Wars of the Roses/Margaret of Anjou/Letter to Susan Higginbotham about her book ´´Queen of Last Hopes

 

File:Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York.jpg
RICHARD OF YORK, CLAIMANT TO THE ENGLISH THRONE
AND ONE OF THE MAIN LEADERS OF THE WAR OF ROSES
[WAR BETWEEN THE HOUSES OF LANCASTER AND YORK,
BOTH DESCENDANTS OF KING EDWARD III]
[HISTORICAL IMAGE]

WAR OF THE ROSES
SCENE AT THE TEMPLE GARDEN
RICHARD, DUKE OF YORK, WEARING A
WHITE ROSE, TO CONFRONT
HIS POLITICAL RIVAL AND ENEMY,
EDMUND, BEAUFORT, 2ND DUKE OF
SOMERSET, FORCING HIM TO
CHOOSE A RED ROSE
THE NOBLE LORDS TAKING SIDES
THIS IS A SHAKESPEARE SCENE [HENRY VI]
AND NOT BASED ON ANY HISTORICAL
EVIDENCE
KING HENRY VI OF ENGLAND
[HISTORICAL IMAGE]
MARGARET OF ANJOU, QUEEN OF ENGLAND
[HISTORICAL IMAGE]

TWO IMAGES OF MARGARET OF ANJOU, QUEEN OF ENGLAND
[FICTION]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WARS OF THE ROSES/MARGARET OF ANJOU/LETTER

TO SUSAN HIGGINBOTHAM ABOUT HER

BOOK ´´QUEEN OF .LAST HOPES´´

PORTRAYAL OF MARGARET OF ANJOU AND
 RICHARD, DUKE OF YORK
Dear Readers
´´Queen of Last Hopes´´, fictional historical novel  of writer Susan Higginbotham,
about the life of Margaret of Anjou, wife of the medieval English
King Henry VI, was one of the books, which fascinated me last year
2014.
Red theme in the life of Margaret of Anjou were the Wars of Roses,
the fight to the death for the English throne between the Houses of
Lancaster  and York .
It´s such a passionate period of history, that one nearly can´t avoid to
raise sympathy either for the Lancasters or the Yorks.
However, of importance is to take a historically balanced stand,
acknowledging that on both sides there were cruelties and injustice,
and that human beings are mostly a mixture of light and dark sides.
In her book and articles, Susan Higginbotham struggles against
an important contribution.
However, in ´´Queen of Last Hopes´´, Higginbotham accomplishes that by
on the contrary, picturing her great enemy the Duke of York  as a cardboard
villain, who was after the throne from the beginning and even
wanted to kill King Henry VI and Queen Margaret for that.
I think, that is not historically right.
That´s why I wrote a letter to Mrs Higginbotham.
See for that letter below.
But first will I take you to a journey to history, by telling
something about the Wars of Roses, the major players
and the causes.
I warn you
It is a long piece of reading
But realize, that it is a journey of 500
years ago and that takes time.
Go with me on the journey.
ENTER THE WORLD

