Lancastrian and Yorkist Interlude

LancastrianYorkist Interlude
The Battle of Agincourt
LancastrianYorkist Interlude 2
Battle of Barnet
Wars of the Roses
LancastrianYorkist Interlude 4
Kings College Chapel
LancastrianYorkist Interlude 3
Princes in the Tower by Millais
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The English crown is taken by the usurper Henry Bolingbroke. The 100 years war with France is followed by the civil War of the Roses between Lancaster and York which decimates the old royal and noble houses of England.

Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster, was crowned King of England on the 13 October 1399.  Although he was a full blown member of the Plantagenet family, the traumatic way in which he removed the ruling monarch and took his throne, regardless of the legitimate claim of his Mortimer cousin, caused him to be recorded as the founding father of a new dynasty, the Lancastrians.

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Henry IV’s first language was English and apparently that was the language he used to address the coronation assembly - the first time English had been used on such an occasion since the Norman Conquest.  English had become recognised as an essential means of communication throughout the kingdom, even though people with strong regional dialects often found it difficult to make themselves understood when far from home.  It was now the language regularly used in the Law Courts and in proceedings of parliament.  It had also become an integral part of the literary scene: the cosmopolitan Geoffrey Chaucer was using the rich vocabulary of late fourteenth century England to express his view of the world in Canterbury Tales, the first, and one of the greatest, classics of the English language.

It is no easy task for us to read and understand the Tales or Gawain and the Green Knight, or any other surviving literature of those times, but we do recognise them as the early flowering of our native language, vividly expressing thoughts and ideas in a language which was to become fully-fledged in the hands of Shakespeare some two hundred years later.  Spelling remained fluid and a matter of personal choice, but some words such as clerk and hurt retain a spelling which perhaps reflects vowel sounds issuing from the mouths of fourteenth century English folk.

Henry Bolingbroke came to the throne when England was throwing off the shackles of the French culture which had dominated the country for more than 330 years.  Socially, from top to bottom, people were becoming part of one English nation.  Unlike his cousin Richard, Henry IV personalised that national consciousness, although the country was never wholly reconciled to his usurpation of Richard’s throne and perhaps some of his father’s long-standing unpopularity was also passed on to him.

In his younger days Henry was short and stocky with reddish-brown hair and he had the typical Plantagenet abundance of energy and courage.  From an early age he was laden with titles.  He inherited the earldom of Derby and became Earl of Hereford in 1380 when, at the age of fourteen, he married the joint heiress Mary de Bohun who was aged about eleven.  The marriage was typical of the fraught relationships in the Plantagenet family at that time.   Henry’s uncle, Thomas of Woodstock Earl of Gloucester, had married Mary’s elder sister Eleanor and intended to keep the whole de Bohun inheritance in his own hands.  He therefore made arrangements for Mary to become a nun.  However, Mary’s aunt took her out of his hands and delivered her up to his brother John of Gaunt, who promptly married the girl off to his son and heir Henry.  Mary died giving birth to their sixth child in 1394.

In 1390 Henry took something like 75 of his liveried knights to heathen Lithuania where he joined an ongoing crusade by the Teutonic Knights at the siege of Vilnius.  He returned to Lithuania in 1392 and then went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he vowed to return and lead a crusade against the Turk - a promise he was never able to fulfil.  Henry returned to England in 1393, well-trained in warfare and with ambitions to make a mark in the world.

He was conventionally religious and, unlike his father, would have no truck with the Lollard Movement which was gaining serious support in the universities and among the ordinary people.  One of the early acts of his reign was the de Heretico Comburendo statute, passed by Parliament in 1401.  The first of many Lollards was burnt at Smithfield later that year.

The country was never comfortable with the way Henry usurped the throne and he had to deal with a series of plots and rebellions.  The most long-lived revolt was headed by the Welshman Owen Glyndwr.  He quickly took control of most of Wales and by 1403 he led a serious force of men at arms and archers seasoned by experience in the war with France.  He took Conwy and other great royal castles and made a treaty with fellow Celts in Brittany and with France; their ships raided many parts of the English Channel coast, causing much damage.  His cause then became entwined with the grievances held against the new monarch by two English noble families, the Percys and the Mortimers.

Henry Percy, son of the Earl of Northumberland, was knighted by Edward III in the company of the future kings Richard II and Henry IV in 1377.  He earned a reputation for reckless courage and was nicknamed Hotspur during the struggles along the Scottish border, but he was also active in Aquitaine on behalf of John of Gaunt, in Ireland with Richard II and elsewhere.  He and his father were the earliest and most significant supporters of Bolingbroke when he returned from exile and they were lavishly rewarded.  In 1402 Hotspur was put in command of North Wales by Henry IV.  The same year he and his father defeated and took prisoner the Earl of Douglas and Murdoch Stewart son of the Duke of Albany, who was in effect Scotland’s master, at the battle of Homildon Hill.

However, the king was parsimonious in contributing to their costs of defending the border.  He also demanded they hand over their Scots prisoners, possibly with the intention of taking the ransom money himself.  He also refused to pay a ransom for Sir Edmund Mortimer, whom Glyndwr had taken prisoner.  Sir Edmund’s sister Elizabeth was Hotspur’s wife.  He was also guardian of his young nephew Edmund Earl of March, the Mortimer candidate for the throne.

Mortimer transferred his allegiance to Glyndwr and married his daughter at the end of 1402.  He let it be known that he and Glyndwr wanted to restore Richard II to the throne or, if Richard were dead, to replace him with his Mortimer nephew.  The next year the Percys joined the Mortimer-Glyndwr enterprise and took up arms against Henry IV.  Hotspur met the royal army outside Shrewsbury, but his father was too slow and was unable to assist him.  Hotspur was slain in a bloody, hard-fought battle.  On the other side, Henry of Monmouth the Prince of Wales was seriously wounded by an arrow embedded in his face but he made a full recovery.

The Glyndwr-Mortimer cause began to struggle when Henry of Monmouth took control of the royal forces in Wales in 1406.  He used the royal castles to blockade Glyndwr’s forces and gradually won back control in most of Wales.  In 1409 Edmund Mortimer fell whilst defending Harlech castle, which had been taken by the Welsh some years previously.  His wife, her two daughters and her mother were captured and imprisoned in the Tower.  It is said none of them came out alive, all dying before 1415.  Glyndwr was now a hunted man.  He made one more successful foray when he captured a Welsh royal supporter at Brecon in 1412, but he was never seen again by his opponents and disappeared into the mists of legend.

In 1406 James, the eleven year old heir to the feeble and ailing Robert III of Scotland, fell into Henry’s hands.  He was on a ship bound for France which was captured by English pirates.  Two weeks later his father died and the lad inherited the crown of Scotland as King James I.  He remained in England for a further eighteen years.  This was probably his healthiest option as he had fled Scotland to avoid the attentions of his uncle Robert Stewart Duke of Albany who, as Governor of Scotland, took possession of James’ lands and royal regalia.  He was widely suspected of murdering James’ elder brother David in 1402 and James was now the only impediment to Albany taking the throne himself.  In the years of James’ absence, a protracted struggle with other noble interests barely held Albany’s ambitions in check.

