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Reforming England’s ‘harde covetouse hert’: William Worcester and the diagnosis of defeat

Reforming England’s ‘harde covetouse hert’: William Worcester and the diagnosis of defeat

Halsey, Catherine

York Medieval Yearbook, ISSUE No. 1, (2002)

Abstract

By 1450 the English had been defeated in battle at Formigny and had lost their lands in northern France, with the exception of Calais. In 1453 the Hundred Years War was effectively over. Inevitably, contemporaries attempted to diagnose the factors that had let to defeat. William Worcester offered a diagnosis in the Boke of Noblesse. Although the purpose of the Boke was to encourage and promote a new campaign in France, Worcester also sought to explain and assess the English defeat and to offer models of reform for the future conduct of the war. He conventionally attributed defeat to the nation’s ‘synne and wrecchidnes’ and, within this framework, he identified the particular faults of the nation which had led to divine disapproval. These faults were lack of prudence and governance ‘and havyng no consideracion to the comon wele, but rathir to magnifie and enriche oure silfe by singuler covetise’.

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