War of the Roses

What was the War of the Roses?

The Houses of York and Lancaster each choosing a side by selecting either a white or a red rose, this is a moving image but what was the War of the Roses?

The Wars of the Roses was a civil war in England between rival branches of the Plantagenets for the throne of England.  The roots of the conflict can be found in Edward III and his many sons. Edward III had five sons that lived to adulthood, who all had children.  This would not normally be a problem but when Edward III died his young grandson Richard II came to the throne, Richard II had a number of cousins with as strong of a claim to the throne as him.  Richard II proved to be unpopular causing Henry of Bolingbroke to take the throne from his cousin and established the House of Lancaster. His grandson, Henry VI, proved to be an ineffective king which led to Richard, Duke of York challenging his right to the throne. Both Henry VI and Richard of York were male-line descendants of Edward III. Hostilities first broke out in 1455 at the First Battle of St Albans. By 1461 the Yorkists had won and the throne of England belonged to Edward IV, Richard of York’s son. The Lancastrians briefly retook the throne 1470 to 1471 but ultimately lost when both Henry VI and his son Edward were killed. The war was considered officially over in 1487 when Henry VII, the founder of the Tudor line, defeated the last of the Yorkists supporters at the Battle of Stoke.

The issues behind the Wars of the Roses started long before violence broke out. Henry VI was an unfit king. He was unable to properly maintain peace and balance of power between the various nobles. This lead to a breakdown in law and order. Private feuds broke out amongst various different noble family such as the Percy-Neville and Courtenay-Bonville feuds. When Richard, Duke of York challenged Henry VI many of the nobles involved in these feuds aligned themselves with either the king or the duke. The personal vendettas of the participants pushed the conflict further until civil war broke out.

Henry VI became king at the age of nine months. A long minority meant that the nobles would be in control of the kingdom for more than a decade. While there were problems amongst the nobles during the minority it was not until Henry VI declared himself of age that the conflicts began to occur. The problems stemmed from the manner that Henry IV preformed his duties as king. Henry VI was unable to fairly arbitrate aristocratic disputes . He also did not properly manage the distribution of royal patronage that was at his disposal . The king had many posts that were filled by royal appointment, plus the posts that came with the Duchy of Lancaster that the king controlled separately from the crown . Henry VI was too kind, too nice and thusly too easily lead by those around him . Quickly complaints of greed, corruption and partiality amongst his ministers appeared . As Lander notes “co-operation between crown and nobility was the essential norm for the good government of the country” . The king had an interest in the larger Lancastrian family of the Beauforts, Hollands and Staffords . Richard of York was constantly pushed aside and denied payment and positions . Without a standing army, the king relied on the goodwill of the nobility to keep order . The king’s ability to keep the nobles in line soon became impossible; Henry IV suffered a mental breakdown. This pushed the private feuds into open warfare.

Plantagenet family tree

The Wars of The Roses: A Bloody Crown

Published on Jun 1, 2015

For Educational Classroom Use. Produced by Simply Media TV.

Richard III The New Evidence

Produced by Channel 4.

Richard III – Princes In The Tower

Produced by Channel 4.

Nine blows to the head killed Richard III, study finds

Richard III’s final fight at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 left him with 11 wounds, three of which would have been fatal, a new study published the Lancet has found.

Researchers from the University of Leicester have been analyzing the remains of the English monarch, which were discovered under a car park in Leicester two years ago. The forensic imaging team, working with the Forensic Pathology Unit and the Department of Engineering at the University of Leicester, used whole body CT scans and micro-CT imaging of injured bones to analyse trauma to the 500-year-old skeleton carefully, and to determine which of the King’s wounds might have proved fatal. They also analysed tool marks on bone to identify the medieval weapons potentially responsible for his injuries.

The results, published in the article ‘Perimortem trauma in King Richard III: a skeletal analysis’, show that Richard’s skeleton sustained 11 wounds at or near the time of his death—nine of them to the skull, clearly inflicted in battle and suggesting he had removed or lost his helmet, and two to the postcranial skeleton.

Sarah Hainsworth, study author and Professor of Materials Engineering at the University of Leicester explains, “Richard’s injuries represent a sustained attack or an attack by several assailants with weapons from the later medieval period. The wounds to the skull suggest that he was not wearing a helmet, and the absence of defensive wounds on his arms and hands indicate that he was otherwise still armoured at the time of his death.”

The investigators, led by Dr Jo Appleby of the University of Leicester School of Archaeology and Ancient History, surmise that the postcranial injuries, including the potentially fatal one to the pelvis, might have been inflicted after Richard’s death, on the basis that had he been alive he would have been wearing a specific type of armour worn in the late 15th century that would have prevented such wounds.

