BECK index

England of Henry IV, V, and VI 1399-1461

by Sanderson Beck

England under Henry IV 1399-1413
England under Henry V 1413-22
England under the Regency 1422-37
England under Henry VI 1437-53
England’s War of the Roses 1453-61

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England under Henry IV 1399-1413

England, Scotland, and Ireland 1250-1400

After the death of Duke John of Gaunt on February 3, 1399 King Richard II confiscated his property while his son and heir, Henry Bolingbroke of Lancaster, was in exile. When Richard II went to Ireland, Henry returned from France to Yorkshire in July to claim his inheritance. He gained support in the north. When Richard came back on July 28, his followers dwindled. Henry’s men seized Richard on August 19. As Steward of England Henry began issuing legal forms in the King’s name. Richard II signed his resignation on September 29, 1399. The next day a convention of notables assembled at Westminster Hall heard the grievances against Richard II and established a commission that quickly declared he was unfit to rule. Henry Bolingbroke claimed the throne based on his descent from Henry III through Edmund of Lancaster. He summoned the Parliament to meet on October 6.

Immediately judges and other governmental officials who had their offices terminated by the abdication had their commissions renewed. Arundel, the Archbishop of Canterbury, continued as chancellor but resigned on November 5 and was replaced by John Scarle. Henry’s companion John Norbury was made treasurer and handled the finances of the new government. Thomas Erpingham became chamberlain. Richard Clifford submitted to Henry and retained the privy seal. Henry made his second son Thomas Steward of England.

The first Parliament on October 6 was attended by 74 knights from 37 counties and 173 citizens and burgesses from 85 cities and boroughs. Arundel declared that Henry would be “counselled and governed” by the wise persons of the kingdom, would protect the liberty of the Holy Church, and would maintain the statutes and ordinances of his predecessors. Then they adjourned until October 14, the day after Henry was crowned. On that day John Doreward was appointed speaker to replace John Cheyne, who was suspected of Lollard opinions. The Parliament repealed all the laws passed under Richard II in 1397 and 1398 and the punishments authorized against Richard’s adversaries.

On October 15 King Henry IV’s oldest son Henry of Monmouth was declared Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, Earl of Chester, and heir apparent. The next day knights demanded that Richard’s evil counselors be arrested, and these included William Bagot, the dukes Edward of Albemarle, Thomas Holland of Surrey, and John Holland of Exeter, Marquis John Beaufort of Dorset, and Earl Thomas Despenser of Gloucester. On October 27 the new King informed Parliament that Richard had been condemned to perpetual imprisonment without a trial. The next day Richard was moved from the Tower, and he ended up at Pontefract. While the Percies and Westmorland, who guarded the northern border, were in London for the Parliament, the Scots invaded Northumberland, pillaged Wark castle, and ransomed Thomas Grey. On November 19 political amnesty was declared, and Parliament was dissolved.

The demoted dukes of Kent, Rutland, Huntingdon, and Salisbury met with Thomas Merke, the ex-bishop of Carlisle, and Richard’s partisans Thomas Blount and Benedict Cely at the home of Abbot William Colchester of Westminster. They plotted to attack the new King and his sons at a Windsor tournament. Henry IV learned of it on January 4, 1400 and withdrew to London with his sons. They arrived at Windsor with about 400 armed men a few hours after Henry and his family left. The King recruited an army that quickly grew to 20,000. The rebels proclaimed Richard king but were caught at Cirencester. Kent and Salisbury were beheaded on January 8. Despenser escaped but was lynched at Bristol. John Holland was turned over for revenge at Exeter. Eighty rebels were caught and tried before Henry IV at Oxford. Nearly thirty were executed including the knight Thomas Blount. Richard II may have starved himself to death, though tradition indicates he was killed at Pontefract in January or February.

King Robert III of Scotland wrote to Henry IV asking for a safe conduct, and Henry granted it on March 8, 1400. George Dunbar, Earl of the Scottish March, crossed the border and with Henry Percy raided the Lothians, but they were defeated by Douglas at Cockburnspath. Dunbar met at York with Henry IV, who rejected a treaty. In August the King of England urged Robert and the nobles of Scotland to do homage by August 23. On the 17th his army invaded Scotland and faced guerrilla warfare. The Scots declined to do homage, and Henry came back across the border on the 29th. A truce was made for six weeks on November 9.

The Eastern Emperor Manuel visited England in early 1401, and he was given £2,000 to relieve Constantinople from the Muslim threat. A Convocation on April 30, 1399 had charged William Sawtre with preaching Lollard heresy, and he recanted. He was also involved in secular disturbances, and after relapsing he was condemned to death on February 26, 1401. The Parliament passed in March a statute against heretics allowing bishops to fine or imprison after conviction; one could be fined for not turning in heretical writings within forty days; and a heretic who refused to abjure or relapsed was to be burned in a public place to make others afraid. Sawtre was then burned at Smithfield that month.

Dunbar and Henry Percy attacked Papple on March 3, 1401, and they burned the towns of Hailes, Trapkin, and East Markle. English envoys met the French between Calais and Boulogne on April 1, and they promised to return Richard II’s widow Isabel to her father Charles VI. Earl Thomas Percy of Worcester took her with an expensive escort and gave her to the French on July 31. Walter Sturmy led an embassy that tried to arrange a marriage between Henry IV’s oldest daughter Blanche and Ludwig, son of the new German king Ruprecht, and they were married on July 6, 1402. Henry’s second daughter Philippa in 1406 married Erik of Pomerania, the first king of the Kalmar Union that included Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

Meanwhile a peasants revolt in Wales led Owain Glyndwr (Owen Glendower) to proclaim himself Prince of Wales on September 16, 1400, and he promised to liberate the Welsh from English oppression. Most of the sheriffs in Anglesey, Caernarfon, Cardigan, Carmarthen, and Flint went over to Glyndwr. He and his men burned Ruthin two days later, and they plundered English settlements at Denbigh, Rhuddlan, Flint, Hawarden, and Holt; but on the 24th the English led by Hugh Burnell defeated them near Welshpool. Henry IV led his army into Wales in October, and many of the Welsh but none of the rebels made peace. His son Henry established his headquarters as prince of Wales in Chester.

In March 1401 Henry IV pardoned the rebels except for Glyndwr’s relatives. On Good Friday Rhys the Black of Erddreiniog and Gwilym ap Tudur ap Goronwy attacked Conway castle. In June Glyndwr won a victory over the English at Hyddgen, and he was welcomed in the Tywi valley that summer. In October the King led another punitive expedition in north Wales, and many of the Welsh submitted in the south. Glyndwr pillaged Ruthin, and he captured Reginald de Grey in April 1402 and Edmund Mortimer on June 22. He ransomed Grey for 10,000 marks in November, but the English would not ransom Mortimer. Glyndwr was welcomed in southeast Wales in August. Edmund Mortimer became Glyndwr’s ally and married his daughter Catrin in November. Henry IV raised money from loans and accepted petitions to sanction Wales so that no Welshman could buy land in England. In October the Parliament passed Penal Laws for Wales to strengthen English control, but the trade ban was disobeyed by those smuggling goods. The Welsh and Englishmen who married Welsh women were not allowed to carry arms or live in fortified towns.

In the north the Earl of Douglas encouraged raids on England, but they suffered a defeat at Nesbit on June 22, 1402. A Scottish army marched as far as Newcastle, but while returning they were defeated on September 14 at Homildon Hill by the English led by Earl Henry Percy of Northumberland and Earl Dunbar of March. The Scots had 28 men taken prisoner including four earls as well as about thirty French knights. Henry Percy turned over six leaders to the Parliament on October 20 but refused to give up Douglas. Henry and his brother Thomas Percy and Henry’s son Hotspur resented not being able to ransom their other prisoners.

In 1403 Henry Percy went to western England to join his brother Earl Thomas Percy of Worcester and Mortimer against the King. The rebels complained that Henry IV had violated the oaths he had sworn in July 1399 not to claim the kingdom and not to tax the clergy and people except by the advice of the Parliament for emergencies. He had ordered sheriffs to return to Parliament only those who support his policies, and he had refused to ransom Edmund Mortimer or allow the young Mortimer to succeed to the throne. They also felt that the taxes and tallages granted him were being wasted. Hotspur began the revolt at Chester on July 10.

