The Battle of Lincoln

King John was a bad King. He bled his subjects dry with punitive taxes, embarked on a disastrous war with France.

The Barons had had enough.  At Runnymede, on the banks of The Thames, King John was forced to sign, strictly speaking apply his seal, he was illiterate, to the Great Charter, Magna Carta.

All done and dusted.

Only it was not, he reneged on the Charter, he appealed to The Pope, who annulled Magna Carta.

With the help of the French, the Barons rebelled, most of the country was lost.

Lincoln Castle, under the stewardship of Nicola de la Haye held against the rebels and the French.

King John mounted a counter offensive.

Crossing The Wash, he lost baggage, money and jewels.

The chest was bare,  there was no war chest, all monies had been spent on disastrous campaigns, he had lost most of the country and thus his tax base.

He then died.

His legal successor, Henry III, was nine years old.

William Marshal was appointed Regent.

Following the Coronation, the French decided to press home their advantage and seize the Throne.

With Lincoln Castle likely to fall, it had been under siege for two years, and the town  under the control of the rebels, William Marshal decided to mount a counter-offensive and relieve Lincoln Castle.

He arrived at Newark, but instead of crossing the Trent at Newark and travelling the Roman Road to Lincoln he headed north and crossed further up.

Had he entered Lincoln from the south, he would have entered a rebel held city, then had to fight his way up Steep Hill.

By heading north, he was able to approach Lincoln Castle across what was then open country.

The French set out to meet William Marshall, over estimated the size of his force and retreated.

The rebels were now behind the Roman and Medieval Wall of the city.

A recce was carried out, a messenger came out of the Castle, explained the lie of the land.

William Marshal was able to get crossbow men into the Castle.

This had a strategic advantage, from the Castle Walls, could fire from behind at the French manning the outer wall.

William Marshal was able to break through, then mount a charge along the medieval road which ran alongside the ditch outside the Castle Walls.

They charged around to the East Gate.

The French were routed.

The French and rebels then made a last stand in front of Lincoln Cathedral. Their leader Comte du Perche was killed and it was over.

The French were chased down Steep Hill. A further skirmish took place down the hill.

The victors then looted the city.

One of the most decisive battles in English history, it determined who took the throne, and yet it is all but forgotten.

Had the French won, England would have become a French province.

Nicola de la Haye who had held the Castle was rewarded by being removed from her post and the position  given to one of the supporters of Henry III. She fought through the Courts and a couple of years later, got her position back.

Thanks to Lincoln Archaeological Society who organised the guided walk as part of Lincoln Heritage Day.

One of the four surviving copies of Magna Carta can be found in a vault in Lincoln Castle.

The Charter of the Forest was drawn up.

The Battle of Lincoln was the inspiration for Lincoln Knights, a series of sculptures that roughly follow the route of The Battle of Lincoln. They have proved to be highly popular It is unfortunate they have been removed, a big mistake, they should have remained in the street until at least the end of September, if not longer.  The only Knights to remain are miniature Knights in shop windows.

Magna Carta by David Starkey provides a useful overview of the events that led to The Battle of Lincoln. Henry III by Matthew Lewis of the events that followed. David Starkey will be speaking at the Lincoln Book Festival.

Nigel Burn will be giving a talk entitled The Battle of Lincoln Fair 1217 at St Hugh’s Hall, Monks Road, 1900 Wednesday 13 September 2017, admission members £1, non-members £5.

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