Henry IV treated James well and gave him a good education.  He was sent to the Tower for a time by Henry V, but accompanied him on campaign in France in 1420.  He was joint commander of English forces who took Dreiux and was part of the escort which brought Henry’s body back to England in 1422.  At last, in 1424, the quarrelling hierarchy in Scotland overrode the Albany grip on affairs and brought James I back to Scotland with his new English wife Joan, a member of the influential Beaufort family.  On his return, he took firm and lethal action against his Stewart kinsmen/foes and established authority over the remaining nobility, the semi-independent Western Isles and the Church.

Henry IV began to endure disfiguring and, at times, painful ill-health from 1405 onwards.  He was victim of a chronic and unsightly skin complaint which some alleged was leprosy.

His son Henry of Monmouth played an increasingly important part in affairs of state. Shakespeare’s tale of his misspent youth is much exaggerated.  It is known he spent time at Oxford in 1399 with his uncle Henry Beaufort, who was Chancellor of the University at the time.  In 1403 he fought at the battle of Shrewsbury and was seriously wounded by an arrow in his head, which was only extracted with great skill on the part of his doctor.  He was given command of the struggle with Owain Glyndwr in 1406 and successfully put an end to his revolt.  In 1410 he and his Beaufort uncles, Henry Bishop of Lincoln and Thomas Admiral of the North & West, practically ran the government on behalf of the sick king, but father and son quarrelled over policy and the king discharged him from office in 1411.

King Henry had taken Joan of Navarre, widow of the Duke of Brittany, as his second wife in 1403.  No living children were born to the marriage.  Although she was never popular in England, her relationship with Henry was apparently cordial and she was on good terms with Henry of Monmouth during his younger years.  King Henry died in 1413.  His widow remained in England where her relationship with the new king was damaged when he held her son Arthur of Brittany captive in 1415.  Four years later Parliament ordered her to be imprisoned and her goods and property were impounded on a trumped up charge of plotting to kill the king.  Henry V ordered her release in 1422.  She remained in England and led a quiet but comfortable life until her death in 1437.   She and her husband were both buried in Canterbury Cathedral, preferring to be adjacent to the shrine of Thomas Becket rather than lie in the Plantagenet mausoleum in Westminster Abbey.

It is noted that, soon after his coronation, in an effort to heal the rift with his Plantagenet relatives, Henry V had the remains of Richard II taken from their resting place in Kings Langley and reinterred them in Westminster Abbey.  However, that act of goodwill failed to halt a conspiracy known as the Southampton plot which involved Baron Scrope, previously a good friend of Henry’s, and Richard Earl of Cambridge.  They supported the claim of Edmund Mortimer Earl of March as legitimate heir to the throne.  Mortimer revealed the plot to Henry V who, once the plotters were beheaded, departed for France and glory in August 1415.

Henry V also faced the unpleasant news that his friend Sir John Oldcastle (who was partly the model for Shakespeare’s Falstaff) was guilty of heresy and headed a brief Lollard rebellion before going into hiding.  Oldcastle was discovered and put to death in 1417.

In October 1415 Henry V won a stunning victory when his exhausted men brought down the flower of French chivalry in the mud at Agincourt.  Many great men were slaughtered, either in the hail of arrows from Anglo-Welsh longbows or by drowning as they lay unhorsed in the glutinous swamp; many of those that were taken captive were put to death because it was feared they might overcome their captors by weight of numbers and persuade the uncommitted French rearguard to attack the English lines once more.

Henry possessed qualities possessed only by the greatest of leaders.  He inspired his men with an ardent belief in their cause and their prowess, he troubled the mind of his enemies with his dominating character and personal valour and he was remorseless and single-minded in pursuit of victory.  He had the invaluable tactical skills of choosing the right ground and the right dispositions for his troops and he was indomitable in pursuit of his strategic ambition.  He ranks with Richard I as England’s most formidable soldier/king.

Henry was received as a hero when he returned to London.  Agincourt established the legitimacy of the Lancastrian monarchy in the eyes of the people and he was regarded with awe and respect by all Europe.  He was feared in France, which was ruled by King Charles VI, who suffered severe psychotic disturbances and whose court was riven by a bitter feud between rival factions.  If Henry V ever doubted his claim to the French crown he was now convinced of his God-given right.

In 1417 he returned to France and quickly took most of Normandy.  Rouen fell early in 1419; during the siege, a number of women and children were cast out of the city and starved to death between the city walls and the English siege lines.  By August he was outside Paris and the frantic French court sued for peace.  At the Treaty of Troyes in 1420 the Dauphin was disinherited and Henry was recognised as heir to the French Crown and regent to mad King Charles.  As part of the agreement, Henry V married Katherine, Charles’ youngest daughter.  Her oldest sister had been the second wife of Richard II (after his death she had married the Duke of Orleans and died in childbirth aged 19).

The only child of Henry and Katherine, also named Henry, was born in December 1421, a year which saw a setback in France.  The king’s brother Thomas Duke of Clarence was killed leading the English against a Franco-Scottish force at Baugé in Anjou.  Henry returned to retrieve the situation, taking his hostage James I with him, in the hope of persuading the strong Scots component in the French army that it should show loyalty to their king and leave the French to their fate.  He was successfully campaigning in Central France when he died quite suddenly, possibly of heat stroke, at Vincennes in August 1422, leaving his 9 month old son to inherit the crown of England.

Two months later Charles VI also died and the infant Henry VI became King of France, although this was disputed by his mother’s brother, the displaced Dauphin Charles.  John Duke of Bedford became regent of France after his brother’s death and continued to manage affairs in that country on behalf of the infant king.  Bedford was also regent of England but, because of his involvement in France his younger brother Humphrey Duke of Gloucester acted as Lord Protector.  Humphrey was popular and very cultured: his collection of books and manuscripts passed to Oxford and forms the founding collection in the Bodleian Library.

Bedford carried on a competent and successful management of the takeover of France.  The Dauphin of France proclaimed his right to the throne, but was fiercely opposed by the Burgundian party which was allied to England.  The Dauphin, lacking competent military support from his own people, relied on a strong Scottish force sent to France under the command of John Stewart Earl of Buchan, son of the Duke of Albany. The Scots army, after scoring an early success at Baugé, was virtually annihilated in two defeats at Cravant and Verneuil where Buchan lost his life.

