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All That:

The Bowl of the Roses

by Kali Harlansson of Gotland
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Modern historians generally view the Wars of the Roses as a power struggle between factions of nobles, rather than as a civil war that pitted one section of the populace against another. Josephine Tey, in her popular murder-mystery-cum-revisionist-history, The Daughter of Time, compared it, for the commoners, to rooting for one's favorite football team. So to simulate the period experience, and acknowledging our intellectual - if that is the right word - debt to Peter Schickele ("New Horizons in Music Appreciation") and to the Reduced Shakespeare Company ("The Histories"), we give you:
Rose Bowl

"Good afternoon, and welcome to All That Sports. I'm Victor Gates-" "-and I'm Ken Passa. It's 1455, and we're in the little town of Saint Albans, in Herfordshire, England, for the kick-off of the Bowl of the Roses."

"As the teams are drawing up their battle lines, let's review the rosters. First are the Yorkists, in white, under the popular leadership of Richard, Duke of York, and his four sons Edward, Edmund, George, and Richard." "And let's not forget another key member of the team, Richard's nephew by marriage, Warwick." "Right you are: Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick. Fierce, proud, ambitious, the greatest landowner in England, and out to make a name for himself today: Kingmaker."

"Alright, and for the Lancastrians?" "First up for the Red, there's King Henry VI. Fresh back from a bout of insanity, he's rested and as ready for action as ever." "And how ready is that, Vic?" "Not at all, Ken. Let's face it, as a warrior king of a turbulent kingdom, Henry would make a great monk. He's very pious, and that's about the best you can say for him. Crowned king of England before he was one year old, and king of France before he was two, he's gone 33 years without showing an ounce of backbone."

"You mentioned his mental condition. How would you describe it, Vic?" "Catatonic schizophrenia." "That's quite a mouthful. How would you put it in layman's terms?" "He's stark, staring bonkers." "Henry probably got it from his grandfather, Charles VI of France. He used to go insane pretty frequently." "And just what was the frequency, Kenneth?" "Obscure and out-of-period reference there, Vic. Let's get back to the game."

"So who is the strongest player for Lancaster, then?" "That would be Margaret of Anjou, Henry's queen, nicknamed 'Daisy.' And you know, Vic, Margaret's father was Rene of Anjou, who wrote the famous Book of Love." "Thanks, Ken. I always wondered, wondered, wondered, wondered who, who wrote that book."

"And then there's Edmund, Duke of Somerset, one of the famous Beaufort clan." "Perhaps we should explain just who the Beauforts are, Ken." "Sure, Vic, let's have a try. Henry VI's great-grandfather, John of Gaunt, had his 'natural' children (by Katherine Swynford) retroactively legitimized in 1397. But they were specifically barred from the line of succession so, while the Beauforts are strong supporting players for the red team, they themselves aren't allowed to score."

"And this is something of a grudge match on Margaret's part, wouldn't you say, Ken?" "Absolutely, Vic. Two years ago, when Henry first went insane, Margaret very much expected to be named Regent. She resented it when Parliament picked Richard of York instead. And then he swept all her Beaufort friends out of office, and that really teed her off." "And then when Warwick publicly called her new-born son Edward a bastard, that just added insult to injury. So when Henry got his marbles back, Hurricane Daisy swept in and blew all the Yorkists out and the Beauforts back in. Richard feared for his life, and raised this army that's come to play today."

"And the roots go back even further than that. See, it was the Lancastrian team, way back in 1399, who set the precedent for how to deal with an incompetent king: you depose and kill him." "But now the Lancastrians have the incompetent king, the shoe is on the other foot, and the chickens are really coming home to roost." "Nice bunch of metaphors there, Vic. When Henry IV - our King Henry's grandfather, and founder of the team - took Richard II out of the game and crowned himself, he cut out Edmund Mortimer, who was ahead of him in the standings. Richard of York's mom was the last of the Mortimers, so there's a lot of people think he should already be king anyway. But he says he just wants to-"

"Excuse me, Ken, I think things are finally getting started down there." "Indeed they are! The Yorkists make the first charge...there's some fighting...Warwick charges up the middle...and scores! First point to the White: they capture King Henry, and York gets control of the government."

"Now there's some maneuvering...Henry's insane again and York is Protector...Henry's back and York is out...there's some more fighting..." "Oh, good move there, at 1460: the Act of Accord makes York permanently Protector of the Realm until Henry's death, and then he'll inherit the crown." "Margaret doesn't like that at all, seeing her boy disinherited like that. She's raising an army of her own - Henry's still trapped deep in Yorkist territory..." "Yow! Margaret scores a victory in the snow at Wakefield. Richard of York is dead, and his son Edmund, too."

"Now here comes Warwick up to face Margaret...he's got King Henry in tow...And it's another battle at St. Albans, at the 1461, and this time Red wins! And Lancaster regains control of the king." "Yes, poor King Henry: whenever there's a battle, he just sort of stands there in a daze until somebody captures him. It's kind of a recurring pattern with him."