Henry IV led his army and met them at Shrewsbury on July 21. In the battle more than 1,600 were killed including Hotspur, the Earl of Stafford, and Walter Blount, and many of the 3,000 wounded died later. The earls of Douglas and Worcester were captured. Worcester, Baron Richard Venables of Kinderton, and Richard Vernon were convicted of treason and beheaded on July 23. Henry Percy, the Earl of Northumberland, submitted at York on August 11. He was promised a pardon for surrendering his castles; but his constables refused to turn them over, and he was kept under guard and brought to Parliament on February 6, 1404. They acquitted Northumberland of treason and released him.

Although Henry IV recognized Hanseatic privileges soon after his accession, in 1402 Prussian towns restricted English residency. This conflict was exacerbated by English piracy against merchant ships that caused the Diet of Lübeck in March 1405 to prohibit trading in English cloth or exporting to England. William Sturmey led a diplomatic mission to the Teutonic Order at Marienburg on August 8 that lifted the embargo for one year. The customs tax on wool fell to less than half of what it was during the time of Richard II. In 1408 the English came to an agreement and were allowed to trade in Prussia and live there. Henry’s annual income averaged less than £90,000 compared to Richard II’s £116,000.

Henry IV married Jean of Brittany’s widow Joan of Navarre in February 1403, and she was granted an income of 10,000 marks a year. In March 16-year-old Prince Henry was put in command of the marches of Wales. Glyndwr led another attack on the English in July, and Henry IV could not maintain his army in Wales and withdrew in October. The next month French ships led by Jean d’Espagne attacked Caernarvon. Glyndwr occupied the castles of Aberystwyth and Harlech in April and sent his brother-in-law John Hanmer and his Chancellor Gruffudd Young as envoys to the French, and they made an alliance against Henry of Lancaster on July 14, 1404. In October the Parliament granted Henry IV taxes to fight the rebellions, but Archbishop Arundel and Bishop Bottlesham of Rochester successfully blocked confiscation of the clergy’s temporalities. The largest source of revenues was customs which raised about £40,000 a year.

In February 1405 the children of Mortimer were abducted from Windsor, but they were recaptured. The new Duke Edward of York was arrested and had his lands confiscated, but the council restored them in December. Glyndwr made an agreement with the Earl of Northumberland and Edmund Mortimer on February 28 to divide England with Percy getting the north, Mortimer the south, and Glyndwr the five bordering counties and Wales. In March about 8,000 Welshmen attacked Grosmont. Prince Henry sent Lord Talbot with a small force that killed about 900. In May the English killed another 1,500 including Glyndwr’s brother Tudur while taking many prisoners including Glyndwr’s son Gruffyd. The English beheaded 300 prisoners of low birth. The French fleet with 2,600 men led by Marshal Jean de Rieux arrived in the first week of August and captured Haverfordwest. They did not gain English support and went to Wales, but during Lent in 1406 the French went home. Glyndwr granted Charles VI’s request to recognize Pope Benedict XIII at Avignon, but the Welsh rebellion declined. By the end of 1406 Anglesey and the southern coastlands accepted Henry IV. Glyndwr’s movement persisted in the mountains.

Parliament convened at Coventry on October 6, 1404 and passed a 5% land tax. Earl Marshall Thomas Mowbray, Thomas Bardolf, and Archbishop Richard Scrope of York allied with Northumberland, Mortimer, and Glyndwr. They issued a manifesto of grievances against King Henry which added the losses of the clergy’s estates to the high taxes and wasteful spending. The Earl of Westmoreland led an army against the rebels and tricked Scrope and Mowbray into being captured. They were tried before Chief Justice William Gascoigne on June 4, 1405. Henry IV ordered the death penalty, and on June 8 Scrope, Earl Marshal, and William Plumpton were executed outside Clementhorpe. Scrope’s body was buried at the Minster while the other two heads were displayed. People believed that the Archbishop’s soul was working miracles and that God punished Henry IV with an illness. However, the King recovered, forbade veneration of Scrope, and led an attack on the Percy castles in July, taking Warkforth, Langley, Berwick, and Alnwick. Scotland’s 12-year-old crown prince James was captured at sea by pirates and turned over to Henry IV at Westminster. One week later on April 4, 1406 his father Robert III died. In June the General Council at Perth declared James king of Scotland. He and his companions were kept in the Tower of London for a while. His relatives were allowed to visit him, but James remained a prisoner for eighteen years.

Parliament proclaimed Henry Percy a traitor on November 30. He and Bardolf fled from Scotland to Wales early in 1406. They were defeated in June by Edward Charlton and went to Louis of Orléans in France. They returned to Scotland in 1407 and were defeated and killed by Yorkshire’s Sheriff Thomas Rokeby at Branham Moor on February 19, 1408, ending the northern rebellion.

The long Parliament of 1406 began in March and had two adjournments before money was finally granted on December 22. The Parliament succeeded in getting an audit of the new land tax passed at Coventry in 1404. The avis du conseil sought to curtail corruption, and members who gained illegally could be fined or lose their positions. Councilors had to swear not to take anything but their official salaries. The assent of the council for Exchequer warrants increased from 22% before May to 60% after. The garrison at Calais was costing £18,000 a year and the Scottish marches another £12,000. Henry IV was not good at paying debts, and his worthless tallies were more than three times as much as those of Richard II.

Archbishop Arundel became chancellor on January 30, 1407. In February Henry IV appointed his 18-year-old son Thomas to replace Thomas Beaufort as admiral of the north. England made a commercial treaty with Flanders in March. Prince Henry besieged Aberystwyth castle in Wales in June. In September Rhys the Black agreed to surrender if they were not relieved by November 1. They were starved into capitulating. Harlech held out against a siege until March 1409 when Glyndwr’s family was captured. Glyndwr tried again in 1410 and lost three of his best captains. By 1413 he was only a legend.

The English Church opposed the schism, and their envoys passing through Paris were commended by Jean Gerson for supporting the council at Constance. Yet in 1401 the statute De haeretico comburendo had authorized the Government and the Church to arrest Lollards, but the method of inquiry was not well defined. Peter Payne and William Taylor at Oxford supported the Hussite Czech state, and in October 1406 Payne used the University seal to write to Prague. In November 1407 a convocation met at Oxford and enacted thirteen constitutions to limit preaching, heterodox scholarship, and teaching divergent theology. No books by Wyclif or anyone could be read unless they were approved as orthodox. In 1408 English translations of the Bible were banned in England. Archbishop Arundel tried to keep Wyclif’s books from being used. On June 26, 1409 a meeting at Oxford condemned seven books of unorthodox theology, and anyone teaching those ideas was to be excommunicated and expelled from the University. Dissident academics led by Richard Fleming announced they would defy the Archbishop’s orders. A committee of twelve drew up 267 heretical and erroneous conclusions in March 1411.

The craftsman John Badby denied that bread was transformed during the eucharist, and he was convicted of heresy by Bishop Thomas Peveril on January 2, 1409. He was apparently imprisoned until he was brought before Archbishop Arundel on March 1, 1410. Although he recognized that the bread was “a symbol of the Living God,” he believed it remained material bread. He refused to recant before Arundel, who nonetheless urged the secular power not to execute him. Prince Henry attended the burning at Smithfield on March 5. As Badby cried out in pain, Henry ordered the burning stopped. Men quickly removed Badby from the fire. He was badly burned and still refused to recant even after the Prince offered him a pension of three pence a day for life. Then Henry ordered the burning resumed.

Henry IV suffered from bad health from 1406 until the end of his life, and often he let Arundel and the Council of seventeen do his work. Prince Henry was only thirteen years old when he was put in charge of north Wales and the Marches. He participated in many military engagements, and in 1406 he was given command over the entire Welsh front and the Marches. On February 28, 1409 Prince Hal was appointed constable of Dover and warden of the Cinque Ports. The next year he became captain of Calais. In addition to the port of Calais the English also held Bordeaux on the continent, and its wine was a large portion of British shipping. In January 1410 the Parliament nominated a new Council, and they were sworn with the judges.

