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In October 1460 Richard, Duke of York, confronted Henry VI0s parliament with a petition which set out his claim to the throne. It was a short document, not very interesting to read. It was, in fact, merely a genealogical table. But it had a weighty thesis, for it purported to shew how the duke could trace back his rights to the crown through Philippa, daughter of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, third son of Edward III, to Edward I and beyond. Against their wishes, and after vain efforts to push responsibility upon the judges and serjeants-at-law, the lords gave their considered opinion in a carefully graded series of objections. They could not approve the duke’s claim, because they were bound by oath to Henry VI; because acts of parliament were of greater authority than arguments drawn from chronicles; because entails of the crown destroyed the Yorkist case; because the science of heraldry disproved it, inasmuch as Richard bore the arms of Edmund Langley, whereas—if his assertions were true—he should be bearing those of Lionel, Duke of Clarence; because, finally, the Lancastrians were kings of England not by conquest, but by lawful right descending to them from Henry III. The duke answered these challenges in a replication of sound medieval dialectic. His claim was just; therefore by the laws of Holy Church the lords were absolved from their oaths, since oaths sworn to the prejudice of the just rights of another were void. If need be, he would take the decision of a spiritual judge on this point. As for acts of parliament—and the same held good of entails of the crown—if Henry IV had so just a claim, why did he want to bolster it up with such devices? As for the laws of heraldry, for reasons not unknown to all the realm, he had refrained from using Lionel’s arms; but “though right for a time rest, and be put to silence, yet it rotteth not, nor shall perish.” The Lancastrian title from Henry III was false; no more needed to be said of it.

Instead of following the sequel to this play of dialectic until we see Parliament nominating the Duke of York heir-apparent, let us turn to another series of objections. Between 1461 and 1463 Sir John Fortescue, sometime Chief Justice of the Court of King’s Bench, and at that time an exile in Scotland, sharing in the meagre hopes that still kept together the remnants of the Lancastrian party, exercised his wits—and they were tolerably sharp—upon those same Yorkist claims. He arrived at some conclusions that should interest us. Lawyer-like he sought the weakest link in the chain, and he found it in the reference to Philippa. Think on the inconveniences that would follow if a woman ruled. To Fortescue they were many and obvious. How could she collate to prebends in the voidance of bishoprics, or give a death sentence in criminal cases? How act as God’s medium as a healer? The king’s touch derived virtue from the coronation rite of anointing the king’s hand, and no woman could be so anointed since she was unable to bear the sword. And what of disadvantages more practical in kind? What of the risk that a king might have several daughters, so that the English realm, like a feudal estate, would descend to co-parceners? And what of graver possibilities? A queen might marry a foreign ruler, or (prescient Fortescue) might take so long to choose a husband that her subjects would not know where they stood. It could not be. Woman was under subjection to man. There was no place for her as ruler. And if so, how was she to pass on to another any rights to the crown? No man—it was a principle of the common law—had power to transmit greater rights than he himself possessed. Ergo this Yorkist claim was impossible. It was also revolutionary. For it upset an arrangement accepted by the Yorkists, whereby Lancastrian kings had ruled in England for over sixty-three years, and by so doing had acquired a prescriptive right. There seemed nothing more that needed saying.

Here was pretty argument, but not the constitutional theory needed to keep abreast of the facts of politics. For behind York’s petition lay at least ten years of history, years steadily productive of impressions upon his mind. If he looks to us like a conspirator, we ought not to forget the stimulus provided by Lancastrian ineptitude. It was not so much the unexpected birth of Henry Vi’s son (13 October 1453), nor the openly avowed hostility of Margaret of Anjou, nor the rivalry between him and Somerset, nor even his attainder after defeat at Ludford (12 October 1459) which finally decided York’s course. Behind all these lay a logic of events forcing him towards one conclusion. Even before 1450 York, like many other subjects of Henry VI, looked critically on that king’s occupation of the kingship (to call it misgovernment would be to impute too much activity to that “puppet of a king”), and before 1460 York was holding strong opinions which he shewed himself capable of expressing in manifestos more cogently political than the petition in which he sued for the crown. The weakness and extravagance of Lancastrian administration, the poverty consequent upon reckless alienation of Crown lands, the failure of the war in France, ending in the complete inability of the government to protect the south coast-towns from the raids of French pirates, above all, hatred of the foreigner which was finding—not perhaps without some reason—a butt in Margaret of Anjou, these were the realities of politics. They brought home to one kept out of the king’s counsels by the machinations of evil advisers the imperative need for action. It would have to be action strong and far-reaching; but when it came it must be justified in language plain men could understand. Ideas gathered from legal antiquarianism were grafted on to a feudal conception of kingship to serve as a solution of problems of practical politics. So York propounded his subtleties, and Fortescue shuffled his quotations from the Scriptures, the Fathers, the Schoolmen. And each in a vague way must have known that the problem lay elsewhere. The lawyer, indeed, lived to say so, was induced to take back his arguments, and—more important—struck right down to the bed-rock of the political troubles in an analysis of the government of England so masterly in its realism that it yet remains an indispensable guide.

We have arrived, surely, at the crux of the Yorkist dilemma. For a movement which began as a bid for reform was soon linked to a theory unworthy of it, which hampered the Yorkist achievement. Legitimism was something of a novelty, but it contributed nothing worth while to constitutional theory. It pointed into the past. Intended as a solution of Yorkist difficulties, it was to prove a damnosa haereditas. It led, however, to some consequences that are instructive. The legitimist argument implied—it is seen clearly enough in Fortescue’s thought—an analogy between the kingship and a private estate governed by the rules and principles of private law, and that analogy, characteristic as it was of the medieval approach, was not adapted to solve the problems of an age bristling with real, new difficulties. For these legitimism had nothing to offer. The right to the crown was made to read like the pleadings in an action on a deed of gift. It was all very well, but consequences would sooner or later have to be met. True, they were not obvious in 1460 when Richard, Duke of York, seemed successful. They were, indeed, even less clear in 1461, after Richard had met his fate at Wakefield, and his head, decorated with a crown of paper and straw, had been placed upon the walls of York. His young son Edward succeeded to claims having the colour of a greater right by virtue of the grievous wrongs done to his house. So the full implications still remained hidden. But they were looming large in 1483 when Edward IV was no more, and men were bringing his young son Edward, a child of thirteen, across the English shires towards his father’s throne. We need not seek to know, at this point, what happened in those weeks of June and July 1483, when Richard, uncle of the king elect, was taking charge of affairs. We need only notice Richard’s justification of what he was about to do. It was so commonplace, so familiar an episode in the medieval court of law. He nullified the prince’s right by imputing against him the stigma of bastardy. We have not reached the depths. When Henry Tudor turned his attention towards Richard and the English throne in 1485 he went one step farther. Henry’s novel disseisin upon the Yorkists was followed by a marriage—into the family whose possessions he had seized.

To an age not yet removed from the crudities of legal procedure the peculiar emphasis that was being placed upon claims, rights, possessions, and family trees suggested an obvious solution, “...incontynent after the pitouse and dolorouse Deth of that noble and famous Prynce and oure Right honorable Lord of worthy memorie youre Fader the Duc of York....It pleased your high Mageste...to procede of Princely prowesse...in Bataille: uppon whom it pleased Almyghty God to graunt unto youre seid Mageste the hande of victorye....” It is war, but war under the eye of the Supreme Judge, and that is trial by battle. And as we watch the demeanour of Englishmen living under the sudden changes of kingship during the Wars of the Roses, and preparing to accept whatever comes, may it not perhaps be helpful to keep in the front of our explanations a suggestion of this special cast of thought? It has unexpected results. When a Lord Rivers, like many of his contemporaries, could change over to the Yorkist side in 1461, and could tell a foreign observer that Henry’s cause was lost irretrievably, one begins immediately to search for epithets like disloyalty or double-dealing. Is it necessarily what such behaviour implied to contemporaries? Was indifference to the political situation the reason why the country acquiesced in the change? Men had much to lose and gain by what was happening; but who were they to adhere to a king deserted by God?

Now, as in many other problems of this difficult period, men have held divided opinions about the real meaning of the Wars of the Roses. We cannot afford to be uncertain. For some yearn now we have been hearing some challenging questions, and their import is great. Was the struggle between Lancastrians and Yorkists, it has been asked, the simple affair it was once fashionable to depict? Was it a protracted civil war, an almost unbroken series of bloody battles, which sapped the resources of the country, decimated the families of the nobility, and engaged the energies of contemporaries to the exclusion of practically all else, leaving behind a trail of desolation easily traceable in the social, political, and cultural life of the community? Or was it, on the contrary, an aimless—some would even go so far as to say a meaningless and futile—faction-fight that it is not worth while trying to understand? Was it a struggle with no interest for the country generally, the concern of few save the rival family groups of great lords, who joined gladly, impelled by no real political predilections, but finding in it an easy means of gratifying that taste for military ventures stimulated by war with France though doomed to find outlet elsewhere after the disastrous failure of the English enterprise across the Channel? If the first of these views be correct, then it would seem that the wars are at once the beginning and the end of Yorkist history. If the latter is to be accepted, then clearly it becomes necessary to look more closely at the other features of the period. The alternatives are embarrassing; an incident from Edward’s reign may suggest an approach.

