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Welsh History Review


Vol. 9, nos. 1-4 1978-79

The Wars of the Roses : a concise history : Book review.

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One feature of this book is of special interest for the history of Wales.
Dr. Rawcliffe charts the high cost of serving the impecunious Henry VI.
Duke Humphrey's tenure of the office of captain (not constable) of
Calais cost him about £ 11,000 (his regular annual income was about
£ 6,000 net), but a persistent theme in the growing crisis in the Stafford
finances is their inability to exploit fully the potential revenues from
their very extensive Welsh marcher estates, which included Newport,
Brecon, Talgarth, Huntington and Hay. Dr. Rawcliffe suggests (p. 108)
a combination of absenteeism by their senior officials (English) and
maladministration by their local officials (Welsh) as a main cause, to-
gether with their own non-residence in Wales, and the endemic violence
of these areas. The Staffords were not alone among the English Marcher
lords in suffering a severe decline in Welsh revenues in the mid-fifteenth
century particularly, and determined attempts were made to remedy the
financial position during the exceptionally harsh and ruthless adminis-
tration of Duke Edward, which is well-documented by Dr. Rawcliffe in
her chapter on "The Staffords and the Common Law'. What does
distinguish the Staffords, however, was their complete failure to command
any loyalty from their Welsh tenantry. 'It is significant' (she remarks of
Duke Henry's rebellion against Richard III in 1483) 'that none of the
chief conspirators at Brecon were Welshmen', and she notes that the
Vaughans of Tretower, who had a history of more than fifty years'
continuous service to the Staffords, were nevertheless hostile to his plans,
and indeed sacked Brecon castle after the duke's departure. Certainly,
there is a sharp contrast between Stafford failure to attract support in
Wales and the great Welsh following commanded by a resident marcher
lord like William Herbert, first earl of Pembroke, in the 1460s, or the
dukes of York from their family base at Ludlow. 'Duke Henry made
no appeal to Welsh national sentiment, and never tried to win the respect
or affection of his tenants.' The same is true of the unpleasantly rapacious
Duke Edward.
This well-written, scholarly and valuable study (to which only limited
justice can be done in the space of a short review) is completed by useful
documented lists of senior estate and household officials, of councillors,
and of the fees and annuities granted by the first and third dukes.
THE WARS OF THE Roses: A CONCISE history. By Charles Ross. Thames
and Hudson, London. 1976. Pp. 190. £ 4.95.
Not so long ago a Secretary of State for Education and Science pro-
pounded what was significantly not phrased as a question: 'It is surely
far more important for young people to know all the facts about Vietnam
than it is to know all the details of the Wars of the Roses'. His words
betray that inevitable period flavour which makes almost anything
interesting to the historian, as well as that tendentious use of the word
all which the historian comes to recognize as a timeless gambit in the
language of politics. One fears that (former) politician (and former
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