Henry V was not supposed to die on August 31, 1422. Not when he was only his 30s, not when his son was less than a year old, and not when England was establishing a dual empire inclusive of France. The death itself was a national tragedy, one which would have had a huge impact on the health and viability of his successor’s reign regardless, but it was it was his final will and last-minute codicils that first drew the battle lines against which England found itself fighting for the next 60+ years.
Picking up where we left off on Tuesday, let’s move into 1453 and the events leading into the first half of the “Wars of the Roses.” For a broader analysis of this period, you can read an earlier piece on Henry VI’s mental health and the struggle for the regency here.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are back at it. For their first engagement post-summer holiday, they turned up for a performance of Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London. The evening was on behalf of Harry’s charity, Sentebale.
Among the highlights was an introduction to the musical’s creator and one-time star Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Two weeks ago we took a look at the assassination of William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, noting that his unpopularity was wrapped up in the humiliating losses in Normandy under the command of Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset. His death in March 1450 was swiftly followed by the first serious rebellion in Henry VI’s reign – that of a man under the moniker “Jack Cade,” who led an uprising that swept the countryside that summer. It was suppressed and its participants put to death, but an uneasy pallor settled over Henry’s court.
August 22nd marked the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth, one of the more pivotal moments in English history. To some, it’s remarkable for ending the “Wars of the Roses” (a debatable point), while to others it’s memorable for being the last time an English monarch lost their life on the battlefield and beginning the Tudor dynasty. So, let’s get into it.
Marguerite of Anjou, consort of Henry VI, dominates England’s history through the first half of the Wars of the Roses and ends abruptly in May 1471. The Battle of Tewkesbury that took place that month brought about the death of some of her greatest supporters, not least of whom was her beloved son, Prince Edward. The House of Lancaster was effectively destroyed – Henry VI was quietly put to death, loyalists fled abroad or pledged allegiance to the House of York and Edward IV reigned safely for the next 12 years.
Her husband and son dead, Marguerite had no further connection to England. Last mentions of her often note that she was held in the Tower of the London and then eventually returned to France, where she died 11 years later. And yet, while her utility to a nation’s history might have evaporated, she did in fact keep living. The last decade plus of her life is made of vaguer stuff than what we have been left from her years in power, but it is still illuminating.
After two weeks of radio silence since the Duke of Cambridge’s engagement in Amiens, Kensington Palace emerged from the depths of August to announce three new engagements for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Summer is officially coming to an end as the Royal Family – sans the Queen – returns to a full work docket.
The Wars of the Roses is traditionally recorded as beginning in 1455 with the First Battle of St Albans and ending in 1485 with the victory of Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth. But as with most civil wars, there are grey areas on either side that show the rise and fall of violence and political tension. With this particular war, the domino effect of events can take you back decades – Joan of Arc, the Treaty of Arras in 1435, the death of John, Duke of Bedford or the arrival of Marguerite of Anjou. None of these, in a vacuum, caused a civil war, but they were pivotal moments that drew the lines between our main opponents more firmly.
Today we’re going to look at once such moment: the assassination of William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk.
Joan of the Tower has a storybook-sounding name and her eventual status as queen consort of Scotland would indicate that she did fairly well for herself as a Medieval princess. Instead, Joan’s life was in keeping with many members of her immediate family – much promise and status, little reward.