Thomas Fauconberg and the Assault on London of 14th May 1471

[Quotes] are from the "Great Chronicle of London"

Principal Commanders

Lancaster York
Thomas, Bastard of Fauconberg
Sir Geoffrey Gate
John Stockton, Lord Mayor of London
Sir John Crosbie, Sherrif of London
John Ward, Sherrif of London
John Basset, Alderman of London
Thomas Ursewyk, Recorder of London

Thomas, Bastard of Fauconberg was an illegitimate son of William Neville, Lord Fauconberg and Earl of Kent. A sailor at heart, he had received the freedom of the City of London in 1454 for his part in removing pirates from the North Sea and the English Channel. He was made Vice-Admiral of the Fleet by his cousin Richard, Earl of Warwick of whom he was a zealous supporter. He had also played an active part in placing Edward IV on the throne in 1461 and stayed with Warwick when the ‘Kingmaker’ changed allegiance. His attack on the City of London in May 1471 was to be part of a two-pronged attack by Lancastrian forces, under the leadership of Margaret of Anjou to regain the throne for her husband Henry VI, currently a prisoner of Edward IV in the Tower of London. Margaret landed with her forces in the West of England. Fauconberg was to land in the East.

On 4th May 1471 Edward IV fought Margaret and her forces at Tewkesbury. The Great Chronicle of London gives this decisive battle three lines more or less and the aftermath - the capture of Margaret and death of her son and to list who died a further ten or so.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of May, Sir Geoffrey [Gefferay] Gate and Thomas [a Rover namyd the Bastard of Falconbrydge] landed with a force of mercenaries [a multitude of Rovers]. They landed in Kent and there raised more men [areysid much Idyll people] and headed towards London. Faconbrydge (sic) also sent ships along the coast into the Thames estuary and thence to Essex, Here the people where said to be out for revenge particularly against the Lord Mayor of London who had raised taxes on their goods too high [the ffaunt husbandys cast from them theyr sharp Sythys and armyd theym with theyr wyvis smokkis chese clothis and old shetis and wepenyd theym wyth hevy & grete Clubbys and long pycch-forkis and ashyn stavys, and soo In all haast sped theym toward london … that they would be Revengid upon the mayer ffor setting soo easy penyworthis on their Butter Chese Eggis pyggis & all vytall]. They joined with those marching from Kent and headed to London.

Fawconbridge (sic) gathering more men as he went [encreasyng hys lewd Company] arrived at in Southwark on 12th May 1471. Some estimate this combined force at 17,000. He sent the Lord Mayor of London (at this time John Stockton, mercer) a ‘letter’ asking that he might be allowed to enter and pass through the City unhindered saying that he would not cause disturbance to the City or its citizens [Cytyzyns]. But the Lord Mayor and the City counsel knew of Fauconberg’s reputation [The lytyll hold that was In his promyse] and what he had been doing in Kent and Essex. They refused him passage through the city. The Lord Mayor was already well prepared. He had ordered that watch had been kept [daye & nyght] on vulnerable parts of the city and where defences were weak, ,that they should be re-enforced [with Gunnys & other deffencis of warre]. The refusal of his request by the Lord Mayor infuriated Fauconberg [he was not a lytill myscontentid, But swore many grete othis that he wold Rule the Cyte by space of a day & a nyght]. He decided on a three-pronged attack. His main captain, named Spysyng, was to take a force and assault Aldgate. Another, Quyntyn [a bowcher], would attack Bisshopsgate. He would attack London Bridge. Two smaller forces were to attack Aldersgate and Cripplegate. They were all to attack at the same time and set fire to the houses around the gates. Bombardment was to continue from the Surrey side of the Thames at the City where the wall had long fallen into disrepair.

So on 14th May 1471 the rebels attacked [the Cyte on alle sydys]. The men of Essex attacked the gates to the east, the Kentish men the southern gates. On hearing of the attack the Lord Mayor and his Sherrifs (Sir John Crosbie & John Ward) rode from gate to gate and place to place organising the defences [In alle haast with a Trumpett].

The heaviest attack was at Aldgate. The rebels fired upon it [with mighty shott of hand Gunnys & sharp shott of arrowis] but to little effect. The citizens of London returned fire. The rebels broke in through the gate befor the portcullis was lowered. Fierce fighting ensued. But the citizens where led by an alderman named John Basset and the Recorder of the City, Thomas Ursewyk both armed [In a black Jak or doublet of ffens]. Basset ordered the portcullis to be raised. He then forced the remaining rebels out of the gate and led a force of the citizens against the rebels forcing them back. The Commander [lyewtenaunt] of the Tower of London arrived with fresh re-enforcements [which dyscomffortid the Rebellys]. They where pushed into retreat being chased as far as Mile End, Stratford and Poplar.

Elsewhere Fauconberg and his other forces had little success. The citizens of London fought hard. What leeway the rebels made into the City was soon lost and they where soon forced back across the Thames. Fauconberg conceded defeat, especially after hearing of the losses at Aldgate. He retreated to his ships and sailed back out onto the Thames Estuary. He had failed.

The aftermath was swift and effective. Edward IV realised that Henry VI could no longer be allowed to live. Within a few days of the assualt Henry VI was murdered. Of the rebels, Fauconberg himself survived and was pardoned (at least until September when he was beheaded). His main captain Spysyng, was beheaded soon after the assault, as was Quyntyn. Many of the rebels were hung. Others were ransomed. Edward IV rode into Kent and had the Mayor of Canterbury, who had helped raise men, beheaded. Edward also fined the counties of Kent and Essex. [Such as where Rich were hangid by the purs, and other that were nedy were hangid by the nekkis]. Various citizens, including Stockton and Ursewyk (but not Basset?), were knighted in the field by Edward IV for their valiant defence of the city.

Jim Marsh 2002

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Details of other battles: Tewkesbury, Bosworth, Blore Heath, Barnet