Sunday, 11 October 2009

York's Second Protectorate

After the battle of St Alban's Henry VI was escorted back to London, treated with due respect by York and his followers, and lodged in Bishop Kemp's house. After the Whitsuntide celebrations, during which Henry rather pointedly insisted that York, rather than the Archbishop of Canterbury, placed the crown on his head the King left for Windsor, apparently not under constraint.

Changes in government removed various offices from Somerset and bestowed them on Warwick and the Bourchiers. Notably Warwick became Captain of Calais, a role from which he was not easily to be displaced! York became Constable.

The Parliament of that summer exonerated York and his party for their part in the events of St Alban's by putting the blame on the dead Somerset. Other charges were largely dropped, with a general pardon issued at the end of the Parliament that was taken up by many persons, including the Duke of Exeter.

York at this stage was not formally Protector, but the King's rule was certainly somewhat nominal, and trouble flared between lawless elements in various parts of the country including London, Devon and Derbyshire. When Parliament met again in November the King was reported sick again, and the peers invited York to act as Lieutenant. It was provided that York should only be dismissed from the protectorate by the King with the assent of the lords spiritual and temporal, thus giving him rather more 'job security' than before.

York's first task was to restore order in Devon, the worst of the troublespots, and he performed this duty with some success. The Earl of Devon (York's supporter in 1452) and Lord Bonville his main rival were both placed in custody.

York's next significant project was less successful. It was a Bill of Resumption intended to take back many of the crown lands Henry had given away. (The intent being to improve the crown's hopeless financial position.) It provoked fierce opposition, especially among the peers, with Queen Margaret only one of many seeking exemption.

As mentioned, York's government was rather narrowly based, relying heavily on the Nevilles and Bourchiers and depending for its survival on at least the passive support of the majority of the peerage. There was not the necessary consensus to undertake the policy of resumption and the result was that York resigned (25 February 1456), even before the Parliament was ended. He went off to Sandal, and Warwick and Salisbury joined him in the north.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Two Underrated Scottish Kings

I am in no state for blogging at the moment, reserving what little energy I have for writing. So the following is a guest posting by Stephen Lark, to whom all credit, and copyright belongs. Although it isn't directly about House of York matters, I hope you find it interesting. I'd like to thank Stephen for his trouble - thanks Stephen! :

Robert II and Robert III are usually written off by historians – in both kingdoms - as two feeble old men with relatively short and uneventful reigns. “Nothing for you to see here, sir; move along please”.

I tend to disagree and Robert II’s marital life, as a precursor of Edward IV’s, should make them both of interest in England as well as Scotland. Delivered after his mother’s death in 1316 as the heir of his grandfather (the Bruce), he was displaced at the age of eight by his newborn uncle, David II, who reigned for forty-two of his forty-seven years, married twice but didn’t have any children – spending a few years as an English prisoner didn’t help.

Consequently, Robert had little expectation of succeeding until shortly before he did in 1371. During the intervening years, he had nine children by Elizabeth Mure from c. 1337 to her death in 1354, four by Euphemia Ross from 1355 and about eight illegitimate children. The first marriage had to be reinforced by a 1347 dispensation via the Avignon pope – although I have yet to clarify the irregularity fully. If this retrospective patch was effective then his eldest son John, who became Robert III in 1390, two years after being injured by a horse, was his heir – otherwise the sons by Ross were best-placed.

In the years from 1390, there were several plots against their successors – principally Robert III’s son James I, an English prisoner then a hostage for eighteen years – by the descendants of Robert II’s other sons, the Albany and Graham families, the latter being successful.

So why should this be of interest to English historians? First the similarity with Edward IV, the main contrast being Robert’s honesty and willingness to put things right. Second, there were similar consequences to England from 1483. Third, the human element:
Imagine that you are Henry V’s brother and Henry VI’s Regent. Joan Beaufort, your first cousin, is to marry James I but what is his authority in Scotland – is she being wasted?
You could be (sorry) Henry VII. Margaret, your daughter, is to marry James IV – and the same doubts apply.