Thomas Clifford, Lord Clifford (1414–1455)

by Mitch on January 4, 2011 0 Comments

Clifford Coat of Arms

An ally of the Percy family in the NEVILLE PERCY FEUD, which helped instigate the civil disturbances of the 1450s, Thomas Clifford, eighth Lord Clifford, was slain by the Yorkists at the Battle of ST.ALBANS in 1455. His death turned his son into an implacable foe of the house of YORK and was the cause of one of several feuds among the English PEERAGE that embittered political relations on the eve of the WARS OF THE ROSES.


Thomas Clifford came of age and was first summoned to PARLIAMENT as Lord Clifford in 1436. He was one of the lords who accompanied William de la POLE, earl of Suffolk, to FRANCE in 1444 to escort MARGARET OF ANJOU to England for her marriage to HENRYVI. As one of the leading magnates of the north, Clifford, along with the Nevilles and Percies, was excused attendance in Parliament in 1449 to defend the border from possible invasion by the Scots. In 1451, Clifford was part of an embassy to JAMES II of SCOTLAND, and he also served in the 1450s as sheriff of Westmorland.


Clifford accompanied the royal army that confronted Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, at DARTFORD in 1452, and he supported Henry PERCY, earl of Northumberland, and his sons in their ongoing quarrel with Richard NEVILLE, earl of Salisbury, and his sons in the mid-1450s. When the Nevilles allied themselves with York and took up arms against the king in 1455, Clifford naturally supported Henry VI and led the defense of the barricades against the Yorkist attack at the Battle of St. Albans on 22 May. Like Northumberland and Edmund BEAUFORT, duke of Somerset, who were also slain in the fighting, Clifford was likely marked as a special enemy and targeted for death by the Yorkist forces. Clifford’s death at the hands of the Yorkists had an important effect on the WARS OF THE ROSES, for it turned his son, John CLIFFORD, ninth Lord Clifford, into a staunch supporter of the house of Lancaster and a bitter personal enemy of York and the NEVILLE FAMILY.


Further Reading: Griffiths, Ralph A., The Reign of King Henry VI (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Haigh, Philip A., The Military Campaigns of the Wars of the Roses (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1995); Storey,R. L., The End of the House of Lancaster, 2d ed. (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1999).

Sir Andrew Trollope, (d. 1461)

by Mitch on September 22, 2010 1 Comment

Having acquired a reputation for courage and skill in the French wars, Sir Andrew Trollope was perhaps the most famous professional soldier in England at the start of the WARS OF THE ROSES.


Although Jean de Waurin claimed Trollope was of lower class origins, little is known of his early life. Trollope fought with distinction in Normandy in the 1440s, returning to England in 1450 after the surrender of Falaise. By 1453, he was in CALAIS, holding an appointment as sergeant-porter of the garrison. When Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, who had been captain of Calais since 1456, brought part of the garrison to England to support Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, in 1459,Trollope came with him.


On the night of 12 October 1459 at the Battle of LUDFORD BRIDGE, Trollope accepted HENRY VI’s offer of pardon and switched sides, bringing the Calais garrison with him into the Lancastrian camp. Because Trollope was privy to all York’s plans, the duke’s position became untenable, and the Yorkist leaders fled the field during the night. In November, Trollope accompanied Henry BEAUFORT, duke of Somerset, to Calais, where the duke tried unsuccessfully to wrest the town from Warwick. After receiving news of Warwick’s capture of Henry VI at the Battle of NORTHAMPTON in July 1460, Somerset and Trollope surrendered their stronghold at Guisnes and withdrew into FRANCE. Trollope was in northern England by December, when he and Somerset led the Lancastrian force that defeated and killed York at the Battle of WAKEFIELD.


