The Wars of the Roses: 4

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Books as expression of loyalty

Books, being highly expensive, tended to be seen by the rich and influential so they were a good site for political propaganda. This copy of The Troy Book was commissioned by William Herbert, earl of Pembroke, as a way of demonstrating his loyalty to the new regime: he and his wife Anne are the figures kneeling at the king’s feet, presenting him with the manuscript of the poem. Pembroke did indeed prove loyal to Edward and died fighting for him at the Battle of Edgecote in 1469. Choosing a poem about the fabled city of Troy was significant because, by tradition, the English liked to think they were descended from the Trojans and London was sometimes called ‘New Troy’ by poets; the implication is therefore that Edward IV is the descendant of the kings of Troy.

Source 3

This extract offers a personal description of Edward IV. Read it carefully and use its internal evidence to answer the questions that follow.

‘[The queen] attracted to her party many strangers and introduced them to court, so that they alone should manage the public and private business of the crown, surround the king, and have bands of retainers, give or sell offices, and finally rule the very king himself. At this point it seems imperative to say something of the character of the king and of those who were then very powerful at court. Edward was of a gentle nature and cheerful aspect: nevertheless should he assume an angry countenance he could appear very terrible to beholders. He was easy of access to his friends and to others, even the least notable. Frequently he called to his side complete strangers, when he thought that they had the intention of addressing or beholding him more closely. He was wont to show himself to those who wished to watch him, and he seized the opportunity that the occasion offered of revealing his fine stature more protractedly and more evidently to on-lookers. He was so genial in his greeting, that if he saw a newcomer bewildered at his appearance and royal magnificence, he would give him courage to speak by laying a kindly hand upon his shoulder. To plaintiffs and those who complained of injustice he lent a willing ear; charges against himself he contented with an excuse if he did not remove the cause. He was more favourable than other princes to foreigners, who visited his realm for trade and any other reason. He very seldom showed munificence, and then only in moderation, still he was very grateful to those from whom he received a favour. Though not rapacious for other men’s goods, he was yet so eager for money, that in pursuing it he acquired a reputation for avarice...’


D) From the internal evidence of this source, suggest an answer 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 events described? If so, how might that affect the way we read this account?