The Wars of the Roses: 1

Virtual classroom

These extracts look at three of the main characters to emerge from the Wars of the Roses, King Henry VI, King Edward IV and the controversial King Richard III. Read each extract and then try to answer the questions that follow using only the internal evidence of the source.

Henry VI / Source 1

The first extract deals with King Henry VI. It was often said that Henry was better suited to a religious life than to kingship and this extract considers the issue directly. Read it through carefully and then think through the questions that follow it.

It is written that we are to praise no man before his death, but that in the end shall be the exposing of his works... I have therefore thought fit to treat of some matters to the praise of God and of the serene prince King Henry VI now deceased...He was a simple man, without any crook of craft or untruth, as is plain to all. With none did he deal craftily, nor even would say an untrue word to any, but framed his speech always to speak truth...Against the pest of avarice with which so many are infected and diseased, even princes of the earth, this king Henry of whom we speak was most wary and alert... to the confusion of avarice he was very bountiful with his gifts, as his former servants bore witness... The same prince when in the end he lost both the realms, England and France, which he had ruled before, along with all his wealth and goods, endured it with no broken spirit but with a calm mind, making light of all temporal things, if he might but gain Christ and things eternal... He also customarily wore a long gown with a rolled hood like a townsman, and a full coat reaching below his knees, with shoes, boots and foot-gear wholly black, rejecting expressly all curious fashion of clothing... to confirm his notable devotion to God, many who yet survive and were once of his household say that he was wont almost at every moment to raise his eyes heavenward like a denizen of heaven or one rapt, being for the time not conscious of himself or of those about him, as if he were a man in a trance or on the verge of heaven...'


A) Try to work out an answer, however tentative, to the following:

  • From what sort of work might this passage have been extracted?
  • What sort of person might have written it?
  • Who and what might it have been written for?
  • Is there any evidence that the writer was directly connected with the person described?

When you have worked out some thoughts on these, you can find out more on the next page.