Sunday, December 25, 2011

Consolidating Power

On 16 February, Richard III sent Fauconberg to capture Oxford and Edmund Beaufort, who were last known to be in Stamford.  The King and the Nevilles disbanded the majority of their armies after paying them on top of the booty they had taken from the Beaufort encampment, however the King made it clear than any sacking or terrorizing of the population would result in the forfeiting of their liberty, if not their lives.  Richard III accompanied by Salisbury, Warwick, a chained and heavily guarded Duke of Somerset with a small army in tow headed for London.  The Royal procession took its time during which Richard III sent word to his wife in Gloucester to come to London with the rest of their family and sent word to his sons, Norfolk, and Bourchier in London to prepare for his return.  During the march south, Richard III was greeted in every town by throngs of commoners.  Meanwhile, Fauconberg had persuaded Oxford and young Edmund Beaufort to Norwich, but before he arrived the two had boarded a ship bond for Scotland. On 23 February, Richard III and the Nevilles were greeted by the Princes Edward and Edmund, Norfolk, Bourchier, and the Lord Mayor of London outside the capital before entering the city to thunderous cheers from the citizens.  The Duke of Somerset was escorted to the Tower while the rest of the procession made its way to Westminster Abbey to hold a celebratory mass.

On 1 March, Richard III called Parliament for the beginning of April and announced that his coronation would take place by the end of May.  The King also dismissed a large percentage of his remaining army that had accompanied him from Bosworth, but those not dismissed were to help keep the peace in London for the beginning of Parliament and for the coronation.  Richard III went about forming his own Great Council to help him rule the realm.  The King appointed Salisbury the Lord Chancellor, Norfolk was confirmed to his hereditary position of Earl Marshal, Warwick was appointed the Captain of Calais, Bourchier was named Lord High Treasurer, the Earl of Devon was named Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, and Baron Cobham was given the position of Lord Great Chamberlain due to the face that it’s hereditary holder Oxford was to be attained.  Of the other Great Offices of the Realm, Richard III retained from Henry VI’s council the Duke of Buckingham as Lord High Constable as an olive branch to those that had remained neutral through the succession crisis, Buckingham being the most powerful, and kept his son-in-law the Earl of Exeter as Lord High Admiral so as not to create a scandal upon his eldest daughter. As of yet, Buckingham and Exeter had not arrived in London.

Of the many topics taken up by Richard III and the Council, the first concern of the King was the succession.  While the King had four sons, Richard III reminded the Council that Henry IV had come to the throne with four sons as well but they had produced only one grandson among them, the late Henry VI.  The several foreign merchants were inquired upon for the eligibility of foreign princesses; they soon arrived at a consensus upon Joan of Portugal whom the King himself believed would help his dynasty counterarguments from those that would still support the Beauforts and their like.  The King sent a delegation led by the Bishop of London and the Earl of Worchester to inquire of Afonso V about the hand of his sister.  Richard III and the council then took up the question of the Scottish capture of Berwick and the siege of Roxburgh Castle.  The King and the Council agreed that after the succession crisis that the realm needed to be stabilized before Richard again rode off to battle, in the meantime the King appointed Fauconberg, recently arrived in London after his unsuccessful pursuit of Oxford, as Lieutenant of the North and charged him to relieve Roxburgh and if practicable retake Berwick.

Several times after his arrival in London, Richard III had called upon Margaret of Anjou.  The Queen dowager was still in sanctuary at Westminster Abbey and refused to see the King, under the belief that he might have had a hand in her husband’s death and the stillbirth of her child.  Her Tudor brothers-in-law finally prevailed upon her to receive the King.  In the presence of Edmund Kyrton, the Abbot of Westminster, Richard III vowed to Margaret that she would be provided lands and income if she were to remain in England as if she was his sister or if she were to leave the country she would be provided a large dowry so that she could live comfortably as she saw fit.  By all indications Margaret was courteous to the King and the meeting between the two was without incident, though after the meeting Richard III ordered discrete inquires to be made of worthy candidates of marriage for Margaret on the Continent.

