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Rose's wars in the County of Norfolk

str. 1 of 8 E.D. Brown

WARS of ROSES IN the County of NORFOLK

In spite of the fact that in the last decades it was written many works devoted to history XV of England century the phenomenon of Wars of Roz still remains a historiographic problem. Among scientists there is no consent rather chronological border of these events (dates are called: 1455 - 1485[1], 1450 - 1502 [2], 1452 - 1497 [3] and others), concerning whether it is necessary to consider Roz's Wars manifestation of global crisis of the English society [4] or it was no more, than the period of "an unstable situation with inheritance of a throne" [5] At last, there is no consent and concerning whether fight of armed groups influenced life of British [6], or they lived "in the peaceful and prospering by the standards of that time country". [7]

The above-stated points of view are based on the macrohistorical analysis of an era of Wars of Roz. Perhaps, change of a foreshortening of a research will allow to shed light on controversial issues of history of this period. In this article the author does attempt to consider Roz's Wars from a position of community of a dzhentra of Norfolk. A research objective is reconstruction, certainly, of a subjective picture of Wars of Roz. But, as it is represented, reaching the new level of the analysis of so multidimensional phenomenon as Roz's Wars, is possible only through comparison of the separate subjective points of view of contemporaries on this conflict.

It is expedient to consider such perspective on material of sources of personal character: for example, letters. At the disposal of researchers there is a family archive Pastonov numbering more than 1,000 letters of 132 people. These letters belong to a feather of family members Paston, their neighbors and relatives, those who used their protection, and that whose protection they looked for. In other words, they give an idea of community of a dzhentra of Norfolk - one of the local communities designated in an English-speaking historiography by the term "country society". [8]

It is necessary to notice that the main historiographic divergences exist, mainly, between positions of the Russian and foreign researchers. The position of the English and American historians developed from understanding of Wars of Roz as civil war [9] to the concept of the disorders which are poorly connected among themselves with inheritance of a throne in the second half of the 15th century [10] In the Russian historical science the notion of Roz's Wars as on manifestation of deep crisis which reasons became defeat in war with France, crisis of traditional manorial economy, the conflicts in the nobility, etc. [11] is considered common

It is known that the situation at court gradually became aggravated on an extent of reign of Henry VI (1422 - 1461). As D. Trevelyan notes, "public disorders in England were caused mainly by fight of land owners with each other for the earth 15th century". [12] This fight was in many respects provoked by lack of an accurate system of registration of land possession and also complexity of the mechanism of their inheritance. [13] Meanwhile, more or less considerable groups of armed men were at the disposal of each noble family. [14]

We will try to find out how these factors influenced life of community of a dzhentra of Norfolk. If in the 20th of the 15th century the appeal to the court [15] was the main solution of the land conflicts in the county, and at the beginning of the 40th a claim for disputable manor was made already in the presence of the armed suites [16], then in the late forties, having learned that one of neighbors applies for their lands (lord Moleyn), Margaret Paston asked the husband to get crossbows, pole-axes and to employ as much as possible soldier [17], that is to prepare for a siege.

Certainly, use of force in a dispute for land property radically contradicted laws of the English kingdom. However materials of an epistolary complex Pastonov demonstrate that in the huge majority of cases such actions were not punished at all. What did the reason of such impunity root in? As D.Zh. Lander notes, all nobility of England was united in rather solid groups which purpose was a joint upholding of the common land interests. [18] Royal officials, including the head of local administration - the sheriff, were not an exception of this rule at all. In any case, in correspondence Pastonov is not mentioned one head of local administration who would not belong to any of the mentioned noble groups. Sheriffs of Norfolk, in opinion Pastonov and their correspondents,

at analysis of the conflicts not least were guided by the principle of intra group solidarity. [19]

For the person, the acting as the sheriff in Norfolk in 40 - the 50th, the following violations of the law were registered: numerous ignoring of the royal warrant of arrest of one of his colleagues [20], systematic manipulation of the list of jurors with the purpose to achieve the desirable result of trial [21] and systematic taking of bribes. It was possible to buy also release from under arrest [22], both the necessary structure of jury of jurors [23], and loyalty of local administration in relation to violent capture of someone else's property. [24]

All this allows to state full corruption of a system of local administration of Norfolk. Most likely, such state of affairs in Norfolk proceeded already long enough. In any case, managed to get used to it, and in correspondence Pastonov it is just stated without any emotions.