In 1411 Duke Jean of Burgundy requested an English alliance against the dukes of Orléans and Berry, and in September the English sent Arundel with 800 lances and 2,000 archers. They arrived in Paris in October to fight the Armagnacs. They won a victory at St. Cloud on November 9 and then came home. Henry IV had wanted to lead the expedition but changed his mind. Yet he refused to abdicate and let his son Henry become king. On December 19 Archbishop Arundel replaced Thomas Beaufort as chancellor. In 1412 William Walderne and his partners in London shipped £24,000 worth of wool to Italy, but the Genoese confiscated it. After that English merchants did not try to challenge the Italian monopoly.

After Jean of Burgundy promised Charles VI he would expel the English from Aquitane, the English negotiated an alliance with his adversaries Berry and Armagnac for which Henry was given Poitiers, Niort, Lusignan, and Chateauneuf as security. They sent 1,000 lances and 3,000 archers to France under Thomas of Lancaster who had just been made Duke of Clarence. Henry’s four sons Henry, Thomas, John, and Humphrey guaranteed the agreement of Bourges. When the Duke of Burgundy heard of it, he marched against his French adversaries. Charles VI soon asked the dukes to renounce the alliance with England. The English were still preparing and landed a force in France, but the French paid them off with 150,000 crowns. Henry IV visited the Parliament in February 1413 and collapsed. He died on March 20. Chancellor Arundel was dismissed the next day.

England under Henry V 1413-22

Henry of Monmouth succeeded his father and became Henry V on March 21, 1413 at the age of 25. On April 9 he announced that all malefactors could be pardoned by August 1 except for rape, murder, reprobates, and those awaiting trial. On May 10 he ordered that no bows, arrows, arms, or artillery were to be sold to Scots or to any foreign enemies. In December he had the body of Richard II moved to Westminster next to that of Queen Ann of Bohemia. He restored the earldom of Northumberland to Hotspur’s son Henry Percy.

A convocation in March 1413 charged Henry’s old friend John Oldcastle because one of his chaplains had been preaching heresy in Kent and because he was caught with heretical tracts. The King tried to get him to submit, but he refused. Archbishop Arundel of Canterbury had him arrested on September 23 and brought him before ecclesiastical judges at St. Paul’s. Oldcastle doubted bread was changed, did not believe that confession is necessary for salvation, and said the hierarchy and his judges were deceiving people and leading them to hell. He was condemned and put in the Tower.

On October 19 three friends helped Oldcastle escape, and for the next two months he planned a revolt in London to kill Henry V, boasting they had 100,000 men. The King’s spies learned of this, and Henry went to Westminster on January 8, 1414. The next night the Lollards found the gates shut, and on January 10 less than 300 showed up in St. Giles Fields. Eighty were captured, and about sixty leaders were hanged on January 13. Inquiries were conducted in 21 counties and London. The report estimated that John Oldcastle had a band of 20,000 supporters who intended to destroy churches and monasteries and kill the King and nobles. Oldcastle was in London from October to March 1414. Then he hid in the midlands for three years. In April the Leicester Parliament passed stronger measures against heretics. In Shropshire servants of Robert Corbet and Richard Leighton attacked tax collectors of the fifteenth and tenth granted by the Parliament, which also passed laws to suppress piracy. In the fifteenth century a fifteenth of the movables in the shires and a tenth in the towns became a real estate tax and usually raised about £30,000 each. Oldcastle was finally apprehended in Wales in late 1417, and he was hanged.

Henry V began preparing for a French expedition in the summer of 1413 by getting private loans from Richard Whittington, Chancellor Bishop Henry Beaufort of Winchester, and others. An English embassy crossed to Calais in late July, and they met with the French in Burgundy. On October 7 the English made an agreement with those in Flanders to punish violators of the peace, investigate acts of piracy, and restore stolen merchandise to the owners. The truce to the end of 1413 was extended to the next Easter, and on January 24, 1414 the English and French extended the truce to February 2, 1415. Henry V was trying to revive the claims of Edward III to Aquitane and other territory. By negotiating separately with the rival Burgundians and the French Armagnacs, the English were hoping to get more from both. The Parliament in November 1414 granted a double tenth and a fifteenth. Bishop Courtenay also led the second delegation that began talks in March 1415. That month Henry ordered Admiral Dorset to arrest all vessels of twenty tons or more and have them sent to Southampton by May. French ambassadors came to England in June; but in early July as the English army was assembling in Southampton, the talks ruptured. When Henry claimed he should be king of France, the Archbishop of Bourges replied that he did not even have the right to the English crown. Bishop Beaufort read a demand that the French give up Aquitane, Normandy, Anjou, Touraine, Poitou, Maine, and Ponthieu, or Henry would come and seize the French crown.

Henry V declared war on Charles VI on July 6, 1415, claiming the French king had refused him justice. He joined his army at Southampton, and on July 31 Edmund Mortimer, the Earl of March, who was Richard II’s lawful heir, informed King Henry of a plot in Southampton to kill him and his brothers. Henry had disappointed the Earl of Cambridge’s expectations for land when he was given his title in 1414, and he had forced Mortimer to pay a marriage fine of 10,000 marks to support the war. Earl Richard of Cambridge, Thomas Gray of Heton, and Henry Lord Scrope of Masham were arrested and tried by a jury on the same day. Gray was executed on August 2, and three days later the other two were beheaded. On August 7 the King pardoned Mortimer for all his offenses.

Henry V’s first invasion of France had 2,000 men at arms and 6,000 archers. He left his brother John, Duke of Bedford, to govern England in his absence. They embarked in August 1415 and besieged Harfleur in September. The French there surrendered on the 22nd, and on October 8 Henry sent a proclamation to the mayor of London calling for merchants, victuallers, and craftsmen to come settle at Harfleur. Henry allowed 260 leading defenders to leave on parole if they promised to turn themselves in at Calais by November 11.

With 800 men-at-arms and 5,000 archers Henry marched through Normandy toward Calais. A French army with 15,000 men-at-arms and a total outnumbering the English four to one met them at Agincourt. A narrow roadway helped neutralize France’s greater numbers, and the well-armed English won an astounding victory, losing less than 300 men while killing more than 1,500 French knights and about 4,500 men-at-arms. Anthony of Brabant, brother of Jean of Burgundy, tried to rally the second line, and they plundered gems in the baggage. This caused Henry to order all the prisoners less than captains killed. Victuals and supplies from England were inadequate, and the garrison at Calais had to raid in the region. Henry returned to London with the chief prisoners in November and was welcomed as a hero. The Commons granted him customs from Michaelmas 1416 and warned it was not to be a precedent.

Emperor Sigismund left the Council of Constance, and in 1416 he visited Paris and Windsor, where he was made a knight of St. George and was allowed to witness the working of Parliament. A French embassy arrived in May. Henry went to Southampton in June and sent commissioners to negotiate a truce with France. The Genoese had sent twenty ships commanded by Giovanni Grimaldi to help the French besiege Harfleur, and the French drew out the negotiations, hoping it would surrender. A naval force led by Duke John of Bedford broke the siege of Harfleur in the battle of the Seine on August 15.

On the same day Sigismund, who was unable to reconcile England and France, made an alliance with Henry at Canterbury, pledging friendship, commercial access, and mutual help in allowing both to seek territory in France. Henry crossed to Calais on September 5 and met with the Emperor again. Sigismund and the English agreed to a truce with the French from October to February 2, 1417. Also in October the Parliament at Westminster granted the King two-tenths and two-fifteenths, and in November the convocation at Canterbury voted two-tenths if one of the tenths of the previous year was postponed. In January 1417 the convocation of York granted one tenth, making the laity and clergy’s taxes £136,000. Henry also borrowed money, using the crown jewels as security.

