The War of the Roses: the Historical Facts of the Tudor Myth (Shakespeare’s Histories) (43068)

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FEDERAL AGENCY OF EDUCATION

NOVOROSSIYSK BRANCH OF STATE EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION

OF HIGHER PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION

PYATIGORSK STATE LINGUISTIC UNIVERSITY”

The English Faculty

The Department of the English Language








Тheory and Teaching Methods of Foreign Languages and Culture

The War of the Roses: the Historical Facts of the Tudor Myth (Shakespeare’s Histories)

The Course Paper in the History and Culture of Great Britain



Moshikova Ekaterina Yurievna

Tutor:

Pereyashkin V.V.







Novorossiysk 2006


Contents


Introduction

1. The Historical Facts of the Tudor Myth

2. Shakespeare’s Histories

Conclusion

References

Appendix 1

Appendix 2



Introduction


The antagonism between the two houses started with the overthrowing of King Richard II by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster, in 1399. Being the issue of Edward III's third son John of Gaunt, Bolingbroke had a poor claim to the throne. According to precedent, the crown should have passed to the male descendants of Lionel of Antwerp, duke of Clarence (1338-1368), Edward III's second son, and in fact, Richard II had named Lionel's grandson, Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March as heir presumptive. However, Bolingbroke was crowned as Henry IV. He was tolerated as king since Richard II's government had been highly unpopular. Bolingbroke died in 1413. His son and successor, Henry V, was a great soldier, and his military success against France in the Hundred Years' War bolstered his enormous popularity, enabling him to strengthen the Lancastrian hold on the throne. Henry V's short reign saw one conspiracy against him, led by Richard, Earl of Cambridge, a son of Edmund of Langley, the fifth son of Edward III. Cambridge was executed in 1415 for treason at the start of the campaign leading up to the Battle of Agincourt. Cambridge's wife Anne Mortimer also had a claim to the throne, being the daughter of Roger Mortimer and thus a descendant of Lionel of Antwerp. Henry V died in 1422, and Richard, Duke of York, the son of Richard, Earl of Cambridge and Anne Mortimer, would grow up to challenge his successor, the feeble King Henry VI, for the crown.

The choice of this theme for our course paper was mostly conditioned by the idea of learning history of Great Britain. The object matter of the paper is the compositions of W. Shakespeare meanwhile the subject of our investigation is the war of the roses which produced a great effect on the further history of the United Kingdom in general.

The object and purposes of the course paper may be formulated as follows:

  • Analytical study of the material on the theme;

  • Exposure of the dates and importance of some events for the Lancastrians and the Yorkists;

  • Searching the peculiarities in the background of different things and events;

  • Searching for the conditions which influenced this event;

  • Defining of the consequences of the event.

To achieve the set aims we looked through a list of study books, various references, pieces of press and different sites in Internet. Our paper consist of the Introduction, 2 Chapters, Conclusion and the list of references.



1. The Historical Facts of the Tudor Myth


The Wars of the Roses were a series of civil wars fought in medieval England from 1455 to 1487 between the House of Lancaster and the House of York. The name Wars of the Roses is based on the badges used by the two sides, the red rose for the Lancastrians and the white rose for the Yorkists. Major causes of the conflict include: 1) both houses were direct descendents of king Edward III; 2) the ruling Lancastrian king, Henry VI, surrounded himself with unpopular nobles; 3) the civil unrest of much of the population; 4) the availability of many powerful lords with their own private armies; and 5) the untimely episodes of mental illness by king Henry VI. Please see the origins page for more information on the start of the wars.

Henry VI was troubled all his life by recurring bouts of madness, during which the country was ruled by regents. The regents didn't do any better for England than Henry did, and the long Hundred Years War with France sputtered to an end with England losing all her possessions in France except for Calais. In England itself anarchy reigned. Nobles gathered their own private armies and fought for local supremacy.

The struggle to rule on behalf of an unfit king was one of the surface reasons for the outbreak of thirty years of warfare that we now call the Wars of the Roses, fought between the Houses of York (white rose) and Lancaster (red rose). In reality these squabbles were an indication of the lawlessness that ran rampant in the land. More squalid than romantic, the Wars of the Roses decimated both houses in an interminably long, bloody struggle for the throne. The rose symbols that we name the wars after were not in general use during the conflict. The House of Lancaster did not even adopt the red rose as its official symbol until the next century.

Henry VI was eventually forced to abdicate in 1461 and died ten years later in prison, possibly murdered. In his place ruled Edward IV of the house of York who managed to get his dubious claim to the throne legitimized by Parliament. Edward was the first king to address the House of Commons, but his reign is notable mostly for the continuing saga of the wars with the House of Lancaster and unsuccessful wars in France. When Edward died in 1483 his son, Edward V, aged twelve, followed him. In light of his youth Edward's uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, acted as regent.

Traditional history, written by later Tudor historians seeking to legitimize their masters' past, has painted Richard as the archetypal wicked uncle. The truth may not be so clear cut. Some things are known, or assumed, to be true. Edward and his younger brother were put in the Tower of London, ostensibly for their own protection. Richard had the "Princes in the Tower" declared illegitimate, which may possibly have been true. He then got himself declared king. He may have been in the right, and certainly England needed a strong and able king. But he was undone when the princes disappeared and were rumoured to have been murdered by his orders.

