• That Was Genius Team

Episode 116 - Poop On The Desk To Get The Job (Rivalries Week)

Tom's notes:

Rivalries Week

Wars of the Roses

Public episode so audience feedback:

Mighty Jalapeno on PodBean: Aw, fuckin' eh, byes!

Jerome’s message about slowing down the recording because English isn’t his first language. Hello Jerome; we hope you are enjoying the Tour De France even if German ladies are lining your roads with their silly cardboard signs knocking over riders.

Charlie liked the Auf Weidersehen Pet banter.

So I’m talking about a period in British history today that is most definitely proper history and most definitely a great rivalry; the Wars of the Roses: A period in English history between 1455 and 1487 when the House of Lancaster and the House of York, both with claimants to the British throne, smashed each other up right proper; so much so that all the decent claimants to the throne were killed. Towards the end, the two houses were so beaten up that they were putting forward people like Barry the Cobbler who once fixed Henry VI’s shoes and thus had a better claim to the English thrown than Pierre Pamplemousse who the house of York were throwing their weight behind because he was the fifth cousin of Edward IV thrice removed on the maternal side of his paternal Great Auntie’s favourite horse.

The Wars of the Roses end when Henry Tudor jumps in right at the end pinching victory, much like a child in the playground who has just watched a massive fight in the playground over a game of pogs, waits until every other child has either been put in detention by a teacher or wedgied from a coat peg and then strolls across to the pile of pogs and pops them in his pocket. Henry becomes Henry VII, he does a good job of uniting the two houses of Lancaster and York (you know, Tudor rose and all that) and the Plantagenet kings make way for the Tudor regents.

In all seriousness, it’s a complicated 32 years with powerful nobles shifting allegiances, claimants to the throne dying in battle, more powerful nobles getting arsey because they feel like they’re not being treated well enough, Kings being restored, Kings being captured, claimants being murdered and so on. Also lots of Edwards and Richards dying and then taking centre stage. You’ve got to be good at distinguishing your dicks from your teddies. Let’s try to summarise it for listeners:

Henry VI was a rather lame King who struggled to control his nobles and had a very assertive wife in Margaret of Anjou. During his reign, the French snatch all English possessions on the continent barring Calais. Incidentally Henry VI is the only English monarch to be crowned King of France although this is always disputed and conclusively lost at the end of the Hundred Years War. Henry VI also experienced bouts of bonkersness, the first in 1453 which was one of the final triggers for the Wars of the Roses. Behind him, his wife Margaret of Anjou fought with the powerful noble Richard of York, who had become ‘Lord Protector’ during Henry’s illness. Note; this Richard of York is not Richard III of York, who is his son. Henry VI and Margaret are Lancastrians, Richard is Yorkist. Not to be confused with a Yorkie; which is browner and more chocolatey (or as Microsoft Words wishes me to write; chocolatier).

8 years later, in 1461, one of Richard of York’s sons becomes Edward IV when Henry VI is deposed (Richard of York dying a year earlier). Henry is put in the tower of London and Margaret now takes up his cause. Henry is restored to the throne in 1470 after powerful noble the Earl of Warwick gets fed up with Edward IV and switches allegiance. In 1471 Edward retakes power, imprisons Henry again and kills his heir Edward of Westminster. Henry soon dies in prison. Edward IV reigns until 1483, his son becomes Edward V but is only 12, Richard (son of Richard of York – remember him?) grabs the thrown and becomes Richard III. The nasty man locks Edward V away in the Tower of London with his brother Richard, Richard III claiming that they are illegitimate because of Edward IV having had a secret marriage. These are the famous children who disappear, probably murdered and who’s bones were supposedly found in a box a few hundred years later. The nobles aren’t happy about Richard III and many of them switch sides and support Henry Tudor, Henry IV’s half-brother’s son. He invades from the continent, defeats Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth and there ends the Wars of the Roses!

