Causes of the Wars of the Roses

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  • Origins of the conflict
    • Noble rivalry and ambition
      • Baronial Factions
        • Somerset Percys (Northumb., Egremont) Exeter
          • The Percy-Neville dispute began in the 1450s when Warwick (N) refused to give up Glamorgan to Somerset. Later a marriage caused a change in lands in the north, meaning a wide gap opened between the two families. Much happened to exacerbate the situation but eventually the private dispute erupted into national politics and encouraged the fighting.
            • The absence of a good king led to physical fighting over certain areas of land, rather than an easier settling in court
          • Somerset was a Beaufort. The Beauforts were half-brothers to Henry IV; their father was John of Gaunt. But they were illegitimate as they were born before John of Gaunt married their mother, Catherine Swynford.
            • The Beauforts were strong supporters of the Lancastrian Kings throughout the Wars of the Roses
            • Due to the illegitimacy of the Beauforts, Somerset was not named as heir to Henry . should Henry have died before Edward was born (1453).
              • Both saw themselves as close court advisers as they were apart of the royal bloodline and so did not like it when they were ignored, or even replaced by the other faction.
                • If Henry died before 1453 (Edward), York probably would have became king, despite no one ever declaring him as heir apparent.
        • York    Nevilles (Warwick, Salisbury) Cromwell (Treasurer)
          • The Percy-Neville dispute began in the 1450s when Warwick (N) refused to give up Glamorgan to Somerset. Later a marriage caused a change in lands in the north, meaning a wide gap opened between the two families. Much happened to exacerbate the situation but eventually the private dispute erupted into national politics and encouraged the fighting.
            • The absence of a good king led to physical fighting over certain areas of land, rather than an easier settling in court
          • York was the descendant of two sons of Edward III (Edmund of York and Lionel D. of Clarence). In 1450 he was the closest cousin to Henry VI with a strong claim. He expected to be among Henry's closest advisers, hence the trouble he caused when he was not.
            • If Henry died before 1453 (Edward), York probably would have became king, despite no one ever declaring him as heir apparent.
    • Henry's weaknesses
      • Character
        • merciful and spineless
        • excessively generous
        • little interest in government
          • Government positions very rewarding for nobles.
        • interest in education
      • Mental Illness
        • 1453 - 'severe nervous breakdown' in a catatonic state for over a year  (August 1453 - December 1454)
          • Probably caused by the news of the loss of Bordeaux (Aug '53)
            • Before this, the English army at Castillon (Gascony) was defeated by the French
          • During this time, the Percys attacked a Neville wedding party
          • 1454 - York as Protector and Salisbury as Chancellor
            • Somerset sent to Tower on charges of Treason
              • Exeter and Egremont grew more powerful to try to counter the Yorkists
                • 1454 - York as Protector and Salisbury as Chancellor
                  • Somerset sent to Tower on charges of Treason
                    • Exeter and Egremont grew more powerful to try to counter the Yorkists
          • When NOT ill, he was seen as lacking in character and was easily manipulated by his nobles.
          • Son - Edward, P. Wales, born in 1453  -  Henry so ill that he didn't react at all
      • Losses in France
        • Normandy (Aug '50) Gascony  (Aug '51)
          • During Somerset's term as Lieutenant-General in France, York was angered at his losses
            • The French managed to overrun towns with little or no resistance in English lands (especially Normandy).
            • Somerset surrendered at Rouen and paid well to be released with his family to Caen, leaving many hostages behind.
              • Somerset did the same at Caen not long afterwards, leaving even more hostages there.
                • Here it can be seen that Somerset was selfish and had little nerve against the enemy.
        • War ends in 1453
          • Magnates no longer receiving income from war
            • More demand for powerful nobles who would have earnt money through campaigns /foreign policy
          • Unused readily armed soldiers returning from France to nobles in England (~5,000 men)
        • Loss of the Hundred Years war
          • Henry VI lost all ground captured by Henry V.
          • All grounds in France were lost, (except Calais)
      • Financial and social problems
        • Growing Economic Crisis
          • Trade Depression
            • Loss of important trading ports in France
            • Trade embargo on English Cloth in Low Countries  -  main source of income for English merchants lost
          • Debt
            • Annual government income = £33,000
              • Trade Depression
                • Loss of important trading ports in France
                • Trade embargo on English Cloth in Low Countries  -  main source of income for English merchants lost
            • Government in debt to £372,000
              • Unable to get credit
                • Annual government income = £33,000
                • Generosity of Henry
                • ******* Feudalism
          • Cade's Rebellion (June/July 1450)
            • popular discontent against government
              • For France losses, economic crisis and courtiers embezzling money from king
                • Duke of Suffolk
                • Lord Saye
            • Bishop of Chichester, Adam Moleyns, murdered in Portsmouth by an angry mob
              • Duke of Suffolk then accused of Treason and sent to Tower
                • King intervened and dismised all charges, against all his councillors' advise
                  • Duke of Suffolk was given 5 years banishment, which was seen as far too lenient.
                    • He was captured when leaving England by privateers and beheaded immediately
                      • This stoked the fire for rebellion.
                      • Angry locals from Kent marched under Jack Cade to London with a petition.
                        • The rebels camped in London and then moved when Henry tried to meet them with force. 4 days later, Hanry arrested those stated in the petition and moved back to London, to find the rebels running amok in the capital. After being forced out of London, all rebels were offered a pardon except for Jack Cade who died of his wounds when captured. He was later deemed a traitor by parliament.
                    • Angry locals from Kent marched under Jack Cade to London with a petition.
                      • The rebels camped in London and then moved when Henry tried to meet them with force. 4 days later, Hanry arrested those stated in the petition and moved back to London, to find the rebels running amok in the capital. After being forced out of London, all rebels were offered a pardon except for Jack Cade who died of his wounds when captured. He was later deemed a traitor by parliament.
        • Dynastic problems
          • Richard, Duke of York had a strong blood claim to the throne as well
            • He was widely recognised as a key magnate of England
              • He waited until 1460 before claiming the throne, even then only gaining succession
          • Henry was weak, Richard was strong
            • Richard had done well in France and Ireland and so had a reputation
              • Cade's Rebel called for York's support against Henry VI as they viewed him as much more suitable than Henry VI
                • For the nobility, the claim was not too important. People still changed sides when it suited them.
                  • Many nobles backed the current leader, so they would not be excluded from important affairs or refused future offices/gifts
        • ******* Feudalism
          • This was when the King gave money as gifts rather than lands.
            • Started in the 1400s
            • Increased the Government'sdebt significantly
              • York was owed lots of money by the crown
            • Allowed nobles to increase the number of their retainers significantly
              • This provided the challengers with the forces necessary to march against Henry

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