In April 1465, the ladies at court amused themselves with a pastime that should remind us we are still in the Middle Ages. Their hero was Lord Scales, the queen’s brother. They tied around his thigh a collar of gold and pearls, and pushed into his cap a parchment roll. Opened by the king, this proved to be articles for a tournament in which the ladies’ champion was to engage against a noble adversary. How it all fell out, how Scales challenged the renowned Antoine, Bastard of Burgundy, what preparations there were for the jousts at Smithfield in 1467, and what knightly prowess was shewn before a brilliant court, all these things and more may be read in the elaborate surviving account. This, surely, is the generation that will appreciate what Sir Thomas Malory will be writing in 1469: “Then was the cry huge and great when Sir Palamides smote the neck of Sir Launcelot’s horse that it died. For many knights held that it was unknightly done in tournament to kill a horse wilfully— except it were done in plain battle, life for life.” But it is this generation, too, of which it will be said: “And aftyrwarde thei [the Earl of Oxford, Aubrey, Tuddenham] were brought before the Erie of Worscetre and juged by lawe padowe that thei schuld be hade to the Toure Hylle where was made a scaffolde of viii fote hyzt and ther was there hedes smyten of, that alle men myght see.” This is the dualism to be encountered in the period. Before we become involved, it will be well to make some play with chronology.

Subsequent to the challenge whereby the Duke of York brought his discontents into the open with the first battle of St Albans (1455), there was a lull in active hostilities. Then began the period of sustained conflict, though not of continuous warfare. An examination of the events shows that the military engagements fall into four well defined phases: the first runs from 1459-61; the second from 1462-64; the third from 1469-71; and the fourth includes the events of 1484-85. The first phase was, as might be expected, one of considerable activity, with several heavy engagements. If the Yorkists were successful at Blore Heath (23 September 1459), they were beaten at Ludford (12 October 1459)> largely because of the refusal of the men Warwick had brought over from Calais to fight against their king. But York’s party was avenged at Northampton (10 July 1460), when Henry VI was captured. They were routed at Wakefield (30 December 1460), but the Lancastrians besmirched their reputation by breaking the Christmas truce, and—worse than this—by shewing after the battle a vindictiveness which set an evil precedent. The death of the Duke of York was a staggering blow for his party. He was not of the stuff from which great leaders are made, but he was no mere conspirator for a crown. However much motives of self-interest influenced his actions, there was mingled with them a genuine zeal for administrative reform, and a love of justice in all probability nobler than would have been his achievements had he lived to translate into royal decrees the ideas of his manifestos. If responsibility for the beginning of war must be laid on his shoulders, then at least it should be counted to him that his opponents did less than nothing to help him keep the peace. And in removing him they did not right the evils he wished reformed. His party, left without a leader, was not crushed. Of the battles of 1461, Mortimer’s Cross (2 February), second St Albans (17 February), and Towton (29 March), the second was a Lancastrian victory, but the other two proved that the young Earl of March had military ability, and could take his father’s place. The first phase, then, was decisive. It gave the English crown to a Yorkist.

The second phase (1462-64) was of altogether different quality. Its events were only of local significance, its military engagements minor affairs in northern England, where Edward IV’s supporters dealt with attempts made by the remnant of the Lancastrian party to win a foothold on the border. The main activities recorded were sieges of the castles of Bamborough, Dunstanborough, and Alnwick, a minor engagement at Hedgely Moor (April 1464) which went to the Yorkists, and another Lancastrian rout at Hexham (15 May 1464).

There followed four years of peace, and then the third phase (1469-71) began. It was short, but full of incident. In reality the period comprised three separate movements. The first, covering the months of June and July 1469 and the battle of Edgecote (26 July), put Edward in Warwick’s hands. The second, with the rebellion in Lincolnshire, the defection of Warwick to Henry VI’s side, led to the expulsion of Edward IV (September 1470). The third movement began in March 1471 with Edward’s return. After the battles of Barnet (14 April) and Tewkesbury (4 May) he was again king, this time firmly established, and until his death (9 April 1483) he reigned in peace.

The disturbances after his death were unsettling, but they did not amount to war, and the fourth and last phase of the Wars of the Roses opened in October 1483 when the Duke of Buckingham raised rebellion against Richard III. It was to have been an ambitious enterprise, with risings in Brecknock, Kent, and the south, and with help from Henry of Richmond. But by 2 November Buckingham had been caught and beheaded at Salisbury. On 7 August 1485 Henry of Richmond landed at Milford Haven, and the last challenge to the Yorkists was made. The struggle was brief. On 22 August 1485 the Battle of Bosworth made Henry VII king.

A description of the incidents confirms some impressions concerning the real nature of the struggle. It is evident that the military events were sporadic, that we are not concerned with a country suffering under thirty years of constant fighting, that there were, on the contrary, long periods of peace. Estimates of the effects of the military campaigns must, accordingly, be temperate. The results could not have been as serious as they have sometimes been described. Closer examination confirms this opinion. The last word on such a matter must rest on what can be discovered about the military events themselves, and the vagaries of medieval writers when handling figures are now well known. Modern research finds it difficult to take seriously their statistics of troops engaged in any campaign, and in some conflicts—the first battle of St Albans is an instance—it is content to label them as mere skirmishes. Nor are the chroniclers’ estimates of casualties now regarded without scepticism. That combatants, especially the nobility, were killed during and after battle is certain, but whether in such numbers as chroniclers state is doubtful. And there are other questions. There is, for example, the charge that troops inflicted heavy damage in the towns and villages through which they passed. On this count, certainly, the northern troops employed by the Lancastrians were severely criticised by contemporaries, and it goes a long way towards explaining Margaret’s failure to win support in the south. But the modern scholar looks for facts, and legal records have been searched on the assumption that they should yield evidence of robberies, lootings, assaults, and like offences committed in areas occupied by troops. Such have not been found in significant quantity. Thus, the old picture of an England devastated by civil war is not borne out, and modem writers are inclined to regard other features in the life of the century as those deserving greatest attention.

All this is to the good, provided reaction does not go too far. To put the Wars of the Roses in proper perspective is one thing; to write the history of the period without them is another. They have to be explained, not explained away. It can be argued, for instance, that the absence of evidence in legal records is natural, due not to any absence of lawlessness; but to the plain fact that victims would be unlikely, in such times of disturbance, to expect much from due process of law as a means of satisfaction for wrongs done. A striking estimate of the dislocation due to the wars is revealed from the trade statistics for those years. At the crucial periods, 1460 and 1470, trade at the ports came virtually to a standstill. This was not due to material destruction. In the years immediately following, figures leap up, in many cases, to an abnormal height. The trading returns register the shock due to political disturbance. There can be no doubt that the struggle between the two parties for political control must be taken into account in dealing with the period. The Wars of the Roses were in the background affecting the life of the times, and affecting it for evil. What this really meant will be better appreciated when other features have been noticed.

Where are we to look, if not at military events? The question raises a problem, that of the nature of the available historical material. For if we were content to view the period through sixteenth-century writings we should see what their authors intended us to see, an England languishing in misery, awaiting the Tudor dynasty that would put all things right. And this is assuredly where we should begin were it not that everyone now discredits the legend about the lack of contemporary material for the Yorkist period. There is no dearth of evidence, though all is not easily accessible, or simple to use when found. And, certainly, all has not yet been forced to yield up its secrets. If we lack, with a few poor exceptions, the monastic chronicles which were the pride of an earlier age, that fact is in itself a matter of history; and the town chronicles which take their place, imperfect though they may be, are memorials to that civic consciousness whose growth is one of the most hopeful features of the period. It was an age when ordinary men and women were beginning to make use of pens, and from the sets of family letters surviving much history can be written. Nor is that all. Intensive study has exploited plea rolls, chancery proceedings, wills, customs accounts, local records—to mention only some of those recently used—and the work has as yet only skimmed the surface. What it promises can be suggested by some examples.

It has been the opinion of some that the inhabitants of the great merchant towns, including London, were violent partisans in the wars, consistently Yorkist in their sympathies. Others have spoken of them as actuated throughout by downright motives of self-interest, ready to desert either party if there was anything to be gained. Others, again, have suggested that the townsmen carefully refrained from shewing any preferences and completely ignored the wars. Considered opinion favours the view that in the main the attitude of the citizens was one of cautious moderation. They could not fail to be interested in the changing fortunes of the political parties, for whatever happened bore ultimately on the question nearest their hearts, the hope of a government firmly established, strong enough to give England peace, far-sighted enough to refrain from interfering with their trading interests, if not wise enough to encourage their enterprise. From the immediate events they had normally little to fear. Both parties in the wars needed support; so policy constrained them to be careful. Thus, although many of the towns figured in the conflict by lending either arms or men, they were not the scenes of battles or sieges, which is another argument against too serious an estimate of the material damage done. Some towns—Coventry is an example—suffered financial losses. Some gained. London, for example, won two charters, and the confirmation of a third, from Edward IV. Canterbury, Colchester, Ludlow are other instances of charter-gaining towns. But, on the whole, the citizens took no really important part in the dynastic struggle. That is not to say that they did not feel the effects of what was happening. They could not stand completely aloof. Some suffered as did Southampton. In 1460, when Warwick was expected, the Earl of Wiltshire descended upon the city, seized five Genoese trading vessels riding in the harbour, filled them with sailors, and drew upon the town for their provisions. When Edward IV came to the throne, Southampton had to make a payment to the treasurer of the household, and also find an annuity of 1454 for the Earl of Warwick as Constable of Dover. In the troubles of 1469-71 Warwick demanded, and seems to have obtained, payment of his annuity. But when Edward returned, and a new Constable of Dover was appointed, the town was charged with another pension for him. Not all towns were as unfortunate. Some—Bristol is the best example—seem to have been almost untouched. Others, the majority, had a history for which Nottingham will serve as type. That city began by being well disposed towards Henry VI until Edward gained ground. Then, by the gift of a few troops and money, the citizens won a confirmation of their charter. In 1464 they sent some troops to Edward at York. In 1471 they spent about sixty pounds on soldiers and liveries for him. When Richard III came to the city he was royally received; but when news of Bosworth reached them, the citizens hurried to cultivate Henry VII. It was the common story. At Henry VI’s restoration in 1470 the University of Oxford sent their felicitations; the hand of Providence was at work. But some months later they were sending up infinite thanks to a most merciful God whose divine wisdom had seen good to restore Edward IV. They rejoiced with Richard III at his accession; but they hailed Henry VII in words which placed him somewhat higher than Hannibal and Alexander, So the towns, on the whole, played for safety. Their preference, when they shewed it, seems usually to have been for the Yorkists, and that choice was not haphazard. What they wanted above all else was peace, and a strong government able and wishful to give trade and industry a chance to flourish. They thought they saw a hope in the Yorkists; at any rate, they knew how little they could expect from Henry VI. So they bided their time in caution, and went on with the work that lay to their hands.

