Front Matter 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

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.