But even if the matter managed to be brought to court, the result of trial not always depended on that, are how reasonable and claims of the parties were lawful. The possibility of the sheriff mentioned above to manipulate results of hearing through selection of jurors was based that judges belonged to any of local parties and voted according to the interests of own clan.

Testimony was a weak spot of the judicial system of HU of century also. From correspondence Pastonov it is possible to draw a conclusion that the lie under the oath was rather a rule, than an exception. In particular, at long-term analysis of case of the lands bequeathed Pastonam of their wealthy relative - lord Fastolf - one of witnesses five times changed the indications and opened the truth only on the deathbed, wishing to facilitate the soul. [25]

To start trial against someone from judges was a fruitless task. So, one of the first documents in correspondence Pastonov represents the report of the person of the bishop of Norwich in which it is spoken about the fact that there is no opportunity successfully to put forward the legal claim against Pastonov as recently died William Paston was a magistrate, and his son John also sits at court. [26] Most likely, even the highest judicial authorities were not an exception in this regard as the duke Norfolk did not doubt at all the decision of any court, favorable for himself when the claim which is under its personal protection was submitted to it. [27]

All this allows to understand why dzhentr of Norfolk so easily resorted to violence in a dispute for land property and why they so feared judicial responsibility for the actions a little. For example, in 1450 one of manor Pastonov was busy by lord Moleyn and his armed men who threw out from there legal owners. [28] It is worth to remember also that judicial proceedings could last indefinitely, and the actual owner of property during all process gained from it income. Not accidentally, having taken a manor, noblemen of Norfolk of the second half of HU of century first of all began collecting a rent. For example, as Margaret Paston reports, lord Moleyn in several days after capture of a manor of Greham in 1450 was busy with the fact that hastily collected a rent from all holders; property of rebellious it was seized, and in case of persistence their lease agreement was threatened to terminate. [29]

An indicator of that how unstable became by the beginning of the 50th a situation in the county, that circumstance that right after capture by lord Moleyn of a manor of Greham, Margaret Paston asked the husband to keep more weapon in the house can serve and to leave only accompanied by several reliable armed men. [30] It means that in Norfolk the beginnings of the 50th one of possible ways murder of other applicant began to receive disputed lands.

It is necessary to notice that in 1450 in correspondence Pastonov is mentioned only a possibility of such murder, that is threats of opponents, arms of servants, strengthening of houses, etc. All preparations for conducting military operations were actually made, but they began only in 1452. In the letters relating to 1452 - 1454, John Paston repeatedly mentioned that in the neighborhood of his possession constantly there are armed groups under leadership any of neighbors.

[31] Were registered for one of such groups: murder on a threshold of church of two servants of the bishop of the city of Norwich, attack on John Paston (also for the purpose of murder), taking of the hostage in order that

relatives of the last refused judicial proceedings, assaults, stealing of the cattle, violent capture of a manor and several houses. [32] It is not surprising what at the nobility of Norfolk entered usage even in church to go accompanied by the armed servants. [33]

Attention also the following circumstance deserves. Noble groups in Norfolk passed to active actions at that moment most of which of the British historians consider the beginning of Wars of Roz - in February, 1452 [34] Then for satisfaction of the imperious claims the duke Yorke brought together army, on number almost equal royal. And though battle did not happen, the fact of opposition of two armies was sufficient to give a free hand to local groups of the nobility.

