Historically interesting pubs

1455: Somerset’s last stand – The Castle Inn, St Albans

st albans pubsIn May 1455 two armies squared off against each other at St Albans north of London.

In the town itself were positioned the retinues of the ‘Lancastrian’ nobility under Edmund Beaufort, the duke of Somerset and earls of Devon and Northumberland.

Outside, drawn up in land belonging to the nearby Cross Keys Inn, was the host of Richard, duke of York and his Neville allies, Richard, earl of Salisbury and his son Richard, earl of Warwick.

For years prior to the coming clash York and Somerset had sought to control the weak king, Henry VI, their struggle becoming increasingly bitter as they stripped each other of titles and influence as the ebb and flow of political influence washed between them. In the end both resorted to violence to resolve their differences.

The battle that followed was the first clash in what became known as the Wars of the Roses, a conflict that only ended in 1485 with the rise of the Tudor dynasty.

The end game of the battle, as York’s men stormed the town, saw Somerset make his last stand at the Castle Inn in the old market square. As with The Stag the place no longer exists but a plaque on the corner of St Peter’s Street and Shropshire Lane notes where it stood and Somerset’s last-ditch defence took place.

The duke is said to have fought manfully and killed four men before he was cut down in the doorway of the inn itself.

With Somerset’s death York’s main rival was gone but Henry Beaufort, the new duke took up his father’s cause and the war entered a new, bloodier and more vicious stage. York was killed in 1461 and Henry in 1464 and the killing went on, sporadically, until Henry Tudor’s victory at Bosworth 30 years later.

In another pub-related side note, the origins of the name ‘The Rose and Crown’ come from this period.

When Henry Tudor ascended the throne as Henry VII he married Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV. The marriage (which, surprisingly, was a happy one) was intended to unify the warring houses of York and Lancaster and bring peace to the kingdom.

The white rose of York and red rose of Lancaster were heraldic badges occasionally used by both sides so to represent this new alliance and end to the conflict, after the marriage a new device was created where the white rose was set within the red and surmounted by a crown. Two houses unified for the good of the realm, hence the name.

2 Responses to “Historically interesting pubs”

  1. Philip Johnson says:

    Nell Gwynn cumly? How very revealing, Dictionary or decent sub-editor required.

  2. jenna says:

    It was the other way around. Rosalind Franklin first showed the X-ray experiment. Then Watson and Crick get “inspired” to postulate the double helix. #womeninscience…

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