Chapter 4 Aftermath
Empingham is today a quiet, pleasant little village astride the A606 next to the artificial reservoir of Rutland Water. The stone-built village clusters around the crossroads of Main Street and Church Street. Today the A606 carries traffic from Stamford to Uppingham just outside the village thanks to a 20th century slip road. It might be difficult to imagine a more tranquil or relaxing spot. Certainly sipping an ale in the garden of the White Horse pub and listening to the birdsong over the distant hum of traffic is a pleasant enough experience.
But appearances can be deceptive, for this area of gentle English countryside was once the scene of slaughter, bloodshed and violence on a grand scale. The Battle of Empingham, or Losecoat Field, was fought just outside the village to the northeast at a spot now known as Bloody Oaks - an ominous name that was gained for grim reasons.
The battle fought here was waged as part of the Wars of the Roses that tore England apart in a struggle as vicious and deadly as any war ever fought. The heraldry of the knights in armour may have been colourful and bright, but the edges of their swords were wickedly sharp and the war was fought with a merciless savagery that England has rarely seen before or since.
Not only that but the conflict that took place here saw one of the first appearances on the battlefield in England of artillery. Guns were not exactly new in 1470, but they had until recently been big, cumbersome objects used in sieges. Now lighter guns were becoming available that could be trundled around a field with relative ease - and they were put to murderous use at Empingham.
And yet Empingham was not a straightforward battle. This was no set piece conflict of York vs Lancaster. Instead the battle was the result of plotting, treason and subterfuge such that nobody could be entirely certain of whose side other men were really on.
It was King Edward IV of England who fought here. And it was he who had to contend with treachery and rebellion, replying with the heroism, dash and skill that were to make him one of the most feared commanders of the medieval period.