AS-level assessment help on Henry VIIWatch
I am sorry. My knowledge of the Tudors does not extend more than this.
The Wars of the Roses began at the Battle of St Albans in 1455. It could be seen as the climax of political tensions during the reign of King Henry VI (HVI). Many factors came together the ultimately cause the outbreak of civil war, all leading to the tension that tore England apart. HVI’s inadequacies as a King are likely to have exacerbated the situation, although historians have not reached a consensus on whether HVI could be directly blamed for the outbreak of civil war given that others actions ultimately pulled England into conflict.
HVI’s unwillingness to take a strong hold of governance led to him placing the crucial running of the country into his poorly chosen advisors hands, such as William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk (Suffolk) and Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset (Somerset) with disastrous consequences. William de la Pole was met with some discontent amongst other nobles as he was a relative newcomer to the nobility, given the title of Duke of Suffolk. A chief complaint against his name is his key role in orchestrating the marriage between HVI and Margaret of Anjou. HVI was poor, and a marriage could have sealed his right to a substantial dowry. However, in the hope of a truce with France, Margaret of Anjou was chosen, bringing no dowry at all- in fact, the £5500 cost of her wedding was footed by England. Their marriage was treated with optimism, in the hope of a final peace treaty between England and France, though ultimately the 23 month peace secured by the marriage contract was all that existed in the way of peace. Perhaps this optimism at their marriage and its results was so juxtaposed by the subsequent loss of France that the loss felt all the sharper to the English populace, furthering their discontent.
However, you could argue that choosing the wrong advisers was not the fault of HVI’s inadequacies- rather, in was poor luck on his behalf that his advisors were inadequate. Losing France may have been an inevitability, founded by the greatness of King Henry V and the Treaty of Troyes would be impossible to uphold. In France, the population were opposed to an English King (HVI being king of both France and England) and Joan of Arc and the Dauphin’s efforts greatly hindered the English defence of their French territory.
On the other hand, HVI’s poor advisors played a key part in the loss of France. Originally, Richard, Duke of York (York) was lieutenant of France but was removed from his office at the peak of his success, sent to Ireland. Somerset was instead put in place and subsequently lost France. This had further reaching consequences than the loss of territory (and people for HVI to tax). Soldiers who had set up homes in France were forced to return, disheartened. Those who had lost family members in the wars felt that their lives had been wasted. Returning soldiers had no jobs to go to. These factors caused civil unrest, culminating in Cade’s rebellion (1450) in which a number of demands were made, including that York would be made a member of the king’s council. This suggests that the leadership of the country was being challenged, pointing directly at Henry’s inadequacies.
However, HVI’s authority might not have been challenged had the line of succession not been so complicated. York could arguably be said to have a better claim than HVI’s own, particularly if the female line was taken into consideration, as he had more royal blood than HVI through Lionel, one of Edward III’s sons as his mother was Anne Mortimer, a descendant. This undercurrent of knowledge may have contributed to unrest. This, coupled with ******* Feudalism in which people fought for their own advancement rather than loyalty to the King may have contributed to discontent at the King’s ruling which in previous years would not have been doubted. Therefore, the King’s inadequacies may not be directly to blame for the outbreak of civil war for had others obeyed and been loyal to HVI, he would not have had his leadership challenged. On the other hand, had his leadership been adequate, challenging it would not have been necessary.The ambitions of York contributed to this arrangement. He, being the King’s closest male, adult, blood relation sought for a better place on the king’s council. He was encouraged by the King’s mental illness, in which he was placed as Protector. This was relatively successful, and he tried to execute Beaufort for the loss of France. This was prevented by HVI, who forgave Beaufort, though an enmity existed between Beaufort and York. This ultimately led to the Battle of St Albans in 1455 as the two sides were opposed.
In conclusion, HVI’s weaknesses were a key factor in encouraging rivalry and conflict.
It is clear from the available evidence that King Edward IV brought about a stable government during his reign. However, what is also evident is the extent to which this stability was a façade. Although outwardly, England’s governance improved in stability, this stability was compromised by King Edward IV’s rash actions throughout his reign. This essay will explore the key reasoning behind my argument and highlight both the achievements and detriments of Edward’s actions with regard to stability.
