Book Review: “The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors” by Dan Jones

24611635._SY475_England throughout the centuries has known internal strife with civil wars to determine who had the right to rule the island nation. None more so than in the fifteenth century when a tug of war for the English crown broke out. Today, we call this time period “The Wars of the Roses”, but what was it all about? Who were the main figures during this time? What were the crucial battles that defined these wars? How did the Plantagenet Dynasty fall and how did the Tudors become the new dynasty to rule England? These questions and more are explored in Dan Jones’ book, “The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors”.

I will admit that this was not my first time reading this particular book. I did borrow it from my local library and read it a few years ago, but I enjoyed it so much that I decided that I wanted to add it to my personal collection.

Jones begins his book with the horrific execution of the elderly Margaret Pole, the last white rose of York. Her death had more to do with her Plantagenet blood and the fact that she was the daughter of George, Duke of Clarence, than with any crime she committed. It was the royal blood and who had the right to rule that was at the heart of the Wars of the Roses, as Jones goes on to explain.

Although the true origins of the conflict go back to the sons of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault, Jones chooses to explore the reign of King Henry V, Catherine of Valois, and their son Henry VI. When Henry V tragically died of dysentery, his infant son Henry VI became king of both England and France. This wouldn’t have been a problem if Henry VI was as strong as his father, but alas, as king was very weak, which meant that he needed help to rule his kingdoms. It was the rivals between the powerful men and women behind the crown, like Richard, Duke of York and Margaret of Anjou, which led to the thirty years of civil wars.

What I appreciate about Jones’ book is that his focus is on the people who made the Wars of the Roses so fun to study. From Henry VI and his dynamic wife Margaret of Anjou to the sons of Richard duke of York; Edward IV, Richard III ( Ricardians might not agree with Jones’ assessment of Richard III) and George Duke of Clarence. Then there are figures who stand on their own who worked behind the scenes, like Warwick “The Kingmaker”, Margaret Beaufort, Owen and Jasper Tudor, the Princes in the Tower, and the ultimate victor, Henry VII.

Jones was able to weave the stories of these extraordinary people with the bloody battles and the politics that defined the era into this delightful book. It acts as a fantastic introduction to this turbulent time in English history that brought the downfall of the powerful Plantagenets and brought forth the Tudors. Another enjoyable and engaging book by Dan Jones. If you want to begin a study into this time, I highly recommend you read, “The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors”.

Book Review: “A Year in the Life of Medieval England” by Toni Mount

27109857The medieval era was one of the most turbulent times in all of English history, full of family feuds, gruesome wars, and so many twists and turns. We tend to focus on the big stories, but, it was not just about the royalty and the nobility, there were also lower classes whose lives went on in the background. What was everyday life like for both the rich and the poor? What ceremonies and recipes did they use? What were wills and court cases like? These questions and more are explored in Toni Mount’s delightful book, “A Year in the Life of Medieval England”.

I would like to thank Amberley Publishing for sending me a copy of this book. This book looked really intriguing and I really wanted to read a book covering medieval England.

This book was an absolute joy to read. Mount’s book is like a diary, it documents every day of the year with new facts and events. From January 1st to December 31st, Mount dives into the lives of both the rich and the poor alike. Unlike normal diaries, Mount does not stay with one specific year. Instead, she includes events from 1066 all the way through 1500 to give a full view of what life was like in Medieval England. I normally do not like it when a book jumps around chronologically, yet it worked rather well in this book.

From William the Conqueror to King Henry VII and every king in between, Mount explores the lives of the monarchy, highs, and lows. Coronations, battles, births, and deaths, with numerous treaties in-between. Naturally, there were a lot more members of the lower classes than the royal houses, but Mount chose a handful of their colorful stories to include in this book. What is wonderful is that you truly understand what they might have been going through since Mount has transcribed letters, lawsuits and wills so that the readers can get that window into the past.

