only notable for the defection of Lord Grey. This however only scratches the surface of the real story. One aspect that has been overlooked is a cavalry battle that took place when the Yorkists first arrived in the town. And this is despite not one but three different contemporary sources eluding to it! The earliest reference to it is the Newsletter from Bruges which was written soon after the battle and tells us that there was a torrential downpour, which, “forced them to come out of that place and encounter Warwick”.1 The next, and most detailed account is from the Burgundian Chronicler Jehan de Waurin who says that ‘le seigneur de Greriffin‘, along with thirteen to fourteen hundred cavalry, charged straight into Warwick’s men as they approached. In a battle that lasted half an hour, the they were pushed back to the gates and cut down. During the battle, ‘le seigneur de Greriffin‘ was captured and later executed. The third was written nearly a hundred years later by Hall, who says it was Beaumont, who with a small force, attacked Warwick’s battle as they approached but are easily swept aside.2
So why has this important aspect been ignored? Waurin describes the battle in two separate passages and it is in his second passage that he discusses ‘le seigneur de Greriffin‘ in some detail.3 This has often been translated as Lord Grey of Ruthin, and consequentially the whole section discounted by historians. However, as Waurin mentions Lord Grey by name in a different context in his first passage on the battle, it is unlikely that he would have contradicted himself. Greriffin is more likely to have been a name, a translation of the Welsh name Gruffydd or Griffith. It is not inconceivable that Jasper Tudor, a privy councillor and close ally of Margaret of Anjou, would have sent one of his Lieutenants to aid the Queen in her hour of need. Whilst no other chronicler mentions Greriffin by name, Leyland’s Itinerary does state that many Welshmen were drowned in the river after the battle. At present, it cannot be said with any certainty who Gruffydd or Griffiths was. There are however, a number of contenders, firstly one of the family of Sir Gwilym (William) ap Gruffydd of Penrhyn, Chamberlain of North Wales, whose wife came from Apthorp in Northamptonshire.4 Alternately, it may have been Gruffydd ap Nicholas who died in unknown circumstances in 1460, or one of his many sons. Records show that two of them were fighting as Lancastrian Captains in the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross a little over six months later.5
1 Newsletter from Bruges, 7/15 July 1460, and London, 7/10 July 1460: A Digest, Quoted in K. Dockray, Henry VI, Margaret of Anjou and the Wars of the Roses: A Source Book, (Stroud, Sutton Publishing, 2000) p 98
2 Hall, Op. Cit p 244
3 Jehan de Waurin, Recuiel des Croniques et Anchiennes Istories de la Grant Bretagne, a present nomme Engleterre, V, Sir William Hardy and E L C P Hardy eds. (Rolls Series 1891) p 309
5 H.T. Evans, Wales and the Wars of the Roses, (Frome, Sutton Publishing, 1998), pp 5-9