There was much for them to do, and most of it took them far from politics. They, like their fathers before them, were alive to the possibilities of trade, and at home and abroad they were busy making use of their opportunities. The scope was wide. Their ventures took them far afield. Yorkist merchants in Iceland fought strenuously to retain trading interests in danger of being lost. Yorkist ships sailed into Irish harbours in quest of the commodities that rich land could produce. They journeyed regularly to the ports of France and Spain, and there were adventurers among them ready for greater risks. Nor was trade limited to the commodities their own ships brought. The more seasoned traders of the Italian cities brought to these shores the luxuries of the Mediterranean and the East: there was scope for trade at home as well as abroad. In such enterprises much of the energy of Yorkist England was being spent, and it was with those engaged in such tasks that the future lay. To write their names is to chronicle the fifteenth century, and provide, as well, the clue to more than half the history of the sixteenth century. There is a crowded gallery of portraits from which to choose, in the main (thanks to letters) self portraits. The Celys form a link between the wool of the Cotswolds and the merchants of Calais and Bruges; experts in all matters pertaining to credit and trade and exchange; shipping goods to Zeeland, Flanders, Bordeaux; skilled in the lore of markets; not always very scrupulous in their dealings, and yet, on the whole, not an unattractive set of business men. There are the Midwinters, the Busheys, the Forteys, dealers in wool, scouring the Cotswold villages for the commodity their packhorses would carry to the busy ports. There are the Springs of Lavenham, the Tames of Gloucestershire, the Wottons, Boleyns, Jocelyns, shrewd men of business, generous builders of churches, speculators in landed estates on which the next generation of their families would live veneered with Tudor honours, the new nobility around the throne. There are the Canynges of Bristol, busied with the cares that crowded in upon the owners of so large a fleet of ships, but not too busy to leave their memorial in BristoPs most beautiful church. These, and others like them, were the men into whose hands trade and industry had been entrusted, and the results of their enterprise would be known in the days when the Yorkists had long passed from the scene. They had much to do, a great deal to gain. But with all their commercial interests and cares, they never forgot the towns where they had made their homes. They played their part in gild and local government, sharing in civic feuds and festivities, lending their patronage to town pageants, building and decorating churches and halls. They lavished their wealth upon beautiful homes, combined sternness and charity in their treatment of the less fortunate and more improvident members of the community, cultivated with discreet gifts the lawyers and judges and gentlefolk whose favours might advantage themselves and their towns. Men with many faults, but not without inestimable virtues, learning to handle wealth, gaining experience in self-government, and benefiting their towns with much of that wealth they must leave behind them when their trading cares would trouble them no more. Little wonder if national politics had few attractions for them: they had so much else on hand.

If the merchants were intent on their own lives and advancement, so too were the country gentry with whom they had some dealings, and into whose homes their daughters were permitted sometimes—a little superciliously—to bring welcome dowries and powerful connexions with the world of trade. Here, too, there is no lack of types. Pas tons, Plumptons, Stonors, Timperleys, Debenhams—we know the family portraits, and the public records often flash an unexpected gleam on to careers it would sometimes be kinder to leave in the dark. The impressions to be gathered are all of one kind. We see these country gentry living strenuous lives in a world that is very real, very hard; fighting many difficulties, surrounded by foes. They play their part in local government as sheriffs, justices of the peace, commissioners appointed to do work for the Crown. Sometimes they are members of parliament. They are to be found in the wars, serving in the company of nobles whose protection and favour they seek, But their real loyalty is not here. What interested them above all else was the family to which they belonged. They were consecrated to its conservation; to its well-being they gave up their lives. To further its prosperity they fought the countryside. In its interests there was no trick to which they would not stoop. They were capable alike of fraud or of taking a hand in a trading venture. They were not above a little smuggling, or the risks and gains of piracy. Theirs was a cynical view of life, especially in matters pertaining to law. Usually up to the eyes in litigation, they were for ever in the law courts. They would use any means to gain their ends: bribe a juror, intimidate a sheriff, flatter a nobleman, knock a rival on the head. They were past masters in the finesse of writs and legal procedure, experts in filing a bill of complaints against an enemy. But it was all done in the greatest of causes: for the furtherance of the family fortunes. Marriage was a matter of business, for when such interests are at stake there can be no place for sentiment. And yet it seems to have worked very satisfactorily. These Stonors and Pastons were well served by their women-folk, fit mates for such men, efficient rulers of large households, stern mothers, shrewd housewives, and yet not devoid of the finer graces, quite able to appreciate a gift of ribbons or seek news of London fashions.

The country gentry knew what they were about in being ambitious for their families. The nobility had often sprung from lowly origins, and what had happened before could be repeated. It was worth the effort, for the nobles were still powerful, despite their experiences in the French wars, and although the dynastic struggle was leaving its mark upon the resources of most of them. Vast landed estates accumulated in few hands by a skilful policy of marriage alliances made the heads of great houses, like the Nevilles, the leaders of politics. Their household establishments were modelled on, or challenged comparison with, the royal household; their hospitality was lavish, their retainers were numerous. But they were living on their capital, and not all of them would have the staying power needful if they were to survive unimpaired. As yet they were not feeling the full effects of the social changes, or of the political quarrels in which they were involved. But the future would not lie with them. It was reserved for the wealthy middle class now rising to importance. Meanwhile, the most sinister influence of the Yorkist nobility was its deliberate encouragement of the forces of lawlessness and the spirit of turbulence. By their participation in the Wars of the Roses, their employment of large bands of retainers, their failure to collaborate with the government in any policy of repression of lawlessness, they were in no small measure the creators of the problem which lay at the root of the Yorkist failure. When the time came for a ruthless eradication of these evils, the nobility were found so inextricably involved in them that they had to suffer.

Whatever remains to be said of Yorkist England, few will now accept as true a judgment which would dismiss it as a scene of decay, or exhaustion of national vitality. Here was exuberant life, but what is difficult to determine is the exact quality of that life. So far we have been thinking largely of material things. Before we can feel sure that we have all we need for interpreting the age we must try to probe things pertaining to the mind. It is a venture in which unprovable generalisations do not help. The existence of private correspondence is interesting; it is not enough to justify the looser statements of Gairdner and Kingsford to the effect that literacy and education were widespread, and that most people could express themselves in writing, with ease and fluency. There is no proof of this. All we know is that Yorkist society shews some surprising signs of education, and that—however it was done—facilities for rudimentary instruction seem to have reached a wider sphere than the houses of the nobility or the business circles in large towns. To say that is, of course, to concede much; but there is no great claim to be made for the second half of the fifteenth century in the history of literature. It was no golden age. The best list that could be drawn up for it is a strange assortment, not one to thrill with admiration: Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, Fortescue’s works, Littleton’s treatise on Tenures, Capgrave’s English works, Ripley’s Compound of Anatomy, Hardyng’s poetical Chronicle, the Latin poem of Peter Carmelianus. And yet, it was a matter of no small significance that a goodly few of the ordinary folk of Yorkist England were not ignorant of letters. Some day—it was not so far away—there would be material for them to use, and their demands would dictate supply. It is worth a thought that when, after 1477, William Caston began his great work in England, some of the first products of his press were a Book of Courtesy (1477), The Canterbury Tales (1478), and Chronicles of England (1480). Was he forming public taste or catering for it?

How such things were made possible takes us into the history of English education. We have no need, and no business, to say over again what others have said of Henry Vi’s services to that cause. But we have the right to ask whether the Yorkists did anything to continue his work. And the answer is unexpectedly encouraging. Not even the political uncertainty could stop the movement entirely, and even though they were not the equals of their predecessor, both Edward and Richard did some things of which they had no need to be ashamed. True, Edward started badly. In 1463 his enthusiasm for St George’s Chapel, Windsor—and perhaps the fact that he had not as yet seen how to combine a continuation of Henry’s work with the elimination of Henry’s name—led him to annex the properties of Eton College for his own foundation. For a while Eton’s progress was checked, if its definite retrogression was not encouraged. But in 1467 wisdom prevailed, the school received back its privileges, this time with Edward as founder. His wife, too, gave generously to Queens’ College, Cam bridge, the foundation of Margaret of Anjou. Even Richard III and Anne were mindful of the universities. They gave lands to Queens’ College, found money for fellowships, and granted—from the forfeited estates of the Duke of Buckingham—property to Magdalen College, Oxford. What they did, private donors like Thomas Rotherham, Chancellor of Cambridge University in 1475, imitated.

Nor did the earlier movement for the foundation of schools die out. Between 1465 and 1475, Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells, founded Acaster. In 1472 Margaret, widow of Lord Hungerford, obtained a royal licence to carry on the work of her father-in-law by founding a gram mar school at Heytesbury in Wiltshire. In 1480 Waynflete made statutes for his college of Magdalen, Oxford, and the school attached. In 1483 Rotherham founded Jesus College, Rotherham.

