When Henry VI had a brief respite from his insanity in 1454, he remembered nothing of the past 16 months. He recognised his son and released the Duke of Somerset from the Tower of London. Somerset was made Captain of Calais, a position of considerable military strength that was until recently held by Somerset's rival, the Duke of York. York and the Duke of Warwick retired to the north.

York once more raised an army to march south to London to persuade the King to abandon Somerset. This was a pre-emptive strike designed to defeat his rival before Somerset saw a way to do away with York. The King and Somerset learnt too late of York's preparations, and in the end only mustered 2,000 troops to meet York's 3,000. After several hours of fighting at St. Albans on the 22nd May 1455, the royalist army fled. The King fell into York's hands and was placed in the abbey for safety. Somerset took refuge in an inn, but York found him.

Somerset fought bravely, felling 4 Yorkists, but he was then himself felled with an axe.

Having now achieved his goals, York met with the King in the abbey and begged forgiveness, pledging his loyalty for ever. The King accepted his apology and York as his unrivalled first minister. Warwick was made Captain of Calais, a role in which he would distuinguish himself by destroying a Spanish fleet.

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Date: 22nd May, 1455

Time: started - between 10:00am & midday; duration - 30 mins

Location: in the streets of St. Albans (NW of London)

Weather: not recorded

Factions: York vs Lancaster

Victor: York

Troops/inventory:York - 3,000 - 7,000 men-at-arms (including archers, pikemen and billmen), cannons
Lancaster - 2,000 - 3,000 men-at-arms (including pikemen and billmen)

Injuries/fatalities of interest: York - none

Total slain/injured: approx. 100 slain (mostly Lancastrian soldiers)

Interesting bit: The Duke of Somerset fought for the Lancastrians that day. During the dying moments of the battle, he fought his way to refuge in an establishment called the Castle Inn, on the corner of Shropshire Lane. Assuming that he would be executed if captured alive by the Yorkists, he and his retainers decided to fight it out to the end. Learning that the defenders outside the inn had been slain, he led a final charge into the street. Somerset killed four men before finally being slain by an axeman.

As in all great war legends, the irony of the Duke's life lay in the manner of his death. Somerset had always pleaded with the King never to summon him to Windsor Castle, as a fortune teller had told him he would die in the shadow of a castle. This story may have been 'helped along' by the chroniclers of the time, but it certainly adds an ironic bent to the Duke of Somerset's death in front of the Castle Inn.

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