Faction and Politics at the Outbreak of the Wars of the Roses – Part 3

Part 3: Picking Sides

Today I’m continuing my sequence of short posts on the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses. Now I know that some folk suggest that the wars did not start in 1455 but earlier – or later, depending on who’s saying it. My contention would be that there were many factors, both long term and short term which led to the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses but what made a civil war of such magnitude possible at all was the emergence of two sides and the inability of those two sides to reconcile their differences without warfare. You can’t have a long-lasting war without two sides and it was not until 1455 that there were  two sides both willing and able to take action.

Whilst Henry VI was in full possession of his faculties and Richard, Duke of York was in disgrace, there was only one side: the court ‘party’ which was heavily influenced by Queen Margaret and Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset. York appeared to have neither the inclination nor the support to return to the centre of power but during 1453 several developments radically altered the political landscape.

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Faction and Politics for Dummies at the Outbreak of the Wars of the Roses – Part 

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Faction and Politics for Dummies at the Outbreak of the Wars of the Rose

Richard, Duke of York

In 1454, Richard Duke of York, the leading peer of the realm – was given the poisoned chalice: he was appointed Protector of the Realm in view of the continuing incapacity of King Henry VI. There had already been rivalry at the court before this but the elevation of York was a catalyst for mischief and rebellion on a grand scale. In a series of posts on this theme I set out to try to explain why?

Well first, I’m afraid, a little lesson in politics. I suppose it is stating the obvious to point out that in the monarchical system of government that existed throughout the middle ages the king had to actually rule. The monarch could not simply be a figurehead for government. The role of king in the fifteenth century was complex in some respects and yet essentially pretty simple: the king must provide a strong focus for government by setting the agenda and achieving his objectives by rewarding in particular those powerful subjects who were willing and able to help him. The best way to do so would be to harness the ambitions of the key nobles and use those men to achieve your aims: Henry V did exactly that – but he died young.

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All you thought you knew about the Wars of the Roses, but didn’t… Episode One: Henry VI: the mad king?

There are two commonly held beliefs about Henry VI: either he was a simpleton or he was mad – not a great choice really… and of course, neither charge is actually supported by the evidence.

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Reflections on Our Fascination with Vikings and What It Tells Us about How We Engage with the Past

911-Viking-invasion-of-Normandy

I have always been fascinated with the more distant past. The present or even recent past has never interested me much – just too familiar somehow. But late medieval western Europe holds a certain appeal, probably because it’s my history as an American of European descent; I feel it in my soul somehow. That time also has a unique, foreign quality to it that I can’t quite get my head around. As the saying goes, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there,” 1 and that intrigues me. And so it was that I embarked on a new project to teach a class on the Viking Age during the spring 2015 term at Portland Community College. Part of my interest stemmed from a trip to Norway, and having documented Scandinavian ancestry in both my parents’ families. Also, as a historian who specializes in medieval and early modern Europe, the Vikings are not entirely unfamiliar to me, but in the college survey courses I usually teach they barely get a glance before time constraints require me to move on to the next topic. Finally, however, it was the interest in the Vikings expressed time and time again by my students that became a compelling tipping point for me. The curiosity and mystique were just too hard to resist, and the class quickly filled with 28 students.

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260,000 digitized images of Jewish art and artifacts now online

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Don’t Be Snobs, Medievalists

Pui Yan Fong for The Chronicle Review

We medievalists have had a pretty good run in academe. We were admitted in the final third of the 19th century after we proved that our subject was complex (read: science-like) enough to warrant professionalized study. European nations’ desire for origins, to use the title phrase in Allen J. Frantzen’s influential book, helped expand the field into the second half of the 20th century. Even in America, although her very existence was predicated on leaving “old” Europe behind, academic work on various medieval heritages thrived to the point where every humanities department boasted at least one medieval specialist.

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