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    The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.


    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
Rend the Thorns

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Rend the Thorns
a Chronicle of England



512px-White_Rose_Badge_of_York.svg.png

And I, — like one lost in a thorny wood,
That rends the thorns and is rent with the thorns,
Seeking a way and straying from the way;
Not knowing how to find the open air,
But toiling desperately to find it out, —
Torment myself to catch the English crown:
And from that torment I will free myself,
Or hew my way out with a bloody axe.

- Gloucester
Henry VI Part 3

 
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1. Richard III Part One; Bosworth

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unnamed.jpg

King Richard charges Tudor's standard at Bosworth Field, 22 August 1485


Regardless of the lurid embellishment of later Yorkist chroniclers, most historians agree that Richard III did indeed kill Henry Tudor at Bosworth Field. In a brazen charge, the King had punched through the right of the Lancastrian lines, striking for the pretender himself. Tudor was seen retiring from the body of his army to parley with the Stanleys, whose troops remained apart from the battle, uncommitted to either side. Perhaps sensing treachery in the making and wishing to deliver a coup de main, Richard reached Henry and his small retinue near the marshes beneath Ambion Hill. Pressing into the enemy, the King’s vanguard itself became isolated as pikemen rushed to the pretender’s rescue.

The knights of Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, exploited Richard’s breakthrough and counter-charged, turning the tide of the battle[1]. Tudor, having dismounted behind his bodyguards to avoid detection, was spotted as he attempted to flee the field over boggy ground. Richard caught him, landing a hammer blow to the skull, as his closest retainers were cut down around him. John de Vere, Earl of Oxford and commander of the Lancastrian centre was killed by a lance as the Yorkist cavalry wheeled round his flank. Only now did the Stanleys move in support of Richard, the battle all but over. Word of Henry Tudor’s death caused the buckling rebel lines to collapse. Thousands fell, crushed between the Yorkist men-at-arms and Stanley’s halberdiers. As fighting petered out, Richard III, his armour dented and stained in blood, addressed his victorious army from Ambion Hill.

Sitting astride his third horse of the day, he clutched the torn Tudor banner and threw it to the ground, declaring God’s judgement had befallen the traitors and his holy right to the English crown proven in single combat. He promised a renewal of peace; that the damage of decades of civil war would be washed away “as ‘twere so much blood”, alluding to his own gory appearance. The bloodletting had not abated however. Dusk approached and Richard’s knights and nobles gathered in his personal tent to receive gifts for service on the field.

Baron Thomas Stanley, along with his brother Sir William, and younger sons Edward and James, had come to collect his eldest, Lord Strange, who the King had taken hostage to ensure the family fought for him at Bosworth. Thomas had refused to confirm his support, retorting before the battle, “I have more sons”. Richard’s spies had informed him of Stanley’s entreaties with the Tudors for weeks and his late, reluctant charge did his family no good. All were seized and executed save James, a young priest soon exiled. Baron Stanley’s severed head would be publicly displayed on London Bridge, alongside those of Henry and Oxford, as a warning to all traitors.



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Traitor's View

Few of any standing remained. The English nobility had been decimated by the Wars of the Roses. Once great families like the Woodvilles, Beauforts and Nevilles lay ruined by decades of violence and intrigue. The Staffords, de Veres and Stanleys had betrayed the King and been destroyed. And with Henry Tudor and his uncle Jasper killed in battle, the House of Lancaster’s dwindling flame was finally snuffed. Many prominent clergy, including the bishops of Ely and Worcester, had also rallied to the red rose and were now forced to flee abroad. Some lesser nobles and gentry joined them but most accepted clemency in return for a renewed oath of loyalty and the payment of fines. A few refused to yield like the Welsh commander Rhys ap Thomas, who returned to Carmarthenshire to lead a guerilla campaign against the Marcher Lords.

Those who had remained loyal to Richard reaped the spoils of war. Richard Ratcliffe, a prominent landowner and long-time confidante was made Earl of Devon. Francis Lovell, his Lord Chamberlain and personal advisor, became Earl of Derby, taking many of the historic lands and titles of the Stanley family. Scandalously the Barony of Strange was reserved for Sir John Harrington, the King’s bodyguard, who it was rumoured had slit his predecessor’s throat himself. Thomas Howard, now Duke of Norfolk after his father fell in battle, received a handsome pension and new lands for his part in holding the Yorkist lines that day. Howard was a devoted servant and skilled solider, valuable traits to a King in testing times. He was appointed to the Privy Council as Lord High Constable, commander of the royal armies.

