Book Review: “Richard III: Fact and Fiction” by Matthew Lewis

41093351When one looks at the study of history as a whole, the traditional way to look at a person as either good or bad through a combination of facts and fictional tales of their supposed exploits. None so much so as King Richard III, one of the most controversial English monarchs. Fictitious tales, like William Shakespeare’s play Richard III, have been accepted as fact throughout the centuries, but who was the real Richard III? Matthew Lewis, in his latest book, “Richard III: Fact and Fiction”, explores who Richard III really was by separating the facts from the fictional stories. 

I would like to thank Pen and Sword Books for sending me a copy of this insightful book. I enjoy books that explore both the facts and fictional stories of historical figures to find the truth about who they were and what they might have been like. 

In his introduction, Lewis explains the fascination of Richard III and his aim for this particular book.

The debate around Richard III and his reputation burns hotter today than ever before …Why is a man who was killed in battle over 500 years ago still attracting such passionate debate? How does a medieval king who reigned for only just over two years have a thriving fan club in the Richard III Society? Part of the reason lies in the mythologising of the facts about him, so many of which are open to the broadest interpretation so that both sides will claim them to make polar opposite points. The purpose of this book is to try and peel away some of the myths to reveal the bare, unadorned facts. Did Richard III invent bail? Did he murder a Lancastrian Prince of Wales, a king, his brother and his two nephews? Did he mean to marry his niece? Why did those previously loyal to the House of York abandon Richard III for an obscure Welshman in exile? (Lewis,1).

Lewis tackles some of the most notable and notorious myths about Richard III, most of which came from Shakespeare’s play. He explores myths from the “murder” of the Princes in the Tower and Henry VI, to if Richard wanted to marry Elizabeth of York and why he was so popular in the North and his death at Bosworth. Of course, there are also obscure and out-of-left-field myths, like Richard, killing Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset at the tender age of 2 and a half, and Richard inventing bail. Along with discussing the fictional stories and the veracity of the claims, Lewis includes some fun factoids and a glossary of terms that the readers might not know at the end of each segment.  

Although Lewis is a Ricardian, the way he presents his arguments against the fictitious tales does not push the Ricardian argument of Richard being a purely innocent individual. Instead, Lewis focuses on making Richard more human rather than either a vile villain or a knight in shining armor. This is what I appreciate about Lewis and his approach to Richard III. He makes the study of  Richard III approachable for those who want to study about the man, not the black or white myths. With this particular book, I couldn’t put it down. I found extremely enjoyable and overall fascinating. If you want a book that brings the fictional tales and examining the facts about Richard III, I highly recommend you read Matthew Lewis’ latest book, “Richard III: Fact and Fiction”. It is a re-evaluation of the facts that Richard III deserves.

Book Review: “The House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown” by Nathen Amin

51ygXgS66nL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_The houses of York, Lancaster, the  Nevilles, the Howards, the Mowbrays, the Percys, and the Tudors are often recognized as the families involved in the Wars of the Roses. However, there was one more house that was just as important as the others; the Beauforts. The Beauforts were the sons and daughters of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and his mistress Katherine Swynford. They were considered bastards since they were born out of wedlock, yet they were connected to the house of Lancaster and rose to power by their own right. They would help change not only English history but the history of Europe forever. The Beauforts made a huge impact during the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses, yet many people only recognize Margaret Beaufort and Edmund Beaufort 2nd Duke of Somerset. The Beauforts don’t get much attention. Nathen Amin, the founder of The Henry Tudor Society, wanted to tell the story of this remarkable family.  It is in his book “The House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown”, that the Beauforts are given the attention that they rightfully deserve.

Nathen Amin explains why he chose to focus on the Beauforts:

The Beauforts are a family often encountered when reading or studying the fifteenth century and the Wars of the Roses, although commonly relegated to supporting roles in the life and times of more prominent figures like Richard, duke of York, Edward IV, and Henry IV, V, and VI. They were always in the background, serving a king, counselling a king, and even fighting for or against a king. …Yet, there were few family units more influential in the governance of England during the period, and none more devoted to defending the Lancasterian dynasty, whether against France in the last vestiges of the Hundred Years War, or against the House of York in a new war of a very different kind. Born as bastards to a mighty prince, the Beauforts were the right-hand men of their royal kinsmen, amassing considerable authority on the national and continental stage. From uncertain beginnings, the Beauforts became earls, dukes and cardinals, and in time kings themselves, their blood seeping into every corner of the English artistocracy within a few generations of their birth. (Amin, 7).

So how exactly were the Beauforts able to accomplish all of this, going from bastards to kings? It starts with John of Gaunt marrying his mistress Katherine Swynford, making his four children with Katherine legitimate and they were given the name “Beaufort”, after his second marriage did not work out. After their half-brother King Henry IV( also known as Henry of Bolingbroke) became king, he allowed his half-siblings to obtain royal status, however, they could not be in line for the English throne.