Buchan’s death weakened the grip of the Albany Stewarts on power in Scotland.  His father had ruled as Regent of Scotland for nineteen years prior to his death in 1420.  For much of that time Scotland’s young king James I was held in England.  Murdoch Stewart, Albany’s eldest son and successor as regent, was forced by a General Council to agree payment of an enormous ransom for the release of James I.  Scotland’s king returned with his new English wife Joan Beaufort.  He was crowned at Scone in 1424, having succeeded to the crown in 1406.  James I took firm and lethal action against his Stewart kinsmen/foes.  They were all beheaded and James I took possession of three earldoms which brought in some income to help pay his ransom money.

In 1429 something astounding happened in France.  The Duke of Bedford’s army was besieging Orleans with every confidence of success against the demoralised foe.  The dauphin’s regime was near collapse and, if Orleans fell, the way would be clear for England and the Burgundians to sweep through the rest of France.  Claiming to have experienced visions of saints and the Archangel Michael, a young woman aged about 17 from Domrémy in eastern France was permitted an audience with the Dauphin Charles.  Her name was Jeanne d’Arc or Joan of Arc.    Somehow, Joan persuaded Charles to equip her with horse and armour and place her at the head of a relieving force to Orleans.  He and the French commanders became convinced she was divinely inspired.  What was indisputable was the electric effect she had at Orleans.  She was with the soldiers who took the offensive and drove the English away from the city.  During the battle Joan was wounded between the neck and the shoulder by an arrow, but she returned to encourage the final assault on the English positions.  All of France was convinced of her religious mission, whereas the English merely saw a peasant girl possessed by the devil who had ruined their plans.

Instead of taking the expected military option of aiming to recapture Paris, Joan persuaded the French command to advance on Reims, where the kings of France were traditionally crowned; however, Reims was deep within enemy territory.  An English army commanded by Sir John Fastolf arrived to support the force retreating from Orleans, but they were heavily defeated at the battle of Patay.   The English archers were overrun by French cavalry and the entire army suffered heavy casualties.  The battle completely revived French spirits and devastated the English.  The dauphin was crowned as Charles VII of France in Reims in July 1429.

The following year Joan of Arc was captured by Burgundian troops. She was handed over to the English who put her on trial for heresy at Rouen.  The tribunal broke many of the Church rules for such trials, the evidence was tainted and it was plainly a political rather than a religious event.  She was found guilty and burnt at the stake in 1431.  Henry VI was crowned King of France on his tenth birthday at Notre Dame in Paris.  It was the wrong city and much too late to change the course of events in France.

With matters at an impasse, the Congregation of Arras was convened in 1435.  The discussions broke down and when they resumed the English delegation discovered their Burgundian allies had switched sides.  England was now isolated and, to make matters worse, its leader in France, the Duke of Bedford, had died.

Back in England Humphrey of Gloucester was involved in a power struggle with his uncle Henry Beaufort, the Chancellor, who had become a Cardinal of the Church.  Humphrey disliked the Beaufort influence at court and was worried that his uncle’s duties as Papal Legate conflicted with his role as a senior royal counsellor.  After his brother the Duke of Bedford died, Humphrey became heir presumptive to the English Crown and he and the Cardinal came into conflict over who should take over Bedford’s position in France.  The Cardinal wanted to appoint his nephew John Beaufort, but Humphrey succeeded in putting Richard Duke of York into the position.  In 1439 Duke Humphrey levelled a series of charges against the Cardinal’s conduct of affairs, but failed to remove him from power.

The Cardinal’s supporters then brought charges of treasonable necromancy against Humphrey’s wife.  She was accused of consulting a well-known witch about the king’s death and was imprisoned for life.  Humphrey retired from public life but retained his popularity.  However, when he arrived at Bury St Edmunds to attend a Parliament in 1447, he was confined to his lodgings by royal order.  He died of a stroke before any charges were levelled against him and the Cardinal died soon after.

King Henry VI was of an age to rule in his own name in 1437 but he showed no inclination to take control and overrule the intrigues and disputes between his leading ministers.  He had become a pious and studious young man with a real interest in furthering education and learning.  He founded Eton College for poor scholars and Kings College Cambridge, where they would complete their education.  In matters of government he was inclined to favour the ministers who sought an end to the war with France.

After the deaths of Duke Humphrey and Cardinal Beaufort, William de la Pole Earl of Suffolk became Henry’s chief minister and sought a diplomatic solution to the war.  In 1444 he brokered a truce on terms which included the king’s marriage to Margaret of Anjou and the secret handover of the county of Maine, which was vital to the defence of Normandy.  Richard of York was replaced as Lieutenant of France by Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset in 1448.  York was sent off to Ireland.  There was widespread outrage when the pledge to hand over Maine became public knowledge.

The simmering popular anger erupted after the French invaded Normandy and took Rouen in 1449.  Suffolk was dismissed and sent into exile, but he was seized on board ship, subjected to a mock trial and was beheaded.  Jack Cade fomented a revolt in Kent and adopted the name John Mortimer, which suggested sympathy with the royal claims of the Mortimer family, of which Richard of York was now the figurehead.   The rebels invaded London and killed Lord Say the Treasurer, whilst the king fled to safety in Kenilworth. The revolt was eventually put down by the London citizens and a general pardon was issued, but Cade was captured and killed shortly after.  At the same time, Edmund of Somerset surrendered Caen and quit Normandy.  There were violent disturbances in London and Somerset was confined to the Tower for his own safety.  His rival Richard of York quit his post in Ireland and marched on London with an armed retinue of supporters.  He proclaimed himself against the ‘traitors’ in the king’s service, especially Somerset.

However, Somerset was appointed Captain of Calais and remained as chief minister, strongly supported by Queen Margaret. Parliament was dissolved and some belated reforms were approved, whilst York retired to his stronghold in Ludlow.  He attempted to re-assert his influence in 1452, but was forced to declare his allegiance and lost his remaining offices of state.

King Henry, who for long had displayed an unusually weak and docile character became incapacitated the following year with a catatonic mental breakdown, possibly brought on by news of the loss of Gascony, the last of his French territories apart from Calais.  His French grandfather had suffered intermittent bouts of madness and Henry’s condition might have been inherited.  Queen Margaret also gave birth to a long awaited heir to the throne that year.  When Henry recovered his reason he regarded the child as a miracle; there were rumours that the baby boy was the result of an affair between Margaret and the Duke of Somerset.

The Chancellor and Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal John Kemp, died in March 1454.  The king was incapable of naming a successor and, without a Chancellor it was illegal for anyone else to govern in the name of the King.  The premier peer of England Richard Duke of York was appointed Protector of the Realm and chief minister; his brother in law Richard Neville Earl of Salisbury became Chancellor.

Somerset had been put in the Tower the previous November.  However he was released when the king recovered his senses early in 1455.  A Great Council was called to meet at Leicester.  York, Salisbury and Salisbury’s son the Earl of Warwick, suspecting a backlash from the Somerset-supporting court, blocked the king’s way at St Albans, intent on settling Somerset’s fate themselves.  They met the king’s poorly-equipped party with their larger army of men experienced in warfare along the Scottish and Welsh borders.  The ensuing encounter, which was scarcely a battle, resulted in a rout of the royal forces.  The king was taken prisoner and Edmund of Somerset was killed, along with other leading royal supporters, the Earl of Northumberland and Lord Clifford.

