English history/The Wars of the Roses/Margareta of Anjou and the Duke of York, major players/Historical role of women in politics

English history/The Wars of the Roses/Margareta of Anjou and the Duke of York, major players/Historical role of women in politics

zondag 11 januari 2015 22:17




Dear Readers
´´Queen of Last Hopes´´ ¨(1) of history novel writer Susan Higginbotham,about the life of Margaret of Anjou (2), wife of the medievalKing Henry VI (3), was one of the books, which fascinated me last year2014.Red theme in the life of Margaret of Anjou were the Wars of Roses (4),the fight to the death for the English throne between the Houses ofLancaster (5) and York (6)It´s such a passionate period of history, that one nearly can´t avoid toraise sympathy either for the Lancasters or the Yorks.But that aside.

In her book and articles, Susan Higginbotham struggles againstthe villfication of Margaret of Anjou (7) and I think that´san important contribution, not only out ofhistorical accuracy, but because she points outthe medieval ( and also later) demonization  of women,who dared to participate in politics, which was considered as ”men’s affairs’, especially armed struggle.Were those women, who participated in politics, saints?Of course not, they were hard, but not harder than the meninvolved.That’s the point here.Higginbotham’s contribution is, that she raises thisimportant point.

However, of importance is to take a historically balanced standand there comes my criticism.In her book ´´Queen of Last Hopes´´, Higginbotham

Higginbotham accomplishes hercrusade against the exaggerated negative role of Margaret of Anjou byon the contrary ,picturing the Duke of York (8) as a cardboardvillain, who was after the throne from the beginning and evenwanted to kill King Henry VI and Queen Margaret for that.I think, that is not historically right.That´s why I wrote a letter to Mrs Higginbotham.See for that letter the following link, scroll to below in the link.

But to get more information about the causes of theWars of Roses and the major players, I take youto a journey to the past.I warn youIt is a long piece of reading.But realize, that it is a journey of 500years ago and that takes time.Go with me on the journey.


Most people know, that the Wars of the Roses was a civil war inEngland between the nobles of the two rival branches of the royal family,the House of Lancaster [descended from John of Gaunt [9], thirdson of King Edward III [10],  the family line of KingHenry VI [11]], and the House of York [with the Duke of York, descendantof both Lionel of Antwerp [12], second son of King Edward III andEdmund of Langley [13], fourth son of King Edward III.
IMPORTANT TO KNOWThe House of Lancaster and the House of York wereboth of the House Plantagenet.[14]The Lancaster branch consisted of King Henry VI, descendant of Johnof Gaunt [from his marriage with Blanche of Lancaster [15], as the Beauforts [descendants of John of Gauntand his mistress, Katharine Swynford [16], whom he married later]A very important member of the Beaufort family was Edmund Beaufort,Duke of Somerset [17], later bitter enemy of the Duke of York

The price of the fighting?The throne of England, of course, which both the Beauforts asRichard, Duke of York claimed, especially after the  insanity of Henry VI showeditself.[18], although they were involved in a bitter fight already. [19]By the way, through his mother, the Duke of Yorkhad a superior claim to the throne 20], even above Henry VI, whowas descending of Henry IV, the usurper King [21], which Iwill explain below.

But however dynastic rivalry played a role, is too simplisticto point it out as a major cause of the War of Roses.
The major causes are more complicated
The great losses in the Hundred Years War and the subsequentsocial problems.The diminishing of the royal mystic authority bythe usurping of thrones.The weak reign of Henry VI. lie in the great losses in the Hundred Yearswar, the diminishing of royal authority by usurping a throne.and the weak  reign of King Henry VI.

