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The 15th Century


The 15th century brought many changes in England, particularly under the rule of the Tudors from 1485 onwards. While many continents such as Australia and America were barely known about, England, Scotland and Wales were well established countries, each with their own kingdoms and rulers.

Life during the 15th century was harsh and physical. Life expectancy at that time was just 35 years! Although most people lived in small rural villages, some cities had developed including London, Bristol and Norwich.

Some of the key events during the 15th century were:

1413 Henry V came to the throne
1422 Henry VI ascended the throne
1461 Edward IV was crowned king
1483 Edward V followed by Richard III were crowned king
1485 War of Roses ended. Henry VII was crowned king


Most people were farmers but the mining of tin, coal and lead were also popular and profitable. Hunting, falconry, jousting, tennis and bowls were the pastimes of the wealthy.

Water was obtained from the local well, water pump or stream in buckets but it was often polluted. Food was excellent for the wealthy, with all kinds of meat, fish and wine available. The poor lived on bread and crops from their fields.

King Henry IV was on the throne at the beginning of the 15th century. He was born at Bolingbroke Castle in Lincolnshire and was the first of the rulers of the House of Lancaster. He took the throne from his cousin Richard II who was from the House of York, and this began the long-standing Battle of the Roses. In 1413 he was succeeded by his son, Henry V.

Henry V was 14 years old when he fought in his first battle and he is best known for his part in the Battle of Agincourt against the french. He died at the age of 35 and his son Henry VI came to the throne.

At just 9 months old Henry VI was the youngest ever king of England but his uncle ruled in his stead until he was older. Henry VI ruled from 1422-1461, when he was deposed. During his reign he founded Eton College.

Henry VI was also the King of France when his maternal grandfather died in 1422. At this time Joan of Arc led the French armies in protest before she was captured and burned at the stake. There is a statue of her in Winchester Cathedral.

After Henry VI came Edward IV, of the House of York, until Henry VI was restored as king. Henry ruled again from 1470-1471. His reign ended when he was murdered in the Tower of London.

Finally Edward IV took the crown again in 1471 and destroyed the Lancastrian forces at Tewkesbury. Edward IV and Henry VI were the only two English kings ever to have ruled more than once.

Many coaching inns and pubs and have survived from the 15th century, with quaint features such as inglenook fireplaces. They continue their traditional trade of serving ale, good food and providing accommodation, although standards of luxury are somewhat improved!

Some examples are the Chequers Inn in Ashdown Forest near East Grinstead or the Canards near Shepton Mallet, which makes a great centre for visiting all the attractions around Glastonbury and Wells.

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