In the letters relating to the period of 1452 - 1454 someone from a dzhentra is not mentioned murder. It is told only about death of servants and about attacks on misters, any of which, however, was not crowned with success. The last circumstance could not be accidental. It is thought, in consciousness of inhabitants of the county the murder of the nobleman at that time was still perceived as crime which punishment will inevitably follow. The death of the servant in the letters relating to 1452 - 1454 was designated by the word "lawlessness" (dislow). [35] One use of such term already rather eloquently says that at this time murder of servants in Norfolk became quite a commonplace.

The first, mentioned in correspondence Pastonov, the real fact of murder of one of a dzhentra treats 1455. In June for the first time reported to John Paston about the attack on the lock of the lord of Bonvil which ended with his murder [36], and on May 22 there was the first battle between troops of the king and supporters of the duke Yorke - the battle of Saint Albans. In this case the same coincidence takes place: events of national scale lead to aggravation of a situation on places. Battle of armies of the king and duke Yorke became some kind of push thanks to which in skirmishes at the local level began to kill not only servants, but also misters.

That murder any of noblemen was the real shock for community of a dzhentra, that circumstance that the chaotic letter of John Crane to John Paston which is reporting about it an event begins with the long list of the killed in this battle demonstrates at least.

Apparently, the community of a dzhentra of Norfolk apprehended this fight as fight for court positions up in arms. In any case, the letter devoted to this event accurately is divided into two parts: transfer of the killed and transfer of positions which were held by winners. [38] Such way of race for power very badly kept within in consciousness of a dzhentra; despite its brevity, in the mentioned letter the thought repeats three times: "And what power we will have now, I do not know". [39]

The fact of so large battle in itself not overseas, and in the territory of England, and not with enemies of the kingdom, and the king with one of his vassals, made the strong injuring impact on consciousness of contemporaries. Over the country the most improbable rumors began to go. So, John Bocking in May, 1456 wrote John Paston: "As for news, said that lord Bomond was taken prisoner (To the king's supporters. - E.B.) and my lord Warwick is wounded, and 1,000 more people in captivity, and six more knights and squires are wounded; thank God, all this lie". [40]

It is thought that in the late fifties more desired news, than about reconciliation of the conflicting parties were not for British. So, in 1458 the same John Bocking wrote lord Fastolf that the king and lords gathered on council: "Everything with the God's help moves to happy end". [41] Opposition of vlastyimushchy caused only one desire: to stop it quicker. It could be one of the reasons for which Pastony ignored the royal order ordering them armed, with suite and provisions for two months to be in Leyster on May 10, 1459 [42]

Reaction of a dzhentra of Norfolk to Richard Yorke's claims to a royal crown is curious. In general, they supported intention of the duke Yorke and his supporters though extent of this approval was not identical. And if Margaret Paston confines to a careful general phrase: "In our country there is a lot of talk about desire of my lord Yorke (To receive crown of England. - E. B) People yours faithfully speak of my lord Warwick" [43], in the letter of the brother Breckley the accents are placed considerably more definitely. In it Breckley calls Lord's blessing on lords of Warwick and

Salisbury also accuses current governors in bad condition of affairs in the county. [44]

By the end of the 50th the situation in Norfolk finally got out of hand. The situation was complicated by the fact that the sheriff actively supported one of the armed gangs terrorizing all to the district. In correspondence Pastonov such statements into his account are frequent: "It is possible to count one hundred reasons for which it would be necessary to write about it to the king... People say that even if it did nothing by the hands, he all the same told and made enough to die". [45] Let's notice that in this case it is actually about discussion of murder of the head of local administration. And such attempt, really, was undertaken in January, 1461. And though life to the sheriff was saved only by intervention of group of city guards of Norwich under leadership of the mayor [46], eaten did not incur any punishment.


It is thought, the fact that armies of yorkist and lankasterets these years repeatedly met on fields of battles was the cause of the increasing disorders in the county. Impact of these events on mentality of contemporaries was especially depressing that as professor Armstrong notes, the resisting parties distributed absolutely opposite information on the same event through the supporters. [47] The fact that in Norfolk ceased to trust any messages from London if only they were not committed to paper and under seal the person deserving trust was result of such promotion. So, John Paston-starshy in 1461 wrote: "If you bring any messages from Lords, then take care of that they were written; the news brought by Darkort were not believed as he did not bring any letter which could confirm them".

