The Claimant: A Novel of the Wars of the Roses Book Tour – Simon Anderson on Towton Battlefield

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Today we’re pleased to be launching the book tour for Simon Anderson’s gripping debut novel, The Claimant: A Novel of the Wars of the Roses. Simon has joined us to discuss his one of his favourite places from his extensive research for the novel, Towton Battlefield, where one of the most terrible battles in English history took place.

My favourite place associated with The Claimant

by Simon Anderson

Over the course of researching The Claimant I visited numerous places so that I might gain a more detailed perspective on aspects such as terrain, viewpoints, buildings and roads. It also gave me an excuse to get out of the house! Denbigh Castle and the small villages clustered around the northern extremity of the Clwydian Hills were a joy to behold nestling in the greenery of the North Welsh Border country. Ludlow charmed and delighted me with its mighty stronghold, its looping rivers and its mass of listed buildings and the surrounding Shropshire countryside is some of the most beautiful and peaceful you will find anywhere.

The site with which I felt the strongest connection, however, was the huge, almost featureless battlefield at Towton, near Tadcaster in Yorkshire. Remarkably no building has taken place on the wide, open fields over which two massive armies struggled for dominance during a snowstorm in March 1461. It is therefore entirely possible to stand in the middle of the scene and picture in your mind the disposition of the various “battles” or divisions of troops on each side and also to appreciate just how bleak the place must have felt in the bitter weather that accompanied the fighting. Many thousands of soldiers would have had no option but to spend the night prior to the battle out in the open on the hard, snow-covered ground.

Palm Sunday 2013- overlooking the main Battlefield - The Yorkist troops would have been aligned on the far ridge and the image was taken from the Lancastarian postions

Palm Sunday 2013- overlooking the main Battlefield. The Yorkist troops would have been aligned on the far ridge and this image was taken from the Lancastarian postions.

I described the site as “almost featureless” – well there are certainly two significant features to interrupt the gentle fold of the valley that lay between the opposing armies. A lone hawthorn tree, silhouetted starkly against the skyline on a long ridge, was said to have been there at the time and was thought to be the spot from which the Yorkist forces coming up from the South first laid eyes on the vast Lancastrian array which had come from York, in the North.

The other very obvious feature is the steep slope at the western end of the battlefield, leading down to Cock Beck. This is a serious incline, in sharp contrast to the smooth undulations of the rest of the site, and one can easily imagine that when covered in slippery snow it would have become a major obstacle for the routed, panicking Lancastrian troops trying to make their escape. Cock Beck itself looks innocuous enough on a warm Summer’s day but I have seen pictures of it in flood, as it was on the day of the battle, and it changes from a pretty stream a few yards wide and a few feet deep into an expansive and treacherous water meadow. Anyone trying to navigate their way across would have no way of knowing how deep the water was at any point, nor what the ground was doing below the swirling surface. Add in fear, panic, gathering dark and a vengeful pursuing enemy and it is little wonder that so many unfortunate souls were trampled and drowned in the terrible rout that followed the main battle.

Towton Battlefield Society re-enacting the death of Clifford at Dintingdale

Re-enacting the death of Clifford at Dintingdale

I cannot talk of Towton without mentioning the Towton Battlefield Society. This group of dedicated experts and enthusiasts work tirelessly to protect the status of the site. They also put a lot of effort into making the site more accessible to the public. Although the battlefield is largely private farmland there is, thanks to the cooperation of the landowner, a decent circular path which allows you to see a good proportion of the site as you walk around. There are also very helpful information boards at intervals with pictures and explanations to help the visitor to understand the events of that fateful day. There is far more to Towton than just open space, however. In 1996 a rare medieval battlefield grave was discovered close to Towton Hall. Its careful excavation revealed almost 40 skeletons tightly packed in the mass burial. A great many of them bore unmistakable signs of massive injuries caused by edged and pointed weapons and give us a valuable insight into the utter brutality of what was the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil. Taking into account the huge number of dead at the end of that awful day (said to be as many as 28,000) there must be many, many other victims waiting to be discovered. It is for this reason and many more that the battlefield must be protected against modern encroachment if we are not to lose a unique window to the past. It is the members of the Towton Battlefield Society who are leading the fight to keep this priceless heritage safe.

