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HOUSES OF YORK AND LANCASTER
ARGARET OF ANJOU was a heroine; not a heroine of romance and fiction, but of stern and terrible
reality. Her life was a series of military exploits, attended with dangers,
privations, sufferings, and wonderful vicissitudes of fortune, scarcely to be
paralleled in the whole history of mankind.
She was born and lived in a period during which there prevailed in the western
part of Europe two great and dreadful quarrels, which lasted for more than a
hundred years, and which kept France and England, and all the countries
contiguous to them, in a state of continual commotion during all that time.
The first of these quarrels grew out of a dispute which arose among the various
branches of the royal family of England in respect to the
 succession to the crown. The two principal branches of the family were the
descendants respectively of the Dukes of York and Lancaster, and the wars which
they waged against each other are called in history the wars of the houses of
York and Lancaster. These wars continued for several successive generations, and
Margaret of Anjou was the queen of one of the most prominent representatives of
the Lancaster line. Thus she became most intimately involved in the quarrel.
The second great contention which prevailed during this period consisted of the
wars waged between France and England for the possession of the territory which
now forms the northern portion of France. A large portion of that territory,
during the reigns that immediately preceded the time of Margaret of Anjou, had
belonged to England. But the kings of France were continually attempting to
regain possession of it—the English, of course, all the time making desperate
resistance. Thus, for a hundred years, including the time while Margaret lived,
England was involved in a double set of wars—the one internal, being waged by
one branch of the royal family against the other for the possession of the
throne, and the other external, being waged against France and other
 Continental powers for the possession of the towns and castles, and the country
dependent upon them, which lay along the southern shore of the English Channel.
In order that the story of Margaret of Anjou may be properly understood, it will
be necessary first to give some explanations in respect to the nature of these
two quarrels, and to the progress which had been made in them up to the time
when Margaret came upon the stage. We shall begin with the internal or civil
wars which were waged between the families of York and Lancaster. Some account
of the origin and nature of this difficulty is given in our history of Richard
III., but it is necessary to allude to it again here, and to state some
additional particulars in respect to it, on account of the very important part
which Margaret of Anjou performed in the quarrel.
The difficulty originated among the children and descendants of King Edward III.
He reigned in the early part of the fourteenth century. He occupied the throne a
long time, and his reign was considered very prosperous and glorious. The
prosperity and glory of it consisted, in a great measure, in the success of the
wars which he waged in France, and in the towns, and castles, and districts of
 which he conquered there, and annexed to the English domain.
In these wars old King Edward was assisted very much by the princes his sons,
who were very warlike young men, and who were engaged from time to time in many
victorious campaigns on the Continent. They began this career when they were
very young, and they continued it through all the years of their manhood and
middle life, for their father lived to an advanced age.
The most remarkable of these warlike princes were Edward and John. Edward was
the oldest son, and John the third in order of age of those who arrived at
maturity. The name of the second was Lionel. Edward, the oldest son, was of
course the Prince of Wales; but, to distinguish him from other Princes of Wales
that preceded and followed him, he is known commonly in history by the name of
the Black Prince. He received this name originally on account of something about
his armor which was black, and which marked his appearance among the other
knights on the field of battle.
The Black Prince did not live to succeed his father and inherit the throne, for
he lost his health in his campaigns on the Continent, and came home to England,
and died a few years
 before his father died. His son, whose name was Richard, was his heir, and when
at length old King Edward died, this young Richard succeeded to the crown, under
the title of King Richard II. In the history of Richard II., in
this series, a full account of the life of his father, the Black Prince, is
given, and of the various remarkable adventures that he met with in his
Prince John, the third of the sons of old King Edward, is commonly known in
history as John of Gaunt. This word Gaunt was the nearest approach that the
English people could make in those days to the pronunciation of the word Ghent,
the name of the town where John was born. For King Edward, in the early part of
his life, was accustomed to take all his family with him in his Continental
campaigns, and so his several children were born in different places, one in one
city and another in another, and many of them received names from the places
where they happened to be born.
On the following page we have a genealogical table of the family of Edward III.
At the head of it we have the names of Edward III. and Philippa his wife. In a
line below are the names of those four of his sons whose descendants figure in
English history. It was
 among the descendants of these sons that the celebrated wars between the houses
of York and Lancaster, called the wars of the roses, arose.
These wars were called the wars of the roses from the circumstance that the
white and the red rose happened in some way to be chosen as the badges of the
two parties—the white rose being that of the house of York, and the red that of
the house of Lancaster.
SELECTING THE ROSES.
The reader will observe that the dukes of Lancaster and York are the third and
fourth of the brothers enumerated in the table, where, as it might have been
supposed that any contest which should have arisen in respect to the crown would
have taken place between families of the first and second. But the first and
second sons and their descendants were soon set aside, as it were, from the
competition, in the following manner.
The line of the first brother soon became extinct. Edward himself, the Prince of
Wales, died during his father's lifetime, leaving his son Richard as his heir.
