Heraldry Badges and Emblems of the Wars of the Roses


Henry VI

Henry VI 1540 at the National Portrait Gallery
Henry VI 1540 at the National Portrait Gallery

Chained swan, chained antelope, red rose, ostrich feathers, spotted panther

The red rose is the symbol of the House of Lancaster, although it didn’t really become so poignant until later on in history. Red is the colour of blood and life, of love and combat. Henry VI’s reign saw a lot of combat and bloodshed, but Henry himself wasn’t very involved. He seems to have caused the Wars of the Roses by his inability to rule England properly. He seemed to lack both life and love, however, as he didn’t seem to engage properly with people.

The ostrich feather symbolised the Egyptian goddess Maat. Maat was the ancient Egyptian goddess of truth, balance, order, law, morality and justice. Henry VI did at least push for justice and morality because of his faith in his religion. Ostrich feathers also stood for beauty and iridescence. Henry VI was obviously interested in beauty – he founded Eton College Chapel and King’s College Chapel, enhancing his father’s legacy of architectural patronage. King’s College Chapel has the world’s largest fan vaulted roof. Continue reading

Monarchs are often remembered for just one or two events and this paints them as either good or bad for the rest of history. Why do we do this and how do perceptions change if you examine their reigns in their entirety?


Monarchs seem to be remembered for perhaps one or two events or actions that then define them in English history. This doesn’t seem fair, as people have both good and bad inside them, and our actions are often dictated by the circumstances in which we live, and the events that take place around us. Most of our actions have good intentions when we start out, but it doesn’t always end that way. Monarchs who are seen as good have made mistakes, and monarchs who are seen as bad have also done good things. Here I will examine Richard III, King John, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.
Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.

The most eponymous “bad” monarch is Richard III, most remembered for the mysterious disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, presumed murdered by Richard himself. What people don’t always remember is that the Princes were in fact his nephews, and Richard never showed any previous inclination to take the throne, unlike his brother George Duke of Clarence.[1] The Princes’ mother, Elizabeth Woodville, didn’t seem to hold Richard accountable for their deaths and she emerged from sanctuary, putting her daughters under Richard’s protection. Either that, or she was so ambitious that she didn’t care that her brother-in-law killed her sons, and just wanted some power for herself.[2] However, if this was true, she would be sadly disappointed. Richard did a lot of positive things during his reign – he strengthened the economy and ended the wars with France.[3] He also strengthened ties with the north of England, due to his marriage to Anne Neville, daughter of a northern magnate. The bad is always remembered above the good where applicable, especially where there is so much mystery surrounding an event, like the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower. Continue reading

Book Review – The Women of the Cousins’ War: the Duchess, the Queen and the King’s Mother


Philippa Gregory
Philippa Gregory

Philippa Gregory, David Baldwin and Michael Jones, The Women of the Cousins’ War: the Duchess, the Queen and the King’s Mother (London: Simon and Schuster Ltd, 2011), Hardback, ISBN 978-0-85720-177-5

Title: Although the book is called The Women of the Cousins’ War, the book only examines a few of them – Elizabeth Woodville, Margaret Beaufort and Jacquetta of Luxembourg. It doesn’t look at Margaret of Anjou or Anne Neville in a lot of detail. Nevertheless, a good study of those it does examine in detail.

Preface: The preface discusses several important questions, like why write about these women? What’s so important about them? It also goes a lot wider, looking at what history is, and what fiction is, and how they can go together. There is also a sub-section on women’s place in history. The introduction is a little long, almost as long as a chapter. Continue reading

My Notes from the third part of ‘The Plantagenets’ shown 31.03.2014 on BBC


October 1399 8th Plantagenet king Richard II taken down the Thames – 1400 found starved to death.

Henry IV in the National Portrait Gallery from the 16th century
Henry IV in the National Portrait Gallery from the 16th century

Henry of Bolingbroke – Henry IV = right of kings undermined and whole dynasties collapsed – turned against each other and ended with the destruction of the dynasty.
1380s peasant’s revolt – Richard II forced to flee to the Tower.
Trigger = tax for war against the French.
Revolt against king’s councillors.
Simon Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury, seized and executed. The day after Richard met with the rebels, led by Watt Tyler. Tyler killed in a scuffle by the mayor of London.
Richard single-handedly halted rebellion = god-given right to rule.
Royal displays of kingship. Continue reading

Book Review – Leanda de Lisle’s ‘Tudor: the Family Story’


Leanda de Lisle
Leanda de Lisle

Leanda de Lisle, ‘Tudor: the Family Story 1437-1603’ (London: Chatto & Windus, 2013) Hardback, ISBN 978-0-701-18588-6

Title: The title suggests that the book doesn’t just discuss the events of the reigns of the Tudors, but actually the people involved – the monarchs, consorts, politicians and wider royal family. The focus on the people offers a different perspective on the Tudor era.