Trollope was also one of the leaders of the unruly Lancastrian force that surged south from Wakefield to defeat Warwick at the Battle of ST. ALBANS on 17 February 1461 (see MARCH ON LONDON). After the battle, which reunited Henry VI with his family, the king knighted his son Prince EDWARD OF LANCASTER, who in turn knighted Trollope. Sir Andrew supposedly joked that he did not deserve the honor, having killed only fifteen men due to a foot injury inflicted by a caltrop (i.e., a pointed, metal, anticavalry device). After the Battle of St. Albans, Trollope withdrew with the Lancastrian army into Yorkshire, where he died six weeks later at the Battle of TOWTON.


Further Reading: Boardman, Andrew W., The Battle of Towton (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1996); Haigh, Philip A., The Military Campaigns of the Wars of the Roses (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1995).

Illness of Henry VI

by Mitch on September 16, 2010 2 Comments

HENRY VI’s inability to function as an effective monarch, which became total in 1453 with the onset of chronic mental illness, was a main cause of the WARS OF THE ROSES.


In early August 1453, while staying at the royal hunting lodge at Clarendon, Henry fell suddenly into a stupor that rendered him unable to communicate. Because we have no eyewitness accounts of the start of Henry’s illness, the exact cause and nature of his ailment remain mysterious. One contemporary chronicler claimed that it commenced when the king suffered a sudden shock, a suggestion that has led modern historians to speculate that Henry fell ill when he received the devastating news of the destruction in July of an English army at the Battle of CASTILLON, a defeat that ended the English presence in FRANCE. Although rumors that the king was childish or simple had been whispered about the kingdom before 1453, Henry showed no signs of mental illness until that date. However, he may have inherited a genetic predisposition to such illness from his maternal grandfather, Charles VI of France, who suffered recurring bouts of violent madness.


In March 1454, a deputation from PARLIAMENT visited the king at Windsor. Instructed to ascertain Henry’s wishes as to the filling of several important offices that had fallen vacant in recent months, the deputation could get no response from Henry, who seemed unaware of their presence. He could not stand or walk and required round-the-clock care from his grooms and chamber servants. He displayed none of the frenzy that had characterized his grandfather’s illness but neither recognized nor understood anyone or anything. When he finally recovered around Christmas 1454, Henry remembered nothing of the previous seventeen months, including the birth of his son, Prince EDWARD OF LANCASTER. Henry was again unwell after the Battle of ST. ALBANS in May 1455, when the unaccustomed shock of combat may have triggered another episode.


From 1456, the few surviving accounts of Henry’s condition show him as weak-minded, requiring inordinate amounts of sleep, and given almost entirely to a routine of religious devotions. After 1457, the king found seclusion attractive, and his wife, Queen MARGARET OF ANJOU, often housed him in monasteries, away from any but loyal courtiers. Although the king had periods of lucid activity, such as his personal direction of the LOVE-DAY peace effort in 1458, he was largely a cipher during the last fifteen years of his life; the political factions that coalesced around the queen and Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, fought to control his person and thereby his government. Because his illness rendered him unable to function as an arbiter of noble disputes, and because the queen’s partisanship made him the figurehead for one political faction, Henry’s mental incapacity was instrumental in overthrowing royal authority and bringing about the dynastic war between the houses of LANCASTER and YORK.


Further Reading: Griffiths, Ralph A., The Reign of King Henry VI (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Wolffe, Bertram, Henry VI (London: Eyre Methuen, 1981).

William Beaumont, Lord Beaumont (1438–1507)

by Mitch on September 6, 2010 0 Comments

A staunch adherent of the house of LANCASTER, William Beaumont, Lord Beaumont, continued to resist Yorkist rule even after the destruction of the Lancastrian male line in 1471.


After his father John Beaumont, Lord Beaumont, died fighting for HENRY VI at the Battle of NORTHAMPTON in July 1460, William Beaumont was courted by the Yorkist regime and allowed to take possession of his family estates. However, he maintained his father’s Lancastrian allegiance and in March 1461 fought against EDWARD IV at the Battle of TOWTON, where he was taken prisoner. In November, when Edward’s first PARLIAMENT included Beaumont in a bill of ATTAINDER, the king pardoned him, but granted the Beaumont estates to William HASTINGS, Lord Hastings, and to John NEVILLE, Lord Montagu, both loyal Yorkists. Beaumont did not regain his lands until November 1470, when they were restored to him by the READEPTION government of Henry VI, whose leader, the former Yorkist Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, was desirous of winning the support of all former Lancastrians.


