War of the Roses

This is not meant to be exhaustive and is a work in progress. One of my interests is the House of Percy and it started with the signet-ring at the British Museum. My table doesn’t include the Battle of Bosworth Field, but in a bit of just desserts Northumberland’s inaction had much to do with the end of Richard III (Yorkist).

The Earls (and Dukes) of Northumberland: The Percy Family Tree (CardinalConky)

Sir Thomas Percy (c. 1504 – 1537) was a martyr and died at Tyburn. Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland, was also a martyr and was beatified by the Catholic Church.

Battle & LocationDateVictorNotable Deaths
St Albans IMay 22, 1455YorkEdmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset & Henry Percy, 2nd Earl of Northumberland
Ludford BridgeOctober 12, 1459Lancaster
Northampton July 10, 1460YorkThomas Percy, 1st Baron Egremont
WakefieldDecember 30, 1460LancasterRichard of York & Edmund, Earl of Rutland (Father & Son)
Mortimer’s CrossFebruary 2, 1461York
St Albans IIFebruary 17, 1461Lancaster
Ferrybridge March 28, 1461York
TowtonMarch 29, 1461YorkHenry Percy, 3rd Earl of Northumberland and Lord Dacre Gilsland
Hedgeley MoorApril 25, 1464YorkRalph Percy
Edgecote¹July 24, 1469N/A
BarnetApril 14, 1471YorkRichard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick (the Kingmaker)
TewkesburyMay 4, 1471YorkThe Prince of Wales (Son of Henry VI)
¹Among the survivors who remembered the battle’s horrors was Herbert’s ward, the twelve-year-old Lancastrian Henry Tudor, who had been led to safety by the Shropshire knight Sir Richard Corbet.

The Harvest of Heads

(1) The Pandemic State Is Here to Stay (The Pipeline)

“The state will continue to further corrode traditional liberties—privacy, assembly, mobility, communication, currency—towards the goal of citizen submission to a dominant citadel of power, an administrative panopticon.”

(2) Fed mightily at the trough of royal munificence…
Quotes from Henry VI by James Ross

“Aiscough had also amassed a substantial fortune in Henry’s service: when in 1450 he was hacked to death by a mob, the goods he was travelling with (and which were taken by the mob) were said to be worth £4,000, twice the annual revenues of his bishopric.”

“There was also a public perception that Henry’s bounty was distributed mostly to those around him, who had access to him and could most easily influence him or place petitions before him, and that many of the men advanced and enriched were so favored primarily because they were the king’s intimates, rather than receiving just rewards for diligent service.”

Weekend 529.0 (Towton and York)

“This battayl was sore foughten, for hope of life was set on every parte and takynge of prisoners was proclaimed as a great offence, by reason whereof every man determined either to conquer or to dye in the felde. This deadly battayle and bloudy conflict continued x houres in doubtfull victorie. The one parte some time flowynge, some time ebbing, but in conclusion kyng Edward so coragiously comforted his men, refreshing the wery, and helping the wounded, that the other parte was discomfited and overcome, and lyke men amased, fled toward Tadcaster bridge to save them selfes.” — Edward Hall, Chronicle

I was in the medieval city of York this weekend to visit the Towton Battlefield Trail. I walked 25.4 km on Saturday and 18.8 km on Sunday. It was like a self-imposed death-march.

Mass was at English Martyrs and they have a lovely chaplet dedicated to Our Lady of Walsingham. I also visited York Minster and the National Railways Museum on Sunday.

Flickr Albums
(1) Towton
(2) York

(1) Cock Beck
(2) Towton Battlefield Trail

Hidden Treasures
(1) Priory Church of the Holy Trinity
(2) The Stained Glass Centre, St. Martin’s Church
(3) Paintings at the the National Railway Museum:
(3a) Spirit of the South by Harry Stevens
(3b) First Class: The Meeting by Abraham Solomon¹
(4) The Hole in the Wall
(5) Light, Glass & Stone: Conserving the St Cuthbert Window

(1) FortyFive Vinyl Café was closed
(2) It was English Mum’s Day on Sunday and I didn’t have restaurant reservations
(3) Forgot my Rosary Beads at home (this is the pair from Westminster Cathedral blessed at The Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge)
(4) Didn’t pack very well (extra shirt and shoes)²
(5) Should have stopped at the Greyhound Inn for a pint after my tour of the Towton battlefield. It was close to sunset and the inn sits in the shadows of All Saints Church.

