- Because many key civil war figures inherited Welsh blood, owned Welsh estates, and recruited Welsh RETAINERS, Wales played a central role in the WARS OF THE ROSES. Wales in the fifteenth century was divided into two distinct administrative entities: the Principality of Wales, governed by the monarch or by the heir to the throne as Prince of Wales, and the lordships of the marches, governed independently by various noblemen. The principality was divided into shires centered on the towns of Carmarthen in the south and Carnarvon in the north. Each group of shires was governed by a justiciar and a chamberlain appointed by the Crown. Within the marcher lordships, neither royal writs nor royal officials had any authority. Each lord had complete responsibility for government within his own lordship; he could impose his own taxes, appoint his own officials, and operate his own law courts. The house of LANCASTER enjoyed a blood connection to Wales through HENRY VI’s Welsh half brothers, Edmund TUDOR, earl of Richmond, and Jasper TUDOR, earl of Pembroke. The house of YORK inherited Welsh blood from the Mortimers, the maternal relatives of Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, and members of the most powerful marcher family of the fourteenth century. Because he was heir to the Mortimer earldom of March, EDWARD IV incorporated over half the Welsh marcher lordships into the Crown when he became king in 1461. These lordships and that of Glamorgan, which was held by Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, were the Welsh centers of Yorkist support before 1470, while Lancastrian sentiment was strongest in the principality and in Jasper Tudor’s lordship of Pembroke. During the 1450s, local Welsh feuds, like similar English feuds, were subsumed in the struggle between Lancaster and York. In 1455, after his victory at the Battle of ST. ALBANS, York had PARLIAMENT appoint a committee of marcher lords and royal officials to devise effective government for Wales. However, within a year, Edmund Tudor, Henry VI’s lieutenant in Wales,was at war with leading Welsh Yorkists; after Tudor’s death in 1456, his brother, Jasper, consolidated Welsh support for the king. In 1461, two battles—MORTIMER’S CROSS in February and TWT HILL in October— broke Pembroke’s hold on Wales and initiated a period of Yorkist government under William HERBERT (later earl of Pembroke). By 1468, Herbert was lord, custodian, or chief official of almost all Welsh shires and lordships, a dominance that clashed with Warwick’s Welsh ambitions. In 1469, when his rebels captured Herbert at the Battle of EDGECOTE, Warwick ordered Herbert’s execution, thereby depriving Edward IV of a valuable servant. In the 1470s, Edward filled this vacuum by creating his son (see Edward V, King of England) Prince of Wales and by appointing a COUNCIL to govern Wales in his name. Operating from Ludlow in the marches, the council, which was headed by Anthony WOODVILLE, Earl Rivers, eventually exercised full authority in the principality and royal lordships and supervisory jurisdiction in the private lordships and adjoining English shires. This conciliar arrangement collapsed in May 1483, when Richard, duke of Gloucester (see Richard III, King of England), now lord protector for his nephew Edward V, arrested Rivers and vested the government of all royal lands in Wales in his ally,Henry STAFFORD, duke of Buckingham, who already was a marcher lord. Although his grant was for life, the duke did not hold it long; he was executed for treason in November after the failure of BUCKINGHAM’S REBELLION. The subsequent weakness of Richard III in Wales, combined with the lingering influence there of Jasper Tudor, allowed the latter’s nephew, Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond, to successfully land in and march through Wales in August 1485. After winning the Crown at the Battle of BOSWORTH FIELD, Richmond, now HENRY VII, used the house of TUDOR’s Welsh ancestry to win Welsh support for the new dynasty. First, Jasper Tudor was created duke of Bedford and given extensive authority in the principality; next, following the example of Edward IV, a council nominally under the direction of Prince Arthur (whose very name was an appeal to the Welsh) was granted oversight of royal lordships. Thereafter, Wales fell increasingly under royal control until Henry VIII, through statutes passed in 1536 and 1543, achieved Welsh union with England by abolishing the marcher lordships and dividing Wales into shires governed in the same manner as English counties.Further Reading: Davies, John, A History of Wales (London: The Penguin Group, 1993); Evans, H.T.,Wales and the Wars of the Roses (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1995); Griffiths, Ralph A.,“Wales and the Marches,” in S. B. Chrimes,C.D. Ross, and Ralph A. Griffiths, Fifteenth-Century England, 1399-1509, 2d ed. (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Alan Sutton, 1995);Williams, Glanmor, Renewal and Reformation: Wales, c. 1415-1642 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993).
Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. John A.Wagner. 2001.
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