Henry VI returned with his captors to London where he received the crown from York in a clear demonstration of where power now lay.  Henry himself had a brief relapse in health, but whether ill or healthy his future was now in the hands of his forceful wife.  Queen Margaret was not going to let her family go down without a fight and she set about reviving the Lancastrian cause.

At this stage, in the years at the end of the Hundred Years War and the beginning of the Wars of the Roses, it may be of interest to note how the weapons and armour of warfare were changing.  Edward III achieved his great victory at Crecy with the superior firepower of his longbowmen.  Chain mail could be penetrated by arrows fired from longbows over a distance of some 200 meters.  From the mid-fourteenth century knights and men at arms began to use plate armour which provided better protection.  Moreover, increased labour costs following the Black Death made good chain mail extremely expensive.  Locally made wrought iron plate became available, but was not proof against arrows at short to medium range.  The fine steel armour, first developed in northern Italy and Germany, gave good protection to the head and torso of the great nobles and leading men at arms who could afford to pay for it, but the joints between the metal components and the sight- and airholes in their helmets were vulnerable to arrows and pointed weapons.  By the fifteenth century, knights from the great noble families were completely encased in a suit of expensive armour, which was a highly engineered piece of equipment.  A knight in full armour was identified on the battlefield only by the coat of arms emblazoned on his surcoat. Shield were discarded as unnecessary accoutrements to a full suit of armour.

Weapons were also dramatically transformed in the same period.  Missiles hurled from a metal tube by the discharge of explosive black powder were developed into battleground weapons in the early fourteenth century.  Edward III used cannons at Crecy and the siege of Calais.  However, the deployment of heavy guns with their cartloads of stone or iron shot was difficult for an attacking force advancing along dusty or muddy fifteenth century tracks.  They were probably most easily conveyed by boats or ships.  Towns and castles soon made use of cannon as defensive weapons and the skills of artillery specialists were in high demand all over Europe.  At the end of the Hundred Years War, artillery was widely used by both sides.  At the final battle of Castillon, advancing English troops were practically obliterated by a strong array of French artillery.

As the Hundred Years War ended, weapons and armour were going to be fully employed in the vicious dynastic conflict which we remember as the Wars of the Roses.  Following on from the struggle at St Albans, Henry VI attempted to cool the hatred, which fizzled on among the nobility, by organising a Loveday in 1458.  It is probably the origin of the fictitious account of Lancastrians and Yorkists choosing red and white roses as their emblems in a London garden.  The two factions were summoned to a solemn show of reconciliation, together with the Percys and others who were involved in a separate deadly feud with the Nevilles in the north.  The Lancastrian faction, led by Henry Beaufort the new Duke of Somerset, was spoiling for a fight and had to be lodged in Fleet Street and the Temple area, away from the Yorkists who were confined to the City.  However, it was necessary for the king to call in levies from nearby counties to act as a counterbalance to the large bodies of armed retainers who had arrived in London with the various magnates.

After long deliberation, a settlement was finally agreed.  The king decided the Yorkist lords were at fault at St Albans and they should pay compensation for the deaths of the three Lancastrian lords.  However, the payments only amounted to renunciation of royal debt for past services by the offending parties.  The entire event was formalised at a mass in St Paul’s cathedral.  A person of one faction was paired with another from the opposing faction as they processed thence from Westminster: the queen walked hand in hand with York. The King’s Grace was thus demonstrated and Henry probably considered it was a satisfactory solution.   It was certainly his last attempt to assert himself in the affairs of state.  However, it seems likely there was little love in the air around the opposing parties as they walked that long walk between the two cities.

Queen Margaret was consumed with suspicion that Richard of York intended to supplant her son as heir to the throne in collusion with his allies the Nevilles, father and son.  Hostilities began when the king called a Parliament to be held at Coventry in her Midlands stronghold in 1459.  The Yorkist leaders feared they would be arrested and refused to attend.  Their forces were dispersed, but royalist attempts to prevent their coming together failed.  However, Henry’s forces remained superior in numbers and when the two sides met at Ludford Bridge Henry was present in full armour with his royal standard flying.  York had always maintained that he only opposed ‘evil royal counsellors’ and it became apparent that many of his followers were not willing to wage war against the king himself.  The Yorkist leaders abandoned their army and York fled to Ireland, leaving his stronghold at Ludlow to be despoiled by the royal troops.

The Coventry Parliament then put into operation Queen Margaret’s plans.  York, Salisbury and Warwick were attainted: they were put under sentence of death and their lands were forfeit.   Warwick, who was still in charge at Calais and had the sympathy of powerful London liveries, crossed the Channel with his father Salisbury and the gates of London were opened to them.  They pressed north and, aided by one of the acts of treachery which were so usual in those days, they took King Henry prisoner once more at the battle of Northampton.

The Duke of York now returned from Ireland and took up residence at the royal palace in Westminster.  Henry VI was again victim of a serious mental breakdown.  York laid before Parliament his hereditary claim to the throne through his Mortimer connection, but parliament would not give him the crown, although it was agreed by The Act of Accord that he and his heirs would become Henry’s successors.  He was declared Prince of Wales and Lord Protector of the kingdom and the king was held in his custody.

Meanwhile the king’s friends were recruiting in Wales and the West Country, whilst the queen made her way to Scotland with her son.  The new King of Scotland James III was a child and his mother, acting as his regent, gave troops and other aid to Queen Margaret in exchange for Berwick being handed back to Scotland.  The Percys and Clifford were also arming to oppose their long-standing enemies the Nevilles.

Leaving the Earl of Warwick to take care of London, York and Salisbury hurried to meet the gathering threat in the north at the end of the year 1460.  They under-estimated the strength of the queen’s allied forces led by Henry Duke of Somerset and fatally chose to do battle at Wakefield, where their smaller forces were overwhelmed and both men were slain.  York’s head was displayed wearing a paper crown at York.  Several other Yorkist lords were captured and executed in settlement of the many feuds which were now endemic among the noble families of England.

Queen Margaret travelled with the victorious army, composed of Scots and northerners eager to plunder the rich pickings in the south.  In February 1461 they defeated the Earl of Warwick at the second battle of St Albans and recovered the deranged king, who was seemingly unaware of the havoc going on around him.  The increasing bitterness engendered by the conflict was demonstrated when the queen asked her seven year old son to decide how the elderly knights deputed by Warwick to look after his father, both of them Knights of the Garter, should die: he chose beheading.