What I really loved about this book was that Mount was able to include a plethora of facts while keeping the writing style comprehensive so that even a novice can understand. Mount does site each of her sources at the end of each passage for convenience, but it also acts as a stepping stone for those who want to do their own independent research. Of course, with any dive into a new area of study, there will be terms that might be unfamiliar to new students, but Mount takes the time to define these terms.

From Plantagenets to peasants, the stories of Medieval England come back to life in this rather handy companion book for inspiring medievalists. An easy and thought-provoking read that anyone who is interested in Medieval England would be delighted to have in their own collections. If you want a book that explores what medieval people, both rich and poor, experienced in a year, I highly recommend you read, “A Year in the Life of Medieval England” by Toni Mount.

Guest Post: Was Henry IV A Usurper? By Michele Morrical

170px-king_henry_iv_from_npg_(2)Some medieval English kings have unfairly gotten a bad rap. Others are deservedly vilified (Richard III, I’m talking to you).

Our modern-day perception of English kings is largely constructed from only a few sources. Of course, we have the writings of Shakespeare which were generally based on the real events of English monarchs but had lots of extra drama added in to spice things up. We also have the writings of chroniclers who actually lived in the middle ages, but they aren’t always reliable. Just imagine if you were hired by Henry VIII to write the history of his reign. You would definitely write it in a way that reflected very well on the king. And we have modern-day historians who try to bring the past to life with new interpretations of English monarchs and their new explanations of their controversial actions.

One of the English kings who has received very little attention over the years is Henry IV, also known as Henry of Bolingbroke and Henry of Derby. The common perception is that Henry was a usurper, but was he really? Did he seize the throne from Richard II illegally or was he the rightful heir?

What was Henry IV’s claim to the throne?

To answer this question, we must go back a couple of reigns to Henry’s grandfather, King Edward III, a Plantagenet king that ruled England from 1327 to 1377. King Edward was also the nephew of King Charles IV of France through his mother Isabella. When Charles IV died childless, Edward asserted his right to the French crown as Charles’ nearest male relative. The French overruled him citing Salic Law which said inheritance could not be passed through a female line. So the throne went instead to Philip of Valois, Charles’ cousin through a completely male line. As if losing his claim to the kingdom of France wasn’t enough of a blow to Edward, Philip also confiscated Edward’s land in France. Edward was not one to take things lying down so he took military action against France and initiated the Hundred Years War.

One of King Edward’s best military commanders was his eldest son, Edward of Woodstock, also known as the Black Prince. The king’s son was raised and educated in preparation to be the next king and he was perfectly suited to follow in his father’s footsteps. However, there was a major problem. His repeated military expeditions around Europe caused him to become quite ill, including a raging case of dysentery. He died in 1376 at the age of 45. He had not outlived his father, therefore he never got the chance to fulfill his destiny as King of England.

After the death of the Black Prince, King Edward wrote his will and “Act of Entail” in which he named his heir. Rather than naming his eldest living son (John of Gaunt) to be the next king, he did something unusual. He instead named his grandson, Richard of Bordeaux, eldest living son of the Black Prince, to be next in the order of succession using a device called “Right of Substitution”. Essentially since the Black Prince died prematurely, his son Richard was accepted as a substitute.

After Richard, he named the next in line for succession to be John of Gaunt and the male heirs of his body, followed by his other living sons, Edmund, Duke of York, and Thomas, Duke of Gloucester. Interestingly enough, the “Act of Entail” document was kept secret from the public. The only people who knew about it were those named in the entail and the king’s closest confidants. It was never introduced to Parliament to put into law. Many rulers were hesitant to publicly name their heir because that gave any discontented subjects someone to rally around and overthrow the king.

If King Edward had followed traditional Salic Law rules, his eldest living son, John of Gaunt, would have been named his heir followed by Gaunt’s son, Henry of Bolingbroke, which would have left Richard completely out of the succession. Imagine how different the course of English history would have been if Edward had not made this decision to use the uncommon right of substitution. The inheritance would have been strictly through the house of Lancaster, cutting out the house of York. The Wars of the Roses may have never even happened.

