Richard of York gave battle in vain

I was in York last Monday afternoon. It was a showery day and around four o’clock there was a sudden downpour that sent everyone dashing for shelter. From the doorway of the art gallery I turned as the sun came out and looking up at the cloud dark sky I was rewarded with a vivid rainbow which appeared to come down onto the Minster.

Rainbows make me think of a variety of things. Beauty. A sense of wonder. A reminder that we are living on a sphere which turns in space. God’s promise after the flood. And the rhyme I was taught so many years ago to help remember the colours. Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

Richard of York was a descendant of Edward III and after he had acted as Protector during the mental illness of Henry VI he pressed his superior claim to the throne. On 7th October 1460 parliament agreed that the crown should pass to York and his heirs after the death of Henry VI. But Henry’s wife, Margaret of Anjou, and her supporters were unhappy with this decision and raised an army to defeat the Duke of York by force. This was the beginning of what are now called the Wars of the Roses.

Facing uprisings by the Lancastrians, Richard of York sent his eldest son, Edward, the Earl of March, to put down a rebellion in Wales and he marched north to Sandal Castle, in Yorkshire, with his second son, Edmund, the Earl of Rutland.

No-one is sure why he left the castle on 30th December 1460, but the result was the Battle of Wakefield where he was hacked to death by his enemies and his seventeen year old son was murdered as he tried to escape the carnage. Both their heads were left to rot on Micklegate Bar in York following the Lancastrian victory.

So the rainbow over the Minster left me with feelings of both delight and sadness as I considered some of the history connected with the city and the dynasty of York.

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