WHAT WERE THE WARS OF THE ROSES
Most people know, that the Wars of the Roses was a civil war in
England between the nobles of the two rival branches of the royal family,
the House of Lancaster [descended from John of Gaunt, third
son of King Edward III ,  the family line of King
Henry VI, and the House of York [with the Duke of York, descendant
of both Lionel of Antwerp , second son of King Edward III and
Edmund of Langley, fourth son of King Edward III.
IMPORTANT TO KNOW
The House of Lancaster and the House of York were
The Lancaster branch consisted of King Henry VI, descendant of John
of Gaunt [from his marriage with Blanche of Lancaster,
as the Beauforts [descendants of John of Gaunt
and his mistress, Katharine Swynford , whom he later married]
A very important member of the Beaufort family was Edmund Beaufort,
Duke of Somerset, later the bitter enemy of the Duke of York.
The price of the fighting?
The throne of England, of course, which both the Beauforts as
Richard, Duke of York claimed, especially after the  insanity of Henry VI showed
Through his mother, the Duke of York
had a superior claim to the throne, even above Henry VI, who
was descending of Henry IV, the usurper King , which I
will explain below.
But however dynastic rivalry played a role, is too simplistic
to point it out as a major cause of the War of Roses.
The major causes are more complicated
The great losses in the Hundred Years War and the subsequent
social problems.
The diminishing of the royal mystic authority by
the usurping of thrones.
The weak reign of Henry VI. lie in the great losses in the Hundred Years
war, the diminishing of royal authority by usurping a throne.
and the weak  reign of King Henry VI.
CAUSES OF THE WARS OF THE ROSES
CLAIMS TO THE THRONE
THE SONS OF EDWARD III ANF THEIR OFFSPRING
But first the deep rooted enmity, caused by various
claims to the throne.
King Edward III had five sons, The Black Prince  [originally
of Antwerp , John of Gaunt [first Duke of Lancaster]
, Edmund of  Langley [first Duke of York]  and Thomas of Woodstock.
When King Edward III died , his grandson Richard II  [son of the Black Prince]
inherited the throne.
However, his other sons had children too, like Lionel
of Antwerp, John of Gaunt, Edmund of Langley and Thomas of Woodstock.
Inheritance right stated, that the rights to the throne went
from the descendants of the first son of Edward III, then [when
they remained childless] the second son, then the third and so on.
So when Richard II should die childless
 the descendants of Lionel
of Antwerp, the second son of Edward III, would inherit the throne,
And in that spirit Richard II acted.
During his reign, he appointed Roger Mortimer, grandson
of Lionel of Antwerp
[through his mother, Philippa Plantagenet],
However, he died a year before Richard II.
When Richard II was deposed of the throne
by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke 
[the son of John of Gaunt] and was probably murdered,
Henry Bolingbroke usurped the throne and became the
new king, Henry IV.
The reign of the House of Lancaster  started.
Not only Henry IV deposed Richard II, he also ignored the rights
of Edmund Mortimer, who, as the son of the late Roger Mortimer,
Henry IV was only the son of the third son of Edward III, John of Gaunt,
AND PAY ATTENTION
The Roger Mortimer case had a direct connection with
Richard, Duke of York , who would fight a bitter fight
with the House of Lancaster for the English throne.
Because through his mother, Anne Mortimer , daughter
of Roger Mortimer, he had
a superior claim to the English throne.
He, his mother and Roger Mortimer were
descendants of Lionel of Antwerp , second son of King Edward III.
Can you still follow it?
Yes, this explanation is necessary, otherwise the whole
history is unclear.
CAUSES OF THE WAR OF ROSES
THE DIMINISHING MYSTIQUE OF KINGS
A medieval king was believed to
have given his authority by God
and anointing a King was an almost holy ritual.
So deposing a king, as Henry IV did with Richard II
and also passing the heir to the throne [Edmund Mortimer,
son of the late presumptive heir, Roger Mortimer], was
a serious business, not undertaken lightly.
Usurpation [replacing an anointed King
by somebody else]  was a dangerous thing,  for
everytime it happened, the authority of
the monarchy weakened.
Indeed, the monarchy was not very stable under Henry IV,
and that usurpation thing, which happened in England
before, lay the basis for the assumption, that
replacing a King was not such a big deal, which
played a key role in the Wars of the Roses.
CAUSES OF THE WARS OF THE ROSES
THE LOSSES IN THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR
But there was more.
Because when it was only a matter of claiming the throne,
at which Richard, Duke of York and his maternal
family, the Mortimers, had a superior right, why not
claim that right earlier?
First there was that usurpation thing of course and
the fact, that Edmund of Mortimer was only a minor.
And then, especially under Henry V, son of Henry IV,
the monarchy was very successful, especially
Even when Henry V died in 1422 and baby Henry VI
became King [and was at his weakest] there was no sign
of challenging the throne.
But after being so victorious in  the Hundred Years War, disaster
 [for the English] finally came.
First Jeanne d’Arc had military successes and made the dauphin
revival of French struggle for liberation,
 then piece by piece the English lost French possessions.
One of the reasons laid in the reign of Henry VI , no warrior King
at all, who had no interest in occupying France anymore and
wanted peace.
This was shown by his marriage with Margaret of Anjou, on condition
And on that point, two Court factions were formed, but not yet
on York/Lancaster basis.
Queen Margaret, Lord Suffolk and Lord Somerset [Edmund
Beaufort, Lancaster House] and Cardinal Beaufort [Lancaster
However,  Richard Duke of York and the uncle of the King,
Tensions rose and eventually it would turn out in a fight
to the death between the Duke of York and Edmund Beaufort, Duke of
Somerset , who was a farvourite of Margaret of Anjou.
CAUSES OF THE WARS OF THE ROSES
SOCIAL UNREST/THE JACK CADE REBELLION
LINK WITH THE WAR OF ROSES, YORK STYLE
The agreement, to give Main and Anjou back to France,
had big consequences.
With the subsequent losses of other territories in
France, especially Normandy, led to rising unpopularity
of the monarchy, since it was associated with the Dukes
of Somerset and Suffolk, who were extremely unpopular
because of their peace policy with France.
English refugees [people who had lived in the
English territories of France] arrived, as English troops,
who had often not been paid, spreading social
To intensify the tensions, the Jack Cade rebellion
broke out.
And who were his closest advisors?
Again, Somerset and Suffolk.
Other causes were the considerable debts England suffered because
of the costly war with France and since Normandy was lost
against corruption and extortion by the Kings councillors.
Most rebels were peasants, craftsmen and shopkeepers.
Initially succesful, Cade marched to London, but after
looting and plundering in Londen, they were driven out
The uprising, that began in may, ended somewhere in july, when
 
The link with the War of Roses is the demands of the rebels,
to bring the Duke of York [who was sent to Ireland as King’s
back to England and to remove the Duke of Suffolk,
whom they considered a traitor.
”His true commons desire that he will remove from him all the false progeny and affinity of the Duke of Suffolk and to take about his noble person his true blood of his royal realm, that is to say, the high and mighty prince the Duke of York, exiled from our sovereign lord’s person by the noising of the false traitor, the Duke of Suffolk, and his affinity. Also to take about his person the mighty prince, the Duke of Exeter, the Duke of Buckingham, the Duke of Norfolk, and his true earls and barons of his land, and he shall be the richest king Christian.”
CAUSES OF THE WARS OFTHE  ROSES
THE WEAK REIGN OF HENRY VI
Part of the outbreak of the Wars ofthe  Roses lies in the
person and reign of King Henry VI.
King Henry VI  had suited well as a monk, doing good
deeds and charity, but not as a ruler and a King.
He was generous, pious, forgiving and didn’t like
war or violence.
Not suited to a medieval King.
He was in everything the opposite of his
warrior father, King Henry V.
Alas he had psychic problems, which resulted in various
nervous breakdowns, with as a consequence, that rival
noblemen sought to control the crown.
That was not so strange, since an incapacitated King
meant anarchy and unrest, and a strong government
was needed.
 