[48] In February, 1461 Margaret Paston directly wrote: "The king and lords should understand how badly they operate not only because of murders and robberies, but because of that mutiny which they suited in our duchy". [49]

It is not surprising that Eduard GU'S accession was apprehended in Norfolk with great relief: it meant though some definiteness. William and Thomas Pastony so described this event: "Our sovereign won fight, and on Monday when news of it was received in Yorke, festivals and solemn processions were organized there". [50]

Coming to power of Eduard GU did not weaken at the beginning, and even increased tension in the county as to the destabilizing factors also arrests of adherents of the house Lankasterov increased. As a result of the "impartiality" of royal officials of action mentioned above, forced to punish adherents of the previous king, often turned into squaring of accounts. In such circumstances of a dzhentra of Norfolk looked for rescue at family and friends, but not at royal justice. [51]

The situation in counties improved slowly also because at the new king the administration functioned not better, than at old. For example, the sheriff Howard appointed to this position at once after Eduard GU'S accession at the end of 1461 ordered to the subordinates to throw out from the office building of Thomas Denis who came there in hope to find a justice on the people slighting him who, by unhappy accident, were good acquaintances of the sheriff. [52]

In 1461 - 1462 safety of a dzhentra of Norfolk still threatened both robbers, and immoderately the active neighbors seeking to increase the possession. For example, in December, 1461 the cousin Jonah Pastona reported to it that he cannot help the relative, having entered by proxy possession of the manor bequeathed to that as his people and forces are hardly enough for protecting own. [53]

Thus, the situation in Norfolk in 1452 - 1462 can be quite called civil war. Opposition in the center turned on places into robbery and robberies, a series of continuous wars of local scale.

Nevertheless, Eduard GU'S government was rather popular. Arrests, according to contemporaries, demonstrated that the king at last began to bring long-awaited order to the country. [54] In any case, in 1462 Eduard GU enjoyed already unconditional support in Norfolk. Pastonov contains in archive several letters relating to June, 1462 in which to John Paston it was reported about time and the place of possible disembarkation of supporters Lankasterov. Intentions of lankasterets were called in them "devil", and one of letters came to an end with words: "With the God's help we

we will be able to overcome them". [55] In another it was said about possible disembarkation of army of the queen Margarita: "Very many are afraid of it". [56]

The reason of such interest is simple: lands Pastonov and their neighbors who reported to them about a possibility of disembarkation, were on east coast of England, and the mentioned disembarkation could happen in close proximity to their possession. Also the fact that it will be followed by battle was quite probable, and it meant that residents of Norfolk on own experience will be able to experience all horrors of full-scale civil war in the territory - war which to them still managed to be avoided.

We will notice that the condition of civil war in which there was a County of Norfolk since 1452 was not in vain and for economy. On an extent of this period (1452 - 1462) in correspondence Pastonov appear and complaints to small harvests, difficulty of a whip-round from tenants, etc. begin to meet more often. In 1462 Margaret Paston told the husband who was at that time in London that their tenants so grew poor that is not able to repair independently the houses which are leased together with the land plot any more. [57] In the same letter she complained that the prices of agricultural products fell so that it is simply unprofitable to be sold.

During the first period of reign of Edward IV (1461 - 1470) the situation in Norfolk gradually returned to normal if to consider norm the state of affairs in the 40th. So, in 1465 Margaret wrote the husband: "And as for our economy in a manor Kayster, it appears, to five - six well armed men... will be quite enough for its safety". [58] Nevertheless, one of the land conflicts in which were involved by Pastony was marked by a lock siege, numerous storms, sorties, plunder of the lands belonging Pastonam (even the church in a manor Hellesdon was robbed), etc. [59]