Meanwhile Cardinal Kempe, the Archbishop of Canterbury, having supported the Duke of Somerset wouldn’t reconcile himself with the new King.  The Archbishop had tried to reclaim his Cathedral only for the townspeople to chase him from it, he sent out numerous excommunications to any cleric that gave ‘the traitorous York’ the mass or attempted to crown him King.  Cardinal Kempe had also sent a letter to Rome to gain support for the House of Beaufort, filling it with vastly exaggerated or inaccurate accounts of the conduct of Richard III’s campaign.  Several nobles and clergymen attempted to persuade the Archbishop to be reconciled, but were rebuffed with the threat of excommunication.  On 22 March, Kempe suddenly fell from his horse and died while on the road to Dover.  When news of the Archbishop’s death reached him, Richard III appointed Thomas Bourchier, the Bishop of Ely, who had been one of the first to support him in the clergy and brother of Viscount Bourchier, the King’s brother-in-law, to act as Archbishop of Canterbury until confirmed by the Pope.  The King ordered the Bishop to collected Cardinal Kempe’s body and to ensure he was given a proper burial before taking up his new seat.  The King sent a letter to Pope Nicholas V detailing events since the death of Henry VI in September, including the nomination Thomas Bourchier as Archbishop.

During the last week of March 1454, magnates and nobles arrived in London for the beginning of the new Parliament and the coronation but for the King the most important arrivals were that of his wife, Cicely, and the rest of his children.  Richard III had prepared Baynard’s Castle for his family’s residence after the Earl of Richmond had relinquished it back to the Crown after the King’s return from Bosworth.  For the time being the King and his two eldest sons would continue to reside at Westminster.  The most important arrival after that of his family for the King was of Humphrey Stafford, the 1st Duke of Buckingham, along with his son, another Humphrey, the Earl of Stafford, who was joined by clearly pregnant his wife, Margaret Beaufort daughter of the Duke of Somerset.  The Countess of Stafford’s condition made many joke that the younger Humphrey Stafford had made love and not war during the previous winter.  Richard III received Buckingham at Baynard’s Castle and invited him to take his place on the council as Lord High Constable, which the Duke accepted.  The King also received Henry Holland, the Duke Exeter, and his eldest daughter Anne of York at Baynard’s Castle. The King invited his son-in-law to reassume his position of Lord High Admiral on the Council so as not to embarrass his eldest daughter, but due to Exeter’s seemingly scandalous absence from the battlefield in support of his father-in-law he was relieved of his position as Constable of the Tower of London.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Early in the morning of 15 February preparations for the come battle began in both camps. The center of the Beaufort forces were under the personal command of the Duke of Somerset, the right flank was under commanded of Somerset’s heir Henry Beaufort, and the left flank was put under the command of Oxford. Across the field on the Yorkist army were divided in two, the Nevilles on the left and Richard III on the right. The Neville force was further divided with Warwick commanding the left flank that included all the men who had fought at Nottingham, Salisbury commanding the center, and Fauconberg commanding the right flank. The King’s force was also divided into three segments with Richard III commanding of the center with Cobham leading the left flank and Devon the right. Frost was still on the ground as the commanders assembled their ranks and peered across the fields outside Bosworth to the other side, save Warwick and the Neville left that seemed to be slow to take their position.

The Battle of Bosworth began when Oxford led the Beaufort left against the far right flank of the Yorkist host lead by Devon, but then Warwick and his men appeared behind the Beaufort army. In a risky maneuver, Warwick and his men had risen and assembled early before circling around their opponents’ right flank in a forced march that positioned them in-between center and right flank of the Beaufort army. The surprise rear assault caused mass confusion in the Beaufort army that Salisbury and Fauconberg quickly took advantage of as they attacked the isolated right flank of the Beaufort army. Richard III ordered Cobham to engage Somerset’s center before leading the center of his army to cut off the attacking left flank of the Beauforts. The confused and cut off Beaufort right flank quickly collapsed in the face of the Neville brothers’ assault and the fleeing troops escaped in the only direction they could find, right towards the center of Beaufort army. The Beaufort center had already engaged Cobham’s attack while fending off Warwick in the rear when their fleeing comrades raced into their ranks with Salisbury and Fauconberg’s men chasing after them. Somerset ordered a retreat and attempted to move whatever he could closer to Oxford’s forces, he found his way suddenly blocked by Richard III and his men not having yet engaged the attacking Oxford. The Beaufort army completely disintegrated as men ran for their lives or surrendered wholesale. Henry Beaufort had been killed when his men collapsed in face of the assault of Salisbury & Fauconberg while the Duke of Somerset was injured as he attempted to escape and was captured by Warwick himself. Oxford, having done the best he could, retreated towards Stamford.

