Rumour: Earl of Warwick plots to restore Henry VI. In 1467.

In 1469 a series of rebellions were instigated by the Duke of Clarence and Earl of Warwick. The causes of the revolts are varied but in general terms relate to foreign policy, cronyism, and disfatisfaction with diminished roles that the Duke, Earl, and their supporters felt they had at that time. Many of these issues are tied to events of 1468. Edward IV siding with the Woodville preference for a pro-Burgundian policy; George Duke of Clarence being snubbed as a diplomatic marriage option; and, the increased influence of people who were not from established high ranking families. Did the Earl.of Warwick also consider plans to restore King Henry VI as he became disillusioned with Edward IV’s rule? 

The Earl of Warwick’s discontent

An entry in the Milanese State Papers, dated 9 May 1467, challenges that timeline and suggests that the restoration of Henry VI was an aim.

This intriguing entry in the Milanese State Papers shows us that the Earl of Warwick’s dislike of the situation was noted by foreign observers as early as May 1467.

Plan to restore King Henry VI, May 1467

From Chartres, a report sent to Milan noted:

“There has been talk of treating with the Earl of Warwick to restore King Henry in England, and the ambassador of the old Queen of England is already here.”

This is over 3 years before the Angers Agreement and 18 months before the Earl of Warwick, or the Duke of Clarence made any kind of public move against King Edward.

King Henry VI. The Milanese noted rumours that the Earl of Warwick planned to restore him as early as 1467.
Henry VI
published by John Player & Sons, after Unknown artist
colour relief halftone cigarette card, 1935
NPG D48125
Creative Commons Licence
© National Portrait Gallery, London

The Earl of Warwick challenged

Whether the rumour as accurate or not is hard to determine for that time. King Edward summoned the Earl to respond to the suggestion: The Earl declined but responded in writing. That was accepted by the King, and it was not unusual for a leading magnate to be busy with other matters.

Plots aiming to restore King Henry VI

However, the following summer, Warwick’s deputy in Calais, Lord Wenlock, was conspiring with the Lancastrians. Later, in early 1469, the Earl of Oxford was known to be plotting on behalf of the exiled Queen Margaret and her son, with the Lancastrian line’s restoration in mind.

Dating the origins of the Earl of Warwick’s discontent

Clearly, Warwick was plotting at some point before it became clear to the Yorkists. When that began is a matter of debate. Warwick’s discontent was fuelled by a variety of issues, some of which were evident by mid-1467, but whether it had been the case long enough to turn him against his long-time ally by this point is not known.

Fact versus Milanese observations

The Milanese State Papers report observations. These are not always fact based and often simply reflect rumours, or the level of tension. It cannot be taken as read that their representatives hearing tbst the Earl of Warwick was considering restoring Henry VI means that he was. Indeed, when revolt did get planned it was initially aimed not at replacing Edward IV but rather at removing political opponents. When further revolts were initiated it was not calls for the restoration of Henry VI but cries in favour of the Duke of Clarence that were heard. It was not until 1470, after two phases of revolt,  that the Earl of Warwick allied himself with the Lancastrian affinity.


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