Medieval fashion show showing what was worn as you progressed through the social hierarchy in 1461

Medieval fashion show showing what was worn as you progressed through the social hierarchy in 1461

The jewel in the crown of the TBS, however, is the annual Palm Sunday Event. This takes a lot of organising on a voluntary basis but the end result is a memorable day full of all kinds of entertainment, from guided walks (with the guides in period costume), medieval craft workers plying their trades and falconry displays to the Grand Finale – a thrilling battle re-enactment by some of the most authentic and dedicated group members you will find.

Market stall selling Graham Turner's works

Market stall selling Graham Turner’s works

There are also trade stands in the big barn where artists sell their paintings (Graham Turner among them no less!) and authors promote their books. Authors you say? Books? Yes, this is where I come in. My wife and I have been members of the TBS for a while and I was over the Moon when the Chairman, Mark Taylor, offered me a stall at the 2012 Palm Sunday Event. I had a pile of “Claimants” ready to sell, blinged up my pitch with a few bits of my medieval collection then topped it off by donning my full 15th century outfit – doublet, hose, boots, hat, breastplate, the lot. It was great fun meeting the public and chatting to the other traders. I also sold a few copies of my book, which was nice! It was, however, a very cold day and the shady barn was a chilly place to say the least so eventually I packed my things away, stepped out into the glorious Spring sunshine and accompanied Sarah on a walk round the medieval “village” which had been erected in the fields next to Towton Hall. I really cannot put into words just how fantastic it felt to be walking around among all the trade tents, staffed by period-costumed craftspeople, and mingling with all the re-enactors without feeling remotely out of place. I’m sure I would get some odd looks if I went into our local Post Office dressed for 1461 with a crossbow over my shoulder, but not at Towton. What an amazing day, what a wonderful place…

Memorial cross ©Graham Telford

Memorial cross ©Graham Telford

Images courtesy of Towton Battlefield Society. Used with permission. To find out more visit the Towton Battlefield Society website and Facebook page.

The Claimant Book Tour!

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Check out all the stops on the The Claimant: A Novel of the Wars of the Roses Book Tour. You have a chance to win a copy each day courtesy of MadeGlobal Publishing!

9 February – Nerdalicious “My Favourite Place: Towton”

10 February – The Anne Boleyn Files – “The Claimant: An Excerpt”

11 February – The War of the Roses Catalogue Q&A session – Debra interviews Simon Anderson

12 February – Queen Anne Boleyn – “Wars of the Roses Places”

13 February – Tudor Society – “Researching the Claimant”

Win a copy of The Claimant: A Novel of the Wars of the Roses!

We have a copy of The Claimant: A Novel of the Wars of the Roses to give away thanks to Simon and MadeGlobal Publishing. To enter just leave a comment below telling us who your favourite historical figures from the Wars of the Roses are.

Entries close Sunday 15th February at midnight. Please keep an eye on your inboxes, the winner has five days to respond or a new winner will be chosen.

the_claimant_kindle_coverThe Claimant: A Novel of the Wars of the Roses

by Simon Anderson, Published by MadeGlobal Publishing 2014

Click here to buy The Claimant with Free Worldwide Shipping

The Claimant Kindle Countdown deal – only 99c/99p on Amazon US and Amazon UK from the 9th – 12th of February.

