The 15th-century Wars of the Roses between Yorkist and Lancastrian factions often summon images of royal intrigue and courtly splendor. Whether it is one of Shakespeare’s plays or a more scholarly account, histories of this struggle for the English throne tend to privilege the nobility. Art historian and NHC Fellow Sonja Drimmer offers a far different perspective of the era. By extending the political sphere beyond the royal court and into the court of public opinion, Drimmer explores how a newly-formed, larger public played an important role in this decades-long conflict.
In this podcast, Drimmer turns to objects that tell a broader story about how the public participated in a shifting landscape of political language. Ranging from the “funny, to the inept, to the gruesome,” these objects include everything from scrolls testifying to the genealogical legitimacy of nobility, to livery badges that functioned like campaign buttons, to descriptions of severed heads. By delving into the art and objects of 15th-century England, Drimmer recasts the Wars of the Roses as an extended political campaign that cultivated, and depended upon, public support and engagement.