Tuesday, 19 January 2010


On the face of it, the main bone of contention between Yorkists and Lancastrians (if we can use these convenient labels, because labels are all they are) was the death of many prominent Lancastrian nobles at St. Albans. As will be seen from the last post most of the Lancastrian leaders were sons of these men. The knightly class were not brought up to suffer such events with Christ-like patience and forbearance. Indeed they were taught to resent the most trivial offence against their honour and avenge it with violence.

King Henry VI seems to have believed that if he could somehow pacify the resentments over the events of St Albans he could resolve the whole issue and achieve peace. This was a commendable attempt on Henry's part, but it overlooked the underlying political issues that had led up to the present circumstances. The King was probably too optimistic is believing that anything short of death could make the individuals 'forgive and forget'.

A Great Council was arranged for Westminster on 27 January 1458. York lodged in London and the Lancastrians, some of whom did not appear until well into February, outside. At an early stage there was an unsuccesful attempt to ambush York and Salisbury as they rode to Westminster, and the King withdrew, first to Chertsey, then to Berkhampstead. The distance may have been intended to show impartiality, but Henry did receive Somerset, Exeter, Clifford and Egremont on 23 February.

On 9 March there was a failed attempt to ambush Warwick on his way to Westminster. (These Lancastrians seem to have little imagination for new tactics and little skill in undertaking ambushes.)

On 16 March Henry returned to Westminster and led a public procession for peace. He then instructed the Archbishop of Canterbury to act as go-between, the good prelate meeting the Yorkists at Blackfriars in the mornings and Somerset and Co. at Whitefriars in the afternoons. By 23 March an agreement had been patched and financial bonds entered into by the parties.

The agreement provided for cash recompense for the bereaved (noble) families of St. Albans plus the setting-up of chantries for the dead paid for by the York/Neville faction. However, as the payments were to be in tallies and as York was granted various financial arrangements for the reduction of the arrears owed to him by Henry, it was not quite as one-sided an agreement as at first appears.

A service of thanksgiving was held at St Paul's from which York emerged hand in hand with the Queen, Warwick with Somerset, and so on and so forth. One can only imagine what thought bubbles a medieval Private Eye would have set above the procession.

Henry probably thought he had achieved peace, but he was soon to be sharply disillusioned.

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