Tuesday 20 April 2021

Royal Mail marks the 534th - 566th Anniversary of the Wars of the Roses - 4 May 2021

The latest stamp issue coincides with the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Tewksbury, said to be one of the defining battles of the Wars of the Roses.

Choosing how to mark a significant series of events in a country's history is difficult.  Different historians will have their own thoughts on which was the most significant battle - if the Lord Protector of Henry VI, Richard Duke of York, hadn't led an attack on London which resulted in the Battle of St Albans in 1455 then things might have turned out differently, but once that started it was downhill all the way.

History Hit records Five Key Battles, with the second one being the Battle of Wakefield in 1460 where Richard was killed, but what happened between the two?  And Tudor Times records 17 in total!

As Commonwealth Stamps Opinion summarised it when the issue was announced:

Wars of the Roses, 550th anniversary of the Battles of Barnet (14 April 1471) at which Warwick The Kingmaker was killed, and Tewkesbury (4 May 1471) at which Edward IV crushed the Lancastrians and killed Edward Prince of Wales and other important Lancastrians, hence securing his rule until his death in 1483.

Following the various accounts is sometimes confusing.  The name 'Edward' for instance occurs on both sides as you will see in the preceding paragraph, so by reading on isolated battles it is not always easy to know who is fighting whom and for what.

Rather than issue 17 or more stamps Royal Mail has selected 8 battles and portrays them in this set in reverse chronological order, thus ensuring that the Battle of Tewkesbury gets maximum exposure as it is on a 2nd class stamp.  

Additional details about the depictions from the artist's Facebook page below the images.

Wars of the Roses stamps. 2nd class: Bosworth and Tewkesbury.
Wars of the Roses stamps. 1st class: Barnet and Edgecote Moor.

Wars of the Roses stamps. £1.70: Towton and Wakefield.

Wars of the Roses stamps. £2.55: Northampton and St Albans 1.

Artist's notes:

2nd class - Battle of Bosworth. King Richard is shown dressed in gilded armour, befitting a monarch demonstrating his right to wear the crown of England as God's anointed ruler, his surcoat and horse caparison bearing the Royal Arms and his Standard fluttering above him. His trusted companion, Sir Robert Percy, points out Henry Tudor amongst the enemy host, prompting the King to make the decision to lead his household knights and retainers in their thundering charge towards the challenger to his throne.

2nd class - Battle of Tewkesbury.   Having reclaimed the throne of England and defeated the Earl of Warwick at the battle of Barnet, the Yorkist King, Edward IV, marched his forces from London to intercept those of Margaret of Anjou (wife of the Lancastrian Henry VI) and her son, Prince Edward, who had landed at Weymouth and were heading for Wales where supporters awaited them.

Denied entry to Gloucester and it's bridge over the River Severn, Margaret was forced to march her exhausted army to the next crossing point - at Tewkesbury. Here, with the Royal army hard on their heels and insufficient time to cross the river, they turned to confront their pursuers, the two armies meeting on the 4th May 1471.  Following a heavy bombardment from the King's artillery, Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, led the Lancastrian right wing through the deep ditches and hedges that intersected the battlefield and attacked the Yorkist left, under the command of Edward's younger brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester. However, the other Lancastrian divisions failed to support the attack and Somerset's men were soon outflanked and routed, the rest of Margaret's army disintegrating in defeat.