The King’s most questionable ally, and one of the more powerful, was the Earl of Northumberland, Henry Percy. He had arguably saved Richard’s reckless charge at Bosworth Field and was keen to be rewarded. Lands and royal sinecures were presented, and his earldom raised to a duchy. Percy however desired leadership of the Council of the North and with it primacy over the region. The position was held by John de la Pole, the Earl of Lincoln and Richard’s nephew, who fiercely protested any such handover. The King too was unsure; in de la Pole's hands it was an extension of his will, while Percy could well turn the Council into an independent power base. The usually decisive Richard would let the matter linger, distracted by more pressing affairs.



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Joanna "the Blessed" of Portugal
Important most of all was the royal succession. Richard had lost his young son Edward of Middleham in 1484 and his wife Anne Neville shortly thereafter. Despite his intense grief, to the point Lovell had feared for his sanity, the duties of kingship remained. Richard soon began correspondence with John II of Portugal for the hand of his older sister, Joanna. The princess was known for her intelligence but more so her piety, having attempted to join a nunnery on several occasions, only to be rebuked by her father Afonso V. Efforts to wed her to various suitors, including the young Charles VIII of France had been scuppered by Joanna’s claims of holy chastity. Her decision to finally marry, and to Richard III, is much debated.

Legends claim she received a vision of his victory at Bosworth Field and took it as a sign from God. The two certainly shared a strong religious conviction, though records show she had accepted his offer before the battle[2]. As the princess sailed for England in the spring of 1486, another, Elizabeth of York, sailed for Portugal. Elizabeth was Richard’s niece and had been Henry Tudor’s intended bride to unify their two houses, a fact well known. Scurrilous rumours flew about that Richard himself planned to marry Elizabeth. To remove her from the dynastic politics of England and distance himself from charges of incest, her hand was given to Manuel, Duke of Beja. Richard and Joanna were married in Westminster Abbey on 3 April, Saint Richard’s Day. A month later, marking the centenary of the Treaty of Windsor, the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance was officially renewed.

The pact gave England an ally and the King international legitimacy at a time when they were most needed. The “Blessed Joanna” herself proved a good match for Richard. She was devout, educated and shrewd, well versed in courtly politics. The new couple bonded over discussions of faith and Richard came to appreciate her counsel in more worldly affairs. She was comfortable with official duties, having been regent during her father’s African campaigns and took an active role in the Royal Household. The London poor soon came to know her charity and Richard encouraged it, keen to present the image of a true Christian king. It was a harmonious union, with Lovell writing of them as one soul rejoined. Premarital concerns regarding Joanna’s chastity (and Richard’s fertility) were silenced in the new year when it was confirmed the she was with child. On 10 November 1487 the Queen gave birth to a healthy boy named Richard. Across the country church bells rang and cannons fired in jubilation. The King addressed his court in rare boisterous spirits, a sense of relief and new beginnings in the air as he declared “winter is made summer by this son of York!".



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Richard III (1483-1504)



*
[1] There's debate whether Percy failed to support Richard's charge because of betrayal, incompetence, or simply bad terrain. Here his knights are in position and he has decided he can get more from the King than Tudor. Given his grisly fate IOTL, he's probably right.
[2] Joanna did agree to marry Richard before Bosworth.
 
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Wonderful start. :) Who needs screenshots with such art and great writing?
 
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Cora Giantkiller

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This is fun so far. Can't wait to see what happens.
 
2. Richard III Part Two; Cardinals & Kings

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Cardinal Langton.jpg

Thomas Langton; Archbishop, Cardinal and Lord Chancellor

The royal wedding and coronation of Queen Joanna were conducted by Thomas Langton, the newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. Much of the Church leadership had already turned on Richard III by the time of Tudor’s invasion. Prominent figures like Cardinal John Morton had fled to Rome, telling tales of Richard’s sinful depravity. Many who remained were feckless yes men like the Archbishop of York Thomas Rotherham, who Richard had dismissed as Lord Chancellor for incompetence only to reappoint him shortly after for lack of alternatives. Thomas Bourchier, the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, had been only a grudging servant of the King, his concern for the ‘Princes in the Tower’ well documented.

Bourchier’s death in January 1486 gave Richard an opportunity to appoint a loyal man to the great See. Langton was provost of Queen’s College, Oxford and former royal chaplain to Edward IV but had only held a bishopric for three years at the time of his appointment. He had however been a prominent diplomat under the Yorkist kings, travelling widely through Western Europe to royal courts and papal conclaves. His reputation in Rome gained approval from Innocent VIII, despite the howling of Morton.