Untill 1453 [when his only son was born], he had no children,
what made the Duke of York [who had inherited the Mortimer
claim to the throne after the death of his maternal uncle,
Edmund Mortimer  in 1425]  his heir presumptive.
 
When King Henry VI was incapacitated, York became
Protector of the Realm  and Chief Councillor.
He did a pretty good job in ruling the country, untill
Henry VI wake up again [he was in a sort of
coma], reversed York’s action, Somerset in power
again and the country prepared for civil war.
Unwisely the King was encouraged by his wife Margaret of
Anjou, who was a strong opposer of York, aligning
herself with men like the Duke of Suffolk
The King was not able to control the rivalling noble factions
[York/Somerset], nor other conflicts as the Percy/Neville feud,
Queen Margaret of Anjou unwisely favoured Somerset, embittering
the Yorkists, tensions flow to extremes, all hell burst out.
A civil war.
 
War of Roses, Marc Goacher rightly points out:
A situation of an undermighty King and  overmighty subjects.
CAUSES OF THE WARS OF THE ROSES
KING HENRY VI CHOOSES SIDES
What not has been pointed out thouroughly, that King Henry VI,
on purpose or not, was not ”above the rivalling parties”,
but became party himself.
against the ”war party”, consisting Humphrey of Gloucester, uncle to
the King and the Duke of York.
In 1445 Henry sent the Duke of York to Ireland instead of prolonging
And in 1455, after the Duke of York ruled the country two years when
Henry was in coma, he dismissed the Duke of York, putting
Somerset in charge again.
Result:
Open war.
And  Henry being a Lancaster himself, like the Duke
of Somerset [whose grandfather had been the half brother of
Henry IV, sharing the same father, John of Gaunt], quickly the
whole thing became not only Somerset against York,
but Somerset AND the King against York, added the preference of
Margaret of Anjou for Somerset.
WARS OF THE ROSES
LAST DRAMA
MARGARET OF ANJOU
DUKE OF SOMERSET
DUKE OF YORK
In the first military confrontation in the First Battle of St Albans
Duke of Somerset was killed, the Yorkists were victorious
and King Henry VI came into the hands of the victorious
Yorks.
Fighting went on and on, when than one side, than the other
won.
After a final attempt for reconciliation, the socalled
´´Loveday´´ in 1458, fighting embittered and finally
at instigation of Margaret of Anjou, the Duke of York and his
allies,Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury  (brother of his wife
(the son of Lord Salisbury), suffered attainder, which meant
In 1460, the victorious York did an attempt in Parliament
However, he obtained the Act of Accord , meaning,
that King Henry VI remained King, but that after his death,
York and his heirs would rule.
This excluded Edward of Westminster, the son of the
King, which infuriated Margaret of Anjou.
The struggle went on.
At 1460, the Duke of York was killed in the battle of
Wakefield, with his second son, Edmund, Earl of
Rutland, as his brother in law, Lord Salisbury.
Certainly, Lord Salisbury was executed afterwards.
But the tides were turning.
York´s eldest son Edward, then Earl of March, was victorious
in the Battle of Townton  and became King Edward IV.
Margaret of Anjou left the country (Henry VI was in
Yorkist hands and yearlong prisoner of
the Tower) for exile in France, did a last attempt
to conquer the throne (together with former Yorkist
finally defeated at Tewkesbury in 1471,
where her son Edward of Westminster was killed and she
was imprisoned.
According some sources, he was executed after the battle.
Shortly after that, Henry VI died in prison,
Margaret was imprisoned for some years,
ransomed by the French King Louis XI  and
A sad and tragic end.
WARS OF THE ROSES
AFTERMATH
Edward IV died in 1483, his brother Richard III
succeeded him, disinheriting Edward IV´s eldest
son and heir, Edward V.
He and his brother disappeared in the Tower,
Rebellion against his reign took place, and
 1485, Richard III was defeated in the Battle of
Bosworth  by the later King Henry VII ,
son of Margaret Beaufort  of the House
of Lancaster, (niece of
the Duke of Somerset  and descendant of
John of Gaunt) and Edmund Tudor.
The victorious Henry VII married Elisabeth
of York , daughter of King Edward IV.
They became the parents of King Henry VIII.
So in a way, the House of Lancaster (the Beaufort branche) and
the House of York were united.
The Tudor era began.
And through their granddaughter Elisabeth of York,
WARS OF THE ROSES
MARGARET OF ANJOU IN LITERATURE
SHAKESPEARE
The way history is written [apart from the main undeniable
facts as ”there was a war” or ”that king ruled”] is important
in giving a positive or negative image of the persons involved.
In the case of Margaret of Anjou, her image is very much
coloured by Shakespeare´s play Henry VI, where
she is portrayed as a ruthlless, murderous, vindictive and extraordinary cruel
person.
The Duke of York, in the contrary, was pictured as chivalrous
, manganimous and brave, sides he undoubtedly posessed, but leading
a fight to the death against the Beaufort branche of
the House of Lancaste first, and later openly
 against King Henry VI, whom
he forced to disinherit his own son, in favour of York
and his heirs, he must have been hard and ruthless, too.
A warlord, like his Beaufort enemies.
Coming back to Shakespeare’s Henry VI
After the Battle of Wakefield, where the Duke of York
When he is dead, she orders to put his head on a pike
and to be crowned with a paper crown, to mock
his rights to the throne.
 
That horrible image of Margaret of Anjou was shown 
in the work of many historians and influenced generations
and generations, including myself.
I myself  read in old Dutch history books, that Margaret of
Anjou personally ordered to put the heads of York his son
and brother in law, on pikes, tarnishing York´s head with
a paper crown.
 