Henry of Bolingbroke would have known about King Edward III’s act of entail and that he had been named third in line for the throne (after Richard and John of Gaunt) rather than second in line after Gaunt. Even so, being third in line to the throne wasn’t so bad for Henry. He lived a relatively comfortable life as a royal heir and spent his youth preparing to be a successful ruler like his grandfather. Henry became one of the most respected knights in Europe, he traveled abroad on crusades, and he learned it was better to work with the nobles and forge alliances rather than trying to control them. There was only one problem…Richard absolutely hated Henry. Richard was none of the things that Henry was. Richard was not strong and athletic, he did not joust, and he was not an experienced military leader. He was basically the antithesis of Edward III. Richard was terribly jealous of Henry and felt threatened that Henry or his father might one day try to wrestle the crown from his head.

Richard’s Revenge

For the first 10 years of Richard’s reign, it was assumed that Edward’s entail would be upheld by Richard but in the Parliament of 1386, Richard did something shocking. He threw out his grandfather’s entail and instead declared that his heir would be the twelve-year-old earl of March, Roger Mortimer, great-grandson of King Edward III. Roger’s mother Phillipa was the daughter and only child of King Edward’s second-born (yet deceased) son Lionel of Antwerp. Even though Lionel was deceased, Richard used the right of substitution in selecting Roger, just as Edward III had done in selecting Richard as the Black Prince’s substitute. However, it was highly unusual to name an heir through a female line, especially when there were plenty of other male heirs to choose from. Richard selected the Mortimers so that John of Gaunt, Henry of Bolingbroke, and the entire Lancastrian line would be excluded from the succession. He was putting them on notice that they better work for him instead of against him.

Richard’s declaration was met with great resistance from the lords of his realm who were already disgruntled from enduring years of his tyrannical treatment. They had been terribly unhappy about Richard’s style of kingship, lack of military experience, misguided attempts to negotiate with France, reckless financial spending, attempts to degrade the power of Parliament, and general misrule resulting from Richard’s circle of favorites. Threatening civil war and deposition, the Lords were successful in pressing Richard to exclude the minor Roger Mortimer from succession and to reinstate King Edward III’s entail naming John of Gaunt and his son Henry as the next in line to the throne.

Richard was a very spiteful and vengeful man. He would agree to a deal when he was face-to-face with the nobles, but behind their backs, he would plot to punish them for any sign of disloyalty. Over the next 10 years, he continually threatened the lords and nobles with arrest, confiscation of lands, titles, goods, and even exile if they didn’t bend to his every whim. Richard again changed the order of succession, throwing out John of Gaunt, Henry, and the Mortimers. He decided that the person who would be the least threatening to his reign would be Edward III’s fourth son, Edmund of Langley, Duke of York, who was an arthritic invalid.

Henry of Bolingbroke was always at the top of Richard’s hit list but since he was such a close royal relative, Richard couldn’t afford to take him out. His reputation would have been destroyed if he used force to get the likable, respected knight out of the picture. So instead of using force, he used a 1397 civil dispute between Henry and Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, as the mechanism to remove him. Richard ruled both men guilty and sentenced them both to exile: Henry for 10 years and Norfolk for life.

As if exile wasn’t punishment enough, just one year later when John of Gaunt died, Richard delivered the knock-out punch. Despite his promise to Gaunt, Richard revoked Henry’s entire Lancastrian inheritance and confiscated all of his lands and assets. Furthermore, Henry was to be considered a traitor to England. Henry of Bolingbroke had nothing left. To fall so far from being the heir to the throne down to a penniless vagabond was untenable for Henry. And there was only one person at fault: his cousin, King Richard II.

Henry’s Return to England

As Henry lived in exile, he thought about his situation and strategies for getting back what was rightly his. There weren’t many options. There was certainly no chance now at reconciliation with Richard, things had simply gone too far. The only way he would be allowed to return to England and be restored to his rightful inheritance would be if Richard was no longer the king of England.