John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford’s four children found a way to live successful lives without pursuing the English throne and they continued to support their Lancasterian family. John Beaufort became the 1st Earl of Somerset and his children became earls, counts, dukes and his daughter Joan became Queen of Scotland. John Beaufort’s granddaughter was Margaret Beaufort, the mother of the future King Henry VII. Henry Beaufort was able to become a very wealthy man and was promoted all the way to Cardinal of England, quite a feat for an English man at that time. Thomas Beaufort became the  1st Duke of Exeter and his sister Joan Beaufort Countess of Westmoreland was the matriarch of the powerful Neville family.

The Beauforts went through numereous highs and lows as they worked hard to protect England and the honor of their Lancastrian relations. Nathen Amin is able to navigate the complex world of the English court during both the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses to give us the intricate story of the Beaufort family. As someone who is acquianted with parts of the Beaufort family story, I found this book rather fascinating and very informative. This was my first time reading a book by Nathen Amin and I cannot wait to read more of his books. In a complex time, it would be easy to forget one person, but Amin spends the time to write about each Beaufort child and how they made a difference.

The only real issue I had with the book was the family tree. I wished that there were birth and death dates included because I found myself getting a tad bit confused about who was who, especially when some of the Beauforts shared the same name and a similar title.

Overall, I found this book extremely fascinating and informative. Amin’s writing style is easy to understand and he brings the Beauforts from the background and onto center stage. They may have started as illegitimate children of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford, but they rose to be dukes and kings. If you want to learn more about this remarkable family and their influence in both the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses, I absolutely recommend that you read “The House of Beaufort: The Bastard Line that Captured the Crown” by Nathen Amin.

Biography: Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham

Henry_Stafford(Born September 4, 1454- Died November 2, 1483). Son of Humphrey, Earl of Stafford and Margaret Beaufort, daughter of Edmund Beaufort 2nd Duke of Somerset. Married to Catherine Woodville, the sister of Queen Elizabeth Woodville. Father of Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, Elizabeth Stafford, Henry Stafford, 1st Earl of Wiltshire and Anne Stafford. Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham would become one of Richard III’s most trusted advisors, but he would switch sides and side with Henry Tudor, leading to his ultimate execution.

Henry Stafford was born on September 4, 1454 to Humphrey Earl of Stafford and Margaret Beaufort, the daughter of Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset. Henry’s father, Humphrey Stafford, was killed at the first battle of St. Albans in 1455. His grandfather Humphrey the 1st Duke of Buckingham was killed at Northampton in 1460. Both men were fighting for the Lancastrian cause. His grandfather, the 1st Duke of Buckingham, gained his title from his mother and was the son of Edmund, 5th Earl of Stafford, and of Anne, daughter of Thomas, Duke of Gloucester, youngest son of Edward III. His mother was Margaret Beaufort (not to be confused with Margaret Beaufort mother of Henry Tudor), daughter of Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, grandson of John of Gaunt. When his grandfather passed away, the title of Duke of Buckingham passed onto Henry at the tender age of 4. With the royal blood on both sides of his family plus his title and inheritance, Henry’s future was very important to Edward IV.

In 1466, Henry Stafford married Catherine Woodville, the sister of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, and became the brother-in-law to the king Edward IV. Henry and Catherine had four children; Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, Elizabeth Stafford, Henry Stafford, 1st Earl of Wiltshire and Anne Stafford. In 1474, Henry was made a Knight of the Garter and in 1478, he was a high steward at the trial of George, 1st Duke of Clarence. After Edward IV’s death on April 9, 1483, Henry decided to join forces with Richard Duke of Gloucester.
It was Buckingham who helped Richard obtain possession of the young King Edward V. For helping Richard, he was rewarded with the offices of Justiciar and Chamberlain of North and South Wales, and Constable of all the royal castles in the principality and Welsh Marches. According to Sir Thomas More, it was Buckingham who gave a speech at Guildhall on June 24, 1483 to the people to make Richard Duke of Gloucester king.

Richard Duke of Gloucester became King Richard III and Buckingham served as chamberlain and later Constable of England. Richard III thought that he could trust Buckingham as one of his right hand men, but he was sadly mistaken. In early August, Buckingham withdrew from court to Brecon, a town in Wales. Some say that he withdrew because he believed that he deserved more for his services to Richard III, others believe that he became disgusted with Richard III, or that he had his own desire for the crown since he did have royal blood in his veins. What we do know is that he began talking with a man name John Morton, who was a prisoner in the custody of Buckingham. Morton told him about a young Henry Tudor and Buckingham decided to support Henry Tudor and his mother Margaret Beaufort to have Henry Tudor replace Richard III as king of England.

A widespread plot was soon formed, but Richard had early warning, and on October 15, 1483, he issued a proclamation against Buckingham. Buckingham, as arranged, prepared to enter England with a large force of Welshmen. Buckingham’s troops were stopped by a massive flood on the Severn and he himself took refuge with a follower, Ralph Bannister, at Lacon Hall. Bannister betrayed him for a large reward, and on the November 1, 1483, Buckingham was brought to the king at Salisbury. Buckingham never saw Richard III and right after his trial on November 2, 1483, a Sunday, he was beheaded in the courtyard between the Blue Boar Inn and the Sarcen’s Head Inn near the marketplace at Salisbury. He died at the age of 29 and his titles and honors were forfeited.

