The War of the Roses in England erupted just after the end of the Hundred Years War. It developed as a drawn out dynastic conflict which evolved into a medieval civil war. There was not constant fighting, but rather a series of wars. It pitting the House of Lancaster against the House of York both offshoots of the Plantagenets in a quest for the English crown. The heraldic shield for the Lancastrians was the red rose and the Yorkists employed the white rose which is why the war came to be called the War of the Roses. The two families were related, both could claim descendents from King Edward III. Beside the competing dynastic claims, there were a variety of contributing factors. The ruling Lancastrian king, Henry VI, brought loyal, but unpopular nobles to his court. The Lancasterians gained the crown by deposing Richard II (1399). Henry VI (1422-61) proved to be a weaking and wa dominated by his wife Margaret of Anjou and powerful nobels at court. Henry was opposed by Richard Duke of York who as a result of Henry's insanity was made protector. The War began with First Battle of St. Albans (1455). The Yorkists won at St Albans (1455) and more importantly Northampton (1460) in which King Henry was captured. It was agreed that Richard would become king when Henry died. Queen Margaret object as this disinheruted her son. She raised an army an Richard was killed. Even so Richard's son was crowened as Edward IV (1461-70 and 1471-83). Edward's son was one of the little princes murdered in the tower by his Uncle Richard Duke of Gloucester who ruled briefly as Richard III (1483-85). The War finally ended with the Battles of Bosworth (1485) and Stoke (1487). Richard was killed at Bosworth. The War finally ended with the victory of Henry VII (1485-1509) who founded the Tudor dynasty, uniting the two competing houses. The Tudor symbol became a red and white rose. The War of the Roses was not just another medieval war. It was the last medieval war in England. This was primarily because so many nobels were killed in the fighting that the aristocracy was fundamentally weakened. This allowed both the monarchy and the gentry and merchant class to rise. It was also an important step in the evolution of democracy in England.
The end of Roman rule in Britain can be seen as the beginning of the Medieval era. Raids of Germanic tribes had begun even before Rome withdew it legions. The Anglo-Saxons and Jutes gradually expand their raids which become waves of invasion which gradually turned into settlement by the 5th century just as it did in the rest of the Western Empire. The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were Christianized by missionaries from both Rome and Ireland. Christianity became an important cultural influence in England for the first time. The first Viking or Norsemen, appear in the 8th century and raids gradually increase in severity. The first raids were on islands and coastal towns. The Vikings are often referred to in English history as the Danes, but not all came from Denmark. The Vikings began full scale invasions (865). The Danes almost overran all of Britain , but were fimnally stopped by King Alfred of Wessex. Feudalism developed in Britain much as it did on the continent. The Germanic invaders (Saxons and Jutes) were freeman (ceorl). They were responsible to the tribal chiefs and were not serfs. Over time war and subsistence farming had reduced most freemen into serfdom. William the Conqueror after defeating Harold at Hastings (1066) brought Norman-style political and military feudalism to England. He was the most efficent administrator since the departure of the Romans. William used the feudal system to collect detailed information on his new realm and collect taxes. England as other Medieval kingdoms was faced with a struggle for supremecy between Church and state. This conflict became especially severe during the reign of Henry II. Loyal supporters of the king murdered Arch Bishop Thomas à Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. King Edward I initiated the conquest of both Wales and Scotland. The trading interest of the Danes had brought renewed vigor to towns in England. Norman rule with their concern woith administration further promoted the growth of towns. Another factor was the perpetual need of English kings to borrow money. Many towns were able to in effect purchase royal charters which detailef grants of rights. In all the Feudal kingdoms of Europe, there was an inherent tension between the king and his nobels. This conflict became became increasingly serious under Richard I and reached a crisis under King John. A victory by the barons forced Jpohn to sign the Magna Carta (1215). Thedocument is considered to be one of the modst important constitutional charters in history. While it applied only to the barons, it limited royal power and was a major first step in English democracy. Edward III initiated the Hundred Years War with France (1337). Edward had a claim to the French crown through his mother. Hostilities erupted and cintinued over 100 years. The plague or Black Death devestated Europe. It began in Italy and moved rapidly north. The Channel was no barrier. It soon reched England (1348). Along with the pain and suffering there was a significant economic impact. The huge number of people killed significantly reduced the labor force, altering the relationship beteen the nobility and the peasantry. The plague accelerated a process already underway of breaking down the Feudal System. The Wars of the Roses was a drawn out dynastic civil war pitting the House of Lancaster against the House of York. The English economy centered on the wool trade and the inclosues to increase wool production had profoundconsequences. Almost independent of the German Refomation was the Reformation in England, but this proved to be crucial because of the future imperial role of England. Political rather than religious issues were to drive the Reformation in England. England emerged from the Medieval era during the Tudor era.
