July 21… 1403 The Battle of Shrewsbury

Made immortal by Shakespeare, this battle doesn’t get a lot of coverage in my medieval warfare books. It was fought between the forces of Henry IV and Henry “Hotspur” Percy, and was a particularly savage battle. It lasted three hours and saw five thousand of Hotspur troops killed, while Henry IV lost some sixteen hundred men. Prince Hal, later Henry V, led the left of the royalist army and can be said to have won the day by breaking Hotspur’s right and circling round to attack his center.

Archery played a strong role in the battle, Hotspur being killed by an arrow to the head and Prince Henry receiving a very grave arrow wound to the right side of his face, which he ignored until after the battle. You may wonder how, with the full armor and helms two leaders came to be hit in the head by arrows? Because leaders often left their faces uncovered so the men could see that they were in the battle, and hadn’t abandoned them.

It’s said Hotspur attempted to end the battle by killing Henry IV himself, and that several knights in similar coat of arms died in the assasination attempt, either because they were deliberately dressed like the king, or had the misfortune to wear similar livery.

From Military Campaigns of the Wars of the Roses (because Shrewsbury was the first battle to unseat a Lancastrian king, and thus by some accounts, the first battle in the Wars of the Roses):

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3 responses to “July 21… 1403 The Battle of Shrewsbury

  1. That looks like the Philip A Haigh book I have on my shelf. Henry V is on TV as I type. Present at the battle if Glendowyr was not; Owen was supposed to join the rebels. The two things I have always found interesting about Shrewsbuy is that it brought together, Percy and Douglas, traditional enemies, and the fact that it was the first battle ever fought between two longbow armies. If you have ever read WRG, the guide to the period suggests that the archers on each side effectively cancelled each other out. I have just started a blog to publicise my novel ‘The First Warrior’, which has just been published on amazon, which features a number of epic battles, though the blog is also about historical wargames and will tie into a regular monthly column i write for Miniature Wargames magazine.

  2. That is indeed the Philip Haigh book. It seemed the most straightforward intro to the tangle that is the Wars of the Roses.

    Having watched the BBC’s 1960 Age of Kings, I now see Hotspur as Sean Connery and can’t believe he actually lost; it’s SEAN CONNERY.

    Never been into wargaming, but the books for gamers are often very good histories.

    I shall be checking your blog.

  3. Excellent. Sean Connery ought to win. I would probably cast differently but I would have to think about it. Did you know George R R Martin based his curently very popular fantasy novels on the WOR?
    Good to touch base – I am a non-deonominational Christian by the way.

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