About 12,000 Englishmen embarked for France on July 23, 1417, and they landed at Touques. They went into lower Normandy, and Henry sent his brother Thomas of Clarence to take over Lisieux. The King besieged Caen on August 18, and in September the army pillaged the town to frighten Normandy. Henry made a truce for ten months with Brittany, Anjou, and Maine on November 16. Falaise fell on February 16, 1418 as Henry consolidated western Normandy. Clarence took over Auge, Orbec, and Pontaudemer by April 4, but the abbey of Bec did not surrender until a month later. That April Henry appointed Philip Morgan as ducal chancellor to organize justice in Normandy. Burgundians were marching toward Paris in June and entered it on July 14. Domfront fell to the English by the end of July, and Cherbourg surrendered to them on August 22. The Duke of Clarence was given three viscounties, and by 1419 six great Norman counties were assigned to other English aristocrats.

Henry V besieged Rouen, the capital of Normandy, from July 30 to January 19, 1419 when they gave up and agreed to pay the English 300,000 gold crowns and all their war supplies while turning over eighty hostages to guarantee the ransoms. During the long siege Henry negotiated with the party of the Dauphin Charles, but they could not agree. Then he met with the Burgundians, preferring Latin because he could not speak French. He and Duke Jean of Burgundy agreed to meet with King Charles VI and Queen Isabeau on May 15, 1419, but the Duke signed a treaty with the Dauphin on July 11 at Pontoise. England’s truce with Burgundy ended on July 29, and the next day the English attacked Pontoise, and Henry transferred his headquarters there on August 6. Clarence raided up to the gates of Paris. The Dauphin and Jean wanted to drive out the English, and Jean left Paris and went to Troyes on August 7. He wanted to meet with the Dauphin; but on September 10 Armagnacs supporting the Dauphin Charles murdered Jean with an axe while their troops attacked the Burgundians. Ten days later Isabeau wrote a letter to Henry V urging him to avenge the murder, turning against her son whom she claimed was not the son of Charles VI.

Henry negotiated an alliance with the succeeding Duke Philippe of Burgundy and made a truce with Charles VI. Meanwhile the English army moved toward Paris, taking Meulan on October 30. Burgundy made the treaty public knowledge in February 1420, and Henry took the castle of Beaumont-sur-Oise on February 29, giving him control over Paris. He marched to Troyes in Champagne to negotiate with Charles VI. Henry wanted to marry his daughter Catherine, but they argued over the dowry amount. Finally on May 21 they signed the Treaty of Troyes, making Henry the heir of Charles.

Henry and Catherine were wed in Troyes cathedral on June 2, and he quickly turned to fulfilling the treaty by taking the Dauphinist-Armagnac fortress at Montereau by July 1. He besieged Melun on July 9, and the Duke of Bedford brought an army of 2,800 to help him. Henry’s brother-in-law Louis, Count Palatine of the Rhine, brought 700 men, but Henry had to pay for them. The Dauphin was starved into surrendering on November 17. The English brought King James I to persuade the Scots to surrender. They refused, and Henry ordered them hanged for disobeying their king. On December 1 Henry, Charles, and Duke Philippe were welcomed by the Parlement, the University of Paris, and the burgesses. The murderers of Jean were not apprehended, but they were tried in absentia and convicted of treason on December 23.

The English Parliament in 1420 and again in May 1421 made no grants for the occupation in France. Henry V appointed Earl Thomas Montague of Salisbury commander of the conquered lands. On January 18, 1421 Henry met with Normandy’s estates at Rouen, and they promised to raise 400,000 livres. By August the English had collected 85,000 livres in taxes, and by 1422 they collected about 270,000. Henry returned to England in February 1421, and Archbishop Chichele crowned Catherine queen on February 23. The Chancellor expressed concern about the poverty and distress in England caused by the expenses of Henry’s six years of war in France. Henry owed £40,000; many senior commanders had not been reimbursed for their war expenses, and he owed wages to most garrison captains in France.

Parliament assembled on May 12, and Henry submitted the treaty which France had ratified in December. The English government had a £30,000 deficit and a debt of £20,000 with an annual revenue of £56,000. Henry tried to rely on additional loans, including three loans from Beaufort totaling £17,666. Henry toured the monasteries and established new rules to limit luxuries and corruption. When Pope Martin V appointed the King’s uncle Henry Beaufort a cardinal in 1418, he had violated the statute of Provisors. Cardinals who worked at the papal curia were not allowed to act as bishops in their country. He might have forfeited his goods and his see; but he negotiated, gave up being a cardinal, and loaned Henry £22,306 for war expenses.

Clarence led a charge against 5,000 enemy soldiers with only 150 men-at-arms and was killed at Baugé on March 22. This motivated his brother Henry V to lead another expedition to France against the Dauphin in June. The French did not resist his troops except at Meaux which was besieged on October 6 and held out until May 2, 1422. There dysentery caused the death of many English, and Henry V himself was infected and died on August 31. Queen Catherine had given birth to his son Henry on December 6, 1421, and Duke Humphrey of Gloucester had been appointed keeper of the realm in May 1422.

England under the Regency 1422-37

Henry V’s will named his youngest brother Humphrey, Earl of Gloucester, to be regent during the childhood of King Henry VI. After Henry V’s death his brother Duke John of Bedford stayed in France along with the earls of Salisbury and Suffolk. On September 28 a group of leading magnates summoned the aristocrats to swear fealty before the infant Henry VI. A larger council met on November 5, and a commission authorized Gloucester to open, conduct, and dissolve Parliament de assensu concilii. He objected to this phrase but accepted the petition. In his dying days Henry V had made Bedford responsible for the government of Normandy. Duke Philippe of Burgundy was to be regent of France; but when he declined, Bedford was authorized to govern France also. The 1422 Parliament appointed Gloucester protector and defender of the realm and the Church in England and the principal counselor of the King except when Bedford was in England. Thus the spiritual and temporal lords established themselves in Parliament or the Council as the superior authority. Continuing as the three top officials were Chancellor Thomas Langley, Treasurer John Stafford, and Keeper of the Seal William Alnwick. On February 12, 1423 Gloucester as chief counselor was given a salary of 8,000 marks. Earl Edmund Mortimer of March was granted 5,000 marks a year as Lieutenant of Ireland.

Duke John of Bedford commanded the ongoing war in France, beginning with raids and attacking castles. John de la Pole led raids in Anjou but could not take Mont Saint Michel. The Earl of Warwick led an Anglo-Burgundian army that defeated Jacques d’Harcourt and took Le Crotoy. The Earl of Salisbury besieged Montaiguillon in Champagne, and then he tried to counter a new army raised by the Dauphin Charles that included many Scots. They were joined by English and Burgundians at Auxerre at the end of July 1423. In the fighting the French lost about 2,500 men and a thousand Scots.

On April 1, 1424 Bedford relieved the Burgundian garrison at Compiegne. That summer the French gathered an army of 15,000 with Scots and Italians along the lower Loire; but on August 17 Bedford with about 8,500 men defeated them at Verneuil; the French had about 1,500 killed, and few of the 6,000 Scots survived. Nesle surrendered, and the English took La Fere and Guise in the north. The English conquest reached its greatest extent in 1426. The English tried to collect taxes from the French but gathered only about £150,000 annually while the Valois monarchy collected at least £300,000 a year.

Bishop Henry Beaufort of Winchester became chancellor in 1424. In October Humphrey of Gloucester invaded Hainault, which Burgundy considered a casus belli and which failed. Humphrey had married Countess Jacqueline of Hainault secretly in late 1422. She had been married to the Dauphin Jean who died in 1417 and then to Duke Jean IV of Brabant. She left him, and Pope Benedict XIII granted her a divorce on March 7, 1422. Humphrey deserted her on February 13, 1425, and she was captured by her cousin Philippe of Burgundy and held at a chateau in Ghent. Humphrey returned to England in April with her lady-in-waiting, Eleanor Cobham. While he was away, England was governed by Chancellor Beaufort whom the Council gave a special salary of 2,000 marks on February 23. Beaufort used his wealth and contributions to the see of Winchester and loaned to Henry V a total of £35,630 and to Henry VI in his first ten years £45,413, though he probably did not collect the 25-33% interest the Lancastrians usually offered. Henry V’s debt was finally paid off on May 21, 1425.