Preface: The introduction/preface introduces the ideas that shaped the Tudor dynasty and the ideas that allowed them to come to the throne – namely the killing of kings. It also discusses the beginnings of the Wars of the Roses (the Yorkist and Lancastrian lines).

Citations: The citations are very well done. They are clear and concise, and make it easy to find exactly the text you’re looking for. Divided down by chapter and then numbered within that makes it very easy. The extra information also included in the notes adds something to your knowledge. Continue reading

Richard III: His Reputation and the Discovery of His Bones


Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.
Late 16th Century portrait of Richard III, housed in the National Portrait Gallery.

Reputation

Richard III was a soldier, and proved an ‘excellent’ king – laws were to be followed, forced loans were abolished, and he protected the rights of the Church.[i] This is a more modern view. However, Richard III is often considered to be the most ‘evil’ of our nation’s kings.[ii] This idea has been built on from Tudor propaganda which was used to strengthen the Tudors own claim to the English throne. The main incident which inherently damaged the reputation of Richard III was the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower around 1483. It provoked ‘shock and indignation’ particularly as the princes were still children and had done nothing wrong.[iii] People believed that the Princes were in danger even before they vanished. People believed in Richard’s guilt. But this has more significance historically than whether Richard actually committed the crime.[iv] The disappearance of the Princes rather than the death, adds fuel to the idea that Richard was in fact innocent of their murder.[v] Edward IV displayed the body of Henry VI after his death, so that people would know he was dead, and not use him as a figurehead for rebellion. Continue reading

The Princes in the Tower – What Happened?


The Princes in the Tower 1878 painting
The Princes in the Tower 1878 painting

In the Beginning

Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, were the only two surviving sons of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, who married in secret in 1464. Edward was born in 1470 and Richard in 1473.[i] Edward V was deposed by his uncle, Richard III, on 25 June 1483, and declared illegitimate the following year, along with his brother and sisters.[ii] It was said that Edward IV (their father) had been married before he married their mother, Elizabeth Woodville. There were also rumours that Edward IV was not himself legitimate.

In the Tower

Towards the end of June 1483 Edward V’s attendants were forbidden from seeing him, and both of the Princes were more rarely seen within the Tower.[iii] Before, they had been seen in the grounds shooting and walking in the gardens. There was an early attempt to rescue the Princes in the Tower in July 1483, but something went wrong in the planning.[iv] Continue reading

Potted History of the Key Players in the Wars of the Roses


Henry VI 1540 at the National Portrait Gallery
Henry VI 1540 at the National Portrait Gallery

Henry VI was the son of the warrior king Henry V, the victor of Agincourt, but he wasn’t a warrior – he was quiet and pious. Later in life it is said that he lost his wits. He was deposed by Edward IV in 1460 and murdered in the Tower in 1471. He was the last Lancastrian king, married to Margaret of Anjou, who ruled in his stead.

Margaret of Anjou from an illuminated manuscript c. 1445 by Talbot Master
Margaret of Anjou from an illuminated manuscript c. 1445 by Talbot Master

Margaret of Anjou was the wife of Henry VI. Part of the marriage agreement was that the English gave up Maine in France. She gave birth to one son, Edward, who was killed in battle in 1471, and she lost her husband the same year. She was the mother-in-law of Anne Neville, through the latter’s marriage to her son, the future wife of Richard III. Continue reading

Significance of the Marriage Between Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville.


Edward IV Meeting Elizabeth Woodville
Edward IV Meeting Elizabeth Woodville

Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville’s marriage was the first time that an English king had married a commoner without a foreign wife first. Edward III had married Katherine Swynford but they already had children before their marriage, who were legitimised after the marriage. The descendents of this marriage became the Tudors, and it was these complicated marriage alliance which led to the Wars of the Roses, into which Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV were key players because of their marriage, and their many offspring. Their eldest daughter, Elizabeth, married the future Henry VII, and their two eldest sons, Edward and Richard, became the ill-fated Princes in the Tower.

The Mystery of the Princes in the Tower

The mystery of the Princes in the Tower has dogged historians for centuries. When two small skeletons were found under a Tower staircase it was assumed these were their bones but no evidence has actually been found and no DNA testing was conducted. Continue reading

Spotlight: Richard III


Name: Richard Plantagenet / Richard III

Title/s: Duke of Gloucester / King of England / Lord Protector

Birth / Death: 2 October 1452 – 22 August 1485

Spouse: Anne Neville 1456-1485

Children: Edward 1476-1484 (by Anne Neville) / John 1470-1499 (illegitimate, possibly by Alice Burgh) / Katherine bet. 1465 & 1470-1491 (illegitimate, possibly by Katherine Haute).

Parents: Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York 1411-1460 & Cecily Neville 1415-1495

Siblings: Joan 1438 / Anne 1439-1476 / Henry 1441 / Edward IV 1442-1483 / Edmund, Earl of Rutland 1443-1460 / Elizabeth 1444-1504 / Margaret 1446-1503 / William 1447 / John 1448 / George, Duke of Clarence 1449-1478 / Thomas 1451 / Ursula 1455 Continue reading