But first the deep rooted enmity, caused by variousclaims to the throne.King Edward III had five sons, The Black Prince [22] [originallynamed Edward of Woodstock] [23]], Lionelof Antwerp [24], John of Gaunt [first Duke of Lancaster] [25], Edmund of  Langley [first Duke of York] [26] and Thomas of Woodstock. [27]
When King Edward III died , his grandson Richard II[28]  [son of the Black Prince]inherited the throne.However, his other sons had children too, like Lionelof Antwerp, John of Gaunt, Edmund of Langley and Thomas of Woodstock.
Inheritance right stated (29), that the rights to the throne wentfrom the descendants of the first son of Edward III, then [when they remained childless] the second son, then the third and so on.
So when Richard II should die childless the descendants of Lionel 
of Antwerp, the second son of Edward III, would inherit the throne,And in that spirit Richard II acted.During his reign, he appointed Roger Mortimer [30], grandsonof Lionel of Antwerp [through his mother, Philippa Plantagenet [31]],as heir presumptive.[32]However, he died a year before Richard II.When Richard II was disposed of the throne by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke [33][the son of John of Gaunt] and was probably murdered,Henry Bolingbroke usurped the throne and became thenew king, Henry IV. [34]The reign of the House of Lancaster [35] started.By Usurpation.
Not only Henry IV deposed Richard II, he also ignored the rightsof Edmund Mortimer [36] the son of the late Roger Mortimer, who, as a descendant ofLionel of Antwerp [ thesecond son of Edward II]I, should have inherited the throne.

Henry IV was only the son of the third son of Edward II, John of Gaunt,

AND PAY ATTENTIONThe Roger Mortimer case had a direct connection withRichard, Duke of York [37], who would fight a bitter fightwith the House of Lancaster for the English throne.Because through his mother, Anne Mortimer [38], daughterof Roger Mortimer [39], he had a superior claim to the English throne.He, his mother and Roger Mortimer weredescendanst of Lionel of Antwerp [40], second son of King Edward III.
Can you still follow it?Yes, this explanation is necessary, otherwise the wholehistory is unclear.
A medieval king was believed to have given his authority by Godand anointing a King was an almost holy ritual.

So deposing a king, as Henry IV did with Richard IIand also passing the heir to the throne [Edmund Mortimer, son of the late presumptive heir, Roger Mortimer], wasa serious business, not undertaken lightly.
Usurpation [replacing an anointed Kingby somebody else]  was a dangerous thing,  for everytime it happened, the authority ofthe monarchy weakened.
Indeed, the monarchy was not very stable under Henry IV,with subsequent plots and rebellions [42]and that usurpation thing, which happened in Englandbefore [43], lay the basis for the assumption, thatreplacing a King was not such a big deal, which played a key role in the War of Roses. [44]