By early in the afternoon the Battle of Bosworth was a complete Yorkist victory as the Beaufort forces were either dead, fled, or captured. Warwick presented the wounded Somerset, under heavy guard, to Richard III. The King ordered his rival to be put in chains and his wound given attention so that he could not escape justice for the crime of treason. Richard III then pardoned all the commoners that had fought for Somerset and commanded that the decree should be read in every church so that none should fear for his life then allowed those captured to return home, but with the warning that if they committed any crimes on their return home their lives would be forfeit for committing treason. As for the knights and nobles that had been taken captive, Richard III kept them prisoner so that they could be judged after his coronation. The King then allowed his army the right to take booty from the Beaufort camp. After the formalities of victory, Richard III retired to his tent with his commanders and ate a celebratory meal.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rendezvous with Destiny

After the Battle of Nottingham, the Beaufort forces remained in the city as they stared down the Nevilles in Newark. There were minor clashes between small groups of soldiers from both forces over the next two weeks but a major confrontation couldn’t happen because of the weather. In and around London, Richard III and his supporters had been increasing their forces to combat Somerset while also securing their hold on government. Meanwhile King James II of Scotland had been watching the movements of the English factions and in late January sent a small army over the border to captured Berwick while laying siege to Roxburgh Castle. Then in early February, Richard III headed for Dunstable where an army of nearly 20,000 men had assembled leaving his sons the now proclaimed Princes Edward and Edmund in London, which was under the command of Norfolk and Richard’s brother-in-law Bourchier. Richard left the nobles with orders that if he were to die to immediately crown Edward as the new King with the two men as co-Regents. The Yorkist army then headed northward to engage the Beauforts. However in amassing such a large force, the news had reached Somerset in Nottingham giving him an advantage on where to choose to fight, if he moved quickly.

On 7 February, the nearly 10,000 strong army led by Somerset headed south to Stamford where it was joined by a force led by the Oxford swelling its number to nearly 13,500. On 9 February, the Richard III’s army arrived at Northampton to learn that Somerset was headed for Coventry by way of Leicester. On 12 February, the Neville army marched into northern Leicestershire and headed towards a rendezvous with Richard III in the western part of the county hoping to intercept Somerset. On the afternoon of 14 February, units of all three armies arrived around the small town of Bosworth during the rest of the day the small village swelled to a city with the arrival of a combined 49,000 armed men from both sides, with Richard III outnumbering Somerset roughly 5-to-2.

As night fell, Somerset decided that he would engage Richard’s larger army as early the next day as possible for the element of surprise and in the ensuing chaos either get the victory or give himself time to retreat to fight on more favorable terms against either one of the Yorkist armies. However, Oxford tried to persuade him to attack and defeat the Neville army then retreat before the larger army of Richard could engage them. The self-styled Edmund I decided against Oxford’s plan as it could have been seen as if he was frightened of Richard. Meanwhile in the Yorkist camp, the King held a council of war with his senior commanders and the consensus was for the Nevilles to attack Somerset’s right while the King attacked Somerset’s left. Warwick in particular was vocal in this and many believed he had something up his sleeve in response to the humiliating propaganda that the Beauforts had put out against him. After the council, Salisbury and Fauconberg told the King they would do their best to ensure Warwick wouldn’t do anything reckless.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Political and Martial Victories

On 21 December, the Yorkist army led by Norfolk and Devon arrived at Eton making Oxford very nervous as he remained at a stalemate with the forces of Cobham outside London. A week later in Canterbury, the Duke of York and Edward arrive with their 5,000 man force to cheers and shouts from the townspeople. York and March went to the cathedral and worshipped at the shrine of Thomas a Becket. When the news reached Cardinal Kempe in Barnet he excommunicated the priests that had given York and his son the mass, however the propaganda value that York received from this action was invaluable and increased the view of the commoners that he was the rightful King. The next day, York and March then headed from Canterbury towards London linking up with the forces of Cobham by nightfall. Upon hearing the news of York’s advance from Canterbury, Oxford retreated from south of London to Barnet where Somerset’s younger son, Edmund Beaufort, was staying with a small force.