However, there was to be no smooth passage back to power for King Henry and Margaret.  Londoners, having witnessed the looting that accompanied the Lancastrian advance south, closed their gates to the royal host.  In the west, Edward the young new Duke of York decisively defeated a force led by Owen Tudor, husband of Henry V’s widow Catherine de Valois, and their second son Jasper, a half-brother of King Henry VI.  Owen Tudor was captured and beheaded after the battle of Mortimer’s Cross.  Margaret’s Scottish troops began to drift off home with their bootee and she was forced to withdraw northwards.  The victorious Edward of York, with Warwick at his side, was welcomed into London on March 2nd where he was proclaimed Edward IV King of England.  He declared that Henry had forfeited his right to the crown by allowing the queen to take up arms against his rightful heirs under the Act of Accord.

Both sides marched north, gathering forces on the way and the two largest armies ever assembled during the Roses struggles faced one another at Towton Moor near the city of York.  Fought in a March snowstorm, it has the reputation of being the bloodiest battle ever fought on British soil, with something close to 20,000 dead.  The ranks of Lancastrian nobles were cut to ribbons and their dead foot soldiers left a trail of dead for miles as they fled the field.

Margaret and her son Edward retreated to Scotland.  Sporadic attempts to revive Lancastrian hopes occurred, especially in the north of England.  The last significant engagement was at Hexham where Henry Duke of Somerset and a few remaining Lancastrian leaders were defeated and killed in 1464.  Henry VI remained free for over a year before being caught and locked up in the Tower.  There was no point in killing him whilst his son remained free to become a focus for Lancastrian claims to the throne.

Edward returned to London for his coronation in June 1461.  However, a split soon developed between the king and his most powerful ally, Richard Neville Earl of Warwick who believed that his services were vital to the king’s survival.  Warwick had been negotiating a royal marriage to cement a much-needed alliance with France and was furious when, in 1464, he discovered the king had secretly married Elizabeth Woodville, a beautiful young widow whose Lancastrian husband, John Grey of Groby  died at St Albans II.

Elizabeth had a distinguished lineage, being the daughter of Jacquetta of Luxembourg by her second husband Richard Woodville.  Jacquetta had previously been the Duke of Bedford’s wife and was sister in law to Henry V.  Consequently she was held in high esteem at the Lancastrian court.  She had fourteen children by Woodville, including Elizabeth.  Warwick and other grandees feared the king would be persuaded by his beautiful wife to shower honours and gifts on this tribe of new in-laws.  In this regard they were not mistaken.  Jacquetta's husband Richard was created Earl Rivers and appointed High Treasurer in 1466.  Jacquetta and the new queen soon arranged grand marriages for some of the other daughters, and her 20-year-old son John married Katherine Neville Duchess of Norfolk, a very rich widow who was his senior by at least 45 years, much to the chagrin of Richard Neville who was her nephew.

In 1469 Warwick, aided by George Duke of Clarence, the king’s younger brother, joined forces with northern rebels.  Edward IV was briefly held in custody after his supporters lost the battle of Edgecote, but Warwick and Clarence were forced to release him when they found little support for their actions among the rest of the nobility.  However, Edward’s father in law Rivers and the unfortunate John Woodville, Katherine of Norfolk’s husband, were caught and beheaded.  Following the execution of her husband, charges of witchcraft were brought against Jacquetta, but the charges were dropped once the king was released from custody.  Some years later, however, the king’s youngest brother Richard alleged she had used witchcraft to procure the marriage of her daughter to Edward.

Warwick and Clarence remained disaffected and moved to Calais, where Clarence married Warwick’s daughter against the king’s wishes.  Incredibly, with help from the French King Louis XI, they bridged the gulf with Henry VI’s wife Queen Margaret.  An alliance between the erstwhile rivals was sealed by the marriage of Margaret’s son Prince Edward to Warwick’s younger daughter Anne.  With French help, Warwick assembled a large army and occupied London when he returned to England.  The hapless Henry VI was released from the Tower once more and his restoration as the rightful King of England was announced.  Edward IV was in the north, where he was suppressing another rebellion led by Warwick’s brother, John Neville, who had taken possession of Percy lands after Towton and was in command of forces on the Scottish borders.  Edward and his loyal youngest brother Richard Duke of Gloucester, unable to face the combined Neville forces on the battlefield, fled to Flanders.

They were declared traitors and Lancastrians flooded back to reclaim their attainted estates.  Warwick, in the full flush of ambitious pride, made plans to assist Louis XI against the Duke of Burgundy in return for territorial gains in the Low Countries.  Burgundy responded by joining Hanseatic merchants to assist Edward’s return to England with a small force in 1471.  The city of York reluctantly took him in, but he gathered support on his way south, including the dubious backing of his perfidious brother George Duke of Clarence.  He entered London unopposed and once more put the unfortunate King Henry back in the Tower.  He then marched out to do battle at Barnet.  In the confusion of a thick fog, the Nevilles' forces began to attack each other by mistake and then fled.  Warwick ‘the King-maker’ and his brother were both killed.

Edward then sought to complete his ambitions by settling scores with Queen Margaret, who had landed in the West Country with her son.  Hearing news of Barnet she attempted to cross the Severn to reach her Tudor supporters in Wales, but the city of Gloucester would not allow access to her troops and she progessed on to Tewkesbury.  It was there that Edward caught up with and destroyed her army.  Prince Edward was killed in the battle and Henry VI, with no living heir, was quietly disposed of in the Tower a few nights later.  Queen Margaret was kept in custody until she was ransomed by Louis XI in 1475.  Her daughter in law Anne Neville, widow of the late Prince Edward, married Richard Duke of Gloucester, as portrayed by Shakespeare in a famous scene in the play Richard III.

In comparison with his meek predecessor, Edward IV cut a magnificent and commanding figure, standing 6 feet 4 inches tall.  He was energetic and charismatic in his earlier days, but in his second period of rule he became more ruthless and less vital as illness wore him down.  He spent large amounts of money on the maintenance of a splendid court and also collected artistic and cultural items, including books printed by William Caxton.  Although, he added money made from business investments in the City of London to the usual taxation income, he annually spent more money than he made.

He sought unsuccessfully to play a part in European affairs and had some trouble in Ireland, where he had found support on his way to power from the powerful Anglo-Irish FitzGeralds who ruled as Earls of Kildare in Leinster and Earls of Desmond in Munster.  In 1468 both Earls resisted an Act of the Irish Parliament which required all Irish dwelling in the Pale to dress and shave like Englishmen and take an English surname. They were arrested and Desmond was summarily beheaded.  Kildare managed to get his sentence overturned and returned to Ireland.  Edward IV became aware that Ireland was ungovernable without his goodwill and restored his and the Desmond lands.  His son Gerald continued the Kildare dominance in Ireland until his death in 1513.