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Langton oversaw the major Iberian treaties of 1486 and 1488

The Archbishop was confirmed a Cardinal and by early 1487 had replaced the ineffectual Rotherham as Lord Chancellor. The position made Langton the right-hand of the King, with great power in religious and legal matters. The Chancery also dealt with foreign affairs, one of the reasons for Langton’s appointment. He had orchestrated the Portuguese treaties while still Bishop of Salisbury and complimented them in the new year with a Spanish pact, sealed by the union of John de la Pole and Elvira de Cordoba, cousin of Queen Isabella. Castile-Aragon and England had allied not for dynastic advantage but to counter the rising power of France, their mutual rival.

In the decades since her victory in the Hundred Years’ War, France had been reinvigorated under the rule of the arch-schemer Louis XI, known throughout Europe as “the Spider”. He had righted the nation’s finances, brought his kingdom’s rebellious lords to heel and divided the spoils of Burgundy with Austria. The latter had been achieved thanks in part to the buying-off of Charles the Bold’s ally Edward IV at the Treaty of Picquigny in 1475, an agreement that angered English hawks like his brother Richard, who refused to attend the signing.



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Louis XI and Edward IV meeting on the bridge at Picquigny, August 1475

Richard’s perceived desire for war had led Princess Anne, regent of France since her father’s death in 1483, to harbour and supply Lancastrian exiles like Henry Tudor. Now that the King stood victorious, relations were understandably strained. Anne’s strategy had been controversial in the royal court, with the teenage Charles VIII dissenting openly. Fast approaching his majority and eager to rule, Charles saw the Habsburgs as France’s greatest threat and the Tudor adventure as an embarrassment.

Richard certainly aspired to take the throne of France. He had once claimed he would “lead a crusade against the world”! In the lean years following Bosworth however, the King was forced to focus inwards. Cardinal Langton in turn sought détente, with his lieutenant, the gifted diplomat William Warham, overseeing the effort. Charles officially took power in 1489 and proved receptive, handing over Richard and Edward Neville, two of the last rebel leaders in exile, as a ‘gift’ to the English king.

In return Warham offered a far greater gift; Brittany. The Bretons, once close allies of England, had been more supportive of the Lancastrians than even the French and he promised no English ire were the duchy to be invaded. Annexation had long been a goal of Paris and by the 1480s Brittany was in the cross-hairs of the Habsburgs, who sought conquest through their traditional strategy; marriage. Warham was not (solely) acting to spite the Bretons and woo Charles. The King of Scotland too hoped to take Brittany and had signed a treaty with the intent to wed the Duchess Anna to his son. Richard and his diplomats saw an opportunity to split the Auld Alliance. They were helped by James III himself, whose ever-changing grand plans were matched only by his incompetence. His dreams of creating an empire to rival the Plantagenets did little to impress Charles VIII.



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Ireland c.1490

Such pretensions had recently led James to invade Ireland, conquering the earldom of Ulster in 1488 amid dubious claims of lineage. Not since Edward Bruce in 1315 had the Scots challenged England’s position on the island. This position had gradually weakened in the previous century, with Richard as Lord of Ireland only holding direct control over the Pale, centred around Dublin. The rest of the island was ruled by Gaelic kings and Old English earls, descendants of 12th century Norman settlers. Most prominent was Gerald Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare and Richard’s Lord Deputy in Ireland. Fitzgerald had proven a loyal Yorkist, scuppering several pro-Tudor schemes and maintaining the crown’s dominance, however tenuous, over the patchwork of states during the Wars of the Roses.

Scotland now provided an alternative patron for the Irish. Fitzgerald found himself in a diplomatic cold war for their allegiance, with the kings of Leinster, Sligo and others soon being courted by the Scots. Before James could take further action in Ireland, the French invaded Brittany in March 1490. Buoyed by his victory in Ulster, he answered his allies’ call and declared war on Charles VIII. It proved a costly endeavour for Scotland. An expeditionary force to support the Bretons was intercepted in the English Channel and destroyed. By November Nantes had surrendered. Brittany had fallen but James would not relent, leading hostilities to drag on for another year. This second phase saw several bloody naval engagements in the North Sea and French raids along the Scottish coast, including the brief occupation of the Western Isles. Scotland’s navy and merchant fleets were ravaged, crippling trade. Fears of a French landing on the Firth of Forth, combined with the growing opposition of Scottish lords, finally led James to accept peace in late 1491. He conceded to paying a large indemnity and renouncing all claims on the Duchy of Brittany.