But historical  fact is, that this is not altogether true.
Margaret of Anjou could not have ordered the execution
of York and the paper crown thing or torturing York
asking Queen Regent Mary of Guelders military aid against
Modern historical investigation shows that.
Probably York would have suffered considerably, when she
could have lain her hands upon him, but that´s of
no importance, because she did not.
Moreover, most historians assume, that York has been
PICTURING MEDIEVAL QUEENS
MARGARET OF ANJOU REVIEWED
THE ROLE OF WOMEN
 
The bad  image Shakespeare had of Margaret of Anjou
is probably inspired by the picture of medieval women, who
were supposed to be mild, soft, forgiving, obedient wives
and caring mothers.
Being a noblewoman and certainly a Queen, good works,
charity and being  forgiving were other characteristics.
Often it happened, that when the King conquered
a city, his Queen plead for mercy of the citizens, which
as a rule could be granted.
 
Women, who took a firm stand in men´s affairs (as politics
and war was seen in the Middle Ages) were viewed as 
 
Therefore, apart from her personality, Margaret of Anjou
provoked little sympathy for her active political
role, which she probably not would have fullfilled,
whether Henry VI was capable of ruling and there were
no rival branches in the royal family.
Had she been the wife of warrior King Henry V, for
example, she probably would go in history unnoticed,
a loyal wife, doing good works and trying to soften
the harder sides of the King sometimes.
 
But her circumstances were extraordinary, with an incpacitated
husband, a growing unpopularity (being a French Queen, allgning
herself with unpopular nobles like Edmund of Beaufort, Duke
of Somerset and the Duke of Suffolk) and childless until 1453, standing
against powerful men like the Duke of York, claiming the throne,
with a superior claim indeed.
 
As I see it, it was a difficult situation for her and when she really
wanted to play´´ the Game of thrones´´, she had to be tough.
 
At the other side, her character limited her possibilities.
the Duke of York in an early stage (also  by her alliance with his
arch enemy the Duke of Somerset) and didn´t see the necessity of
a strong reign, since her husband was not able to do it.
The fact, that the Duke of York should be regent or Protector
of the Realm seemed natural considering his right to
the throne, but soon enough Margaret considered all
his action in a treacherous light, with escalating consequences.
 
So the aversion of men for women taking power, combined
with her uncompromising attitude, caused many of the
problems.
 
MARGARET OF ANJOU
WOMAN OR SHE WOLF
HISTORY AND FICTION
 
There were two sort of critics on Margaret of Anjou
 
The fact, that she was a woman
Her uncompromising character and ruthless acts
In my view,Shakespeare and  many elder historians 
were especially influenced, not by cruel or unreasonable
acts of Margaret of Anjou, but the fact, she was a woman.
Admitted, she was hard and uncomprfomising, ordering executions
and forfeited her adversies of all their lands (which gave York
no alternative than eventually demanding the crown for himself
she did no worse than the men in that time.
the Battle of Agincourt, yet making him a war hero.
Otherwise, you can condemn or criticize her hard and uncompromising
character, alienating many and driving her enemies to the point
But that is another stand than critic, because she is a woman.
Considering the Middle Ages and later, that is what can be expected,
but in present days actions have to be valuated, not whether
male or female.
In each case unacceptable are the myths about Margaret,
presenting as historical facts.
She was not present at the Battle of Wakefield, not ordering
And concerning her hardness and cruelty, honesty
urges me to say, that she was hard and gave orders to
but she also spared prisoners of war.
At least three Yorkist prisoners of war, including John of Neville, The Earl
of Warwick’s younger brother, were spared execution, probably
 asone of her commanders, the Duke of Somerset (son of Edmund Beaufort,
But that’s speculation.
Fact is, she spared his life.
So in her hardness, she had outburst of mercy too.
In fact, she was no better or worse as the warrior men, Lancaster
or York.
But hardness and cruelty are no characteristics I can valuate,
especially (I admit that) when there are women involved.
Apart from that, following the timeline of events, it seemed
to me, that, not denying the responsibility of the men involved,
especially the Dukes of York and Somerset, she was more vengeful,
embittered and prejudiced, pushing her policies to extremes, when
a peaceful solution still possible.
And that has nothing to do with a man/woman thing, but with character.
So although her hardness is not sympathetic to me,
one must pity her fate.
Loosing both husband and especially son, for whom she
fought so hard and died in poverty.
SUSAN HIGGINBOTHAM’S VIEWS OF
MARGARET OF ANJOU
REFRESHING HISTORY
Margaret of Anjou, following by many novelists and
historians, an exaggerated image of ”Margaret the she wolf”
was created.
She was hard, uncompromising and certainly merciless at
several occasions and the cruel deeds she did are not
to be justified, but she was no worse than the men involved.
She was no she devil.
But following the common  views about women,
the fact, that she was involved in politics which was
considered a man’s world, was reason enough
to condemn her.
So historical fiction writer Susan Higginbotham must be
highly appreciated for her succesful attempts to
give a more balanced picture of Margaret of Anjou.
She did that by her interesting novel
”Queen of Last Hopes” and in several articles
SUSAN HIGGINBOTHAM
CRITICS
Although appreciating her fresh look on
I have some points of criticism.
Because in her need to purify the image of
Margaret of Anjou, Higginbotham has the tendency to
see the York side as the villain and that”s often
baseless.
Her allegations are, that the Duke of York not only was
ambitious for the throne from the very beginning
( I mean from the time Margaret of Anjou’s arrival
in England in 1445), but also should have wanted to
kill Henry VI and threatened Margaret with her life
, in order to reach that goal.
She pictures that image in her novel, as
her articles.
For example:
In Higginbotham’s blog is an interesting article
which describes the life of the oldest surviving daughter
of the Duke of York, who was married by her father
Higginbotham writes
She misses some important points here:
 
