23 September 2019 marks the 560th anniversary of the battle of Blore Heath. Following a last-ditch attempt in the spring of 1458 to reconcile the supporters of Richard, duke of York – chief among them the Neville earls of Warwick and Salisbury – with the lords loyal to King Henry VI, it was clear for much of the spring and summer of 1459 that the two political factions were headed for an armed confrontation. In May 1459 the court had moved to Coventry, and had begun to assemble its armed supporters, and in the autumn the Yorkist lords likewise began to assemble a force in the midlands, and arranged to join up at Worcester at the end of September. Richard, duke of York, was at this time based at his castle at Ludlow, and Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, sailed from his stronghold of Calais, reaching London on 20 September, while the elder Neville, Richard, earl of Salisbury, marched from Middleham in Yorkshire with a following of about 5,000 well-trained men. It was this latter force that was intercepted by a much larger force under the elderly James, lord Audley, in a four-hour engagement that, while ultimately indecisive, resulted in severe casualties on both sides.
Among the men thought to have been present and survived the battle was Henry Langton. Originally from Yorkshire, Langton (whose father Sir John had represented that county in Parliament in 1420) had entered the young Henry VI’s household by Christmas 1436, and went on to occupy posts in several household departments before eventually coming to serve as clerk-marshal and serjeant-marshal of the household. This department was headed by the Earl Marshal, John Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, and it was for the duke’s borough of Reigate that Langton came to sit in Parliament in February 1449. In the crisis years of the early 1450s, the duke of Norfolk showed himself sympathetic to the Yorkist cause, and this may have led to a parting of ways between Langton and his erstwhile patron. It was certainly as a supporter of the court that Langton – who in late 1454 had been appointed an usher to the infant Prince Edward of Lancaster – became involved in the dynastic fighting in the autumn of 1459: it was expressly as a reward for his good service against the Yorkist ‘rebels’ that in January 1460 he was granted the office of riding forester of Galtres in Yorkshire.
Conversely, the subsequent Yorkist triumph brought about Langton’s total loss of royal favour. He nevertheless survived until 1476, and built up a sizeable portfolio of property in London (some of it through a marriage to the daughter of John Clophill, a London gentleman), before retiring to his native Yorkshire. He may, indeed, have been highly conscious of his family’s traditions, for even though he was a younger son, it was to him rather than any of his brothers that his mother, Eufemia, bequeathed a family heirloom, a missal known as ‘Bisshop [S]crope boke’, a reminder of his grandfather’s participation in Archbishop Scrope’s uprising against Henry IV in 1405.
A full biography of Langton by Matthew Davies will appear in the History of Parliament’s forthcoming volumes for 1422-1461, to be published by Cambridge University Press later this year.