Beaumont fought with Warwick at the Battle of BARNET in April 1471, escaping after that defeat into SCOTLAND with John de VERE, earl of Oxford. Although the death of Prince EDWARD OF LANCASTER at the Battle of TEWKESBURY on 4 May 1471 and the murder of his father, Henry VI, in the TOWER OF LONDON (see HENRY VI, MURDER OF) some weeks later seemed to end forever all hopes of a Lancastrian restoration, Beaumont and Oxford remained implacably hostile to the house of YORK.


In September 1473, they seized the small fortress on the island of St. Michael’s Mount off the Cornish coast. Unable to do any real damage, Beaumont and Oxford were nonetheless sore irritants to a Yorkist government seeking to finally secure its hold on power. After a lengthy siege, the two lords surrendered in February 1474, and Beaumont remained in prison until after the fall of the house of York in 1485, when the new king, HENRYVII of the house of TUDOR, released him and restored him to his lands and titles.


In 1487, Beaumont suffered a mental breakdown that rendered him incapable of caring for himself and his property. Custody of Beaumont’s estates was transferred to Oxford, who, in 1495, also received custody of Beaumont’s person. Beaumont spent the rest of his life as Oxford’s guest, dying at the earl’s house in Essex in December 1507.

Further Reading: Gillingham, John, The Wars of the Roses (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981); Ross, Charles, Edward IV (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998).

William Catesby, (1450–1485)

by Mitch on August 30, 2010 0 Comments

In 1483, when RICHARD III’s usurpation of his nephew’s throne revived dynastic conflict and political instability, William Catesby served as one of Richard’s closest advisors and confidants.


One of the few southern members of the king’s inner circle, Catesby was born into an obscure Northamptonshire GENTRY family and trained as a lawyer. A councilor of William HASTINGS, Lord Hastings, who later acquired some of Hastings’s offices, Catesby’s rapid rise to power and influence under Richard III led to later charges that he had connived at Hastings’s death in 1483. In his HISTORY OF KING RICHARD III, Sir Thomas More suggested that Catesby sounded out Hastings about Richard’s decision to claim the throne, and that his unfavorable report of Hastings’s response led to Hastings’s summary execution.


After Richard’s accession, Catesby was appointed chancellor of the Exchequer and chancellor of the earldom of March. He was also made a squire of the body (i.e., a close personal servant of the king) and was given lands worth more than £300 a year, an income that made Catesby wealthier than many knights and brought him much unpopularity as an undeserving parvenu. He was sent on embassy to SCOTLAND in September 1484 and to BRITTANY in February 1485. Catesby served as Speaker of the PARLIAMENT of 1484, in which he sat as member for Northamptonshire. His speakership indicated the position of trust he held with the king, for it was unusual for a member to be Speaker in his first Parliament.


Along with Sir Richard RATCLIFFE and Francis LOVELL, Lord Lovell, Catesby became widely known as a member of Richard’s inner circle of advisors. A popular satirical couplet of the time declared that “The cat [Catesby], the rat [Ratcliffe], and Lovell our dog [Lovell’s emblem], / Rule all England under a hog [referring to Richard III’s white boar emblem].” In March 1485, Catesby and Ratcliffe were said to have opposed Richard’s plan to wed his niece, ELIZABETH OF YORK. Catesby was taken prisoner at the Battle of BOSWORTH FIELD on 22 August 1485 and executed three days later at Leicester.


Further Reading: Horrox, Rosemary, Richard III:A Study in Service (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991); Roskell, John S., William Catesby, Counselor to Richard III (Manchester: John Rylands Library, 1959) [reprinted from the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, vol. 42, no. 1, September, 1959]; Ross, Charles, Richard III (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); “William Catesby,” in Michael Hicks, Who’s Who in Late Medieval England (London: Shepheard- Walwyn, 1991), pp. 366–369.

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