First:
There is no proof whatsoever, that this large marriage portion was
givenby York out of a desire to come closer to the thrown.
The Duke of York was one of the wealthiest nobles of England,
so a large marriage portion was not unusual.
Second:
There was no reason for the Duke of York to fortify a claim to the
throne by his son in law to be, because he himself had a claim to
And not only that:
that meant, the claim passed over to his son, Edmund Mortimer
 , and later, through his sister, Anne Mortimer,
to the Duke of York [who was the son of Anne Mortimer], since
Edmund Mortimer died childless.
So there WAS already a claim.
Third:
Higginbotham alleges here, that York wanted the throne in
1446 already, but there’s no historical proof whatsoever.
But there is more
In her article
”Myths of Margaret of Anjou”  Higginbotham suggests,
that Margaret of Anjou had every reason to fear for
the life of her husband under the rule of
Richard of York.
This in connection with the ”Act of Accord” 
However, historical proof doesn’t support that, at least
not when the Duke of York was still alive
There were many occasions, when the Duke of York had full
control over King Henry VI, and yet he did him no harm.
That there was a change when his son Edward IV  became King
in 1460
and Henry VI died in the Tower in 1471, probably ordered by Edward IV,
doesn’t change the fact, that the Duke of York had at least had no intention
to kill the King.
This killing the King and even the Queen she also uses in
Another historical inaccuracy, which however, doesn”t refer to
the Duke of York, is done in Higginbothams article  ”Margaret the She Wolf” 
In order to prove, that Margaret is not the she wolf as pictured,
I quote
However, she fails to mention, that the three noblemen probably were
spared because Margaret’s military commander, the Duke of Somerset,
in reprisal, so no proof of Margaret’s outburst for real mercy.
I said already, that the sparing was no proof for either Margaret’s mercy or
opportunism (to spare the life of her commanders brother], you simply
don”t know.
But for the historical objectivity, Higginbottham should have made the same reservation as I did.
REGARDING HIGGINBOTHAM’S NOVEL
”QUEEN OF LAST HOPES”
First a word of compliment.
The way it is written, moves the reader from the beginning.
You get an image of how Margaret must have felt, but also
of the people around her.
Especially I love this sentence in which Margaret express her
feelings, looking back on her tragic life:
 