1st class -  Battle of Barnet, fought on Easter Sunday, 14th April 1471.  Edward IV leads his army through the fog that enveloped the battlefield and into the thick of the action, his banners flying above him and Knights of the Body beside him. Opposing the King are soldiers wearing the red livery of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, Edward’s one-time great ally, and in the background can be made out the ‘Kingmaker’ himself, along with his brother, John Neville, Marquess of Montagu.
1st class - Battle of Edgecote.  As Sir Richard Herbert cuts his way through the rebel army, his brother, the Earl of Pembroke, nearby, banners bearing the Earl of Warwick’s badges are spotted advancing on the flank. Warwick, often referred to as the ‘Kingmaker’ and once one of the Yorkists’ principal supporters, had now revealed himself as the force behind the rebellion against his one-time great ally, King Edward IV. The battle weary Yorkists assumed these approaching banners to herald the arrival of the vanguard of Warwick’s army (it was not, but rather some local ‘rascals’ rounded up by one of Warwick’s retainers, John Clapham Esquire, as a ruse to give that impression), prompting their collapse and rout, and the two Herbert brothers, Sir William and Sir Richard, were captured and taken to Northampton, where they were summarily beheaded the following day on Warwick’s orders.

£1.70 - Battle of Towton, fought on a bitterly cold 29th March 1461. The Yorkist archers, with the wind and driving snow at their backs, shoot their deadly volleys of arrows into the advancing Lancastrian army, while Edward IV and his knights and men-at-arms move through the ranks to meet their oncoming foe.

£1.70 - Battle of Wakefield.  On December 30th, 1460, the heirs of the Lancastrian Nobles killed at St. Albans found themselves able to avenge their fathers' deaths when their army trapped the Duke of York and Earl of Salisbury in Sandal Castle, near Wakefield. Lured out from the safety of the castle walls and into open battle, York's heavily outnumbered force found themselves surrounded and in the fierce melee that followed, York and many of his followers lost their lives, his son, Edmund, among them. The Earl of Salisbury was captured and taken to Pontefract by the Duke of Somerset where he was summarily executed, his head joining those of the other Yorkist leaders over the gates of York.

£2.55 - Battle of Northampton.  Edward, Earl of March, kneels before Henry VI and proclaims his loyalty, having defeated the Royal army at Northampton on 10th July 1460. The Earl of Warwick and Yorkist troops look on, while one of the guns that failed to fire in the rain stands impotently in the foreground.

£2.55 - Battle of St. Albans, the first battle of the Wars of the Roses, the market place still retains the medieval layout and buildings such as the Abbey and clock tower provide fixed points to help locate the events of 1455.  The painting shows the Earl of Warwick (centre) raising his visor to greet the Duke of York, who is indicating towards the Castle Inn where the Duke of Somerset made his last stand.


Technical details

The 50 x 30 mm gummed stamps are in horizontal pairs in sheets of 30/60 and are printed in Litho by ISP (Cartor). The battles have been "re-imagined by Graham Turner, a leading historical artist specialisting in medieval, military and motorsport subjects".  Copyright Royal Mail.

Other products are a First Day Cover, stamp cards, and a presentation pack.

The presentation pack contains a useful explanation and timeline of the battles and key protaganists.

A framed set of stamps is available from Royal Mail for £29.99.

The stamps are available from the Royal Mail website shop from 20th April.


  1. An excellent set of stamps, remembering a very tumultuous period in English history. The battle of Towton was I believe the bloodiest battle of these wars. Well done RM

  2. A very attractive set although I can help but notice the similarity to the Legend of King Arthur stamps issued earlier this year.

  3. This set has obviously been in preparation for some time as the values given are those we would have had last year...

    1. These are the current rates. Whilst the £1.70 took effect from September £1.55 was introduced on 1 January this year.

      And of course it has been - as all stamp issues are - in preparation for years. We are often shown, and have shown here, images with 'old' rates before new rates are decided.

  4. I didn't mean the values shown on the stamps but in the descriptions below them and in the artist's notes.

    1. Oh, that’s my fault not theirs on this occasion. Thanks for pointing it out. RM didn’t provide any detailed information and my proof reader is on furlough 😁

  5. I see from the latest copy of 'First' advertising the 'Wars of the Roses' apparently the alternative postmark 'Tewkesbury' represents the banners of Henry V and Edward lV flown at the battle.
    Henry V had been dead 50 years in 1471. Surely should be Henry Vl.


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