Biography: Cecily Neville, Duchess of York

cecily_neville_originalAlso known as “the Rose of Raby” and “Proud Cis”. (Born May 3, 1415-Died May 31, 1495). Daughter of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland and Joan Beaufort. Married to Richard Plantagenet 3rd Duke of York. Mother of Anne, Duchess of Exeter, Edward IV, King of England, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk, Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, George, 1st Duke of Clarence and Richard III, King of England.
Cecily Neville was the mother of two kings of England, Edward IV and Richard III. She was known for her piety and her pride.

Cecily Neville was the daughter of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland and Joan Beaufort. Her paternal grandparents were John Neville, 3rd Baron Neville de Raby, and Maud Percy, daughter of Henry de Percy, 2nd Baron Percy. Her maternal grandparents were John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, and his third wife Katherine Swynford, thus making her a great granddaughter of King Edward III on her mother’s side of the family. She was born on May 3, 1415 at Raby Castle in Durham thus gaining the nickname “the Rose of Raby”. Her father Ralph Neville was granted the wardship of a young Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York and in 1424, she was betrothed to Richard. When Ralph Neville died in 1425, his widow Joan Beaufort was able to maintain the wardship of Richard Plantagenet. In October 1429, Richard and Cecily were married; their first child Anne was not born until August 1439.

Richard was made king’s lieutenant and governor general of France in 1441; Cecily and Anne moved to Rouen to be with him. They had a son Henry but he would die soon after he was born. On April 28, 1442, their son the future Edward IV was born in Rouen. He was baptized shortly afterward, which caused both his cousin Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and his own brother George Duke of Clarence to question if he was actually the son of Richard Plantagenet. These claims were dismissed as attempts to remove Edward from the throne. Richard Plantagenet always acknowledged Edward as his own son. In total, Cecily and Richard would have 13 children including Edward IV, George Duke of Clarence and Richard III.

Richard had an enemy at court and that was Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, a cousin of Cecily Neville. Richard did not like how close Somerset was to the king and to Margaret of Anjou. In 1454, Henry VI had a mental breakdown and it was Richard, not Somerset, who was made Lord Protector and Richard threw Somerset in prison. Richard was removed from the post in 1455, all of his reforms were changed and Somerset was released from prison. This infuriated Richard and so he decided to march against Somerset at the First Battle of St. Albans where Somerset was killed. During this time, Cecily and her children were living in Ludlow Castle, even when Richard fled to Ireland and the European continent. In November 1459, Cecily travelled to London to plead for her husband’s cause to Parliament. Richard lost all of his titles but Cecily was able to get a grant of 600 pounds for her efforts in order to provide for her children.

1460 was a year of change for the York family. When the Yorkist army won at the Battle of Northampton in July 1460, Cecily moved her family to London where they stayed with the lawyer John Paston. Richard and his heirs were declared Henry VI’s successors in the Act of Accord, which made Cecily a queen-in-waiting. This pushed Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, out of the line of succession, which angered his mother Margaret of Anjou. Margaret led the Lancastrian army against the Yorkist army at the battle of Wakefield on December 30, 1460, where Richard Duke of York and his son Edmund Earl of Rutland were killed. Cecily sent her young sons George and Richard to the court of Philip II duke of Burgundy for their protection, making Philip an ally of the Yorkist cause.

Cecily’s son Edward took up the Yorkist cause with the help of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Edward was able to defeat the Lancastrians and become king, making Cecily mother of the king. In 1461, Cecily included the royal arms of England on her own coat of arms, which hinted that her husband was the rightful king of England. When Edward married Elizabeth Woodville in 1464, he built a new queen’s quarter for Elizabeth and let Cecily stay in the old queen’s quarters. When Warwick and Cecily’s son George rebelled in 1469 against Edward, Cecily worked hard to get both sides to reconcile, which briefly happened. Warwick and George went to France and joined the Lancastrian cause. In 1470, the Lancastrian cause under Warwick overthrew Edward and placed Henry VI back on the throne. It only lasted for six months and on April 14, 1471, Edward came back to the throne and Warwick was killed.

Edward never really trusted George again and on February 18, 1478, George was executed for treason at the Tower of London. This must have been a difficult moment for Cecily as one son had another executed for treason. Edward IV would die suddenly on April 9, 1483, leaving his young son Edward V as the next king of England. He was 13 and his younger brother Richard was 10 years old. Richard, Cecily’s youngest son and the boys’ uncle, became their Lord Protector. He had the boys placed in the Tower and they were never seen again. There was an enquiry into Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville and they found that it was invalid and an Act of Parliament called the Titulus Regius declared that the Princes in the Tower were illegitimate and that paved the way for Richard to become Richard III on July 6, 1483. Cecily got along rather well with Richard’s wife Anne Neville and would often discuss religious matters with her, until Anne died.

On August 22, 1485, Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field and Henry Tudor became Henry Tudor. Cecily’s husband and all four of her sons were dead by 1485, Edward IV was the only one by natural causes. On January 18, 1486, Cecily’s granddaughter Elizabeth of York married Henry VII and help bring forth the Tudor Dynasty. At this time, Cecily devoted her life to religious duties and she gain a reputation for her piety. Cecily Neville never married again and on May 31,1495, she died. She was buried in the tomb with her husband Richard and their son Edmund at the Church of St Mary and All Saints, Fotheringhay, Northamptonshire.