But there was more.Because when it was only a matter of claiming the throne,at which Richard, Duke of York and his maternalfamily, the Mortimers, had a superior right, why notclaim that right earlier?First there was that usurpation thing of course andthe fact, that Edmund of Mortimer was only a minor.And then, especially under Henry V [45], son of Henry IV,the monarchy was very successful, especially military, in the Hundred Years war with France. [46]Even when Henry V died in 1422 and baby Henry VIbecame King [and was at his weakest] there was no signof challenging the throne.
But after being so victorous the Hundred Years War [47], disaster [for the English] finally came.First Jeanne d’Arc[48]  had military successes and made the dauphincrowned in 1431 [49],as Charles VII [50], an enormousrivival of French struggle for liberation, then piece by piece the English lost French possessions.
One of the reasons laid in the reign of Henry VI [51], no warrior Kingat all, who had no interest in occupying France anymore andwanted peace.This was shown by his marriage with Margaret of Anjou, on conditionto give up Maine and Anjou [43].
And on that point, two Court factions were formed, but not yeton York/Lancaster basis.Queen Margaret, Lord Suffolk and Lord Somerset [EdmundBeaufort, Lancaster House] and Cardinal Beaufort [LancasterHouse] supported this peace policy, [44]However,  Richard Duke of York and the uncle of the King,Humphrey of Gloucester [45] [Lancaster House] were fiercelyagainst it and took the hard line in defending English possessionsin France.[46]
Tensions rose and eventually it would turn out in a fightto the death between the Duke of York and Edmund Beaufort, Duke ofSomerset [47], who was a farvourite of Margaret of Anjou.
The agreement, to give Main and Anjou back to France,had big consequences.With the subsequent losses of other territories inFrance, especially Normandy, led to rising unpopularityof the monarchy, since it was associated with the Dukesof Somerset and Suffolk, who were extremely unpopularbecause of their peace policy with France.English refugees [people who had lived in theEnglish territories of FRance] arrived, as English troops,who had often not been paid, spreading socialunrest in Southern England. [48]There was also big discontent of English landowners  about the financial losses resulting from the loss of their continental holdings. (48x)
To intensify the tensions, the Jack Cade rebellion [49]broke out.The Jack Cade Rebellion stemmed from local grievances concerned about the corruption and abuse of power surrounding the king’s regime and his closest advisors. [50]
And who were his closest advisors?Again, Somerset and Suffolk.Other causes were the considerable debts England suffered becauseof the costly war with France and since Normandy was lost[after Maine and Anjou] people feared for a French invasion. [51]In ”The Complaints of the Poor Commons of Kent” [52]against corruption and extortion by the Kings councillors.Most rebels were peasants, craftsmen and shopkeepers.
Initially succesful, Cade marched to London, but afterlooting and plundering in Londen, they were driven outby the citizens, who were initially sympathetic. [53]
The uprising, that began in may, ended somewhere in july, whenCade was arrested, despite he had been pardoned first. [54]
The link with the War of Roses is the demands of the rebels,to bring the Duke of York [who was sent to Ireland as King’sLieutenant, which many considered as an exile] [55]back to England and to remove the Duke of Suffolk,whom they considered a traitor.I quote from The Complaints of the Poor Commons of Kent:”His true commons desire that he will remove from him all the false progeny and affinity of the Duke of Suffolk and to take about his noble person his true blood of his royal realm, that is to say, the high and mighty prince the Duke of York, exiled from our sovereign lord’s person by the noising of the false traitor, the Duke of Suffolk, and his affinity. Also to take about his person the mighty prince, the Duke of Exeter, the Duke of Buckingham, the Duke of Norfolk, and his true earls and barons of his land, and he shall be the richest king Christian.” [56]
Part of the outbreak of the Wars ofthe  Roses lies in theperson and reign of King Henry VI.King Henry VI [57] had suited well as a monk, doing gooddeeds and charity, but not as a ruler and a King.He was generous, pious, forgiving and didn’t likewar or violence.Not suited to a medieval King.He was in everything the opposite of hiswarrior father, King Henry V.
Alas he had psychic problems, which resulted in variousnervous breakdowns, with as a consequence, that rivalnoblemen sought to control the crown.That was not so strange, since an incapacitated Kingmeant anarchy and unrest, and a strong governmentwas needed.
Untill 1453 [when his only son was born], he had no children,what made the Duke of York [who had inherited the Mortimerclaim to the throne after the death of his maternal uncle,Edmund of Mortimer [58] in 1425]  his heir presumptive.
When King Henry VI was incapacitated, York becameProtector of the Realm [59] and Chief Councillor.He did a pretty good job in ruling the country, untillHenry VI wake up again [he was in a sort ofcoma], reversed York’s action, Somerset in poweragain and the country prepared for civil war.According to the historian Robin Storey, “If Henry’s insanity was a tragedy, his recovery was a national disaster” [60]
Unwisely the King was encouraged by his wife Margaret ofAnjou, who was a strong opposer of York, aligningherself with men like the Duke of Suffolk [61]and the Duke of Somerset. [62]
The King was not able to control the rivalling noble factions[York/Somerset], nor other conflicts as the Percy/Neville feud [63],Queen Margaret of Anjou unwisely favoured Somerset, embitteringthe Yorkists, tensions flow to extremes, all hell burst out.A civil war.
In his very interesting documentary about the causes of theWar of Roses [64], Marc Goacher rightly points out:A situation of an undermighty King and  overmighty subjects.