Removing King Richard II from the throne is not something Henry could do by himself. Luckily, he had friends in high places who had also been unfairly treated by Richard. Together with several dukes and earls, Henry planned an uprising against Richard to protest his tyrannical rule. Henry landed in England on July 4, 1399, at Ravenspur in Yorkshire with only 300 men. As he traveled towards the safety of the Lancastrian stronghold, Pontefract Castle, his army grew into the thousands. Henry had become the leader of the revolution. He swore to his followers that his only intent was to defend England from Richard’s tyranny and to reclaim his Lancastrian inheritance. He promised that he would not take the throne for himself by force.

King Richard was with the royal army in Ireland at the time of Henry’s invasion. The Keeper of the Realm during his absence was his 58-year-old heir, Edmund of Langley, Duke of York. Edmund knew that his nephew was a cruel despotic ruler and he instead threw in his lot with Henry. Edmund agreed to support his uprising and would not take measures to suppress his army. Edmund also believed that Henry had been treated unfairly and was perfectly within his rights to reclaim his inheritance.

So Henry’s army moved across the country unchallenged until he came to Conway Castle where King Richard was hiding. Rather than fighting, they negotiated. Henry demanded that he be allowed to return to England and that his lands be restored to him. Richard agreed but then shortly thereafter declared he had no intent to keep his promise. In fact, he was more determined than ever to see Henry dead. Henry’s army arrested Richard and took him into their possession.

While Richard was kept under lock and key in a variety of royal castles, Henry was working with English lawyers to legally reinstate his claim to the Lancastrian inheritance. They determined that the best course of action would be for Richard to sign a written resignation which would then be ratified by Parliament. After much resistance, the king finally relented and signed the document. In doing so, he stepped down from the throne and agreed to Henry’s accession, just as King Edward III’s act of entail had outlined nearly twenty-five years earlier.

The Rule of Succession in England

Was Henry right to overthrow Richard II in an attempt to restore justice to the kingdom of England? Or did he take advantage of the circumstances by claiming the throne for himself?

It all comes down to this. Were any laws broken when Edward named his grandson Richard as his heir instead of his eldest living son John of Gaunt? Likewise, did Richard break any laws when he bypassed Edward’s entail and named Edward of Langley as his heir? Did Henry break any laws when he accepted the crown for himself and deposed his cousin Richard? Should kings have to uphold entails from their predecessors or was it legal for them to change it to their own personal liking?

We cannot judge these decisions as morally right or wrong, rather we can only judge them in terms of the law or the absence of law. In England during the Middle Ages, there was no law that strictly defined the order of succession. Other European kingdoms, such as France, observed Salic Law which prohibited women from being crowned as well as their sons. Germanic kingdoms followed the semi-Salic rule which allowed a woman to inherit but only if all the men in the royal bloodline were dead.

England was a kingdom heavily influenced by their different European neighbors so England’s laws and customs were a mish-mash of the various customs immigrants had brought with them to England. Since England had never put the order of succession into a legal act, it was basically up to the current ruler to choose the next heir to the throne.

Is it any wonder England had so many disputes over control of the kingdom during the Middle Ages? With no legal rules governing the order of succession, it became open to interpretation and that’s when the royal heirs and nobility used it to their advantage. It made it much more possible to maneuver their own royal relatives into positions where they might someday have a shot at the throne themselves.

Was Henry IV a Usurper?

It is my judgment that Henry IV was not a usurper. To be a usurper, one has to either seize authority illegally or by force.

Although Henry did amass a sizable army, they did not resort to violence to solve the conflict. The army was merely a show of force so that Richard would take them seriously and understand the gravity of the situation.

Henry was careful to use lawyers to find a legal way to depose King Richard II and thus overturn his previous statute naming Edmund of Langley as his heir. With Richard deposed and all of his previous acts of Parliament voided, the order of succession had to revert back to the previous king. That would make King Edward III’s act of entail valid again and Henry of Bolingbroke next in line to the throne.

 About the Author

Michele Morrical is a writer, blogger, and amateur historian on all things Tudor and Wars of the Roses. She lives in Indianapolis, Indiana with her husband, son, daughter, and many pets. You can find her writings at michelemorrical.com.

