Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Occurring in Lincolnshire in the spring of 1470, the Welles uprising provided Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, with a second opportunity to overthrow EDWARD IV.

Richard Welles (1431-1470), seventh Lord Welles, was a prominent Lincolnshire nobleman and a former Lancastrian. His father, Lionel, the sixth Lord Welles, had been killed fighting for the house of LANCASTER at the Battle of TOWTON in March 1461. Although Welles was attainted by the first PARLIAMENT of Edward IV, his son Richard, who had himself fought for HENRY VI at the Battle of ST. ALBANS in 1461, submitted to the new king and regained his father's lands. Perhaps because he was related to the NEVILLE FAMILY, Welles was also allowed to assume his father's title in 1468.

Early in 1470, Welles, his son Sir Robert Welles, and his brothers-in-law Sir Thomas Dymmock and Sir Thomas de la Lande attacked the manor house of Sir Thomas Burgh, a Lincolnshire gentleman who was Edward IV's Master of Horse. The attackers destroyed Burgh's house, carried off his goods, and forced him to flee the county. Later official accounts of the incident claimed that Welles was acting on behalf of his kinsman Warwick; the earl was seeking another opportunity to draw the king into the north, where he could be surprised, defeated, and dethroned in favor of George PLANTAGENET, duke of Clarence, who was Edward's brother but Warwick's ally. Some modern historians have dismissed this claim as Yorkist PROPAGANDA and have argued that Welles's attack on Burgh arose from some private feud, a common occurrence in the fifteenth century, and that Warwick simply made use of the incident when the king decided to intervene to support his servant.
Edward summoned Welles and Dymmock to LONDON, but the two men initially refused to comply, pleading illness. Changing their minds, both took SANCTUARY at Westminster, which they were induced to leave by promise of a pardon. Meanwhile, Sir Robert Welles, now likely acting in concert with Warwick and Clarence, issued proclamations throughout Lincolnshire in early March for men to join him in resisting the king, who, it was claimed, was coming north to punish the men of the shire for their support of the ROBIN OF REDESDALE REBELLION in 1469. Already marching north when he learned of Sir Robert's defiance, Edward ordered that Lord Welles and Dymmock be brought up from London. Forced to write to his son, Lord Welles declared that he and Dymmock would die if Sir Robert did not submit. Upon receiving this letter, Sir Robert, who had been maneuvering to trap the king between his rebels and the oncoming forces of Warwick and Clarence, retreated, allowing the royal army to intercept him on 12 March. After summarily executing Lord Welles and Dymmock, the king attacked and destroyed the rebel force at the Battle of LOSECOTE FIELD, where both Sir Robert and documentary evidence of Warwick and Clarence's complicity were captured.

On 14 March, Sir Robert Welles confessed to the king that Warwick and Clarence were the "partners and chief provokers" (Ross, p. 141) of his treason, and that the purpose of the entire enterprise was to make Clarence king. On 19 March, as he prepared to pursue the earl and the duke, Edward had Welles executed before the army. With the Welles uprising crushed and their plans in ruins, Warwick and Clarence fled into the West Country where they took ship for FRANCE. In 1475, a bill of ATTAINDER (later reversed under HENRY VII) was passed against Lord Welles and his son, and the Welles estates were granted to William HASTINGS, Lord Hastings.

Further Reading: Haigh, Philip A., The Military Campaigns of the Wars of the Roses (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1995); Ross, Charles, Edward IV (New Haven, CT:Yale University Press, 1998).

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