- The Wars of the Roses were a series of wars between two families that wanted to be king.
- The York family had a white rose, and the Lancaster family had a red one.
- It was fought between 1455-1485, but after 30 years, it ended with a new king coming to power.
In the Wars of the Roses, people used emblems to show their side. The emblem was a white rose if they belonged to York and a red rose for Lancaster. Keep reading to learn more Wars of the Roses facts.
The Wars of the Roses started when King Henry VI couldn’t do two important things:
- He failed to settle disputes with powerful landowners in England.
- He also lost land in France, even though he was the king of France.
After more than ten years of waiting, the wealthiest landowners decided to take matters into their own hands. So there was a struggle for dominance. First, they tried through Parliament, then through force of arms which we now call the Wars of the Roses.
Wars of the Roses Facts: Henry VI
Henry VI became king when he was just a child. King Henry’s reign was hard because he had people around him trying to do bad things to the country. Many areas of the country became lawless, and there was a failing economy.
But when King Henry VI got older, France took over in a war that lasted 100 years. The English barons were confused about how to deal with France.
They had three options:
- take a more aggressive approach like King Henry V
- negotiate some sort of deal
- abandon mainland Europe altogether.
King Henry VI was indecisive when he needed to be decisive.
Henry married Margaret of Anjou, a French princess. Some people did not like it because they thought he was giving in to France. They also did not like that Margaret’s influence on him was very strong, and he was a weak king who liked to do things that were not war-like.
The commoners were also not happy. They protested at the high taxes, corruption at court, and injustice. Nobles were probably glad because they could overthrow the government without just wanting to do it for their interests.
Henry had a mental breakdown. He was so sad because of lost all of his lands in France except for one small town. This made him so sick; he could not speak or move.
The kingdom needed a new ruler. The people in the two groups began to fight with each other.
Wars of the Roses Facts: Richard, Duke of York
As a result of the King’s lack of power, the barons in England increased their wealth and power.
Some of the people in this time were called barons. They had a lot of lands and could build up an army that was loyal to them only. Some of these people thought it would be good to become king of England.
People with royal blood in their veins could persuade people to follow them. This is because they are out of favour with the king. Powerful barons usually had lots of armed men and wealth so that they could use them for their private ambition.
Richard, Duke of York, was the most powerful baron in this period. He had royal blood because he was the great-grandson of Edward III.
Richard, Duke of York, was one of the richest men in England. He wanted to rule England, which would be a problem for King Henry because he was already uncomfortable on the throne.
Henry VI was sick and chose Richard as the protector of the realm. After that, Richard tried to nominate himself as Henry’s heir because the king had no children. He had powerful allies.
But Richard had two enemies: Margaret of Anjou, the Queen of England who did not like Duke Richard. And Edmund Beaufort, Earl of Somerset, who was a powerful noble.
The first battle of the Wars of the Roses resulted in the death of Richard, Earl of Somerset.
Queen Margaret was tough to beat after taking over for her mad husband. The Duke of York lost the battle and had to run away.
Meanwhile, Parliament declared Richard a traitor and disinherited his heirs.
Richard came back to England after his son won the battle against Queen Margaret.
Then, Richard persuaded Henry to name him as the official heir, which he did.
Richard was killed at the Battle of Wakefield by people led by Margaret. They mocked his death and called him a usurper.
Edward, Duke of York
However, the Yorkists had a lot more success later on.
Edward was the son of Richard. Edward became leader of the house of York, and he was now the number one enemy to the king and queen.
Richard, Earl of Warwick, was a powerful ally for Edward of York. He has been dubbed “the kingmaker” since he was so strong that he could determine the next king.
When he won the Battle of Towton, the largest and longest battle in English history, Edward became a cause worth supporting.
Henry VI was overthrown, and Edward became King Edward IV. He was the first Yorkist king.
War then became worse after Edward’s reign ended. This was because Warwick turned against him and put Henry VI back on the throne. This period was known as the Redemption.
The following year, Edward won back his throne. The Earl of Warwick and Henry VI’s only son were killed in the process.
The queen was put in prison, and the king got killed. It was terrible, but the Yorks won on that day.
Edward’s younger brother was Richard, Duke of Gloucester. This Richard would be the main character in the story.
Richard had fought faithfully with his brother before he became king. But after Edward died, probably of a stroke, Richard took advantage of this.
Edward was succeeded by his son, who was also called Edward. But he was only 12 years old, and the barons were hovering around him. The most dangerous of all of these barons was his uncle Richard.
The young and uncrowned Edward V of England and his brother Richard were imprisoned in the Tower of London. They became known as the ‘Princes in the Tower’.
The princes were seen a few times in the Tower’s grounds over the summer, but they disappeared. It was thought that Richard had killed them – an accusation that later William Shakespeare adopted.
Meanwhile, the kingdom was being run by the Protector of the Realm, Richard.
Edward V’s uncle became king after Edward died. But people were angry that he killed Edward and took the throne. So, the Wars of the Roses continued, and there was trouble with Yorkists and Lancastrians.
The Lancastrians were purged, but they came back with a new leader, Henry Tudor.
Henry had some blood from a royal family. This was not much, but it was the best that his family could hope for.
Henry Tudor gathered some people who were angry with the Yorkists.
Perhaps the fighting during the Wars of the Roses was started again because Richard III had a son, heir to the throne, who died.
Henry Tudor only had one person between him and the throne.
Henry Tudor landed in Wales with an army of French people. They went to fight Richard, who then lost some friends.
The king was killed when he made a charge at Henry Tudor. He should have been more careful.
The new king of England was Henry VII. There would be people who wanted to be king, but he won them all.
This was the last war of the Roses. Nevertheless, there were still some more small wars in the next 50 years.
Consequences of the Wars of the Roses
Aside from the clear changes of thrones between Lancastrian and Yorkist kings, one of the most important results of the conflicts was Henry VII’s establishment of the House of Tudor.
The king married Elizabeth of York, who was Edward IV’s daughter. This made the two sides united.
The king made a new emblem for this era: the Tudor Rose. This is a combination of the Lancastrian and Yorkist roses.
Henry’s son succeeded him as king. And the Tudors saw England as a Golden Age.
The wars were not affecting most people in the general population because the war was usually only happening with aristocrats.
Some wars and campaigns resulted in death, destruction, and disruption. But most places were unaffected.
Most of the lords in England died because of the war. Many fights involved only nobles. Old habits of taking hostages for ransom did not work because people could not pay. Opponents needed to be removed from the game.
Further, some barons had more money from the wars, but the king had more control over his kingdom by the end of them. He was able to tax better and confiscate estates that belonged to families no longer there.
Finally, the wars have left a mark on English culture. Historical events and wars have been turned into stories for historians and fiction writers to read.
Tudor propagandists wanted to make themselves look better by exaggerating the damage caused by wars and making their opponents look bad.
William Shakespeare liked the period that he wrote his plays Henry VI and Richard III. He used this time to write about some of his most famous characters.
Even now, people keep talking about the Wars of the Roses. George R. R. Martin and his books and TV show Game of Thrones are examples of works inspired by these wars.
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