Now to focus on a few of the sillier and quiet interesting side stories from the Wars of the Roses: I joked at the start about how dodgy the claimants to the throne became because everyone was dying, well, a couple of false pretenders to the English throne were put forward just after the Wars of the Roses. One was Lambert Simnel, so named because he was full, fruity and with a hint of almonds. In 1487, Simnel pretended to be Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick who had a distant claim to the English throne and was actually still alive. Simnel was of common birth and for some reason was picked up at the age of 10 by a priest who decided to educate this boy as a king in the hope of him one day becoming king. Originally, this priest though that he’d pretend that Simnel was the child Richard who had been imprisoned alongside his brother Edward V in the Tower of London, claiming that he’d escaped. The priest then heard rumour that Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick, had died in the Tower of London, which wasn’t true, and so decided to pretend that Lambert Simnel was he. Some nobles decided to grab hold of this opportunity to rebel again and invaded England with Irish and Flemish troops but the army was defeated quickly. Interestingly, Simnel was pardoned due to only being 10 and clearly a puppet, and spent the rest of his life working in court as a cook and a falconer. He was probably pretty chuffed! He’d had a lovely adventure, he’d been educated for free by a weird priest, he’d been at the head of an army that had fought in a real-life battle, he’d been crowned King of England in Dublin and now he had a good life in the King’s kitchen!

There was also Perkin Warbeck who claimed to be Richard, the aforementioned child who was locked in the Tower of London. He was born and brought up in the Low Countries where in his mid-teens he became a merchant. He seemed to bear a striking resemblance to Richard and began to claim to be him. He moved to Ireland at the age of 17 and once in Cork was taken on board by some Yorkists who decided to put him up as the heir to the English throne, like you do. He started making waves in Ireland and on the continent. Richard’s auntie publicly declared that he was Richard and monarchs in Europe called him Duke of York. Basically, rival powers to the English king, both from within and without, saw Warbeck as an opportunity to make life hard for the Henry VII. The Scots and the Spanish were involved in Warbeck’s first and rather shit attempt to be crowned King of England by invading from Scotland in 1495-96. A year later he attempted again from Cornwall where he mustered an army but was quickly defeated. Henry VII captured Warbeck, made him admit that he was an imposter and then treated him quite well. But alas, Warbeck was an all or nothing type of guy, and tried to escape. He should have taken a leaf out of Simnel’s book and just accepted his fate.

Now the following episode I find most amusing. Warbeck was then imprisoned in the Tower of London alongside Edward Plantagenet, the guy who Simnel has been impersonating. So we have an impersonator alongside an impersonated.

“Your look awfully like a chap I used to know called Simnel.”

“It’s funny you mention that! You look a lot like that chap Warbeck!”

“I am Warbeck!”

“But I thought you were Richard?”

“No! I was pretending to be Richard, just like you were pretending to be Edward.”

“I wasn’t pretending to be Edward, I am Edward.”

“So where’s Simnel then?”

“He’s down in the kitchens.”

“What about Richard?”

“He’s dead. His bones are in that little box under the stairs.”

There was also an interesting figure prior to the Wars of the Roses called Jack Cade who led a rebellion in 1450. Although before the Wars, this rebellion was one of many triggers for the wars. This was a popular uprising but unlike the Peasant Revolt of 1381, it was not a revolt of common people, you know, the type of people who rent a flat above a shop, cut their hair and get a job, smoke some fags and play some pool, pretend they never went to school. No, no, no, this was middle class rebellion; these were people with a thirst for knowledge, studying sculpture at St Martins College. The middle classes involved in this rebellion were complaining about judicial failures and inequalities, corruption and rigged elections, not economic repression like the peasants. Those involved in the Peasant Revolt wanted cheaper football tickets, a Greggs on every high street and an end to the tracksuit tax. Those involved in the Cade Rebellion wanted avocados that didn’t take ages to ripen, organic quinoa at markets and wider and better tarmacked roads so that they didn’t have to drive their 4X4s anywhere near mud.

These middle class rebels were rather brutal, which really surprised me because the middle classes usually prefer to be bastards in more subtle and less easily spotted ways. Anyway, Cade led the rebels to London, they made a pub their base of operations and then marched across London Bridge. The Lord High Treasurer was captured along with his son in law. They were both beheaded and had their heads put on spikes. As their heads were paraded through London, those funny rebels decided to push them together to make it look like they were kissing. Some looting took place and Cade seemed to lose control of the mob. Eventually Cade was captured the rebels were dispersed and Cade was given the old hung, drawn and quartered treatment. The remains of his body were then displayed around Kent where the rebellion had begun. Incidentally, this form of death for treason was being practiced as late as 200 years ago.