The fifteenth century is a century of change. At its beginning, we find the still lasting battle between England and France about French territories, summed up in the term Hundred Years' War, and at its end we can see glimpses of a new future, best symbolized by Christopher Columbus' discovery of America in 1492.

In England, the heirs of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, are reigning as Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI at the beginning of the century, but after a series of battles between Lancastrians and Yorkists, later on called the Wars of the Roses, we have the powerful House of Tudor at its end with Henry VIII as its second king.

In 1413, Henry V followed his father to the throne and turned out to be a gifted and pious king who was able to fight or negotiate with the French as no king before him. His greatest triumph over the French was the victory of the Battle of Agincourt. When Henry and his army returned home, they were celebrated as heroes and, although he had forbidden any songs and celebrations to be made upon this event, we still have the famous Agincourt-Carol. In 1420, Henry V was acknowledged heir to the French throne by the treaty of Troyes and married the daughter of the French king, Catherine, who was to become one of the central figures of the century.

When Henry V died too early in 1422, his son Henry VI  was not yet one year old. In his reign, the Hundred Years' War finally came to an end. He was crowned King of England in 1429 and two years later King of France, but could not hold this title as his French opponents grew stronger, especially under the leadership of Joan of Arc, while he was weakened by a mental disease (between 1452 and 1455) ironically inherited by his French royal relatives. The French territories were finally lost in 1454, except Calais that could be kept till 1558.

Henry VI's reign saw the beginning of another war, later called the Wars of the Roses, during which murder, intrigue and battle robbed the Yorkists Edward IV, Edward V and Richard III their throne. It ended with the marriage of Henry VII Tudor and Elizabeth of York to unite all the claims to the throne once and for all.

The fifteenth century was not only a century of war, but also of culture. Lydgate and Hoccleve were the most well-known poets at its beginning, Sir Thomas Malory at its end. Caxton opened his printing shop at Westminster in 1476 and it was possible to produce texts more easily in a greater number.

The contacts to France, especially to Burgundy, furthered English music to a great extent: John Dunstable produced the kind of new music that was to be imitated by musicians all over Europe. He made the first mass-cycles possible: songs in mass no longer were separate, but were composed over one melody, thus musically connecting them to each other.

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The 15th Century