Propaganda

   Throughout the WARS OF THE ROSES, the contending factions issued newsletters, manifestos, and other declarations to justify themselves and vilify their opponents—propaganda efforts aimed at winning support both in England and overseas.
   From the start of the political struggle in the 1450s, the Yorkists strove to present their cause to the public in the best possible light. To deflect charges of rebellion, the Yorkists issued proclamations stressing their loyalty to HENRY VI and explaining their actions as merely a desire to petition the king for redress of grievances. They justified their rather unorthodox method of petitioning under arms by claiming that it was a regrettable necessity. They maintained that the royal councilors responsible for their grievances were seeking to deny them a fair hearing and even to destroy them. After the Battle of ST. ALBANS in May 1455, the Yorkists worked to eradicate the treasonable impression left by their violence. They treated the king with great deference, escorted him to LONDON with full royal honors, swore loyalty to him at an impressive crown-wearing ceremony, and obtained pardons from him that were duly ratified in PARLIAMENT. The pardons blamed the battle on Edmund BEAUFORT, the slain duke of Somerset, and on several other obscure royal officials, and new proclamations emphasized how these culprits had foiled exhaustive Yorkist attempts to avoid combat through negotiation. After 1461, EDWARD IV continued the Yorkist use of propaganda. By exaggerating the horrors perpetrated by Queen MARGARET OF ANJOU’s army as it plundered Yorkist lands and towns during its MARCH ON LONDON in 1461, the Yorkists heightened fears of Lancastrian pillage in the capital and disposed London to admit Edward IV and accept him as king. In 1471, Edward commissioned the HISTORY OF THE ARRIVAL OF EDWARD IV, a newsletter that quickly disseminated Edward’s version of his restoration among foreign courts (see Edward IV, Restoration of). Perhaps because they considered the house of LANCASTER the legitimate holder of the Crown, Lancastrian leaders were less inclined to use propaganda and more interested in obtaining foreign assistance. These latter efforts provided Edward with excellent propaganda opportunities; for instance, he made great use of Margaret’s surrender of BERWICK to SCOTLAND in 1461. To avoid similar damaging attacks in 1462 when she concluded the CHINON AGREEMENT with LOUIS XI of FRANCE, Margaret insisted that her willingness to surrender CALAIS remain secret.
   Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, proved particularly adept at the use of propaganda. His landing in England in June 1460 was accompanied by the issuance of a manifesto detailing the oppressions perpetrated by Henry VI’s evil councilors and justifying Warwick’s actions as an attempt to right those wrongs. Warwick used the same technique against Edward IV in 1469, when the earl and George PLANTAGENET, duke of Clarence, issued a manifesto from Calais that denounced the failings of Edward’s government and declared the correction of those evils their reason for taking arms against the king. In 1470, when he returned to England to overthrow Edward IV, Warwick distributed a propaganda tract entitled the MANNER AND GUIDING OF THE EARL OFWARWICK AT ANGERS, which described and justified the earl’s conclusion of the ANGERS AGREEMENT with Margaret of Anjou, thereby reassuring both Warwick’s supporters and longtime Lancastrians (see Edward IV, Overthrow of).
   RICHARD III carefully staged the USURPATION OF 1483, using the BUTLER PRECONTRACT and Dr. SHAW’S SERMON to justify to the people his seizure of EDWARD V’s throne. In 1485, he issued proclamations claiming that Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond, was plotting to allow foreigners to invade and despoil the realm. After 1485, when Yorkists like John de la POLE, earl of Lincoln, led foreign MERCENARIES against HENRY VII, they had to justify their actions against Henry’s own antiforeign propaganda. Henry highlighted the blessings of Tudor rule by using various agents and media to blacken the reputation of Richard III, a propaganda effort that continues to affect Richard’s image to this day. Henry also fostered the ubiquitous roses motif, that is, the blending of the red and white roses, as a symbol of the peace and unity conferred on England by the house of TUDOR, an image that eventually lent itself to the naming of the fifteenth-century civil wars.
   Further Reading: Allan, Alison,“Yorkist Propaganda: Pedigree, Prophecy and the ‘British History’ in the Reign of Edward IV,” in Charles Ross, ed., Patronage, Pedigree and Power n Later Medieval England (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Alan Sutton, 1979), pp. 171–192; Ross, Charles, “Rumour, Propaganda and Popular Opinion during the Wars of the Roses,” in Ralph A. Griffiths, ed., Patronage, the Crown and the Provinces in Later Medieval England (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1981), pp. 15–32.

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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