The Loveday of 1458 (also known as the Annunciation Loveday) was a ritualistic reconciliation that took place at St Paul's Cathedral on 25 March 1458. It was the culmination of weeks of negotiations initiated by King Henry VI in an attempt to resolve rivalries within his nobility. English politics had become increasingly factional during Henry's reign, and this was exacerbated in 1453 when he became mentally incapacitated. This effectively left the government leaderless, and eventually the king's cousin, and at the time heir to the throne, Richard, Duke of York was appointed Protector during the king's illness. Alongside York were his allies from the politically and militarily important Neville family. When the king returned to health a year later, the protectorship ended but the partisanship within government did not.
Supporters of King Henry and Queen Margaret have been loosely called "Lancastrians", as the house of Lancaster, while the duke and his party are considered "Yorkists", after his title of Duke of York.[note 1] The Duke of York felt increasingly excluded from government, and, in May 1455--possibly fearing an ambush by his enemies--York led an army against the king at the First Battle of St Albans. There, in what has been called more of a series of assassinations than a battle, the personal enemies of York and the Nevilles--the Duke of Somerset, the Earl of Northumberland, and Lord Clifford--perished.
In 1458 the king chose to attempt to unite his feuding nobles with a public display of friendship under the auspices of the Church at St Paul's Cathedral. Following much discussion, and amid the presence of large, armed, noble retinues which almost led to another outbreak of war, a compromise was ordained. The compromise was celebrated with a procession by all the major participants from Westminster to St Paul's Cathedral. Queen Margaret walked hand in hand with York, and other adversaries did similarly, the sons of the dead Lancastrian lords taking their fathers' parts. Certain reparations had to be made, all by the Yorkist lords, who accepted responsibility for St Albans. They were ordered to make repayments to the dead lords' widows and sons, and eternal masses were paid for the souls of all who had died. In the long run, however, little was achieved. Within a few months, violence between the lords had broken out again, and within the year, York and Lancaster faced each other over a battlefield again at the Battle of Blore Heath. Historians debate who--if anyone--actually gained from the 1458 Loveday. On the one hand, the crown publicised its role as the ultimate court of appeal, but conversely, although the Yorkists were bound to pay large sums in compensation, this was done with money already owed by the government. Fundamentally, factional discord was highlighted on the public stage, and the war it was intended to prevent was only deferred.
By the middle of the 15th century, English politics had become increasingly factional. Richard, Duke of York and his Neville allies, Richard, Earl of Salisbury and his son, Richard, Earl of Warwick, and their cousin John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk were in opposition to the government of King Henry VI, led by the king's favourite, Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset. The king had become mentally incapacitated in August 1453, and parliament authorised a protectorate to rule in the king's stead. This ended in January 1455 when the king regained his health.[note 2] The Nevilles had been feuding violently with the Percies--led by the Earl of Northumberland's son, Thomas Percy, Lord Egremont--in Northern England before the king's illness. York's protectorate had given them victory over their rivals, who had massive financial penalties imposed upon them.[note 3]
With the kIng's recovery, York and the Nevilles retreated to their northern estates, and Mowbray did likewise to East Anglia, distancing himself from factional politics. An uneasy peace existed between the court and the Yorkists until April 1455, when the king summoned a great council to meet at Leicester the following month. The Duke of York feared that the purpose of this council was to destroy him; several chroniclers of the day suggest that Somerset was influencing the king against the Duke with "subtile meanes". He and the Nevilles raised an army from their respective estates. The king and a small force left London on 20 May; the Yorkists approached from the north with a speed calculated to surprise. In a pre-emptive strike, York and his allies intercepted the royal army at the First Battle of St Albans. The fighting lasted only a short time, and though there were very few fatalities among the common soldiery, the chief Lancastrian captains--Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, Somerset and Thomas, Lord Clifford, were all killed. They were not only three of the king's most loyal and powerful supporters, but Percy and Somerset at least were bitter enemies of the Nevilles and York. Because of this, the battle has been described more like a series of targeted assassinations than a fully-fledged battle. The king was taken prisoner and escorted back to Westminster by the victorious Yorkists.
The period between St Albans and the Loveday, says the historian A. J. Pollard, is one of the most poorly recorded of the entire century, although enough is known to have allowed historians to piece together events. By 1458, Henry's government urgently needed to deal with the unfinished problem that the Battle of St Albans created, called by Ralph Griffiths the "craving of the younger magnates for revenge on those who had killed their fathers". But Henry also wanted to bring the Yorkists "back into the fold". Taking the initiative, the Loveday was intended to be his personal contribution to peace.[note 4] Another strong motive was that intelligence was received suggesting the French planned to invade Calais. Although the attack on Calais never occurred, the previous year had seen direct attacks on Sandwich--which the French had sacked and taken many prisoners from--and this was reason enough to bring the warring parties together.