On October 29, 1425 Gloucester warned the new mayor of London, John Coventry, to guard the city against an attempt by Beaufort’s men. They had gathered at his inn near London bridge and then took positions to fire on the houses. Archbishop Chichele of Canterbury and Gloucester’s Portuguese cousin Pedro, Duke of Coimbra, intervened eight times between the two sides to prevent fighting. On November 5 Gloucester brought the child Henry to London, but Richard Woodville would not let the Protector lodge in the Tower without a warrant from the Council and was supported in that by Beaufort. The Council loaned Gloucester 5,000 marks to be repaid when Henry was fifteen. Chancellor Beaufort summoned the Duke of Bedford, and he returned from France on December 20. He sent out the writs of summons on January 7, 1426 for the Parliament that began on February 18. Humphrey of Gloucester withdrew from the Council and refused to meet with Bedford, who persuaded him and Beaufort to submit to arbitration by men from the Council on March 7. They persuaded the half-brothers to be reconciled on March 12. Chancellor Beaufort repudiated all disloyalty in the reigns of the three Henrys and was declared a true man by Bedford; but he had to apologize publicly to Gloucester. Resentment continued, and Beaufort resigned on March 14. He was replaced by London’s Bishop John Kemp who had become Archbishop of York in July 1425. At the Leicester Parliament weapons were forbidden, but some men carried bats under their garments.

Beaufort turned over the Great Seal on May 14, and the Council gave him permission to go on a pilgrimage. In reaction to the victorious Hussite armies in Bohemia, Pope Martin V appealed to other countries, and he appointed Beaufort a cardinal in 1426. He left England in March 1427, and the Pope made him his legate for Germany, Hungary, and Bohemia. Beaufort led a disastrous attack against the Hussites at Tachov on August 4.

The Council in England drew up articles on November 24, 1427 to limit the power of Protector Gloucester, and on January 28, 1428 Duke John of Bedford swore at Westminster to obey the Council whenever he was in England. Duke Humphrey was absent because of illness, but the next day Archbishop Kemp of York visited him at home and gained the same assurance. He refused to attend Parliament until his claims were satisfied; but after that he always followed the Council’s advice. On May 8 Richard de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, replaced the governess and became Henry VI’s tutor, and his job was to teach him virtues, literacy, languages, discipline, and courtesy.

The papal nuncio Conzo de Zwola came to a convocation at Canterbury on July 9, 1428 and asked for a subsidy. Beaufort returned in August to raise money for another crusade against the Hussites, but this aroused protests against the Cardinal as a legate once again interfering in England. Archbishop Richard Caudray of Norwich spoke to a gathering and argued that to accept Beaufort as legate would derogate English rights and customs. They decided to listen to him as a cardinal but not as a legate. He was allowed to address the Council at Westminster the next day, but Archbishop Chichele prorogued the convocation. Salisbury raised another army and entered Paris in July 1428. Bedford tried to isolate Orléans by taking Meung and then Beaugency on September 25. Beaufort was given permission to preach the crusade to Scots in February 1429, but by April the Regent Bedford was asking for reinforcements to relieve the siege of Orléans. The Council authorized 100 lances and 700 archers led by John Radcliffe for France. Beaufort was allowed to recruit 250 lancers and 2,500 archers in England, but on July 1 the Council persuaded him to lead his army against the French instead. His men arrived in time to help save Paris for the English.

The French army had been revived by the inspired leadership of young Jeanne d’Arc. With priests marching in front instead of with the baggage she led a successful assault at Jargeau on June 12, and the Earl of Suffolk surrendered. They met an English army led by Fastolf east of Patay, and their attack did not allow the English archers to drive their stakes in the ground. The French cavalry moved quickly and captured John Talbot and Thomas Scales. Jeanne directed her army toward Reims which they reached on July 16 after taking Troyes and Chalons. Two days later they crowned Charles VII which the English considered a violation of the Troyes Treaty. On September 8 King Charles led an attack on Paris in which Jeanne was wounded. Charles no longer let her make the strategic decisions, and on May 23, 1430 she was captured outside Compiegne by Burgundians who sold her to the English for 10,000 crowns (£80,000).

Young Henry VI was crowned at Westminster on November 6, 1429 and the protectorate was ended nine days later. Bedford had the King brought to Paris, and he was crowned king of France there on St. George’s Day (April 23) in 1430. One week earlier the Council decided at Canterbury not to decide anything controversial without the concurrence of their colleagues in France. Henry VI stayed in France for nearly two years. Also in April Cardinal Beaufort defended himself before the Council, but he was charged again in 1431 and was forced to resign the see of Winchester and refund the money he had received since 1426.

A Lollard uprising began on March 3, 1431 in St. Giles’s parish, and on March 10 the elderly Essex priest Thomas Bagley was burned to death as a relapsed heretic at St. Paul’s cross as thousands of Londoners watched. This provoked a greater uprising, and their handbills were declared seditious on May 13. That month Gloucester suppressed a Lollard conspiracy at Abingdon. Jack Sharpe and five other leaders were arrested at Oxford on May 19. They were quickly condemned by Gloucester and beheaded. John Russell was captured and hanged in July. Lord Scrope persuaded the reluctant Council in November to increase his salary for life. That month Gloucester presented historical evidence to the Council that an English bishop who became a cardinal was expected to resign his see, and the Bishop of Worcester confirmed his charge that Beaufort had bought a papal dispensation to exempt his diocese from Canterbury’s jurisdiction.

On February 6, 1432 Gloucester ordered the seizure of portable wealth that was being smuggled from Sandwich to the continent. Beaufort defended himself from Ghent by sending an address to the citizens of London. After Henry VI’s return to London on February 21 Gloucester got the Great Seal back from the Archbishop of York, and he replaced Treasurer Hungerford with Scrope. Four days later Bishop John Stafford became chancellor. On March 1 he removed Cromwell and Tiptoft from the household, and he summoned Beaufort to a meeting at Westminster on May 12. Beaufort appealed to the Council in the Parliament, and King Henry declared him a faithful subject. Beaufort restored the crown jewels he had received as security and paid a fine of £6,000. After it was determined that his property had been wrongly seized, the money was paid back to him as if it were a loan.

In October 1432 the English attended a papal peace conference with the French and the Burgundians and two more at Corbeil in March and July 1433. Bedford came back from France in June, and a Burgundian embassy arrived in London in July. Bedford dismissed Scrope and replaced him at the exchequer with Cromwell, who compiled an accurate financial summary that was presented to Parliament on October 18. Cromwell estimated that receipts were running at least £35,000 short each year, and they were already pledged to creditors two years in advance. He could not pay warrants, and the debt had passed £168,000. Bedford set an example by volunteering to forgo all or part of his salary, and others followed. With no parliamentary grants the Council sent the King and his household to stay at the monastery of Bury St. Edmunds from Christmas 1433 for four months at the cost of the abbey. A peasant uprising in Normandy motivated Bedford to leave England in early July 1434.

Pope Eugenius IV and his legate denied the Troyes settlement and would not recognize that France belonged to the Lancasters then or at the Arras conference in July 1435. The French demanded that Henry VI renounce the French throne and all occupied lands and do homage to Charles VII for any lands ceded in exchange. The English would not accept this and left Arras on September 6. France then made a treaty with Burgundy that was promulgated on September 21. The Duke of Bedford died that month, making his brother Humphrey of Gloucester heir to the throne. Also in 1435 the Parliament decided to relax the Statute of Truces and Safe-conducts, beginning a seven-year period that unleashed English seamen against Flemings and others. After his 14th birthday in December 1435 Henry began to attend to his business as King, and on July 28, 1436 he authorized a warrant with his own signature for the first time.

