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Thomas Malory's 'Le Morte Darthur' Enlarged image
Thomas Malory's 'Le Morte Darthur'
British Library Add. MS 59678, f.35
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Who was Thomas Malory? Malory led the unremarkable life of a country gentleman, attending to his judicial and social responsibilities as lord of the manor until 1450 when, for unknown reasons, he turned to a life of crime. With 26 men, he ambushed the Duke of Buckingham and tried to murder him. He stole livestock, and extorted money with menaces. He was accused of rape on two occasions. Leading a small army of 100 men, he attacked Combe Abbey, terrifying the monks and stealing their money and valuables. Malory was arrested and spent most of the 1450s in various prisons without ever coming to trial. He made his escape twice and was bailed out on two other occasions. Malory was one of a number of gang leaders who exploited the increasing breakdown of law and order across England. Central government was weak under Henry VI, who suffered from bouts of insanity. Local disorder thrived. Richard, Duke of York ruled as Regent during the illness of Henry VI, who came from the house of Lancaster. When Henry recovered in 1455, Richard was not about to relinquish power. Civil war broke out as the houses of York and Lancaster fought for the throne in the Wars of the Roses.