1454: Absolute Power Corrupts


Let’s continue forward in our march towards the Wars of the Roses, picking up with 1454. You can catch up on the last two years here and here.


Henry VI is still unwell. Though the magnates make a final attempt to rouse him from his stupor, the Duke of York is making the most of his time in London and winning support from all sides to take over as regent. With him in the capital is his 11-year-old son, the Earl of March. York’s health, intelligence, experience and aggression, alongside an able-bodied heir, is a stark contrast to Henry and his infant son, who he is unable to even acknowledge as his own.

On January 19, Prince Edward is moved from Westminster to Windsor Castle. Queen Marguerite, now churched and able to rejoin court, attempts to block York’s power grab by launching her own bid for the regency. While she has supporters, she is also a woman, a foreigner and loathed by Londoners – it’s a steep hill to climb, even as Henry’s wife.

The atmosphere in London is tense and all the lords are armed with guards, if not full armies of retainers. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury orders that all male members of his household be issued weapons for protection.


Parliament meets and makes clear which lords decided to ignore summons so as to avoid violence or having to pick sides. They are fined for their absence.


Parliament formally names Prince Edward the Prince of Wales, despite Henry not acknowledging him. A week later, the Archbishop of Canterbury, a faithful supporter of Marguerite, dies. Now, finding a regent is urgent.

Five days later, York is appointed regent by the Lords. His first act is to remove the Duke of Somerset from power. He is arrested from Marguerite’s chambers, but the Queen is unable to stop it.


On April 3, York is formally named Protector. He affirms his loyalty to King Henry and signs the necessary deed. A week later he appoints his brother-in-law, Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, as chancellor.

His next step is to remove Marguerite from London. She is sent to Windsor on the grounds that her appropriate place is caring for her ailing husband and infant son. Once there, she is under glorified house arrest.


York travels north to help resolve ongoing feuding between the Neville and Percy families.


York orders Council to draw up ordinances for the reduction of the royal households on the grounds that he is cutting costs. Indeed, Marguerite did maintain an extravagant household, however she is furious when she is reduced to 120 people and Prince Edward to only 38.

On the 28th, York names himself Captain of Calais, thus allowing him to control the English Channel. He is also once again made Lieutenant of Ireland, however he sends a deputy in his place.


On Christmas Day, Henry suddenly recovers. As soon as he is able to speak, he orders a mass of thanksgiving in St George’s Chapel. Two days later, he orders his almoner to ride to Canterbury with an offering and his secretary is sent to the shrine of Saint Edward the Confessor.

And with that, we’ll pick back up in a few days with 1455.

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