Siege of St. Michael's Mount, 30 September 1473-February 1474

The siege of St. Michael's Mount (30 September 1473-February 1474) was the last military threat to Edward IV's rule, and saw two of the last Lancastrian peers hold the castle for five months before finally surrendering.

In 1471 the Lancastrian peers John de Vere, earl of Oxford and William, Lord Beaumont, both fought under the earl of Warwick at the battle of Barnet. In the aftermath of that battle both men escaped to Scotland, and then to France. Despite the apparent destruction of the Lancastrian cause at Tewkesbury they remained determined opponents of Edward IV, and gained some support from Louis XI of France.

Oxford's first venture was an attack on the borders of Calais. In May 1473 he attempted to land in Essex, but was repulsed by Edward's men in the area. He spent the summer engaged in piracy in the Channel, but then combined with Lord Beaumont and on 30 September the two men, with a force of 397 men, captured the castle at St. Michael's Mount in Cornwall. This was embarrassing for Edward, but posed no real threat, and so at first he decided to simply blockade the castle. Sir Henry Bodrugan, Edward's man in Cornwall, was placed in charge of the siege, but he was corrupt and almost accepted bribes to let supplies into the castle.

In December 1473 Edward decided to apply more pressure. He sent John Fortescue, the chief justice, a former Lancastrian and now a member of his household, to command the siege. Some of the Royal artillery arrived under the command of John Wode, the master of the ordnance, and a naval blockade was put in place. At the same time Edward offered free pardons and rewards to anyone who surrendered. According to Warkworth's chronicle this was so effective that by the end only eight or nine men remained in the garrison.

In February 1474 these tactics finally forced Oxford and Beaumont to surrender on terms. Oxford was imprisoned in Hammes, one of the fortresses around Calais. In 1484, after Richard III's usurpation of the throne, Oxford convinced Sir James Blount, governor of the castle, to changes sides. Blount and Oxford joined Henry Tudor in Brittany. He fought at Bosworth in 1485 and at Stoke in 1487, and survived until 1513.

Beaumont remained in prison until Henry Tudor won the throne at Bosworth. He was then released and restored to his lands and titles, but two years later he suffered a mental breakdown and was put in Oxford's care.

Books on the Middle Ages - Subject Index: Wars of the Roses

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (23 January 2014), Siege of St. Michael's Mount, 30 September 1473-February 1474 ,

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