 When you read the book, you get the feeling, that you are plunged
back in that time, hearing Margaret and the major players of the tragedy
talking, having their own intentions, ambitions and dreams.
Really touching.
And of course, seeing from Margaret’s point of view, Richard, Duke
of York, is the villain and the traitor here.
And a Saint he certainly was not, following his own ambitions
and being a warrior, but he is no cardboard villain either.
I refer to that later.
PICTURING MARGARET OF ANJOU
What I am saying is that Higgonbotham presents a
too mild image of Margaret of Anjou.
Admitted, she presents the good and as bad sides
of Margaret.
We see  a loyal wife, faithful friend, devoted
mother and courageuos woman, but also a dark side, being
happy, seeing the heads of the Duke of York,
his 17 year old son and his brother in Law displayed at Micklegate
and uttering her consentment with the way of the Duke of York
is killed and worse, with the
execution of York’s young  son [17 years], Edmund, Earl of
In the book she remarks:
That shows a merciless side of someone, even against
the light of medieval values.
Because being relieved, your enemy can threaten you no
more is one thing, but cheering and applauding an other.
But although Higginbotham shows that unsympathetic side
of Margaret [who, being a mother, at least could have
sympathised with Cecily of York for loosing her son], yet
she is too mild in portaying her as a whole, as if
threatening with the loss of a crown justifies just anything.
LACK OF BALANCES
PICTURING RICHARD, DUKE OF YORK
AS A CARDBOARD VILLAIN
CLAIMANT TO THE THRONE FROM THE BEGINNING?
MURDERER?
My main objection is that giving a mild picture of
Margaret of Anjou, is leading, at least in the case of
Higginbotham, to a cardboard villain picture
of the Duke of York and also his
Now it is clear, that those men were Saints at all.
Otherwise you don’t become a warlord, plunged in
a fight to the death for the crown.
But as nearly any human being, they have their light
sides and their dark sides.
Higginbotham however pictures Warwick as a sort
of thug and worse, the Duke of York as being ambitious
for the thrown from the beginning and plotting
to kill both the King and the Queen.
That”s suggested as a red theme through
DUKE OF YORK
AFTER THE THRONE FROM THE BEGINNING?
As I have written before, there is no proof
whatsoever, that the Duke of York was after the throne
from the beginning.
Having a claim to the throne  is one thing, going
after the throne, another.
I personally think, that the fact, that the Duke of York,
 overtaken in his career, time after time,
Council of the King, sent to Ireland,allegedly
(but not sure) by instigation of Margaret, which
could be considered as as an exile, and the openly
favouratism of the Duke of Somerset  by Margaret
and King Henry VI,
could have given him feelings of bitterness and resenment, making
 the
soil ripe for what he did later, after his lands were reverted to the king
But that was only in 1460, when things got out
However, to say, that he wanted to replace Henry VI from
the very beginning, makes no proof and no sense.
As I show in my underlying letter to Susan Higginbotham:
There were opportunities, the Duke of York could
have taken the thrown for 1460, but he didn”t.
DUKE OF YORK
A MURDERER?
In Queen of Last Hopes, Higginbotham suggests, that
the Duke of York, out of desire for the crown, would
and that that was the reason the King undersigned the
Also it was suggested, that he had a hand in the death of
his political rival, the Duke of Suffolk,
For his killing of the Duke of Suffolk is no proof
whatsoever.
Moreover, he was not the only enemy of
the Duke of Suffolk.
For a desiring to kill the King or Queen is no
less proof.
At least the Duke of Suffolk, alas, had been killed.
York’s desire to kill the King of Queen is
not only pure speculation, but higly unlikely.
As I will point out in my letter to Higginbotham
below, if York wanted to kill the King, he
had a number of opportunities he could
have done that, being the King in his power.
But he didn’t.
EPILOGUE
By wanting to give a counterbalance in the
villification of Margaret of Anjou, Higginbottham
did good work.
But it makes no sense, to be too mild
for a medieval Queen, whom one could
feel sympathise for the difficult position
she was in (with an insane husband, expecting a
child and different claims to the throne, because the Beaufort
Lancaster men had their own ambitions also), but
yet a merciless and hard ruler and to villify
the other party instead.
The Duke of York was a warrior with his dark sides,
but not a cardboard villain.
In my view, Higginbotham is right to break with
the cardboard villain picture of Margaret
of Anjou.
But when she makes a cardboard villain of
the Duke of York instead, she does the same
historical unjust thing as she blames the
To show her this criticism and my appreciation,
I have written her underlying letter.
Thanks for having accompanied me on
this journey through history
See below my letter to Susan Higginbotham.
Astrid Essed
Amsterdam
The Netherlands
LETTER TO SUSAN HIGGINBOTHAM
SOME COMMENTS ON YOUR PICTURING
OF MARGARET OF ANJOU AND THE DUKE
OF YORK IN YOUR BOOK
Dear Mrs Higginbotham
At first
A Happy, Succesful and Properous New Year.
May you write and sell many intesting historical novels to come.
Concerning your impessive book ”Queen of Last Hopes”:
I want to make some remarks about your views of Margaret of
Anjou and her great adversary, the Duke of York, since
I think, you were (as I may say so) too mild for Margaret
of Anjou and too prejudiced against the Duke of York.
But first I let you show, why I am so interested in that
part of the English history and what led to my writing to
you.
I hope you don´t mind me taking the liberty to write
to you anyway.
