Tuesday, 30 March 2010

A Note on the Attainders

Bertram Wolfe in Henry VI points out that the attainders included entailed lands. This was, he says 'in gross violation of the currently accepted practice of English common law that entails were sacrosanct, even against treason, a convention ominously last flouted by the tyrannous Richard II in 1398.'

Well, it was 1397, actually. And, like many critics of Richard II, Wolfe ignores the fact that the proceedings of 1397 deliberately mirrored the harsh treatment of Richard's friends by the Appellants in 1388. So it was the Appellants who were 'tyrannous'.

Anyway, the seizure of entailed lands was harsh. But the treatment of the womenfolk was generous and the Yorkist lords only had to 'humbly submit' to be guaranteed pardon. So I'll leave it to you out there to decide for yourself whether the treatment was 'tyrannous' or not.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch...

A Parliament was held at Coventry (November 1459) and the leading Yorkists (and eventually some lesser ones) were attainted. One attainder passed was against Alice, Countess of Salisbury. Now don't run this past your history professor without checking but I believe she was the first woman ever to be attainted, so we may see this Parliament as one of the steps on the long road to gender equality.

Alice had considerable property in her own right - she was heiress of her family, the Montagus or Montacutes or whatever you wish to spell them as. This may have been the reason for attainder, but then again the Countess of Warwick was substantially richer in her own right and she was not attainted. So maybe, just maybe, Alice was a political animal and really involved in Yorkist conspiracy. Or maybe Margaret of Anjou just plain didn't like her.

Unusually the attainders included a clause promising pardon for humble submission, and one is left wondering what would have happened if York and Co. had humbly submitted. The jointures of wives were protected and Duchess Cecily (or Cecille if you prefer her own version) who had no jointure received 1000 marks a year. This was relatively generous and certainly more so than similar arrangements in the Yorkist and Tudor eras.

The forfeited estates were not dismembered, but some parts of them were granted out on lease to various Lancastrian supporters. These included the Duke of Exeter, the Duchess of Somerset, the earls of Wiltshire and Pembroke, and Lords Dudley and Egremont. There was resistance to the forfeitures, particularly in the Welsh Marches where certain castles, including Denbigh (prop. R. York), were held against the Government forces.

Another good centre of resistance was York's town of Newbury. In June 1460 Wiltshire, with Lords Scales and Hungerford, visited in the role of justices of oyer and terminer in response to a revolt against taxation. Several local men were hanged while seventy-five others were imprisoned in Wallingford Castle.

This made for good propaganda, and Warwick (in particular) was just the man to use it.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Audley Family

Recent discussion about this family reminded me that there is a very useful Audley Family History Site out there for anyone who is interested.

They were, among other things, a good example of a family divided by the Wars of the Roses.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Escape Abroad

Richard, Duke of York and Edmund, Earl of Rutland escaped to Ireland, where York was remarkably popular by the standards of English Lords Lieutenants. More about Ireland in a later post.

Meanwhile Warwick, Salisbury and Edward, Earl of March (soon to be better known as Edward IV) made their way to Calais. They did not go directly to Calais, nor did they collect their £200. No, it appears they originally planned to go to Ireland too, but somehow found their way to the Channel Islands. To what extent this was a matter of navigation as opposed to a matter of prevailing winds - given that there were no steamships back then - I cannot say. One account has them going by way of Devon, which makes a certain sense, but how exactly they got to Devon is not clear.

By 2 November Warwick was in Calais, and in command of it. This tends to get taken for granted, but when you recall that a substantial chunk of the Calais garrison had deserted him at Ludlow Warwick must have arrived there in some doubt as to his reception.

Somerset had been appointed Captain of Calais in Warwick's room, but when he arrived there he was not admitted. He did manage to capture the fortress of Guines in the Calais March, but was promptly besieged in it. Since Warwick's fleet controlled the Channel it proved impossible to reinforce or supply Somerset and eventually (August 1460) the young duke was forced to capitulate.

Warwick's command of the seas was such that in January 1460 he was able to launch a pre-emptive assault on the town of Sandwich, under the command of Sir John Dynham. A Lancastrian force was based here to discourage a Yorkist invasion but its leaders, Richard, Lord Rivers, his son Anthony Woodville, and Lord Audley were captured and taken across to Calais. Here the Woodvilles were reportedly abused by Warwick and March on account of their 'low' origins and thrown into prison. I suppose they were lucky not to have their heads cut off. Audley - this is John Touchet, Lord Audley*, son of the Audley killed at Blore Heath - may have received kinder treatment. Anyway, he decided he was now a Yorkist.

Some may question whether the Woodvilles were low-born, given that Anthony's mother, Jacquetta, Duchess of Bedford had a very impressive continental pedigree and was (under the Lancastrian dispensation) second-ranking lady after the Queen. The point is they were perceived as being low-born and jumped-up by Warwick and those who thought as he did. Richard Woodville had been born a squire and his wife's fancy foreign relations, to a 15th Century English mind, did not count for a hill of beans. Woodville had been 'made by marriage'.
The fact that Warwick, Salisbury and even York's father had been 'made by marriage' was neither here nor there. They belonged to 'good' English families you see, and their fathers had all been earls.