What not has been pointed out thouroughly, that King Henry VI,on purpose or not, was not ”above the rivalling parties”,but took sides himself.At first he took sides with the peace party in the French war [65], consistingDuke of Suffolk, Duke of Somerset [66] and Queen Margaret of Anjou,against the ”war party”, consisting Humphrey of Gloucester, uncle tothe King and the Duke of York. [67]In 1445 he sent the Duke of York to Ireland instead of prolonginghis function as Lieutenant in France, which could be considered as a sortof exile. [68]And in 1455, after the Duke of York ruled the country two years whenHenry was in coma, he dismissed the Duke of York, puttingSomerset in charge again.Result:Open war.
And  Henry being a Lancaster himself, like the Dukeof Somerset [whose grandfather had been the half brother ofHenry IV, sharing the same father, John of Gaunt], quickly thewhole thing became not only Somerset against York,but Somerset AND the King against York, added the preference ofMargaret of Anjou for Somerset.

In the first military confrontation in the First Battle of St Albans (69)Duke of Somerset was killed, the Yorkists were victoriousand King Henry VI came into the hands of the victoriousYorks.Fighting went on and on, when than one side, than the otherwon.After a final attempt for reconciliation, the socalled´´Loveday´(70) in 1458, fighting embittered and finallyat instigation of Margaret of Anjou, the Duke of York and his allies,Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury (71) (brother of his wifeCicely Neville (72), and Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, the ´´Kingmaker´´ (73)(the son of Lord Salisbury), suffered attainder (74), which meantthat all their possessions were forfeited and their heirscould not inherit (75) , the gravest punishment for noblemen.
In 1460, the victorious York did an attempt in Parliamentto be acclaimed as King (76), which failed.However, he obtained the Act of Accord (77), meaning,that King Henry VI stayed King, but that after his death,York and his heirs would rule.This excluded Edward of Westminster, the son of theKing, which infuriated Margaret of Anjou.The struggle went on.
At 1460, the Duke of York was killed in the battle ofWakefield (78), with his second son, Edmund, Earl ofRutland (79), as his brother in law, Lord Salisbury.According to some sources, Rutland was executedafter the battle.(80)Certainly, Lord Salisbury was executed afterwards.
But the tides were turning.York´s eldest son,, then Earl of March, was victoriousin the Battle of Townton (81) and became Edward IV. (82)
Margaret of Anjou left the country (Henry VI was inYorkist hands and yearlong prisoner ofthe Tower) for exile in France, did a last attemptto conquer the throne (together with former Yorkistally, Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick, who choose herside out of conflict with Edward IV (83), but wasfinally defeated at Tewkesbury in 1471 (84),where her son Edward of Westminster (85) was killed and shewas imprisoned.According some sources, he was executed after the battle. (86)
Shortly after that, Henry VI died in prison,probably murdered.(87)Margaret was imprisoned for some years,ransomed by the French King Louis XI(88)  anddied in 1482, in poverty.(89)A sad end.

Edward IV died in 1483, his brother Richard III (90)to succeed him, disinheriting, Edward IV´s eldest son, Edward V (91)He and his brother disappeared in the Tower,probably murderd, although it is not clear, whetherRichard III was involved. (92)
Rebellion against his reign took place, and 1485, Richard III was defeated in the Battle of
Bosworth (93) by the later Henry VII (94),son of Margaret Beaufort (95) of the Houseof Lancaster, (niece ofthe Duke of Somerset (96) and descendant ofJohn of Gaunt) and Edmund Tudor. (97)
Henry VII was victorious and married Elisabethof York (98), daughter of Edward IV.They became the parents of King Henry VIII. (99)
So in a way, the House of Lancaster (the Beaufort branche) andthe House of York were united.The Tudor era began.Interesting is the Tudor emblem, a Red Rose with a White Rose covered in it.(100)
Andthrough their granddaughter Elisabeth of York,  all subsequent English monarchs, beginning withHenry VIII, are descendants of the Duke of Yorkand his wife Cecily.