Biography: Richard Neville,16th Earl of Warwick

62624506_129166816586Also known as “the Kingmaker”. (Born November 22, 1428- Died April 14, 1471). Son of Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury and Alice Montacute, 5th Countess of Salisbury. Married to Anne Beauchamp, 16th Countess of Warwick. Father of Isabel, Duchess of Clarence and Anne, Queen of England. Warwick “the Kingmaker” was the man who helped put Edward IV on the throne, but it was his greed for power and a broken alliance with Edward IV that would lead to his downfall.

Richard Neville was born on November 22, 1428 to Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury and Alice Montacute, 5th Countess of Salisbury. His father had gained his title of Earl of Salisbury through his marriage to Alice Montacute. We don’t know much about Richard’s childhood except that he was betrothed to Anne Beauchamp at the age of six. She was the daughter of daughter of Richard de Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick, and of his wife Isabel Despenser, making Richard not only the heir to the earldom of Salisbury, but heir to a large part of the Montague, Beauchamp, and Despenser inheritance. With the death of Beauchamp’s son Henry, who was married to Richard’s sister Cecily in 1446 and the death of Henry’s daughter Anne in 1449, Richard found himself the new Earl of Warwick. This was disputed by Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, who married another one of Beauchamp’s daughters from Beauchamp’s first marriage, not because of the titles since the daughters were barred from the line of succession, but because of the land. Richard Neville was now the 16th Earl of Warwick.

Warwick became a knight probably at the coronation of Margaret of Anjou on April 22, 1445. He and his father helped to calm the unrest in the north. They may have helped in the war against Scotland in 1448-1449. When Richard, Duke of York, rose against the king in 1452, Warwick and his father sided with Henry VI and York’s revolt ultimately failed.

In June 1453, Somerset was granted custody of the lordship of Glamorgan, which was part of the Despenser inheritance. This made Warwick upset and a conflict started between the two men. Unfortunately, Somerset was an ally of Margaret of Anjou and was a favorite in the court of Henry VI so Warwick had no choice but  to align himself with York. When York became the Lord Protector when Henry VI fell ill, Warwick and his father decided to fully support York. York’s first protectorate would not last long and Somerset fell back into favor, which angered York and Warwick. Warwick rallied an army with York and Warwick’s father and met Somerset at the First Battle of St. Albans, where Somerset was killed. This battle was the start of the Wars of the Roses.

After the First Battle of St. Albans, Henry VI fell ill again and York became Lord Protector for a second time. It didn’t last long, but after York was removed from his position of Protector, Warwick was granted  the title of Constable of Calais, which would become a valuable position during the conflict of the Wars of the Roses. He was able to gain military experience, as well as gain important allies Charles VII of France and Philip the Good of Burgundy. In  September 1459, Warwick was able to help lead a Yorkist army to victory against the Lancastrians at the Battle of Blore Heath. In 1459, at the battle of Ludlow, the Lancastrians won and sent the Yorkists into hiding. York fled to Ireland with his son Edmund Earl of Rutland, while Warwick took Edward Earl of March with him to Calais. The Yorkists came back with a vengeance at the battle of Northampton, where Henry VI was taken captive.

In 1460 York officially declared his claim to the throne. After much discussion, it was agreed that after the king died, York and his sons would be the heirs to the throne, removing Edward of Westminster from the line of succession. Henry VI seemed to have been okay with this arrangement, but Margaret was beyond upset. She led the Lancastrian forces to face off against York at the battle of Wakefield on December 30, 1460. York and his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland, were killed in the battle. Edward was 18 at the time of his father’s death.

Edward was now in charge of the Yorkist faction and with the help of Warwick, he was able to defeat the Lancastrian army at both the battle of Mortimer’s Cross and the Second Battle of St. Albans in February 1461. On March 4, 1461, Edward declared himself king of England, a move that his father never attempted to make. Three weeks later at the Battle of Towton on March 29, 1461, the bloodiest battle on English soil, Edward  and Warwick were able to decisively beat Henry VI’s forces and secure Edward’s claim to the throne. Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou fled to Scotland to seek the aid of James III.

Edward was declared Edward IV and  was welcomed to the throne. Edward owed a lot to his cousin Warwick, also known from that point on as  “the Kingmaker”, and he rewarded him greatly. He was made the Chamberlain of England , High Admiral of England and Steward of the Duchy of Lancaster, along with several other offices. Warwick was considered the second most powerful man in England. Warwick’s  brothers also benefited: John Neville, Lord Montagu, was made Warden of the East March in 1463, and the next year created Earl of Northumberland. George Neville, Bishop of Exeter, was confirmed in his post as chancellor by King Edward, and in 1465 was promoted to the archbishopric of York. In the summer of 1462, Warwick was able to negotiate a truce with  both Scotland and France, which allowed Warwick to be granted Lancastrian properties.

