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Why did Burgundy help Edward IV win back
his crown in 1471?


The starting point in constructing this activity was identifying the problems students have with the topic of Edward IV’s return in 1471. The first is the assumption that Burgundy supported Edward because of the family link created by the marriage of Edward’s sister, Margaret, to Charles of Burgundy. Therefore the activity was constructed to identify Burgundy’s initial reaction to Edward’s arrival in exile and why the Duke’s attitude changed as events, dictated by others, unfolded.

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Setting Up

The room is set up as a map with England, Burgundy and France identified. Students wearing tabards with their ‘character’s’ name on are positioned on the map in their positions in late 1470. i.e.

  • Warwick and Henry VI in London
  • Margaret and Prince Edward still in France alongside King Louis
  • Charles of Burgundy and Edward IV in Netherlands but with a clear space between the two of them.

The Activity

What follows is a rough script identifying questions to ask and possible lines of discussion with individuals and the class as a whole. The script however is only the basis for development as this kind of activity has to be flexible so that you can respond to students’ replies and ideas, teasing out possibilities and offering options. One of the most fruitful moments in learning happens when a student gives a ‘wrong’ answer, choosing a course of action other than that followed by the person whose role they are taking. This leads into discussion of what it is the student has misunderstood or hasn’t known about the situation. After such a discussion we need to steer events back to what happened in reality.

Begin with a brief recap using individuals:

• Warwick had attempted to win control of England 69-70 – but had then fled to France

• King Louis had brought Warwick and Margaret together despite their past hatred

• Warwick returned in September 1470, coinciding with a northern rising – Edward fled to Netherlands early October when he realised he had little support.

ASK Warwick – what now? Can you be king? NO. What’s the option? Make Henry king.

Crown Henry – recap his weaknesses and health

Warwick - Any weaknesses in your situation?

[Warwick’s ally Margaret and Prince Edward in France – suggests suspicion – are you happy with that? Could discuss problems arising from return of Lancastrian lords and disputes over land ownership.

ASK Edward – now you’re in exile in Bruges what do you want/need?

[tease out initial focus on basics - shelter, food, money, clothing  – provided by Louis de Gruythuse, former Burgundian ambassador]

Longer term – why do you hope Duke Charles will help you?

[marriage link through Edward’s sister, Margaret]

ASK Charles – what’s your reaction to Edward’s arrival?

[Student assume Edward is welcomed – they are unlikely to predict that Charles refused to meet Edward – Charles reportedly wished Edward had never come, maybe wished him dead.]

Open up to group - How can we explain Charles’s attitude? – Think about Charles’ priority as rule of Burgundy – i.e. protecting Burgundy from French aggression.

So what does Charles need from England – aid v France.

ASK Charles - Will you negotiate with Warwick, now ruling England?

[Charles did try to negotiate with Warwick.]

Key point - Therefore Charles clearly putting Burgundy’s need before that of brother-in-law Edward. Surprising?

ASK Warwick – will you give Charles help v France? NO – two reasons – don’t want to antagonize France, especially after French aid for yourself and secondly Burgundy is sheltering Edward even if giving him no positive aid.

ASK France – how have events in England helped you in aim of winning control of Burgundy?

1. Now no Edward to help Burgundy by invading France or sending troops

2. Warwick grateful to Louis –hoping to gain territory if France takes Burgundy.

Therefore Burgundy is more vulnerable now Edward’s been deposed.

So – December 1470 – ask Louis – what next? Will you attack Burgundy?

[France declared war on Burgundy]

Ask Charles – You need help – where from? Not from England while Warwick’s in control – If only Edward was still king … maybe …

ASK Edward – would you give Burgundy military help v France if you were able to get crown back swiftly?            Yes!

NOW MOVE Edward next to Charles.

Charles and Edward met on 2 January for first time since Ed arrived in Netherlands 3 months earlier – length of time shows Charles’s caution and that his support for Edward not at all automatic.

Agreement – Charles gave Edward £20,000, ships and facilities to fit out invasion force.

Summing up – why has Charles helped Edward?

The activity could then continue through Edward’s return and decisions by him and others to the battle of Tewkesbury and the murder of Henry VI, identifying other reasons for Edward’s success in 1471.

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Constructive feedback is always welcome, particularly anything that will help other teachers.

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Setting Up

The Activity