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Coventry: A Royal Safe-Haven

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Coventry
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1 of 6  Thu 22nd Aug 2019 1:28pm  
Member: Joined Jan 2018  Total posts:25

During 1459, Coventry became a vital location and safe-haven for the reigning King Henry VI and his wife Queen Margaret of Anjou. This period falls within the context of the War of the Roses (1455-1485) which was a dynastic civil war occurring between the Lancastrians and the Yorkist’s, both of which were decedents of Edward III. The Lancastrian Henry VI and Richard, Duke of York, vied for the throne. Throughout Henry VIs reign he suffered from unfortunate bouts of mental illness meaning that the Duke of York stepped in as Protectorate in 1453-1554 and also in 1456. As a result, the question of who was the rightful ruler was constantly resurfacing. In 1445 Henry married Margaret of Anjou and it is believed that the Queen was actually the political authority. It was often Margaret who contested the Duke of York’s challenges to the throne and aimed to protect her son’s inheritance. The connection between Coventry and the crown was initially a financial one as the city offered money to fund the Scottish and French wars. However, it is also documented that Henry often visited the city for personal trips – even spending the Christmas of 1434 in Kenilworth. He also introduced a new charter in 1451 naming the city of Coventry as a county which was a special honour. Queen Margaret was also especially fond of Coventry and it actually became known as her ‘secret harbour’. But why Coventry? Historian David McGrory actually described it as ‘the best defended city in the heart of England’ in this period. It was also definitively Lancastrian in its alliance and was seen as the most secure place for the royals. This was certainly the case from 1450 when a rebellion in Kent led to 15,000 armed men marching on London and the Royal Household. This forced the royal family to flee and their chosen safe-haven was Coventry. Also, in 1454 Margaret, upon hearing of the Duke of York’s plot to kill the King, urged her husband to return to Coventry rather than remain in London. By 1456, the first battle of the War of the Roses had occurred and Coventry had sent 100 armed men into battle to support the Lancastrians. It was during this period that Margaret actually decided to move the whole of the royal court to Coventry, including artists, musicians and scholars. During 1459 the king and queen were in Coventry every month except April. The Queen initially moved with her son and had an army camped outside the city for added protection, before Henry also accompanied them. Several important parliamentary councils were held at the Chapter House of the Priory in Coventry in 1459. On these occasions, Yorkist’s were discussed because of their continuing efforts to raise armed forces in the north and south of the country. The parliament session ended in Coventry on 20th December in 1459 after passing the first Bill of Attainder which limited the rights of 23 Yorkist nobles. From this it can be seen that Coventry acted as a safe-haven for the royals. However, it was by no means a secluded hideaway – rather it was a protected and supportive city which allowed the King and Queen to conduct parliament without fear. It is no wonder that the royal couple held a lasting affection for the city. Sources: Books: Thomas Sharp, History of Coventry, Coventry, 1844; David McGrory, A History of Coventry, Chichester, 2003 (Both books are available in the Herbert Museum and Art Gallery, History Centre, Reading Room). Archive items: ‘Troubled Times’ booklet by E. Castle and C. Kennedy, 1992 (CCE/8/1/1/8); Leet Book Extract regarding Henry Vis Reception in Coventry in 1451, c.1840 (PA21/2/8).
Victoria Northridge

Coventry: A Royal Safe-Haven
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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2 of 6  Sat 24th Aug 2019 4:22pm  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3006

Then Coventry should look through the edge of a blindfold, when they look at that piece of history. Torture, rape, kidnap, oppression, extortion by the king’s supporters, remained unpunished. The War of The Roses was just kings’ games, because none of them were secure on their thrones. The French vice was lechery, the English vice was treachery. Henry VII’s reign was loved by people in sheer dread, he was only king because England was desperate for a king. His grandfather was a Welsh brewer, wanted for murder, and other charges - his mother was from the wrong side of the blanket, a whole host of wrong. The Kent farmers were starving from high taxes - they approached London with only farm tools, and met with cannons.
Coventry: A Royal Safe-Haven
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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3 of 6  Mon 26th Aug 2019 1:11pm  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3006

