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.