Against stupidity the very gods themselves contend in vain. — Friedrich Schiller

Story of the English - Helene Guerber




The Beginning of the War of the Roses

Henry VI. was carefully brought up by his great-uncle, Cardinal Beaufort. But he was, unfortunately, not very clever. He was very quiet and timid, and as he had no will of his own and was easily flattered and directed, the people around him fancied it would be the best thing for him to marry a clever wife.

But Cardinal Beaufort and the Duke of Gloucester could not agree who this wife should be; and when Henry VI., at twenty-four, married the fifteen-year-old Margaret of Anjou, Gloucester was very angry. To obtain this bright young princess for his stupid nephew, the cardinal had to give up two French provinces, and to accept her without a dowry.

One reason that Gloucester had so far lost his influence was that he had fallen into disgrace with the king a few years before. His wife tried to harm the king by witchcraft, in the hope that her own husband might then come to the throne. With this object, she made a waxen image of Henry and set it before the fire, believing that as the wax melted, the king's strength would leave him. Of course this belief was the greatest nonsense, but it was very common in those days, and the duchess's intentions were no better for the fact that her way of carrying them out was so foolish. In punishment she was forced to do public penance by walking through the streets holding a lighted taper, and then was imprisoned for life.

Little by little the king's total incapacity became more evident. Everything was going wrong, and the queen and her advisers made things worse. The people began to murmur, and some said it was no wonder that things were not right when the country was ruled by an idiot king, who, after all, had no real claim to the throne.

For the people now remembered that the Lancasters were descended from the third son of Edward III., while the Duke of York, on his mother's side, was the direct descendant of the second son. The Duke of York, moreover, was a very popular man, so the people said he ought to be king, or at least to govern instead of the queen and her adviser Suffolk. They next accused Suffolk of having spent a great deal of money to no purpose, and of having lost France by his carelessness. He was tried and found guilty, but the queen pleaded so hard for him that he was merely exiled for five years instead of being condemned to death. This did not please his enemies, who overtook him at sea, and beheaded him on the side of a boat.

The nobles were, as you see, discontented with the state of affairs. So were many of the poor, who finally rebelled and came marching to London, led by Jack Cade. These twenty thousand men defeated the king's troops at Seven-oaks, and marched into London, where their leader proudly struck an old Roman milestone, called the "London Stone," crying, "I am master of London."

The mob was at first quite orderly, and only made a "complaint," in which the people said the king had bad advisers and asked that a few laws should be changed. After a while, however, they became excited and killed several prominent men. When they left the city, to spend the night in their camp at Southwark, the troops guarded London Bridge, and would not allow them to return the next day. A proclamation was then made, promising pardon and redress if they dispersed. So they scattered; but their leader, Jack Cade, upon whose head a price had been set, was overtaken and killed, and his head was placed on London Bridge to serve as a warning to rebels.

The poor weak king became quite insane in 1454, so Parliament decreed that the Duke of York should govern in his stead as Protector. This decision made the queen very angry, and when the king recovered a gleam of reason, she made him send York away and give the power to her and her new adviser Somerset.

The result was that there were now two parties in the country. The one in favour of the queen and Somerset was called the Lancaster party and wore a red rose as badge. The party in favour of the Duke of York was called the York party and wore a white rose. These two parties, not content with quarrelling, soon began fighting, and the civil war they waged was called the War of the Roses.



Contents

Front Matter
Review

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
"Remember"
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee