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     The White Rose and the Red, p.1

       Bard of Burgh Conan / History & Fiction
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The White Rose and the Red


A narrative poem about the Battle of Wakefield,
one of the key events in the Wars of the Roses

Bard of Burgh Conan

Copyright © 2017 Christopher Webster
aka Bard of Burgh Conan
All rights reserved.


Historical Note
About the Author


This poem was written for inclusion in the new edition of Conisbrough Tales (forthcoming September, 2017) which I describe as “A Canterbury Tales for Conisbrough”. It consists of a series of narrative poems that tell the story of Conisbrough from Celtic times to the 1980's. Although this poem focuses mainly on the Battle of Wakefield, the central story of the Wars of the Roses is told by a brief backward glance to the Battle of St Albans, and a brief glance ahead to the Battle of Towton.


“Richard of York gave battle in vain”
―Old Memnonic


It had not been an easy journey northwards:
December weather was but half of it.
The roads were quagmires, rutted, waterlogged,
and sometimes flooded deep as a man's waist.
Fords were impassable, and bridges broken,
forcing a detour to find one that stood.
The other problem was the enemy:
cunning Lancastrians who shadowed their march
and picked off stragglers or scouting parties.
The worst of these attacks took place at Worsksop
where a forward patrol took heavy casualties
thanks to the Duke of Somerset. Now, at last,
they were in friendly territory: Yorkshire,
county of the White Rose, and better still,
within the borders of the Duke's own Manor
of Conisbrough and not far from the castle.

Richard the Duke of York rode in the van
with Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury
and his son Thomas. All the mud
and blood and turmoil of their journey north
and the dark clouds, threatening another storm,
could scarcely dim the brilliance of his arms:
French fleurs and England's lions, quarterly,
with Mortimer and De Burgh, and overall
an inescutcheon of three lions, Or;
nor was his harness tarnished, but still gleamed
reflecting the last light of dying day,
as if in token of his dauntless spirit.

Among the knights and squires, and men-at-arms,
forming the army's centre, and the safest
from skirmishers, rode Richard's second son,
Edmund the Earl of Rutland – a toy knight,
for he was only twelve, and yet his harness
was every bit as knightly as his father's.
Each plate was curved and fluted to give strength
and to deflect the blows from swords and glaives.

He should, at his age, have been just a page,
staying at home to practice courtly arts
among the ladies, or at most, a squire,
learning the martial arts with men-at-arms,
but his indulgent father had allowed him
all of the honours proper to a knight;
and so he rode astride a noble destrier
bristling with arms that he could barely wield.
The one demand his father laid upon him
was that he travel with his priest and tutor,
Sir Robert Aspall. Though in Holy Orders,
he was not dour – rather the opposite.
His heavy jowels often creased with a smile,
and laughter twinkled in his light blue eyes.
He tried, as was his duty, to be strict
with Edmund, but the boy knew him too well.
Sir Robert was attired in an odd mixture
of military and ecclesiastical.
His harness was like any other knights,
except that over it he wore a stole;
nor did he carry weapons, just a buckler,
because, he said, “I am a man of peace,
though needed to confess men before battle
and give them Final Unction in necessity.”

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