Introduction: Society, Politics and the Wars of the Roses

  • A. J. Pollard
Chapter
Part of the Problems in Focus book series (PFS)

Abstract

In the grand sweep, or ‘meta-narrative’ as some would call it, of the Whig Interpretation of History dominant in the nineteenth century, the genius of the English was thought to lie in their skill in steering the middle course between the extremes of anarchy and tyranny which so bedevilled the histories of their inferior neighbours in continental Europe. Only occasionally had the English regrettably lapsed into either sin, and thankfully they had always been rescued by the innate moral rectitude of their natural rulers, the landed classes, before too much damage had been done. Royal tyranny had tended to be the greater danger, but in the fifteenth century the Wars of the Roses, that fearful era of ‘Sackage, Carnage and Wreckage’ had for a while reduced England to ‘a very chaos’.1 This shameful period of anarchy had, however, taught them a lesson that was never to be forgotten. The Wars of the Roses, even though they happened five hundred years ago, thus came to have a key place in ‘Our Island Story’; and they still stand in our political vocabulary as a metaphor for the worst kind of anarchy imaginable.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes and References

  1. 1.
    W. C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman, 1066 and All That, 2nd edn (1975), p. 54;Google Scholar
  2. M. E. Aston, ‘Richard II and the Wars of the Roses’, in F. R. H. Du Boulay and C. M. Barron (eds), The Reign of Richard II (1911), pp. 282–3.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    A. J. Pollard, The Wars of the Roses (1988), pp. 74–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 3.
    W. Lamont, The Tudors and Stuarts (1976), pp. 14–15.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    A. Goodman, The Wars of the Roses: Military Activity and English Society, 1452–97 (1981);Google Scholar
  6. C. D. Ross, The Wars of the Roses (1976), pp. 109–50;Google Scholar
  7. H. Summerson, Medieval Carlisle, 2 vols (Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, Extra Series, XXV, 1993), vol. II, pp. 446–8.Google Scholar
  8. 5.
    See also R. A. Griffiths, ‘The Sense of Dynasty in the Reign of Henry VI’, in C. D. Ross (ed.), Patronage, Pedigree and Power in Later Medieval England (Gloucester, 1979), pp. 23–5;Google Scholar
  9. and R. B. Pugh, Henry V and the Southampton Plot (Gloucester, 1988), pp. 134–5, who argues that ‘there can be little doubt that he had long regarded himself the rightful king of England’.Google Scholar
  10. 6.
    W. E. Hampton, ‘The White Rose under the First Tudors, Part 3. Richard De La Pole, “The king’s Dreaded Enemy”’, The Ricardian, VII 99 (December 1987), 525–40.Google Scholar
  11. 7.
    See, for instance, the discussions in R. E. Horrox, Richard III: a Study of Service (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 89–104, 327–8;Google Scholar
  12. A.J. Pollard, Richard III and the Princes in the Tower (Stroud, 1991), pp. 83–5, 97–9, 103–6;Google Scholar
  13. C. D. Ross, Edward TV (1974), pp. 424–5.Google Scholar
  14. 8.
    K. B. McFarlane, ‘The Wars of the Roses’, Proceedings of the British Academy, L (1964), 95–6.Google Scholar
  15. 9.
    Pollard, Wars of Roses, 49–50, summarises the more negative assessment; W. M. Ormrod, The Reign of Edward III (Newhaven, 1990) accentuates the positive.Google Scholar
  16. 10.
    See, for instance, P. R. Coss, ‘Bastard Feudalism Revised’, PP, 125 (November 1989), 27–64;Google Scholar
  17. G. L. Harriss, ‘Political Society and the Growth of Government in Late-medieval England’, PP, 138 (February 1993), 28–57;Google Scholar
