Dartford Uprising

(1452)
   The unsuccessful armed uprising that culminated at Dartford in Kent in March 1452 was the first attempt by Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, to use force to achieve his political ends.
   In January 1452, York, seeking to secure recognition of himself as heir to the childless HENRY VI and eager to increase his influence in the royal government, issued a public declaration of allegiance to the king and a statement of regret that Henry did not currently look upon him with favor. In February, the duke issued a condemnation of Edmund BEAUFORT, duke of Somerset, who was York’s rival both for political power and for the succession, the BEAUFORT FAMILY having as compelling a claim to the throne as the house of YORK. The duke charged Somerset with responsibility for the recent English military collapse in FRANCE and with plotting the destruction of York and his family. Backed by Thomas COURTENAY, earl of Devon, who was seeking allies against his courtier rival, William BONVILLE, Lord Bonville, and relying on public support born of anger over Somerset’s perceived failures in France, York began raising an armed force to march on LONDON and compel the king to dismiss Somerset. When several deputations from the king failed to deflect York from his purpose, Henry ordered the London authorities to refuse York admittance to the city, which they did in late February, forcing the duke to march into Kent to his property at Dartford. Because Kent had been the heart of JACK CADE’S REBELLION in 1450,York hoped to increase his support by tapping into any lingering antigovernment sentiment. On 1 March, Henry entered Kent at the head of a large army. Although York’s own forces were sizable, and he had several ships in the Thames loaded with ARTILLERY, the English PEERAGE, with the exception of Devon and Lord Cobham, backed the king. As the two armies advanced toward each other, a team of mediators led by the bishops William WAINFLEET and Thomas BOURCHIER, and including Richard NEVILLE, earl of Salisbury, and his son, Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, moved back and forth between the king and the duke. According to some sources, an agreement was concluded on 2 March whereby York would lay down his arms in return for being allowed to present his petition against Somerset to the king. Somerset was then to be imprisoned in the TOWER OF LONDON pending an investigation into York’s charges against him. However, when York came before Henry, he found Somerset at the king’s side and himself in custody. Other sources simply say that York came and knelt before the king, presented his petition, and then returned to London with Henry. Finding the commons of Kent hesitant to follow him, and lacking any significant support from other peers, York probably realized the futility of his position and submitted. Nonetheless, the same nobles who refused to support his armed rising were also unwilling to see him too severely punished.York was detained at his London residence, compelled to make a public oath of loyalty to Henry at St. Paul’s Cathedral, and then released. He was also forced to submit to an arbitration of his dispute with Somerset, which was conducted by a panel dominated by friends of Somerset. Although a pardon was issued to encourage York’s supporters to disperse, the king sought to warn the duke’s RETAINERS against future armed demonstrations by leading a series of judicial commissions into areas of Yorkist influence. The king’s liberal imposition of fines and imprisonments impressed York’s supporters with royal authority and left the duke powerless and politically isolated.
   Further Reading: Griffiths, Ralph A., The Reign of King Henry VI (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Johnson, P. A., Duke Richard of York (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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