Monday, August 31, 2020

And So Is Set in Motion the Cousins War

 And So Is Set in Motion the Cousins War

      Today marks the anniversary of the death, in 1422, of King Henry V of England. His death would set in motion the events that would eventually play out as what was then referred to as the Cousins War and is today referred to as the War of the Roses.

      Henry V, the victor of Agincourt, died young. His only child, also named Henry, was nine months old at the time of his father’s death. Upon his father’s death, and subject of course to a Regency, young Henry, now Henry VI, was elevated to the English throne. Henry VI’s mother was Catherine of Valois, a French princess who after Agincourt married Henry V; under the Treaty of Troyes, Henry V was to inherit the French throne. Of course, that did not come to pass as the civil war aspect of the Hundred Years War was ultimately resolved (the enemy of my enemy is my friend). So now sitting on the throne was Henry VI, whose mother was a member of the house in Valois. That particular house was troubled with some sort (today it cannot be entirely diagnosed) of mental instability. At various times in his life this instability would manifest in Henry VI. In some of the later experiences he would be effectively catatonic while at other times he would appear to have no appreciation of where he was or what he was doing. Regardless of the degree of expression from time to time, these were not characteristics of an effective medieval king. In addition, Henry VI would go on to marry Margaret of Anjou. Being French, she brought no natural allies to Henry’s household and, for herself, was generally disliked.

      And so the stage was set; following the highly effective and well liked war hero Henry V, the country was plunged into a minority kingship with a regency and all of the instability that flows therefrom. The Duke of York, who had aspirations to the throne, served as a regent. A recent review of his life is Matthew Lewis, Richard, Duke of York: King By Right (2016).  Meanwhile nothing to bring stability to Henry VI’s position flowed from his eventual marriage to Margaret of Anjou.
Ultimately, the Cousins War would erupt. York would, in one of its earlier battles, be killed (Wakefield in 1460), but ultimately his son, Edward IV, would prevail in that conflict (Towton, 1461), taking the throne and then protecting it (except when he lost it for a short period) through the balance of the War of the Roses.
But then after his death the throne would pass to Richard III, it in turn being taken from him at the Battle of Bosworth Field by Henry Tudor, known now to history as Henry VII.
If only Henry V had lived longer, a more stable monarchy might have been passed to Henry VI, one that could withstand the travails of his mental condition. Were that the case, England could have been spared the bloodbath that was the Cousins War. But he did not.

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