Here were the channels of education. They were being used. Shrewd families like the Pastons knew the value of learning, for their fortunes rested on money borrowed by old Clement Paston for the education of his son William, who rose to be a judge. The tradition lingered on in the family; the sons went to Eton, Oxford, Cambridge, or the Inns of Court. For we must not forget these last, although their fifteenth-century history is almost a blank. There is more than a suspicion that education there was construed in fairly liberal terms. But to what extent they were doing anything to educate beyond the standards of a highly skilled profession is as yet uncertain. The connexion of the sons of country gentlemen with them is a subject that would bear investigation.

The day will come when someone will venture to put together what can be known of the intellectual life of Yorkist England. Of the fascination of the subject there is no doubt: but an exacting equipment will be required. For this period in the story of English humanism will be mainly a study of origins. Data yet to be collected will consist mainly of human relationships, contacts of minds, influence of teacher on student, fashions in thought. Intangible things, and yet important. Beyond a few letters, some translations, scraps of poetry, and the manuscripts they so assiduously collected, these early humanists do not seem to have left much on which we may work. To discover their secrets will be a delicate task demanding patience in piecing together unexpected and faint clues, discrimination in analysing facts, subtlety in interpretation, skill in handling evidence so gossamer-like that only the deftest of fingers may touch and yet keep it intact. But the results, if we are not mistaken, will justify the work. For the first time the real nature of the Yorkist achievement will be seen. Already there are encouraging signs. We have, at any rate, been told enough to teach us this is a subject on which we dare not be dogmatic, and that is more than some earlier writers knew.

The older theory provided two well defined phases into which most of what was known of English humanism could be packed. The first, ending in 1448, saw the dawn of the Renaissance, with Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, as its leader. Then came the period of darkness, 1448-88, when humanism was killed, presumably by the Wars of the Roses. Then in 1488 the full Renaissance opened with the work of the Oxford reformers. That tidy theory needs examination. The work of the first phase is now scrutinised more closely, and although its importance is fully appreciated, it is seen that there were shades in what is too glibly described as humanism. Humphrey and his contemporaries were humanists, but not to the same degree or in the same way as the more finished products of later years. These forerunners, enthusiasts for Italian culture, wealthy book-collectors, ready patrons, were only beginning to be touched by Italian ideas; and were only partially changed by the contact. Their successors were more thoroughly imbued with the new spirit. There is, too, a different opinion of those years between 1448 and 1488. In that apparently sterile period something seems to have been happening. What exactly it was cannot as yet be told; but some facts are known. For one thing, it is certain that throughout those years contact with Italy was maintained. The known dates when some of these Englishmen went to Italy is evidence of continuity. In 1442 Grey went; in 1451 Flemming; in 1455 Free and Gunthorpe; in 1458 Tiptoft; in 1464 Selling and Hadley; in 1469 Selling again. Further, there is a distinct development discernible in the humanism of these men. They go to Italy to some extent equipped. They are accepted as equals by Italian humanists. Their culture is richer than that of the first generation. Some, like Free, may well be called professional scholars. They begin to leave specimens of their work and we can judge its quality. In a word, humanism is gathering strength as it moves through these years. Like earlier visitors to Italy these men were also book-collectors, and they, too, bequeath their collections to English colleges, thus preparing the way for those who followed them.

Quite as interesting, but a more involved story, is that concerned with England. Not much is known, but exchequer records have been brought to light which note payments made to Greek scholars in England in 1465-66, while the study of manuscripts has revealed a group in English collections written—almost certainly by one of these same Greeks—to the order of an English archbishop in 1468. In 1475 Cornelio Vitelli was praelector of New College, Oxford. One recalls that Grocyn became a Fellow there in 1465, that Linacre went to Oxford in 1480, and was a Fellow of All Souls in 1483. These are precious links: they stress the continuity of development. Men did not return to England to forget what they had learned, and most of them came back to important offices in Church and State. And what of places nearer home than Italy? Yorkist foreign policy had close contacts with Burgundy, and although this is not the place for a description of that Court as a home of art and letters, it may be profitable to recall that Caxton was employed by Margaret of Burgundy, that the monochrome paintings in Eton College Chapel (1470-83) show a revival of English painting under Flemish and Burgundian influences, that similar contacts can be traced in English illuminations. The historian of the English Renaissance may well extend his search if he is to do his work thoroughly. But the last word on the subject must rest with him.


When a young king of twenty-two, more than tolerably good looking, popular because of his skill and courage in war and the promise he shews of developing into a strong ruler, decides to many, we shall judge rightly that his subjects will be interested. When we learn that his bride is a widow, five years his senior and the mother of two sons, we may be a little apprehensive of his choice. And when we gather that on May-day of 1464 Edward IV married Elizabeth Woodville in strictest secrecy, with no intention of letting the news be made public—it was only forced from him in a council on 4 September of that year—we shall fancy we have found a topic of some note. To probe all Edwards motives is not possible; but that here is a masterful, if not wise, personality is certain. And we have the advantage of being able to track some of the results of his action.

For four years, ever since the death of the Duke of York, Richard Earl of Warwick had been by the king’s side. A foreigner writing from England in March 1464 said there were two rulers here. One was the Earl of Warwick; the name of the other he could not remember. Whoever it was, this was not quite a fair judgment on Edward, but it does no more than justice to Warwick, and certainly expresses what the earl would have liked men to feel. Here was a worthy representative of the baronial class, wealthy, powerful, able, the leader of a family group owing position and power to the number of its offspring and the skilful policy of marriage alliances in which its members specialised. He had all the requisites, and not a little of the ambition, wherewith to take the lead in affairs. From 1459-71 he is never negligible in English politics. Indeed, one may say that Edward’s reign falls into two distinct periods (1461-69: 1471-83), and that Warwick was primarily responsible for that division. In the first phase it is not an exaggeration to say that the reaction of these two personalities one to the other provides a key motive to Yorkist history. From 1458-64 there can be no question of Warwick’s wholehearted devotion to the Yorkist cause, and his effort to keep the party together after Wakefield was the work to which Edward owed his throne. Throughout his career Warwick’s aim was to maintain and increase his power, and to govern the king’s affairs. Edward’s marriage suggests that Warwick underestimated the young king.

In 1460, when the Yorkist leaders were sheltering at Calais, a supporter of Henry VI who had gone out to find them was captured, and brought into their presence:

“and there my lord of Salisbury rated him, calling him knave’s son, that he should be so rude to call him and these other lords traitors, for they shall be found the king’s true liegemen when he should be found a traitor &c. And my lord of Warwick rated him, and said that his father was but a squire, and brought up with King Henry the Fifth, and sethen himself made by marriage, and also made lord, and that it was not his part to have such language of lords being of the king’s blood. And my lord of March rated him likewise.”

By May 1464 the Earl of March was king; the prisoner, Richard Woodville, Earl Rivers, was his father-in-law. Another family had jostled its way a little too near the throne, and a crowd of greedy relatives intrigued with the queen for rich wives, titles, estates. To suggest, as some have done, that Edward married in order to make an opposition party to Warwick is to rationalise unduly the follies of youth. The Woodvilles never exercised much influence over the king. He certainly did not throw off the domination of Warwick to deliver himself captive to second-rate men for whom he never seems to have shewn feelings other than those akin to contempt. But policy or not, the results were all one. The new arrivals soon found Warwick and his friends their deadly enemies, whose memories were not so short as was the king’s. While Edward lived, the Woodvilles did not have to be taken very seriously as politicians. But as soon as one of their number became a queen it must have occurred to some far-sighted Englishmen to ponder anxiously what would happen if Edward should chance to die. For the moment we need not look so far ahead. What we see is that Edward’s marriage, something of a mesalliance despite his mother-in-law Jacquetta of Luxemburg, was also something of a gesture. It told Warwick that, although he and the king might still work together, it could never again be on the old terms. Thus, a man whose very ambition was a pledge that he would have been Edward’s strongest supporter in the years between 1461 and 1469, when the king was honestly trying to govern well, was given a grievance to nurse. There was in France one who would know how to awaken it when he judged the moment opportune.

Louis XI succeeded Charles VII on 22 July 1461. Ties of sentiment had bound Charles to the Lancastrian cause—was not Henry VI the son of his sister, and Margaret of Anjou the niece of his wife? With Louis XI no such fond ideas would be given any play. His problems were too serious. There was the great task of keeping intact, and adding to, the powers of the Crown. There were the Dukes of Burgundy and Brittany to watch, and, if possible, to crush. And with Edward IV as a party to whom they might apply for help, that king would have to be controlled; not because Edward was likely to be as clever as Louis, but because anything he did would have reactions for France. Louis would not have deserved his reputation for diplomatic subtlety had he not seen how to use his advantages. So Edward and Warwick were soon involved in his schemes. Thus it is that foreign policy played a large part in Edward’s reign, but it is not due to that king’s ability. Through all, it is Louis’ master-mind that is at work. And the tragedy, from the Yorkist standpoint, was that this concentration of energy upon foreign politics hindered internal reform that was so essential to stability. It helped, too, to produce the theme of the first phase of Edward’s reign, the slowly widening breach between the king and Warwick.

The first four years of Yorkist supremacy showed the dangers of Lancastrian plots abroad. In April 1461 Margaret of Anjou had crossed to Brittany to get support for a projected invasion of England. Louis also lent 20,000 marks with the promise of Calais as security. But by 1463 Edward was known to be mastering his kingdom; so Louis stopped spinning this web. He was in need of English help. He would cut his losses, abandon the wretched I Lancastrians, consider seriously Edward’s claims to Normandy and Guienne, if only England would help him against Burgundy. Warwick, the powerful subject, seemed worth cultivating. He and Louis explored together the possibilities of a marriage between Edward and Bona of Savoy, the sister-in-law of the French king.