MY INTEREST IN HISTORY
Being a historian myself , I myself am  intrigued by history in
general and the Middle Ages, in particular.
English medieval history is very interesting to me.
From that respect I read many books of Jean Plaidy in
the past (and present) as of other authors.
Although we know, most of the historical facts ¨(however
there is always room for discussion among scholars, how
to interprete them), the intriguing part is, we never
knew, what they were really thinking, although you
can make a clear imagination.
Scientific historical reserarch interests me, but the more
personal and human side of the story, facsinates me most.
There you (and other historical fiction writers) come in.
WAR OF THE ROSES
LANCASTER AND YORK CLAIMS TO
THE THRONE
Last year I was facsinated again by one of the most
interesting parts of English history ¨(from my
view) , the  War of the Roses.
Not only becauseof  the fight for the throne ¨(which descended
from the many sons of king Edward III, and who was next
to claim), but especially because of the different points
of view of the House of Lancaster and York.
Another interesting aspect also is the end of the Hundred Years
war with France and the transition period
from the Middle Ages to the pre Renaissance period, symbolised
by the end of the Plantagenet era [1485]
By the way, about the claims to the throne.
To my point of view, the Yorks had a superior claim by
descending from Lionel of Antwerp, the second son of
Edward III, although there was much more to it.(1)
Besides, that was also confirmed, when, as you know,
King Richard II, childless, showed Roger Mortimer (the Fourth Eral of March)
,son of Filippa, daughter of Lionel of Antwerp and Edmund Mortimer,3th
Earl of March, as his heir presumptive. (2)
It never came to a rule, while he died a year before Richard II died.
Regarding the Lancaster branch (descended from John of Gaunt,
third son of Edward III) I always have had trouble with that claim,
since they came into power by usurpation of the throne.
(disposing Richard II and probably murdering him later) (3)
They only were so succesful because of military
successes in the Hundred Years War, particularly
Agincourt [1415/king Henry V] (4)
But that’s a matter of discussion, although most modern
historicans acknowledge the better claim to the throne
of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, grandson of
Roger Mortimer (temporary heir to the throne under
Richard II), by his mother’s side.
TELEVISION SERIES/BOOKS
Anyway, I followed the TV series of Philppa Gregory’s
book, ”The White Queen”, and was especially interested in
the person of Margaret de Baufort, mother of the
later Henry VII for her courage and insistment on the
royal rights of her son and how she defended them without
any bloodshed and wars.
I red the book about her, by Philippa Gregory, and became
intrigued in the other historical persons too.
Then, a couple of months later, I bumped on the
marvelous book of Conn McIggulden, about the
Roses War.
I red Stormbird (5), picturing the head players as Margaret of
Anjou, the tormented and almost saintly ,king
Henry VI, who I liked because of his forgiving nature
(rare for a man and a King in that time), nobles
like Lord Somerset, Lord Suffolk and of course,
the Duke of York.
Especially I liked the fictional master spy, Derry
Brewer and his conflicts and clashes wityh mighty
nobles like the Duke of York.
Hahaha, it was nearly hilarious!
Now I have nearly finished part 2, Trinity, which
intrigues me most, since it contents the
period 1450-1461, when alliances were formed,
both parties [Lancaster/Somerset/Margaret
of Anjou, York/Salisbury,Warwick] radicalized
and the war of Roses begun [1455] (6)
I think Con Iggulden gives a balanced picture of
the different sides of the conflict.
Although you can sympathise with Margaret of
Anjou more in part one [Stormbird], showing the harder sides
of Richard of York, in part 2 [Trinity] my sympathy is more
with York and his adherents, seeing a more soft side
of York, when he worries about losing contact with his
eldest daughter Anne, who is married to Exeter
[historically a bully] [7], taking sides against his
own father in law, and he, Salisbury and Warwick are
factually already condemned by Margaret of Anjou
[I refer to that later], and eventually confiscated of
all their properties.
Not a way to reconciliate.
MARGARET OF ANJOU
IMAGE IN HISTORY
First I want to compliment you about creating
a more balanced picture of Margaret of Anjou, based
on facts.
As so many people, I learned her ordering the execution
, after the battle of Wakefield, of the Duke of York, his
17 years son and Lord Salisbury, his brother in law
[brother to his wife Cecily Neville), and, make it worse,
ordering to place their heads on Micklegate and crowning
the Duke of York with a paper crown.
Apart from being a woman I found that horrible and extremely
vindictive.
Now you researched, that she couldn’t have done
that, being in Scotland, mustering troops and support (8),
which is confirmed by other sources. (9)
Also you unmasked  the tales of the lovers of Margaret
of Anjou and the story, that her son was not of the King,
but of Lord Somerset.
I don´t say, it is not possible/after all she favoured Somerset
very much, but when there is no proof, there is no proof, (10)
So that I must and will say to your credit.
Also I valuate your blogs and your worthul research.
However, I will make some remarks on your book
”Queen of Last Hopes”
YOUR BOOK ”QUEEN OF LAST HOPES”
YOUR IMAGE OF MARGARET OF ANJOU
It’s very interesting to learn your writing in the
personal form
Especially this sentence impressed me.
What would happen if this king suddenly went mad? What would his queen do? Would she make the same mistakes I did, or would she learn from mine?´´
 
