Thursday, 7 August 2008

The Royal Council of 1451

At the Royal Council Sessions of 1451 that commenced the next day, the Duke of York was not slow to air his grievances against King Henry VI.

York: The time for change has come. The country will not tolerate incompetence any longer. All the glorious gains of your majesty's father in France are being lost. We need a new policy to reclaim the lost territories, and new commanders to execute it.

Henry: On the contrary, it is a blessing to be relieved of this burden. We have land of our own a-plenty here in England. Let us leave the French to enjoy theirs. We have no need of it.

York: Your majesty, for over a hundred years our countrymen have shed their blood in defence of the lawful claim of the King of England to the throne of France. Has their sacrifice been in vain? We must fight on, out of faithfulness to their memory.

Henry: A hundred years of slaughter is more than enough. It is better to end it now than to suffer another century of bloodshed.

York: What sort of King does not fulfil his primary obligation, to defend his lawful domain?

Henry: Our Lord and Saviour is King of Kings, yet He is not ashamed to be called Prince of Peace.

York: This is the fifteenth century. We have a modern economy that depends upon resources from overseas territories and the pursuit of warfare. Already the merchants are complaining that they are losing money. We must invest in our armed men and their equipment, and in the fleet. That is the only way to restore our prosperity. Is it not our duty to relieve poverty?

Henry: Of course we should care for the poor, yet there are other trades which may serve equally well to the purpose. For that we shall require better education, and it is in education that I am minded to invest. My new colleges at Eton and Cambridge are a great success, and I urge similar ventures upon the nobles gathered here. Let men have the consolations of reading and knowledge.

York: This is madness. If knowledge is diffused more widely it will only be used to overturn the established state. Let us channel the virile instincts of the people into patriotic warfare, otherwise they will be channelled into rebellion against us. Real men have no time for book learning.

Henry: Not so. There is a great hunger for learning in our land. My grandfather introduced a law requiring that heretics be burnt at the stake, yet their number has only multiplied. How much better it would be if mother Church, rather than a Lollard preacher, was satisfying their desire for instruction. Let us invest in the Church. Consider the great chapel I have planned at Cambridge. It may take a hundred years to build, but how much better an employment of the time and talent of man than the hundred years' war of which we have spoken. Besides it will bring glory to God, and who knows but that it may cause Him to shine the light of His countenance upon us.

York: You are supposed to be our King, not our Archbishop. Away with these castles in the air. The reality is that law and order are collapsing around us. The nobles need funds to reinforce their armies so that they can deal with threats to lawful authority.

Henry: The only disorder that I have observed arises from these private armies clashing with each other. If the nobles were to disband them they would be relieved of the expense and the nation would be relieved of much violence.

York: This is insane. Surely you have not forgotten the late insurrection of Jack Cade?

Henry: Indeed I have not. I remember quite distinctly that he used the name Mortimer, which coincidentally is one of your family names, and that he quartered at the White Hart, which coincidentally is one of your emblems, so I have my doubts about whether it was a spontaneous popular uprising.

York: The conspiracy theory of a lunatic if ever I heard one.

The Council continued in a similar vein for some days, but after its conclusion there was a more harmonious discussion. As the chamber emptied, a message was brought to the King. Baron Rivers, Baron Ferrers and his son John Grey craved a private interview with their majesties, which was readily granted.

Henry: What is your petition?

Ferrers: Your majesties, my son requests the hand in marriage of Elizabeth, daughter of Baron Rivers. The Baron has graciously consented, and we seek your approval since Elizabeth is a Maid of Honour to the Queen.

Henry: An excellent proposal. Do you not agree, my lady?

Margaret: Only if I can find a suitable replacement.

John: Your majesties, may I humbly suggest the Lady Matilda Rose?

Henry: Splendid idea.

Margaret: Then I consent. Felicitations.

Next Chapter

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