On Palm Sunday, 29 March 1461, the Plantagenet House of York, having gained the support of London and the south, harried the army of the rival Plantagenet House of Lancaster into Towton, south Yorkshire. As dawn broke, the Lancastrian army of 42,000 men organized themselves into three divisions while their king, the feeble-minded Henry VI, sat out the battle. Facing the Lancastrians were 36,000 Yorkists, led by the charismatic Edward IV, the self-proclaimed king. The two armies engaged in combat, with both armies’ archers firing at one another. The Lancastrians, blinded by snow-flurries created by southerly winds, fired their arrows haphazardly, while the Yorkists’ arrows met their target. The men then hacked at one another in hand to hand combat. In the bloody melee 26,000 were killed, with skulls cleaved in half and noses and ears cut off. Later that day the Duke of Norfolk arrived with reinforcements, securing the Yorkist victory. Edward returned to London for his coronation.
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