King Edward IV’s initial actions upon gaining the throne appear to indicate his desire for stability during his reign. Having been victorious at the Battle of Towton (Palm Sunday, 1461) he set about creating an environment in which he could rule effectively. Firstly, he managed to use propaganda to endear him to the people of England. George Neville proclaimed Edward to be king by the right of God- a Palm Sunday victory being a massive propaganda coup. Edward therefore understood that a successful reign was one in which you had the support of the people- something clearly lacking in the later stages of King Henry VI’s reign. This points towards an attempt at stability.
This stability is also gained by securing London (allowing Parliament to meet and Edward to be crowned), and securing the Privy Seal from Laurence Booth in Durham. These hasty actions further helped to bring about stability to England as it was necessary for Edward to be crowned and gin the power to make laws in order to rule England effectively. Had this not taken place, uncertainty would have prevailed and a lack of stability would have ensued. As a result, Edward has clearly taken the first steps in securing a stable government in England.
Aside from these short term attempts at providing a stable governance of England, Edward also showed that he was looking forward into the future years of his reign. This is demonstrated by the use of Calculated Mercy, in which Edward limited the levels of punishment towards Lancastrians. Only 113 of the Lancastrian supporters were attainted, and of the 120 attainders brought about during his reign, 86 were overturned. In one sense, this could be seen as overly trusting; Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, for example, continued to rebel, was consistently forgiven, yet in 1470 re-joined the Lancastrians. In 1471 a warrant for his arrest was issued; he had overstepped the mark. Nonetheless, Calculated Mercy was largely successful in converting Lancastrians to the Yorkist faction in exchange for promises of loyalty. The Woodvilles are perhaps the most famous example and remained loyal despite events which unfolded after Edward’s death. This greatly encouraged stable government as potential rebels had been harnessed in favour of the crown, crushing the Lancastrian spirit. This impression was added to be the defeat of Margaret of Anjou’s small force of 800 at Bamburgh (1462), reinforcing the power of the Yorkist monarchy.
However, several factors in Edward’s first reign could be argued to have undermined these factors forming a stable government in England. The Woodville marriage (1464) is most often criticised of these, despite being romanticised. Professor Eric Ives outlines three key features of a royal marriage: prestige, diplomacy, and foreign, so as to aid peace and not disrupt internal politics. The Woodville marriage therefore failed on all three counts and greatly endangered the stability which Edward had sought to achieve. The disruption of internal politics could be argued to have been the most significant effect of the match. Warwick. Who had been negotiating a French marriage for Edward was humiliated as the secret marriage became apparent. Additionally, his hopes for his daughters- Anne and Isabel- were dashed as the large Woodville family snapped up the best ranking suitors available. Warwick had no male heirs and as such his daughters were heiresses, making them highly desirable and the wealthiest heiresses in Europe. Nonetheless, they were overlooked. Meanwhile, Warwick’s power eroded (echoing Richard, Duke of York’s situation in the 1450’s), causing him to become resentful of the Woodville’s meteoric rise. Therefore, Warwick rebelled. George, Duke of Clarence married Isabel Neville (against Edward’s command) in 1469 and Warwick and Clarence spread rumours of Edward’s *******y and his ‘evil advisors’ which only served to undermine him in the future, threatening his heirs. Edward’s capture following the Battle of Edgecote (1469), his escape and declaration that Clarence and Warwick were traitors, before heading to stop the Lincolnshire rebellion (1470) and then being forced to abdicate in favour of King Henry VI plunged England into uncertainty and destroyed all that he had worked to create. Instability reigned once more.
However, the Woodville marriage could be argued to have promoted stability. Edward knew Elizabeth to be fertile as she was a widow with two sons. He had observed the instability caused by Margaret of Anjou’s struggle to conceive. As a result, their children were utilised to draw allies lost by Edward’s marriage and opened up more possibilities. Elizabeth of York was footed as a potential marriage partner for the dauphin as part of the Treaty of Picquiny in 1475, bringing stability and economic gain as opposed to was and poor finances. Cecily, their second surviving daughter, was used as a bargaining tool for a potential alliance with Scotland in 1473. Other members of the Woodville family, such as Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers, remained loyal even after Edward IV’s death, demonstrating the worth of such a large family in aiding stability.