¹The placard next to the painting says the scene inspired the poet John Betjeman but it doesn’t say which poem?
²There was an incident on the trail involving a marsh and a river.

Spirit of the South by Harry Stevens (1970)

Henry VI, Part 2

Henry was more martyr than king and developed a cult after he was slain.

Quotes from The Brothers York by Thomas Penn:

“As a shuffling Harry was led the short distance to the west door of St Paul’s – Westminster, apparently, was too much of a stretch – his physical frailty and mental instability were palpable. In the intervening decade he had become, if anything, more detached, more unearthly. One Londoner followed the standard Lancastrian line, explaining away Henry’s ‘ghostliness’ as ‘saintliness’; another delicately summed up the problem, observing that he was ‘no earthly Caesar’. The Burgundian chronicler Georges Chastellain put it more bluntly. The king was ‘ordered like a crowned calf’, his uncomprehending gaze taken by his handlers as assent. ‘And’, Chastellain added, the real ‘governor and dictator of the realm’ was Warwick, who ‘did everything’.”

“In a last-ditch attempt to boost Londoners’ morale, George Neville ordered Henry VI to be put on a horse and led through the city’s streets. Where, ten years previously, Edward’s hastily constructed inauguration ceremonies had convinced most Londoners, this limp procession backfired spectacularly. His hand held all the way by Neville – perhaps in reassurance, perhaps to stop him falling out of his saddle – Henry was dressed in a shabby long blue gown, ‘as if’, remarked one observer, ‘he had no more clothes to change with’, adding that the whole thing was more ‘like a play than the showing of a prince to win men’s hearts.'”

“At St Paul’s, to the singing of the Easter hymn Salve festa dies, celebrating God’s victory over hell, Edward offered up his battle standards, ripped and shredded by gun- and arrowfire. He then had Henry VI paraded through London, to the Tower. In a spitefully effective touch, the Lancastrian king was dressed in the same blue gown that he had been wearing since his ineffectual display of regality the previous Thursday.”

Quotes from The Stripping of the Altars by Eamon Duffy:

“Henry VI had been an unassuming man in his own lifetime, dressing in farmer’s boots, wearing the gown and rolled hood of a slightly run-down urban worthy; up to the Reformation his shabby hat could be tried on by Windsor pilgrims suffering from headache. He liked to appear to his clients in just such unassuming garb, dressed like a pilgrim, unshaven, and walking up and down with a friendly face, ‘giving…no little ground of hope and amazement.'”

“The victims of political struggles might become martyrs, and popular devotion to such ‘saints’ might be the vehicle for criticism of or resistance to the political status quo. A number of the fifteenth-century English cults had a strong political dimension, like the anti-Lancastrian cult of Archbishop Scrope of York, executed for treason by Henry IV, or the anti-Yorkist cult of Henry VI…Henry VII attempted to mobilize the cult of Henry VI in support of his own dynasty, building a magnificent chapel at Westminster Abbey to house Henry VI’s relics, and promoting his cause at Rome. The process foundered in the late 1520s, but ‘good King Harry’ would almost certainly have been canonized had not bad King Harry’s matrimonial affairs strained and eventually broken ties with Rome.”

“What was true of the Virgin applied, to a lesser degree, to all the saints. They too could be appealed to as loving friends, who would not be too hard on poor weak flesh and blood. In the cases of saints like Archbishop Scrope or Henry VI, this emphasis was related to their own histories: the victims of persecution or judicial murder could be expected to have a special tenderness for those who suffered similar injustice. The fact that Henry VI had been wrongfully imprisoned and treated, as his biographer Blacman commented, ‘like a thief or an outlaw’, together with his well-known readiness during his lifetime to forgive malefactors, meant that he could be called on to rescue those whose human law had judged beyond the pale.”

