The Lancasters Replace the Plantagenet Dynasty
The failures on the battlefields of the French war gave the barons the opportunity to interfere with the King's government.
In 1386, the Parliament nominated Council of Eleven to regulate the kingdom. Richard II got the judges to declare the Council illegal, but the Lords opposed the decision.
The old quarrel flashed in 1398, when the King banished the Dukes of Hereford (his cousin) and Norfolk. The Duke of Lancaster, who was the father of the Duke of Hereford, soon died and the King immediately took his lands, like a robber. The judges were so afraid of him that declared the theft to be just and lawful. Richard's avarice and cruelty knew no bounds.
While the King was away in Ireland, Henry Lancaster, the Duke of Hereford came back from France to claim his rights. When Richard returned to London, he found that his men had betrayed their King and Henry was ready to take power into his hands.
The King was carried prisoner of Chester, where he issued a proclamation to the Parliament. After it he was put prisoner in the Tower. The deputation from the Parliament came to Richard — he was ready to resign the crown. When the papers were signed, he gave the royal ring to his triumphal cousin Henry.
Next day the Parliament gathered in Westminster Hall where Henry was met with shouts of joy. The archbishops of Canterbury and York seated him on the throne. So Lancaster had supplanted Plantagenet.
In the reign of Henry IV (1399—1413) the Parliament actively participated in the life of the state. The annual sittings became its permanent feature, the Speakers of the House of Commons were allowed to represent the House collectively and they were no longer personally responsible for the requests they made to the King. Elections to the Parliament were now a privilege, not a burden, in the shires the elections were controlled by the gentry.
Henry IV during his reign faced a number of revolts led by Mortimer Earl of March, who had more rights for the English Crown than Henry. Though the rebellions were defeated and Earl of March was imprisoned, Henry could never feel secure. He always remembered that he was a King by conquest and election, not by heredity.
In 1411, Henry IV decided to intervene in France, which was torn by the civil war. He fought in alliance with the Duke of Burgundy and the victories they gained played only in the Duke's hands. When in 1413 Henry IV died, the relations with France were uncertain and the internal matters of England were in confusion.
The Hundred Years War- II
Henry IV was succeeded by his son Henry V, who proved to be a stern and vigorous king. He set Earl of March free, ordered to bury the unfortunate Richard II among the Kings of England and held to the alliance with the church.
The war with France was going on — in 1415, Henry with his army gained a victory of Agincourt, made alliance with Burgundy and conquered Normandy. Success in the war aroused national enthusiasm, all the classes were eager to continue the war.
The year 1420 saw the triumphal achievements of English foreign policy — the Treaty of Troyes. By it Henry became regent of France during the life of the French insane King. Henry married Katharine, his daughter, and was declared the heir of King of France.
The two sides proclaimed the peace that was called the Perpetual Peace. It stipulated the independence of England and France and was joyously met by poor and miserable French people. Anyhow, Henry had no time to enjoy the advantages of his foreign policy. He died in 1422 and insane King Charles of France died the same year. By the Treaty of Troyes the infant Henry VI became King of France and England.
At the time of Henry V's death half of France was under his direct control. His brother the Duke of Bedford became the Head of Council of Regency, because Henry VI was only nine months old.
The Duke of Bedford continued the war with France, he made the alliance with the Duke of Brittany and conquered Northern France. In 1428, the French had only one important stronghold left — it was Orleans. They desperately defended the city, but the English were likely to win. With the fall of Orleans the whole country could be conquered.
At that most critical for France moment the country found a leader in Joan of Arc, a peasant girl from Domremi. She believed to be appointed by the God to save her motherland — France. Her arrival disheartened the English and encouraged the French. They broke the English line of forts, got the provisions into the town and Orleans was saved. After these events the Dauphin, son of Charles VI was crowned as King of France Charles VII at Rheims in 1430. Less than a year later Joan was captured and burnt as a witch by the English at the Rouen market place.
Though Joan was dead, her spirit supported the French. As the English were still the real masters of France, the coronation of Henry VI took place in Paris in 1431. The same year the English alliance with Burgundy was renounced and the English King was asked to renounce his claim to the French throne. In 1436, Charles VII captured Paris.
After the war was renewed in 1449, the French won back Normandy, the war was actually lost by the English. Moreover, the general discontent rose in the country — Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Wilshire experienced the rising of the middle classes, merchants, country gentry and yeomen. People were angry at the loss of Normandy and chaotic state of public finances. The end of the Hundred Years War and English defeat in it brought back to England the warlike nobles, who were dissatisfied with the losses. Under such circumstances an outbreak of a civil war was inevitable.