Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Chronicle of the Rebellion in Lincolnshire (1470)

The Chronicle of the Rebellion in Lincolnshire is a brief account of EDWARD IV’s campaign against the Lincolnshire uprising led by Sir Robert Welles in March 1470.

Cast in the form of a journal or day-by-day listing of events, the Chronicle is an important source of information for the second coup launched against Edward by Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, and George PLANTAGENET, duke of Clarence. The narrative traces the king’s movements between 7 and 26 March, and provides details of the Battle of LOSECOTE FIELD, fought on 12 March. The Lincolnshire uprising grew out of a feud between Richard Welles, Lord Welles, and Sir Thomas Burgh, Edward’s master of Horse (see WELLES UPRISING). By coming to Burgh’s aid, Edward drove Welles and his son Sir Robert to seek assistance from Warwick, who, since the failure of his 1469 coup, had awaited another opportunity to seize power. Warwick encouraged Sir Robert Welles to raise Lincolnshire by claiming that the king was coming north to exact retribution for the shire’s involvement in the ROBIN OF REDESDALE REBELLION in the previous July, an uprising that had accompanied Warwick’s first coup attempt. Although as yet unaware of Warwick and Clarence’s involvement, Edward left LONDON on 6 March to suppress Welles’s fast-growing rebellion.

The Chronicle was written by someone traveling in the king’s party and is thus largely an eyewitness account of the events described. Because the chronicler was particularly well informed as to the documents and letters issued under the privy seal during the campaign, modern historians have speculated that the writer was one of the royal privy seal clerks. The Chronicle is clearly an officially sanctioned PROPAGANDA effort, for its author took great pains to show that Warwick and Clarence were traitors and the instigators of the uprising. The chronicler also stressed the magnitude of Edward’s success in crushing the rebellion, claiming that Welles brought 30,000 rebels to Losecote Field and emphasizing how dangerous the king’s situation would have been had Welles successfully rendezvoused with Warwick. Although its official nature and its obvious exaggerations and biases require it to be used with caution, the Chronicle is valuable because it was composed within days of the end of the campaign. The narrative stops on 26 March, and the Chronicle may have been completed before the end of the month, or at least by mid-April, before the writer knew how Warwick’s rebellion would conclude.

Further Reading: Gillingham, John, The Wars of the Roses (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981); Three Chronicles of the Reign of Edward IV, introduction by Keith Dockray (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1988).

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