* Familiar to some of you as Alianore's kindly elder brother in The Adventures of Alianore Audley.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010


A Parliament had been summoned, (to meet at Coventry in November) to which the Yorkist lords were not invited. This in itself suggests it was intended to attaint them there.

There was now a period of what might be called negotiation. The Yorkist lords rejected pardons - because they did not see themselves of having offended - but on the other hand they took a solemn oath in front of Garter King of Arms at the high altar of Worcester Cathedral that they were loyal to the King. They also sent a letter to the King via Garter that explained their position. In a nutshell they argued that Henry's supporters were incompetent and wanted to seize their lands and offices. Therefore they were not able to come into the King's presence except under the protection of an armed force.

From their point of view this attitude was understandable, but it did not cut much ice with Henry and would have allowed their opponents (the Queen, Somerset et. al.) to cast serious doubt on their good faith.

From Worcester they moved to Tewkesbury (very much on Warwick's Beauchamp/Despenser territory) but then retreated to Ludlow. The pattern of movement suggests they were trying to break out - perhaps to the London/Kent area where they had significant support - but found themselves outmanoeuvred by the Lancastrian forces.

The strategy was presumably to negotiate from behind strong defences, or if necessary fight. However the position of the Yorkists was quite desperate, and the King was marching against them with a very substantial army. Resistance was treason, at least if they were defeated. Defeat was quite likely, given the odds against, and, although the leadership allegedly made rallying speeches, there was an undoubted collapse of morale.

The King had offered a general pardon, still in force at this point (October 1459) and many of the Yorkist rank-and-file decided to defect and accept it. The best known of these is Sir Andrew Trollope who took with him most, if not all, of Warwick's force from the Calais garrison. However it appears other soldiers may have gone as well. This was not heroic behaviour, but it was understandable in the circumstances.

The position at Ludlow was now untenable, and York, his two elder sons (the earls of March and Rutland), Salisbury and Warwick slipped out of the back door and into Wales, leaving Duchess Cecily with her younger sons (George and Richard) and any daughters who were at home (Margaret?) to stand famously at the market cross of Ludlow and beg for mercy and protection. This was granted to them but the town, not being noble, was sacked. Many other prominent Yorkist supporters (including the future William, Lord Hastings) were granted pardon, though in some cases this was for life only in the first instance.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Things come to a head...

First an apology for the increasingly intermittent nature of these posts. I have simply been finding other things to do. I do actually have a life away from the 15th century, hard though some may find that to believe.

Queen Margaret and her faction remained suspicious of York and his, and doubtless the feeling was mutual. What seems to have troubled the Queen most was Warwick's entrenched position in Calais. Winkling him and his supporters out of there would be no small task. It was a fortress, and a naval expedition against such a place was fraught with hazard, to say nothing of expense.

At a Great Council held in Coventry in June 1459, it appears York, the Nevilles and their leading supporters were arraigned on unspecified charges. Sorry to be so vague, but the only account of this is in Benet's Chronicle. In response to this (or if Benet's Chronicle is wrong, in response to something) York and his allies decided to concentrate their forces, at this time split between Calais, the Welsh Marches and Yorkshire.

Warwick, having landed from Calais and persuaded the Londoners to admit him (no great challenge given that they were pro-York) headed for Warwick (the place) but was tracked by Somerset and forced to avoid 'home' and go directly to Ludlow, where York was based. Warwick's father, Salisbury, marched down from Yorkshire and was confronted by Lord Audley and a Lancastrian army (much of it comprising the men of Cheshire) at Blore Heath. There was fierce fighting and although Audley was ultimately defeated it was at some cost to the Yorkists. For example, Warwick's brothers, Thomas and John Neville - the latter eventually Marquis Montagu - were captured near Acton Bridge, Cheshire, presumably trying to find their way around the enemy or maybe even trying to escape north.

The bulk of Salisbury's army moved on to Ludlow, and the Yorkist concentration was complete.

James, Lord Audley, killed at Blore Heath married (as his second wife) a daughter of no less a person than Constance of York. By his two wives he had many children and is the ancestor of legions of people. His eldest son, John, (by his first wife) converted to the Yorkist cause and was a staunch supporter of Edward IV and, to a lesser extent, Richard III. On the other hand at least one of his younger sons, Sir Humphrey, was a strong Lancastrian and died for the cause at Tewkesbury.

The Stanley family's behaviour at Blore Heath was 'typical'. Sir William Stanley fought in Salisbury's army. His elder brother, Thomas, Lord Stanley, was nominally part of Audley's army but in fact stood off, indeed was not even at the battle. For this he was accused of treason (against the Lancastrians) but, needless to say, he got off!!!!