The ritualistic reconciliation that contemporaries called a loveday has been described by historian Bertram Wolffe as "a formal accord on the limited issue of atonement and compensation".[note 5] The legal historian John Baker suggested that, in particularly contentious affairs, a Loveday was deliberately designed "to avoid reasoned decision making", being designed to result in voluntary--therefore amicable--settlements, regardless of who was legally in the right. The process often had a physical aspect to it, such as the parties having to worship or dine together. Lovedays were particularly favoured among the nobility as a mechanism by which parties could avoid the involvement of the crown in their disputes if the parties so wished. They were held in a neutral location agreeable to the protagonists, and pre-arranged by individuals acting as their councillors. These were important men in the extra-legal process, says Griffiths: "anyone who talked or wrote about or organized these dies amories was half-way towards settling potentially dangerous quarrels". The protagonists would usually arrive accompanied by retinues and await an award from the arbitrators, normally three men, trusted by all those involved, usually members of the local nobility. Often one of them would be appointed an umpire in case of a deadlock.
King Henry believed that an organised settlement, under his leadership, could be made between the opposing factions. He summoned a great council to Westminster, intending to make an arbitration award, or as the summons stated, "to set apart such variances as be betwixt divers lords". It was scheduled to meet in November 1457, but it was met with little interest by the nobility; few turned up. York arrived, as did Salisbury, although the latter was escorted--willingly or not is unknown--from Doncaster by Viscount Beaumont. The little that is known of this council stems from subsequent writs cancelling it and then reforming it. It was rescheduled for 27 January 1458, and, this time, it appears to have been more positively received. The lords began arriving in London a few days earlier. Each arrived with a retinue, and in the cases of the main protagonists, these involved substantial bodies of men.[note 6]
The king appears to have done his best to guarantee the safety of those attending, as he summoned levies from the counties for defence of London and Westminster, and paraded them through London in a show of strength. On 26 January, the Duke of York arrived with 400 armed followers; the Earl of Salisbury was already in London with 500 men. Their attendance boded well for the king's plans. Other bitter rivals of the Yorkists soon followed: they included Henry, Duke of Exeter (who had feuded with the Nevilles in Northern England during the Percy-Neville feud of 1453-1454) and the new Duke of Somerset, who had been involved in at least one attempt to assassinate Warwick the previous year. Described as "ducal hotheads" by R. L. Storey, they arrived soon after York with another 800 men between them. Not arriving until a fortnight later, the new Earl of Northumberland, Henry Percy, and his brothers Thomas, Lord Egremont and Sir Ralph Percy--accompanied by John, Lord Clifford--together brought a small army of around 1500 men. The Earl of Warwick, having come from Calais--where he was Captain--arrived last, having been delayed crossing the Channel. He brought another 600 retainers.[note 7] It was only after Warwick arrived that the king summoned members of the nobility less involved in the dispute, such as the Earl of Arundel. The Lancastrians, says Griffiths, were seen as "spoiling for a fight", and were therefore unwelcome to stay in London itself, as the mayor and common council feared a pitched battle breaking out if the two sides and their entourages met.[note 8] Indeed, York and Salisbury were nearly ambushed by Exeter, Egremont and Clifford on their way to Westminster, although the attempt failed.
R. A. Griffiths, The Reign of King Henry VI (1981)
The great council met on 27 January 1457,[note 9] King Henry made a personal appearance before the newly-gathered lords and made a plea for unity. He then withdrew to Chertsey  and left them to their deliberations and retired to Berkhampstead Castle. However, instead of beginning the negotiations themselves, says Bertram Wolffe, this council "does not appear to have done anything until the middle of March", when the king returned. From that point on discussions, led by Henry and certain members of the council he decided were impartial in the matter, began in earnest. Says Griffiths, these discussions "were long and doubtless acrimonious"; the king prayed and wished for a settlement, and eventually--perhaps inevitably--one was reached, although the presence of so many armed men probably assisted in the process. Henry's trusted councillors met the Yorkists in the City, at the Blackfriars, in the morning, and then in the afternoon met the Lancastrian lords at the Whitefriars on Fleet Street.[note 10] The king also addressed other issues: the question of the governorship of Ireland probably arose and the Earl of Warwick was appointed Admiral of the Seas. This office was previously held by the Duke of Exeter, and thus exacerbated the enmity between them. These were, however, says Johnson, "side issues"; St Albans was the important thing. King Henry was visited on 23 February 1458 by Somerset, Exeter, Clifford and Egremont; it is not known whether their visit was regarding the imminent arbitration, although it has been suggested that it was unwise of Henry to see them, in case it was perceived as being in the face of his neutrality.