"And now Margaret is going up to secure the north...there's still a lot of Yorkists running around...call against Margaret's army for unnecessary roughness..." "Look! Back in London, York's eldest son has just assumed the throne as Edward IV. Listen to the crowd! They love him!" "Yes, Edward's always been popular: a tall, blond hunk, with an eye for the ladies and a head for military strategy."

"And he's sweeping the Reds out of the north!" "Margaret has left the field! She's taking her son Edward with her, they're going to France looking for support."

"This leaves Edward IV in a commanding position. He's enjoying himself, too: leaving the government to Warwick, playing to the crowd, and flirting with the cheerleaders...Look! He's marrying one of them, Elizabeth Woodville! "Major gaffe there, Ken!" "I'll say, Vic. No king of England since the Conquest has married a commoner. And it's really gonna screw up some of Warwick's plans for a foreign alliance."

"What's going on now? There's some kind of commotion at 1465...I can't see...Willya lookit that! The York team has captured Henry VI! He was wandering around on the sidelines, disguised as a monk!" "And Edward has him locked up in the Tower of London for safekeeping. This puts Edward in a very, very solid position."

"Edward certainly seems to be favoring his new in-laws, the Woodvilles. Giving them easy hand-offs, Warwick estates..." "Yes, Warwick wasn't too pleased before, but now he's- I don't believe it! He's changing sides! Yes he is, he's going over to Lancaster in 1469, and George of Clarence is going with him! King Edward's own brother! I can't believe it!" "Edward can't believe it either! He escapes to Holland in 1470, just in time, with his one remaining brother, Richard of Gloucester." "And Warwick lets poor old Henry VI out of the Tower and back onto the field."

"Things are really getting fast and furious now, folks. Edward and Richard return from Holland, at 1471. And they're rejoined by George, who just can't seem to pick a side and stick with it." "Margaret is invading from France! She's trying to link up with Warwick..." "Edward beats Warwick at Barnet. He kills Warwick, and regains possession of Henry." "And here comes Margaret...there's a big pile-up at Tewkesbury...I can't see...Yes, Edward wins! Edward captures Margaret, kills her son (young Prince Edward), and has Henry killed back in the Tower. It's 1471, and Edward seems to have the game all sewn up."

"But brother George is starting to act up, at the 1478. He's starting to call the plays himself..." "And that after switching sides during Warwick's defection. Edward doesn't look too pleased with him now." "Whoa! Edward's dunked George in the team's butt of Gatorade!" "I believe that's only a figure of speech, Vic. He's probably just been beheaded in the usual way."

"Whoops, Edward's down! Dead at 1483, of age and debauchery." "The crown is passed to his young son, Edward V...Uh-oh, penalty marker down...Edward's children are declared ineligible due to a previous marriage contract, and his brother gets the crown, as Richard III." "Ken, d'ya think we can make a joke here about Richard's position, 'Left Hunchback' or something?" "Sorry, Vic. One of his shoulders is higher than the other, that's all. Now the Duke of Buckingham is trying to make a break for it...Richard tackles him..."

"Whoa! Richard is flattened at 1485, by an obscure Welshman out of Brittany named Henry Tudor. And Henry's taking the crown for himself!" "Waidaminnit! Henry's only connection with the Plantagenet line is through the Beauforts. And the Beauforts were banned from the succession!" "That's right Ken. Unless you could count his descent from Katherine of Valois?" "That's true, Henry VI's widowed mother married Owen Tudor in...well, there doesn't seem to be any actual record of a marriage, which would make Henry Tudor a sort of bastard half-nephew, on the non-Plantagenet side..." "No, I guess that wouldn't count for much."

"And Henry Tudor scores! with the beautiful Princess Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV!" "And with that masterful dynastic move, Henry unites the two feuding, feudal families and brings to a close this historic struggle. It's all over, bar cleaning up a few loose Yorkist heirs. Speaking of which, whatever happened to Edward IV's two young princes, Ken?" "We'll save that for an episode of Unsolved Histories."

"So that's it from All That Sports. Just remember, if you want to know anything about the history of sport-" "-or history as sport-" "-just ask V. Gates-" "-and K. Passa!"
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text copyright 1997 by Caleb Hanson (e-mail)
composite illumination and animated roses copyright 2000 by Carol Hanson
Links to Books
book cover Tey, Josephine
The Daughter of Time
(trade paperback reprint, $8.00 at Amazon.com)

album cover The Wurst of PDQ Bach, as performed by Peter Schickele
(2-disk CD, $22.47 at Amazon.com)
book cover The Reduced Shakespeare Co. presents: The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged)
(paperback, $8.95 on back order at Amazon.com)
cassette cover The Reduced Shakespeare Company Radio Show
(audio cassette, $15.26 at Amazon.com)

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last modified on Nov. 24, 2004

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