On 30 December, Edmund, Norfolk, and Devon joined up with York, Edward, and Cobham outside London. The Yorkist army was welcomed into London, securing the Tower and the city. Late in the afternoon the Duke of York entered the City of London before heading for Westminster Hall where he sat upon the throne and was formally proclaimed Richard III by those present. The Yorkist control of London, Canterbury, and southern England combined with the York-supporting Nevilles domination of the North made the proclamation very near reality. However, when Somerset heard the news he attained all those that followed the ‘false king Richard,’ before continuing his march northwards on the road to Chester.

As 1454 began, Richard III took control of the government bureaucracy in London while sending his forces to the cities of Barnet, St. Alban’s, and Oxford to clear them of Beaufort loyalists. The Earl of Oxford and Edmund Beaufort escaped from Barnet with their forces to Norwich. In the north, the Nevilles had been gathering forces for Richard and with Somerset so close it was decided by Salisbury, Warwick, and Fauconberg to march south. The three men each took a third of their total force and started on different routes southward, hoping to lure Somerset towards a fight. By that time Somerset was leaving Chester and turned eastward and the city of York.

On 16 January, outside Nottingham the forces under Warwick confronted a part of the Beaufort army and fighting quickly ensued. Warwick’s smaller force held its own the entire day as his father and uncle raced to reinforce him, however the winter weather was hampering everyone. Unfortunately, the entire Beaufort army was closer and Warwick found his force at a numerical disadvantage even though they were controlling the field. The young Neville sent a small charge to push the Beaufort army back to allow the rest of his force to disengage from the field and head towards Newark where he linked up with his father and uncle. The Battle of Nottingham was a draw with Warwick gaining a tactical victory by preserving his force to fight another day while inflicting heavy losses to the enemy in both actual numbers and proportion of the total force killed, however it was a strategic victory for Somerset in forcing Warwick from the field and stopping the overall Neville advance. And according to the Beaufort propaganda it was a major defeat for Warwick, who was portrayed as a coward running from the battlefield. That humiliation would have major ramifications weeks later.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Contenders Take the Field

The succession crisis had lasted for nearly four months without any resolution between York and Beaufort with the only battles occurring between their supporters. But on 10 December 1453 one of the contenders finally took the field, the Duke of York along with Edward, the Earl of March, and Edmund, Earl of Rutland, led a force from Tewkesbury of 12,500 strong supported by Norfolk and Bourchier. The Yorkist army headed south towards Bradford-on-Avon where Ormond was maneuvering his nearly 3,000 strong force opposite Devon’s comparable force in southern Gloucester. On 13 December, Devon joined with York in northern Wiltshire and the nearly 15,000 strong forced headed to Swindon.

On 14 December, the Earl of Ormond came upon a column of the Yorkist army outside of Swindon and attacked it believing it to be just Devon’s force only to found himself facing a host that vastly outnumber his own. The battle was over in 90 minutes and those among Ormond’s force not dead either fled back to their homes or were captured. The Battle of Swindon gave York a victory, but considering that he almost outnumbered the Beaufort supporters nearly 5-to-1, it wasn’t a major one. However, Yorkist propaganda went into effect and the news was spread that the styled Richard III defeated a supporter of the usurper Somerset but graciously forgave the commoners and sent them home. After the battle, York presented his son Edward to the contingent of Cornish soldiers that Devon had recruited. Edward was then proclaimed the Duke of Cornwall, a title usually assumed by the king’s eldest son, and put him in command of the soldiers, if only nominally.