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October, 1459. The harvest is gathered and the country wears its autumn livery. Four years after the first battle of The Cousins’ Wars, later known as The Wars of the Roses, the simmering political tensions between the Royal Houses of Lancaster and York have once again boiled over into armed confrontation. Nobles must decide which faction to support in the bitter struggle for power. The stakes are high and those who choose unwisely have everything to lose. Sir Geoffrey Wardlow follows the Duke of York while others rally to King Henry’s cause, but one in particular company under the Royal banner is not all it seems, its leader bent on extracting a terrible revenge that will shatter the lives of the Wardlow family. Edmund of Calais has a private score to settle and is prepared to risk everything to satisfy his thirst for revenge. Riding the mounting wave of political upheaval, he willingly throws himself time and again into the lethal mayhem of a medieval battle as he strives to achieve his aim. One man is out to stop him: his half-brother, Richard. Born of the same father but of very different minds the two young men find themselves on opposite sides during the violence that erupts as political tensions finally reach breaking point. Each has sworn to kill the other should they meet on the field of battle. As they play their cat-and-mouse game in the hope of forcing a decisive confrontation, their loved ones are drawn inexorably into the fray, forcing the protagonists to question the true cost of victory…


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Meet author Simon Anderson, author of The Claimant, a fast paced historical novel based in the time of the Wars of the Roses.

For as long as Simon can remember he has been fascinated by the medieval world, in particular the glorious triumphs and shattering reverses of the period in English history known as the Wars of the Roses. Extensive research in both England and Wales has facilitated the writing of a novel which interprets the actual events of those times through the eyes of his characters. Prepare for a journey…

The Claimant is Simon Anderson’s first published novel. Visit Simon on Facebook.


About The Author

Olga Hughes is currently pre-occupied with fairy tales, fantasy, misanthropy, medieval history and the long eighteenth century. She has a Bachelor of Fine Art from the Victorian College of the Arts and is currently majoring in Literature and History at Deakin. She has contributed to websites such as History behind Game of Thrones, The Anne Boleyn Files and The Tudor Society.

25 Responses

  1. Terasa Banks

    My favorite person from the time of The War of the Roses would have to be Jacquetta of Luxembourg, Elizabeth Woodville’s mother. This woman lived such a fascinating life and even though she and her second husband, Richard Woodville, Baron Rivers, stayed loyal to the Lancastrians throughout the war, when York became victorious and the defeated Lancastrian soldiers had to change their loyalty to York in order to be pardoned, Jacquetta was able to see it as an opportunity, rather than a defeat. That’s how I’ve always looked at it anyway. I just find this woman extremely interesting and remarkable. The fact that she took her destiny into her own hands after her first husband passed away and she remarried a man for love, despite her status and what it could have cost her, makes me adore her even more. She was definitely a woman ahead of her time, in a time when women didn’t have much say when it came to their future. I could go on, but I will stop now. She’s not my ONLY favorite, but she definitely is my most favorite person of that time. I really want this book! *I hope I win!!* 😉

    Reply
  2. Lisa Miller

    Richard of Gloucester (later King Richard III) is my favorite historical figure from The Wars of the Roses. He is, in fact, my favorite historical figure of all time, along with Queen Elizabeth I. Richard has gotten a very bum rap over the centuries and Shakespearean fiction has been accepted as fact, which is a shame. From all contemporary accounts, including those written before it would have been disadvantageous to describe him otherwise, Richard of Gloucester was a fair, brave, and even-tempered leader. That he has been memorialized for the ages as a crook-backed tyrant simply due to The Bard’s desire to please a Tudor’s dynastic ego is sad stuff.

    Reply
  3. Nancy L Smith

    Edward IV and Richard, Duke of Gloucester are my favorite figures from the Wars of the Roses.

    Reply
  4. Su Harrison

    The battlefield at Towton is a really special place. This year’s re-enactment is on Palm Sunday, March 29th for those who would like to visit.

    Reply
  5. JFM1

    Having read all the Philippa Gregory books, and watched the White Queen series, I look forward to reading Simon’s book. Thanks for the Towton article!

    Reply
  6. patti

    I am proud to say I am the biggest Anne Boleyn junkie on this side of the pond! I cannot get enough of the Tudor history!

