We are often proud to announce that England has not been successfully invaded since 1066, but this is not entirely true, and there have been many battles taking place on English soil over the centuries. Henry Tudor invaded in 1485 with an army both financed and principally comprising French mercenaries, and William of Orange did, in one sense, invade although it was comparatively bloodless. Bloodiest of all were the battles of the so-called Wars of the Roses and the later Civil War.
But there was another war, rarely mentioned and rarely considered. This was something that brought more ruin to the general population, and surely mattered more to them than the problem of which king wore the crown. And that was the battle behind each and every battle that took place in this country, and of course, also in others.
For example, the ferocious and tragic Battle of Towton, 1461, was fought in Yorkshire. But the men who joined the battle had come from all over England, tramping mile by mile, summoned by their lord to fight for his cause and ambition. The weather was freezing. Men who faced death from hunger before they even arrived at Towton, would take what they needed along the way. One estimate of those killed at Towton stands at nearly 30,000 men. So first the muster brought its own devastation of the countryside, and then the horrific slaughter left a host of widows and fatherless children in wretched penury and with the utter misery of such awful loss without even the opportunity to bury the hosts of the dead.
There would also be heavy wagons loaded with supplies and arms, followed by women and trailing families, children ready to help deliver arrows on the outskirts once fighting started, and prostitutes hoping to make a little money and a little friendship. No lightweight procession then – trundling across the land, searching for food as they went, and looking for places to camp.
Foreign armies could bring little with them in the way of food and comfort. Wagonloads of arms would be hard enough to transport overseas since shipping was not a simple matter in those days. So the whole army needed feeding – thousands of men twice a day. And men had other desires. No camp-followers or prostitutes would have voluntarily served a foreign army and so the troops would simply have taken what they found along the route. The long standing enmity between the English and the French at that time – strongly expressed in both battle and peacetime – could not have ensured any peaceful trudge through those summer lanes. The fields, about to be harvested would have been stripped or trampled underfoot.
There is also considerable evidence of later armies abroad, those of Napoleon for example, and the appalling misery they left behind them across Europe and Russia – not during battle alone – but simply during the passage of such mighty armies through peaceful and suffering country-sides.
So we read of the great battles of the past and we cheer for the heroes, but there was another destruction that went unrecorded, and that was suffered by the ordinary citizens, many of whom would have no chance to recover. This was what hurt the common man, who probably cared little for which king sat snug and smug upon the throne. The heroic victors of historical battles were often exactly those who had inflicted the most appalling disservice to the very folk they sought to rule.
Her passion is for late English medieval history and this forms the background for many of her historical novels. She also write fantasy, yet both fantasy and historical fiction take us into new worlds and Barbara's books do exactly this - being multi-layered, and rich in atmosphere and depth of characterisation. Barbara can be found on her website and on Amazon