On 24 March the king announced his decision. Blame for the Battle of St Albans was placed implicitly upon the Yorkist lords: the king's award noted the obviationem et insultationem ("insults and opposition") experienced by Somerset, Northumberland and Clifford. This both acknowledged the wrongdoing and criminality that had been done but also allowed for the expression of the King's Grace. Like the arbitration awards the nobility themselves imposed on their tenants, the king's had a financial element. The Duke of York was to pay 5,000 marks to Somerset and his dowager mother; Warwick was to pay 1,000 to Lord Clifford, and Salisbury (and his sons) agreed to cancel the massive fines that were imposed on Egremont and Ralph Percy at the end of the two families' feud a few years earlier. On this account Salisbury was also, on behalf of John and Thomas, to pay 12,000 marks to the Dowager Countess of Northumberland; she and the new earl likewise pledged themselves to keep the peace against the Nevilles. The financial obligations that were imposed on many Percy tenants after the feud with the Nevilles were also lifted, and--because Egremont escaped from Newgate, where he had been imprisoned after the feud--even extended to Salisbury promising not to take any action against the prison sheriffs whose negligence allowed Egremont's escape.[note 11] Wolffe has argued that the result was no more than "a formal accord on the limited issue of atonement and compensation", although the attitudes of individuals towards their perceived opponents was probably more important than compensation. Furthermore, York and Warwick's payments were not to be in cash; rather, they were to renounce debts owed them by the crown which amounted to a similar figure. To fulfil their obligations, they merely had to return government-issued tallies to receive the required amount.
In the Yorkists' favour, they were declared to be the king's "true lieges", although any reassurance they took from this, says Watts, may have been tempered by the fact that so were the three dead lords of St Albans. The Yorkists also agreed to endow St Albans Abbey with a new chantry and £45 a year for two years, for the monks to say masses in perpetuity for the slain.
The Lancastrian lords, as the injured parties, had to make no reciprocal concessions to York and his allies, although Egremont was required to make an independent bond of 4,000 marks towards the Nevilles to keep the peace with them in Yorkshire for ten years. Thus, says the historian Helen Maurer, the crown implicitly recognised that bad blood had pre-existed between the Nevilles and Egremont even before St Albans.
The pact became known by the date on which it was promulgated, 25 March, or Lady Day (the Feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin). The king--"thanking God for their having reaching accord"--led the parade from Westminster to London. First was Somerset and Salisbury--who was 36 years older than Somerset--then Exeter and Warwick, then "the king alone, wearing his crown and royal robes" between them all, and finally York and the queen. All parties held hands. This can be read in different ways. As "a symbolic series of gestures", says John Sadler; a show of "friendly and modest intimacies" suggests Patricia Ingham; or as rhetoric bordering on a charade, argues Anthony Pollard. At the time, physical intimacy was an essential element of concord and the intention was clearly to demonstrate their willing agreement. The queen's presence holding York's hand (rather than him holding Somerset's), says Watts, was an acknowledgement of her role and increased political profile in the post-St Albans body politic. It was a mixture, says Griffiths, of "elaborate ceremonial, royal prayer and example, monetary payments and the holding of hands", between, he goes on to say, "bitter enemies". The lords were taking no more chances now than they had when they first arrived in London: Salisbury, for example, attended the religious ceremony at St Paul's with his retinue of 400 men, which included 80 knights and esquires. Although called a Loveday, comments John Sadler, "the title is ironic, as there was little of love in the air".
The immediate aftermath of the Loveday was positive, not least for the Nevilles as Egremont was granted permission to go on a pilgrimage that June. From the crown's perspective, this was an opportunity to physically remove one of the parties to a dispute from the theatre. The king and his council seem to have decided that the Percies and the Nevilles' feud in the north was the primary cause of St Albans, and therefore to attempt to address it directly--unlike, say, the enmity between York and the dead Duke of Somerset. The king went on his own pilgrimage to St Albans at Easter, which, says Griffiths, "demonstrated that the site of the battle in which he had been wounded and his ministers slain no longer stirred fearful memories in his mind". The appearance of amity was maintained publicly with "with a royal round of jousts, feasting, and other entertainments until May" 1458, both at the Tower of London and at the queen's Palace at Greenwich.