My journey into Tudor history began about 10 years ago with the TV show “The Tudors” from Showtime. As I watched the show, I wondered how much of it was really true because the storylines were more dramatic and shocking than any soap opera I had ever seen. I picked up Margaret George’s autobiography of Henry VIII and I was hooked. I’ve since read over 100 books on the Tudor period and I’m currently writing my own book about the Wars of the Roses

Biography: George Plantagenet 1st Duke of Clarence

georgeclarence(Born October 21, 1449- Died February 18, 1478). Son of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville, Duchess of York. Married to Isabel Neville, Duchess of Clarence.
Father of Anne of York, Lady Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, Richard of York. George was a young man who believed that he would be a better king than his brother Edward IV. He revolted a few times and it led to his death by an unusual means.

George Plantagenet was born on October 21, 1449 to Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville, Duchess of York. His father died at the battle of Wakefield on December 30, 1460 and in March 1461, his brother became King Edward IV. George was created the 1st Duke of Clarence and a Knight of the Garter by his brother and the following year, he received the Honour of Richmond and was created lord-lieutenant of Ireland.

When George was named as a possible suitor for Mary, the daughter of Charles the Bold, later the Duke of Burgundy, he would enter into the influence of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick. Warwick, also known as “the kingmaker”, helped Edward IV become king but when Edward married Elizabeth Woodville instead of Bona of Savoy, which would have established an alliance with France, Warwick and Edward were not as close as they once were. Warwick decided to get back at Edward and in July 1469, George married Warwick’s daughter Isabel (or Isabella), which was a marriage that Edward did not support at all.

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.

George was loyal to his brother, but when Warwick deserted Edward and fled to France, George went with his father in law. On the way to France, Isabel gave birth to their first child, a girl, on 16 April 1470, in a ship off Calais. The child would not survive. Warwick joined forces with Margaret of Anjou and Louis XI of France to restore Henry VI to the throne. In September 1470, Warwick and his rebellion made its way to England. Warwick removed Henry VI from the Tower and restored him to the throne.

Henry VI rewarded George by making him next in line to the throne after his own son, removing Edward IV from the line of succession completely. Warwick had his younger daughter, Anne Neville, George’s sister-in-law, marry Henry VI’s son in December 1470. This obviously infuriated George since this meant that Warwick had no desire of making George the next king and so George secretly reconciled with his brother.

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 in April 1471, where Warwick was killed. After Warwick’s death in April 1471 Clarence appears to have seized a vast sum of the estates Warwick owned. George did not gain all of Warwick’s properties as his younger brother Richard Duke of Gloucester married the widow Anne Neville. In March 1472 was created by right of his wife Earl of Warwick and Salisbury. A quarrel between George and Richard ensued, and in 1474 the king interfered to settle the dispute, dividing the Warwick estates between his brothers.

In 1475 George ‘s wife Isabel gave birth to a son, Edward, later Earl of Warwick. Isabel died on December 22, 1476, two months after giving birth to a short-lived son named Richard. Though it is believed that Isabel died of either consumption or childbed fever , George was convinced she had been poisoned by one of her ladies-in-waiting, Ankarette Twynyho, whom, as a consequence, he had judicially murdered in April 1477 right after her trial. The same year, George was eligible for Mary Duchess of Burgundy’s hand, but when Edward refused the marriage suit, George left court.

Edward was convinced that George was aiming at his throne after three of George’s men were tried for treason and were executed. George was thrown into prison, and in January 1478 the king unfolded the charges against his brother to the parliament. He had slandered the king; had received oaths of allegiance to himself and his heirs and had prepared for a new rebellion. Both Houses of Parliament passed the bill of attainder, and the sentence of death was announced. It is said that Edward gave his brother a choice on how he would die and George said that he would like to be drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine. What we do know is that George Duke of Clarence was executed in private either on February 17th or 18th 1478. Two of his children would outlive him: Edward earl of Warwick, who was executed in 1499, and Margaret Pole Countess of Salisbury.

