WAR OF THE ROSES – PART ONE
1422. Henry VI becomes King of England and France at an early age. His bickering uncles/protectors, Duke of Gloucester and the Bishop of Winchester control both Country and King while England’s war heroes, Talbot, Salisbury, Suffolk, Bedford and York continue to fight on the front lines in the HUNDRED YEARS WAR. England is on a winning streak (reducing the French population by half) until the emergence of one Joan Of Arc (age 16). With Joan guiding the French Army, England loses many French territories they’d ruled for 300 years!
A new force, some 3,000 strong under English warrior John Talbot reverses the French victories! But in a surprise counter-attack, the French army defeats Talbot, and this paladin — greatly revered by French and English alike — is tragically killed alongside his son. Meanwhile, the French sell off Joan of Arc to England…and we know what happened there. Today, Joan is the Patron Saint of France.
1445. Henry welcomes his French bride, Margaret d’Anjou, to whom he has been married by proxy through Suffolk, her lover. Suffolk will now gain power via access to Margaret. But this marriage is a poor political choice, costing England her hard-won territories in France. Henry’s popularity suffers and many are incensed at this insult.
Key players around Henry become desperate for control. They conspire to take down “Uncle Gloucester” and his power-mad, occult-leaning wife, Eleanor and totally destroy them.
Gloucester is murdered and the King’s other protector, corrupt Bishop Winchester dies in a babbling fit, confessing his heinous sins. And the Boy King, berated by his wife, displays signs of instability and zealotry, ignoring the urgent decisions demanded of him as King. The commoners, who loved Gloucester, demand the death or banishment of Margaret’s boyfriend, Suffolk, and King Henry sends him packing.
The weak state of this Monarchy invites York to claim his royal heritage. Along with Warwick, the “King Maker,” York plots a takeover. Enter “pretender” to the throne, the rogue, Jack Cade and his sketchy pals. Cade’s Rebellion might seem like a refreshing popular uprising, but in Shakespeare’s take, they’re pawns in one more elite guy’s master plan to become King of England: York.
To add insult to injury to the Royals…the delivery of a severed head. This is personal!
WAR OF THE ROSES – PART TWO
Jack Cade’s Rebellion is in full swing and gaining popularity with peasants, shopkeepers, craftsmen, landowners and a few squires plus some soldiers and sailors returning from the French wars and furious over England’s military losses, thanks to King Henry. Henry is prompted to move against the rebels as they storm London, screaming about corruption and abuse of power! Once inside the city’s gates, Cade and his men spiral into chaos, engaging in looting and drunken behavior. London officials close the bridge, and people turn on the mob. Cade’s head rolls. So much for the People’s Rebellion.
Meanwhile, Henry forgives the commoners and receives word that York and an army are marching in from Ireland, demanding the imprisonment of Somerset. Buckingham tells York Somerset is imprisoned, and in good faith, York dismisses his army. But when Henry enters with a free Somerset, York accuses Henry of being unfit and declares himself to be the rightful heir to the throne. Somerset orders York’s arrest – one more internal fight that leads to a split where even Henry agrees there is nothing left to do but fight. So with the 100 Years War over, now the Lancasters fight the Yorks in the War of the Roses, with the Lancasters claiming a symbolic red rose, the Yorks white. (By the way all of these folks are related).
In back and forth gains and losses with our characters dropping like flies, York declares victory for himself. With sons Edward and Richard, and his Battle Brothers, York heads for London!
He storms the throne room with his Powers, all wondering where King Henry fled. Warwick urges York to sit on the throne and when he does….Henry appears with his Powers! They want to take York down but Henry urges calm and kindly asks York to vacate the throne chair. Instead, York makes his claim to the throne. Suspecting York’s claim may be valid, Henry asks York to let him remain king while he lives, then he will pass the throne on to the house of York upon his death! York leaves, satisfied. Henry’s nobles are astonished that he’d deny his son Edward, his birthright. Margaret arrives and loses her mind over her husband’s latest stunt.
Back in the town of York, York’s sons Edward and Richard urge York to grab the throne immediately, rather than waiting for Henry’s death. York insists he swore an oath but Richard convinces him the oath was not binding. Meanwhile, a furious Margaret brings an army to fight York.
York’s young son, Rutland is killed by bitter Clifford in a revenge move. With York’s troops losing, York is captured by Margaret and Clifford. She offers him a handkerchief dipped in his son’s fresh blood and challenges him to wipe his tears with it. What happens here is the worst of human behavior.
While York’s sons, Edward and Richard wait word on their father, they get a sign inferring that the three York brothers must operate as one. (Richard prefers to keep his allegiance only to himself.) A messenger arrives with news of York’s murder, and the brothers are devastated. Warwick prepares to spar with Margaret’s forces, bringing in the aid of York’s other son George, Duke of Clarence with his army. Another Lancaster/York summit occurs with no resolution! They will have to argue on the field of battle. Again.
On the field: Richard hunts Clifford to avenge his brother and father’s death. The tides of the battle ebb and flow as Henry watches from a hill. He sees soldiers dragging bodies then discovers a father has killed his son, a son has killed his father. Henry mourns that his nation has come to this level of unnaturalness.
Edward (son of York) is assured he has won the battle. He and York brothers head to London to grab the crown. Meanwhile, as Henry VI wanders through the forest, he is recognized and captured. Warwick heads to the King of France to ask for the hand of his sister for Edward. Margaret also arrived to ask the King of France for military aid against Edward.
In London, Elizabeth Gray petitions Edward to get her land back. He falls in love and asks her to marry him. His brothers are against it. Meanwhile, Richard ponders his route to the throne.
In France, King Louis decides to give sister, Lady Bona, to Edward, thus denying Margaret aid…until a messenger arrives with news of Edward’s sudden marriage to commoner Elizabeth Grey! Insulted, Warwick flips sides, pledging new allegiance to Henry. Angry King Louis gives Margaret troops to fight against Edward.
In England, Edward and his brothers receive news that Warwick and Margaret have joined forces against him! Brother George (Duke of Clarence) is so upset by Edward’s marriage that he leaves with Somerset to join Warwick. Warwick and George free Henry from the Tower of London and go to gather troops but soon Edward and Richard capture Henry and send him back to the Tower.
Edward’s army faces Warwick’s forces. Edward asks Warwick if he will again swear allegiance to him. Warwick refuses. Warwick’s supporters arrive, including George. Richard convinces George to break with Warwick, blood being thicker than water. All fight. Warwick is wounded in battle and dies. Margaret urges on her forces, and they meet Edward’s army. Edward wins this battle; he tragically kills Margaret’s teenage son, Prince Edward and imprisons a wailing, grief-stricken Margaret. Richard sneaks off to the Tower, where Henry mopes.
It’s clear why Richard is paying this visit. Henry predicts that thousands will suffer because of Richard’s deeds, for he was born under the most inauspicious and evil signs. Richard murders Henry in the middle of his monologue. He comes out to us as a basic psychopath, separated from the ties of family, love and brotherhood.
Later. In Court. King Edward’s son is born and he calls for festivities to celebrate his attainment of the throne. Richard, holding the child, decides he will play the role of the good brother and subject, while he plots ways to eliminate everyone in his way to the throne.