The Political Stability and Instability
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.