    Reply
  7. Collette Taylor

    My favourite historical person from the War of the Roses is Eizabeth of York, a strong wife, caring mother and influential queen

    Reply
  8. BanditQueen

    I read the book just briefly a few weeks ago, so have now downloaded it in full, looking forward to enjoying it again. I know the family are invented, but they are as real and as lively as any of the known families at the Battle and the descriptions in the book bring the battle of Towton back to life. I remember the visit to Towton last November, on a bright, but bitterly cold day, there is something about the fields there; the battlefield is all around and it is open and gives a real sense of being there in 1461. The cross that marks the battlefield and the dead, the marker of that terrible day when 28,000 Englishmen and their allies fell on home soil and lost their lives in the bloodiest battle on English soil. There have been several grave pits found at Towton and we can see from the skeletons that there was a number of brutal examples of revenge on the faces of the dead. Faces have been bashed in, ears cut off, holes in the top of the skulls show were the halberd or dagger had finished off badly injured men. There is evidence that no mercy was given, even when men fled the field; they were cut down as they did so, bleeding to death in the snow. Bridges of bodies piled up over the river, families were divided and fathers killed sons and vice versa; it was a vicious, brutal fight. It would leave Edward IV undisputed king. The book brings to life the members of a family caught up on these terrible days; the characters are vivid and exciting and real history is weaved into their vital tale. I think that it is almost Black Arrow with attitude and is every bit as good as that classic tale of the same era. In short, I loved it.

    Reply
  9. Mirsada

    My favorite historical figures from Wars of the Roses are Elizabeth Woodwille and Richard of Gloucester for sure!

    Reply
  10. Marilyn Roberts

    Like Simon I am very fond of the site of the battle of Towton in Yorkshire. On a summer’s day it is tranquil, picturesque farmland, but in the snow and mud of that Palm Sunday it must have been a vision of Hell. My own main area of research is the Mowbray family (www.queens-haven.co.uk) and it was John Mowbray, third duke of Norfolk who arrived several hours late with Yorkist reinforcements. People find it incredible that there could have been up to 28,000 deaths.

    Reply
  11. Eliza

    Elizabeth Woodville is my favourite, although all historical figures involved in the War of the Roses are interesting in their own right.

    Reply
  12. Dragonfly

    I used to live close by to the Yorkshire sites. And our street’s millennium float was The War of The Roses, with many of us dressed up as the well known characters of the time, my friend and I made all the costumes and scenery, and I was ‘Queen to be’ Elizabeth of York. As I kind of pushed (really hard!!) for our float to take on this theme you will gather that I love this period of time, and would dearly love to read this book too!!

    Reply
  13. rachel

    RichardIII would have to be my favorite. Painted in such a villainous light by our favorite bard, I love reading anything that shines a new light on him and reveals another face; be that fiction or non fiction.

    Reply
  14. John Topping

    My favourites are Richard Neville, the Kingmaker, Margaret of Anjou, the cunning mischief maker and Edward the Fourth, the crown taker as well as Richard the Third whose crooked luck saw him back the wrong horse.

    Reply
  15. Samantha Wilkinson

    My favourite characters from the Wars of the Roses are Richard III and Elizabeth of York. I just find their supposed romance fascinating, and the courage Elizabeth must have had to marry the invader of her country just astounds me. Especially as he may have been the one behind her brothers’ disappearance in the Tower of London.

    Reply
  16. Michelle

    Elizabeth of York and Henry VII. How did they make it work, joining two houses and having peace as well. So interesting.

    Reply
  17. Jessica Ashbrooke

    Richard of Gloucester who became Richard the third, I’m big on Gloucester I lived in Gloucester australia then while doing family history my ancestors originated from Gloucester England

    Reply
  18. Jen

    Elizabeth Woodville. Simply because, as the ancestor to all English and Scottish monarchs since Henry VIII, she was an amazing woman who lived an extraordinary life.

    Reply

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