After Swindon, Ormond escaped to Southampton where he boarded a ship that took him to his estates in Ireland. The Duke of York with his eldest son followed with about 5000 men after Ormond but arrived too late to capture him. The two then started along the coast securing the port cities for the Yorkist cause, but didn’t seem to be heading towards London, which seemed odd. But a near 10,000 man army nominally led by Edmund, but with the Norfolk and Devon in actual command, headed towards London. The split of the Yorkists seemed very strange, especially with York commanding the smaller force that wasn’t heading to London.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Somerset had set off from Barnet to St. Alban’s on 12 December then headed up towards Olney then Northampton with an army of around 10,000 men sporting badges and banners with a large red rose prominently displayed. Somerset’s strategy had been to lure York out of Tewkesbury; however when news reached him of the Battle of Swindon and then the split in the Yorkist army it made him pause in Northampton for several days. The Beaufort commanders were divided with some suggesting that they go after the force led by Norfolk and Devon while others thought they should gain control of the Midlands since York seemed to have northern and southern England virtually in his control, this plan would including capturing York’s lands in the west of England and in Wales. Somerset decided to embarrass York by raiding his land, even perhaps capturing his family, and proceeded towards Ludlow via Coventry. Upon his arrival at York’s seat at Ludlow, Somerset discovered that York’s wife, younger sons, and daughters weren’t there. It turned out that York had sent his family to the city of Gloucester where they could escape to safety if the advance of Beaufort forces made it necessary. After letting his army sack Ludlow, Somerset then headed northward towards Shrewsbury.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Bloodshed Begins

On 14 November 1453, the first battle in the first of a series of conflicts that would be known as the Wars of the Roses within eyesight of the city of Durham. The Nevilles and Percies renewed their feud, but now in support of two different claimants for the throne of England. The two forces numbered around 3000 each and fought to a stalemate throughout the day, neither side able to get the upper hand. Then in the afternoon, Fauconberg with a force of around 500 arrived from the north behind the Percy positions. The sudden appearance of an enemy force to their rear sent the Percy troops into disarray. While trying to maneuver his forces to counter the rear attack, the Earl of Northumberland was struck down and not long afterwards his forces broke, fleeing the field and dispersing throughout the north. The Bishop of Durham then opened the city gates and welcomed his brothers Salisbury and Fauconberg while Warwick took some men and rushed south to Middleham to continue recruiting a force to secure the north for Yorkist cause. The news surrounding the events outside Durham quickly spread throughout England, soon there was new of other battles circulating around the country.

In late November, Baron Cobham raised a force from Kent and headed for London in the name of York only to meet a force led by the Earl of Oxford from Barnet resulting in a battled just south of London resulting in a standstill. A small force of London citizenry tried to help Cobham, but as they exited the city Oxford tried to storm the city through the opened gate. Oxford was pushed back and then had to retreat when Cobham attacked from behind, though did prevent the Kentish force from linking up with the residents of London, who retreated back behind their gates. In the southwest, the Earl of Devon had raised a force from Cornwall and Devonshire then led them across the county of Somerset and entered county Wiltshire. On 3 December 1453, the Earl of Ormond having gathered a force from Wiltshire in support of Somerset defeated Devon’s forces at Bradfort-on-Avon. However, bad weather the next day prevented Ormond from following up the victory and Devon retreated into southern Gloucestershire.

As Christmas Day drew closer, the succession crisis had turned into a civil war but neither claimant had personally taken the field in their own cause. The House of York had the victory at Durham while the House of Beaufort had the victory at Bradford-on-Avon to counter it. Both forces of York and Beaufort were at a stalemate outside London with men starting to raid areas around London to gain provisions. The reason both Somerset and York had yet to take the field was because they were actively trying to gain the support of the church and its blessing, however while some clergy choose sides others took the stance of the Bishop of London and supported neither. Soon both men decided it was time to take the field and after having personally gathering armies were about to take to the fields of England to win undisputed control of the throne.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Crisis Deepens

