Documentary Notes – British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley: the Wars of the Roses


  • Story of past open to interpretation 
  • Carefully edited and deceitful version of events 
  • Not just a version of what happened – more a tapestry of different stories woven together by whoever was in power at the time 
  • Wars of the Roses was invented by the Tudors to justify their power 
  • Immortalised by Shakespeare – darkest chapter in English history 
  • Lancaster and York locked in battle for the crown of England – kings deposed, innocent children murdered, cousin fought against cousin 
  • 1485 Richard III slain and Henry Tudor took the throne 
  • Henry VII’s victory hailed the ending of the Medieval period 
  • Line between fact and fiction often gets blurred 
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.
  • 1455 Stubbins in Lancashire scene of a legendary battle in the Wars of the Roses beginning with volleys of arrows but ran out of ammunition 
  • Lancastrians pelted the Yorkists with black pudding – local legend 
  • Yorkists pelted the Lancastrians with Yorkshire puddings – local legend 
  • Wars of the Roses in national memory 
  • History books – rivalry between Lancaster (red rose) and York (white rose) – bloody rivalry largely a creation of the Tudors 
  • 1461 bloodshed real in the middle of a snowstorm at Towton 
  • Lancastrians started out well but tide turned against them, chased by the Yorkists down the slope to a river and so a massacre began 
  • Blood stained the snow red, so location became known as the bloody meadow 
  • Shakespeare portrayed the battle as a bloody Armageddon – represented a country torn apart by war, nothing as bad in our history 
  • Somme 19,000 British soldiers killed on the first day, Towton 28,000 killed 
  • 20 years ago Bradford University revealed barbarity of fighting with remains of 43 men killed at Towton 
  • Head forced down into the spine, poleaxes – exceptional even for the Wars of the Roses 
  • Skirmishes, but real battles only around 8 in 30 years 
  • Not ravaged by all-out war – later myth 
  • Out of 32 years of wars, fighting on lasted a total of 13 weeks 

Continue reading “Documentary Notes – British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley: the Wars of the Roses”

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Heraldry Badges and Emblems of the Tudors


Royal Badge of England, including the Tudor Rose.
Royal Badge of England, including the Tudor Rose.

Henry VII

Portcullis, greyhound, crowned Tudor rose, crowned hawthorn bush, red dragon

The portcullis is currently the symbol for parliament, an institution of justice and law, which Henry VII did revolutionise during his reign. The portcullis was also representative of his royal blood through his mother, Margaret Beaufort, as it was the symbol of her house.

Red is typically the colour that represents both military strength and magnanimity. The dragon represents valour and protection, and appears on the Welsh flag. This is possibly to demonstrate Henry’s Welsh roots (he was born in Wales, and the Tudor name is Welsh).

The greyhound represents courage, loyalty and vigilance. Henry VII courageously took the crown on the battlefield, and was vigilant for anyone looking to take it away from him. He appears to have been loyal to his wife, and we don’t know for sure of any illegitimate children he may have had, or even any mistresses. Continue reading “Heraldry Badges and Emblems of the Tudors”

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 “Heraldry Badges and Emblems of the Wars of the Roses”

‘The White Queen’ by Philippa Gregory – Discussion Questions


'The White Queen' by Philippa Gregory (2009).
‘The White Queen’ by Philippa Gregory (2009).

I’ve read Philippa Gregory’s ‘The White Queen’ recently to coincide with the television show. The book was a bit of a disappointment for me. I didn’t feel that it was as engaging as some of her Tudor novels. Below are the discussion questions from the back of the book. You also get lists of questions in historical books by Philippa Gregory and Emily Purdy to help you understand the story. I have posted my answers to the ones from ‘The White Queen’ below, and I hope you’ll post what you think, and whether you disagree with any of my answers.

1. Discuss Elizabeth’s first few encounters with Edward and her motives for seeking him out. Do they marry for love? Did you find it surprising that Edward defied his mentor Warwick and upheld his secret marriage to Elizabeth? Why or why not?

I genuinely think that Elizabeth and Edward were in love. I don’t think that they were as in love as they would become over the years, but I think they were in love at the start, as their passionate arguments demonstrate. You can’t be passionate with someone if you don’t respect them, and even love them. I know this from personal experience. I think Elizabeth’s motives for seeking Edward out were completely honourable – she wanted to reclaim her sons’ inheritance. However, Edward’s motives for returning to Elizabeth in person were not so honourable. I think he fell in love with her when she held his dagger to her throat rather than lose her respect for herself. It’s like if you can’t have something you just want it more (note Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn). I don’t think it was very surprising that Edward defied Warwick and insisted that his marriage to Elizabeth was legitimate. This is because Edward was growing up – he was no longer a child, and could form his own opinions. However, I do think that Edward should have informed Warwick sooner, so that the French alliance didn’t progress so far before being destroyed. Perhaps then Warwick wouldn’t have been quite so annoyed and angry at his loss of face over the matter. Continue reading “‘The White Queen’ by Philippa Gregory – Discussion Questions”

‘The Virgin Widow’ by Anne O’Brien – Discussion Questions


'Virgin Widow' by Anne O'Brien (2010).
‘Virgin Widow’ by Anne O’Brien (2010).

I recently finished reading ‘The Virgin Widow’ by Anne O’Brien, a novel about the life of Anne Neville, up until the birth of her son, Edward of Middleham. I really liked it, and look forward to reading ‘The Kingmaker’s Daughter’ by Philippa Gregory to compare. Below are the discussion questions from the back of the book. You also get lists of questions in historical books by Philippa Gregory and Emily Purdy to help you understand the story. I have posted my answers to the ones from ‘The Virgin Widow’ below, and I hope you’ll post what you think, and whether you disagree with any of my answers.

1. A wife was regarded as little more than a possession of her husband. To what extent does the life of Anne Neville and her family support this view of marriage in the fifteenth century?

Women weren’t thought to be able to think on their own and form their own views. In a lot of ways they were the property of their husband because they were expected to obey him and follow his commands and share his beliefs, even if she didn’t truly believe in them. For example, the Countess of Warwick was expected to support her husband in his rebellion and do what he commanded, though in the novel it is obvious that she doesn’t approve of him upsetting the possibilities for their daughters. The Duke of Clarence marries Isobel and immediately begins summoning her after him when he leaves a room. Isobel is expected to obey. And when he ditches Warwick in favour of his brother, Edward IV, Isobel was also expected to leave her father. Anne’s two marriages were much the same. Her marriage to Edward of Lancaster meant that she was expected to support the Lancastrian cause when she had been a Yorkist her entire life. She was under the thumb of Edward’s mother, Margaret of Anjou, who watched her to make sure she didn’t disgrace herself or disobey and contact the York brothers. She was essentially a hostage for her father’s good behaviour. In her second marriage to Richard, she is still expected to follow her husband’s example, although in the court she is allowed a bit more freedom, and she is willing to follow Richard’s example, rather than being forced. Continue reading “‘The Virgin Widow’ by Anne O’Brien – Discussion Questions”