Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Henry IV's first parliament

I was going to write about Henry IV's coronation, but given that it's not actually all that relevant to the House of York which after all this Blog is supposed to be about, I decided not to bother. Though it is intriguing that Philippa, Duchess of Aumale does not seem to have received coronation robes. (The relevant papers are published in, of all places, The Coronation of Richard III - the extant documents edited by Anne F Sutton and P W Hammond; a publication I highly recommend if you can get your mitts on a copy. It's a rare book, and no, you are not having mine, it's too bloody useful!)

So passing gently on, we come to Henry IV's first Parliament which definitely was of interest to the House of York, not least because Edward of York was not far off being lynched. There was a lot of flak flying around concerning the execution of Thomas of Woodstock - everyone seems to have forgotten that Henry IV himself had been a star witness for the crown in 1397! To cut a long story short, Edward was challenged to mortal combat by Lord Fitzwalter (his own wife's stepson!) and as he tried to justify himself half the Parliament seems to have thrown down their gages on one side or the other - nearly all against Edward.

Henry cooled the situation by having John Hall, a valet who was 'only obeying orders' in taking part in Gloucester's death, hanged, drawn and quartered for the amusement of the Parliament.

He put the rest of the debate on ice, but then had Edward, Thomas Despenser, Surrey, Exeter and Salisbury put under arrest. They were split up, some to the Tower, others to Windsor.

Their trial followed shortly afterwards - to summarise, they all claimed they had done what they did out of fear of Richard II. They were sentenced to lose all lands gained since 1397 (which was inevitable given that most/all had been taken from Henry's supporters or Henry himself) and also to forfeit the new titles they had been given. Those they had 'oppressed' were encourged to come forward and ask for redress - the odd thing is that no one ever did. It appears that these favourites of a tyrant had been remarkably liberal in their dealings. By medieval standards almost incredibly so.

Salisbury did not have a 'new' title to lose but he had been challenged to a mortal combat by Lord Morley (one of Thomas Despenser's brothers-in-law.) This was arranged, but the Fitzwalter/Edward of York fixture seems to have been cancelled. As it happens the Morley/Salisbury duel was not to take place either.

The accused were released into the custody of the Abbot of Westminster (a Richard II supporter of the first rank) and most were shortly afterwards appointed to Henry's Council! Edward of York (who was almost certainly the most guilty of the bunch, given that Mowbray had died in exile) was actually awarded a number of tasty grants, not least the Lordship of Wight with the office of Constable of Carisbrooke. Henry, it must be said, had a very proper regard for his cousin's royal blood.

No comments: