Britain’s Bloody Crown Part 2 14.01.2016


Edward IV
Edward IV

One of the most turbulent and violent periods in Britain’s history.

1461 Henry VI had the throne snatched away by young and charismatic Edward IV – he was helped to the throne by Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick – the Kingmaker.

It took Edward 7 years to learn that to save the country a good king must do bad things.

3 months after Richard Duke of York’s death Edward IV takes his revenge on the king.

The bloodiest battle on English soil ends (Towton) and Edward IV succeeds as the king and queen’s forces have been wiped out and Henry VI and his family are forced to flee to Scotland.

28000 men slaughtered in 10 hours, pretty much half of the troops involved in the fight.

Edward declared king in 1461, aged just 18 – 12th plantagenet king of England.

Edward needs to end the violence, assisted by Warwick, to make the country stable and safe. Continue reading “Britain’s Bloody Crown Part 2 14.01.2016”

Book Review – ‘The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship 1445-1503’ by J.L. Laynesmith


JL Laynesmith 'The Last Medieval Queens'
JL Laynesmith ‘The Last Medieval Queens’

J.L. Laynesmith, The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship 1445-1503 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), Paperback, ISBN 978-0-199-27956-2

Title: The lives of the last Medieval Queens – this book looks at Margaret of Anjou, Elizabeth Woodville, Anne Neville and Elizabeth of York. However, I think it could also have done with looking more at Jacquetta of Luxembourg and Margaret Beaufort because, although they weren’t Queens, sometimes they almost had the same power as them, and definitely influenced the Queens themselves.

Preface: The introduction gives a broad overview of the lives of the women, and why these particular women are so fascinating. It gives a brief rundown of their lives, and how they link to each other. It also introduces other people who influenced the lives of the Queens and the monarchy, like the Earl of Warwick the “kingmaker”, the Duke of York, the Earl of Salisbury, the children of the queens, and the kings that the queens were married to. Continue reading “Book Review – ‘The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship 1445-1503’ by J.L. Laynesmith”

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


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 “Book Review – ‘The Women of the Cousins’ War: the Duchess, the Queen and the King’s Mother’ by Philippa Gregory”

Book Review – ‘The Woodvilles’ by Susan Higginbotham


Susan Higginbotham 'The Woodvilles: the Wars of the Roses and England's Most Infamous Family'
Susan Higginbotham ‘The Woodvilles: the Wars of the Roses and England’s Most Infamous Family’

Higginbotham, Susan, The Woodvilles: the Wars of the Roses and England’s Most Infamous Family (Stroud: The History Press, 2015), Paperback, ISBN 978-0-7509-6078-6

Title: It is clearly about the Woodville family, the most popular members being Elizabeth Woodville and her mother, Jacquetta of Luxembourg. They were very active during the Wars of the Roses, and became infamous when the Lancastrian commoner, Elizabeth Woodville, married the Yorkist king, Edward IV.

Preface: The introduction is short and to the point, outlining the rise of the Woodville family and their time at the top. There hasn’t really been a book about the Woodville family before so this is the first of its kind. It is made clear that the Princes in the Tower won’t really be discussed because there is already a lot of literature on them already. Continue reading “Book Review – ‘The Woodvilles’ by Susan Higginbotham”

Comparing Monarchs: does it work? Does it add anything to our knowledge? Why do we do it?


Elizabeth I Darnley Portrait 1575
Elizabeth I Darnley Portrait 1575

Monarchs are often compared to each other, but does it really accomplish anything, and if so, what? Why do we do it? Elizabeth I and Mary I are often compared to each other as sisters and queens. Elizabeth II is often compared to her namesake, Elizabeth I. The wives of Henry VIII are also compared to each other, particularly the ones which replaced each other like Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour.

Comparing monarchs means that individual monarchs are not taken on the basis of their own ideas and achievements, but instead compared with either a namesake or a predecessor. Individual biographies are no longer as popular as they once were as comparative histories come to the fore. Possibly some of the best known historical comparisons are between the wives of Henry VIII, on which countless books have been written of them as a unit. The most notable of these are by the likes of David Starkey, Antonia Fraser and Alison Weir. It means that Anne Boleyn is compared to both Katherine of Aragon and Jane Seymour; and that Anne Boleyn’s supposed guilt is compared to the established guilt of Katherine Howard. These comparisons won’t ever stop. Continue reading “Comparing Monarchs: does it work? Does it add anything to our knowledge? Why do we do it?”

Why did Lambert Simnel’s Rebellion Against Henry VII Fail?


George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, 1700s, by Richard Godfrey
George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, 1700s, by Richard Godfrey

Lambert Simnel claimed to be the Earl of Warwick, the eldest son of George Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville, who was in Henry VII’s care in the Tower of London.[i] The success (or failure) of Simnel’s rebellion hinged on the Earl of Warwick – Henry VII could prove that Simnel wasn’t Warwick.[ii] Obviously, Simnel wasn’t Warwick because Warwick was in the Tower, and can’t be in two places at once. The idea for passing him off as Warwick came about after it was rumoured that Warwick had escaped from the Tower. The initial idea was to have passed him off as one of the Princes in the Tower.[iii] After the death of Edward IV and the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower, Warwick was the next in line to the throne, even though his father had been indicted for treason. What did sway public opinion were the actions of Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, who supported Simnel and recognised him as her nephew.[iv] This added foreign support to Simnel’s cause, and it was probably only the fact that Henry VII could produce the real Warwick that saved his throne. Continue reading “Why did Lambert Simnel’s Rebellion Against Henry VII Fail?”

Why Did Thomas Wolsey Fall from Power in 1529?


Cardinal Wolsey by an unknown artist c.1520 from the National Portrait Gallery.
Cardinal Wolsey by an unknown artist c.1520 from the National Portrait Gallery.

Cardinal Thomas Wolsey was Henry VIII’s chief minister from his accession in 1509 until his dramatic fall in 1529. The reasons for this sudden fall are hotly debated amongst historians – was it his inability to give Henry VIII a divorce from Katherine of Aragon so he could marry Anne Boleyn? Or was it that the nobility were jealous of Wolsey’s huge amount of power and influence? Or was it just bad luck? At what point did his fall become inevitable? These ideas will be discussed in the following short essay.

The issue of Henry VIII’s divorce or “great matter” has taken over the history of this period. This and the break with Rome seem to almost characterise the Tudor dynasty. However, there was so much more to it than fame. Henry VIII’s desire for Anne Boleyn brought down his chief minister, and led to England’s division from the Papacy in Rome. It also led to the idea that a king could marry for love. Continue reading “Why Did Thomas Wolsey Fall from Power in 1529?”

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

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 “The Princes in the Tower – What Happened?”

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