“War­wick used his power to raise and re­move kings in a me­dieval game of thrones”

BBC History Magazine - - Anniversaries -

The Earl of War­wick (1428–71) was a de­ci­sive player in the late 15th-cen­tury con­flict known as the Wars of the Roses (1455– 87). Fu­elled by un­par­al­leled per­sonal wealth and the in­flu­ence it gen­er­ated at home and abroad, War­wick used his power to raise and re­move kings in a me­dieval game of thrones that had far-reach­ing ef­fects on the so­cial and eco­nomic sta­bil­ity of Eng­land.

An adept politi­cian, War­wick knew how to ma­nip­u­late pop­u­lar dis­con­tent to his ad­van­tage and that of the kings he served. But when he found him­self marginalised and at odds with Ed­ward IV, his volte-face in cham­pi­oning Henry VI’s hope­less cause set him and his Lan­cas­trian con­spir­a­tors on a col­li­sion course with dis­as­ter. War­wick’s am­bi­tious plan to make his daugh­ter queen by virtue of a hasty mar­riage to Henry’s son, Prince Ed­ward, forced him into bat­tle with a su­pe­rior op­po­nent and few al­lies.

The dev­as­ta­tion wreaked on War­wick at Bar­net al­lowed Ed­ward IV to se­cure an­other vic­tory 20 days later at the bat­tle of Tewkes­bury (4 May 1471), where Prince Ed­ward was killed and Henry VI’s con­sort, Mar­garet of An­jou, was cap­tured. War­wick’s bloody demise on the bat­tle­field also sealed the fate of Henry VI, who was mur­dered in the Tower of Lon­don shortly af­ter Tewkes­bury to en­sure that no fur­ther up­ris­ings could be held in his name.

Sarah Pev­er­ley is pro­fes­sor of me­dieval lit­er­a­ture at the Uni­ver­sity of Liver­pool and a BBC Ra­dio 3 New Gen­er­a­tion Thinker. To find out more about her work, visit sarah­pev­er­ley.com

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