Coventry Parliament

(1459)
   The PARLIAMENT that opened in the royalist stronghold of Coventry on 20 November 1459 was a staunchly Lancastrian body, which gave statutory expression to Queen MARGARET OF ANJOU’s desire for the political and economic destruction of Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, and his allies, the men who had dared to exclude her from the exercise of royal power.
   With elections to the Coventry Parliament called for and controlled by the queen and her supporters, the 260 members of the Commons were almost to a man Lancastrian in their sympathies. The central business of the session was consideration and passage of a bill of ATTAINDER against York; his eldest sons, Edward, earl of March (see Edward IV, King of England), and Edmund PLANTAGENET, earl of Rutland; his chief noble allies, Richard NEVILLE, earl of Salisbury, and his son Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick; and certain other knights and gentlemen who had conspicuously supported York’s cause.
   Passed without difficulty, the act of attainder proclaimed the named parties rebels and traitors, declared them legally dead, and placed their vast estates and incomes in the hands of the king.York, his sons, and the Nevilles were in overseas exile, having fled the country for IRELAND and CALAIS after their defeat at the Battle of LUDFORD BRIDGE in October.Because the Yorkists were beyond the government’s control and could not be brought to trial, the Lancastrians decided to proceed against them through Parliament—extinguishing their power and position, and the threat they presented, through legislative action. By handing most of the confiscated lands to royal officers appointed for life, the Crown indicated its intention that the extinction of rights be permanent, and not merely a temporary measure to be reversed should the Yorkists submit and seek pardon. The duke and his supporters were thus left with few options but continuing the fight.
   On 11 December, the lords assembled in Parliament swore a solemn oath in the royal presence to support HENRY VI and the eventual succession of his son, Prince EDWARD OF LANCASTER, and to preserve and honor the queen. Having achieved Margaret’s main goals, the Coventry Parliament ended on 20 December. In October 1460, with Warwick in control of the king and the government after his victory in July at the Battle of NORTHAMPTON, a Yorkist-dominated assembly at Westminster reversed the decisions of the Coventry Parliament and restored the duke and the Nevilles to control of their lands. The Coventry Parliament, which became known as the Parliament of Devils for the severity with which it treated the Yorkists, had clearly shown how the party in power could use the national assembly to crush its defeated enemies.
   Further Reading: Griffiths, Ralph A., The Reign of King Henry VI (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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