English plans for an opportunistic invasion of Scotland had been halted by domestic religious unrest but forces in Ireland were able to take advantage of the war. Fitzgerald invaded the earldom of Ormond, controlled by James Ó Gallchobhair, a prominent Scottish collaborator, in July 1491. The Lord Deputy’s forces were supported by several thousand Englishmen, led by the Duke of Norfolk. Ormond’s small army was quickly pushed aside but the capital at Clonmel proved resilient, enduring over six months of siege before its final surrender. Diplomatically, the English were able to secure the loyalty of Tyrconnell in the far north. Her king, Aodh Ruadh was more concerned with Scotland as an aggressor than as a protector from the distant English. Einri II of Tyrone, formerly a supporter of James III, allied himself with King Richard in the aftermath of the Scottish defeat.



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The calamitous war with France greatly undermined James III of Scotland,
at home and abroad

In April 1493 Richard crossed the Irish Sea and met Fitzgerald in Dublin at the head of 8,000 men. His targets were the kingdoms of Leinster and Offaly, both actively opposed to English influence and courting Scottish protection. Scotland was still recovering from the war with France, with James III struggling to hold onto power, meaning little chance of aid. The forces of Tyrone and Kildare united under Fitzgerald’s command, attacking Offaly, while Richard marched south into Leinster.

He met the army of Murchad IV on the open fields near Bunclody on 21 May. The Irish held the English infantry for a time before numerical advantage and heavy cavalry took their toll, scattering the defenders. The battle was most notable for the large scale deployment of cannons by Richard, a major increase from the limited numbers used at Bosworth. Records from the Office of Ordnance showed the King’s growing interest in gunpowder weaponry, with orders for the creation of well-supplied artillery “traynes” to support his armies.

The guns were used again in the siege of Wexford, whose inhabitants resisted fiercely, repelling several assaults even as the city’s walls crumbled under bombardment. A fierce winter effected both armies, with thousands dying. It would not be until January 1494 that the English successfully breached Wexford’s defences, overpowering the malnourished garrison and ending the war. Leinster would become part of the English Pale, while the lands of Offaly were granted to their conqueror, the Earl of Kildare.



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The Battle of Bunclody, 21 May 1493


*

This chapter focuses on foreign events, with domestic affairs being more prominent next time

Wonderful start. :) Who needs screenshots with such art and great writing?

Thank you very much

This is fun so far. Can't wait to see what happens.

Glad you're enjoying
 
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The Auld Alliance does not seem to have lasted for long.
 
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This is excellent. Look forward to seeing where you take the Yorkist monarchy as we get further from Bosworth.
 
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generalis Julius Caesar

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As am I. This should be most interesting.
 
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Legends claim she received a vision of his victory at Bosworth Field and took it as a sign from God. The two certainly shared a strong religious conviction, though records show she had accepted his offer before the battle[2]. As the princess sailed for England in the spring of 1486, another, Elizabeth of York, sailed for Portugal. Elizabeth was Richard’s niece and had been Henry Tudor’s intended bride to unify their two houses, a fact well known. Scurrilous rumours flew about that Richard himself planned to marry Elizabeth. To remove her from the dynastic politics of England and distance himself from charges of incest, her hand was given to Manuel, Duke of Beja. Richard and Joanna were married in Westminster Abbey on 3 April, Saint Richard’s

No forceful, strong and overpowering tudors. Interesting, especially into the renaissance and reformation.

a Spanish pact, sealed by the union of John de la Pole and Elvira de Cordoba, cousin of Queen Isabella. Castile-Aragon and England had allied not for dynastic advantage but to counter the rising power of France, their mutual rival.
divided the spoils of Burgundy with Austria. The latter had been achieved thanks in part to the buying-off of Charles the Bold’s ally Edward IV at the Treat
Brittany. The Bretons, once close allies of England, had been more supportive of the Lancastrians than even the French and he promised no English ire were the duchy to be invaded.

Ooo...France I suspect in a pretty amazing position. The Burgundian empire gone, Brittany theirs, and England not their enemy.

split the Auld Alliance. They were helped by James III himself, whose ever-changing grand plans were matched only by his incompetence. His dreams of creating an empire to rival the Plantagenets did little to impress Charles VIII.
Buoyed by his victory in Ulster, he answered his allies’ call and declared war on Charles VIII. It proved a costly endeavour for Scotland.

Pretty good for England too, I guess. Now they can kick around Scotland to their hearts content. And Ireland too. Oh well.
 
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Seeing TBC's post reminded me that I should probably let you know, @Great Mantis, that I've nominated this AAR for the highly prized Weekly AAR Showcase. Head over to the award thread in the AARland general discussion to take a look at the good wishes!

