ABSTRACT

Contemporary annalists – mainly London chroniclers – on whom we rely heavily for accounts of the Wars of the Roses, dwell mainly on the wars’ immediate political causes and effects. Their more general comments are focused on abuses of kingship and on the dynastic issue, with occasional reflections on the times being out of joint. They largely lacked the hindsight and historiographical concepts which enabled Tudor writers to view the wars as an integral episode or at least as a connected sequence of events, and predisposed them to moralize about the evils they inflicted on society. 1 There were, indeed, some contemporary writers who considered the wars more generally. The first continuator of the Crowland abbey chronicle, a Benedictine monk who chronicled events up to January 1470, wrote that the dissensions which had sprung up between Henry VI and Richard of York ‘were only to be atoned for by the deaths of nearly all the nobles of the realm’. He alleged that divisions had spread within a variety of social organizations: ‘ And not only among princes and people had such a spirit of contention arisen, but even in every society, whether chapter, college, or convent, had this unhappy plague of division effected an entrance.’ He summarized the dire results in a passage which has earned him the denigration of modern historians: ‘the slaughter of men was immense: for besides the dukes, earls, barons, and distinguished warriors who were cruelly slain, multitudes almost innumerable of the common people died of their wounds. Such was the state of the kingdom for nearly ten years.’ 2