England under Henry VI 1437-53

On November 13, 1437 Henry VI was vested with his personal power of kingship, and eight days later he reappointed the Council. Henry had already been making decisions for two years, but at age 16 he was a nervous invalid. By 1438 Adam Moleyns was acting as the King’s secretary. Henry was well educated, knowing French as well as Latin and studying the traditional virtues. He was very pious and intended to remain a virgin until he married. Henry founded Eton on October 11, 1440 with a provost, 10 priests, 4 clerks, 6 choristers, 25 scholars, and 25 paupers to pray for him. The previous month he had acquired land at Cambridge for King’s College, and he founded it in 1441. The young King was compassionate and often pardoned criminals, even traitors and murderers. In the early 1440s the Council became concerned how he distributed political favors, and in 1444 they introduced more discipline to the procedures for dealing with bills and petitions. Gradually the King began yielding patronage to the Beaufort faction. Even Duke Humphrey of Gloucester found his advice ignored. Keeper of the Seal William Lynwood and Treasurer Cromwell served until 1443, but Chancellor Bishop Stafford remained in office until 1450. Thomas Gascoigne was the chancellor of the University of Oxford in the early 1440s, and he criticized the Church for choosing its bishops by the will of the King, the Pope, or the court of Rome and for the money sent there.

Duke Richard of York was the son of the Earl of Cambridge who was beheaded by Henry V for treason. He was also the heir to the claims of the Mortimer family and had many aristocratic connections. Richard’s wife Cecily was the daughter of Ralph Neville, the first Earl of Westmorland. When his uncle Edmund Mortimer died in 1425, Richard inherited the earldom of Ulster and became wealthy, making his annual income from England and Wales nearly £7,000. He was only 24 when he was appointed lieutenant-general in France in February 1436 a few months after the Duke of Bedford died. At first he was not granted the revenues of the Norman taxation. After negotiations broke down with France in September 1437, he was succeeded by the Earl of Warwick.

The Council at Basel suspended Pope Eugenius IV on January 8, 1438, the same day Gloucester resigned as captain of Calais. Yet Beaufort maintained good relations with Pope Eugenius. When Warwick died on April 30, 1439, Chancellor Louis of Luxembourg, the Archbishop of Rouen, led the government there and directed the war. After the embassy failed that autumn, Beaufort’s faction in the Council decided they must make concessions for peace. In 1440 they agreed to release Charles of Orléans for a ransom of 120,000 gold nobles (24,000 écus). Charles agreed that he would work for peace or return to captivity. After Pontoise fell in 1441, the Duke of Orléans persuaded Count Jean of Armagnac in May 1442 to offer one of his daughters as a bride for Henry VI.

The Duke of York had been reappointed lieutenant-general on July 2, 1440, and he tried to hold the line in Normandy in 1442; but he was undermined by the imprudent Earl John of Somerset who was appointed captain-general of Aquitane in April 1443. The Duke of York also resented that Edmund Somerset replaced him as the King’s lieutenant in Normandy, and he was to receive £20,000 if war broke out. York came back for Parliament in 1445, and his accounts were cleared by July 1446. The Exchequer paid captains leaving England but not those going to Somerset in Normandy. York was appointed the King’s lieutenant in Ireland in December 1447, but he did not go there until 1449.

Earl William de la Pole of Suffolk led an embassy to France, and on May 22, 1444 they arranged a marriage between Henry and Margaret of Anjou with a truce between Henry and the kings of France, Sicily, and Castile. People rejoiced when Suffolk returned to London on June 27, and he was made a marquess. He also became the ward of the infant Margaret Beaufort, daughter of Duke Edmund Beaufort of Somerset. The wedding was on April 23, 1445, and she was provided with £5,129 for expenses when the Exchequer’s annual revenues were only averaging £9,907. In 1446 Parliament set her dowry at £3,000 from the duchy of Lancaster plus £3,666 from the Southampton customs, the duchy of Cornwall, and the Exchequer. Margaret founded Queen’s College at Cambridge in 1448.

A French embassy arrived in July 1445, but they only extended the truce. On December 17 Queen Margaret wrote a letter to Charles VII promising she would try to get Henry to surrender. Five days later Henry VI wrote that he would give the Le Mans fortress to Charles and English holdings in Maine to René and Charles of Anjou by April 1446. The truce was extended until April 1447. Later the truce was extended to January 1448. Henry promised to surrender Le Mans and Maine before November 1447 if compensation was paid to the English commander Marquess Dorset in Maine; but his lieutenant refused to hand them over. Parliament authorized Dorset to go to Maine with a force of 1,200 men in February 1447, but the expedition was delayed until fall. By February 1448 the French had Le Mans under siege, and it surrendered to Charles VII on March 16. Then the Anglo-French truce was extended to April 1450. These capitulations made Suffolk hated by the English.

Before a French embassy in July 1445 King Henry showed his contempt for Duke Humphrey of Gloucester who stopped attending the Council in late 1446. His wife Eleanor Cobham had been tried for heresy and witchcraft in 1441. She abjured and did public penance but was imprisoned for life. Suffolk gathered forces at Bury St. Edmunds for the Parliament on February 10, 1447. He suspected that Gloucester might lead an uprising, and Humphrey answered a summons on February 18. Two days later he was put under arrest at home for treason, and on February 23 he was found dead, perhaps of a stroke. Gloucester had promoted the war, and his death opened up the opportunity for peace.

In 1437 Cardinal Beaufort had mediated a trade agreement between the English and the Hanseatic merchants in Prussia, but it was never confirmed in Prussia. In 1440 the Parliament suspended the Statute for another twenty years. In January 1442 the Commons demanded that the Prussia Hansa be given an ultimatum to observe the agreement, but the Germans were skeptical.

Duke Philippe of Burgundy imposed protectionist embargoes on English cloth coming into the Low Countries to benefit the cloth-makers in Flanders, Brabant, Holland, and Zeeland. In 1448 and 1449 English exports of cloth fell by 32%, and other exports dropped 35%. Imports of wine were reduced 50% in 1450. Sandwich in Kent was especially affected in 1449-50 as exports fell from 182 sacks of wool to 25 and woolen cloths from 2,078 to 237 while wine imports went from 1,042 tuns to 271. On May 23, 1449 the English privateers captured 110 Flemish, Dutch, and Hanseatic vessels leaving the Bay of Bourgneuf.

Parliament had begun meeting at Westminster in February 1449 and was prorogued until June 16. The Commons wanted an act of resumption, but Parliament was dissolved on July 16. The Hundred Years War resumed in August, and by then England’s royal debt had risen to £372,000. Normandy’s major city of Rouen fell to Charles VII in October, and the defeat at Formigny in early 1450 drove the English out of Normandy.

People were angry. Bishop Lumley of Carlisle resigned as Treasurer in September 1449, and Bishop Moleyns gave up the Privy Seal in December. Archbishop Stafford resigned as Chancellor on January 31, 1450. The Parliament met on November 6, 1449, and after an incident on the 28th they charged Suffolk for conspiring with William Tailboys to kill Cromwell. Sailors murdered Bishop Adam Moleyns at Portsmouth on January 9, 1450 after he confessed to being Suffolk’s accomplice. Suffolk defended himself before Parliament on January 22, and six days later he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. The treason charges of February were put aside, but in March he was charged with corruption. Suffolk was banished for five years; but when he set sail for France, he was captured and beheaded on May 3. This caused more violence, and on June 29 his friend Bishop Ayscough of Salisbury was murdered at Edington while saying mass.

On January 24, 1450 Thomas Cheyne led an uprising of people from Kent between Sandwich and Dover who had a list of men they wanted beheaded that included Bishop of Salisbury William Ayscough, Duke William of Suffolk, James Fiennes the Lord Saye, and Lord Dudley the abbot of Gloucester. They appointed other captains, and two hundred people on January 26 increased to thousands as they marched to Canterbury where the anti-clerical group attacked St. Radegund’s abbey hospice. Cheyne was captured in Canterbury on January 31. Two days later the Earl of Wiltshire arrived with a commission to charge the leaders with treason. Cheyne was taken to Westminster where he was judged and hanged. The yeoman Nicholas Jakes led a protest at Westminster on January 29, and he was also found guilty and hanged.

