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THE WARS OF THE ROSES, ARISING OUT OF THE RIVAL CLAIMS OF THE HOUSES OF YORK AND LANCASTER, BEGAN UNDER HENRY VI. (1453.)—THEY BROUGHT ABOUT THE DESTRUCTION OF THE POWER OF THE NOBLES, AND WITH IT OF THE FEUDAL SYSTEM, WHICH HENRY VII. FINALLY ABOLISHED.-WITH HENRY VII.'S REIGN BEGINS WHAT IS PROPERLY CALLED "MODERN HISTORY."
[This Epoch is distinguished as the period of the revival of letters, the invention of printing, and the discovery of America.1
1. Henry VI,
JOAN OF ARC-THE LOSS OF FRANCE-DISPUTES OF THE RIVAL HOUSES OF YORK AND LANCASTER-WARS OF THE ROSES SUCCESS OF THE YORKISTS, AND PROCLAMATION OF EDWARD-PROGRESS OF THE NATION.
A FEW months after Henry the Fifth's death, the King of France died, and the French had to decide between the claims of the English infant prince and their own lawful sovereign Charles VII.
1 The Fourth Epoch properly commences after the loss of France (1453); but is inserted here to obviate the division of Henry the Sixth's reign into two portions.
JOAN OF ARC AND THE SIEGE OF ORLEANS. [A.D. 1429. The instinctive love of a people for national independence soon showed the Regent Bedford the weak hold the English had of their conquest; and as the alliance of the Duke of Burgundy was their great security, Bedford proceeded to strengthen that alliance by marrying the duke's sister. Charles VII.'s bravest troops were the Scotch, who fought under their chiefs the Earls of Douglas and Buchan. Both were, however, killed, and their troops defeated at the battle of Verneuil (1424). Hoping to stop the Scotch contingents, Bedford liberated James I. of Scotland, who had been for nineteen years a captive in England, and formed an alliance with the young king through the marriage of the latter with Lady Jane Somerset. But Bedford's prudent policy was neutralized by his brother the Duke of Gloucester, who married Jacqueline of Holland and Hainault, for the sake of her great possessions, though she was already married to the Duke of Brabant, cousin of the Duke of Burgundy. The latter, who was his cousin's heir, took up arms, and a war followed between the two husbands, which was put an end to by the Pope annulling Gloucester's marriage, and the Duke of Burgundy acquiring Holland and Hainault.
At this time the country north of the Loire was in possession of the English, while the provinces south of that river, except Guienne, acknowledged allegiance to Charles VII. Up to the time of which we are speaking, in every engagement, no matter what the disproportion of numbers, the English had prevailed. Charles VII. was an indolent voluptuous prince, and his resources so exhausted, that he had hardly money with which to supply his table. His generals, though brave, were divided by intrigues, and were invariably unfortunate. In this extremity the independence of France was saved by a peasant girl of Lorraine. Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc) declared she was sent by God to deliver the town of Orleans, then hemmed in by the English, and nearly reduced by famine after a siege of nine months. At first she was derided, but her presence inspired the partisans of Charles with new energy, and the English seemed suddenly paralysed by the singular apparition. The Earl of Suffolk, who commanded the army before Orleans, after
JOAN OF ARC BURNED.