Edward’s regime was also troubled by rivalries within and outside the royal family.  His brothers Richard and George were married to Isabel and Anne Neville, the two heiresses of the late Earl of Warwick and his independently wealthy wife.  George Duke of Clarence disputed the validity of Richard’s marriage and lost ground in the struggle for mastery of the Warwick lands.  He became volatile and erratic following his own wife’s death and aroused the king’s suspicions that he was involved once more in treachery.  He was put to death in the Tower in 1478, though probably not in the barrel of wine alleged in popular legend.  Richard Duke of Gloucester, the king’s youngest brother, had remained loyal and established a powerbase in the north where his wife’s father had once been powerful.

Edward IV fell ill and died in April 1483, leaving his brother Richard as Lord Protector for his twelve year old son and heir Edward V, who was living in Ludlow castle under the tutelage of his mother’s brother Anthony Woodville the 2nd Earl Rivers.  The young king set off for London with his Woodville uncle.  They were met at Northampton by his uncle Richard who suddenly seized Rivers and the king’s half-brother Richard Grey, son of Queen Elizabeth Woodville, and had them executed for treason against the Lord Protector.  Richard brought the young king to London on the 4th of May and housed him in the royal apartments at the Tower.  Queen Elizabeth Woodville once more sought sanctuary at Westminster Abbey with her five daughters and her younger son, Richard Duke of York.

In June, Richard the Lord Protector accused Lord Hastings, close friend of Edward IV, of conspiring against him with the Woodvilles.  Hastings was summarily executed.  The queen was persuaded to hand over her son Richard to the Archbishop of Canterbury, so that he could attend his brother’s coronation planned for 22nd of June.  Instead of a coronation, the marriage of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville was declared invalid, because Edward had been legally betrothed to another woman at the time.  The children of the Woodville marriage, including Edward V, were therefore declared illegitimate.  Their uncle the Lord Protector was petitioned by Londoners to take the throne, which he did as Richard III on 6th of July.  Soon afterwards, the Princes in the Tower were never seen again and it is presumed they were murdered, although latter day Yorkists hotly dispute Richard's part in the crime.

A few months later, the Duke of Buckingham, Richard’s close ally at the time of the princes’ disappearance, led a rebellion in association with Henry Tudor, the son of Margaret Beaufort by the Welshman Edmund Tudor.  The affair probably started as a conspiracy between Woodville-supporting Yorkists and the Beaufort camp, which had an eye on marrying its protégé Henry to Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville.  Buckingham became involved because his wife Catherine Woodville was Queen Elizabeth’s sister. The event was a failure and Buckingham was executed.  His wife then married Jasper Tudor, Henry’s uncle. The rebellion served to show that Richard’s usurpation had fanned the embers of the Yorkist-Lancastrian rivalries.

With French encouragement, Margaret Beaufort, who was married to Thomas Lord Stanley her third husband, and her son organised a fresh rebellion in 1484.  Henry Tudor landed with a small force near Milford Haven.  Stanley was Lord High Constable and his powerbase was North West England.  Richard was clearly aware that his loyalty was suspect and kept his son at court as hostage for his father’s good behaviour.  Three armies commanded by Richard III, Henry Tudor and Lord Stanley and his brother arrived at Bosworth in Leicestershire on 22nd August.  The battle was hard-fought and only tilted to Tudor’s favour when Stanley’s brother committed his troops to the Tudor cause.  Richard’s death was famously recounted by Shakespeare.  He was the last English king to be killed in battle and the whole episode gripped public attention again when Richard’s body was dug up in a Leicester car park in 2012.

Richard was the last of the Plantagenets and his death marked not just a change of dynasty but the end of an era.  Along with the Plantagenet royal family, much of England’s old aristocracy had been virtually destroyed in the constant wars and political recriminations of the past century.  The spread of the printed word, the persistent questioning of religious authority by the followers of Wycliffe and the discovery of the New World combined to fatally weaken the old feudal and religious establishment of the Middle Ages.  The new Tudor dynasty would complete its destruction.

All countries in the British Isles shared these changes in different ways.  Scotland had finally escaped the ambitious attentions of English kings, although it was enduring its own power traumas as a series of kings struggled against over-powerful magnates.  The Auld Alliance was still in force and, when it was engaged in struggles with France, England had to look over its shoulder to the north, where Scots were always prepared to foray south of the border on such occasions.

In Ireland, most of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy outside the Pale of Dublin had adopted the customs and language of their Gaelic neighbours. The FitzGeralds of Desmond remained aloof from their English rulers following the Earl’s execution in 1468 and became completely gaelicised.  The FitzGerald Earls of Kildare went on to build up the Pale defences and became semi- independent ruler of Ireland into the early Tudor years.  In the next century these families would be at the forefront of renewed Anglo-Irish disputes.  Despite very occasional interference from England, the Gaelic Irish were largely left to their own internecine devices during the Roses wars.



1399 Henry IV grants the multi-lingual poet John Gower (c1330-1408) a pension of two tuns (240 gallons) of Gascon wine for life.

~ In Scotland King Robert III’s poor health caused his son David Earl of Rothesay (1378-1402) to become regent.


1400 The Epiphany Rising in support of Richard II fails.  Three earls and others are executed.

~ The death of Richard II is announced.

~ Henry IV becomes the last reigning English monarch to invade Scotland when he unsuccessfully besieges Edinburgh Castle.

~ Owen Glyndwr (1359 –c1415) begins a rebellion in Wales.

1401 Heretics are threatened by Act of Parliament with death by burning.  William Sawtrey is the first Lollard to be burnt at Smithfield, London.

1402 Death of Edmund Langley Duke of York, last surviving son of Edward III.  He had no realistic claim to the throne, but his younger son Richard (1385-1415) is married to Anne Mortimer (1388-1411) who has a superior claim being descended from Lionel the second son of Edward III.

~ The heir to the Scottish throne David Duke of Rothesay is arrested by his uncle, Robert Duke of Albany (c1340-1420), and dies in prison.

~ The Percys, father and son, defeat the Scots at the battle of Homildon Hill.

1403 Henry Percy (born 1364), Shakespeare’s Hotspur, and Owain Glyndwr rebel in support of the Mortimer claimant to the throne.  Hotspur is defeated and killed at the battle of Shrewsbury.

~ Henry of Monmouth Prince of Wales (1386-1422) is seriously wounded at Shrewsbury.

~ Henry IV marries his second wife, Joan of Navarre (1368-1437) dowager Duchess of Brittany.

1404 Glyndwr is crowned Prince of Wales at Machynlleth.

1406 James I (1394-1437) son of Robert III of Scotland, who dies days later, is captured by English pirates and is held by Henry IV.  He does not regain his freedom for eighteen years.

~ Robert Duke of Albany, the King’s uncle, rules Scotland as regent for fourteen years.

1411 Henry IV takes control of the Royal Council from his son Henry of Monmouth Prince of Wales, replaced by Thomas Arundel (1353-1414) Archbishop of Canterbury.

1412 The last recorded sighting of Owain Glyndwr, leader of the last major Welsh revolt against rule by the King of England.