All you have to do as our awardee for the week is pick a new winner on Sunday to keep the award moving. Other than that, enjoy your time in the spotlight – and congratulations!
 
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This is good writing. It'll be interesting to see what the Yorks do with England in this alternate universe. France seems to be going strong too. I hope they and others give you some good opposition.
 
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The Auld Alliance does not seem to have lasted for long.

Well its been going since 1295, not too shabby. I'll dwell on James III a little in a coming post but he's a singular personality so I wouldn't count out a Franco-Scottish reconcilliation somewhere down the line.

This is excellent. Look forward to seeing where you take the Yorkist monarchy as we get further from Bosworth.

I'm glad you're enjoying. There's a few particulars that will diverge from the Tudor regime certainly but I have to admit this era is not my strong point - part of the reason I thought it would be interesting to play with and read more on for the AAR. Ultimately I am beholden to the winds of EU4.

As am I. This should be most interesting.

Thank you. Here's hoping!

No forceful, strong and overpowering tudors. Interesting, especially into the renaissance and reformation.

Ooo...France I suspect in a pretty amazing position. The Burgundian empire gone, Brittany theirs, and England not their enemy.

Pretty good for England too, I guess. Now they can kick around Scotland to their hearts content. And Ireland too. Oh well.

True but that doesn't mean there won't be forceful, strong and overpowering kings of York! I'm very excited to write up on the renaissance and reformation, the personal motivations and tastes of the Tudors obviously had a massive impact, so having a whole new (well... different) dynasty to deal with these crises has been interesting.

France is certainly strong. Had I done the 1444 start, I would have probably attempted to ally Burgundy and Brittany to 'contain' her. At the 1485 start however, England is too weak compartively to do much more than lose Calais and hold the Channel, even with Breton support. France has little to gain from war either. Better for now to talk peace and let Charles VIII turn his attentions to the Habsburgs and Italy...

Scotland and Ireland will be looked at a little more in the chapter after next.

Seeing TBC's post reminded me that I should probably let you know, @Great Mantis, that I've nominated this AAR for the highly prized Weekly AAR Showcase. Head over to the award thread in the AARland general discussion to take a look at the good wishes!

All you have to do as our awardee for the week is pick a new winner on Sunday to keep the award moving. Other than that, enjoy your time in the spotlight – and congratulations!

Wow thank you so much! I'll be sure to weigh up the many great AARs going on right now before picking a new showcase.

This is good writing. It'll be interesting to see what the Yorks do with England in this alternate universe. France seems to be going strong too. I hope they and others give you some good opposition.

Thank you. There will be parallels and differences, I hope they entertain. Europe will have a bevy a serious major powers to vex the House of York, France certainly amongst them.



-------

Thanks guys, glad you're enjoying the show! Due to work and other distractions I'm only halfway through the next chapter, I hope to get it up by the weekend, hopefully sooner. And thanks again to @DensleyBlair for deeming this budding little AAR fit with the weekly showcase. Hope I can live up to the hype.
 

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True but that doesn't mean there won't be forceful, strong and overpowering kings of York!

Well it's certainly interesting, because that's the older and more European-connected side of the Plantagents. England still has a monarchy with strong ties and claims to various other crowns. This may come up later.

I suspect the big issue immediately is to try and get around the strange amounts of health issues the plantagents had started developing on both sides of the family. That, and struggling to rule England as a still very medieval kingdom rather than with the huge amount of reforms and centralising Henry VII did. The power in this England is still more split between the crown, the church, parliament and various noble families with large private armies. By the end of Henry VIII's reign, England was down to just the Crown and Parliament.
 
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That, and struggling to rule England as a still very medieval kingdom rather than with the huge amount of reforms and centralising Henry VII did. The power in this England is still more split between the crown, the church, parliament and various noble families with large private armies. By the end of Henry VIII's reign, England was down to just the Crown and Parliament.

This will be interesting to see develop. The noble estates coming out of the Wars of the Roses in a perceptively better position is going to have an impact here, one would imagine. No blank-slate aristocracy for the Yorkists to virtually rebuild themselves, presumably fewer novi homines to start running government… Northumberland in particular I’m going to be interested to watch. Those Percies could be a real problem.

Less pressing, but maybe interesting to bear in mind – particularly as the reformation rolls around – is the fact that Cambridge and Oxford are going to look very different. So many of the famous colleges are Tudor in one way or another.
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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This will be interesting to see develop. The noble estates coming out of the Wars of the Roses in a perceptively better position is going to have an impact here, one would imagine. No blank-slate aristocracy for the Yorkists to virtually rebuild themselves, presumably fewer novi homines to start running government… Northumberland in particular I’m going to be interested to watch. Those Percies could be a real problem.