  18. R. W. Kaeuper, War, Justice and Public Order: England and France in the Later Middle Ages (Oxford, 1988), esp. pp. 267–8;Google Scholar
  19. J. R. Lander, The Limitations of English Monarchy in the Later Middle Ages (Toronto, 1989).Google Scholar
  20. 11.
    Coss, ‘Bastard Feudalism’, 30–54; S. Walker, The Lancastrian Affinity, 1361–1399 (Oxford, 1990).Google Scholar
  21. 12.
    A. J. Pollard, North-Eastern England During the Wars of the Roses (Oxford, 1990), 121–43, 323–4;Google Scholar
  22. Horrox, Richard III, 39–61; P. A.Johnson, Duke Richard of York, 1411–1460 (Oxford, 1988), pp. 15–21.Google Scholar
  23. 13.
    M. A. Hicks, ‘Lord Hastings’ Indentured Retainers?’, in Richard III and His Rivals: Magnates and their Motives in the Wars of the Roses (1991), pp. 229–47;Google Scholar
  24. Pollard, North-Eastern England, 125; T. B. Pugh, ‘The Magnates, Knights and Gentry’, in S. B. Chrimes et al. (eds), Fifteenth-Century England (Manchester, 1974), pp. 101–5.Google Scholar
  25. 14.
    R. E. Horrox, ‘Local and National Politics in Fifteenth-Century England’, Journal of Medieval History, 18 (1992), 391–2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 15.
    See the Bibliography.Google Scholar
  27. 16.
    Harriss, ‘Political Society’, 32.Google Scholar
  28. 17.
    Coss, ‘Bastard Feudalism’, 57.Google Scholar
  29. 18.
    For County Communities in the fourteenth century see J. R. Maddicott, ‘The County Community and the making of Public Opinion in Fourteenth-Century England’, TRHS, 5th series, XXVIII (1978);Google Scholar
  30. ‘Parliament and the Constituencies, 1272–1377’, in R. Davies and J. H. Denton (eds), The English Parliament in the Middle Ages (Manchester, 1981).Google Scholar
  31. For the fifteenth century see R. Virgoe, ‘Aspects of the County Community in the Fifteenth Century’, in M. A. Hicks (ed.), Profit, Piety and the Professions in Later Medieval England (Gloucester, 1990), pp. 1–13.Google Scholar
  32. 19.
    See, for example, E. Acheson, A Gentry Community: Leicestershire in the Fifteenth Century, c. 1422-c. 1485 (Cambridge, 1992);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. S.J. Payling, Political Society in Lancastrian England: the Greater Gentry of Nottinghamshire (Oxford, 1991).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. For a recent refutation of the concept of ‘county community’, published after this passage was written, see C. Carpenter, ‘Gentry and Community in Medieval England’, Journal of British Studies, 33 (October 1994), 340–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 20.
    C. Carpenter, Locality and Polity: A Study of Warwickshire Landed Society, 1401–1499 (Oxford, 1992), pp. 399–486;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. R. A. Griffiths, The Reign of King Henry VI (1981), pp. 584–92;Google Scholar
  37. M. Cherry, ‘The Courtenay Earls of Devon: The Formation and Disintegration of a Later Medieval Aristocratic Affinity’, Southern History, 1 (1979), 71–97,Google Scholar
  38. and ‘The Struggle for Power in Mid-Fifteenth Century Devonshire’, in R. A. Griffiths (ed.), Patronage, the Crown and the Provinces in Later Medieval England (Gloucester, 1981), pp. 123–44.Google Scholar
  39. 21.
    Pollard, North-Eastern England, 125–43.Google Scholar
  40. 22.
    Ibid., 245–84; A.J. Pollard, John Talbot and the War in France (1983), pp. 131–3;Google Scholar
  41. S.J. Payling, ‘The Ampthill Dispute: a Study in Aristocratic Lawlessness and the Breakdown of Lancastrian Government’, EHR, CIV (1989), 881–907.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 23.