The way history is written [apart from the main undeniablefacts as ”there was a war” or ”that king ruled”] is importantin giving a positive or negative image of the persons involved.In the case of Margaret of Anjou, her image is very muchcoloured by Shakespeare’s play ”Henry VI” [101], whereshe is portrayed as a ruthlless, vindictive and extraordinary cruelperson.The Duke of York, in the contrary, was pictured as chivalrous, manganimous and brave, sides he undoubtedly posessed, but leadinga fight to the death against the Beaufort branche ofthe House of Lancaste first, and later openly against King Henry VI, whomhe forced to disinherit his own son, in favour of Yorkand his heirs, he must have been hard and ruthless, too.A warlord, like his Beaufort enemies.
Coming back to Shakespeare’s Henry VIAfter the Battle of Wakefield, where the Duke of Yorkwas defeated, Margaret of Anjou personally stabssurviving York to death, after first humiliating and torturing him, showing hima handkerchief with the blood of his executed sonEdmund, Duke of Rutland, on it.(102]When he is dead, she orders to put his head on a pikeand to be crowned with a paper crown, to mockhis rights to the throne.
That horrible image of Margaret of Anjou was shown in the work of many historians and influenced generationsand generations, including myself.I myself  read in old Dutch history books, that Margaret ofAnjou personally ordered to put the heads of York his sonand brother in law, on pikes, tarnishing York´s head witha paper crown.
But historical  fact is, that this is not altogether true.Margaret of Anjou could not have ordered the executionof York and the paper crown thing or torturing Yorkbecause she was not present at Wakefield, but in Scotland,(103)asking Queen Regent Mary of Guelders military aid againstthe Yorkists. (104)Modern historical investigation shows that. Probably York would have suffered considerably, when shecould have lain her hands upon him, but that´s ofno importance, because she did not.
Moreover, most historians assume, that York has beenkilled in the Battle of Wakefield.