Biography: King Edward IV

220px-Edward_IV_Plantagenet(Born April 28, 1442- Died April 9, 1483). Son of Richard, 3rd  Duke of York and Cecily Neville. Married to Elizabeth Woodville. Father of Elizabeth of York, Mary of York, Cecily of York, Edward V of England, Margaret of York, Richard of Shrewsbury, 1st Duke of York, Anne of York, George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Bedford, Catherine of York, and Bridget of York. Edward IV was the first king from the house of York, but he was still a Plantagenet. He helped bring the country together, especially financially, but his one flaw was his private life, where he was unwise and naive. 

Edward IV was born on April 28, 1442 to Richard, 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville, and was given the title of the Earl of March. Richard Duke of York, Edward’s father, was the Lord Protector when Henry VI had his bouts of mental illness, but once the king got well, York was removed from the position and his reforms were reversed. One of his biggest rivals was  Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset. In 1455, York had enough of Somerset and marched against him at the First Battle of St. Albans, where Somerset was killed. 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 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 Richard Neville, the earl 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 was able to decisively beat Henry VI’s forces and secure his 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. He was welcomed to the throne. His focus was to rule wisely and gain the support of the nobles by limiting the policy of court favorites and placed the control of Crown lands under court officials. He wanted to make sure that his court was politically and financially sound. Edward owed a lot to his cousin Richard Neville, Duke of Warwick, also known as “the Kingmaker”, and he rewarded him greatly. He was made the Chamberlain of England and he was considered the second most powerful man in England. Warwick’s son John Neville was made earl of Northumberland after the battle of Hexham in May 1464, a hereditary title that belonged to the Percy family.  

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. On May 4, 1471, Edward faced off against the Lancastrian army at the Battle of Tewkesbury, where the Lancastrians were finally defeated and Edward of Westminster was killed. Margaret of Anjou was arrested and shortly afterward, King Henry VI died, possibly murdered under the orders of Edward IV.

Edward IV’s purpose on the second part of his reign was to work on establishing strong alliances, which he did with the dukes of Brittany and Burgundy, and the king of Aragon. In July 1475, Edward decided that he was going to try to recapture the English lands in France. His brothers George and Richard supported this idea, however this ended in disaster and Edward was forced to sign a peace treaty with Louis. George viewed this as a horrible defeat and so he plotted to remove his brother from the throne yet again. This was the last straw for Edward and he had George arrested and tried for treason. George was found guilty and was executed in February 1478; if the story about his execution is correct, he drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine.

Edward was a great supporter of the arts and was the primary patron of printing. He encouraged William Caxton to pursue his goal of printing the first book in England in November 1477. Edward also financed  major building jobs at Windsor Castle and Eltham Palace in Kent. Towards the end of his life, Edward fell ill, and on April 9, 1483, he died from either pneumonia or typhoid. He was just 40 years old and he left the throne to his son Edward V.

Book Review: “The Wars of the Roses” by Alison Weir

911GmwfEpdLThe Wars of the Roses was a series of wars from 1455 until 1487 for the throne of England. It is traditionally taught that it was between the houses of York and Lancaster, yet there were a lot more players involved than these two families. In fact the conflict started much earlier with the children of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault. The Lancasters were the descendants of John of Gaunt and his wife Blanche of Lancaster while the Yorks were descendants of Edmund of Langley Duke of York. This was a series over the question of who had the strongest claim to the throne. This question and the series of wars that would try to answer it is explored in depth in Alison Weir’s book “The Wars of the Roses”.

Alison Weir explains the struggle of studying this time period and what she is trying to accomplish in her book:

Sources for this period are meagre and often ambiguous, yet much research has been done over the last hundred years to illuminate a little for us what is often described as the twilight world of the fifteenth century. Many misconceptions have been swept away, yet even so the dynastic conflict still confuses many. My aim has been throughout to eliminate that confusion and try to present the story in chronological sequence, clarifying the problems of the royal succession in an age in which no certain rules of inheritance applied. I have also tried to bring the world of the fifteenth century to life by introducing as much contemporary detail as space permits, in order to make the subject relevant to any read, academic or otherwise. Chiefly, however, I have tried to re-tell an astonishing and often grim story of power struggles in high places that involved some of the most charismatic figures in English history. (Weir, xix).