Less pressing, but maybe interesting to bear in mind – particularly as the reformation rolls around – is the fact that Cambridge and Oxford are going to look very different. So many of the famous colleges are Tudor in one way or another.

Thats true, but the potential lack of reformation and (presumably) therefore no civil war should change the universities far more.

The lack of huge noble titles to fill is potentially a good thing in the long run. Means no super powerful nobles holding several duchies cos they're mates with the king. Parliament is going to be less concentrated in the south. The north is still ruled mostly by semi-independant dukes and marches (presumably including Lancaster but not sure...). And Wales may not be invaded so readily, as it was the tudors who really wanted to make sure no one else could invade via that backdoor again. And it was they, come to think, who reignited the desire to take over brittania as a whole rather than France...so maybe it happens slower here?
 
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Thats true, but the potential lack of reformation and (presumably) therefore no civil war should change the universities far more.

Yeah. Beyond bricks and mortar, the whole character of the universities will be different. Without a reformation there's a strong chance the university doesn't even make teaching mathematics compulsory for the BA, so then it's not just that Newton goes to Queens' instead of Trinity, but that he becomes a cardinal instead of a natural philosopher…

Will be good fun when we get there.

The lack of huge noble titles to fill is potentially a good thing in the long run. Means no super powerful nobles holding several duchies cos they're mates with the king. Parliament is going to be less concentrated in the south. The north is still ruled mostly by semi-independant dukes and marches (presumably including Lancaster but not sure...). And Wales may not be invaded so readily, as it was the tudors who really wanted to make sure no one else could invade via that backdoor again. And it was they, come to think, who reignited the desire to take over brittania as a whole rather than France...so maybe it happens slower here?

I actually think the potential for England to remain involved more on the continent is the strongest pull, for me, that this has as an alt-timeline. England as a decentralised kingdom still battling it out for the French crown well into the 16th century, potentially even beyond would be wild to see. And no straightforward whiggish progression from reformation to parliament to empire is tantalising.
 
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3. Richard III Part Three; Hood's Revolt

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Richard's Star Chamber.png

King Richard attends the Star Chamber, 1486

Richard III is often remembered by history as a man of blood and intrigue and not without cause. Yet it is as an administrator and reformer that he arguably left his greatest mark. He certainly considered himself a warrior-king but the needs of the realm and later waning health led him to spend little time on the march, much to his annoyance. That is not to say Richard was disinterested in the business of governing. His demand for decisiveness on the field extended to the political realm and he channelled his martial drive into domestic affairs. The King would spend days answering petitions, scrutinising legislation and attending even the most perfunctory government meetings, often to the despair of his sleep-deprived advisors.


obsess.png


One of the King’s first acts following his ascension was to have the laws of the land made more accessible, translating them from Latin and French into English. This was combined with the ending of restrictions on printing presses, allowing not only Common Law but a growing range of books and pamphlets to be produced and read by the English public. In 1484 he established the Court of Requests, granting affordable legal access to the poor, much to the annoyance of local judges who were soon inundated with cases. At the opposite end of the social hierarchy, the Star Chamber, a tribunal overseen by the Privy Council and intended to try cases involving the highest in the land, was formally established in 1485. Evolving from the legal elements of the Norman curia regis, the Chamber had existed in some form since the 1390s and wielded tremendous power, able to pass any sentence bar death and convict persons for “misdeeds” that broke no law. It became known for trying cases that, due to the wealth or rank of the defendant, could be compromised in lower courts. The Star Chamber was championed as a great legal equaliser but the scope for abuse of such power was plain. The official establishment of the court came only months after Bosworth Field and saw a flurry of convictions against Lancastrian sympathisers and others deemed disloyal. Few suffered imprisonment, instead being subjected to stringent fines and the confiscation of land and property by the Crown.


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Guilds likes the Merchant Staplers thrived during Richard's reign

Tellingly, many of these cases were overseen not by the Chancery but the Treasury. A key figure and one of the rising “new men” of Richard’s regime was Idwal Gough. Born of rural gentry stock in Gwynedd, Gough had come to the King’s attention for his skilful handling of property seizures in the Welsh Marches. He was brought to London were he soon became a prominent royal advisor and voice in the Treasury. His nationality and modest background saw him struggle to cement himself in the upper echelons of power; despite being knighted in 1486 and raised to the Barony of Harlech in 1488, his critics disparaged him as a “Welch sheep-hook”. His economic nous and the King’s favour ultimately saw him attain the position of Lord Treasurer and a seat on the Privy Council in 1489, by that point a formality. Alongside the seizure of wealth in the Star Chamber, Gough reformed the English tax system, little altered since the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Royal investment in a growing state bureaucracy gave the Treasury greater ability to assess and collect taxes across the country. The new Board of Tax and Duties established regional offices and worked closely with the Church in tithe collection. Gough reaffirmed Calais as England’s sole staple port for the sale of valuable commodities like wool, cloth, tin and salt onto the continent. During the Wars of the Roses trade had shifted towards the Flemish ports of Bruges and Antwerp, denying the Crown valuable export duties.

