Second Protectorate

(1455–1456)
   Although officially in existence only from November 1455 to February 1456, the second protectorate of Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, actually began in May 1455, when York captured HENRY VI at the Battle of ST. ALBANS. Unlike the FIRST PROTECTORATE of 1454, whereby PARLIAMENT responded to the king’s mental incapacity by vesting certain powers of the Crown in York as protector (see Henry VI, Illness of), the second protectorate gave formal parliamentary recognition to the dominant political position the duke had won at St. Albans. Because of its openly partisan nature, the second protectorate accelerated the formation of factions around York and Queen MARGARET OF ANJOU and thereby created the political instability that fostered the WARS OF THE ROSES.
   Besides giving them custody of the king, St. Albans allowed York and his Neville allies— Richard NEVILLE, earl of Salisbury, and his son Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick— to eliminate their three main rivals—Edmund BEAUFORT, duke of Somerset; Henry PERCY, earl of Northumberland; and Thomas CLIFFORD, Lord Clifford. Showing Henry great deference, the victors escorted him to LONDON, where they summoned a Parliament to sanction their control of the government and to legitimize Yorkist PROPAGANDA by affixing blame for the recent violence on Somerset. The late duke’s offices were divided among the Yorkist leaders, with York becoming Lord Constable and Warwick obtaining the vitally important captaincy of CALAIS. Parliament also granted anyone in the Yorkist army formal pardon for anything done at St. Albans.York next sought to win popular favor and to weaken the queen and her faction by proposing to limit expenditure in the royal household and administration.
   When Parliament reconvened in November, Henry VI was too ill to attend, and York used the king’s indisposition and the eruption of various disorders around the country to convince a reluctant assembly to authorize his second term as lord protector. In December, York used his new authority to quell the violent COURTENAY-BONVILLE FEUD by imprisoning Thomas COURTENAY, earl of Devon, in the TOWER OF LONDON. Although York thereby pacified the West Country, he also ensured the future adherence of the Courtenays to the house of LANCASTER.Despite York’s efforts to broaden his support among the PEERAGE, such interventions in local disputes only further divided the nobility into partisans of one side or the other. On 25 February 1456, a seemingly healthy king came to Parliament and formally ended the second protectorate. To promote concord, Henry retained York as his chief minister, while the Nevilles remained influential members of the royal COUNCIL. The queen, however,was determined to prevent a third protectorate; during the next three years, she used her influence over Henry to undermine York’s position and to gradually take control of the government, a situation that led to civil war in 1459.
   Further Reading: Griffiths, Ralph A., The Reign of 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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