The entrance gateway (the old outer barbican).
The entrance gateway (the old outer barbican).

We must now pass on to that terrible time of carnage and contention when the leaders of the rival Houses of York and Lancaster were striving for supremacy. In 1461 Edward of York was proclaimed King, and throughout the 22 years of his troubled reign the banner of the White Rose waved from the Castle, towers. His adherents met within its precincts for many a merry revel or for solemn conclave, and went forth to many a fierce conflict from within the shadow of it’s ancient walls. For Edward IV. had a great liking for Nottingham, and it was here that he first proclaimed himself King. He enlarged and beautified the Castle, carrying almost to completion the work of his predecessors, and made it his chief residence and military stronghold. In addition to the Norman fortress on the highest part of the plateau (the site of the present Art Museum), the whole of the space now known as the Castle Green formed at this time the inner ballium, surrounded by beautiful buildings, protected by a dry moat, with portcullis and drawbridge, with fantastically sculptured “beasts” and “giants” on the parapet, and all the recognized means of defence; in fact, it was now looked upon as one of the largest and most magnificent castles in the land, and a secure retreat in time of danger.

Edward’s love for the place was perhaps only exceeded by that of his brother Richard, who completed with loving care what little remained to be done at the time of Edward’s death. The great tower at the N.W. angle—“the most beautiful part and gallant building for lodging,” as Leland termed it—had been carried up for three storeys in stone, and Richard completed it by erecting “a loft of tymbre with round windows (i.e. bow windows) also of tymbre, to the proportion of the aforesaid windows of stone, “which were a good foundation for the new tymbre windows.” (The border castle of Stokesay is a good existing example of a stone castle finished with “half timber” work in the upper storeys.)

During the brief reign of Richard III. the Castle was his principal residence, and thereafter the great tower which he had completed was known as “Richard’s Tower.” Richard always spoke—not in sorrow as some suppose—but affectionately of the place, calling it his “Castle of Care,” or as it would be better rendered in our modern phraseology “the Castle of his regard and care"; for in spite of his “vaulting ambition,” and the fearful crimes to which it led him, Richard was ever a patron of Learning and Art—many of the finest buildings in the land were in course of erection during his reign. Not that the days he spent at Nottingham were happy days. A guilty conscience and happiness never go together, and even the security of the finest castle in the kingdom was not proof against the memory of the two young Princes that had once stood in his way to the throne; nor the treachery of the nobles who had outwardly sworn fealty to a King who, in their hearts, they abhorred as a bloody usurper.

It was in August, 1485, that a messenger came post haste to the King at Nottingham with the alarming news that Henry Tudor had not only effected a landing in Wales, but that he had pushed on with an ever increasing army, first to Shrewsbury, then to Lichfield, without meeting with any serious opposition. Richard at once despatched messengers to all his followers to join with him, and would have started without delay on the following morn but that it was the festival of “the assumption of our Ladye,” and he must fain obey the rules of the church.

“So warriors with red hands and swelling hearts,
Bursting with vows of vengeance and of blood,
Knelt before altars where the sunlight darts
Through glowing windows in a purple flood.
The song of praise, the lowly murmured prayer,
Borne upward with the curling incense cloud,
Rolled thro’ the arched roofs of three chapels fair
Within the castle, round its turrets proud.”

On the morrow Richard set out to meet his foe. Clad in a suit of burnished steel armour partly gilt, and tearing his golden crown around his helm—mounted on his favorite steed “White Surrey,” covered all over with gorgeous trappings, gay with the golden lions of England and the lilies of France—preceded by his cavalry, his bombards (gunpowder was just then coming into use), and his infantry ranged five abreast— with banners flying and drums beating he marched to the Market Place, where the people greeted him with shouts of “Long live King Richard,” to whom the King made gracious reply “Thanks, worthy citizens,” and then away to the southward, over the Town bridge and the old Heathbeth bridge that spanned the Trent, and out by the old road that wound its way over Ruddington Hill, where they were lost to sight by those who remained behind and watched the cavalcade from the terrace of the Castle.

Who knows what thoughts swept over “the Hunchback” as from that fair eminence he turned to take a retrospective glance at that “Castle of his care” he was doomed to see no more, ere he continued his way to Leicester, and eventually to Bosworth Field on Redmoor Plain, where, on August 22, 1485, the last battle in the “Wars of the Roses” was fought! And what a battle it was! Richard’s cause at first appeared to prosper, but an act of treason on the part of Lord Stanley, who went over to join his forces with those of Richmond, turned the balance, and caused Richard’s hopes to decline. The King’s courage never forsook him, even under the trying circumstances, and the request of his attendants that he would mount a fleet horse and ride for his life was indignantly declined. With a cry of “Treason! Treason!” he exclaimed: “Bring me my battle-axe and fix my crown upon my head, for, by Him that shaped both sea and land, this day King of England will I die!” Into the thickest of the light he rushed, soon to be overwhelmed and hacked and pierced to death by countless weapons.

After the battle the golden crown was taken from the helm of the fallen Plantagenet—the last of his line—and placed upon the head of the first of our Tudor kings.

With the fall of Richard the glory of the Castle as a stronghold was gone for ever. Richard’s successor, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond—crowned on the battle-field as Henry VII.—feeling that the numerous strong castles held by the nobles were a menace to his rule, and a hindrance to the peaceful government of the country, allowed them to fall into disuse.

Once at any rate—two years after his coronation—Henry came to Nottingham with his army, on his way to repel the supporters of Lambert Symnel, the counterfeit Earl of Warwick, who laid claim to the crown. The battle was fought in 1487 at Stoke fields, close to the Fosse Way, about three miles from Newark. The King and his followers stayed overnight in the neighbourhood of Nottingham: the vanguard encamping in a bean-field “under a fayre long hill” (Ruddington Hill), the King himself being lodged, not within the Castle walls, as some have affirmed, but in a house by the roadside about three miles from the town. It was this fact that gave rise to the rumour that the King had secretly fled, for which offence the originators were promptly hanged on an ash tree at the end of the Town bridge. On the following day—Corpus Christi—the King rode into the town to attend service at the Parish Church, and immediately after the service he hastened to the meadows near Lenton, where the main army was encamped, to meet the forces levied by the Earls of Shrewsbury and Derby, under Lord Strange, said to have been “inow to have beten al the King’s enemies.” Nor was this a vain boast, for the rebel army suffered defeat and were utterly routed and dispersed