More Historical Inaccuracies

Scene Depiction Reality
I.i At time of Henry’s marriage (1445), Gloucester as Lord Protector Gloucester stopped being Lord Protector in 1429
Suffolk promoted from Marquis to Duke This promotion does not take place until 1448
Warwick as Salisbury’s son Richard Neville is the son Richard Neville (the Earl of Salisbury); but will not get the title of Earl of Warwick until he marries Anne Beauchamp in 1450
Warwick claims to have in France to gain Maine and Anjou Not true, Warwick (age 17 in 1445) never fought in France; Shakespeare mistakes Neville for Richard Beauchamp, the earlier Earl of Warwick (the one mentioned in 1HVI)
York plots for throne No evidence of this happening so early in history
I.ii Gloucester’s wife is Eleanor Cobham Gloucester married Cobham in 1431; their marriage is annulled in 1441 (four years before the events of this play)
I.iii Queen Margaret hates the Duchess of Gloucester Cobham was out of the historical picture before the marriage; the two women never met
I.iv Eleanor Cobham is arrested by York for witchcraft While Cobham was arrested for witchcraft, it was four years earlier in 1441; York could not have been the arresting officer as he was serving in France at the time
II.ii York recounts his claim to the throne; says that Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, claimant to the throne, was captured by Owen Glendower Glendower did capture an Edmund Mortimer, but it wasn’t the claimant to the throne, it was his uncle (same name, but no claim to throne)
II.iv Gloucester summoned to the Parliament at Bury while saying goodbye to his banished wife Eleanor is banished in 1441 and the Parliament at Bury doesn’t take place until 1447
III.i At the Parliament at Bury (1447), news comes that all of France has been lost At this point, England still had much of its lands: loses Normandy in 1450, Bordeaux in 1451; all is not lost until the Battle of Castillon in 1453 (where Talbot died in 1HVI)
York says that in two weeks, he will leave for Ireland York doesn’t leave the country until 1449
York says that he will use John Cade to foment rebellion No evidence of this happening at all
III.ii Gloucester murdered Gloucester was arrested at the Parliament of Bury on February 11, 1447, and he died in his bed on February 28; official word is natural causes, but many in the public feel it was murder with Suffolk masterminding
Suffolk immediately banished for the murder of Gloucester Suffolk is arrested (on a demand from the commons) in January of 1450; he isn’t banished until March of that year; the un-popularity stems from a number of sources: Gloucester (who was popular) is murdered in 1447 and the commons suspected Suffolk; Suffolk seizes Gloucester’s lands (since Gloucester left no heirs); Suffolk made duke in 1448 (raising suspicions that he and Queen Margaret were lovers)
III.iii Cardinal Winchester dies immediately after Gloucester Almost true: Gloucester died on February 28 1447; Winchester a month and a half later on April 11
IV.iv Cade enters London, killing and looting Cade entered London on July 3, 1450 without bloodshed
IV.viii Cade’s rebellion ends and York returns from Ireland simultaneously Cade’s rebellion ended in July of 1450; York returned in September
IV.ix Cade killed unknowingly by a landowner Cade killed in a skirmish on July 12, after a bounty was put on his head
V.i York immediately disbands his army upon his return; he is then arrested (but he won’t go to jail) York doesn’t disband his army until March 1452; when he does, he is arrested, but is immediately pardoned and released to house arrest, forced to swear allegiance
York brings out his sons Edward and Richard to speak on his behalf; Richard speaks Richard was born in 1452 and would have been an infant here
Salisbury and Warwick publicly join with York and the Battle of St. Albans begins (1455) The truth is a little more complicated… and we’ll need a full width of a page for this…

OK, in 1450, York is back with his army, wanting the arrest of Somerset.  Somerset is confined to the Tower of London for his own safety for a short period in 1451, and York disbands his army in March of 1452.  On March 10, 1452, he is arrested, but being too popular to execute, he is pardoned, released into house arrest, and forced to swear allegiance (Shakespeare has the boys do this, too, though Richard would have been an infant).  Then in July of 1453, Talbot (remember him from last month?) is killed at the Battle of Castillon, effectively ending the Hundred Years War with France… at this point, All IS lost.  And all of the above is depicted by Shakespeare in one way (read: chronology) or another.

Then something happens that is not in Shakespeare’s version of history (which, since he’s writing for Tudor monarchs, is going to be very pro-Lancaster/anti-York):  in August of 1453, Henry VI suffers a massive mental and emotional breakdown.  It could have been the loss of what his father had won (France), or it could have just been something in his genes (he was grandson to the French king “Mad” Charles VI).  Regardless, if Shakespeare, writing a pretty positive view of the king, does show his weakness… can you imagine what the reality of his breakdown was like?

In October of 1453, Queen Margaret finally delivers a child… and thankfully, a boy.  How many out there think pious Henry is the father?  Any one?  Well, the court and the populace had their doubts as well, but none could be proved (and if you can’t prove illegitimacy, raising the topic is tantamount to treason… so best to keep quiet).  This, too, is not portrayed in the play.

At the beginning of 1454, King Henry was fairly incapacitated, and there was a 3 month-old heir to the throne, but no one wanted to through THAT again, so a new Lord Protector needed to be named (for Henry again, rather than his infant son Edward).  With Somerset unpopular (especially after the debacle in France) and York’s popularity ever rising, Margaret threw York a bone, as it were, and named him Protector of the Realm.  This isn’t in the play, either.

If York was really the ambitious schemer Shakespeare portrays, he would have named himself king (either locked up or killed or locked up then killed the king, and then proclaimed the infant a bastard [not a stretch of the imagination]).  Instead, what does York do?  He lives up to his word (re: his return from Ireland), and arrests and locks away Somerset, but doesn’t have him executed.  And this wasn’t… well, you know, in the play.

Near the end of 1454, Henry seemed to regain his senses, and that schemer York, what does he do?  He resigns his position as Protector.  And just as promptly, Somerset is released from prison and restored to political favor.  And now we’re kinda, sorta, back to what Shakespeare chooses to portray in the play.  Salisbury and Warwick make public their loyalty to York…. and we’re off to St. Albans.

St. Albans, where in the play, Somerset is killed in battle by Richard.  Somerset did die at St. Albans, but it is unlikely that it was at Richard’s hand: Richard was only three years old at the time of the battle.  So why does Shakespeare give Richard this martial victory?  Richard WAS an accomplished soldier… but maybe Shakespeare wanted to depict Richard as bloodthirsty, even in his youth.

Ah, Shakespearean history… all the news fit to print for your current king.

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