The bad  image Shakespeare had of Margaret of Anjouis probably inspired by the picture of medieval women, whowere supposed to be mild, soft, forgiving, obedient wivesand caring mothers.Being a noblewoman and certainly a Queen, good works,charity and being  forgiving were other characteristics.Often it happened, that when the King conquereda city, his Queen plead for mercy of the citizens, whichas a rule could be granted.
Women, who took a firm stand in men´s affairs (as politicsand war was seen in the Middle Ages) were viewed as ´´unnatural´´ and ´´she wolves´´ (105)
Therefore, apart from her personality, Margaret of Anjouprovoked little sympathy for her active politicalrole, which she probably not would have fullfilled,whether Henry VI was capable of ruling and there wereno rival branches in the royal family.Had she been the wife of warrior King Henry V, forexample, she probably would go in history unnoticed,a loyal wife, doing good works and trying to softenthe harder sides of the King sometimes.
But her circumstances were extraordinary, with an incpacitatedhusband, a growing unpopularity (being a French Queen, allgningherself with unpopular nobles like Edmund of Beaufort, Dukeof Somerset and the Duke of Suffolk) and childless until 1453, standingagainst powerful men like the Duke of York, claiming the throne,with a superior claim indeed.
As I see it, it was a difficult situation for her and when she reallywanted to ´´play the Game of thrones´´, she had to be tough.
At the other side, her character limited her possibilities.Being a fierce woman, who saw no middleground (106), she demonizedthe Duke of York in an early stage (also  by her alliance with hisarch enemy the Duke of Somerset) and didn´t see the necessity ofa strong reign, since her husband was not able to do it.The fact, that the Duke of York should be regent or Protectorof the Realm seemed natural considering his right tothe throne (107), but soon enough Margaret considered allhis action in a treacherous light, with escalating consequences.
So the aversion of men for women taking power, combinedwith her uncompromising attitude, caused many of theproblems.
There were two sort of critics on Margaret of Anjou
The fact, that she was a woman
Her uncompromising character and ruthless acts
In my view,Shakespeare and  many elder historians were especially influenced, not by cruel or unreasonableacts of Margaret of Anjou, but the fact, she was a woman.Admitted, she was hard and uncomprfomising, ordering executionsand forfeited her adversies of all their lands (which gave Yorkno alternative than eventually demanding the crown for himselfwith the Act of Accord (108), butshe did no worse than the men in that time.I refer to the bloody executions on the order of Henry V, followingthe Battle of Agincourt (109), making him a war hero.
Otherwise, you can condemn or criticize her hard and uncompromisingcharacter, alienating many and driving her enemies to the pointof no return (110)But that is another stand than critic, because she is a woman.
Considering the Middle Ages and later, that is what can be expected,but in present days actions have to be valuated, not whethermale or female.
In each case unacceptable are the myths about Margaret, presenting as historical facts.She was not present at the Battle of Wakefield, not orderingYork´s execution and her troops plundered and looted,but no more than the Yorkists did. (111)And concerning her hardness and cruelty, honestyurges me to say, that she was hard and gave order toexecutions after the battle (112) (however the Yorkists did that too (113),but she also spared prisoners.At least three Yorkist prisoners, including John of Neville, The Earlof Warwick’s younger brother, were spared execution. (114), probably as the Duke of Somerset (son of Edmund Beaufort,York’s bitter enemy (115)) feared that his own younger brother who was in Yorkist hands might be executed in reprisal. (116)But that’s speculation.Fact is, she spared his life.
So in her hardness, she had outburst of mercy too.In fact, she was no better or worse as the warrior men, Lancasteror York.
But hardness and cruelty are no characteristics I can valuate,especially (I admit that) when there are women involved.Apart from that, following the timeline of events (117) it seemedto me, that, not denying the responsibility of the men involved,especially the Dukes of York and Somerset, she was more vengeful,embittered and prejudiced, pushing her policies to extremes (118), whena peaceful solution still possible. And that has nothing to do with a man/woman thing, but with character.
So although her hardness is not sympathetic to me,one must pity her fate.Loosing both husband and especially son, for whom shefought so hard and died in poverty.

As has  been said, by Shakespeare’s historically baselessdemonization ofMargaret of Anjou (119), following by many novelists andhistorians, an exaggerated image of ”Margaret the she wolf”was created.She was hard, uncompromising and certainly merciless atseveral occasions and the cruel deeds she did (120) are notto be justified, but she was no worse than the men involved.She was no she devil.But following the common  views about women,the fact, that she was involved in politics which wasconsidered a man’s world, was reason enoughto condemn her.
So historical fiction writer Susan Higginbotham must behighly appreciated for her succesful attempts to give a more balanced picture of Margaret of Anjou.She did that by her interesting novel”Queen of Last Hopes” (121) and in several articlesas ”Margaret The She Wolf?” (122), Margaret of Anjou (123), and ”Myths about Margaret of Anjou” (124)

Although appreciating her fresh look onhistory, based on her own historical research (125)I have some points of criticism.
Because in her need to purify the image ofMargaret of Anjou, Higginbotham has the tendency tosee the York side as the villain and that”s oftenbaseless.Her allegations are, that the Duke of York not only wasambitious for the throne from the very beginning( I mean from the time Margaret of Anjou’s arrivalin England in 1445), but also should have wanted tokill Henry VI and threatened Margaret with her life, in order to reach that goal.She pictures that image in her novel, asher articles.
For example:
In Higginbotham’s blog is an interesting article”Sister to two Kings, Anne Duchess of Exeter” (126)which describes the life of the oldest surviving daughterof the Duke of York, who was married by her fatherto the Duke of Exeter (127).Higginbotham writes”. In 1446, when she was six, she was married to fifteen-year-old Henry Holland, who would shortly become the second Duke of Exeter. The Duke of York offered a large marriage portion—4,500 marks–probably because Henry VI was childless at the time, putting the young Henry Holland in line for the throne” (128)
She misses some important points here:
First:There is no proof whatsoever, that this large marriage portion wasgivenby York out of a desire to come closer to the thrown.The Duke of York was one of the wealthiest nobles of England,so a large marriage portion was not unusual.