As we have seen, Edward had other plans. And thus it was continually between 1464 and 1469. Edward’s eyes strayed in the direction of Burgundy. Warwick was charmed by the master diplomat in France. Edward had reasons. English merchants were anxious about their trade with Flanders; there was still the glamour of old memories—it would be so good to win again in France what the Lancastrians had won and lost. Louis had to work hard, and by 1467 his need of the English was so great as to cause him to raise his bid. He promised to place Edward’s claim to Normandy and Guienne for arbitration before the Pope. Edward was right to be suspicious, but his subsequent policy went farther. On 1 October 1467 his sister Margaret was betrothed to Charles, Duke of Burgundy. By the middle of 1468 a definite alliance with Burgundy was followed by an agreement with Brittany. It shewed Louis that Warwick’s influence was less than he had thought.

Ever since the beginning of his reign Edward had shirked the issue whether the Hanse merchants should be given renewed trading privileges. There was history behind that question, but the present politics is all we need note. Until a clear understanding with Burgundy had been reached it was unwise to take a strong line. So in 1461, 1463, and 1465 temporary renewals were granted. The truce with Burgundy freed Edward. In 1468 when an English trading fleet was seized by the King of Denmark, Edward retaliated by confiscating the goods of Hanse merchants in England. The council upheld the legality of this act. Thus a serious commercial dispute was opened.

So the years passed between 1464 and 1469. Towards the end Warwick began to realise where he stood. Others were as disillusioned as he. In January 1468 there were tales of mob attacks on the Rivers’ estates in Kent. In July the trial of Cornelius and Hawkins for treason revealed Lancastrian plots, and worse, shewed that the government stooped to torture in order to ferret them out, and that wealthy merchants like Sir Thomas Cook might be implicated, to satisfy Woodville vengeance, and be mulcted of their wealth. In November there were more plots. Sir Thomas Hungerford and Henry Courtenay paid with their lives. In April 1469 the mysterious Robin of Redesdale was massing troops in the North, and when Edward went against him in June he was surprised at the strength of this malcontent’s following.

There were deeper depths. On 11 July 1469, Warwick was at Calais, marrying his daughter to Edward’s brother, the Duke of Clarence. That weak, ineffective, yet troublesome young man, tempted by a rich dowry and perhaps encouraged to dream greater things, had thrown in his lot with the earl. The day after the marriage they sent to England to say they would shortly arrive to support Redesdale. Before the end of July Edward’s army had been defeated at Edgecote and soon the king was in Warwick’s hands. His plans did not as yet include the substitution of Clarence for Edward. As always his aim was control of the king and dismissal of the Woodvilles. They were not plans easy to realise. Whatever feeling ran against Edward, there was no enthusiasm in England for two kings in prison and Warwick supreme. So the earl walked circumspectly. Edward was freed to go to London, but he soon discovered that freedom was not release from his captor. He was too weak to punish Warwick and Clarence; so he had to pardon them. There was even a scheme for a marriage between Edward’s four-year-old daughter and George Neville, the nine-year-old son of the Earl of Northumberland, Warwick’s nearest male heir. It looked as if the earl would win. But the Lincolnshire rebellion of 1469-70, when a private quarrel between local gentry spread into a serious rising, shewed that behind the ostensible leaders were Clarence and Warwick. By April the two were in flight for Calais.

Warwick had failed, but he was not yet beaten. Was it subtle, coldblooded Louis XI who thought of the next move, the diplomatic revolution? At any rate, there it soon was: nothing less than a proposal to replace Edward IV by Henry VI, and a marriage alliance between the earl’s daughter and Edward, son of Henry VI. It is not surprising that Margaret of Anjou was slow to give consent. About 23 June 1470 Louis broached the new scheme to her. She took a month before she could bring herself to meet Warwick; but in the end she gave way. By September, Warwick and Clarence were in England. By October, Edward IV was across the water at Alkmaar, a king without a kingdom.

After the release of Henry VI his “re-adeption” began, with Warwick in command. The problems before him were many, their solution was not obvious. A country alarmed at this fresh political upheaval wanted peace, firm government, relief from taxation, and perhaps it still thought of war with France. Warwick could not work miracles. He could not prevent a young, determined, and chastened Edward from planning a return. On 11 March 1471 the king sailed from Flushing, landing at Ravenspur. It should not escape notice that he crossed in boats supplied by the Hanse merchants. At Barnet when his forces met those of Warwick it was not Edward who was left dead on the field.

If Warwick’s career was finished, the second phase of Edward’s was beginning. It was not like the first. From 1471-83 a different Edward was in control, one whose rivals had been removed from his path. The death of Warwick was followed by that of the young son of Henry VI, killed after Tewkesbury. And on 21 May 1471 Henry VI himself ended his unhappy life. Contemporary gossip thought his death too opportune to be altogether natural, imputing a share in it to Edward and Gloucester. Whether that was so or not, Edward was at last secure in the possession of his crown; but the results were not wholly beneficial. Security brought out the least attractive features in his character. His companions were of lesser calibre than his earlier friends, and some ugly traits, not altogether absent formerly, now became intensified. Cruelty, avarice, lack of grip on affairs, absence of sustained purpose amounting at times almost to idleness, extravagance, extreme dissoluteness, these are predominant. He is said to have retained the affections of the populace to the end, but there were signs that men no longer expected much from Yorkist rule. These twelve years cannot be dismissed as uneventful, but many of the happenings were of a kind unlikely to do England any good.

The end of the main struggle between Yorkists and Lancastrians ought to have been seized as an opportunity for giving England peace, and the solution of some of those problems so much in need of attention. Instead, Edward returned determined to seek revenge, and war with France was assured. In July 1474 a treaty of perpetual friendship with Charles of Burgundy pledged the duke to help Edward against Louis. The early part of 1475 was big with preparations and by July he was in France leading as fine an army as had ever left England for that country. Despite grumbling at taxation the idea of war was popular in England, but what was really in Edward’s mind when he exploited this traditional sentiment it is hard to see. In August he met Louis at Picquigny; but it was in order to talk peace. They agreed that the dauphin should marry Edward’s daughter, that Louis should pay 75,000 crowns and a further annual pension of 50,000 crowns for the rest of Edward’s life, and another 50,000 crowns for the ransom of Margaret of Anjou. In return, Edward promised to take his troops home. By 28 September Edward’s great expedition was over and he was back in London. The fact that after such a shameless failure to take the offensive he survived his return is a measure of England’s weariness with civil strife.

Meanwhile, those Hanse ships had not been lent by philanthropists. Edward had promised redress of the wrongs complained of by the merchants. In 1474 a conference met at Utrecht. The merchants were in no mood for compromise. They asked for complete restoration of privileges, reversal of the council’s decision of 1468, heavy compensation, and a clause exempting them from English taxation. They had their way. It was no victory for English commerce. Within the year the Hanse merchants were back in England, and English merchants had to yield to them the monopoly of trade with central Europe.

For the rest of the reign Edward’s foreign policy can be dismissed briefly, provided it is remembered that although results were negligible foreign affairs still absorbed much of the king’s time, and caused him to squander energies which might with profit have been used in domestic politics. The years 1475-83 are dominated by Louis XI. Although the regular payments of Edward’s pension suggest that the English king had made a good bargain, in reality Louis was not throwing money away, and time shewed that he knew best what he was doing. The key to the tangled politics was the death of Charles of Burgundy in January 1477. Henceforth Louis’ object was the acquisition of Burgundy. Mixed motives tempted Edward to join Maximilian, who had married Charles’ heiress, Mary of Burgundy; but his desire to make marriages for his children, unwillingness to forfeit his French pension, and increasing laziness held him back. On the other hand, Louis kept him busy by scheming with James III of Scotland, until in 1482 England and Scotland drifted into war. Louis’ superiority was manifest in the treaty of Arras (23 December 1482), by which he agreed that the dauphin should marry Maximilian’s daughter, At last Edward realised Louis’ duplicity and the futility of his own work, but death overtook him before he could retaliate. The short reign of Richard III does not centre around foreign politics. Richard was too uncertain of the chances of invasion by Henry of Richmond to be able to take a strong line. His fears made him keep on good terms with France and Brittany, and in 1484 even the Scottish war was brought to an end.

Must a puzzle of personality for ever prevent us from understanding Richard’s brief career as king? It would seem so, because of the peculiar nature of the materials available for study; and yet, if we can agree that grey is a better medium with which to paint him than either black or white, there is hope of a tolerably credible portrait. Among contemporaries, Warkworth would seem to acquit Richard of the murder of Henry Vi’s son after Tewkesbury, but his insinuation that the duke was at the Tower on the night Henry VI died may be read to mean that even during his own life-time Richard was suspect. The Croyland narrative, written about 1486, is hostile. Its author clearly believed Richard put to death the two young sons of Edward IV. Certainly, such talk was going the rounds in France in July 1484. The too ingenious theory that would discredit this Croyland source by making it a composite work by two writers of opposite views has been completely disproved. But as yet we are only on the threshold. The Tudor writers are the source of the controversy. They have to be weighed, because the best of them did probably obtain information from Richard’s contemporaries; but they could hardly avoid prejudice in dealing with what was for them very recent politics rather than ancient history. And one took one’s politics seriously, as seriously as Rous did when he thought he could make men believe in a Richard who began life as a monster, born after two years of gestation, with a complete set of teeth, hair down to the shoulders, and the right shoulder higher than the left. More’s Richard III is of different stuff; but it is not devoid of guile. Whether More or Morton wrote it has been canvassed, and serious study would have to explore the relation of the Latin and English texts. “Aut Mortis aut nulhus” thinks one who has spent time on the problem, and his verdict can be accepted. Certainly the work is of great interest, a contribution to English historiography, a landmark in the history of English prose. But is it history? There are things in it we cannot accept as fact, and it must remain for historians a secondary authority. To a far greater degree is that true of what other Tudor writers like Polydore Virgil, Hall, and Fabyan have to say.