The Earl of Salisbury subsequently had an exemplification copy of the Loveday agreement made. This, to Michael Hicks, suggests that he saw the award as being in his benefit, notwithstanding the recompense he was ordered to make. After all, says Storey, realistically, all Salisbury had to do was "give up bad debts". It is also likely that it was as a result of the Loveday deliberations that in May 1458 Salisbury's son Sir John Neville was arranged to marry a ward of the queen, the heiress Isabella Ingaldsthorpe. The crown itself benefited from the Loveday as its role as arbiter-in-chief--"the cement of the political fabric", wrote Anthony Gross--was reaffirmed in a blaze of publicity. However, says Headmaster Paul Johnson, the traditional and probably definitive way of uniting the nobility was war; and this, most certainly, was disapproved of by the king and never an option.
There is some disagreement among historians as to who won or lost at the Loveday; Hicks considered it to be a "reasonable compromise", while John Watts and R. A. Griffiths saw it as being punitive to the Yorkists. P.A. Johnson, meanwhile, suggested that York, at the least, did "very well" out of it. At the least, says David Grummitt, the Loveday illustrated the "essentially private and personal nature of the dispute" between the Yorkists and their enemies. More broadly, however, this worked against the Yorkists in the longer term: By focussing on, and emphasising, the personal quarrels between York and Somerset, for example, the award ignored and sidelined the original complaints of the Yorkists that they argued had created the causes of the battle in the first place.[note 12] Furthermore, he says, if any part of the nobility were united by the Loveday, it was the Yorkist lords. Christine Carpenter has suggested that the Council--whom, like Watts, she sees as the guiding hand behind the negotiations--wanted to keep the occasion one of "general reconciliation and restoration of magnate unity". She argues that they specifically tried to avoid highlighting the degree to which the nobility was divided, but that it was the queen who turned it into "a formal recognition...that there were two opposing camps".
The Loveday is notable, says Pollard because it saw the Yorkists acknowledge their wrongdoing and culpability for St Albans, where they "accepted blame they had denied immediately after the battle". However, it was always likely to fail in the long run, says Pollard, because it did not contain the one thing that the new Lancastrian lords most wanted--revenge for their fathers. It was not, therefore, "a satisfying long-term solution". This may well have been recognised by contemporaries; not long after the Loveday, a poem was published entitled Take Good Heed, which offers advice and anxious support to the Yorkist lords for the future. The day was also the occasion for Henry VI to be presented with a new translation of the contemporary verse paraphrase, Knyghthode and Bataile. This was a recent adaption of De re militari, and celebrates the martial exploits of the noble class in a classic chivalric form. Not all commentators were impressed: a Coventry preacher, one William Ive, said caustically that the king "made lovedays as Judas made with a kiss with Christ".
The peace ordained at the Loveday, says Pollard, "was shallow and shortlived". Having failed to solve the underlying crisis in the long term, "the atmosphere of distrust and intrigue still continued". Indeed, the Loveday itself may have contributed to a heightening of tensions within the nobility. It reopened the very question as to what actually happened at St Albans; but, having opened it, not only failed to provide an answer but highlighted existing divisions. The government, for its part, contributed to the decline in relations with the Yorkists--who were very much northern lords. This was because by releasing the Percies from the constraints, they reawakened old rivalries; undermining the Nevilles in Yorkshire now shifted the local balance of power. In London, there was an ugly brawl at Westminster between the Earl of Warwick's men and those of the Duke of Somerset, which the earl saw as an attempted assassination; certainly he had to fight his way clear of the Palace, and made his way to Calais. At the same time, York and the Nevilles were increasingly isolated by the queen's party politically.
Henry's organisation of the 1458 Loveday negotiations was one of the last occasions of his reign in which he showed either an interest in or a commitment towards affairs of state. From that point on, Queen Margaret began subtly, but clearly, asserting the control of herself and her adherents in government. The Duke of York retired to his marcher estates, and the Earl of Salisbury to his in the north. Carpenter has posited that--"ironically at the most overt moment of conciliation"--the Loveday represents the point at which magnate disunity could no longer be denied, and, therefore, when the Wars of the Roses actually begun. Although the few months following the Loveday are "impenetrably obscure", as J. R. Lander put it, the Yorkist lords, at the queen's instigation, were eventually indicted for treason at the Coventry Parliament the following year; armed conflict broke out again when the Earl of Salisbury's army was ambushed at Blore Heath by a Lancastrian army. The Yorkists were still, supposedly, paying their dues to their opponents from 1455.