It must be stressed this Chapter of The Wars of the Roses does not contain any battles or wars even those in France, Scotland, Ireland, Wales etc. These may or may not have had an impact on The True Wars of The Roses, but weren’t actually part of The Wars of, more a case of Wars During Of The Roses. It is essential this difference is kept in mind, because of the numbers of persons, families, factions, and bishops involved in the actual Wars (of) of The Roses, which at the time was not called The Wars of anything in particular. Or might have been termed The Cousins’ Wars by those not related to anyone involved.
I thought this clarification was necessary.
As stated previously although there were kings (Henry VI, Edward IV, Edward V (not much) and Richard III) they were only part of the whole business, but are useful as headings for certain episodes.
(In point of fact it was only when Henry VII (Tudor- Bosworth, Battle of, etc) came along did royalty actually take complete charge again.)
Henry VI- The Start of It
The Minority- Organised, Sort Of,
This Henry was born on 6th December 1421 and because his father Henry (The V, Agincourt etc) died not long after was sort of made a type of king on 31st August 1422, not that he noticed. As he was still obviously not able to sit on a throne much less wear a crown it was necessary to appoint a council to rule for him. Naturally the council was divided, and members hated each other, basically, the principal division was between:
The Peace Party who wanted to stop fighting The French, make as much money as they could by one means or another and were possibly corrupt. The principal organiser was Henry Bowlegs Bishop of Winchester but had to put up with Humphrey (Gloucester Duke of) who said he was entitled to be in charge of England, sort of. The latter was a jovial fellow and naturally more popular than a bishop.
The War Party who didn’t want to stop fighting The French, and were not corrupt but stern war-like men. These were sort of led by John (Bedford, Duke of) who said Henry (VI of) was also King of France because John said so.
This is one occasion where a bunch of self-serving corrupt men might have been the better option; at least if you were a French peasant
France- A Problem
France had never been as easy as Henry (The V, St Crispin’s Day etc) had made out. King Charles VI for some time had been colourfully but not amusingly mad. This had naturally resulted in a family feud over power in which Charles’ cousin John (The Fearless, apparently) Duke of Burgundy in 1407 had Charles’ uncle Louis (of Orleans and Armagnac) murdered. Thus, without Charles’ knowledge, a war broke out between the Armagnacs and The Burgundians and the English and although the latter two were supposed to be on the same side, everything got mixed up. Particularly as in 1419 John (still fearless was assassinated right back)
The Peace Party’s suggested solution would have been to accept a large bribe from the French (of either side) to go away (and take whatever moveable valuables they could snatch and become even richer). This would have been a more sanguine option
Things were made even more complicated when in 1427 a peasant girl Joan (Jean in French) said God had given her the task of chasing the English out of France. On certain theological grounds, this made sense as the thought of two bombastic, conceited, and aggressive nations united under one king (of either nation) would have been far too much for Europe to bear. Joan was very good at this, and in fine heroic tradition was betrayed, captured and martyred on 30th May 1431 which rallied French people and gained the Armagnacs (without Charles VI-now the dead) the moral high-ground and Bedford would eventually died of Joans etc.
Because Joan had managed to get Charles (The VII-quite sane and cunning) crowned king in Rheims on 17th July 1429, the English response was to plonk an English crown on Henry (the VI) little head on the following 6th November then get the kid off to Paris where they crowned him a King of France on 6th December 1431. By now, however, many French people were not willing to be ruled by English people and Henry was shuffled back to England quickly.
From then on, The English began to lose bits of France and The Burgudians weren’t so keen anymore. At any news of which Henry used to burst into tears which was not very encouraging. Naturally, all the nobles blamed each other as at this stage they were not allowed to blame a king.
The Era of Henry The VI A Ruler (Sort Of)- (1) Peace & Marriage.
In 1437 having reached the age of 16 Henry was supposed to be able to rule by himself, but didn’t. His council were still arguing, lesser nobles were engaged in very smallish wars with each other, ragged soldiers back from France and robbers were robbing, Scots were defending Scotland by invading bits of England, and the French were doing very well, by using large cannons which although not as romantic as ranks of bowmen, were more effective.
By now Henry (VI-ish) was fed up of Bad News From France and was persuaded by (Now a) Cardinal Bowtie and the up and comingly conniving Earl of Suffolk, this could be stopped if he married someone French and gave a few fiddly bits away. Margaret of Anjou was trotted out, all was arranged by Charles VII (still of France and doing quite well, thank you). Thus the pair were married on the 23rd of April 1445. Although there was official rejoicing there was actually a lot of grumbling, which caused Henry to dither, but Margaret being of sterner stuff made him stick with the territory bit of deal.
The Era of Henry The VI A Ruler (Sort Of- (2)- The Nobles Who Really Ran Things.
At this juncture Henry was being strongly advised by Dukes Suffolk & Somerset, the former being cunning, the latter being a Beaufit and tied to Cardinal Beaupeep. Both were not popular and kept on losing bits of France which were still English to The French with whom England was at Peace (or War) with. They were also getting richer and letting their supporters fight unlicensed wars and of course pillage. They were dreadfully cruel having plotted for jovial old Humphrey (Gloucester, of, Duke) to be arranged for Treason (though actually for the worse crimes of being jovial and popular with the Common People). He was so shocked he expired on 23rd February 1447. Because he had been so jovial this was probably brought on by eating, drinking, appetites, etc, but The Common People said he had been poisoned and hated Suffolk and Somerset even more.
Growing in opposition was Richard Duke of York, as he was a great-grandson of Edward III some folk thought he would be a good king. For he was stern, a loof (in those days considered an acceptable branch of Christianity) and had been fighting the French, nobly and well, but at his own expense, whereas Somerset was paid a lot by Henry to fight them badly. Richard began to ask for his expenses and complain about Somerset and Suffolk, but being too powerful to be arrested, was sent in 1447 or 9 to Ireland, which didn’t stop him at all as he made ‘alliances’ there.
So frenetic were events that nobles began to arrest and place each other in the Tower of London then say they ruled in the King’s Name, but as they all said they were loyal to Henry those in the Tower were freed, so they could arrest those who had arrested them.
To add to the confusion in 1450 more of France was lost and a very common person called Jack Cade rebelled, arrested London and hung nobles and clergy. He might have got away with it had he not started acting like a noble and so was defeated and massacred.
By 1452 Richard had quite enough and assembled; Henry was told by his advisors to do the same, when they both assembled at Dartford (Kent) Richard found he had fewer troops and even fewer nobles than Henry, so had to go away.
After all this and still more losses of bits of France, Henry quite understandably suffered a breakdown in 1453 and justifiably didn’t speak to or recognise anyone.
Thus the stage was set…….
A True History of The Isles Vol II Chapter 15- The Wars of the Roses as advertised by Shakespeare, William.