Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Robert Berkhofer

Second Advisor

Dr. James Palmitessa

Third Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Teviotdale


Marriage, fifteenth-century, England, violence, Wars of the Roses

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


England’s King Edward IV married Elizabeth Woodville in 1464. Edward’s sister Margaret of York married Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, in 1468. Both marriages occurred during England’s fifteenth-century conflict, the Wars of the Roses. And both created conflict between Edward, Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick, and France’s King Louis XI. Most historians regard this conflict as either a sign of or product of disorder. I, however, argue that both marriages could have been a calculated form of “lawful” violence known as disworship used to damage the political capital of Warwick and Louis and thereby instigate war with France.

Disworship was the act of damaging a lord’s influence in politics (worship). To regain his worship, the offended lord had to respond by issuing a lawsuit or calling for armed combat. Whoever lost this contest lost his worship permanently, so disworship could be an effective means to oust one’s opponents. Since disworship was often described through emotions such as “hate,” “anger,” or “grief,” I examine chronicles, letters, genealogies, and literary works to show how their emotional language suggests that the marriages disworshipped Warwick and Louis and provoked them to respond with violence. This study nuances conceptions of the Wars of the Roses as a period of disorder by suggesting that some of the conflict could have had a strategy to it. This thesis also allows for a reexamination of medieval marriage strategies that do not conform to typical understandings of marriage as a peace-keeping mechanism.