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Battle of Shrewsbury


Battle of Shrewsbury, 21 july, 1403

Harry ‘Hotspur,' after lifting the visor of his helmet during the battle, is hit by an arrow from a Royalist archers longbow, in his open mouth, killing him instantly.
Henry IV, who had usurped the throne from Richard II in 1399, helped by the Henry Percy, 1 st . Earl of Northumberland, found that life as King of England was not an easy one. During his reign he had to deal with many rebellions throughout the kingdom.
In 1403, Henry had to deal with a rebellion from his former allies, the Percy's of Northumbria over a matter of unpaid ransoms for many Scottish knights captured at the battle of Homildon Hill, the year before, including the Earl of Douglas, the leader of the Scottish army. This insult to the Percy family would not be forgotten and they demanded vengeance.
Henry Percy was ill and was ready to agree to release the Scottish prisoners into the King's care but Henry Percy's son, refused. The earl's son had earned the nickname ‘Hotspur' for his impetuous nature and willingness to ride hard into battle. Hotspur quickly formed an alliance with his arch enemy, the Earl of Douglas, Glyndwr and the Earls Mortimer & Worcester.
Marching south with an army of about 4,000 to link up with Glyndwr, Hotspur was intercepted by Henry IV's larger army just outside Shrewsbury . The battle started with the Royalist archers moving forward, but seeing this the veteran Cheshire bowmen on the rebel's side, unleashed their arrows from their longbows and the Royalists replied in kind. The sky was black with arrows flying to and fro, and the smaller rebel force was having the better of the duel.
Once the arrows had all been unleashed it was down to the knights and men-at-arms to move forward and meet face to face with swords, poleaxes etc. to slug it out.
It was the rebel army who was having the better of the battle and causing great casualties on the royal army side.
Hotspur saw, what looked like a rout, and charged down onto the royal army with Douglas at his side, felling many royalist soldiers in his wake, his target being the King.
However, as the battle wore on, the King, having a larger army, found that the battle was starting to swing in his favour. Henry's son, the fifteen year old Prince Henry (who would later become Henry V) also pushed forward with his troops, adding more pressure on the rebel army, but during this push, Prince Henry took an arrow to the face, but bravely refused to leave the battle field, and fought on. (Every portrait of Henry V is always in profile as he was hiding the large scar he received at this battle)
During the battle, Hotspur, raised his visor either to shout orders or to grab a breath of fresh air, but a vigilant Royalist archer, seeing his opportunity, unleashed an arrow which entered Hotspurs open mouth, killing him instantly.
Without their dynamic leader, the rebel army started to disperse and flee from the bloody battlefield, their cause had died with Hotspur. The battle of Shrewsbury had claimed the lives of at least 6,000 men and was one of the first battles where longbow men faced each other.



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