Historian views on the Political stability and instability


The Political Stability and Instability

Historian views:

  • The period of 1459-1471 is often viewed as representing the complete breakdown of law and order, as overmighty subjects and undermighty kings slugged it out for control of the kingdom. 
  • Some historians have claimed that the entire social fabric was torn apart due to the break down of the old fuedal system on law and service, which was replaced by '******* feudalsim.'
  • Political stability was made much worse by the return of 1000s of soldiers from France. 
  • Paston letters from the Paston family who were an upwardly mobile family. 
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Social and political structure of the Crown and th

Social and political structure of the Crown and Nobility:

  • The Wars of the Roses were serious.
  • However, they did not represent a breakdown in the political or social structure. 
  • This was because English society had always been violent, and the Noble's first duty was to fight for the kingdom or defend their land. 
  • All wealthiest men retained other men who could call upon to fight.
  • Ownership of land was the source of all political power. 
  • Laws of inheritance were far from clear:
    • Marriages were arranged to seal great political alliances among the nobility were developed. 
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Weaknesses in power of the Monarchy

There were some weaknesses in the Moncarch's power which includes:

  • The King could not tax his subjects without their consent, which meant that the ordinary revenue was funded by the King's personal income from his own lands.
  • Extraordinary revenue had to be raised with the consent of Parliament. 
  • Therefore, the Monarch of England was seriously under funded. 
  • The King did not have a standing army, so he depended on the nobility raising their retainers to mount serious military campaigns.
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Local government

The King's relationship with the Local Govt:

  • The nobility and gentry were relied on, by the King, to enforce law and order in the localities. 
  • Therefore law and order depnded on the great land owners, who held their own courts and could put pressure on the local Justices of Peace. 
  • In all areas, there were competing families which lead to fighting. 
  • The Nevilles and Percy's were great men, in the north, who had the power to raise great armies to oppose and protest about the King's advisors
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Limits to disorder

Limits to disorder:

  • Both the Crown and nobility saw taking up of arms, as a last resort. 
  • In this period, historian J.R Landler claimed that 35 peerage families fought for the Lancastrains, whilst 19 or 20 families sided with the Yorkists. 
  • However, as the decade wore on, the involvement of the nobility in fighting, declined. 
  • In 1470-71, there were 2 alternative kings, where Warwick would swap from one side to the other. 
  • A weak king, mentally and politically, or Edward IV (politically weak) combined with one seriously overmighty subject (Warwick), resulted in war. 
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The Nature of Warfare

The nature of warfare was limited:

  • This was a war of episodic campaigns and sporadic battles, as half of the period saw active military campaigning. 
  • Between 1461-1464, Edward mopped up Lancastrian reistance fairly easily. 
  • Between 1461-1470, violence was limited because there were no pitched battles. 
  • There were uprsings sparked by Wawick and Clarnence were staged managed affairs. 
  • They were not popular uprising becaue there was protesting about the breakdown of law and order.
  • Towton was the biggest battle as it has been said that there around 50,000 men fighting. 
  • Barnet and Tewkesbury saw armies of around 5000 men on each side. 
  • Nobles, gentry and other landowners were hard hit, but few families died out. 
  • Warwuc was the hardest hit, but other Nevilles remained, however their power was broken. 
  • Overall, the population of England was little affected, therefore the Wars did not spark off a demographic disaster. 
  • There were no real food shortages and the economic well being of the realm was little affected.
  • Trade was the same as before, especially between London and Calais.
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Respect for the Monarchy

Respect for the Monarchy continued, even if there were 2 Kings:

  • After the campaigns of 1459-61, most of nobility settled down under Edward IV's regime.
  • Edward IV showed must mercy towards former enemies. 
  • As a result, these noblemen realised that their best interests would be serving or complying with the Yorkist government. 
  • Edward IV was safe, until his own cousin, brother and the greatest noblemen turned against him. 
  • This was a failing relationship, rather than a general breakdown of political rule, that brought Edward IV down in 1469-70. 
  • Once his rivals were dead in 1471, the Wars of Roses was over.
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