The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485

The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485

The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485

The Fifteenth Century, 1399-1485

Synopsis

The sixth volume in the acclaimed Oxford History of England, this is an authoritative account of a violent and turbulent period which saw the fall and rise of four royal houses.

E. F. Jacob examines the impact of the Hundred Years' War and inadequate financial and administrative machinery on the failure of the Lancastrians, and shows that the War of the Roses were less a unique struggle between defined parties than a typical effort by a noble house to maintain and improve its position by the exercise of patronage and influence in a society that was rapidly undergoing change. He also provides detailed portraits of key figures of the age, and chapters on economic growth, Anglo-French relations, the Church, and the peaceful arts.

Excerpt

Not before the capture of the Glyn DW + ̂r strongholds in Wales during 1408 can it be said that the new dynasty was safe from its enemies. The coincidence of attacks from without, the problem of defence and the growing tide of criticism from within were to give Henry IV no respite. There were years when Scotland, Wales, France (including both Calais and Gascony), as well as Ireland, called for a burden of military expenditure with which no English monarch had been faced since the end of Edward I's reign. If, after the battle of Shrewsbury in 1403, Henry had looked forward to a breathing space in the north, there was to be no such thing. He was confronted by the disloyalty of potential rivals and a different type of pressure, the vigorous criticisms of many loyal persons at Westminster, who thought his organization of war and finance inadequate, the grants and rewards he made to his followers excessive, and his tendency to regard the kingdom as an enlarged private estate unduly exclusive. In the country at large, a government continually asking for money is bound to become disliked and when the first enthusiasm for Henry had faded under the strain of taxation and the demand for loans to the crown, he was even less popular than his predecessor. All these anxieties Henry met with courage and resilience. The prolonged effort cost him his nervous health and the house of Lancaster much political good will. That he survived the ordeal and was able to hand over to a son was due partly to his own unremitting energy and almost unbelievable power of driving himself virtually beyond the limit; partly to the loyalty of his administrators and the support of certain leading churchmen. In the present chapter the hostile and treasonable reactions will mainly be described: the constitutional effects will be analysed in the following.

Until at least 1404 Henry mainly relied upon his duchy servants, the officers and relatives of John of Gaunt and upon the members of his own household. The magnates who had helped him to the throne, his 'natural' counsellors, looked to him to govern by their advice and consent; his first council . . .

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