Santuste — Edward IV and The Wars of the Roses (Fields)

7201163David Santuste

Edward IV and The Wars of the Roses

South Yorkshire: Pen and Sword Books, 2011. 208pp. £12.99. ISBN: 9781848845497


Edward IV and The Wars of The Roses is an account of the military career of Edward IV by David Santiuste.  He sets out to examine Edward as a military commander and show that he deserves to be listed among the great military monarchs such as Edward III and Henry V.

Santiuste focuses on the personal leadership of Edward, and has produced some highly readable accounts of the battles in which Edward fought and provides a concise account of the circumstances leading to them.  The accounts of Edward’s battles are very clear but the account of the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross is especially useful.  The Battle is often forgotten with the twin losses of Wakefield and the Second Battle of St. Alban’s occurring around the same time.  The personal leadership abilities of Edward are highlighted, especially in relation to morale and the interpretation of omens like the parhelia phenomenon which occurred on the day of the battle.

The work to show Edward’s personal ability to inspire loyalty and determination comes across more than just that once. Time is taken to point out Edward’s walk through a crowd in the Low Countries as a way of inspiring loyalty in his men.  Santiuste does not mention the reason for the visit to the troops was that rumors preceded Edward to the Low Countries that he had been killed fighting with Warwick.[1]  Undoubtedly, actions like this would help to build morale but play an additional political role of showing Edward had not been killed, thus showing Edward as a shrewd politician and strategist as well as a master tactician.

The focus on Edward IV as a person does leave something to be desired. Edward’s later invasion of France in 1475 is treated more as postscript than a view into the way in which Edward organized and equipped his armies, which is an especially grievous weakness because this one campaign is Edward’s only campaign outside England and is a complete failure.  Treating this campaign in an epilogue seems unwise since any critics of Edward’s leadership will certainly point out the failed campaign.

Similarly, claims of Burgundian harquebusiers at the battles of Barnet and Tewksbury would seem to be reasonable, but references to Kelly DeVries’ article on gunpowder in the War of the Roses and a quick examination of his and Robert Douglas Smith’s book on Burgundian artillery shows the harquebus did not appear in Burgundian records until 1473,[2] two years after the battles in question, thus calling into question analysis of English methods of war for the entire book (see pp. 21-28).

Problems which occur in the discussion of military technology do not lessen the value of the work done on his personal leadership.  For those seeking to examine military leadership in the Wars of the Roses, Santiuste’s work will be a helpful.  Edward IV in the Wars of The Roses offers a highly readable account of Edward’s campaigns in England with a focus on personal leadership and argues that Edward should be considered as one of the great English military monarchs.



[1] Phillipe de Commynes, Memoirs: The Reign of Louis XI 1461-83 (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1972), pp. 179-181.

[2] Robert Douglas Smith and Kelly DeVries, The Artillery of the Dukes of Burgundy: 1363-1477 (Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2005), pp. 214-219, 224.

Devin Fields

Texas Tech Univ. <>

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