Warwick and Edward were considered close. However that would change very quickly. Warwick knew that Edward would have to marry well and so under his own initiative, he set to secure an alliance with the French King Louis XI by marrying Edward IV to the French king’s daughter Bona of Savoy. Edward wasn’t really thrilled about an alliance with France; he had actually prefered an alliance with Burgundy. Edward decided to take the issue of  his marriage into his own hands. In May 1464, he secretly married Elizabeth Woodville, the daughter of the 1st Lord of Rivers and Jacquetta Rivers, and the widow of Sir John Grey. They were able to keep the marriage a secret for over four months and when it was announced, there was an uproar. Her family was always supporters of the Lancastrian cause and there was a rumor, that we cannot confirm or deny as of right now, that Edward entered into a similar marriage contract with Lady Eleanor Butler a year or two before he married Elizabeth.

Warwick was obviously the most upset about this marriage because he had spent so much time setting up an alliance  with France to be thwarted. With the rise of the Woodvilles, Warwick feared that they would overthrow his title of the second most powerful man in England. Edward thwarted Warwick’s plans to marry his family with the king’s and the final straw for Warwick was when Edward married his sister Margaret to Charles duke of Burgundy, cementing an alliance between England and Burgundy, which was not what Warwick wanted. Warwick realized that the gap between him and Edward was too large.

Warwick decided to side with Edward’s power hungry younger brother George Duke of Clarence, and Louis XI of France, who promised Warwick land in France if he overthrew Edward. Warwick’s plan was to depose Edward and  place George on the throne. In July 1469, Warwick successfully married George to his daughter Isabel, which was something that Edward did not approve of. Warwick then started a series of uprisings in northern England; Edward was a popular king but his marriage with Elizabeth Woodville sullied his image a little while Warwick was seen as a national hero. Edward did employ an army, but when he saw that he was outnumbered, he dispersed his army and allowed himself to be captured by Warwick. Warwick had Edward imprisoned in the Tower, but when his reputation began to suffer, he released Edward in October 1469. Warwick and George both  decided to reconciled with Edward but Edward never truly trusted either of them ever again.

Warwick knew that if he was going to restore his power, he had to discuss matters with Louis XI and Margaret of Anjou, which meant that he had to defect to the Lancastrian cause, which he did. In September 1470, Warwick and his rebellion made its way to England. John Neville switched sides, which left Edward unprepared and it forced him to leave England on October 2 and seek aid from his brother in law the duke of Burgundy. Warwick removed Henry VI from the Tower and restored him to the throne. Warwick made a mistake and decided to take Louis XI’s advice and declare war on Burgundy. This forced the duke of Burgundy, who had stayed on the sidelines this entire time, to help Edward IV raise an army. Edward returned to England on March 11, 1471. His army defeated Warwick’s army at the Battle of Barnet, where Warwick and John Neville were killed.

Biography: Margaret of Anjou

(Born March 23, 1430- Died August 25, 1482). Daughter of Rene, King of Naples and 220px-MargaretAnjouIsabella, Duchess of Lorraine. Married to King Henry VI of England. Mother of Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales. Margaret of Anjou was the strong wife of the weak King Henry VI. She is the one who kept the Lancastrian cause going for the first half of the Wars of the Roses.

Margaret of Anjou was born on March 23, 1430 to her parents Rene King of Naples and Isabella Duchess of Lorraine. Her father was known to be a king with many crowns and yet he did not have the kingdoms. In order to help bring about the end of the Hundred Years’ War, her father arranged her marriage to the son of Henry V, Henry VI. The couple was married on April 23, 1445. Henry VI was technically also declared the King of France and because of this, Charles VII of France only agreed to this marriage if Henry gave France the areas of Maine and Anjou. Henry agreed but he kept this a secret from his people. Margaret was crowned Queen of England on May 30, 1445.  

Henry VI was a weak ruler who had really no desire to be king or an interest in politics. He often left the control of the government in the hands of men who really cared only about their titles than the well being of the kingdom. After the John Cade rebellion of 1450, Henry VI appointed Edmund Beaufort, the duke of Somerset, as his closest advisor. Somerset was a failure when it came to battles in France, but he was an ally of Margaret of Anjou. Somerset’s enemy was Richard Duke of York, who returned to England in August 1450, after being banished after the John Cade rebellion, and demanded that he should have a place on the Council. The council agreed, but Somerset’s  and York’s rivalry continued.

In August 1453, Henry VI had his first bout of mental illness. He had what some describe as a mental breakdown and was unresponsive for many months. During this time, Margaret was very pregnant and on October 13, 1453, she gave birth to the couple’s only child Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales. However, even though Edward was the king’s son, Henry VI did not acknowledge him and said that the boy was the son of the Holy Ghost. Margaret thought that the perfect  Lord Protector for the king during this time would be her ally Somerset, however the person that became the Lord Protector was Richard Duke of York. York quickly arrested Somerset, but when the king recovered in 1454, Somerset was released and York was dismissed. This was the last straw for York.