The move was supported by trade companies like the Merchant Staplers, England’s oldest and largest such organisation with offices across Northern Europe. Richard III made an effort to court the wealthy mercers and burghers of London and elsewhere. City rights and guild privileges were defended and charters granted for new markets and mills. The country’s share of trade revenue in the Channel, North Sea and Baltic all increased markedly into the following decades, with English textiles coming to dominate the market across much of Europe. Appreciation for the King’s efforts was highlighted with the death of Calais wool magnate Albert Proctor in 1493, who bequeathed his substantial fortune to the Crown. Richard sought not only to raise money but secure the support of an influential section of society. While the King had loyal servants in the commanding heights of the nobility and clergy, many beneath remained indifferent or opposed to his rule, even if they lacked the means to challenge it. This as much as anything drove Richard’s efforts to promote lower class talents and strengthen the bureaucracy. Aided by William Catesby, Speaker of the House of Commons and member of the his inner circle, the King also courted MPs, many of them prominent merchants in their own right, to approve increased funding for the civil service and building projects.



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Like the burghers, Richard won the support of Parliament to help secure his rule

The trading boom of the 1490s was made possible by a growing merchant fleet. Many ships were constructed in new dockyards created by order of the King and approved by an amiable Parliament. The yards, particularly the revolutionary dry dock opened at Deptford on the Thames in 1496, saw a major expansion of the navy. England already maintained one of Europe’s largest fleets but it was challenged by those of local rivals like France, Scotland and Denmark, the latter increasingly agitated by English mercantile expansion. During the reign of Richard III a dozen fast barques were laid down and the number of heavy carracks doubled. Ships like the 35-gun 500 ton Richard Gallant built in 1490 and 50-gun 600 ton Sovereign completed in 1497 had few equals in Northern Europe to match their size and firepower.

The army saw investment, with the King’s interest in gunpowder leading to hundreds of new, lighter limbered cannons and mortars being cast. Firearms also became more prevalent. Primitive hand-cannons had been in use since the time of Edward III but the matchlock arquebus provided a comparatively mobile and reliable weapon, with greater accuracy and reloading times. The Yeomen of the Crown had wielded matchlocks since 1476 and increasingly it was common soldiers being trained as arquebusiers. Nonetheless, longbowmen remained the backbone of English armies for some time. Richard increased recruitment from the newly acquired Crown lands, seemingly in an effort to reduce his reliance on noble retinues and strengthen his hand were civil war to return. Adam Howard, brother of the Duke of Norfolk and a respected commander in his own right, oversaw the raising of these part-time royal militias, or trained bands, instilling uniform standards of drill across the country. Though far from the professional standing formations that would develop in following centuries, Howard improved the overall quality and resilience of the King’s common soldiers.



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Seventeen new warships were constructed during Richard's reign, including the navy flagship Sovereign

Such reforms were not merely for economic or political reasons of course. By the summer of 1491, Richard was preparing for an invasion of Scotland. The war with France had not only distracted but gravely wounded the Scots and Richard intended to end James III’s interference in Ireland and hobble his kingdom. Then on 17 June, while mustering troops outside York, the King received word of an uprising in Lancashire; they had already taken Preston and were moving into neighbouring towns and villages, finding growing support. The rebels were not led by a new pretender but a lay preacher, John Hood. He belonged to the Lollard sect, religious heretics who had been persecuted for nearly a century. Founded in the 1380s by John Wycliffe, translator of the Vulgate Bible into English, the Lollards opposed the temporal power of the Church and decried its rituals and icons as blasphemous. After a period of relative toleration under the protection of prominent nobles, the Church forced Henry IV to act, with Parliament passing De heretico comburendo in 1401, making heresy punishable by burning at the stake. Translation of the Bible into English itself became a heretical offence and over the next thirty years hundreds burned, with many more imprisoned or forced into exile. What little remained of the movement had gone to ground, surviving as a secret network of believers.