Weir begins her book by explaining  what England in the fifteenth century was like before diving into the history of Edward III and the Plantagenets in the late 1300s. This may seem a little complex since there were many sons of Edward III, but the throne first went to Richard II, but when he was forced to abdicate, the throne went to Henry of Bolingbroke, who became Henry IV. He was the son of John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster. John of Gaunt and his third wife Katherine Swynford had children who would become known as the Beauforts. They would become important later on.

Henry IV’s son would become Henry V who was married to Katherine of Valois. When Henry V died, their son Henry VI became king; he was a baby. His mother would remarry a Welsh man named Owen Tudor and they would have a few children, including Edmund and Jasper Tudor. Henry VI would marry Margaret of Anjou. Richard Earl of Cambridge, the son of Edmund of Langley, would have a son with his wife Anne Mortimer named Richard Plantagenet Duke of York. He would marry the “Rose of Raby” Cecily Neville and they would be the parents of Edward IV, George Duke of Clarence and Richard Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III.

This all may seem a bit complex, but it is important to understand how all of the players in the Wars of the Roses were connected. Henry VI was a weak king who was known for his madness and so someone had to lead the government. Richard Duke of York believed that he should have been Lord Protector, however Margaret of Anjou and her party at court had other ideas. The beginning of this conflict was a battle between court factions, but eventually it escalated rather quickly into a full on rebellion by Richard Duke of York. This was now a battle between the Yorks and the Lancasters. When Richard Duke of York died at the Battle of Wakefield on December 30, 1460, his son Edward took on the Yorkist cause and would become king after the battle of Towton on March 29, 1461, the bloodiest battle on English soil. After Towton, it was a battle between Edward IV and those who supported Henry VI, until 1471 when Edward IV ultimately won, thus ending the conflict between the Yorks and the Lancasters.

Weir chooses to end her book here at 1471 even though the Wars of the Roses will pick back up with the death of Edward IV in 1483 when his brother Richard becomes Richard III. Weir truly brought this time period to life. I have been studying the Wars of the Roses for a few years now and I have to say this book really simplified this complex family struggle in a way that makes sense. I love this book and I have read it several times. If you really want a great book that explains the causes of the Wars of the Roses, I highly recommend this book, “The Wars of the Roses” by Alison Weir. It is a fantastic introduction to this tumultuous time period.

Richard III: The Controversial King

170px-King_Richard_IIIIn honor of the third anniversary of the reburial of King Richard III, I have decided to write down my opinions about this controversial king.

 

When one thinks of Richard III, one thinks of controversy especially about how he came to be on the throne. In a matter of months after Edward IV died, Richard became the notorious Richard III. It is the belief of his contemporaries that in order to retrieve the throne Richard had to have the most heinous act imaginable performed: he ordered the murder of his nephews.

 

In Desmond Seward’s book Richard III: The Black Legend, Seward characterizes the way this man has been viewed throughout history:

 

Richard has left two popular legends. The earlier is Shakespeare’s crookback, whose element of caricature has been heightened by a theatrical tradition stretching from Colly Cibber to Laurence Olivier (though Shakespeare was nearer the  truth than some of the king’s latter day defenders). The second, later, legend is of a folk hero manque, a gallant young ruler, the supreme victim of vilification in English history. Supporters of this ‘white’ legend have produced some very entertaining literature in portraying Richard as a martyr to Tudor propaganda.

The two legends are the black legend that Richard III willfully had his nephews murdered, and the white legend that he is innocent of all crimes and that the Tudors framed him in order to promote their own dynasty. I have always been fascinated by the time known as the Wars of the Roses, especially this incident in particular. For me, Richard III is one of those controversial characters in history who  we may never really truly understand all of his story. That being said, it is my firm belief that the black legend is the most accurate. I believe that Richard has his nephews murdered.

 

My opinion about Richard III was not made in haste, in fact I have read quite a bit about him. My senior thesis for my Bachelor’s degree was on how Richard III’s and Henry VII’s reputations have changed overtime so I read many  biographies and histories about Richard III over the last 500 years in order to come up with my opinion on Richard.