During this time, Margaret had retired to Greenwich with her son, but she saw how powerful York had become and how weak her husband was, and she began to take an interest in politics. At the First Battle of St. Albans, on May 22, 1455, Edmund Beaufort, duke of Somerset was killed and the king was captured by the Yorkists, led by Richard duke of York. Henry wanted to reconcile with York, but then Henry had another bout of mental illness and York was made Lord Protector again in November 1455; he was dismissed in February 1456. Margaret decided that she had to defend her husband’s cause and so she raised an army to face off against York and she encouraged Henry Beaufort, the new duke of Somerset to fight with her. The Yorkists were led by Richard duke of York, Richard Neville earl of Salisbury and his son Richard Neville earl of Warwick. The Lancastrians were under Henry VI, but led by Margaret of Anjou, Somerset, and Henry Percy, third earl of Northumberland.

At the battle of Northampton, Warwick had captured the King and York came back to England.  In September 1460, Richard duke of York officially placed his claim to the throne to Parliament. In order to avoid more conflict, York was declared the heir to the throne, in place of Prince Edward. Margaret was not about to let this stand so she led her army to attack York at the battle of Wakefield on December 30, 1460. The Duke, Salisbury and York’s second son, the seventeen year old Edmund, Earl of Rutland, were killed, their cries for mercy were ignored.  The Queen had their heads impaled on spikes on the city walls of York. Margaret then faced against Warwick’s army at the Second Battle of St. Albans in 1461 and her army was able to defeat him, which forced Warwick to flee.

Warwick was not done. He raised an army with the son of Richard duke of York, Edward earl of March. They faced off against the Lancastrians at the battle of Towton, the bloodiest battle during the Wars of the Roses, where the Lancastrians were defeated; Margaret and her son Edward fled into Scotland, Edward earl of March became Edward IV, and Henry VI was taken prisoner. However, things would quickly sour between Edward and Warwick when  Edward IV married Elizabeth Woodville, not exactly the person that Warwick wanted the king to marry. Warwick was soon joined by the king’s brother George Duke of Clarence, who was Warwick’s son in law as he married Warwick’s daughter Isabel, in their rebellion against the king. Edward IV defeated Warwick and Clarence and so the two men fled to France. Meanwhile, Margaret made her way back to France where she seeked the aid of her cousin King Louis XI, also known as “the Spider”, of France.  

Louis XI had an idea that Margaret and Warwick should reconcile and join forces against Edward IV. This wasn’t an easy task as they hated each other, but they did agree to join forces. In order to show Warwick’s good will towards his new ally, Warwick’s daughter Anne Neville was betrothed to Edward of Westminster Prince of Wales. Warwick invaded England in 1470 in the name of King Henry VI, which forced Edward IV to flee and Henry VI was reinstated as king. Edward IV would come back and kill Warwick at the Battle of Barnet on April 14, 1471, the same day that Margaret and Edward of Westminster returned to England. Margaret wanted to return to France, but her son Edward of Westminster wanted to stay. Margaret reluctantly agreed and with her army, faced off against Edward IV one last time at Tewkesbury on May 4, 1471. Her 17 year old son Edward of Westminster was killed. This broke Margaret’s spirit and she was taken captive by William Stanley under the orders of Edward IV. She was first sent to Wallingford Castle and then she was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Her husband Henry VI was also in the Tower where he died on May 21, 1471, the cause of death is unknown but it is suspected to have been a regicide. In 1472, a broken Margaret was placed in the custody of her former lady-in-waiting Alice Chaucer, Duchess of Suffolk. She remained in the custody of the Duchess of Suffolk until she was ransomed by Louis XI in 1475 through Treaty of Picquigny. Margaret returned to France where she was hosted by Francis de Vignolles and died in his castle of Dampierre-sur-Loire. She died on August 25, 1482 at the age of 52.

Biography: King Henry VI

220px-King_Henry_VI_from_NPG_(2)(Born December 6, 1421- Died May 21, 1471). Son of Henry V and Catherine of Valois. Married to Margaret of Anjou. He had one son Edward of Westminster. Henry VI was a weak ruler who, combined with his bouts of mental illness and no desire to rule, led England to lose its lands in France and brought England into a 30 year civil war known as the Wars of the Roses.

Henry VI was the only child of Henry V and his wife Catherine of Valois. He was born on December 6, 1421 and became king of England at the tender age of nine months when his father died on August 31, 1422. Six weeks later, he became king of France after his grandfather Charles VI died, which was agreed upon with the Treaty of Troyes. A regency council was called and Henry’s uncle John, duke of Bedford, became his first regent, and was charged with taking care of the French, led by the king that the French declared, Charles VI’s son Charles VII. Both Charles VII and John duke of Bedford kept the Hundred Years’ War dragging on. The English captured Orleans in 1427, but in May 1429, a young Joan of Arc led a siege on Orleans, which the French was able to reconquer. This led to French nationalism which allowed the French to drive the English out of the Loire Valley and Charles VII was officially crowned king of France in June 1429.

This made Bedford nervous so he quickly had Henry VI crowned king of England in November 1429 and crowned king of France in 1431.  He was the first English king who was also the king of France, but it did not last long. With the newly founded French nationalism, the English were losing their French lands that Henry V had conquered left and right. This made Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, an ally of the English, nervous, and so he signed the Treaty of Arras with Charles VII in 1435, which recognized Charles VII as the King of France. The Hundred Years’ War would continue for another 18 years until John Talbot, the earl of Shrewsbury was defeated at Castillon in 1453. The English lost all of their French territories, except for Calais.