1413 Henry IV dies to be succeeded by his son Henry V of Monmouth (1386-1422) who, due to his father’s prolonged ill-health, is already experienced in military and government matters.

~ The University of St Andrews, Scotland is founded.

1414 The king’s good friend Sir John Oldcastle (1378-1417) is found guilty of heresy and leads a Lollard revolt which is quickly suppressed but Oldcastle goes into hiding.

~ Negotiations with France break down and Parliament grants a double subsidy to fund war.

1415 Henry V takes up his great grandfather’s claim to the French throne and invades France, where he decisively wins the battle of Agincourt and begins to take over most of France.

~ The Southampton plot to replace Henry with the Mortimer candidate is foiled.

1417 Sir John Oldcastle, the Lollard leader, is hanged and burnt.

~ Henry takes Rouen in Normandy.

~ Council of Constance ends the Papal Schism.  Pope Martin V (1369-1431) returns to the Vatican.

1419 Queen Joan of Navarre, widow of Henry IV, is imprisoned for a time.

~ Scotland sends an army commanded by John Stewart Earl of Buchan (c1381-1424) to assist the French.

1420 Treaty of Troyes.  Henry V is acknowledged as regent and heir apparent by the French King Charles VI (1368-1422) and marries his daughter Catherine of Valois (1401-1437).

1421 Battle of  Baugé.  The king’s brother Thomas Duke of Clarence (born 1387) is killed leading English against a Franco-Scottish army led by John Stewart Earl of Buchan.

1422 Henry V dies suddenly to be succeeded as King of England and (disputed) King of France by his infant son Henry VI (1421-1471).  A Regency Council of uncles, prelates and leading nobles headed by Humphrey Duke of Gloucester (1390-1447), youngest son of Henry IV, rules on his behalf.

~ The late king’s brother John Duke of Bedford (1389-1435) takes command in France.

1423 Sir Richard (Dick) Whittington (born c 1354) a London businessman and City leader dies leaving charitable foundations, some of which survive today.  The popular pantomime is inspired by his life.

~ Battle of Cravant.  A joint English/Burgundian force commanded by Thomas Montacute Earl of Salisbury (1388-1428) defeats the Dauphin’s army.  A large number of Scottish troops are killed.

1424 Battle of Verneuil.  English victory at which the Scottish leader, the Earl of Buchan, and most of his Scottish army are killed.

~ Scotland begins to pay ransom for the return of James I with his wife Joan Beaufort (died 1445), a granddaughter of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford.

1425 Murdoch (born 1362) Duke of Albany, the king’s cousin and acting regent of Scotland, and other leading nobles are executed at Stirling.

~ Edmund Mortimer Earl of March (born 1391) dies leaving his sister’s son Richard Duke of York (1411-1460) to inherit the Mortimer claim to the throne.

1427 Henry Beaufort (c1375-1447) Bishop of Winchester and son of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford leaves England and is made a Cardinal.

1428 By order of the Pope the body of John Wycliffe is removed from consecrated ground and burnt.  His ashes are thrown into the river at Lutterworth, Leicestershire.

1429 Joan of Arc (c1412-1431) inspires French soldiers to overcome the English siege of the city of Orleans.

~ Battle of Patay.  Heavy defeat for the English forces led by Sir John Fastolf (1380-1459).

~ Charles VII (1403-1461) is subsequently crowned as legitimate King of France at Reims thus contradicting Henry of England’s claim to the throne.

~ Coronation of Henry VI aged 7 King of England.

1430 Joan of Arc is captured by Burgundian forces.

~ Edmund Tudor (1430-1456) is born to the dowager Queen Catherine and Owen Tudor (c 1400-1461) although no marriage for the couple is recorded.

1431 Joan of Arc aged 19 is tried for heresy at Rouen by an English court.  She is burnt at the stake, but has inspired French resistance.  France begins to slip from English control.

~ Henry VI is crowned King of France in Paris by Cardinal Beaufort.

1433 John Duke of Bedford marries Jacquetta of Luxembourg (c1416-1472).

1435 Death of John Duke of Bedford, commander of the English forces in France and the king’s uncle.

1436 James I sends army to besiege the English enclave of Roxburgh.  It is forced to retreat with the loss of all artillery.

~ Richard Duke of York, Lieutenant General of France for a year, lands in Normandy.

1437 (prior to) Jacquetta Duchess of Bedford marries Sir Richard Woodville (1405-1469) in secret.

1437 Henry VI is considered old enough to rule but shows little inclination to manage state affairs.

~ James I of Scotland is assassinated, succeeded by his seven year old son James II (1430-1460).  The Black Douglas family assume effective power in Scotland.

1438 Margery Kempe (c1373-c1439), a religious mystic from Lynn, Norfolk completes the recounting of her memoirs, the first autobiography in the English language.

1440 William Earl of Douglas (born c1424) and his brother are beheaded at The Black Dinner in Edinburgh Castle by guardians of James II out to break the Douglas family power.

1441 Eton College is founded by King Henry VI.  It provides free education for boys who will complete their education at Kings College, Cambridge, which is founded the following year.

~ Richard of York returns as Lieutenant of France.

~ Eleanor (c 1400-1452) wife of Humphrey of Gloucester is imprisoned for ‘treasonable necromancy’.  Humphrey retires from the royal council.

1443 John Beaufort (1404-1444) Duke of Somerset is given an army for the relief of Gascony, effectively reducing Richard of York to governor of Normandy.  Somerset’s campaign is a failure.  He returns to England and dies.  Temporary end of Beaufort influence.

1444 Treaty of Tours gives Maine to France in return for Henry VI’s marriage to a minor princess with no dowry.  Major opposition erupts when the terms are discovered.

1445 As part of his peace policy Henry VI marries Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482), niece of the king of France.

1446 Edmund Beaufort (c1406-1455), soon to be 2nd Duke of Somerset, replaces Richard of York as Lieutenant in France, but remains in England for 2 years.

1447 Humphrey Duke of Gloucester is arrested and dies after suffering a stroke.

~ Cardinal Beaufort dies soon after.

~ Richard Duke of York is appointed Lieutenant in Ireland but remains in England.

1450 The war starts again and the King of France recovers Normandy.

~ The king’s favourite advisor William de la Pole Duke of Suffolk (born 1396) is exiled but he is captured on board ship, subjected to a mock trial and beheaded.

~ Discontent with the royal administration is exemplified by Jack Cade’s Rebellion which invades London.  The revolt is put down by the citizens, not by royal forces, and Cade dies of wounds received when he is captured.

~ Henry VI takes refuge from rebels at Kenilworth.

~ The Duke of York returns from Ireland and marches on London.

~ Edmund Duke of Somerset is briefly lodged in the Tower for his safety.

1451 Somerset, backed by Queen Margaret, retains power and becomes Captain of Calais.  York retires to Ludlow.

~ The University of Glasgow, Scotland, is founded.