Jack Cade used the name John Mortimer, and in late May 1450 he organized a large and well disciplined force from southwest Kent. They complained that the common people could not live by their handwork and husbandry because of the taxes and tallages. They considered themselves petitioners, not rebels. They wanted an act of resumption to cancel royal grants, the removal of corrupt officials, and the recall of York and true barons. They did not trust royal servants from London who bought up estates, seized them, or got them by chicanery. They did have faith in the King and wanted the legal process restored. They requested an inquiry in Kent. More than half were yeomen, farmers, and craftsmen, and more than a hundred were of gentle birth.

The Parliament learned of the demonstration and adjourned on June 6, sending the Duke of Buckingham and the earls of Oxford, Devon, and Arundel to arrest the rebels. The people from Kent marched toward London, and by June 11 they were camped on the other side of the Thames at Blackheath. On June 15 King Henry sent an army, and they were ordered to disperse. The people refused, and the army returned to the King with their petition. They withdrew toward Sevenoaks, and on June 18 they defeated the royal army. The next day the troops quartered at Blackheath mutinied and demanded the heads of Saye, Dudley, Thomas Daniel, and John Trevilian. They sacked the houses of courtiers, and Henry had Saye detained and put in the Tower. On June 25 the King retreated to Kenilworth. The rioting spread to the southern counties, and on June 29 Bishop Ayscough of Salisbury was stoned to death at Edington. The number of Kentishmen gathering on the heath was estimated at 20,000 and was considered much smaller than those who had been there early in the month.

Cade gathered more supporters from Kent, Surrey, and Sussex and marched them to Southwark on July 2. The next day they managed to cross London Bridge, and his discipline limited rioting. On July 4 they tried and executed Saye and his son-in-law. The next night they fought for ten hours over London Bridge. In the morning Cade set the drawbridge on fire, but Sheriff Hulyn bolted the gateway shut. A report estimated that about 40 Londoners and 200 Kentishmen had been killed in these two days. Cade negotiated and came to an agreement with Cardinal Kemp, Archbishop Stafford, and Bishop Waynflete. On July 7 the rebels were given general pardons without payment, and the next day most left for home. Some refused to disperse and continued to agitate at Blackheath, Rochester, and at Singlewell. On July 10 the soap-maker Robert Spenser was arrested, and he was later hanged. Cade led an assault on Queensborough castle in Sheppey, and two days later a price of 1,000 marks was put on his head with rewards for catching others also. On July 12 Cade was mortally wounded while he was resisting arrest.

In August the smith William Parmynter called himself the second captain at Kent and led an unknown number of men, but he was captured and put to death for levying war against the King. Demonstrations continued sporadically, and on February 8, 1451 the commission at Canterbury condemned eight yeomen and farmers to death for treason. The next day men at Maidstone urged people to tell the King to grant letters of pardon because 5,000 armed men were ready there. In June 1452 the peddler John Wilkyns and 28 others were hanged while others were granted pardons. The tailor John Percy led a revolt in the Weald in April 1456, and the next week riots broke out in London. In February 1459 a yeoman led a hundred people in Brixton, and they were accused of plotting against the King. Generally after 1456 the armed groups of men were usually private armies led by nobles.

During that summer of 1450 the actual Mortimer heir, Duke Richard of York, returned from Ireland with 4,000 men and marched to London. The government recalled Duke Edmund Beaufort of Somerset from France and made him constable of England. York made his way to King Henry and assured him of his loyalty, but he wanted reform. Richard owned more land than any man in England except King Henry, and he had powerful allies in Duke John of Norfolk and the two Richard Nevilles, the Earl of Salisbury and his son, the Earl of Warwick. Parliament met on November 6 and was intent on implementing the Resumption Act that Cade’s rebellion had demanded. This act for canceling grants taken from local revenues since the beginning of Henry VI’s reign in 1422 was accepted by Henry VI but with 186 exceptions. William Oldhall favored York’s cause, and they elected him Speaker. The Commons submitted a list of lords and knights to have their lands forfeited. The King agreed to ban them from his court for an entire year. In May 1451 York helped suppress the rebels in Kent that caused a “harvest of heads.” Later he found the gates of London barred against him. During the Wars of the Roses between the houses of Lancaster and York which was now beginning, the common people generally did not support either side.

In January 1452 Richard of York with the Earl of Devonshire and Lord Cobham came to London, and they were confronted by King Henry. Richard took up arms again in February, but his forces were trapped at Dartford and disbanded. On March 2 the bishops of Ely and Winchester and the earls of Warwick and Salisbury intervened by getting Henry VI and Richard of York to agree to Somerset being placed in ward because of York’s charges. Richard swore allegiance to the King publicly at St. Paul’s, but his son Edward was coming with 11,000 men. York accepted the general pardon issued by Henry VI on April 7.

The French took over Bordeaux on June 30, 1451, but the Gascons had lived under English rule for three centuries and did not consider themselves liberated. When Earl John Talbot of Shrewsbury landed with a force on October 17, 1452, the people of Bordeaux expelled the French garrison and opened the gates for them. Parliament gave Henry VI grants, but some believed he would use them for the civil war rather than in France.

In the spring of 1453 Charles VII launched the final campaign of the Hundred Years War, and three armies closed in on Bordeaux and destroyed the English army and killed Talbot at Castillon on July 17. The English Parliament authorized 20,000 archers to serve the King, who dispensed with 7,000 of them. The Council tried to keep the peace between the feuding earls of Northumberland and Westmorland. Henry restored most of his household’s privileges that had been forfeited; but on August 7 he was told that his army at Castillon had been destroyed, and Talbot was killed. The loss of English Gascony was a shock, and he became so ill that he was considered insane. Henry VI spent the next seventeen months in seclusion mostly at Windsor castle apparently unaware of the world around him. Queen Margaret gave birth to a son on October 13, the feast day of Edward the Confessor, and he was named Edward.

England’s War of the Roses 1453-61

On November 23, 1453 the Council had Duke Edmund Beaufort of Somerset put in the Tower, and the Earl of Devon was released from Wallingford castle and rejoined the Council which accepted his declarations of innocence. Richard of York was now ascendant in the Council, and on February 13, 1454 the Council nominated him to be the King’s lieutenant to preside over Parliament which gathered at Westminster the next day. Various English aristocrats were raising private armies. Queen Margaret led Somerset’s faction and demanded that the government be put in her hands; but Speaker Thomas Thorp had been weakened by a £1,000 fine from an action brought against him by York. Chancellor Kemp died on March 22, and the great seals of England could not be used. On March 27 the peers nominated Richard of York to be protector and defender of the realm with an annual salary of 2,000 marks plus expenses. He asked for the cooperation of the lords, and the Council established itself as a presidency until Henry VI’s mind recovered. His infant son Edward was declared Prince of Wales. York nominated his brother-in-law, Earl Richard of Salisbury, as chancellor. Somerset was still in prison but was not brought to trial, and York replaced him as captain of Calais on July 28.

Henry VI recovered his sanity on Christmas Day in 1454. Two days later the Queen informed him that Cardinal Kemp had died, and for the first time Henry realized that he had a son. On March 4, 1455 Henry presided over a Council meeting and released Edmund of Somerset who became his principal minister. They were rumored to have an alliance with King James II of Scotland, and they were raising the north to rebel against the Protector. On March 7 he replaced Chancellor Salisbury with Thomas Bourchier, the Archbishop of Canterbury. On March 13 the new Chancellor was ordered to release Exeter from prison, and two days later the Earl of Wiltshire replaced the Earl of Worcester as Treasurer. Queen Margaret became dominant at court. On April 21 the Council was summoned to meet at Leicester on May 21.

York went north to join the two Nevilles (earls of Salisbury and Warwick). They marched to Hertfordshire and issued a letter of allegiance to the King and a manifesto on May 20 declaring it was unsafe for them to go unarmed to the Council summoned at Leicester. Neither document got to the King or Queen, and Henry VI marched with a force to St. Albans on May 22. He appointed the Duke of Buckingham constable and commander of the royal army which had about 2,000 men. York had an army of 3,000 and named a few traitors, but Henry refused to surrender them. The forces fought for an hour, and Warwick helped the Yorkists win the day. Somerset, Northumberland, Clifford, and Buckingham’s son Stafford were killed. Henry VI was wounded in the neck by an arrow, and York and the two Nevilles knelt and asked his forgiveness. Henry agreed to call a Parliament in July, and a pardon was granted. Henry went to Hertford castle with the Queen and the infant Prince Edward.