John, duke of Bedford, was regent until his death in 1435. After Bedford died, Humphrey, duke of Gloucester became the protector, but he did not have the same control of the government that Bedford did. In 1437, Henry declared himself of age before his 16th birthday. Henry was a weak ruler who was not interested in ruling at all, so he allowed some of the least scrupulous people to control the government. One of these men was William de la Pole, earl of Suffolk, who became the king’s steward in 1435. William was a peacemaker at heart, which led to the loss of France; his opponent at court was Humphrey of Gloucester, who wanted the war with France to continue. Suffolk was able to negotiate the marriage between Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou in 1444, in exchange for Henry surrendering Maine to the French.  The couple was married on April 23, 1445. This was not a popular decision and Henry’s life was threatened so Margaret, Suffolk and Henry left London. Margaret and Suffolk convinced the king that Gloucester was plotting an uprising so Henry had him arrested and confined at Bury St. Edmunds in February 1447, where he would die a week later. The people were not satisfied with this and Suffolk decided to switch from peacemaker to warmonger and invaded Brittany in 1449. This brought Normandy into the middle of the Hundred Years’ War and Brittany was conquered by the French in 1450. This was the last mistake by Suffolk, who was arrested and banished, but his ship was intercepted at Dover and Suffolk was killed.

Suffolk’s allies were scapegoats for everything that was going wrong in France, which led to the revolution led by John Cade in May 1450. It was similar to the Peasants’ Revolt, however Henry VI was no Richard II and the revolt lasted for two months, until John Cade’s death. The purpose of this revolt was to purge the government, but the king did not live up to their expectations. Instead he polarized the government even further when he appointed Edmund Beaufort, the Duke of Somerset as his closest adviser. Somerset was a failure in France and he gained some notable enemies at court, especially Richard, duke of York, who was banished  to Ireland in 1447 for supporting Gloucester, but returned to England and to court in August 1450, demanding his place in the Council.

Somerset’s and York’s  rivalry simmered for several years, until  August 1453, when Henry VI had his first bout with mental illness. We are not sure what he suffered from but for weeks, he was unresponsive to everything. Some believe it was triggered by the loss of France. It affected him so much that he did not even acknowledge his only son Edward, believing that his son was born of the Holy Ghost. During this time, Richard Duke of York was made Lord Protector  in 1454 and had Somerset arrested. When Henry recovered, he restored Somerset and had York dismissed. This was the last straw for York. York and Somerset met on the battlefield at St. Albans on May 22, 1455, where Somerset was killed. This should have been the end of the conflict, however it was only just the beginning.

Henry was going to reconcile with York but another bout of mental illness hit Henry in November 1455 and York was made Lord Protector again; he was dismissed in February 1456. It was then that Margaret of Anjou took up her husband’s cause. She encouraged the new duke of Somerset Henry Beaufort to fight against York. The battlelines were being drawn. The Yorkists were led by Richard duke of York, Richard Neville earl of Salisbury and his son Richard Neville earl of Warwick. The Lancastrians were under Henry VI, but led by Margaret of Anjou, Somerset, and Henry Percy, third earl of Northumberland. In 1459, at the battle of Ludlow, the Lancastrians won and sent the Yorkists into hiding; however the Yorkists came back with a vengeance at the battle of Northampton. In September 1460, Richard duke of York officially placed his claim to the throne to Parliament. In order to avoid more conflict, York was declared the heir to the throne, in place of Prince Edward.

Henry VI seemed to be okay with this arrangement, but Margaret was not about to let this insult stand. On December 30, 1460 at the battle of Wakefield, York was killed. Margaret continued her march to London when in 1461, she met with Warwick and defeated him at the second battle of St. Albans. Warwick fled and raised another army with York’s son Edward and marched into London on March 1461. Then, in the bloodiest battle of the Wars of the Roses, Towton, the Lancastrian forces were defeated and Edward became Edward IV. Henry and Margaret fled to Scotland to seek aid from King James III. In exchange for the aid, Henry gave the Scots Berwick. After a few years, Henry was seen as an embarrassment to the Scots and so they returned him to northern England, where he was captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London by English forces in July 1465.

It looked like Henry’s days were numbered, but then on October 3, 1470, he was removed from the Tower and made king yet again. What had happened was that the earl of Warwick switched sides and fought for Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou. Warwick even had his daughter married to Henry’s son Edward to show his allegiance. However, Edward IV came back in April 1471 and killed Warwick and recaptured Henry VI. On May 4, 1471, Margaret’s forces faced off against Edward IV at the battle of Tewkesbury. It was a devastating loss for the Lancastrians as Prince Edward was killed and Margaret was imprisoned in the Tower. On May 21, 1471, King Henry VI was murdered. It is unknown who killed him, but many suspect that it was under the orders of  King Edward IV.

Biography: Owen Tudor

Full name: Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudur. (Born around 1400- Died February 2, 1461) Son of Maredudd ap Tudur and Margaret ferch Dafydd. Husband of Catherine of Valois.  Father of 4-6 children, including Edmund and Jasper Tudor.