The Hundred Years war is in fact a series of wars interpersed with truces of varying duration during 1337-1453. The central issue in the War was the claim of the English king to the French throne. The war was almost entirely fought in France.
Edward with his many French possessions refused to do homage to King Philip VI of France.
Edward had aclaim to the French crown through his mother. Hostilities erupted and continued over 100 years. Edward III of England announced that Philip VI of France was an ursurper (1337). Edward's motives are not entirely known, but chief among them must have been that Philip's incresing power over French nobels might deprive Edward of a fiefdom he held in France--Guienne. Philip had angered Edward by supporting Scotland in its war with England. There were also economic issues as both countries were ibterested in dominating the trade with Flanders. This was especially important for England as Flanders was the principal marke for wool--at the time the chied English export. The War is commonly divided into two phases. The French suffered some serious defeats in the early years of the war, Crécy (1346) and Poitiers (1356). At Poitiers French King John the Good was captured by the English Black Prince. Under Charles V the struggle became a war of attrition. He relied on Bertrand du Guesclin to engage the marauding Free Companies, marauding mercenaries. Charles V by his death had
stabilized the struggle (1380). Charles VI's mental instability and feuding princes undermined the French position. John the Fearless, duke of Burgundy, had the king's brother, Louis of Orleans murdered (1487). This left France deeply slipt between Armagnacs and Burgundians. Henry V seized the opportunity. The result was the most disastrous French military defeat until Napoleons defeat in Russia. Henry destroyed the cream of French nobility at Agincourt (1415). Henry forced Charles VI to acknowledge him as the legitimate heir to the French throne. France was split between the powerful John Duke of Burgundy and the Dauphin, Charles, son of Charles VI and Isabella of Bavaria. Gradually the Dauphin aided by the young peasant girl Joan of Arc built his power. He was crowned Charles VII at Reims, recaptured Paris, and recovered Normandy (1450). Charles then took Guienne (1453). With the the victory of Castillon, France had effectively defeated the English and united the country.
The Plantagenets were also known as the Angevian dynasty. They were one of England's major medieval dynasties. The dynasty was founded in the 10th century by the counts of Anjou. Geoffrey Plantagenent conquuered Normandy (1144). His son became king of England as Henry II. He founded the English Plantagenent dynasty. Count Faulk V of Anjou became King of Jerusalem during the crusades. A second Angevian dynasty became the monarchial line in Naples.
The last of the English line was Richard II. Prince Richard was born in 1367 at Bordeaux, Gascony, France. He was the son of Edward the Black Prince, Prince of Wales (1330- ). His mother was Plantagenet, Joan "The Fair Maid of Kent", Countess of Kent (1328- ). Richard became king at age 10 in 1377. As a young teenager he put down the Peasants Revolt generated by the the resistance of the yeoman class to give up the economic gains of the labor shortages created by the Plague. He married Anne of Bohemia (1382). He later married Isabella de France (1396- ). They had one child Richard Maudelyn. Struggles with the nobels in Parliamented resulted in Richards's murder in 1399, leading to the War of the Roses. He was deposed in 1399 and murdered in 1400 at Pontefract Castle, Yorkshire.
The War of the Roses in England erupted just after the end of the Hundred Years War. It developed as a drawn out dynastic conflict which evolved into a medieval civil war. There was not constant fighting, but rather a series of wars. It pitting the House of Lancaster against the House of York in a quest for the English crown. The heraldic shield for the Lancastrians was the red rose and the Yorkists employed the white rose which is why the war came to be called the War of the Roses. The two families were related, both could claim descendents from King Edward III.
Beside the competing dynastic claims, there were a variety of contributing factors. The ruling Lancastrian king, Henry VI, brought loyal, but unpopular nobles to his court. The development of civil unrest among the population as a result of losses in the Hundred Years War as well as coruption at court. The existence of powerful feudal nobels with loyal private armies made England a virtual powder keg. And the situation was further stoked by episodes of mental illness on the part of Henry VI.