The exact nature of the Lollard revival is still debated. The King’s repeal of printing restrictions in 1483 had led to an increasing number of texts criticising Catholic dogma. One published anonymously in Oxford in 1486 denied the Virgin Mary’s divinity and likened transubstantiation to cannibalism. The following year a Norfolk lawyer narrowly avoided the pyre after being arrested for authorship of a polemic against indulgences. While new editions of the (still illegal) Wycliffe Bible remained rare, copies of the 1395 Twelve Conclusions of the Lollards, a tract attacking the Church’s worldly and spiritual failings, soon spread. The Conclusions had a critical, political tone that still resonated ninety years later, notably in Lancashire, far from the traditional heartlands of Lollardy.

The county had seethed in the years after Henry Tudor’s defeat, with many of its ancient privileges revoked and lands divided between the hated King and his favourites. With the Lancaster cause dead but anti-York sentiment remaining, some found solace in the populist message of John Hood. The son of a Derbyshire blacksmith, Hood was raised in a Lollard family and eventually took to secretly proselytising his creed. He travelled north sometime in the late 1480s, circulating the Conclusions as he went. Playing on the political grievances of the region, his increasingly popular sermons evolved into attacks on the King and his “familiar” Cardinal Langton, who was held up as a symbol of the corruption of the Church. Hood’s growing support did not go unnoticed by local authorities and it would be a botched arrest that would ultimately trigger the Lollard Rebellion of 1491.



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Wycliffe's English Bible was the font of the Lollard heresy

On 14 June in the village of Fulwood, Howard de Lacey, a Justice of the Peace and a loyal appointee of the Crown, attempted to seize the preacher on the grounds of treason and heresy. De Lacey underestimated Hood’s support and instead triggered a riot, ending in the death of the Justice and two soldiers. Having murdered the King’s men and believing himself a wanted man, Hood gathered his supporters and marched on nearby Preston. The rebels, mostly poorly armed peasants and little more than a mob, were able to enter through the city gates unmolested. Waving red rose banners and proclaiming “Death to the King”, they found a receptive audience and word of the uprising spread. Hood marched east to Blackburn, where the townsfolk turned on the garrison and welcomed the rebels. Hundreds and soon thousands joined Hood, many veterans of the Wars of the Roses. Reports from across the county told of attacks on royal officials and clergy, and several instances of chuch burnings. Having begun the revolt seemingly out of necessity, the preacher was unclear as to his objective, dithering for several days before heading south to Bolton, proclaiming his army a crusade that would march on London and overthrow the House of York and the Catholic Church.

Perhaps expecting a similar reception to those they had received in Preston and Blackburn, the Lollards instead found Bolton fortified and secure under the command of Baron William la Zouche, a loyal Yorkist linked to the royal dynasty by marriage. Lacking proper siege equipment and peppered by arrows from the town ramparts, a Lollard assault was handily defeated. However Hood’s army now numbered ten thousand and several attempts by la Zouche to sally out were repulsed. The siege was broken on 11 July with the arrival Richard III and his Scottish army. Outnumbered for the first time, Hood attempted to retreat to the safety of Blackburn. The King and la Zouche quickly followed, catching the Lollards near Eccleshill. The rebels formed a defensive perimeter and proved surprisingly resilient, the zealous peasants supplemented by experienced soldiers and light cavalry.

However the result was little in doubt, as the King’s troops ground Hood’s crusaders down. Their lines finally buckled and the rebels fled, most back to their villages, the cause lost. Hood returned to Blackburn but the townsfolk by now had lost their enthusiasm for heresy and hearing of Richard’s approach, arrested the preacher themselves. Preston stayed true but lacking an organised defence was stormed by la Zouche and promptly sacked. Stories of priests being killed by Hood’s mobs led to anti-Lollard riots in Chester, with suspected heretics beaten in the street and printing presses smashed. The King rolled back some of his earlier reforms, cracking down on blasphemous texts. Hood and sixty others, deemed “prominent conspirators” were tried in Bolton that August. Almost half recanted their Lollard faith, receiving ‘lenience’ in the form of imprisonment or hanging. The rest, including their leader, were burned alive. Similar trials were carried out in other parts of the country, with dozens more sent to the stake in the coming months.



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Battle of Eccleshill, 12 July 1491; John Hood's execution



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TheButterflyComposer

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Hmm. Pretty good start. Except for the uprising, and even then fortuitous that it occurred before the invasion of Scotland. With the new expanded army bloodied, it should be more than capable of smashing the Scots and getting some dominance over them.
 
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Cora Giantkiller

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It will be interesting to see how Richard's successors navigate the Reformation--presumably without Henry VIII the evolution of English Christianity will be very different.
 
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