Owen Tudor was the son of Maredudd ap Tudur and Margaret ferch Dafydd. We do not know much about his early life. Owen’s father and his uncles were involved in the rebellion of Owain Glyn Dwr, the last Welsh Prince of Wales, against the English. This rebellion was suppressed and Welshmen moved into England to find work. In 1421, he found work with Sir Walter Hungerford, the steward of King Henry V. In 1422, King Henry V would die from dysentery, leaving behind his 21 year old wife Catherine of Valois and their baby son, who was now King Henry VI. It was during this time that  it is said that Owen came to work in Catherine’s household.

Parliament passed a bill that stated that the dowager queen could not marry again unless she had the king’s permission. If she did marry without permission, her husband would lose everything, but their children would remain legitimate. It is said that the couple was married between 1428 and 1429. In May 1432, Owen Tudor was given the same rights as an English gentleman. The couple had at least 4 children; Edmund born in 1430, Jasper born in 1431, a son who is rumored to have become a monk, and a daughter who either died young or became a nun.

Catherine would enter Bermondsey Abbey to receive medical attention, where she died on January 3, 1437. Edmund and Jasper were sent to the Abbess of Barking to receive  their education while Owen dealt with the king’s Regency council. Owen was nervous about the council and so he sought sanctuary at Westminster Abbey; when he did arrive at the council, he was cleared of all charges and was allowed to return to Wales. However, he was captured by Lord Beaumont and sent to Newgate Prison.

In 1438, he managed to escape with the help of a priest and a servant; he was recaptured and held at Windsor Castle under the guardianship of Edmund Beaufort. In 1439, King Henry VI pardoned Owen Tudor, restored all of his lands, provided him a position at court, and made the Keeper of the King’s Parks in Denbigh. In 1442, Henry VI welcomed his half- brothers Edmund and Jasper to court with open arms. In November 1452, Edmund became the earl of Richmond and Jasper became the earl of Pembroke. On November 3, 1456, Edmund Tudor died from the plague, leaving his young son and wife in the capable hands of his brother Jasper Tudor.  Owen and Jasper would serve Henry VI by capturing Yorkist supporters for the king and in return gaining their estates, including John, Lord Clinton in 1459; that same year, Owen had a son with an unknown mistress named Sir David Owen, born at Pembroke Castle.

Owen joined his son Jasper’s army to raise an army in Wales in January 1461. On February 2, 1461, their army faced off against the Yorkist army at the battle of Mortimer’s Cross. It was a devastating loss for the Lancasterian cause. Jasper Tudor escaped, but Owen was captured and beheaded under the orders of Edward Earl of March, later Edward IV, at Hereford.

Biography: Catherine of Valois

Catherine_of_France(Born October 27, 1401- Died January 3, 1437). Daughter of Charles VI of France and Isabella of Bavaria. Married to Henry V of England and Owen Tudor. Mother of Henry VI, Edmund Tudor and Jasper Tudor.

Catherine of Valois was the tenth child of Charles VI of France and Isabella of Bavaria. Her father suffered from mental illness and some believe that Catherine and her siblings were neglected by their parents. When Catherine was young, she was sent to the convent in Poissy to receive a religious education. From a young age, Catherine was on the marriage market. Her first potential groom was the son of Henry IV, the prince of Wales, but the king died before the negotiations could really get started. In 1414, a young Henry V re-opened the negotiations. In May 1420, the Treaty of Troyes was signed between England and France that made Henry V and his descendants the next heirs to the French throne. In order to cement this alliance, Henry V married Catherine of Valois on February 21, 1421.

Henry V went back to France to campaign a few months later, leaving a pregnant Catherine of Valois behind. Henry VI was born on December 6, 1421. Henry V would die from dysentery that he had contracted during the siege of Meaux on August 31, 1422. A few months later, Catherine’s father Charles VI died, leaving Catherine’s baby son both the king of England and France and it left Catherine a dowager queen at the age of 21.

Since Catherine was still young, there was a strong concern that she would marry again, especially to Edmund Beaufort, her late husband’s cousin. That is why Humphrey duke of Gloucester, the Lord Protector and Parliament passed a bill in 1427-1428 that the queen could not get remarried without the king’s consent of her husband would lose everything, except their children would remain legitimate.

Catherine met and fell in love with a Welshman named Owen ap Maredudd ap Tudur, also known as  Owen Tudor. Not much is known about his early life but in 1421, he was in service of Henry V’s steward Sir Walter Hungerford. He then became a member of Catherine’s household as either keeper of Catherine’s household or wardrobe. Sometime between 1428 and 1429, the couple is said to have gotten married, but there is no evidence to support this claim. In May 1432, Parliament granted Owen Tudor the rights of an Englishman. The couple had at least 4 children, at most 6; Edmund, Jasper, Owen, and a daughter Margaret who became a nun and died young. All of their children were born outside of court.

Catherine entered Bermondsey Abbey, possibly seeking a cure from an illness. Three days later, on January 3, 1437, she died. Catherine is buried at Westminster Abbey in Henry V’s Chantry Chapel. Catherine of Valois was the mother of Henry VI, Edmund and Jasper Tudor, as well as the grandmother of Henry Tudor, the first monarch of the Tudor Dynasty.