York became constable, Warwick captain of Calais, and York’s brother-in-law Henry Bourchier treasurer. York and his commissioners condemned Exeter and his Percy allies as traitors, and the Parliament granted a legislative pardon to the Yorkists. Exeter took sanctuary at Westminster, but he was taken by York to Pontefract castle on July 23. Richard Percy and Egremont were captured by Thomas Neville, the bastard of Fauconberg, at Stamford Bridge in early November. Because of sickness Henry did not attend the Parliament which on November 17 made Richard of York protector again. York had Percy and Egremont tried and imprisoned at Newgate.

Queen Margaret became dominant over King Henry in the late 1450s. She insisted that York be removed from the office of protector on February 25, 1456, and the next day Henry also nullified the Parliament’s new program of financial resumption. James II of Scotland had declared war on England, and York led an army north against him. James believed York was the rightful king and withdrew from Northumberland. On August 10 about 2,000 Yorkists led by William Herbert of Raglan and Walter Devereux of Weobley seized Carmarthen castle and detained Earl Edmund Tudor of Richmond before taking Aberystwyth. Henry VI moved his court to Coventry and made Lawrence Booth keeper of the seal in September, and in October he appointed the Earl of Shrewsbury the treasurer and Bishop William Waynflete of Winchester the chancellor. The King summoned Herbert and Devereux to Coventry. Devereux was sent to Windsor castle, but Herbert secured bail and fled to Wales. Margaret traveled in Wales and offered pardons to isolate the Yorkists. Herbert was forced to submit to the King at Leicester on June 7, 1457 and was given a general pardon. Devereux was kept in prison until February 1458.

Royal debts were increasing, and people were losing faith in Henry VI, who had moved to Kenilworth in August 1456. On January 28, 1457 a council was appointed to advise Prince Edward, but they were controlled by the Queen. York was confirmed as lieutenant in Ireland in July. Henry returned to Westminster in September. Queen Margaret bargained with the Scots and encouraged Piers de Brézé, the grand seneschal of Anjou, Poitou, and Normandy, to land at Kent. His forces plundered Sandwich on August 24, though Thomas Kyriell drove them away. On October 3 the King and Council appointed Warwick to head the royal navy, and he destroyed a Spanish fleet of 22 ships on May 28, 1458 and then attacked 17 Hanseatic hulks who complained they were not enemies of England. In August he captured two Genoese carracks and two of three Spanish ships.

On October 30, 1458 the extreme curialist party took power with Earl James Butler of Wiltshire as treasurer of the realm and Thomas Tuddenham treasurer of the household. That month fighting broke out at the palace of Westminster. Warwick was ordered to resign his command in November but fled to save his life.

In January 1459 the Council broke up after the Duke of Exeter was arrested for striking a lawyer in Westminster Hall. Warwick retained his command at Calais while Duke Henry of Somerset attacked him. That summer York and Salisbury called Warwick back to England to defend them against the Queen and her lords, and he returned to London with a force of 500 men. Margaret learned of this and sent Lord Audley to intercept them at Blore Heath on September 23. Her Lancastrians had many more men; but 500 defected, and her men were repulsed with about 2,000 killed.

Parliament met hastily on October 9 and sent out writs to sheriffs whose terms had recently expired. The Parliament attainted York, Salisbury, Warwick, March, Rutland, and other leaders and their families, but the Queen’s bill also promised a pardon for humble submission. On October 12 the Lancastrians routed the Yorkists at Ludford Bridge when the Calais garrison deserted to the royal army. Yorkists escaped as Ludlow castle was pillaged. Richard of York went to Ireland while his son Edward of March and the two Nevilles went to Calais. All four were attainted by the Parliament at Coventry on November 20 along with ten other Yorkist lords. The act of attainder pronounced their legal death and the forfeit of their estates. The Earl of Wiltshire was nominated to be lieutenant of Ireland, but the Irish Parliament protected York.

Duke Philippe of Burgundy made a truce for three months with the Yorkists. The Lancaster government gathered a fleet at Sandwich to drive them from the channel ports. Warwick sent a force under John Dynham that raided and captured Sandwich on January 15, 1460. Warwick left Calais for Ireland, and the royalists tried to use a Venetian fleet in the Thames River. The captains quickly departed, and the Council ordered all Venetian merchants in London imprisoned. York and Warwick drafted a manifesto in Ireland on the oppression caused by the government, which was now starting to use the French method of conscription. They asserted their loyalty to the King but called for radical reforms.

The government prepared for an invasion, and Edward of March, Warwick, Salisbury, Fauconberg, and John Wenlock landed at Sandwich on June 26 with the legate Francesco Coppini from Pope Pius II who was raising money to fight the Turks. They entered London on July 2, and in the battle at Northampton on July 10 the royal guns were made useless by the rain. The Duke of Buckingham, Earl of Shrewsbury, Viscount Beaumont, and Lord Egremont were among the 300 killed. March, Warwick, and Fauconberg went to tell the King they were loyal. They found Henry VI in his tent and escorted him to London and captured the Tower on July 21. Henry was still king, but the victorious Yorkists took over the government. Warwick announced severe penalties for murder, theft, and other crimes. On July 21 Bishop George Neville became chancellor, and three days later Viscount Henry Bourchier was appointed treasurer and Robert Stillington was put in charge of the seal.

Duke Richard of York came back from Ireland on September 8, 1460 to claim the throne and marched with 300 soldiers to Abingdon. Warwick was commissioned to arrest rebels in ten Midland counties. Parliament met on October 7 and repealed all the acts of the Coventry Parliament. Richard entered Westminster Hall on October 10; but he was not encouraged to take the throne even after he sent his genealogical claim. The lords consulted Henry VI on the 17th, and they reminded York of his oath of allegiance. On October 24 the Act of Accord recognized York as the legitimate heir to the throne, and he compromised by letting Henry retain his crown for life. The King proclaimed York heir-apparent on November 8, and the Parliament ordered all royal officers to obey the heir as though he were the king. On December 9 March was sent to consolidate Wales and York while Salisbury went to contain the Queen, his old adversaries the Percies, and others in the north. Richard Neville of Salisbury died on December 31 and was succeeded by his son Richard, Earl of Warwick.

Richard of York reappointed Warwick to command the seas on December 17 while he went north to punish Lancaster earls. However, York, Rutland, Thomas Neville (son of Salisbury), and other retainers were killed on December 30 during the battle of Wakefield against Northumberland and the young Somerset. The legate tried to mediate between Warwick and the Queen, but she went to Scotland and by giving them Berwick arranged a marriage between the 7-year-old Prince of Wales and James III’s sister Mary. On January 20, 1461 at York twelve English lords pledged their power in support of King Henry VI. Charles VII opened the harbors of Normandy to her supporters, and Margaret began marching to London. Edward of March raised forces in the Mortimer lands of Wales and defeated the earls of Pembroke and Wiltshire at Mortimer’s cross on February 3, 1461. Margaret rescued her son Edward while her soldiers ransacked the convent and town at St. Albans, defeating Warwick’s army. Lord Bonville and Thomas Kyriell were beheaded, but Warwick, Norfolk, and Arundel escaped.

England 1461-1517

Copyright © 2010 by Sanderson Beck

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EUROPE & Reform 1517-1588

Milan and Venice 1400-1517
Florence, the Medici and Machiavelli
Rome, Popes, and Naples 1400-1517
Italy and Humanism
Eastern Europe 1400-1517
German Empire 1400-1517
Scandinavia 1400-1517
Castile, Aragon, Granada, and Portugal 1400-1517
France’s Long War 1400-1453
France in the Renaissance 1453-1517
England of Henry IV, V, and VI 1399-1461
England 1461-1517
Scotland and Ireland 1400-1517
Erasmus and Spreading Humanism
Summary and Evaluation Europe 1400-1517

Chronology of Europe 1400-1588
World Chronology

BECK index