With two men proclaiming themselves his successor, Henry VI’s mortal remains arrived in London on 1 September 1453 with his half-brothers and his grieving wife leading the precession. His body lay in state at Fulham Palace that night then the next day proceeded to Westminster Abbey for his funeral and burial. Thomas Kempe, Bishop of London, presided and all in attendance waited during the eulogy to whom Bishop Kempe declared to be Henry VI’s successor. The bishop was the nephew of John Kempe, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and staunch supporter of the court party. The Archbishop Kempe, a politician first and hardly a bishop, had answered Somerset’s summon to Barnet and openly supported his claim to the throne. The Bishop of London, however was smart enough to know the city of which he presided over and wanted to keep his life, thus he pronounced neither Somerset or York as King during the eulogy. Henry VI was interred next to his favorite saint, Edward the Confessor, and London remained at peace for the moment.

Throughout September and into October, the two claimants demanded the other submit to them and by the end of the month had attained the other. Some nobles and magnates started to align themselves with either the House of York or House of Beaufort, by person or proclaiming it in nearest cathedral. The court party quickly supported Somerset, the two most prominent were the Earls of Oxford, John de Vere, and Ormond & Wiltshire, James Butler, and with them most of the bureaucracy of the Kingdom was at Somerset’s quick disposal. After Norfolk’s public support, York was soon joined by the Earl of Devon and Baron Cobham who had joined him in his 1452 campaign for reform as well as his brother-in-law, Viscount Bourchier, at Tewkesbury. Then news that Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, and his son the Earl of Warwick, also named Richard, had proclaimed their support of York quickly sent their rivals in the North, the Percy clan headed by the Earl of Northumberland, over to support Somerset.

While others were putting their support behind either claimant, in hopes of power and influence, some nobles and magnates couldn’t make up their minds. An interesting case was Henry Holland, the Duke of Exeter, who was a descendant of John of Gaunt and possible claimant to the throne but also married to York’s oldest daughter. Exeter was strangely silent and noncommittal to the annoyance of his wife. Henry VI’s half-brothers, Edmund and Jasper Tudor, stayed in London with their sister-in-law Margaret, who had gone into sanctuary in Westminster Abbey feeling her life threatened in London. But the biggest seemingly neutral magnate was Humphrey Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham. A descendant of Edward III, Buckingham liked neither claimant and remained in his castle however he had learned that his son, the Earl of Stafford was going to go to Barnet to support Somerset. But after the Nevilles had joined York, Buckingham believed Somerset needed a miracle and stopped his son by holding him as a virtual prisoner until an undisputed King was acknowledged.

As the succession crisis continued into November all of England, both noble and common alike, could feel that a war was coming as neither claimant was backing down. It was only a matter of time when fighting would begin, even if it was winter. Then William Neville, Baron Fauconberg, sent word to his brother and nephew that the Earl of Northumberland had gathered a force and was marching south from Alnwick towards the city of York. The Earls of Salisbury and Warwick were both in Middleham gathering soldiers for the Yorkist cause when they received Fauconberg’s message and quickly marched north to meet the Percies. The two forces raced toward the city of Durham, though the Percies arrived first it was only an hour before the Nevilles did so as well, however it was just before night fell on 13 November and the two forces camped outside the city which had been barred by Robert Neville, the bishop of Durham, brother and uncle to the commanders of the Neville forces. For all in and around Durham that night, it was a night of unease.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Historical Background to the Claims

The House of Beaufort’s claim to the throne is based on their direct male line descent from John of Gaunt, the 3rd son of Edward III; however the taint of illegitimacy haunted their cause. The Beaufort’s were descended from John Beaufort, son of John of Gaunt and his third wife Katherine Swynford, but John and his siblings had all been born before the couple were married. Richard II and an Act of Parliament formally legitimized the Beaufort children, however their half-brother Henry IV issued a proclamation that barred the Beauforts from the succession but without an Act of Parliament making its lawfulness questionable. Nevertheless, Edmund Beaufort saw it has his right to succeed Henry VI since like Henry IV before because he was the senior direct male descendant of Edward III and no one could argue the point.