Weekend 528.0 (Barnet)

A quote from the The Brothers York by Thomas Penn:

“The fog lent the fighting a more desperate edge than usual. Hand-gunners and archers fired at the invisible enemy at point-blank range. Barely able to see in front of them, the combatants’ fear and disorientation were total: the fighting, as one participant put it, was ‘the more cruel and mortal’. Intensifying the chaos was the armies’ skewed alignment. On the Yorkist left, where Hastings’ men faced the earl of Oxford’s much bigger force, the imbalance was driven home. Oxford’s advancing troops swung round and piled into Hastings’ exposed lines, which, after a fierce fight, buckled and broke. Their blood up, Oxford’s men chased Hastings’ fleeing troops back down the road towards London.”

I was in Barnet on Saturday for a football match between Barnet and Woking but the memorial commemorating the battle is a bit of a haul.

Henry VI

“A man who could, on occasion, assert his royal will and make decisions, but whose interests were not those of most medieval kings, being far more focused on his afterlife than his actual life, whose faith, piety and spirituality were far more important to him than the administration, warfare and politics that comprised the essence of late medieval kingship.” — James Ross

I have several quotes to post about Henry VI from The Brothers York: An English Tragedy by Thomas Penn and The Stripping of the Altars by Eamon Duffy.

Weekend 526.0 (palaces made of lime and stone)

“People simply refused to believe what was happening…”

Finished The Brothers York by Thomas Penn. Some more quotes, substitutions, archeological curiosities, and final thoughts (and what comes next).

“Late that summer, Sir George Brown wrote a brief message to his nephew John Paston the younger. Brown was a Yorkist loyalist; his stepfather was the late king’s recently executed chamber treasurer Sir Thomas Vaughan. One of Edward IV’s close chamber servants, Brown had been knighted on the battlefield of Tewkesbury back in 1471; following the king’s death that April, he had carried the banner of St George at his funeral and was among the household men keeping watch over his body the night before its burial. Now, Brown’s message to Paston read, simply, ‘Loyalté Aymé’. It shall never come out for me.’ Scrawling a variation on Richard III’s new royal motto, Brown dismissed it out of hand. There was no way that Richard’s idea of loyalty would work for Brown: he didn’t trust the new king an inch.”

“The idea of putting the earl at the head of royal networks in the north seemed exceptionally unwise. Like their detested rivals the Nevilles, the Percies had historically proved themselves dangerously independent-minded: a challenge, rather than a support to royal authority.”

“Meanwhile, in an act of political penance and reconciliation, Richard ordered the remains of the Lancastrian king Henry VI to be disinterred from their sequestered location at Chertsey Abbey, and royally reburied in the choir of the near-completed chapel of St George at Windsor, close to the body of the man who had destroyed him and his family, Edward IV. Edward, of course, had designed the chapel specifically as the last resting place of the Yorkist kings. The symbolism of Richard’s gesture was lost on no one: in death, at least, the houses of Lancaster and York were to be unified. Perhaps, Richard hoped, some of the Lancastrian king’s saintliness would rub off on him by association. And, as a flood of pilgrims descended on Windsor to venerate the bones of the saintly Lancastrian king, Richard redoubled his efforts to get hold of this rather more troublesome living descendent, Henry Tudor.”

“There was an increasingly prevailing view that, far from governing for the common weal, Richard [Biden] was ruling for a privileged clique.”

“This pension was paid, not in recognition of a lifetime of service on Forest’s part — rewards for ‘good service’ tended to be recognized explicitly as such — but ‘for diverse causes and considerations us moving’, a formula kings habitually used when referring to confidential business carried out on their behalf. It was impossible to say for sure what ‘diverse causes and considerations’ might have moved Richard. But whatever Forest had done for him, it merited an exceptional royal response.”

Here are some names to substitute- Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Alexander Vindman, Michael Byrd, James Comey, Christine Blasey Ford, and Anthony Fauci.