But what can be substituted for such works? The obstacle before those who try to acquit Richard of the charges Tudor writers levelled against him has been the scarcity of material. No contemporary writer refutes them; so all that can be done is criticism of the details of their statements. The subject is treacherous. Those who try to take sides are soon in a sea of speculation upon human character and motives, for the interpretation of Richard’s personality varies with the degree of emphasis placed upon the facts. Take an example in the theories of the way Richard’s accession was achieved. Opposite schools will agree, to a point. Both accept some things without question: that Edward IV before he died (9 April 1483) meant Richard to protect his son’s interests; that Edward left the prince with his mother and her family; that the Woodvilles and Richard had no love for each other. Both will say that by 4 May 1483 Prince Edward was in London in Richard’s care; that on 13 May Richard summoned parliament; that by 14 May Richard was calling himself the king’s dearest uncle, Duke of York, and Protector of England; that Richard pushed on preparations for Edward’s coronation; that on 9 June a prolonged council was held. But here is the parting of the ways. One school, accepting wholly, or at any rate leaning towards, an unfavourable interpretation of Richard’s character, sees all later events as a calculated plot which had been present in Richard’s mind from the start, involving the execution of Lord Hastings (13 June) because he opposed Richard’s plans, the publication of a fictitious story of a pre-contract of marriage between Edward IV and Lady Eleanor Butler which made the Woodville marriage illegal, and the execution of Anthony, Earl Rivers, his nephew Richard Grey, and others of the Woodville party at Pontefract (25 June). The other school prefers to stress the legitimacy question. They depict Richard anxious, in the early days after Edward’s death, to be scrupulously fair to his son, preparing for the boy’s coronation with no idea of usurpation in his mind. Then, about 8 June, Dr Robert Stillington revealed the secret of the pre-contract. An astounded Richard faces the facts, sees the dangers that would follow the coronation of a bastard, and in a difficult situation decides that the only solution is for him to take the throne.

Neither interpretation satisfies. An explanation of Richard’s action is possible, but not on these lines, nor in a manner acceptable to those who take back into the fifteenth century standards acquired in a later age. Some of the facts are clear enough, and there can be no doubt that Richard had the acumen and self-interest to appreciate them. Edward IV settled his son’s fate by raising the Woodvilles to power. For the key problem of politics after his death was bound to be that of the custody of the royal minor, and the candidates were the Woodvilles and Richard. Whichever was in power, neither could be safe. There is no need to depict a Richard steeped in crimes, the murderer of Henry VI and his son, and the destroyer of Clarence. There is no reason, even, for thinking of him as a man of one idea, and that his own advancement. There was room in his mind for many conflicting ideas. Indeed, the more we visualise him as a man of his own times the more satisfying that view will appear to be. He could be fearful for his own safety and yet at the same time anxious to act loyally by his nephew, ambitious and yet resigned to bide his time, starkly realist and yet sufficiently Yorkist to be absurdly credulous of gossip affecting legitimism. There was room for all these things in his mind, but for one thing there was no place. Sentiment was not a fifteenth century virtue, and neither Richard nor his contemporaries cared much about the fate of those whom business or politics threw in their way. The dualism of the century was in Richard’s personality. He was not lacking in some of the finer qualities. His career as Duke of Gloucester reveals a loyalty to Edward IV which compares favourably with the attitude of Warwick or Clarence; his private life, though not without reproach, was infinitely better than that of Edward; his grief for the death of his son Edward (died 9 April 1484) was very genuine; to the end, his reputation in the north country stood high. But contemporaries found it hard to forget the suspicion that“ he also put to death the children of Kyng Edward for which cause he lost the hertes of the people,” and rumours of his projected marriage to his niece made them wonder what he had done to his queen, so that Richard found it necessary to denounce publicly the story of an engagement. No amount of apology can remove all the suspicions, but many of them may perhaps be understood, if not condoned, when thought of in relation to the age in which he lived.

Who shall say what heady brew was in the cup of knowledge Renaissance Italy was handing around so freely? There are some, at any rate, who drank and were never again the same. What happened to John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, to change him from an earnest seeker after Italian culture into the savage butcher and beheader of men? Only the most pronounced pathological case plays with death for a whim, and Tiptoft’s unswerving loyalty to Edward IV until his execution at the “re-adeption” (18 October 1470) suggests there was some logic behind his remorseless treatment of those taken in rebellion, and that it must be explained by something other than mere lust for blood. He had travelled widely, and had been an honoured friend of scholars and statesmen in Italy. Had he learned something more seductive than humanistic reverence for the classics? Had he, perchance, caught the whisper of some newfangled ideas of politics, a new doctrine, for instance, that the State was right as well as might, that resistance to authority must be crushed no matter what the means employed, that the necessity of the State knew no law? His opinions are not easy to glean, but the speech he is supposed to have made when condemning Sir Ralph Grey suggests that in his eyes disloyalty to the king was a breach of feudal obligations and a challenge to authority besides which death was as nothing. Behind the cruelty we fancy there was purpose. Had Richard III heard the same voices? He had opportunities. After 1470 he was Edward's close adviser, and there had been some ugly incidents. Clarence had been no friend to him or to Edward. Forgiven for his past with Warwick, he had learned nothing. To the end he remained futile, restless, shifty, quarrelsome. He hated Gloucester because of his desire to marry Anne Neville, and Clarence wanted the Warwick estates for himself. He quarrelled with Edward because the king would not allow him to pursue a marriage with Mary of Burgundy. He defied the king by interfering in the treason trial of Stacy and Burdett. It could not go on. At last there was a bill of attainder, and on 18 February 1478 a mysterious death in the Tower. What part, if any, Gloucester played is not known; but he must have heard Louis XFs cynical advice to Edward to put Clarence out of his way. It is useless to speculate on Richard’s motives. What is clear enough is that his ruthlessness, cruelty, lack of the moral or sentimental ties that might stand between him and what he sought, are all traits for which we shall not look in vain in the politics of France or of Renaissance Italy. And assuredly they will be met again in the England of the Tudors.

What Richard would have done with power we can hardly judge. He had so little time in which to work out a policy. But there are signs of ability, a desire to do stern justice, a generosity towards the dependants of those who fought against him, some qualities of leadership which suggest he might have achieved something greater than his crimes. The whole problem of his career lies in its brevity. It is more than likely that in the eyes of his subjects much—if not all—would have been forgiven him had he reigned twenty years and given England peace. But in the Duke of Buckingham he had his Warwick, and even though this rebellion could be stamped out and Buckingham beheaded (October 1483), behind him was a more sinister and more fortunate conspirator. From Henry Tudor there was no escape.

When all has been said of the personalities of these kings, the real significance of the Yorkist period is still elusive. An account that dismisses the subject with some comment that inadequate kings failed to maintain their position because of their weakness does less than justice to the work of Edward IV and Richard IIL For these kings had some contribution to make to general development. If they were not Lancastrians, neither were they Tudors. They stand apart. Their reigns have a quality of their own.

The secret may be revealed if the period is viewed from another angle. To approach it through official records rather than narrative sources is to make discoveries. We shall find—but it is a fact over which one need not be greatly disturbed—that there are some inconvenient gaps in such sources. For this it is likely that antiquarians, rats, and carelessness are more responsible than the government departments, and historical arguments to the effect that the machine of government was not functioning are inconclusive if based wholly on the absence of records. Allowing for such gaps, there remain materials sufficient in quantity to provide a picture of the Yorkist government at work. Not much of the machinery has the attraction of novelty, and the constitutional historian has only a few opportunities to study fresh expedients of government. The main framework remained what it was before 1460, departments of chancery, exchequer, household, courts of common law, parliament, and council. The Middle Ages had devised a system competent to administer the country even in a period of political disorganisation. There was no call for a revolutionary policy, no need for reconstruction. Not even the Tudors, when they came, needed to make many alterations. They merely adapted existing institutions to new needs. And perhaps there will be found the heaviest indictment of the Yorkist kings. They realised, but only partially, the nature of some of their problems, and on the whole shewed little skill in adaptation. It was not that they shirked responsibility. “My Lord Chaunseller, thys must be don”. Such notes are sometimes found in Edward’s hand on warrants. They give a truer picture of Yorkist kingship than that suggested by generalisations about failure due to weak leadership. Far from being inefficient both Edward and Richard did much, but it is doubtful whether they knew what they wanted to do. Neither had the dogged purpose, limitless power of concentration, dominating motive, of a Henry VII. But the criticism must be tempered. Twenty-four years span the reign of Henry VII, years fully occupied with the preliminaries making it possible for five members of the Tudor dynasty to call the crown of England theirs over a period little short of one hundred and twenty years. In the same length of time three members of the house of York made more or less fleeting contacts with that same crown; then a house that was scarcely a dynasty was transformed from a political fact into a historical problem. Perhaps there is some excuse if a deep and consistent policy is not discernible in their actions.