Interesting is also, that though you give a fairly
sympathetic image of Margaret of Anjou, you make no
saint of her, what some suggest.
You let her be happy about the death of Richard of
York, smiling at his head on a stake at Micklegate
, making the remark, that his son
should not have expected mercy ´´being York´s son´´
Making the remark ´´good work´´, hearing of the way, York
was killed.
No remarks that make a character very sympathetic,
in my eyes, let alone ´´good´´
´
Also during the book you show a woman with strong sympathies
and enmities and one gets the impression (the image of
her, which I had already), that in her favouritism of
Somerset and Suffolk, she had an baseless enmity
against Richard of York, long before he could even
be accused from seeking the crown.
That´s not very fair from her side, although I admit (and sometimes
forget) that she was very young then (15 years when she went
to England as a bride) and easily to be influenced.
I mention here the period before her child was born, but admit,
it was a difficult situation for her, with her husband incapacitated,
foreigner in a country, still at war with hers and again, very young.
YOUR PICTURING OF THE DUKE OF YORK
RUN FOR THE CROWN/NOT FROM THE BEGINNING
At the other hand I find your picturing of the Duke
of York far to prejudiced.
You picture him as bad, ruthless (what he undoubtedly was,
but so Somerset and Suffolk, all the rivalling nobles), and
from the start running for the crown.
I don´t believe that, and I think history proofs me
right.
Not only Somerset and others wanted also take
advantage of the illness of king Henry VI, if Yorkwas from the
beginning after the throne, he would have made other choices,
for there were moments, the throne was in his very reach.
But before mentioning that, York had some real grievances,which were overlooked. Sent to English occupied France asLieutenant, he led some military victories, but was not paid by the State, thus obliged to pay his troops from the income of his own estates. (11)
When he returned  to England, he was not included in the Kings
Council, despite being one of the of the leading nobles. (12′)
Then in 1440 sent back to France as Lieutenant, when John
Beaufort (brother to York´s adversary Edmund Beaufort), was in
1443 appointed at his side, made a mess of military affairs and alas,
died. When York returned to England in 1445, he was appointed in Ireland,
what he (maybe rigthly) probably saw as a banishment. Far from politics,
far from influence. (13)
Eventually he went only to Ireland in 1449, to return to England in 1450.
I mentioned this, because those happenings can eat ambitioous men (like
they all were, not only York) alive.
The seeds of conflicts were already seethed.
RUN FOR THE CROWN/NOT FROM, THE BEGINNING
I mentioned, that had York wanted to taken the crown, he
could have done that long before 1460.
His first great moment was when he ¨(after a period of
political unrest with the Jack Cade rebellion, armed conflicts
between York, Somerset and the King), became Protector
of the Realm (14) ¨(because of a mental breakdown by King Henry VI)
with actual meant/King by power, not by name.
He could have grabbed kingly power than, but did not.
It would have been easy. Not first in line of throne anymore
(the son of the King was born in 1453, but the King
unconsciousness), he nevertheless
had the actual power.
When King Henry recovered in 1454, things escalated very quickly.
Somerset (in prison) was released and restored in his functions,
York was placed out of power.
DAMNED IF YOU DO/DAMNED IF YOU DON´T
The situation for York and his adherents ¨(Lord Salisbury, his
brother in law and his son the Earl of Warwick) was ´´damned
if you do, damned if you don´´t´´, meaning, that anything they
did, would consider as treason.
A great Council should be held in Leicester in 1455 and when York and
allies would appear there unarmed, the chance of their arrest was
great. When they muster an army, they would be called traitors.
Eventually military concflict broke out and in the battle
of St Albans, the York troops won. (15)
The King fell in Yorkish hands then, but no harm was done
to him.
However, with the King in his power, York easily could
have done him harm and seize the crown for himself.
He did not.
Also your allegation, that Margaret of Anjou had every reason to
fear for the life of the King under Yorkist reign, is not sustained
by historical facts.(16)
The period, that York ruled again, with the fighting went on and on,
the King was not harmed in any case.
But even when the Duke of York was already killed in battle
(1460, Wakefield) and his eldest son Edward became King Edward IV,
the life of the King ¨(in Yorkist hands again) was safe.
All those years, untill Margaret of Anjou (supported by former
Yorkist ally Warwick, ´´the Kingmaker´´, who changed sides after
a conflict with Edward IV over the influence of the Woodvilles,
his wife´s family) mustered a last army, was defeated and her son
died (probably) in battle.
DAMNED IF YOU DO, DAMNED IF YOU DON´T
COUNCIL OF COVENTRY
ACCUSED OF TREASON
Of course situation was difficult for Margaret of Anjou,
her husband incapacitated, her son an infant, but she couldn´´t
accept the fact, that a strong rule was necessary and her son needed
a regent anyway.
She couldn´´t close any compromise (her son the future King,
with York as a regent for example) and it was her doing pushing
the events to extremes.
When in june 1459 a great Council in Coventry was summoned, York,
York, the Nevilles and some other lords refused to appear, fearing that the armed forces that had been commanded to assemble the previous month had been summoned to arrest them. ¨(17)
And they were right.
Eventually, parliament was summoned to meet at Coventry in November, but without York and the Nevilles. This could only mean that they were to be accused of treason.
There were fights once more (The King was already since 1456
in the control of the Queen again)
After that  they fled the country (York to Ireland, Warwick, Salisbury and York’s son Edward to Calais), York´s wife and their two younger
sons (George and the later Richard III) were imprisoned in
Coventry (what a charming time……)
RUNNING FOR THE CROWN/
ATTAINDER MEASURE FORCED YORK TO EXTREMES
CLAIMING THE THRONE/ACT OF ACCORD
In December 1459 York, Warwick and Salisbury had suffered attainder. Their lives were forfeit, and their lands reverted to the king; their heirs would not inherit. This was the most extreme punishment a member of the nobility could suffer.
With that measure, there was no way back and York could do
three things/ ´´become Protector again; disinherit the king so that York’s son would succeed; or claim the throne for himself.´´
You know the rest
York came back to England, they succeeded in battle, captured
the King again.
Then York attempted to claim the throne, was rebuffed and finally reached
the Act of Accord.
The king would rule and after his death, with York and his heirs his
successors.
Of course Margaret of Anjou was incensed for her son to
disinherit, but following her uncompromising attitude and
having an enmity against York (probably caused
by her sympathy for Suffolk and Somerset), long before
he actually claimed the throne or was intent to do that, she
made things worse.
Seemingly it was impossible for her to take a middle ground
and giving York a fair chance.
That makes her not very sympathetic in my eyes,
and weakened the sympathy for her cause.
Hard and merciless stands can make from indifferent
people, bitter enemies and that was what she herself caused,
how tragic her life, which I pity, of course.
EPILOGUE
Of course York was not a saint at all.
Far from.
He was (in my view) a tough military commander, a good
ruler (measured by the morals of that time) and of course,
a very ambitious man, for himself and his children, especially
his sons.
Those were the views of all noblemen in that time.
Those are the ways of politicians even now.
Not much is changed.
But I disagree your picturing him as a sort of
cardboard villain, which is the image
in your book ´´Queen of Last Hopes´´
Just as I object to the cardboard villain picture
of Margaret of Anjou (men did the same things as she or worse
and became heroes, like William the Conqueror), I object
that image of the Duke of York, or any other nobleman
in the conflict.
Some were harder than others or downright cruel, admitted,
but that was on both sides, Lancaster and York.
Besides,  a human being
is nearly always a mixture of light and darkness, not
only darkness, which makes the human nature so
interesting.
I can imagine, that you gave a somewhat more mild
image of Margaret of Anjou to object the villification of
her person (who was in a difficult situation, indeed), but by  making
a cardboard villain of the Duke of York ( and also Warwick, who
was perhaps tougher) , you do the same thing as you
reproach the historians villifying Margaret of Anjou.
Out of appreciation of you, I took the trouble
to write you this letter, trusting that you will consider my
views and hopefully you can use them in the future.
I would appreciate, if you answer me, but being a busy woman
myself I understand it, when you choose, not to react.
More important is, that you know my opinion.
Perhaps I will put this comment on my website, in which
case I will send you a copy.
Wishing you much succes for the future.
Kind greetings
Astrid Essed
 Amsterdam
The Netherlands
(1)
THE CAUSES OF THE WAR OF ROSES
MARK GOACHER
(2)
WKIPEDIA
ROGER MORTIMER, 4TH EARL OF MARCH
(3)
THE CAUSES OF THE WAR OF ROSES
MARK GOACHER
(4)
THE CAUSES OF THE WAR OF ROSES
MARK GOACHER
(8)
SUSAN HIGGINBOTHAM
MARGARET THE SHE WOLF?
MARGARET OF ANJOU
(9)
´´As Margaret was in Scotland at the time the battle had taken place, it was impossible that she issued the orders for their executions despite popular belief to the contrary´´
WIKIPEDIA
MARGARET OF ANJOU
(10)
SUSAN HIGGINBOTHAM
MYTHS ABOUT MARGARET OF ANJOU
(11)
WIKIPEDIA

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