Loveday of 24 March 1458

The 'Loveday' of 24 March 1458 was an attempt by Henry VI to reconcile the two squabbling factions amongst his nobility. Despite a public display of unity the effort was a failure and in the following year fighting broke out again at the start of the second phase of the Wars of the Roses.

In the early 1450s the English political establishment became to split into two factions - supporters of Henry VI's government as led by Edmund Beaufort, second duke of Somerset, and opponents of that government, led by Richard, duke of York. Somerset was in charge in Normandy when it was lost to the French in 1449-50, but his political career survived that military disaster and he began to dominate Henry's government.

York appears to have felt threatened by this and returned from Ireland in 1450 in an attempt to overthrow Somerset, but he failed to gain support from his fellow peers. Events in the north eventually forced Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury and his son Richard Neville, earl of Warwick into York's came, and when Henry suffered his first mental breakdown in the summer of 1453 they supported York's claim to be Protector of the Realm. During Henry's illness Somerset was imprisoned in the Tower of London and Salisbury was awarded with high office, but when Henry recovered at the end of 1454 the Protectorate came to an end, Somerset was released and Salisbury lost his post as Chancellor.

The Yorkist lords clearly believed that they were about to be attacked by Somerset and the Court party. They left court without seeking the king's formal agreement and went north to raise troops. In the meantime Somerset appears to have been planning to take legal action against the Yorkists, so when they marched south with their army the Lancastrians were unprepared. The first battle of the Wars of the Roses, at St. Albans on 22 May 1455 was fought within the town itself. Very few Lancastrian nobles were killed in the fighting, but amongst them were Henry Percy, second earl of Northumberland, Thomas Clifford, Lord Clifford and Edmund Beaufort, duke of Somerset.

Later on in the Wars of the Roses the heirs of defeated peers could expect to find their estates seized and their titles forfeited, but in 1455 that didn't happen. York was still claiming to be loyal to Henry VI and just concerned with reforming his government, so Northumberland, Clifford and Somerset were succeeded by their sons, Henry Percy, third earl of Northumberland, Henry Beaufort, third duke of Somerset and John Clifford, Lord Clifford. All three became dedicated enemies of York and his allies, and in particular Warwick, whose men had made the breakthrough at St. Albans and had probably killed Clifford and maybe Somerset.

York's victory at St. Albans hadn't brought him any permanent increase in power. His Second Protectorate was short-lived and Henry VI ended it early in 1456. By now he had a male heir, the infant Prince Edward, and his wife, Margaret of Anjou, emerged as a major player in the Lancastrian revival. Both sides recruited sizable bands of armed followers and the atmosphere across the country was tense.

In 1458 Henry VI made a determined attempt to reconcile the two parties. He summoned a great council, to be held in London in January 1458 and to be attended by most of the peers. Warwick, who was then Captain of Calais, may not have been invited, but attended anyway.

Both parties turned up with large numbers of retainers. York brought 400, Salisbury 500 and Warwick 600, presumably including some professional soldiers from Calais. On the Lancastrian side Somerset had 800 men while the northern lords, Northumberland, his brother Lord Egremont and Lord Clifford brought 1,500 men. The city authorities decided to house the Yorkists within the city and the Lancastrians outside, and mounted their own armed guard.

Two months of tense negotiations followed, led by Henry and Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury. Despite the King's desire for peace there was some fighting, and Northumberland, Clifford and Egremont even attempted to ambush York and Salisbury as they were travelling from London to Westminster.

The Agreement

Eventually the two sides came to an agreement. It is clear that the Yorkists were seen as having been responsible for the outbreak of violent in 1455 and they made most concessions

York was to pay Somerset 5,000 marks (he actually passed on 5,000 marks of debts owed to hum by the crown). Warwick was to pay Clifford 1,000 marks. Salisbury was to cancel fines that had been imposed on Northumberland and Egremont for their actions in the Neville-Percy feud earlier in the decade (including Egremont's attack on a Neville wedding party at Heworth, near York, on 24 August 1453. Egremont had been jailed because he was unable to pay his fine, but had later escaped. The Yorkists were also to endow St. Albans Abbey with £45 per year to pay for a chantry to pray for the souls of the dead at the battle. In return the Lancastrian lords promised not to seek vengeance for the deaths of their fathers.

On the Lancastrian side Egremont had to provide a 4,000 mark bond and promise to keep peace with the Neville family for ten years. This was part of a wider agreement to keep the peace forced on the Neville and Percy familes.

The agreement was announced on 24 March and on the same day was officially sealed with a solemn procession to St. Pauls for a mass. Queen Margaret walked arm-in-arm with York, Salisbury with Somerset and Warwick with either Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland or Henry Holland, duke of Exeter, all following behind Henry VI.

The 'loveday' agreement had little long term impact. York and Salisbury were still excluded from government and Queen Margaret was still determined to starve Warwick of cash at Calais. Later in the year he was summoned to London to answer charges of piracy, and the visit descended into a brawl. Warwick just managed to escape to his ships and return to Calais, from where he refused orders to return. Both sides blamed the other for the outbreak of violence, and early in 1459 both sides became to prepare for war. When the fighting did resume the Lancastrians were better prepared, and the Yorkist leaders were forced into exile after abandoning their armies at Ludford Bridge, but they were soon able to return from exile and captured Henry VI at Northampton on 10 July 1460, just over two years after his 'loveday'.

Books on the Middle Ages - Subject Index: Wars of the Roses

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (19 February 2014), Loveday of 24 March 1458 ,

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