The House of York’s claim to the throne was also based on descent from Edward III as well, but twice over. The Dukes of York were direct male descendants of Edward III through his 4th son, Edmund of Langley and first Duke of York, and unlike the Beaufort claim to direct lineage, the House of York did not have the taint of illegitimacy hanging over their family. But to Richard Plantagenet what gave him the right to the throne was that he was a descended from Edward III’s 2nd son, Lionel of Antwrep. Lionel only had one surviving child, Philippa of Clarence, the 5th Countess of Ulster, who married Edmund Mortimer, the 3rd Earl of March. During her lifetime, Philippa was the heir presumptive to her cousin Richard II and upon her death that right passed to her son Roger Mortimer, the 4th Earl of March. When Roger Mortimer died in July 1398, he left four children including two sons the oldest of which was his namesake the six-year old Roger who inherited his grandmother’s position of heir presumptive. When Richard II “resigned” the throne in 1399, the seven-year old Roger Mortimer’s right was pushed aside in favor of Henry of Bolingbroke who became Henry IV and began the House of Lancaster. The 5th Earl of March lived until 1425 but left no surviving issue and since his younger brother had died young, the Mortimer rights to the throne were passed to Richard Plantagenet, the son of his older sister Anne Mortimer. As the House of Plantagenet inherited the throne through Matilda, the daughter of Henry I of England, who’s right to rule had been usurped by King Stephen but was reestablished by her son the first Plantagenet King of England, Henry II.

Because of the events of 1399 and Richard II’s “resignation,” both the House of Beaufort and the House of York seemed to have clear claims to the Crown. The Beauforts held the agnatic claim while the Yorkists were the legitimist claim, while today the claim of the House of York would be paramount in law back in 1453 it was still an open question. And like many other legal arguments of so high importance back then, the issue would need to be decided not in Parliament or the court room but the battlefield.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Two Men Claim One Crown

Even while Henry’s body was still warm, the Duke of Somerset with the court party accompanying him left Clarendon racing towards London 75 miles away. Upon the King’s death, they had sent a messenger to the capital with the news of Henry’s death and that Somerset had been “acknowledged” by the late King on his death bed. Unbeknownst to Somerset and the other members of the court party, John Mowbray, the Duke of Norfolk, had himself sent a messenger to London as well but in his is message was to proclaim the Duke of York as the rightful King of England. The Duke of Norfolk with his retinue raced north from Clarendon to Ludlow.

On 24 August 1453, London erupted into chaos when the news of Henry VI's death was proclaimed and only grew when two men were proclaimed as the late King’s successor. The populace separated into rival camps supporting each claimant, however Somerset's supports found themselves vastly outnumbered and escaped the city towards Windsor. When Somerset arrived in Windsor, he made his first public pronouncement of his claim to the Crown as ‘Edmund the First, King of England’ and was given allegiance by this London supports and was informed of the proclamation of York as King as well as London’s reaction to the situation. Undaunted, Somerset continued to London and demanded the capital submit to him, however the Lord Mayor and the council barred him from the city. Frustrated Somerset went to Barnet on 27 August 1453 and called all loyal subjects to the House of Beaufort meet him there.

On 22 August 1453, York and Norfolk met one another in Tewkesbury. In front of the city officials, Norfolk publicly proclaimed and pledge allegiance to 'Richard the Third, King of England.' Messengers were then sent to all corners of the England as York called on all subjects to meet him there or to send their pledges of loyalty. Soon the news of Henry VI's death spread across the whole of England and quickly on its heels were as the summons by two men claiming to be the rightful King of England.

Meanwhile the body of Henry VI and the grieving Margaret of Anjou had been virtually abandoned at Clarendon. The late King's half-brothers, Edmund and Jasper Tudor led the funeral procession with the grieving Margaret a few days after the court party had raced for London. As the funeral procession carrying the late King’s body was slowly making its way towards London, the country started to divide in-between those that supported the House of Beaufort and those that supported the House of York.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Final Days of the House of Lancaster

The night of 15 August 1453 was thought to be like any other for those in attendance of King Henry VI of England. The King and his inner circle court were in the royal hunting lodge at Clarendon, near Salisbury in Wiltshire where Henry had learned of the shocking news of the defeat of Castillon and the defeat of the Earl of Shrewsbury, John Talbot. The King had been feeling unwell since the early days of the month and it seemed to grow worse upon the news of Castillon. That night the King complained that he felt unnaturally sleepy at dinner before standing to announced he was retiring for the night but asked his guests not end their revelry on his account. As the King exited the dining hall, his body started to spasm out of control and suddenly he fell forward and struck his head on a corner of a wooden table with a loud crack. The room erupted as noblemen, attendants, and most importantly the Queen rushed to check on the King. Henry VI lay on the floor unconscious with a large bruise swelling on a portion of his forehead.

