Sunday, 24 August 2008

Thomas Cruwys and the Battle of Towton

There is an interesting article in today's Sunday Times magazine about the Battle of Towton, which can also be read online on the Sunday Times website. The Battle of Towton is of particular interest to me because my ancestor Sir Thomas Cruwys (d. 1471) fought at the battle on the Lancastrian side in support of Henry VI. The battle took place on 29th March 1461 (Palm Sunday), between the villages of Towton and Saxton in Yorkshire (about 20 kilometres south-west of York). It is remembered as the bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil. Henry VI and his supporters were defeated by the Yorkist army of Edward IV, and some 28,000 men are believed to have lost their lives. Sir Thomas Cruwys miraculously managed to survive the massacre of the Lancastrian army. After the battle he received a royal pardon from King Edward IV, but was forced to forfeit many of his lands. The Deed of Pardon is in the family archives at Cruwys Morchard House. Sir Thomas survived for another ten years after the Battle of Towton. Undeterred by the carnage he had witnessed at Towton he fought again at the Battle of Tewkesbury on 4th May 1471, but was again on the losing Lancastrian side. Sir Thomas Cruwys's inquisition post mortem records that he died on 12th May 1471. After the battle some of the defeated Lancastrians sought sanctuary in Tewkesbury Abbey. The victorious Yorkists forced their way into the abbey and the surviving Lancastrians were all beheaded. Sir Thomas was quite possibly one of the group who was slaughtered in the Abbey, or he might simply have died of his wounds.

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