Wars of the Roses

The “Wars of the Roses,” were a series of battles, which took place in medieval England between 1455-1485.  Two rival branches, the Lancastrians who wore the red rose, and the Yorkists who wore the white rose, both descendants of the Royal House of Plantagenet.  Both wanted the same thing; control of the English throne.

England’s claimants to the throne: On one side, we have the third son of King Edward II; John of Gaunt.  Henry Bolingbroke the son of John of Gaunt, ousted King Richard II in 1399, and was crowned King Henry IV of England.  He is remembered for the creation of the “House of Lancaster.”

Henry the son of King Henry IV succeeded his father, becoming King Henry V of England in 1413.  He renewed the Hundred Years War with the French, beating them at Agincourt in 1415.  He married Catherine de Valois, and upon his death in 1422, left an infant son and heir; King Henry VI of England.

The other claimant to the English throne be Richard, the Duke of York, who claimed his right of inheritance, being descended from the female relatives of King Edward III’s second and fourth sons.  Lionel of Antwerp the Duke of Clarence and Edmund of Langley, the Duke of York. 

In the year 1411, Richard Plantagenet was born to parents Richard the 5th, Earl of Cambridge and Anne Mortimer.  In the year 1415, became the Duke of York, when Edward his uncle was killed at Agincourt.

He served as Henry VI’s lieutenant in France (1436-1437), Governor of France and Normandy (1440-1445).

The English court eyed him with much suspicion, he whose father had been executed for his involvement in the “Southampton Plot.”  He being a descendant on both sides from King Edward III.

Things would have been much different if King Henry V had died childless.  His claim to the English throne would have been guaranteed.  Instead Henry left an infant son and heir, to carry on the family dynasty.

In the August of 1453, King Henry V was declared mad and needed a Regent to rule on his behalf.  What we had at this time, was a mentally unbalanced King.

The Scheming Richard, the Duke of York stepped forward, he being the complete opposite to Henry; warlike, ambitious and greedy.  By the March of 1454, Richard had been appointed the King’s Regent.

Edmund Beaufort, the Duke of Somerset was an obstacle in Richard’s plan to seize the throne.  When Richard became the King’s Regent in 1454, he sought revenge upon his enemies.  Edmund was arrested and sent to the Tower of London, to remain there until the King regained his sanity.

It was not until the May of 1455, that Richard, the Duke of York could rid himself of Edmund Beaufort, a powerful and loyal supporter of the King.  Beaufort lost his life at the “First Battle of St.Albans.”

Henry’s bout of insanity was short lived, and by Christmas 1454, he had returned to his post, and Richard lost his position as the King’s Regent.

The power struggle instigated by the descendants of Edward III, had reached new heights.  The Plantagenet royal family had broken into two rival factions.

King Henry’s House of Lancaster, bearer of the red rose and Richard’s House of York, bearer of the white rose.

The only way the royal houses of Lancaster and York could resolve their issues was through Civil War.

The first battle of the “Wars of the Roses” took place on the 22nd May 1455, when Richard, the Duke of York, took on the forces of King Henry VI of England.  The first battle was known as the “First Battle of St.Albans,” and became a victory for the Yorkists.

Richard, the Duke of York and victor at St.Albans, became constable of England.  He became guardian of King Henry VI and imprisoned him in the Tower of London.

Queen Margaret would not stand by, and be walked over, she escaped taking command of Lancastrian forces in the north.  On the 30th December 1460, her army took on the Yorkist forces at the “Battle of Wakefield.”

Yorkists suffered a bitter blow, when their leader, Richard the Duke of York lost his life on the battlefield.  Margaret set the head of Richard, the Duke of York on the gates of York, wearing a paper crown.  York in death over looked the city of York.

The sons of Richard, the Duke of York and Edmund Beaufort, the Duke of Somerset, sought to avenge their father’s.

Eighteen year old Edward, the new Duke of York, defeated Lancastrian forces at the “Battle of Mortimer’s Cross,” on the 2nd February 1461.

Margaret’s Lancastrian forces responded to their defeat, by taking on the Yorkist forces at the “Second Battle of St.Albans,” on the 17th February 1461, and were victorious.

Margaret shocked Lancastrian and Yorkist forces alike, by letting her seven-year-old son, pronounce the death sentences and means of execution on captured noblemen.

With an enlarged Yorkist force heading to London, she and the King fled north across the border, into Scotland, an ally of her homeland of France.

Edward the Duke of York entered London in 1461, and declared to the people, he was the legitimate descendant of Edward III.  Once crowned their King, marched north to confront Lancastrian forces and Margaret at Towton on the 29th March.  Lancastrian forces were defeated by Yorkists, and some 28,000 lost their lives that day.  Once again Queen Margaret, King Henry and Prince Edward fled to the safety of Scotland.

Edward, the Duke of York, had claimed the English throne, aged twenty and deposed Henry VI and sent him into exile.

Edward IV’s powerful supporter, Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick would feel he had been taken for granted, as he was arranging a diplomatic marriage with a French princess. 

Edward had crossed Warwick, by secretly marrying a commoner; Elizabeth Woodville, on the 1st May 1464.

Elizabeth Woodville’s relatives were given titles, grants of money and lands, which Warwick felt should be his.  Edward stuck the knife in Warwick’s back, by taking advice from his new family, the Woodville’s.

