Henry Percy ‘Hotspur’ of Northumberland had backed the Lancastrian Henry IV’s fight for the crown, and repulsed a Scottish invasion at Homildon Hill (1402). Afterwards, disgruntled by his share of the spoils, he denounced Henry’s ‘tyrannical government’ and marched south the join his uncle Thomas, Earl of Worcester in rebellion. Henry reacted swiftly, and confronted Hotspur outside Shrewsbury. Battle was joined on a summer evening, amid a crop of peas. It began with a relentless hail of arrows from both sides. Hotspur had the advantage; his Cheshire longbowmen were the best in England, and the king’s men ‘fell like leaves in autumn’. The Prince of Wales was struck in the face and Hotspur, scenting blood, led a cavalry charge, aiming for the king. Instead, Hotspur was slain, leaving Henry victorious. Afterwards, rumours spread that Hotspur lived, which Henry quelled by having his body impaled on a spear and propped between two millstones in Shrewsbury marketplace.
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