Rob and members, wonder if you agree with the title and contents of this topic? Henry VI in 1431 was taken to France and crowned king, he was the only sovereign to be crowned in both England and France. In 1444 it was arranged that he married the fifteen year old Margaret of Anjou, but it did not mean a lasting peace with France. But the best that can be said of Henry is that he was exceptionally naive, while Margaret was a tigress, and quick tempered and very powerful. Henry was putty in her hands. She hated the Duke of York, who thought he had as much right as the Duke of Somerset, the king’s right hand man, to be in line for the title. In 1453 after 8 years of being barren Margaret had a son, two months after Henry had his first bout of insanity. The king unfit, York was made protector, Somerset imprisoned. A year later in March 1454 York was dismissed and Somerset reinstated. York went to war, backed by the Earl of Warwick. At St Albans Somerset was killed. With Somerset out of the way the peers and the king fancied a conciliation. But not Margaret. In the summer of 1459 with the heirs of the men of St Albans and her supporters Margaret marched on the Duke of York's stronghold at Ludlow (no need of a Coventry safe-haven). Margaret was in full control. She won, and York fled to Ireland. There was an enormous amount of treachery, hangings, and swopping sides in those days to get the true picture. When the farmers confronted Henry VII he fled, not to Coventry, but to his palace Palantia (later called Greenwich). I believe Coventry was not made a county, because of any deed or act, but solely to be in a higher tax bracket to squeeze the citizens of more tax? (Still do, from what I hear). Coventry Castle did not last as long as Kenilworth Castle, or even the wall at Caludon - it would have been a pushover (my opinion).
Coventry: A Royal Safe-Haven
Helen F
Warrington
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4 of 6  Mon 26th Aug 2019 6:29pm  
Member: Joined Mar 2013  Total posts:1525

Kaga, because of a change in warfare and the relative 'safety' of the country, castles stopped being truly useful as defences after about 1300. Those built after that tended to be as much for show as anything else. The city walls were largely complete by that time, apart from sections protected in the north by the river and marshland. Cheylesmore was the main residence of the royals when they were in town and not only was it safely within the city's walls, embankments and ditches, it was sturdily defended by its own more modest perimeter walls and ditch. Part of that was a stone built manor house (think Stokesay great hall) which had become part of the city perimeter wall but predated it. An entire town full of defenders and food was safer than a castle that could be isolated and sieged. The southern edge of the city was the most well defended with floodable ditches (80ft wide). The Sherbourne could be blocked off with 'spayers' to fill the defences. I'm not sure that they were ever used in anger. 'Safe Haven' is about being able to relax and be normal rather than preparing for an all out battle.
Coventry: A Royal Safe-Haven
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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5 of 6  Tue 27th Aug 2019 9:52am  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3006

Helen F. Yes, but it implied Margaret was here for safety, and that was not the case to me, she was here to get rid of the Duke of York, and Coventry was her military base. At one time she eluded capture at Northampton, took refuge behind the battlements of Harlech Castle (not Coventry). I cannot find one king or royal person that sought refuge in Coventry. It would be wrong to think the peerage was split into two hostile fractions, the Yorkists and the Lancastrians. The Earl of Warwick did not want to make the Duke of York as king in Henry's place but the private grudges in and against members of the court circle. Yes most of those battles were two-three hour things in some field. No city was safe behind a wall - like shutting the gates at the Alamo, you die. Coventry had priories, churches, castles, abbeys, knights - everything for them to visit for as friends.
Coventry: A Royal Safe-Haven
Kaga simpson
Peacehaven, East Sussex
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6 of 6  Wed 28th Aug 2019 2:40pm  
Member: Joined Sep 2014  Total posts:3006

When I was a small child we would be taken on a tram into the centre of the city. To my mind the grand old street of Broadgate and the area around it represented the faded remains of life lived there a hundred years before. I was always fascinated by the city's past. Here, mingled between the Victorian and older buildings, there were stables and blacksmiths just as in the past, horse drawn hansom, growler cabs still mingled between the trams and petrol vehicles. But for me there were dozens of bookshops/paintings/sketches stalls - here was Coventry's archives, there was nothing about the city’s history that you couldn’t buy - personal postcards, soldiers’ letters, city documents, many solitary items that could not be found in history books or museums. By the time I was twelve I had read about hairshirts, growler cabs, groaning chairs, diets of stewed udders, dried cows tongue and powdered earthworms and much more that I didn't really understand until much older. All these books, documents, etc, were destroyed in the bombing - most never to be replaced, but few people knew, or bothered to find out. In 1815 the Prince Regent, later King George IV, was staying at Combe Abbey, the guest of Lord Craven, The king owned a big part of the city in the Cheylesmore estate.
Coventry: A Royal Safe-Haven

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