The Lancastrians with the deposition of Richhard II controlled the crown for decades. The dynamic Henty IV and Henry V were warrior kings and held the crown firmly. Henry VI was cut from a different mold.
King Henry IV (1367-1413) was the son of John of Gaunt He opposed Richard II and served as ine of the lords appellant that ruled England for a year (1387). He accused the Duke of Norfolk of treason against Richard and was banished for 6 years. Richard's rule had been unpopular. Henry returned from exile and claimed the throne and thus founded the Lascastrian or Plantagenent dynasty (1399). He proceeded to put down rebellions by Richar's adherents, the Scotts, Welsh, and the Percies. Henry insisted on exerting the perogatives of the Crown over Parliament. Upon Henry's death (1413), however, he left the Crown with enormous debts. This complicated the reign of his son Henry V. As with many English monarchs, the popular image of Henry has in large meaure been influenced by The Shakespeare plays. The Bard in fact left two plays about Henry IV, "Henry IB Part I" and "Henry IV Part II".
Henry V was one of the great English warrior kings. He began his military campaigns when he was only 14 years old by engaging the Welsh comanded by Owen ap Glendower. He comanded his father's (Henry IV) forces in the battle of Shrewsbury when he was only 16 years old. After succeeding his father, he supressed the Lollard uprising and an attempt to assasinate him by a group of nobles loyal to Richard II. Henry is best known for his adventures in France. He attempted to marry the Frnch Princess Catherine in 1415 and insisted on the former Plantagenet provinces of Normandy and Anjou as a dowry. French king Charles VI rejected the demand. Henry declared war, in fact a continuation of the Hundred Years' War. The war for Henry offered two prospects. Henry could gain land tha had ben lost to the French. It also helped to deflect his cousins' royal ambitions. Henry achieved one of the great English victories over the French at Agincourt (October 1415). Henry's small English army defeated and killed a vastly superior French force. The cream of the French airistocracy was killed at Agincourt, many after the battle. Henry's son wjho suceeded him was only 1 year old when his father died. Henry was the subject of one of Shakespeare's historical plays--Henry V.
The Lancasterians had gained the crown by deposing Richard II (1399). Henry VI proved to be a weaking and was dominated by his queen Margaret of Anjou and powerful nobels at court, especially William de Pole (duke of Suffolk) and Edmund Beaufort, duke of Somerset. Henry was opposed by Richard Duke of York. Henry did not have the warrior streak of his father and grandfather. He was a devout Christian. Gradually as Richard gained adherents, Henry's position and mental state declined. Suffolk was banished and murdered (1650). Richard as a result of Henry's insanity (1453-54) was made protector. Fighting broke out as King Henry recovered. The War began with First Battle of St. Albans (1455). The Yorkists won at St Albans (1455). After several battles the fighting declined, but at Northampton (1460) King Henry was captured. It was agreed that Richard would become king when Henry died.
Queen Margaret objected to the compromise agreed to by Henry and Richard because it disinherited her son. She raised an army while Henry was still in Yorkist hands. The Queens Lancasterian army killed Richard at the Battle of Wakefield (1460). With Richard's death, Richard Neville, Earl of Warrick assumed command of the Yorkist forces. The Queen defeated Warrick and rescued Henry (1461).
The Yorkist party despite defeats on the battlefield managed to get the son of Richard Duke of York crowned. Three Yorkist kings ruled for two tumultous decades. They included one of the "little princes" murdered in the Tower. The other was Richard III, probablt the most hated of the English kings.
Even though Richard Duke of York was killed, Richard's son was crowened as Edward IV (1461-70 and 1471-83). After Edward's crowning, the Yorkists defeated the Lancatians in a series of battles. Margaret was forced to flee to Anjou. Henry was captured and again imprisoned. Edward and Warrick quarled about the the King's marriage (1464). After this Warrick colluded with the Duke of Clarence. They fled to France where and reconsiled with Margaret (1470). They formed an army and returned to England, breifly restoring Henry. Edward raised another army. Edward defeated the Lacastrians at the Battle of Tewkesbury (1471). About 2,000 Lacastrians are said to have been slaughtered.
The teenage son of the Lancasterian heir apparent was either killed on the battle field or exercuted afterwards. The remnents of the Lacasters claimed sanctury in Tewkesbury Abbey but the young prince on the York side marched into the Abbey and arrested everyone who he later executed on the Green.