losing 6000 men in the different attacks made by Joan on his intrenchments, was compelled to raise the siege (1429). She then attacked Jargeau, which Suffolk obstinately defended; but she took the town and made him prisoner. After this, town after town
surrendered to her. At Patay the English lost 2000 men, and their commander, Sir John Talbot, was made prisoner. To have Charles VII. crowned at Rheims was, she believed, the next object of her mission; and although that city, with the whole country north of the Loire, was in the hands of the English, yet was this part of her work performed with the same success as had attended her preceding exploits. The cities through which the young king and his champion had to pass opened their gates at her approach. Rheims sent a deputation with the keys of the city, and Charles was there crowned (1429). This being accomplished, Joan of Arc entreated to be allowed to return to her home and former occupation, but Charles determined to continue to avail himself of the enthusiasm she everywhere inspired. She continued to display the same intrepidity and devotion, but having, as she thought, fulfilled what Heaven had specially commissioned her to do, she began to lose faith in herself, and while nobly covering a retreating party at Compiegne, she was surrounded by the Burgundians and made prisoner, not one of her own party moving to her rescue. The French generals, in fact, were jealous of her triumphs, and even her own worthless king, whose saviour she had been, made not one effort to save her from the cruel fate that now awaited her. The English bought her from the Burgundians. She was thrown into prison, loaded with chains, and as it served the purpose of her enemies to represent her as one who had dealings with the Evil One, she was examined by theologians and doctors of the Paris University. Her answers touched even their hard hearts; but Cardinal Beaufort, bishop of Winchester, was inexorable, and procured through his creature, the Bishop of Beauvais, a sentence condemning her to be burned alive as a heretic (1431). "In the old market-place of Rouen a pile of wood was built up, and around it a scaffold was erected where prelates and nobles might sit to behold the death of the heroic girl. There sat Cardinal
Beaufort and the Bishop of Beauvais; and as Joan stood before them, a sermon was preached setting forth what they conceived to be her atrocities." The preacher concluded with the words, “Joan, go in peace, the church can no longer protect thee, and delivers thee into secular hands." She was immediately dragged to the pile; the fatal cap of the Inquisition, with the words "Heretic, apostate, idolatress," was placed on her head, and the fire was kindled. Her last word was "Jesus." On the spot where this deed of infamy was perpetrated now stands a monument to the memory of the heroine.
From this moment the ascendency of the English in France rapidly declined. The Duke of Burgundy thought his father's assassination sufficiently avenged, and began to share the nation's feeling of jealousy towards English domination. A reconciliation took place between him and Charles at the Congress of Arras (1435). During the conference the Duke of Bedford, the great support of the English cause, died, leaving a name respected by friend and foe. Paris opened its gates to Charles. By their defeat at the battle of Fourmiquy (1450), the English lost Normandy. By the loss of the battle of Chatillon (1453), in which the brave old Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, was killed, and the surrender of Bordeaux, they also lost Guienne, which they had possessed since the reign of Henry II.
In the meanwhile English affairs, also, were mismanaged, owing to constant dissensions between Cardinal Beaufort, son of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, and his nephew the Duke of Gloucester. In 1441, the wife of the latter was, by the cardinal's order, tried as a practiser of magic, and condemned to undergo a public penance and perpetual imprisonment.
Henry vi. had now grown to manhood, but had unfortunately inherited his French grandfather's weak intellect, with his simple, gentle character. His advisers chose for him a queen having all the qualities in which he was deficient. William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk, was sent to negotiate a marriage with Margaret of Anjou, daughter of René, titular King of Sicily. As the duchies
INSURRECTION OF JACK CADE.
of Maine and Anjou originally belonged to René, and were now in the power of the English, Suffolk consented to restore them; and then, as proxy for Henry, married Margaret, and conducted her to England, where her nuptials and coronation were consummated (1445). Suffolk became court-favourite, and along with the Duke of Somerset, grandson of John of Gaunt, adopted Cardinal Beaufort's animosity against the Duke of Gloucester, who, in 1447, was arrested and accused of high treason, and a few days after found dead in his bed. Six weeks after, his old enemy and uncle Cardinal Beaufort died, and with him disappeared the chief barrier against the rising power and ambition of the house of York, who, in the person of Richard,1 asserted their prior right to the throne as the descendants, through Richard's mother Anne Mortimer, from Lionel duke of Clarence, second son of Edward II.; whereas John of Gaunt, from whom the Lancastrians were descended, was the third son.2 Richard duke of York was married to the daughter of Nevil earl of Westmoreland, whose son, the Earl of Salisbury, was father of the famous Earl of Warwick, known as the king-maker. With these potent allies Richard began his intrigues, by throwing discredit on the king's ministers. Suffolk was accused of having betrayed the interests of England in ceding Maine and Anjou to the French. Other charges also were made, against which he defended himself with dignity. The king, to save his favourite minister, whose danger he perceived to be imminent, and whom he was not powerful enough to protect, banished him for five years; but his enemies despatched a vessel, which overtook him, and, after a mock trial, he was executed at sea by an executioner sent for the purpose (1450).
About this time occurred Jack Cade's insurrection, which is supposed to have been fomented by the Yorkists, but which was soon put down. The true cause of this rebellion is not known, though, no doubt, it was, to some extent at least, instigated by the general discontent arising from the weakness of the government,
1 Vide genealogy on p. 85.
2 See pages 63 and 68 for genealogies of the two branches.