In the 17th century workmen repairing a stairwell at the Tower found the bones of two boys of about the right ages. Were these the Princes in the Tower, and were they killed by their wicked uncle? We will probably never know. The person with the most to gain by killing the princes was not Richard, however, but Henry, Earl of Richmond. Henry also claimed the throne, seeking "legitimacy" through descent from John of Gaunt and his mistress.

Henry defeated and killed Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field (1485), claiming the crown which was found hanging upon a bush, and placing it upon his own head. Bosworth marked the end of the Wars of the Roses. There was no one else left to fight. It also marked the end of the feudal period of English history. With the death of Richard III the crown passed from the Plantagenet line to the new House of Tudor, and a new era of history began.

Kings were gaining the upper hand in the struggle with the barons. They encouraged the growth of towns and trade. They took more advisors and officials from the new merchant middle class.

This eroded the power of the land-based nobility. Further, kings established royal courts to replace local feudal courts and replaced feudal duties (which had been difficult to collect in any case) with direct taxation. They created national standing armies instead of relying on feudal obligations of service from vassals. Feudal kingdoms moved slowly towards becoming nations.

In the late 1400's the House of York fought the House of Lancaster for the English crown. Because Lancaster's heraldic badge was a red rose and York's was a white rose, the long conflict came to be known as the Wars of the Roses (1455 - 1485).

The wars started when the nobles of York rose against Henry VI of Lancaster who was a feeble ruler. Edward IV, of York, replaced Henry as king. Later, Henry again became king, but lost his crown once more to Edward after the battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. The Yorkists held power until Richard III lost his throne to the Lancastrian Henry Tudor. Henry Tudor married into the House of York. This personal union ended the conflict, and a new famous dynasty, the Tudors, emerged.

"And here I prophesy: this brawl today, Grown to this faction in the Temple garden, Shall send, between the Red Rose and the White, A thousand souls to death and deadly night." — Warwick, Henry VI, Part One

The Wars of the Roses (1455–1485) is the name generally given to the intermittent civil war fought over the throne of England between adherents of the House of Lancaster and the House of York. Both houses were branches of the Plantagenet royal house, tracing their descent from King Edward III. The name Wars of the Roses was not used at the time, but has its origins in the badges chosen by the two royal houses, the Red Rose of Lancaster, whose retainers tended to favour red coats or red roses as their symbol, and the White Rose of York, whose men often sported white coats, or white rose insignia.

The Wars were fought largely by the landed aristocracy and armies of feudal retainers. The House of Lancaster found most of its support in the south and west of the country, while support for the House of York came mainly from the north and east. The Wars of the Roses, with their heavy casualties among the nobility, would usher in a period of great social upheaval in feudal England and ironically lead to the fall of the Plantagenet dynasty. The period would see the decline of English influence on the Continent, a weakening of the feudal power of the nobles and by default a strengthening of the merchant classes, and the growth of a strong, centralized monarchy under the Tudors. It arguably heralded the end of the medieval period in England and the movement towards the Renaissance.

The antagonism between the two houses started with the overthrowing of King Richard II by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster, in 1399. Being the issue of Edward's III third sonJohn of Gaunt, Bolingbroke had a poor claim to the throne. According to precedent, the crown should have passed to the male descendants of Lionel of Antverp, Duke of Clarence (1338-1368), Edward's III second son, and in fact, Richard II had named Lionel's grandson, Roger Mortimer, 4th earl of March as heir presumptive. However, Bolingbroke was crowned as Henry IV. He was tolerated as king since Richard II's government had been highly unpopular. Bolingbroke died in 1413. His son and successor, Henry V, was a great soldier, and his military success against France in the Hundred Years’ War bolstered his enormous popularity, enabling him to strengthen the Lancastrian hold on the throne. Henry V's short reign saw one conspiracy against him, led by Richaed, earl of Cambridge, a son of Edmund of Langley, the fifth son of Edward III. Cambridge was executed in 1415 for treason at the start of the campaign leading up to the Battle o9f Aglicourt. Cambridge's wife, Anne Mortimer, also had a claim to the throne, being the daughter of Roger Mortimer and thus a descendant of Lionel of Antwerp. Henry V died in 1422, and Ricard, Duke of York, the son of Richard, Earl of Cambridge and Anne Mortimer, would grow up to challenge his successor, the feeble King Henry VI, for the crown.

The Lancastrian King Henry VI of England was surrounded by unpopular regents and advisors. The most notable of these were Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset and William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, who were blamed for mismanaging the government and poorly executing the continuing Hundred Years’ War with France. Under Henry VI virtually all of the English holdings in France, including the lands won by Henry V, had been lost. Henry VI had begun to be seen as a weak, ineffectual king. In addition, he suffered from embarrassing episodes of mental illness. By the 1450s many considered Henry incapable of rule. The short line of Lancastrian kings had already been plagued by questions of legitimacy, and the House of York believed that they had a stronger claim to the throne. Growing civil discontent, the abundance of feuding nobles with private armies, and corruption in Henry's VI court together formed a political climate ripe for civil war.


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