Then, when the old king died, Richard succeeded him. As he was the oldest living
son of the oldest son, his claim could not be disputed, and so his uncles
acquiesced in it. They wished very much, it
 is true, to govern the realm, but they contented themselves with ruling in
Richard's name until he became of age, and then Richard took the government into
his own hands. The country was tolerably well satisfied under his dominion for
some years, but at length Richard became dissipated and vicious, and he
domineered over the people of England in so haughty a manner, and oppressed them
so severely by the taxes and other exactions which he laid upon them, that a
very general discontent prevailed at last against him and against his
government. This discontent would have given either of his uncles a great
advantage in any design which they might have formed to take away the crown from
him. As it was, it greatly increased their power and influence in the land, and
diminished, in a corresponding degree, that of the king. The uncles appear to
have been contented with this share of power and influence, which seemed
naturally to fall into their hands, and did not attempt any open rebellion.
Richard had a cousin, however, a young man of just about his own age, who was
driven at last, by a peculiar train of circumstances, to rise against him. This
cousin was the son of his uncle John. His name was Henry
Boling-  broke. He appears in the genealogical table as Henry IV., that having been his
title subsequently as King of England.
This cousin Henry became involved in a quarrel with a certain nobleman named
Norfolk. Indeed, the nobles of those days were continually getting engaged in
feuds and quarrels, which they fought out with the greatest recklessness,
sometimes by regular battles between armies of retainers, and sometimes by
single combat, in which the parties to the dispute were supposed to appeal to
Almighty God, who they believed, or professed to believe, would give the victory
to the just side in the quarrel. These single combats were arranged with great
ceremony and parade, and were performed in a very public and solemn manner;
being, in fact, a recognized and established part of the system of public law as
administered in those days. In the next chapter, when speaking more particularly
of the manners and customs of the times, I shall give an account in full of one
of these duels. I have only to say here that Richard, on hearing of the quarrel
between his cousin Henry and Norfolk, decreed that they should settle it by
single combat, and preparations were accordingly made for the trial, and the
parties appeared, armed and equipped
 for the fight, in the presence of an immense concourse of people assembled to
witness the spectacle. The king himself was to preside on the occasion.
But just before the signal was to be given for the combat to begin, the king
interrupted the proceedings, and declared that he would decide the question
himself. He pronounced both the combatants guilty, and issued a decree of
banishment against both. Henry submitted, and both prepared to leave the
country. These transactions, of course, attracted great attention throughout
England, and they operated to bring Henry forward in a very conspicuous manner
before the people of the realm. He was in the direct line of succession to the
crown, and he was, moreover, a prince of great wealth, and of immense personal
influence, and so, just in proportion as Richard himself was disliked, Henry
would naturally become an object of popular sympathy and regard. When he set out
on his journey toward the southern coast, in order to leave the country in
pursuance of his sentence, the people flocked along the waysides, and assembled
in the towns where he passed, as if he were a conqueror returning from his
victories instead of a condemned criminal going into banishment.
 Soon after this, the Duke of Lancaster, Henry's father, died, and then Richard,
instead of allowing his cousin to succeed to the immense estates which his
father left, confiscated all the property, under the pretext that Henry had
forfeited it, and so converted it to his own use. This last outrage aroused
Henry to such a pitch of indignation that he resolved to invade England, depose
Richard, and claim the crown for himself.
This plan was carried into effect. Henry raised an armament, crossed the
Channel, and landed in England. The people took sides. A great majority sided
with Henry. A full account of this insurrection and invasion is given in our
history of Richard II. All that it is necessary to say here is that the
revolution was effected. Richard was deposed, and Henry obtained possession of
the kingdom. It was thus that the house of Lancaster first became established on
But you will very naturally wonder where the representatives of the second
brother in Edward the Third's family were all this time, and why, when Richard
was deposed, who was the son of the first brother, they did not appear, and
advance their claims in competition with Henry. The reason was because there was
 male heir of that branch living in that line. You will see by referring again to
the table that the only child of Lionel, the second brother, was Philippa, a
girl. She had a son, it is true, Roger Mortimer, as appears by the table; but he
was yet very young, and could do nothing to assert the claims of his line.
Besides, Henry pretended that, together with his claims to the throne through
his father, he had others more ancient and better founded still through his
mother, who, as he attempted to prove, was descended from an English king who
reigned before Edward III. The people of England, as they wished to have Henry
for king, were very easily satisfied with his arguments, and so it was settled
that he should reign. The line of this second brother, however, did not give up
their claims, but reserved them, intending to rise and assert them on the very
first favorable opportunity.
Henry reigned about thirteen years, and then was succeeded by his son, Henry V.,
as appears by the table. There was no attempt to disturb the Lancastrian line in
their possession of the throne during these two reigns. The attention, both of
the kings and of the people, during all this period, was almost wholly engrossed
in the wars which they were waging
 in France. These wars were very successful. The English conquered province after
province and castle after castle, until at length almost the whole country was
brought under their sway.
This state of things continued until the death of Henry V., which took place in
1422. He left for his heir a little son, named also Henry, then only about nine
months old. This infant was at once invested with the royal authority as King of
England and France, under the title of Henry VI., as seen by the table. It was
this Henry who, when he arrived at maturity, became the husband of Margaret of
Anjou, the subject of this volume. It was during his reign, too, that the first
effective attempt was made to dispute the right of the house of Lancaster to the
throne, and it was in the terrible contests which this attempt brought on that
Margaret displayed the extraordinary military heroism for which she became so
renowned. I shall relate the early history of this king, and explain the nature
of the combination which was formed during his reign against the Lancastrian
line, in a subsequent chapter, after first giving a brief account of such of the
manners and customs of those times as are necessary to a proper understanding of