Life in Medieval England
The Battle of Blore Heath was fought in the late 15th century, which had been a turbulent and troubled
period in the history of England. To set the scene for discussion of the battle, it is helpful to take at look at what
life was like in England at this time.
The population of England in 1485 has been estimated to be between 750,000 and 3,000,000|
Men lived to an average age of about 50, about one fifth lived into their sixties
Infant mortality was extremely high, it is possible that up to half of all children did not live to
England was a wealthy and prosperous nation in the late Medieval period. The Black Death of the
previous century had decreased the population size such that the land was no longer overpopulated in
relation to its agricultural resources. Towns and villages dotted the countryside, with the
majority of the inhabitants involved with farming for their livelihood. The rearing of livestock
was a common occupation, especially sheep, which drove the thriving wool trade of
England at this time. There were around 10,000 villages in England by the middle of the fifteenth
Century. London was by far
the biggest city with up to 75,000 people resident there. At York, the next largest city, there
were about 15,000 inhabitants. Other important cities such as Coventry and Chester would have had
around 6,000 residents. These numbers are striking when one considers that the number of combatants
at Blore Heath was in the region of 10,000-15,000 men.
Presiding over the wealth of the land was the King, who was seen as a divinely appointed ruler.
The King relied upon the noble classes for local government of the territories of the kingdom. The
nobility therefore were entrusted with broad powers, and were rewarded for loyalty with land and
wealth. Thus the nobility became powerful magnates, and increasingly a force to be reckoned with.
The King also looked to the nobility to keep the peace. The King had no army of his own to call
upon, and would instead rely upon the nobility to supply men-at-arms when required. The fact that
powerful nobles could call upon sizeable armed forces meant that the King had to maintain good
relations with them, and also between each other. As we shall see, it was a failure to do just this
which in part led to bloody conflict in battles such as Blore Heath. The prominent land owning
magnates of the age - such as the Staffords, the Percies, the Nevilles and the Mortimers - were
influential in the course of the Wars of the Roses.
The rules which regarded succession to the throne were ill-defined. Generally, the succession of
the King's eldest son and his heirs was the rule, a process known as Primogeniture. However, in the period
between 1399 and 1499, this issue became complicated, and the Wars of the Roses arose from
powerful rival magnates embroiled in a power struggle for the throne.
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