Course 17 March 2011 "The Wars of the Roses Were Caused by Weak Kingship". In the Context of the Period c. 1377-1487, How Far Does This Statement Explain the Political Disorder in England in the Fifteenth Century? The beginning of the Wars of the Roses coincided with the substantial weakening of a traditionally strong royal power, and this led many historians, such as McFarlane (McFarlane, “Nobility”), to argue that it was precisely the inability of Henry VI to conduct effective governance that led to the beginning of the Wars…
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Although this paper covers the period of 1377-1487, a special attention will be paid to the events of 1450-71, even though the other time spans of the said period will be duly analysed as the case may be. To achieve this goal, I have decided to divide my paper into four sections, three of which have their sub-sections. In the first section, I will deal with the influence of personal qualities of Henry VI on the political events which led to the Wars of the Roses, as well as on disintegration of central authority in the preceding years. The comparison between Henry VI and the other kings of the period will be provided with a view to determining the impact of royal personality on political processes of the period. In the second section, I aim to discuss the role of political and blood feuding between various noble houses as exacerbating instability and general political crisis both in the beginning of the Wars and during their immediate course. I will look both at the main conflict centred on the leaders of Yorkist and Lancastrian factions and at the different local feuds that led to the situation steadily deteriorating. The third section deals with the impact of the external factors, focussing on the loss of Lancastrian France and the discontents it generated. The economic crisis and the dynastic factor are briefly analysed in section 4. At the end of the essay some conclusions on the interrelation between the weakening of royal power under Henry VI and the other causes of the Wars of the Roses are provided. I also include the detailed bibliography of the subject under consideration after the Works Cited that would provide additional support to the argument that this paper defends. THE WEAKNESS OF THE KING Academics’ views on the personal qualities of Henry VI. There is no doubt that the reign of Henry VI was marked by progressive weakening of royal prestige and authority, which eventually led to the major strife among the nobles of the realm. For instance, Wolffe argues that Henry VI’ character was marked by “perverse wilfulness” and that his “wilful incompetence and untrustworthiness” made him completely unreliable in the affairs of government (Wolffe, “The Personal Rule” 44). McFarlane remarks that the “inanity” of Henry VI in the years of his personal rule was characteristic of an infantile person incapable of independent reasoning (McFarlane, “Nobility” 284). In addition, Carpenter finds that the period of personal rule of Henry VI was characterised by “the lack of the royal will at the heart of it” (88). At the same time, Griffiths observes that Henry VI was by nature “a well-intentioned man”, but at the same time he agrees that the king was “over-merciful and compassionate to those at fault, yet fearfully suspicious of those who were rumoured to be doing him personal harm (Griffiths, “The Reign of Henry VI” 253). However, to prove or disprove such claims, one has to look
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