Second:There was no reason for the Duke of York to fortify a claim to thethrone by his son in law to be, because he himself had a claim tothe throne, that was superior than  the King himself (129)
And not only that:Because Richard II had made his maternal grandfather, RogerMortimer, heir presumptive (130), (which means heirto the throne by absence of children to the King) (131),that meant, the claim passed over to his son, Edmund Mortimer (132), and later, through his sister, Anne Mortimer (133),to the Duke of York [who was the son of Anne Mortimer], sinceEdmund Mortimer died childless.So there WAS already a claim.

Third:Higginbotham alleges here, that York wanted the throne in1446 already, but there’s no historical proof whatsoever.
But there is more
In her article”Myths of Margaret of Anjou” (134) Higginbotham suggests,that Margaret of Anjou had every reason to fear forthe life of her husband under the rule ofRichard of York.This in connection with the ”Act of Accord” (135)However, historical proof doesn’t support that, at leastnot when the Duke of York was still aliveThere were many occasions, when the Duke of York had fullcontrol over King Henry VI, and yet he did him no harm.
That there was a change when his son Edward IV (136) became King in 1460and Henry VI died in the Tower in 1471 (137), probably ordered by Edward IV,doesn’t change the fact, that the Duke of York had at least had no intentionto kill the King.This killing the King and even the Queen she also uses inher novel ”Queen of Last Hopes” (138)
Another historical inaccuracy, which however, doesn”t refer tothe Duke of York, is done in Higginbothams article  ”Margaret the She Wolf” (139) In order to prove, that Margaret is not the she wolf as pictured,she mentioned the sparing from execution of the younger brotherof the Earl of Warwick, John Neville. (140)
I quote”Notably, at St Albans, as Helen Maurer points out, three other Yorkistprisoners, including John Neville, the Earl of Warwick’s younger brother,were spared execution-an odd act, if Margaret was indeed the vengefulshe-wolf of popular imagination” (141)However, she fails to mention, that the three noblemen probably werespared because Margaret’s military commander, the Duke of Somerset (142)feared the execution of his own younger brother, who was in Yorkist hands,(143)so no proof of Margaret’s outburst for real mercy.
I said already, that the sparing was no proof for either Margaret’s mercy oropportunism (to spare the life of her commanders brother], you simplydon”t know.But for the historical objectivity, Higginbottham should have made the same reservation as I did.
First a word of compliment.The way it is written, moves the reader from the beginning.You get an image of how Margaret must have felt, but alsoof the people around her.Especially I love this sentence in which Margaret express herfeelings, looking back on her tragic life:”What would happen if this king suddenly went mad? What would his queen do? Would she make the same mistakes I did, or would she learn from mine?”(144)
 When you read the book, you get the feeling, that you are plunged
back in that time, hearing Margaret and the major players of the tragedytalking, having their own intentions, ambitions and dreams.Really touching.
And of course, seeing from Margaret’s point of view, Richard, Dukeof York, is the villain and the traitor here.
And a Saint he certainly was not, following his own ambitionsand being a warrior, but he is no cardboard villain either.I refer to that later.
What I am saying is that Higgonbotham presents atoo mild image of Margaret of Anjou.
Admitted, she presents the good and as bad sidesof Margaret.We see  a loyal wife, faithful friend, devotedmother and courageuos woman, but also a dark side, beinghappy, seeing the heads of the Duke of York,his 17 year old son and his brother in Law displayed at Micklegateand uttering her consentment with the way of the Duke of Yorkis killed and worse, with the execution of York’s young  son [17 years], Edmund, Earl ofRutland (145) by Baron de Clifford. (146)
In the book she remarks: ”As York’s son, he could hardly expected otherwise” (147)That shows a merciless side of someone, even againstthe light of medieval values.
Because being relieved, your enemy can threaten you nomore is one thing, but cheering and applauding an other.
But although Higginbotham shows that unsympathetic sideof Margaret [who, being a mother, at least could havesympathised with Cecily of York for loosing her son], yetshe is too mild in portaying her as a whole, as ifthreatening with the loss of a crown justifies just anything.