Indeed, Edward’s foreign policy ventures were useful in bringing about stability. Although foreign policy had been a source of contention in Edward’s fist reign, the choice to ally with Burgundy over Warwick’s preference of France had made it possible for Edward to return in 1471. However, had Edward not humiliated Warwick in and side-lined his views this may not have been necessary and the Lancastrian threat would have been decimated further, perhaps never to return. France may have been the more prudent option in bringing peace between the rival nations and would have helped to neutralise the threat from Scotland by having a shared ally. On the other hand, England had been at war with France for over 100 years and an alliance may have been unworkable. Burgundy was also an excellent trading partner, crucial in selling woollen cloth. This was the most important factor in the English economy, and maintaining trade links was important in bringing stability to England.
Although maintaining the economy was important, the most important factor in maintaining stability in the years of Edward’s reign was the destruction of the House of Lancaster (1471). The Battle of Tewkesbury led to the death of Prince Edward. Shortly afterward, King Henry VI was killed. As a result, Edward had an unrivalled claim to the throne. The disruptive power of Margaret of Anjou was destroyed, and the potential disruption from the House of York was no longer valid- they had achieved their aim. Therefore, Edward had firmly established stability in his second reign.
However, Edward allowed George, Duke of Clarence (Clarence) power- something that he was eager to exploit. Despite Edward arranging Anne Neville’s marriage to Richard, Duke of Gloucester (thus halving the Warwick inheritance) Clarence continued to try and gain power, suggesting a marriage to Mary the Rich in 1477. This was refused. However, Clarence continued to rebel and in 1478 was executed for treason. Nonetheless, Edward’s decision to allow Clarence to reach that stage threatened the stability of England.Although Edward could be accused of treating Clarence with too much forgiveness, it is evident that he did not trust him. He was given Warwick castle and lands in that area, whereas Gloucester was given ands in the north, demonstrating Edward’s comparative trust Indeed, Edward used those whom he trusted to create a web of power throughout England. The Grey brothers were stationed in the south west, Anthony Woodville in Wales, Gloucester in the north and various others. This allowed him to be aware of happenings throughout England. The Croyland Chronicle states that Edward placed ‘the most trustworthy of his servants throughout all parts of the kingdom. The word ‘trustworthy’ is key; Edward exercised a web of control, in which he could rely upon all those connections to him. This encouraged stability as Edward could comprehend events throughout England and act accordingly.
However, this stability was threatened by Edward’s attempts to further the interests of his heir. He betrothed Anne Mowbray to his son Richard, disinheriting all other Mowbray heirs- picking up enemies in the process. Also, in acquiring lands in Wales for Edward, Prince of Wales, he displaced Sir William Herbert. Whilst rewarding him with other lands, Herbert could not muster supposert for Edward V following Edward IV’s death as he was unknown and therefore distrusted. As a result, Edward, whilst looking to the future, discounted the other effects of his actions.
Having considered as selection of the evidence available, it is possible to come to a conclusion. As detailed in my introduction, Edward made huge leaps forward in bringing stability to the governance of England. This is particularly prominent in an examination of his second reign, in which he improved the application of the law through his ‘web’ of power, furthered diplomacy through betrothals and subsequent alliances and improved the economy- overall, leading to a stable governance in England. However, as single action during his first reign compromised his achievements: the Woodville marriage. Although the heirs were of use in alliances, its secrecy ultimately led to his son’s disappearance as their legitimacy was called into question. As a result, through the years 1461-83, Edward greatly improved stability. Yet beyond the years 1461-83, his actions called this stability to crumble as weak spots were uncovered, creating an issue in answering a question over this timespan. Though King Edward eventually achieved a sense of stability, it was fragile and able to unravel. Therefore, Edward greatly improve stability but compromised its endurance.