 

I would like to first say that I do not believe that Richard III was this evil hunchback of 04Richard_cnd-jumbo-v2Shakespearean lore. I used to believe this and then his skeleton was discovered under the car park in Leicester. After looking at his skeleton, one would think he would be unfit to fit, but I came across a documentary that proved otherwise. “Resurrecting Richard III” by PBS was able to find a man in England who had the exact same amount of curvature in his back as Richard III. It proved that Richard could fight and that he wasn’t as Shakespeare described him. If you haven’t seen this documentary, I highly recommend that you do. 

 

 

 

The next aspect I want to explore is his personality and his behavior. I believe that Richard was a complex man and he had to be in order to survive in the time that he lived in, the Wars of the Roses. With the examples of his father Richard duke of York and his brothers Edward IV and George Duke of Clarence, I believe that what he witnessed in his early life was what shaped him as he became king. Think about it. Richard’s father wanted to help the country by becoming the king’s Lord Protector but then decided to take the throne for himself. This did not work as well as he planned as he died at the battle of Wakefield on December 30, 1460. Since Richard III was still a young man when all of this happened, this must have affected him like it did his brothers Edward and George. Edward would fight with George and Richard by his side to become Edward IV. I believe that once Edward was able to take Henry VI into custody that he had ordered Richard III to help assist in the murder of the old king because he was the one brother who he could trust.  George would become angry with Edward and would betray him not once but twice and so Edward had to order for George to be executed allegedly in “a butt of Malmsey wine” on February 18, 1478.

 

It was the death of George that I believe really was the turning point for Richard. He came from a family of men who coveted the throne so much that they would fight not only their cousins but their own brothers for the crown. George was careless and allowed himself to be caught in his betrayal. If Richard wanted the throne, he knew he had to be more careful. He couldn’t betray Edward while he was still alive or he risked his own death, like George. No, Richard would have to wait until the time was right. On April 9, 1483, King Edward IV died, leaving the throne to his young son Edward V. This was to be a happy occasion for the house of York, but it was not to be. The one man in charge of their care and well being was their uncle, Richard duke of Gloucester, their Lord Protector.

 

princes-in-the-towerJust like his father before him, Richard was granted the right to make orders for the king, not because he was well liked, but because he fought against the Woodvilles and the Rivers for the right. He was fighting his brother’s wife’s family for the right to control the country. Richard would have Lord Rivers killed because of “treason” to protect the boy king. Edward V and his younger brother Richard duke of York were led to the Tower of London “for protection” and were never to be seen again after 1483.  Since the young king was out of the picture, I believe because Richard had the boys murdered, the only one who had the right to the throne was Richard himself. Just like he planned. To seal the deal, Richard III issued the Titulus Regius in 1484 which declared the children of Edward IV and his queen Elizabeth Woodville illegitimate because Edward had promised to marry another woman before Elizabeth.

 

These kinds of moves were cold and calculated. Richard had time to plan all of this out, from 1478 to 1483, 5 years to be exact. If Richard was really concerned about the kingdom, he would have raised Edward V and his brother as his own sons, allowing them to rule the country as their own. He does not and his name will be tarnished forever because of it.

 

However, Richard’s reign does not last as long as he hoped because on August 22, 1485, Richard is killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field. We all know that it is at Bosworth Field where Henry Tudor becomes Henry VII and the Tudor dynasty begins. Richard is hacked to death, carried on horseback like a boar (his symbol was a white boar so they were mocking him) and was buried at the Church of the Greyfriars. His death marked the end of the Plantagenets dynasty.  This was not a proper death for a king but a hated villain. I do not believe that the amount of brutality was necessary for Richard to die. He was still an ordained king, even if his methods on obtaining the throne were questionable.

 

Richard III is one of those kings who will continue to fascinate those who study the Plantagenets dynasty, the Tudor dynasty and the Wars of the Roses. This one man is still being hotly debated even to this day.

 

What are your opinions on this controversial king?