Queen Margaret of Anjou, seven months pregnant, had to be restrained by several of the men as the King was taken to his bedchamber and physicians administered to him. The excitement resulted in Margaret going into labor the next day as Henry remained unconscious, the male child was stillborn and the Queen was beside herself in grief. The King’s condition and the death of his would-be heir was the source of much debate and consternation within high noblemen of Henry’s inner circle as they looked to the future especially concerning themselves. The chief amongst these noblemen was Edmund Beaufort, the Duke of Somerset, the King’s right hand man and those close to him in the so-called “court faction.”

The Duke of Somerset was one of two heir presumptive to the throne in the event of the King leaving no living heir and attempted to keep the events occurring at Clarendon as secret as possible. However, other individuals in Henry’s court had looked towards the future of the realm and had been secretly sending news northwards to Ludlow Castle situated along the Welsh border. The castle was the residence of Richard Plantagenet, the 3rd Duke of York, the powerful magnate in England whose claim to the throne was better than even Henry VI had and who was the greatest opponent to Somerset’s “court faction.” As the news grew ever worse, York resolved to head south and with a large retinue headed for the royal lodge.

In the early morning of 21 August 1453, Henry VI of England passed away thus ending his 30 year and 355 day reign upon the throne. The King had been the last descendant, and only legitimate grandchild, of Henry IV who had founded the House of Lancaster when he had forced his cousin Richard II to abdicate in 1399. Thus Henry VI’s death not only represented an end to the 54-year reign of the House of Lancaster upon the throne, but also it’s complete extinction. And as a result the Crown lay on no man’s head.

Point of Divergence

The basic premise of this alternate history is that Henry VI suddenly dies when he has his first bout of mental incapacity in August 1453.

From the information I’ve gathered Henry’s illness is described as ‘a disease and disorder of such a sort overcame the King that he lost his wits and memory for a time, and nearly all his body was so uncoordinated and out of control that he could neither walk nor hold his head up, nor easily move from where he sat.’ The sources I’ve read was that Henry was seemingly unwell beginning in early August and complained of feeling unnaturally sleepy on the 15th, the next day he was incapacitated.

With this information in mind the point of divergence (POD) from OTL is the night of 15 August 1453…


This blog will document an alternate history timeline concerning the England civil war/war of succession known to many as the Wars of the Roses. I started formulating this timeline in December 2009 and started posting my ideas, including a roundly criticized false start, at Alternate in the Before 1900 Discussion Board, I developed a 7-month timeline from August 1453 to February 1454 that I posted in from December 2009 to January 2010. However, I had designs for a long-term timeline and ever since the final post of my thread I’ve been researching and slowly outlining a longer timeline of my original idea.

In our timeline (OTL), the Wars of the Roses were a series of conflicts between the competing the Houses of Lancaster and York, which were cadet branches of the House of Plantagenet that had ruled England since 1152 when Henry II ascended to the throne following the death of King Stephen. The causes of the Wars of the Roses range from deposition of Richard II and accession of Henry IV, the loss of England’s conquests in France, and the general lawlessness and economic deterioration during the 1440s and early 1450s especially concerning the finances of the crown; but in my timeline the general cause will be crisis of succession following the death of a childless monarch.

The entries in this blog will concern this alternate timeline (TTL), biographies of individuals within the context of TTL, family histories within TTL, and from time-to-time have posts concerning things in OTL. This is also a long-term project, while my first several entries will be in quick since they’ve been completed for over a year, expect there to be long gaps between entries in the future. I hope you’ll enjoy and I hope to hear from you.