Of one thing we can be certain. The challenge to the Yorkists sprang from the prevalent lawlessness. It is worth exploring, for it reveals the subtleties of their task. That the country recognised the seriousness of the problem the most superficial glance at the rolls of parliament will reveal. The Yorkists came to power because of their implicit promise to restore law and order. Edward IV, in his first parliament, was greeted by a petition revealing what men hoped. It was for peace and good government. When we meet parliament again in 1483 they are still hoping in almost identical phrases. So, too, private individuals. “God for Hys holy mersy geve grace that ther may be set a good rewyll and a sad in this contre in hast, for I herd nevyr sey of so mych robry and manslawter in thys contre as is now within a lytyll tyme.” Margaret Paston was not alone in her prayer. But peace and security did not come. The reason is not found on the surface. Lawlessness was directly connected with rapid changes in the whole structure of society, and the Yorkist failure to cope with it was due not to indifference but to the inability of the legal machine to adapt itself sufficiently quickly to new needs. Both Edward and Richard knew the urgency of the question, as may easily be proved. In the Easter term of 1462 Edward actually sat in King’s Bench—an unusual incident for the later Middle Ages—and in several years he can be followed in various parts of the country in company with his judges making a judicial progress in an attempt to stem the tide of disorder. Wholly admirable work, but it did not touch the roots of the problem.

Arrangements for the administration of law in the country felt the impact of changing conditions, and the main difficulty was for law to deal with men who held its forms in contempt, and were too familiar with its limitations. For the paradox of those years, when it was imperative to keep the country gentry in order, was that the responsibility for administering the law was put into their hands. The justices of the peace were the chief agents of local government. They were the most sufficient knights and esquires in the country. They were also, very often, the leaders of armed bands and retainers of the nobility.

The problem went deeper. To understand it there must be kept in mind the close relation between social and economic movements, and the development of the forms and doctrines of law. If society is to stand the strain of progress in the former, it must be equipped by constant development in the latter. And as we watch the working of the common law system at the end of the Middle Ages there comes a conviction that the relationship was not sufficiently close. Throughout those years clerks were writing their records, their plea rolls come regularly from King’s Bench and Common Pleas, the Year Books report cases. All is done so formally that we can hardly tell that the party conflict developed into war. Yet a study of these records leaves a doubt. Theoretically, all is well. In fact, a legal system, centuries old, was overburdened with archaic survivals and highly technical formalism, so that it offered to the unscrupulous countless opportunities ranging from essoins to bribery, from perjury to legal quibbles, from pardons, benefit of clergy, and sanctuary privileges to pedantic insistence on procedural forms, whereby the ends of justice might be defeated. It is not that lawyers were corrupt, but rather that a stereotyped, highly technical, and over-elaborate structure was unable, though its agents had the best will in the world, to respond to the fresh needs of the age. Indeed, the more scrupulously the common law judges did their work according to the procedure and principles they knew, the more clearly they revealed the deficiencies of the system, and confounded confusion.

Men were blindly feeling their way towards the truth. Proof is provided by developments outside the common law. This is not the place to write the history of conciliar jurisdiction, or the growth of equity in the chancery. But these things had their place. It is from 1474 that we date the first extant case in which a chancellor made a decree on his own authority without the council, and it is certainly after that date that the independent equitable jurisdiction of the chancery was fully exploited. That result was due to developments going back earlier than the Yorkist period, but the forces increased in impetus after 1460. The failure of the common law to meet new needs came out clearly as fifteenth-century commercial enterprise increased the complexity of business relationships. Trade implied contracts, ties between native merchants and aliens, disputed agreements needing legal decisions. The common law did not always provide remedies; when it did they could only be arrived at through involved technique and slow process. Some more elastic method of settling such questions was needed. It was found in the chancellor. The exercise of his discretion in settling disputes was not unquestioned by the common lawyers, and the Year Books contain opinions which shew they were in fighting mood. But the chancellors conscience was too useful a device to be checked by academic protests, and the growth of this new court is one of the most significant features of the late Middle Ages.

In a similar way earlier ideas combined to give the council sitting in the star chamber importance in criminal cases when the common law courts failed to do justice. Activity here was checked because of the council’s unreliability when such matters had to be decided; but the fact that such process was possible was important. The court of Star Chamber of the early Tudor period cannot be understood unless it is linked to ideas current in the Yorkist period.

In examining other elements in the system of government there is something to be said for another glance at the ideas of Fortescue. Those thoughts of his prophetic of Tudor policy have become a little hackneyed, and the maxims in his writings which seventeenth-century writers were to use have been often noted. But enough is not always made of the medieval cast of his thought. And that, rather than the novelties, is of greatest value, for it shews us that the political and constitutional thought of his day had not yet fully emerged from the Middle Ages.

For Fortescue, the fundamentals of English politics lay in the special quality of the kingship. Elsewhere there might be the rule of kings, but it was dominium regale, the rule of one who makes the law. In England it was dominium politicum et regale whereby the king rules with laws to which his subjects have assented. It is doubtful whether Fortescue meant more than a concept of a king under the law, and the emphasis he is making is not intended to exalt parliament. His king has two duties: to defend his people from external foes, and to do justice. In the most famous of his works Fortescue applied his ideas to the English system. The Lancastrians had failed because they were weak; was it possible to prevent a recurrence of the tragedy? It is unfortunate that the dating of this work should have to depend upon the interpretation of a passage in one manuscript, for we are left to guess whether it was written as a programme of reform for Henry VI in 1470, or for Edward IV after his return, though the presumption is in favour of the latter theory. In any case, the hope of connecting it with the Yorkist system of government is slender; but its ideas suggest a true line of approach.

He saw the root of the matter in the poverty of the Crown. A poor king will have to borrow; creditors will be usurers, and if unpaid, men with a grievance. Payments have to be made by the extravagant method of assignments on revenues, and the king’s needs may tempt him to adopt “exquisite” means of screwing money from his subjects. His heavy expenses demand a large income, and if it is not forthcoming, there is a danger that his subjects may desert him for a richer man. Subjects richer than he are a menace. So Fortescue concentrates on means for increasing royal revenue: by acts of resumption of Crown lands, by stem refusals to alienate any royal demesne. The overmighty subject must be curbed by preventing the accumulation of large estates under one man, by hindering marriage alliances between great families, by the seizure of lands for treason, by heavy fines for permission to alienate estates. Against these great subjects, too, is aimed his reform of the council. The great lords have been so busy looking after their own affairs, even in the council, that they have had no time to spare for the king’s business, and their relationships with retainers militated against the preservation of secrecy in matters of State. Fortescue’s council would consist of twelve clerics and twelve laymen, sworn of the council to serve during pleasure, but not to be dismissed save by a majority vote, and bound to none save the king. There would be an afforcement of four spiritual and temporal lords appointed yearly, and the office holders, the chancellor, treasurer, privy seal, and smaller men would also be members. Councillors would be paid, there would be a president—probably the chancellor—and the council would have a register. This scheme had something in common with the Yorkist council.

Despite generalisations that absence of council records for this period implies absence of conciliar activity, there are reasons for suggesting that the subject will bear closer investigation. In chancery warrants, signed bills, petitions, chancery rolls, teller’s rolls, year books, the archives of the Hanse towns, and other sources there is a quantity of scattered material. Brought together, it suggests an impression of a council working less sporadically than has been supposed, in matters of diplomacy, trade, administration, domestic policy, and judicial business. To some extent the personnel seems to fit Fortescue’s proposals. Under Edward and Richard the tendency seems to have been for a small group of ecclesiastics, clerks, and officials, with a sprinkling of nobles attached to the king by their official posts, to form the nucleus of the council at Westminster. Apparently, here as elsewhere, Henry VII worked out a policy not of revolutionary innovation, but of development to a logical conclusion of the ideas and institutions of his immediate predecessors. Another feature should be noticed. There is some evidence of a division of the council, with a group at Westminster and another with the king. Here, too, was an idea to be more fully utilised by the next dynasty. There is work still to be done, but when the Yorkist period is probed for signs of conciliar activity, some threads will be found that make connexion with the conciliar development so emphatically associated with Tudor rule. It will not be ignored, for instance, that a Council of the Marches of Wales—even though it was not made a permanent institution until the reign of Henry VII—certainly originated under Edward IV; that it was Richard III who, improving on Edward’s ideas, organised the Council of the North; and that if the title of the Court of Requests was only evolved after Henry VII and Henry VIII had dealt for some years with “poor men’s complaints,” there was in Richard III’s reign a special clerk of the council whose duty it was to deal with such cases. Faint origins, it is true; but their existence strengthens the impression that in constitutional matters the Yorkist period was not without experiments. The merit of the early Tudors lay in the skill with which they worked out the details.

What Fortescue thought of parliament is suggested by the care with which he kept his council free from its control. What the Yorkist kings made of it is best read in its history. In a reign of twenty-two years Edward IV called seven parliaments, but as the writs for one were recalled, only six actually met. At the “re-adeption” Henry VI issued writs for a parliament. It seems to have assembled, but there is no official record of its proceedings. Richard III summoned one parliament. Kings whose justification lay in legitimist doctrines could not, in the nature of things9 be expected to champion parliamentary authority; but they found the institution useful for passing acts of attainder against their enemies, and they could not afford to ignore it as long as they needed money. It is noteworthy that after 1475, when in receipt of his French pension, Edward called only two parliaments, one in 1478, almost exclusively busied with Clarence’s attainder, and another in 1483 when the Scottish war made finance a pressing question.

Yorkist parliamentary history has yet to be written, and there are formidable difficulties in the way, unless materials now missing are brought to light. But some work has been done which shews there are discoveries possible. They are worth mention if only to suggest the lines on which fresh investigation is likely to run, and what modification of older views such work is likely to produce.

