CHAPTER 5

Failings of government

In fact, the immediate cause of disaster lay with the kings and their advisers. Henry VI, Edward IV in his first reign, and Richard III all acted in ways which seriously disturbed the society of the late Middle Ages, and which the political structures of that era could not correct. Their weaknesses were different from each other, but all contributed by their actions to a collapse of the system, though the difficulties of Edward IV in his first reign stemmed as much from the excessive expectations of Warwick and Clarence as from Edward's own failings.


The personal government of Henry VI

As we have seen in Chapter 2, when Henry VI was declared of age in 1437, just before his 16th birthday, he entered on a difficult inheritance. Henry's own desire for peace was at odds with the strong feelings of many of his barons, who lamented the sad decline from the triumphs of his father, Henry V. It would have taken a very able king to achieve either victory or an effective peace in such a fraught situation.

Henry proved indecisive and subject to pressure. Any progress in negotiations with France required that he should at least give up the use of the title of King of France, as Edward III had done for a period after the Treaty of Brétigny/Calais in 1360. Under the influence of Gloucester, and to the despair of the negotiators in France, Henry refused, and negotiations collapsed in 1439. Henry's gov-ernment then pursued a mixture of peace negotiations and warlike

-58-

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The Wars of the Roses
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Chapter 1 - The Problem 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Events: What Actually Happened? 16
  • Chapter 3 - The Social and Political Situation in the Fifteenth Century 39
  • Chapter 4 - The Problem of Authority in the Middle Ages 51
  • Chapter 5 - Failings of Government 58
  • Epilogue: the Tudor Solution 72
  • References 77
  • Further Reading 80
  • Index 83
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