Crises and Conflicts in England of the Late Middle Ages

Crises and Conflicts in England of the Late Middle Ages (until 1485)


The medieval history of England has been shaped by severe crises since the 14th century. Bad harvests in 1315/16 triggered a nationwide famine, with cattle epidemics exacerbating the crisis. In addition, the western plague catastrophe broke out over England in 1348-50(»Black Death«), which led to a population decline of around 30% and, together with other waves of plague from 1361, ensured a steady population decline that lasted until the end of the 15th century. The associated shortage of human labor triggered a long-lasting agricultural depression with rising wages and falling agricultural prices, from which less trade and industry, but all the more the land-owning gentry, suffered. In contrast, the dependent peasants and wage workers were able to convert feudal ties into contractual agreements in many places. The rulers’ attempt to cope with this development through statutory wage and price regulations, an increase in official duties and new forms of economy (conversion of common land into private property, enclosure), as well as foreign policy failures and the introduction of a poll tax led to the English peasant uprising of 1381, which united with the London struggle between small craftsmen and full citizens and the radical attack by J. Wycliffe and his students (Lollards) on the ecclesiastical system.

According to Thereligionfaqs, the fourteenth century was also ushered in a severe crisis of kingship under the weak rule of Edward II (1307-27); the permanent conflict between the crown and the by no means self-contained opposition of the barons ultimately led to anarchic conditions that culminated in the king’s deposition and murder. Edward III. (1327-77) succeeded in pacifying the country in the interior; on the other hand, disputes over the rights of the French king as feudal lord of Gascogne owned by England, in the course of which Philip VI. let the affected areas move in as dilapidated fiefs and Eduard III. in response to this, raised claims to the French throne, but at the outbreak of the Hundred Years War (1337). Militarily, the war brought the English great successes: naval victory at Sluys in 1340, victories at Crécy (Crécy-en-Ponthieu) in 1346 and Maupertuis (Poitiers) in 1356, capture of the French King John II the Good; Furthermore, he awakened a supraregional British national feeling, which was directed not only against France, but also against the Avignon papacy, which was suspected of sympathizing with the enemy of the country. Against this background, the gradual displacement of the French language by the English in the area of ​​the high nobility can be seen. In addition, in 1365 Parliament revoked what was once King John without a land solemnly established papal feudal rule over England as illegitimate. Already before that, one had begun to proceed with strict legal measures against the excessive commission system of the papal curia, i.e. the practice of filling English church mortgages at the expense of the ecclesiastical electoral bodies responsible by papal appointment (provisio) of the candidates (the statutes »De provisoribus “Of 1351, 1365 and 1390, which emphasized the electoral and appointment rights of the local committees and patrons, as well as the statutes” De praemunire “of 1353, 1365 and 1393, which prohibited appeals to the Roman Curia and made them punishable). In the treaty of Brétigny and Calais (1360) Edward III renounced . on his claim to the throne, but seemed to have achieved the actual aim of the war, the recognition of Gascon and the war profits (including Calais) as an allodial property independent of the French crown. However, the agreements made soon became invalid when the war was resumed, in the course of which the British suffered serious setbacks.

The last Plantagenet from the Primogenitur line, Richard II. (1377–99), succumbed to the magnate opposition in 1399 after serious disputes. Imprisoned, he was compelled to abdicate and finally also formally removed by a hastily called parliamentary assembly, while the head of the rebellious magnate Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster and grandson of Edward III. when Henry IV (1399-1413) ascended the throne. Richard remained in custody and was killed a short time later – probably on the orders or with the knowledge of the new king. In the following years Heinrich tried to base his kingship on the church and parliament, which, however, did not save him from having to put down several aristocratic conspiracies. His son, Heinrich V (1413–22), however, succeeded in reconciling the magnates with the crown and swearing in the war with France that flared up again. After the brilliant victory over a strongly superior French army of knights at Azincourt (1415) and a successful campaign in Normandy, Henry, with the support of Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy, was recognized as regent and heir of France in the Treaty of Troyes (1420) and became with Catherine, daughter of the French King Charles VI., married. With his untimely death, however, the far-reaching hopes were thrown away, especially as Henry VI. (1422–61) was only one year old and the son of Charles VI, disinherited by the Treaty of Troyes . , Charles VII., Did not give up, but tried to defend his rights by force of arms. The initially victorious advance of the English ended at the gates of Orléans when Jeanne d’Arc managed to revive the French resistance and her King Charles VII. to lead to Reims for the coronation. After Burgundy had terminated the English alliance in the Treaty of Arras (1435), the military situation for the English on the continent became untenable. When the war ended (without a formal peace agreement) in 1453, the entire continental property – with the exception of Calais – had been lost to France.

In the following years, still under the reign of Henry VI. , the country was shaken by severe clashes among the high nobility, which led to immediate throne struggles between the rival royal houses of Lancaster (red rose) and York (white rose) (Wars of the Roses). After eventful battles, Edward IV (1461–83) from the House of York succeeded in asserting his claim to the throne and finally asserting it in the Battle of Tewkesbury (Gloucestershire) on May 4, 1471. The son of King Henry VI.fell in the battle, Heinrich himself was imprisoned in the tower and killed there a short time later – probably on the orders of Edward IV  . Eduard left after ten years of undisputed rule a solid throne, but his brother Richard III. (1483-85) usurped for himself by declaring the underage heir to the throne Edward V and his younger brother out of wedlock and having it most likely killed a short time later in the Tower. Heinrich Tudor, Earl of Richmond, who was related to the House of Lancaster through his mother, raised claims to the royal rule against Richard, and through his engagement to Elizabeth of York, the daughter of King Edward IV, he also had the support of many supporters from the Backed home York. Lost in the Battle of Bosworth (1485) Richard III Crown and life; his opponent, who by marrying Elizabeth united the claims and sovereignty rights of the houses of Lancaster and York in his person, ascended the throne as Henry VII (1485-1509).

Crises and Conflicts in England of the Late Middle Ages