Of first interest is the composition and personnel of parliament in those years. For the lords this is not difficult. A clear decline in numerica strength indicates the reaction of politics upon the nobility. In 1454—the last parliament before the outbreak of war—the number summoned was 53. In 1461 the total was 45. In 1485 only 29 came to Henry VII’s first parliament. The decrease was only temporary, but it suggests the effects of deaths, attainders, and non-attendance during the period of party strife. It is, however, the representation of the commons which attracts greatest attention, and presents most difficulty. For here, unfortunately, we have full returns for only three parliaments, so that generalisations must necessarily be tentative. Some striking facts, however, can be perceived. Shire representation remained constant at 72, but it is not easy to learn much about the members chosen. More can be said of the boroughs. The highest number making returns under Henry VI was 96 in the parliament of 1453; the lowest being 77 in that of 1425; while the average was 87. For Edward’s parliaments the figures were about 96 to the parliament of 1467, 97 to that of 1472, and 101 to that of 1478. Study of the personnel also suggests that something was happening to make parliament less insignificant than some writers have been prepared to admit. Borough representation changed its character. It was no longer the monopoly of merchant burgesses. Others competed with them. The younger sons of great families, professional men, civil servants, and lawyers, the smaller gentry retained by great nobles, were stepping into their places. Further, the nobility were manipulating elections. The Duke of Norfolk, for example, seems to have controlled elections at Lewes, Shoreham, Bramber, Reigate, Gatton, Horsham, and probably exerted authority in some Suffolk elections as well. Other cases shew that he was not exceptional. Now, the full meaning of this will only be clear when more is known of the part parliament was playing in political life. But it seems safe to conclude that parliamentary representation was seen to have advantages, it may have been because of the dynastic struggle, it may have been because of the opportunities it offered of a political career. In any case, the history of the Yorkist parliaments does not suggest that they fostered any sturdy opposition to royal policy. Perhaps when more is known of their activities we shall learn that already the Crown had found the way to control parliament in its own interests, and for its own purposes.

Such is, indeed, suggested by other known facts. Edward IV undoubtedly interested himself in elections, and—-it has been suggested—controlled the commons through their Speakers. Certainly in this period that official, accidentally or by design, can usually be shewn to have court connexions, and that must have had some weight. Possibly these facts help to explain a phenomenon recently emphasised which suggests a profitable field of study. Investigating the forms and procedure of parliament in the late Middle Ages, a recent study has drawn attention to some striking tendencies1. Most notable is the suggestion that under Edward IV and Richard III some changes occurred in the method of initiating legislation. After 1465, instead of the commons taking the lead, the government began to do so. It began with the framing of acts of resumption, but the process was extended until by the time of Richard III official activity in legislation was so marked as to deserve the epithet “epoch-making”. Now the full meaning of this will only be caught when it can be linked more closely to the personnel of these parliaments, for we must see the reactions of party divisions. But if this theory has any meaning it most assuredly is that earlier views on the nature and function of parliament in the Yorkist period need revision.

Coupled with this subject is another of equal importance. Whatever has been said in disparagement of parliament during this period, there has been no question of its participation in financial matters. But in relation to Edward IV the non-parliamentary financial activities of that king have usually excited more interest than his dealings with parliament. Even here, however, attention to detail suggests subtleties. Between Edward’s parliaments and his own financial policy there is an interesting connexion. The financial event of 1474-75, usually regarded as the peak of Edward’s arbitrary policy of raising money without parliamentary sanction, must be set in perspective with parliament in the background. There can be no question that between November 1474 and March 1475 there was exacted from wealthy subjects a new form of tax on income and property. Contemporary sources describe how Edward personally interviewed likely subjects to make them promise payments. The official accounts show that such “gifts” were described as “benevolencia”, and that the proceeds amounted to a considerable sum. But the proceedings, while novel, were not entirely without precedent. The parliament of 1472, to which Edward announced his intention of recovering the lands in Elance, made a grant of 13,000 archers for a year. The money produced by a tax on lands, tenements, rents, and annuities was insufficient; so a fresh expedient was devised, which fell most heavily on those not seriously touched by this taxation. This new tax was not collected, but it probably inspired Edward’s benevolence. This was to be a tax to yield about two-thirds of a fifteenth and tenth, and was to be paid by those who would otherwise escape taxation. The incidence of the benevolence was largely on t1 south-eastern counties—London alone contributed 28% of the whole and these parts were precisely those where trade and industry flourished. It would appear then that Edward’s benevolence may fairly be regarded as one of a series of attempts to reform an antiquated system of taxation, and that it was designed to include those who were growing rich in trade and industry, but who escaped equitable taxation under the old forms of assessment. In 1484 Richard’s parliament, in a statute whose preamble grossly exaggerated the effects of this taxation, abolished benevolences. But a year later, when Richard’s generosity to those who had helped him had practically depleted the resources left by Edward IV, he was compelled to use a very similar expedient. True, he kept strictly to the letter of his law, by calling such contributions loans and giving pledges of repayment; but in effect there was little difference. The failure to keep the spirit of his own legislation may have reacted on his popularity.

Yet another problem connected with parliament cannot, in the present state of our knowledge, be solved. It has to do with the content of legislation. In this period the commons concerned themselves largely with matters economic, and statutes deal with a variety of subjects, prohibitions from using foreign shipping, regulation of the staple for wool, orders for the bringing of bullion to England, acts to encourage the home manufacture of cloth, regulations for the silk industry, limitations on the import of wheat, sumptuary legislation, and similar measures. Unwin’s destructive criticism of attempts to read into Edward Ill’s legislation an economic policy makes it hazardous to insinuate that these Yorkist measures were framed in the interests of an economic nationalism. But the consistency of parliamentary activity, and stray examples which have come down to us indicative of English opinions suggest that a case might well be made out for the existence of such ideas.

In one sphere the Yorkist kings certainly expressed self-sufficient, independent, not to say nationalist ideas, and that was in their relations with the Church. In 1461 the chances were against this. For if the papal legate Coppini had been as great as he thought he was, there would have been considerable ecclesiastical activity in English politics. The Lancastrians ruined his reputation at Rome, and Edward soon shewed he had no intention of allowing ecclesiastical interference with his plans. His relations with the Papacy were friendly but independent. Pius II in 1464 asked for assistance against the Turks, and when the English clergy might have granted a tenth, Edward refused, authorising a subsidy of sixpence in the pound provided the money were sent through his hands. Much of it seems to have remained there. With Paul II his relations were not happy, since that pontiff dabbled in Warwick’s schemes, but in 1482 Pope Sixtus IV sent Edward the sword and cap of maintenance. Richard Ill’s views coincided with his brother’s, and although Innocent VIII was not pleased with news of sequestration of ecclesiastical property and violation of church privileges, on the whole there is not much to be said of the king’s relations with Rome.

With the Church in England the Yorkists cultivated close relations, and the support given to the party in 1461 by the leaders of the Church was maintained fairly consistently. Main interest in ecclesiastical history— as in so many other matters—is to be found in the curious mixture of new and old ideas, problems, and institutions from the clash of which, in the fulness of time, was to spring that grave issue of State versus Church that dominates the Tudor period. Of the old problems, the most important are the existence of the Church as a privileged institution whose immunities challenged the secular power; and the signs that ecclesiastical institutions were failing to maintain the standards of an earlier age. The first of these questions means primarily the continued existence of benefit of clergy and the institution of sanctuary. The second is largely concerned with the state of the monasteries. Of the new, the most significant is the existence of opinion hostile to the doctrinal teaching of the Church, and attacks upon its members for their failure to meet the needs of the age. Of all these cross currents there are indications, but Yorkist policy lacked direction and there is little to shew that the real nature of the problems was grasped. In the matter of ecclesiastical immunity, for example, Edward IV, by a charter of 2 November 1462, granted complete exemption from all lay jurisdiction in cases of felony, rape, treason, and trespass committed by clergy. How far such a grant was realised is difficult to discover. The Church, under Edward and Richard, certainly complained that it was not. On the other hand, legal records and Henry VII’s act against benefit of clergy suggest that the privilege was grossly abused, and was one of the contributory causes of the criticisms levelled against the Church. And the abuse of sanctuary was such as to make that institution one of the first to be attacked when the Tudors began their onslaught on ecclesiastical immunities.

The state of the Church is a more difficult question. That there were grave abuses is certain, and some of the visitations, evidence from legal records, and other sources suggest that some of the clergy were no better than they should have been and often not as good. But the lack of sufficient evidence makes it hard to tell how far degeneration had set in. The attacks on Church teaching emphasise again the Yorkist period as one of continuity. Edward IV was a zealous opponent of new doctrines and his reign supplies several examples of punishment, the cases of James Wyllys (1462), William Balowe (1467), and John Goose (1474) being the best known. They shew that teachings derived from Wyclif and Pecock were doing their work; but we are dealing with a thin stream. Interest lies not in the strength of the movement but in the fact that it exists. Slowly, as we move on towards the sixteenth century, heretical opinion gathers force; the Yorkist contribution was important because it maintained continuity.

Here this survey of Yorkist England may well end. It is wisdom not to be dogmatic about a quarter of a century in which there was so much life, but not so much self-assurance or conviction. Men hardly knew whither they were going, and to try to suggest the opposite is to lose the really essential quality of the period. If it had been otherwise, if there had been some deep, invigorating purpose to give direction to their energies, those Yorkist monarchs would have left a more abiding influence for good or ill upon the national development. As it was, they failed. They lacked something. It was not courage, nor opportunity, nor ability. The difference between them and their Tudor successors—and it was a vital difference—was that the latter knew what they wanted to do, and did it. Because of this the new dynasty ruled over a new England.