Edward thus regained the crown (1471). Warrick was killed and Henry died soon after. Edward ruled for another decade and died (1483). Edward's son, Edward V, was one of the little princes murdered in the tower by his Uncle Richard Duke of Gloucester.
Richard Duke of Gloucester with the disappearance of his nephew Edward V, ruled briefly as Richard III (1483-85). Most modern historians do believe that the Little Princes were killed on Richard's orders and their remains have been found in the Tower. In part because of Tudor propaganda, Richard has become the most hated of the English kings. Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, staged an unsuccessful revolt (1483). Henry Tudor, a Lacastrian claimant, organized another revolt from France. He landed in England abnnd defeated
Richard's at Bosworth Field (1485). Richard was killed. The War of the Roses ended with the Battles of Bosworth (1485) and Stoke (1487).
The War of the Roses finally ended with the victory of Henry Tudor. VII (1485-1509). Henry as a Lacastrian founded the Tudor dynasty and ruled as Henry VII (1485-1509). Henry united Englad's two competing dynastic houses by marring a Yorkist, Edward IV's daughter--Elizabeth of York (1486). The Tudor symbol became a hybred red and white rose. The Tudors are perhaps the most successful English dynastly. They oversaw the transition of England from the medieval to the modern era. Henry VII was a strong leader, but today is overshadowed by his son and grandaughter, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.
It should not be assumed that the Tudor accendency was unchallenged. The POlantagenent rivalry between the Lancasters and Yorkists did not end at Bosworth. Henry Tudor and the Lancasterian cause faced a challenge well into the next century. Even after Richard's death and HenrtVII's coronation there were plots, pretnders, and a variety of subterfuges The Tudors as a result dud not feel secure on the throne. This insecurity may well in part hekp explain Henry VIIIs behavior. His tyranical behavior my have resulkted from an obsession with actual or imagined enemies and the need to prouce a male heir. [Seward]
Enumerable wars were fought during the medieval era. The proclivity toward war of feuding nobels was one reason Pope Urban conceived of the Crusades. Theresults of these medieval wars was usually not very significant. Often all that changed was who sat in the mannor houses and castles. Often the lives of the common people and the general drift of society was little changed. The War of the Roses, was, however, not just another medieval war. It was the last medieval war in England. This was primarily because so many nobels were killed in the fighting that the aristocracy was fundamentally weakened. This allowed both the monarchy and the gentry and merchant class to rise. It was also n important step in the evolution of democracy in England. Henry IV had set out to seize absolute power in England. The defeat of the Lancastrians brought the Tudors to power, a seies of monarchs willing to work with Parliament within the evolving English constitution. By the time a new dynasty, the Stuarts, appeard to challenge Parliament, the power of the gentry and merchant class had increased to the point that they were able to successfully challenge the monarchy through Parliament.
Several of Shakespeare's plays are set in the same time as the Hundred's Years Wars, especially the plays concerning Henry IV and Henry V. They prepare the ground work for the two plays set during the War of the Roses: Henry VI and Richard III. There are even scenes during major battles of the War. The reenactment of the Battle of Tewkesbury is interesting to
Shakespeareans because the battle is depicted in one of Shakespeare's
chronicle history plays, "Henry VI, Part III," the third play in a four-part
sequence usually referred to as "the first tetralogy." It is this battle that
spelled doom for the Lancastrians and brought Edward IV and ultimately his
evil brother, Richard III, to power. "Henry VI, Part III" already shows the
Duke of Gloucester (the future Richard III) plotting to take power and serves
as a kind of prelude to one of of the bard's most popular plays, "Richard III."
The most famous battle depicted in Shakespere is of course is Richard III's death at Bosworth Field. Shakespere wrote thesse plays one-two centuries after the actual events. There were obvious political contraints on how he presented the charactrs, especially Henry Tudor and Richard III. His plays are thus not useful historical source material. His plays do, however, provide some insight as to England's outlook in the 16th century. More importantluy they have largely determined how the historical figures involved are viewed in the public mind, especially Richard III. .
Seward, Desmond. The Last White Rose: The Secret Wars of the Tudors (2014).
Wells, H.G. The Outline of History: The Whole Story of Man (Doubleday: NewYork, 1971), 1103p.