Wars of the Roses
The Wars of the Roses (1455–1487) were a series of civil wars, fought over the throne of England, between supporters of the House of Lancaster (the Lancastrians) and supporters of the House of York (the Yorkists). Both houses (families) were branches of the House of Plantagenet, and were related through King Edward III.
The wars began for several reasons. Historians have different ideas over which was the most important. It was due to England's defeat in the Hundred Years' War in France, money problems afterwards and problems with the feudal system of government. King Henry VI was also seen as a poor ruler by some of his people, due to his lack of interest in politics and his mental illness. His French queen, Margaret of Anjou often made key decisions instead.
Richard, Duke of York tried to take the throne from Henry. After York was killed in 1960 at the Battle of Wakefield, his son Edward then tried to take the throne. Edward overthrew Henry in 1961 and became King Edward IV. He defeated the Lancastrians in several battles, the largest being the Battle of Towton. Fighting broke out again in 1469 when Edward's most powerful supporter, the Earl of Warwick, switched sides to support Henry. Edward fled the country in 1470 and Henry VI became the king again. This did not last long, as his armies were defeated at the Battle of Tewksbury in 1471. Edward IV took the throne again and Henry VI died soon afterwards (historians think he was murdered), leaving the Lancastrians without a leader.
Edward IV ruled until his sudden death in 1483. His son ruled as King Edward V for 78 days before being pushed out by his uncle. He took the throne as King Richard III. The young Edward then disappeared, and people thought he was murdered on the orders of Richard III (many historians agree). This caused many Yorkists to turn against Richard III. Rebellions broke out. Henry VI's relative Henry Tudor became the leader of the rebellions, creating a new Lancastrian army. In the Battle of Bosworth Field, Richard III was killed and his army was defeated. Henry took the throne as King Henry VII, the first king of the House of Tudor. He saw himself as uniting the two houses to make peace. To show this, he married Edward IV's daughter Elizabeth of York.
The name of the Wars of the Roses comes from the white rose symbol for the House of York and the red rose symbol for the House of Lancaster. However, the red rose symbol was not used until after Henry VII became king, and most soldiers fought under the symbol of their local nobleman. The name was not used until the 19th century. In earlier years they were known as the "Civil Wars". The houses were named after the cities of Lancaster and York, but these cities played little role in the war. The two houses owned land all over England and Wales.
With the help of "The Kingmaker" Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick, King Henry VI was overthrown by Edward of York, the Duke of York’s son, and Henry VI’s cousin. Thus began the "Cousin’s War", or the "War of the Roses".
Edward and Warwick made a good team until Edward (who was crowned Edward IV) married a commoner, named Elizabeth Woodville. This made Warwick very angry, and Warwick eventually became King Edward's enemy, by helping the Henry retain the throne. Edward's brother George changed sides too because he was married to Warwick's daughter, Isabel. Warwick, who was called the Kingmaker because he had put Edward on the throne, proved his loyalties to the wife of Henry by betrothing Anne Neville, his other daughter, to Henry's son Edward of Lancaster. This was good for Anne because Henry's son was heir to the throne so she could become Queen. Warwick also fought Edward and won so put Henry VI on the throne, although he only stayed on the throne for a short time.
Anne went to France to get married but when she got there she learnt that her father, Warwick, had been killed in battle by King Edward and that the House of Lancaster had been severely weakened. Also, George had returned to the House of York so Anne was on a different side to her sister. The House of Lancaster was then run by Margaret of Anjou, the wife of Henry VI, and also the Queen of France. She tried to invade Britain with her army but she was intercepted by King Edward, and her son, Edward of Lancaster was killed. Margaret was arrested and imprisoned and Anne managed to prove her loyalties to the House of York. Later on she married Edward's brother Richard.
When Edward IV died in 1483, his son Edward V took over, but was murdered in the Tower of London along with his brother Richard. Edward IV's brother Richard then became King, as the other brother, George, was also dead. Richard was King for 2 years with his new wife, Anne Neville, before being killed by Henry VII, a distant relative of Henry VI and heir to the Lancastrian throne.
- John A. Wagner and Susan Walters Schmid, eds. Encyclopedia of Tudor England (3 vol. 2011).
- J. A. Guy, Tudor England (1990) a leading comprehensive survey
- Wallace McCaffrey, "Recent Writings on Tutor History," in Richard Schlatter, ed., Recent Views on British History: Essays on Historical Writing since 1966 (Rutgers UP, 1984), pp 1–34
- Later defected to the Lancastrians.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Wars of the Roses.|
- The Wars of the Roses Chronology World History Database
- The Wars of the Roses Has a large article on 'Soldiers and Warfare during the Wars of the Roses' with interesting information on the fighting and tactics of the day, plus battles and people
- warsoftheroses.com includes a map, timeline, info on major players and summaries of each battle
- A complicated but comprehensive diagram of the Wars of the Roses is at threetwoone.org
- An extensive chronological account is at Wars Of The Roses. The historical interpretation which accompanies it is the personal view of the author