The following phase of Wars Roz treats 1470 - 1471 and is connected with short restoration of the power Lankasterov. During this period of news from the capital gained crucial importance again. Practically in each letter sent to London even before disembarkation of army under leadership of Warwick, noblemen of Norfolk tried to learn about health of the king, his plans, etc. of [60] V Norfolk Edward IV still enjoyed full support. In correspondence phrases, similar to this are frequent: "People are afraid that lords Clarence and Warwick can be put ashore in England any day". [61]

The new phase of the conflict caused also new aggravation of a situation in Norfolk. So, city authorities Norwich (the next to possession Pastonov) considered it necessary to create several groups for protection of city walls. [62] Again there were mentions of predatory gangs. [63] As well as in 1460 - 1461, messages from the battlefield were contradictory. James Greham wrote John Paston Jr.: "In our country the set of different rumors goes, and any of them will not be coordinated with another". [64]

Nevertheless, conflict scale in the duchy in 1470 - 1471 was considerably smaller, than a decade ago.

During the second period of the reign (1471 - 1483) Edward IV managed to bring relative order to the country. It is noted by his many biographers, for example, Ch. Ross. [65] Correspondence Pastonov quite confirms this point of view. And though in December, 1471 Margaret Paston anxious with a new round of the conflict for inheritance of lord Fastolf asked the sons: "For the sake of Lord's love, you and your brother be careful, you look attentively where you go and with what people you drink or you eat because here it is rumored that you were poisoned" [66], in a year the mentioned conflict was stopped by personal intervention of Edward IV. Under its pressure the duke Norfolk Pastonam was forced to agree to return disputed lands in exchange for participation of the head of the family in military operations on the continent as a part of its suite. [67]

During Edward IV's reign the prestige of the king in the opinion of a dzhentra considerably increased. So, if in Henry VI's reign about the paper signed by the king said that "everyone can receive it for nobl" [68], then the documents addressed to any of noblemen and signed by kings from a dynasty of Yorkshire terriers, as a rule, involved performance of the order or, at least, statement of the reasons on which he cannot be executed. In particular, John Paston in September, 1464 considered it necessary as soon as from its lock the siege was raised, to undertake a travel to London to notify the king about

the fact that it could not be to the capital on the first call as it was busy with defense of own possession. [69]

Pastonov does not allow to judge family archive succession of events relating to the last phase of Wars of Roz (1483 - 1497) as no more than ten letters fall on all this time.

If to analyze events of Wars of Roz from the point of view of community of a dzhentra of Norfolk, then the beginning of the conflict should be considered 1452, marked not only by collecting army of yorkist, but also the beginning of military operations between local noble groups. By 1452 the situation in counties was in a condition of unstable balance. As the local administration was almost completely struck with corruption, only the strong central power was able to hold noble groups from power ways of the decision of the internal conflicts. Therefore its inevitable easing during the periods of fight for a crown plunged counties into a condition of civil war. Strengthening of the power of the king led to stabilization of a situation on places.

Thus, Pastonov brings the analysis of an epistolary complex to the conclusion opposite to a thesis of the English researchers about weak influence of Wars of Roz on life of contemporaries. On the example of Norfolk it is possible to note that collisions of supporters of Yorkshire terriers and Lankasterov rendered on a situation in counties the most direct harmful influence.


[1] V.V. Shtokmar. The history of England in the Middle Ages. M.,1973. Page 52.

[2] E.V. Kuznetsov. Fight of magnate parties in England in the 50th of the 15th century: Political program of the York party//Scientific notes Gorky state. un-that. Issue 46. Gorky, 1959. Page 123.

[3] Goodman A. The Wars of the Roses: Military activity and English society (1452 - 1497). L.1981. River 12.

[4] Yu.R. Ulyanov. Growth of the new nobility in England in the 15th century//From the history of medieval Europe (X - the 18th centuries). M.,1957. Page 131-151.

[5] Lander J.R. Government and community: England 1450 - 1509. L.1980. River 388.

[6] O.N. Filimonova. To social and psychological characteristic of the English new nobility//Problem of economic and political development of the countries of Europe during an antique era and the Middle Ages. M.,1975. Page 313.

[7] Lander J. R. Ibid. P.387.