According to Professor Guy Rutty, study co-author, from the East Midlands Pathology Unit at the University of Leicester, “The most likely injuries to have caused the King’s death are the two to the inferior aspect of the skull — a large sharp force trauma possibly from a sword or staff weapon, such as a halberd or bill, and a penetrating injury from the tip of an edged weapon. Richard’s head injuries are consistent with some near-contemporary accounts of the battle, which suggest that Richard abandoned his horse after it became stuck in a mire and was killed while fighting his enemies.”

Commenting on the research, Dr Heather Bonney from the Natural History Museum in London, UK, says, “Appleby and colleagues provide a compelling account, giving tantalising glimpses into the validity of the historic accounts of his death, which were heavily edited by the Tudors in the following 200 years. Wherever his remains are again laid to rest, I am sure that Richard III will continue to divide opinion fiercely for centuries to come.”

Murder, Alchemy and the Wars of the Roses

By Peter Fleming

Regional Historian, Issue 12 (2004)

Introduction: What follows is a kind of murder mystery, but not a whodunit. The identity of the man who carried out the crime, while indeed a mystery, is probably unknowable and actually unimportant. There is little room for doubt as to the identity of the man who gave him the order. The real mystery lies with the identity of the victim. In attempting to solve the mystery, we shall enter the kaleidoscope of faction and violence that was high politics during the Wars of the Roses, and make the acquaintance of one of fifteenth-century England’s foremost alchemists.

In March 1461 Edward earl of March, and since his father’s death at the battle of Wakefield the previous December, duke of York, seized the throne from the hapless Lancastrian Henry VI, to become Edward IV, the first Yorkist king. He was helped in his efforts by Richard Neville, earl of Warwick – the ‘Kingmaker’ as he would much later be known – a man whose immense wealth and power was matched by his ambition and ruthlessness. By the beginning of 1469 it might have seemed as if Edward had finally buried all hope of a Lancastrian revival: the last rebel outposts had been taken, Henry VI was a prisoner, and his indomitable queen, Margaret of Anjou, was in exile. The country was held by a network of trusted lieutenants. In the Bristol region – Gloucestershire, Somerset, and south-east Wales – paramount among these were Warwick himself and William Herbert, who had been raised to the earldom of Pembroke in September of the previous year. Pembroke was the son of Sir William ap Thomas, and between them they had built Raglan Castle in Monmouthshire, probably the most magnificent of fifteenth-century castles in England and Wales. Warwick had strong local interests through the Despenser inheritance of his wife Anne Beauchamp and his cousin, George Neville, son of Lord Abergavenny. These included extensive estates in Gloucestershire as well as the Earlscourt of the Honour of Gloucester, held at St James’s Priory in Bristol, and an interest in the manor and hundred of the Barton, which covered a large area to the immediate east and north of the town. As we shall see, members of Pembroke’s family were active in Bristol in the 1460s.

However, a very astute and well-placed observer of events in early 1469 might have detected signs that Edward’s rule was not so secure. Edward’s recent marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, the widow of a Lancastrian knight, brought her numerous kin into the royal family, and many of these had to be found suitably elevated husbands and wives. This severely restricted the scope of Warwick’s plans for his own family. He may have resented the influence that the Woodvilles were now enjoying, feeling that he no longer had the king’s ear. He may have been offended that such relatively lowly people were now his social and political equals. However, it was probably differences over foreign policy that most enraged him: he had been pursuing a French alliance, but the Woodville marriage was swiftly followed by an alliance with the duke of Burgundy, the French king’s bitter rival. Warwick felt that he had been made to look foolish on the international stage. He began plotting against the king he believed he had helped to make, and even managed to suborn Edward’s own brother, George, duke of Clarence. The pair covertly encouraged rebellion in the north. In July 1469 Warwick’s opposition to Edward was made brutally apparent at the battle of Edgecote, near Banbury, where his forces comprehensively defeated a largely Welsh army led by Pembroke and Humphrey Stafford, earl of Devon. This was a victory not only over Edward, but also Pembroke, who was captured. He and Warwick were personal enemies, and had long quarrelled over the contested lordship of South Wales. Immediately after the battle Pembroke and his brother Sir Richard Herbert were executed.

Click here to read this article from the Regional Historian

1 Response to War of the Roses

  1. Pingback: NEW! Videos added to the War of the Roses exhibit | Megan's Medieval Museum

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