My main objection is that giving a mild picture ofMargaret of Anjou, is leading, at least in the case ofHigginbotham, to a cardboard villain pictureof the Duke of York and also hisnephew and ally Earl of Warwick, the Kingmaker. (148)Now it is clear, that those men were Saints at all.
Otherwise you don’t become a warlord, plunged in a fight to the death for the crown.But as nearly any human being, they have their lightsides and their dark sides.
Higginbotham however pictures Warwick as a sortof thug and worse, the Duke of York as being ambitiousfor the thrown from the beginning and plottingto kill both the King and the Queen.That”s suggested asa Leitmotiv throughthe whole book, from which an excerpt here. (149)

As I have written before, there is no proofwhatsoever, that the Duke of York was after the thronefrom the beginning.Having a claim to the throne (150) is one thing, goingafter the throne, another.
I personally think, that the fact, that the Duke of York,been overtaken in his career (151), time after time,by the Duke of Somerset (152), denied a place in theCouncil of the King (153), sent to Ireland,allegedly(but not sure) by instigation of Margaret, whichcould be considered as a banishment, and the openlyfavouratism of the Duke of Somerset  by Margaretand King Henry VI,could have givem him feelings of bitterness and resenment, making thesoil ripe for what he did later, after been forfeited (154), namelyclaiming the throne. (155)But that was only in 1460, when things got outof hands completely. (156)It was open war then.
However, to say, that he wanted to replace Henry VI fromthe very beginning, makes no proof and no sense.As I show in my underlying letter to Susan Higginbotham:There were opportunities, the Duke of York couldhave taken the thrown for 1460, but he didn”t.
In Queen of Last Hopes, Higginbotham suggests, thatthe Duke of York, out of desire for the crown, wouldhave wanted to till the King and possibly the Queen (157)and that that was the reason the King undersigned theAct of Accord. (158)Also it was suggested, that he had a hand in the death ofhis political rival, the Duke of Suffolk.,(159),who died under mysterious circumstances (160), afterbeen banished for five years. (161)For his killing of the Duke of Suffolk is no proofwhatsoever.Moreover, he was not the only enemy ofthe Duke of Suffolk.
For a desiring to kill the King or Queen is noless proof.At least the Duke of Suffolk, alas, had been killrd.York’s desire to kill the King of Queen isnot only pure speculation, but higly unlikely.As I will point out in my letter to Higginbotham below, if York wanted to kill the King, hehad a number of opportunities he couldhave done that, being the King in his power.But he didn’t.
By wanting to give a counterbalance in thevillification of Margaret of Anjou, Higginbotthamdid good work.
But it makes no sense, to be too mildfor a medieval Queen, whom one couldfeel sympathise for the difficult positionshe was in (with an insane husband, expecting achild and different claims to the throne, because the BeaufortLancaster men (162) had their own ambitions also), butyet a merciless and hard ruler and to villifythe other party instead.
The Duke of York was a warrior with his dark sides,but not a cardboard villain.
In my view, Higginbotham is right to break withthe cardboard villain picture of Margaretof Anjou.But when she makes a cardboard villain ofthe Duke of York instead, she does the samehistorical unjust thing as she blames theMargaret of Anjou villifiers. (163)
I end my travel to the past with a letter from 1450 fromEdward, Earl of March (the later King Edward IV) andhis brother Edmune, Earl of Rutland, to their father,The Duke of York (164).See some other interesting letters from major playersin the Wars of Roses. (165)Also the last Will and Testament of Margaret of Anjou. (166)
Thanks for having accompanied me onthis journey through history.

Astrid EssedAmsterdamThe Netherlands





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