[8] Carpenter C. Gentry and community in medieval England//Journal of British studies. Vol.33. No. 4. October 1994. P.340.

[9] J.M. Trevelyan. Social history of England. M.,1959. Page 81-109.

[10] Goodman A. The Wars of the Roses: Military activity and English society (1452 - 1497); Lander J.R. Government and community: England 1450 - 1509; PollardA.J. The Wars of the Roses. N.Y. 1988; Gillingham J. The Wars of the Roses: Peace and conflict in Fifteenth-century England. Baton-Rouge, 1981.

[11] E.V. Kuznetsov. Social and political fight in England of the second half of the 15th century. Gorky, 1959. Page 13; A.N. Slivko. Social fight in England in the 15th century and formation of the English absolutism. M.,1965. Page 7.; V.I. Zolotov. English society on the eve of "Roz's War". Bryansk, 1996; V.V. Shtokmar. The history of England in the Middle Ages. M.,1973. Page 52.

[12] J.M. Trevelyan. Decree.soch. Page 81.

[13] Lander J.R. Family, "friends" and politics in Fifteenth-century England//Kings and nobles in the Later Middle Ages. N.Y.1986. River 27.

[14] Carpenter C. Locality and polity: A study of Warwickshire landed society, 1401 - 1499. Cambridge, 1992. River 198.

[15] V.I. Zolotov. A political crisis in England 1425 - 1426//England HGU - the 17th centuries. Gorky, 1959. Page 108.

[16] The Paston Letters. Vol.1. L.; N.Y.1956. River 7.

[17] Ibid. River 24.

[18] Lander J.R. Family, "friends" and politics in Fifteenth-century England. P.28.

[19] The Paston Letters. Vol.1. River 78-79.

[20] Ibid. River 82.

[21] Ibid. River 53.96.

[22] Ibid. River 69.

[23] Ibid. River 96.

[24] Ibid. River 100.

[25] Ibid. Vol.2. L.; N.Y.1956. River 78.

[26] Ibid. Vol.1. River 8.

[27] Ibid. Vol.2. River 123.

[28] Ibid. River 32.

[29] Ibid. Vol.1. River 34.

[30] Ibid. River 35.

[31] Ibid. River 64.

[32] Ibid. River 65-66.

[33] Ibid. River 43.

[34] Goodman A. The Wars of the Roses. River 8.

[35] Ibid. Vol.1. River 65.

[36] Ibid. River 110.

[37] Ibid. River 102.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid. River 117.

[41] Ibid. River 130.

[42] Ibid. River 135.

[43] Ibid. River 152.

[44] "God save our good Lords - Warwick, Salisbury and others... for by the way of my soul this realm was utterly undone, as God forbid" (The Paston letters. Vol.1. P.149).

[45] Ibid. River 146.

[46] Ibid. River 150.

[47] Armstrong C.A. Some examples of distribution end speed of news in England at the time of the Wars of the Roses//Studies in medieval history. Oxford, 1948. River 429.

[48] The Paston Letters. Vol.1. River 167.

[49] Ibid. River 183.

[50] Ibid. River 168.

[51] Ibid. River 178.

[52] Ibid. River 171.

[53] Ibid. River 201.

[54] Simons E.N. The reign of Edward IV. London, 1966. River 299; Ross C. Edward IV. Berkley; Los-Angeles, 1974. River 420; Horrox R. Richard III. L.1987. River 12.

[55] The Paston Letters. Vol.1. River 210.

[56] Ibid. River 222.

[57] Ibid. P.253.

[58] Ibid. Vol.2. River 12.

[59] Ibid. River 30.

[60] Ibid. River 90-91.

[61] Ibid. River 96.

[62] Ibid. River 100.

[63] Ibid. River 101.

[64] Ibid. River 107.

[65] Ross C. Op.cit. River 424.

[66] The Paston Letters. Vol.1. River 123.

[67] Ibid. Vol.2. River 156.

[68] Ibid. Vol.1. River 26.

[69] Ibid. River 189.

Kevin Williamson
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