1452 King James II participates in the murder of William the Black Earl of Douglas (born 1425) at Stirling.  An intermittent civil war breaks out as he attempts to take control of his kingdom.

~ Duke of York fails in attempt to be recognised as heir to the throne and is forced to swear an oath of allegiance.

1453 Battle of Castillon.  End of the Hundred Years War.  Gascony and all English property in France, is lost except for Calais.

~ Henry VI suffers a severe and prolonged mental breakdown during which Queen Margaret gives birth to a son Edward (died 1471).

1454 Richard, Duke of York (1411-1460) is appointed Protector and Defender of the realm, backed by Richard Neville Earl of Salisbury (c 1400-1460).

~ The queen is excluded from the Council; rumours spread that her infant son is illegitimate, fathered by Edmund Duke of Somerset.

1455 Henry VI recovers and dismisses York from office.

~ The First Battle of St Albans begins the Wars of the Roses between supporters of Richard Duke of York and the Lancastrian monarchy, principally led by Queen Margaret of Anjou and Edmund Duke of Somerset who was killed.

~ The king is taken prisoner. The Duke of York briefly resumes the Protectorship.

~ Margaret Beaufort (1443-1509), daughter of John Beaufort 1st Duke of Somerset marries Edmund Tudor son of Queen Katherine de Valois by Owen Tudor.

1456 Richard Neville Earl of Warwick ‘the kingmaker’ (1428-1471) becomes Captain of Calais.

1457 Margaret widow of Edmund Tudor Earl of Richmond, who died of the plague in captivity, gives birth to their son, Henry Tudor.

1458 The king organises a ‘Loveday’ a ritualistic reconciliation between warring factions of the English Nobility.

~ The Earl of Warwick defeats a Spanish fleet and takes control of the Channel.

1459 The Irish Parliament at Drogheda support the Duke of York as Governor of Ireland.

1460 King Henry VI is captured by the Earl of Warwick at the battle of Northampton.

~ Act of Accord.  Parliament persuades Henry VI to recognise Richard Duke of York as his successor and disinherit his son Prince Edward (1453-1471).  However…

~ The Duke of York is killed at the battle of Wakefield soon after.

~ James II of Scotland is killed by an exploding cannon as his forces succeed in taking Roxburgh from the English.  His son succeeds as James III (1451/2-1488) aged nine or ten.

1461 King Henry VI is rescued after the second Battle of St Albans, but is suffering further mental illness.

~ Owen Tudor is beheaded after losing battle of Mortimer’s Cross to Edward Duke of York (1442-1483).

~ The battle of Towton Moor.  Edward Duke of York crushes the Lancastrian forces and assumes the throne as Edward IV.

~ Henry VI and the royal family seek safety in Scotland and then France.  Queen Margaret takes on the full leadership of the Lancastrian cause.

1462 Battle of Piltown, Ireland. Thomas Fitzgerald (died 1468) Earl of Desmond’s heir defeats the Lancastrian John Butler (died 1476) Earl of Ormond, whose father was beheaded after Towton.

1464 Edward IV secretly marries Elizabeth Woodville (c1437-1482), who becomes disliked by the Yorkist grandees for her ambitions on behalf of her Lancastrian relatives.

~ Yorkists win the battle of Hexham.  Henry Beaufort (born 1436) Duke of Somerset is executed.

1465 Henry VI is captured in Lancashire and imprisoned in the Tower.

~ Elizabeth Woodville is crowned queen.

1466 James III is kidnapped by Robert Lord Boyd (died c1482) who becomes Governor of Scotland.

1468 Thomas Fitzgerald Earl of Desmond is attainted and executed for opposing laws trying to anglicise Irish people within the Pale. The Fitzgerald earls of Kildare become dominant as Lords Deputy, ruling Ireland on behalf of the king.

1469 George Duke of Clarence (1449-1478) marries the Earl of Warwick’s daughter against the king’s wishes.  They issue a ‘remonstrance’ against abuses committed by the queen’s family and send troops to assist northern rebels which defeat a royalist army at Edgecote, Northants.

~ Earl Rivers (born 1405) and John Woodville (born c 1445) are executed. Edward IV is taken into custody but is released due to lack of support for the rebels.

~ Orkney and Shetland isles are pledged to guarantee her dowry when Margaret of Denmark (1456-1486) marries James III.

1470 Queen Margaret arranges the marriage of her son Prince Edward to Anne Neville (1456-1485), younger daughter of the Earl of Warwick.

~ Warwick and the Duke of Clarence, the king’s brother, force Edward IV into exile and restore the feeble-minded Henry VI to the throne.

~ Queen Elizabeth Woodville gives birth to an heir to Edward IV whilst living in sanctuary at Westminster Abbey.

1471 Edward IV returns and defeats and kills the Earl of Warwick at Barnet.

~ The Lancastrian royal line is ended at the battle of Tewkesbury.  Edward, Prince of Wales is killed and his father King Henry VI is put to death at the Tower of London soon after.

1472 The king’s brother Richard Duke of Gloucester (1452-1485) marries Anne Neville, widow of the late Lancastrian Prince of Wales.

~ Scotland permanently annexes the isles of Orkney and Shetland.

1473 William Caxton (c1422-1491), an English merchant at Bruges, prints The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye, the first book to be printed in the English language.

1474 The treaty of Utrecht ends a naval confrontation between England and the Hanseatic League with Hanseatic steelyards (trading places) confirmed or founded in some East coast seaports.

1475 Treaty of Picquigny seals truce with France and ransom for ex-Queen Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482) who spends the rest of her life in France.

1477 William Caxton sets up England’s first printing press in London.  His first product is Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.  Knowledge and information become more easily available to a wide public readership.

1478 The Duke of Clarence, the king’s brother, found guilty of treason, is executed in the Tower of London.

~ Garret Earl of Kildare (c1456-1513) is appointed Deputy Governor of Ireland in succession to his father and rules Ireland until his death.

1481 - Littleton’s Tenures, written by Sir Thomas Littleton (c 1407-1481) the first text book of collected English land laws.

1482 Richard Duke of Gloucester, invades Scotland and takes Berwick upon Tweed for the final time.

~ The unpopular Scots King James III is imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle by his nobles for a time.

1483 Edward IV dies and his children are declared illegitimate by his brother Richard Duke of Gloucester.

~ Edward V (born 1470) and his brother Richard Duke of York (born 1473), the Princes in the Tower of London, disappear.  Their uncle is crowned King Richard III.

~ A rebellion led by Henry Stafford (born c1454) Duke of Buckingham and supported by Henry Tudor fails.  Buckingham is beheaded.

1485 Queen Anne Neville dies.

~ Richard III is defeated and killed at the battle of Bosworth.   Henry Tudor Earl of Richmond takes the crown.

~ Caxton prints Morte d’Arthur, an early modern English version of the Arthurian legends by Sir Thomas Malory.


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