Archeological Curiosities
“At the festivities, the king [Richard III] presented the mayor with a fine gold cup encrusted with pearls and lapis.”

“Around this time, Richard acquired a book of hours. Designed for personal, everyday use, this prayer book was small, its illuminations – initials, sprays of foliage, the occasional illustration picked out in pink, blue and warm orange, with gold leaf – simple and practical, designed to guide the reader around the text in the course of their devotions.”

Richard III’s Book of Hours (Medievalists.net)
Lambeth Palace Library: The National Library & Archive of the Church of England

Final Thoughts
It was difficult to find any redeeming figures in this historical recount. I would add Miles Forest, John Dighton, and James Tyrell to my list of historical footnotes whose lives, after their heinous crimes, deserve immortalization in poems and literature if only as parables to the emptiness of worldly ambitions. Just like the knights who killed Thomas Becket, these three altered history for probably thirty pieces of silver.

Inward and Outward by Fr. Paul D. Scalia (The Catholic Thing)

“Such superficiality keeps us from knowing our real longings and desires. We limit them to the here-and-now, to the worldly, and even the carnal. The Psalmist shows us the true path: O God, thou art my God, I seek thee, my soul thirsts for thee; my flesh faints for thee, as in a dry and weary land where no water is. (Ps 63:1) When we allow these words to shape our minds (as Saint Benedict counsels), then we break through the surface, into a deeper awareness of the real longing that we typically anesthetize. Then, as legitimate as our temporal needs may be, we realize the deeper need within us.”

Historical Redux: Edward IV 1496 versus Biden 2022

Just swap a couple of words in this quote from The Brothers York: An English Tragedy by Thomas Penn:

“One chronicler, a Cambridge scholar, summed up the situation succinctly. The ‘common people’, he wrote, had looked to Edward to restore all that was ‘amiss’ in England, and to bring ‘great prosperity and rest’ to the troubled country, ‘but it came not’. Civil conflict had dragged on, with recruits having to march far from their own homes at their own cost; a string of taxes had been imposed under false pretences; and Edward’s decision-making had ‘hurt merchandise’ and damaged the economy. All this had brought England ‘right low’. The balance was tipping firmly towards the invaders.”

Weekend 524.2 (seditious persons…covetous rule…singular lucre)

Quotes from The Brothers York: An English Tragedy by Thomas Penn:

“He [Edward IV] was comfortable enough to schedule in a diversionary loop, a pilgrimage through East Anglia to the great north Norfolk shrine of Walsingham, during which he would recruit additional armed forces for his norther operation.”

“The area was a hotbed of support for the pro-Lancastrian Percy family, whose heir, the twenty-one-year-old Henry Percy, was securely in the wardship of William Herbert away in south Wales: the insurgents wanted him restored as earl of Northumberland in place of the man who had supplanted him, John Neville. Late May, some fifteen thousand strong, they reached the gates of York before Neville and his men materialized. There, after a ‘long fight’, Robin of Holderness was captured and beheaded.”

“While Cook himself was still in custody, Edward ordered Rivers and Fogge to break into his property and seize his moveable assets in order to pay off the debt: a common, if harsh, practice that their men interpreted liberally, turning Cook’s London townhouse upside-down, drinking his cellar dry and carting off large quantities of cloth, £700 in plate and jewels, and a series of exquisite, jewel-encrusted tapestries depicting the Siege of Jerusalem.”

“Late that October, in a small chamber in Westminster Palace, Henry Percy swore an oath of allegiance to Edward, witnessed by a small knot of royal councillors including William Hastings and the archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Bourchier. In return, Percy was given his liberty. His release was seismic. Percy, everybody now knew, was to be restored to his earldom of Northumberland – with inevitable consequences for those who had profited from it: Warwick, Clarence and the earldom’s current incumbent, John Neville.”

“Though the carnage of Towton was now a decade ago, it lingered in the memory and everybody knew somebody who had died there; mostly on the Lancastrian side, fighting for Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland.”