In the meantime Queen Margaret and Prince Edward fled to France.  The deposed King Henry VI was captured at Waddington Hall in Lancashire, in the July of 1465, and imprisoned in the Tower of London.

King Edward had made an enemy of his loyal supporter and friend; the Earl of Warwick.  In the March of 1470, Edward accused Warwick of treason, and he was forced to flee into exile in France.

Warwick went on to perform one of the greatest betrays of English history.  He joined forces with Margaret in France.  Warwick was determined to have his revenge on Edward, whatever the cost.

Anne Neville, the daughter of Warwick was married to Prince Edward the royal heir; son of Margaret and Henry.

Warwick’s alliance with the French changed the balance of power from Yorkists to Lancastrians.  When the armies of Margaret and Warwick landed on English soil, Edward was forced into exile with the Duke of Burgundy, a known enemy of the French.

Henry VI was installed as King of England, under the protection of the Earl of Warwick.

In April of 1471, Edward landed in England, coming face to face with his former mentor the Earl of Warwick at the “Battle of Barnet” on the 14th April.  Warwick lost his life on the battlefield, and Edward had his body removed to St.Paul’s Cathedral in London.

On the 4th May 1471, Edward faced Margaret’s forces at the “Battle of Tewkesbury,” where Lancastrian forces were defeated.  Prince Edward fled the battle.

On the 21st May 1471, Henry VI was murdered in his prison cell in the Tower of London.

Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, youngest brother of Edward IV, one of the killer’s of Henry VI, took as his prize, Anne Neville the daughter of the Earl of Warwick and wife of Prince Edward, as his wife.

On the 22nd May 1471, Edward IV returned to London with his prisoner; Margaret, she who had lost everything; her husband, her son, her crown.  Her father King Rene of Sicily paid her ransom, and she lived out the remainder of her life in France, until her death in 1482.

On the 9th April 1483, King Edward IV suffered a stroke, and one of his last duties before his death, was to name his brother; Richard the Duke of Gloucester as protector after his death.  He entrusted his young sons, the two princes; Edward and Richard into his care.  Edward IV died later that day, and was buried at Windsor Castle.

Edward was succeeded by his 12-year-old son; King Edward V.  Richard of Gloucester became the young king’s Regent, until he was old enough to rule.

When Richard had been informed of his brother, King Edward IV’s death, he rode with haste to London, abducting his nephew Edward V, the new King of England, and placing him in the Tower of London.

When Queen Elizabeth Woodville heard that her son Edward, the boy king, was in Richard’s hands she feared for his life.  Fear reeked through her body, her other son, Richard the Duke of York needed protection, with that in mind; she took him to the safety of Westminster Abbey.  On the 16th June, she was forced to relinquish her son to Richard, to be placed in the Tower of London, along with his brother.

From that day forth, she would never set eyes on her young princes…

Richard of Gloucester, one scheming individual, had no intention of being Regent to the boy king… He wanted the throne.

Dr.Ralph Shaa, brother of the mayor, declared to the citizens of London, on the 22nd June, that King Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was illegal.  For there had been a contract of marriage between Edward and Lady Eleanor Butler (born Talbot), prior to his 1464 marriage with Elizabeth Woodville.  They had a private wedding, few witnesses, no banns called, no participation by king’s ministers, no priests… not a wedding in the true sense of the word.

Richard, the Duke of Gloucester put forward his claims to Parliament.  The two princes; Prince Edward V and Richard, the Duke of York, were children of the Duke of Clarence, his brother who had been executed for treason.  This would make Richard the rightful heir to the English throne, as presented to Parliament in the “Titulus Regis” document, and gained acceptance by the assembly.

This news changed everything, the princes were declared illegitimate, barred from succession to the English throne on the 25th June.

Richard the Duke of Gloucester was crowned King Richard III of England on the 6th July 1483.

His wife Anne Neville died, believed to have been poisoned by Richard, who sought to marry his niece; Elizabeth, the daughter of Edward IV.

On the 7th August Henry Tudor landed at Milford Haven in South Wales.  On the 22nd August 1485 Henry Tudor and Richard III came face to face at the “Battle of Bosworth Field.”

Henry Perce, Sir William Stanley and Lord Stanley, three of Richard’s commanders deserted him on the battlefield, at a time when he needed them most.

Henry Tudor had beaten Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field on the 22nd August 1485.  He was now king of a kingdom exhausted by years of dynastic feuding.  In 1486, he married Elizabeth of York, uniting the houses of York and Lancaster, after decades of war, and founded the Tudor dynasty.  The Tudor Rose: red and white roses to symbolise a united house.

The pretender Lamber simnel claimed he be the son of the Earl of Warwick; Edward in the summer of 1487.  He was backed with a force of 8,000 Irish and Continental mercenaries, commanded by the Earl of Lincoln, once successor to Richard III.

Henry Tudor knew their claims were false, for the real Edward had not been killed, but resided as a prisoner in the Tower of London.

Their forces proved to be no match against Henry Tudor at the “Battle of Stoke” on the 16th June 1487.

The Earl of Lincoln lost his life.  Lambert Simnel was captured, and worked in the King’s kitchen.

The Battle of Stoke became the final battle of the Wars of the Roses.

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