In Our Time on Radio 4 – Dr James Ross on Queen Margaret of Anjou

In Our Time on Radio 4 – Dr James Ross on Queen Margaret of Anjou

When I was approached to be one of the guests on Radio 4’s In Our Time to discuss Queen Margaret of Anjou (1430-82) in May this year, it wasn’t a hard decision to say yes. Margaret is a fascinating character who deserves serious discussion, but I am also keen that the period of history I study (the fifteenth century generally but particularly the Wars of the Roses) gets greater attention and that the fruits of academic research are available to the general public, both of which the programme aimed to do. Nonetheless, I did have two worries. Firstly, discussing Margaret as a person, investigating queenship during the Wars of the Roses and placing her within the context of the fiendishly complicated politics of the 1450s and 1460s so that the non-specialist could follow – all in 40 minutes – was always going to be tricky. Secondly, the broadcast was live, and the audience was in the millions…
Fortunately, the BBC staff worked hard to reassure the guests (Dr Katherine Lewis at Huddersfield, Dr Joana Laynesmith at Reading and myself), and, as they said it would, once you are in the little studio and underway, it felt less like a national broadcast and more like a friendly four way chat between the guests and the host, Melvyn Bragg, who brings his own authority and presence to the debate. We discussed the role of a queen in the fifteenth century, how Margaret came to be queen of England, and how her role changed when her husband, King Henry VI, collapsed, probably never to recover fully, how far she became the leader of the Lancastrian party, and how she tried to keep her husband on his throne, ensure the succession of her son, and the continuation of her own role as queen – and why she ultimately failed in these aims.
Once the live broadcast was over, there was a more relaxed discussion that was also recorded and contains some interesting debate. We all felt we had contributed something to the discussion overall from different perspectives, without committing major errors (or accidentally swearing on live radio!). See for yourself how successful (or not) we were in conveying what was expected of Margaret as a queen, how she performed that role and recast it, and the extreme difficulty of her position during the Wars of the Roses – the official podcast is here:

Dr. James Ross, Reader in Late Medieval History, University of Winchester

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