    C. Given-Wilson, The Royal Household and the King’s Affinity: Service, Politics and Finance in England, 1360–1413 (Newhaven, 1986);Google Scholar
  43. A.J. Pollard, ‘The Parliamentary Class of 1399’, The Ricardian, IX 123 (1973), 502–3.Google Scholar
  44. 24.
    H. Castor, ‘The Duchy of Lancaster and the Rule of East Anglia, 1399–1440’, forthcoming in R. Archer (ed.), Politics, Society and Religion: Essays in Later Medieval History (Stroud); Pollard, North-Eastern England, 249–54; Griffiths, Reign of Henry VI, 574–77, and Cherry, ‘Struggle for Power’. Dr Castor offers a more favourable interpretation of Suffolk’s career than most historians.Google Scholar
  45. 25.
    Griffiths, Reign of Henry VI, 443–54; G. L. Harriss, Cardinal Beaufort: A Study of Lancastrian Ascendancy and Decline (Oxford, 1988), pp. 292–305.Google Scholar
  46. 26.
    E. Powell, Kingship, Law and Society: Criminal Justice in the Reign of Henry VI (Oxford, 1989), pp. 1–6,Google Scholar
  47. and ‘After “After McFarlane”: The Poverty of Patronage and the Case for Constitutional History’, in D.J. Clayton et al. (eds), Trade, Devotion and Governance (Stroud, 1994), pp. 1–16.Google Scholar
  48. 27.
    Carpenter, Locality and Polity, 5–9.Google Scholar
  49. 28.
    M. A. Hicks, ‘Idealism in late-medieval English politics’, Richard III and his Rivals, 41–60; M. K. Jones, ‘Somerset, York, and the Wars of the Roses’, EHR, CIV (1984), 285–307;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. and D. A. L. Morgan, ‘From a Death to a View; Louis Robessart, Johan Huizinga and the Political Significance of Chivalry’, in S. Anglo (ed.), Chivalry and the Renaissance (Woodbridge, 1990).Google Scholar
  51. 29.
    I am grateful to Dr Jones for allowing me to draw upon his ideas in this and the following paragraph.Google Scholar
  52. 30.
    M. A. Hicks, ‘Edward IV, the Duke of Somerset and Lancastrian Loyalism in the North’, Northern History, XX (1984), 23–37; Pollard, North-Eastern England, 298–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. For a thoughtful discussion of the ritualised nature of violence see P. C. Maddern, Violence and Social Order: East Anglia, 1422–1442 (Oxford, 1992).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 31.
    See P. F. C. Field, The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Malory (Woodbridge, 1994), passim.Google Scholar
  55. 32.
    R. A. Griffiths and R. S. Thomas, The Making of the Tudor Dynasty (Gloucester, 1985), pp. 47–73;Google Scholar
  56. G. Williams, Recovery, Reorientation and Reformation: Wales, c. 1415–1642 (Oxford, 1987), pp. 185–242.Google Scholar
  57. 33.
    S. G. Ellis, Tudor Ireland: Crown, Community and the Conflict of Cultures, 1470–1603 (1985), pp. 53–84;Google Scholar
  58. A. Cosgrove (ed.), A New History of Ireland, vol. II, Medieval Ireland, 1169–1534 (Oxford, 1986), pp. 557–69, 591–619, 638–47. See also p. 673 for Irish involvement in the last Yorkist plot of 1524–5.Google Scholar
  59. 34.
    For an excellent exploration of the international scene as it affected England in the 1490s, see I. Arthurson, The Perkin Warbeck Conspiracy, 1491–1499 (Stroud, 1994).Google Scholar
  60. 35.
    Ross, Wars of the Roses, 176.Google Scholar
  61. 36.
    See C. L. Kingsford, ‘Social Life and the Wars of the Roses’, in Prejudice and Promise in Fifteenth-century England (Oxford, 1925), pp. 48–77;Google Scholar
  62. J. R. Lander, ‘The Wars of the Roses’, in Crown and Nobility, 1450–1509 (1976), pp. 57–73; Ross, Wars of the Roses, 151–76.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© A. J. Pollard 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. J. Pollard

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations