Wars of the Roses

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Roses, Wars of the,

traditional name given to the intermittent struggle (1455–85) for the throne of England between the noble houses of YorkYork, house of,
royal house of England, deriving its name from the creation of Edmund of Langley, fifth son of Edward III, as duke of York in 1385. The claims to the throne of Edmund's grandson, Richard, duke of York, in opposition to Henry VI of the house of Lancaster (see
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 (whose badge was a white rose) and LancasterLancaster, house of
, royal family of England. The line was founded by the second son of Henry III, Edmund Crouchback, 1245–96, who was created earl of Lancaster in 1267.
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 (later associated with the red rose).

About the middle of the 15th cent. Richard, duke of YorkYork, Richard, duke of,
1411–60, English nobleman, claimant to the throne. He was descended from Edward III through his father, Richard, earl of Cambridge, grandson of that king, and also through his mother, Anne Mortimer, great-granddaughter of Lionel, duke of Clarence,
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, came to the fore as leader of the opposition to the faction (William de la PolePole,
English noble family. The first member of importance was William de la Pole, d. 1366, a rich merchant who became the first mayor of Hull (1332) and a baron of the exchequer (1339).
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, duke of Suffolk; Edmund Beaufort, duke of SomersetSomerset, Edmund Beaufort, 2d duke of,
d. 1455, English statesman and general. He fought in France in the Hundred Years War, receiving his first command in 1431, recapturing Harfleur in 1440, and relieving Calais in
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; and the queen, Margaret of AnjouMargaret of Anjou
, 1430?–1482, queen consort of King Henry VI of England, daughter of René of Anjou. Her marriage, which took place in 1445, was negotiated by William de la Pole, 4th earl (later 1st duke) of Suffolk (see under Pole, family).
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) that controlled the weak Lancastrian king Henry VIHenry VI,
1421–71, king of England (1422–61, 1470–71). Reign
Early Years

The only son of Henry V and Catherine of Valois, he became king of England when he was not yet nine months old.
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. The Yorkists gained popular support as a result of discontent over the failure of English arms in the Hundred Years War and over the corruption of the court, discontent reflected in the rebellion of Jack CadeCade, Jack,
d. 1450, English rebel. Of his life very little is known. He may have been of Irish birth; some of his followers called him John Mortimer and claimed he was a cousin of Richard, duke of York.
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 in 1450. Also in that year Suffolk was murdered, and the duke of York forced the king to recognize his claim as heir to the throne. In 1453 the king became insane, and the birth of a son to Margaret of Anjou displaced York as heir. The duke was appointed protector, but when the king recovered in 1454, York was excluded from the royal council. He resorted to arms.

The opposing factions met (1455) at St. Albans—usually taken as the first battle of the Wars of the Roses. Somerset was killed, leaving Queen Margaret at the head of the defeated royal party, and York again served as protector for a short period (1455–56). By 1459 both parties were once more in arms. The following year the Yorkists defeated and captured the king at the battle of Northampton. The duke of York hurried to London to assert his claims to the throne, which were, by laws of strict inheritance, perhaps better than those of the king himself. A compromise was effected by which Henry remained king and York and his heirs were declared successors.

Queen Margaret, whose son was thus disinherited, raised an army and defeated (1460) the Yorkists at Wakefield. York was killed in this battle, and his claims devolved upon his son Edward, but Richard Neville, earl of WarwickWarwick, Richard Neville, earl of
, 1428–71, English nobleman, called the Kingmaker. Through his grandfather, Ralph Neville, 1st earl of Westmorland, he had connections with the house of Lancaster; he was also the nephew of Cecily Neville, wife of Richard, duke of York.
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, became the real leader of the Yorkist party. Margaret's army rescued the king from captivity in the second battle of St. Albans (Feb., 1461), but Edward meanwhile secured a Yorkist victory at Mortimer's Cross, marched into London unopposed, and assumed the throne as Edward IVEdward IV,
1442–83, king of England (1461–70, 1471–83), son of Richard, duke of York. He succeeded to the leadership of the Yorkist party (see Roses, Wars of the) after the death of his father in Wakefield in 1460.
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.

The Lancastrians, after their defeat at Towton (Mar., 1461), continued (with Scottish aid) to raise resistance in the north until 1464. The deposed Henry was captured (1465) and put into the Tower of London. Although the Lancastrian cause now seemed hopeless, a quarrel broke out between Warwick and Edward IV after the latter's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville in 1464. Warwick and the king's brother George, duke of ClarenceClarence, George, duke of,
1449–78, son of Richard, duke of York, and brother of Edward IV. In defiance of Edward, Clarence married Isabel Neville and joined her father, Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, in rebellion against the king in 1469–70.
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, allied against Edward, fled to France (1470), and there became reconciled with Margaret of Anjou. Supported by Louis XI of France, they crossed to England and restored Henry VI to the throne.

Edward fled, but with the aid of Charles the Bold, duke of Burgundy, returned to England in 1471, regained London, and recaptured Henry. In the ensuing battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury (1471), Warwick and Henry's son, Edward, were killed. Margaret was imprisoned. Soon thereafter Henry VI died, probably slain at the orders of Edward IV. After 12 relatively peaceful years, Edward IV was succeeded (1483) by his young son Edward VEdward V,
1470–83?, king of England (1483), elder son of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. His father's death (1483) left the boy king the pawn of the conflicting ambitions of his paternal uncle, the duke of Gloucester (later Richard III) and his maternal uncle, Earl
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, but soon the boy's uncle Richard, duke of Gloucester, usurped the throne as Richard IIIRichard III,
1452–85, king of England (1483–85), younger brother of Edward IV. Created duke of Gloucester at Edward's coronation (1461), he served his brother faithfully during Edward's lifetime—fighting at Barnet and Tewkesbury and later invading Scotland.
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. Opposition to Richard advanced the fortunes of Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond, now the Lancastrian claimant. In 1485, Henry landed from France, defeated and killed Richard at Bosworth Field, and ascended the throne as Henry VIIHenry VII,
1457–1509, king of England (1485–1509) and founder of the Tudor dynasty. Claim to the Throne

Henry was the son of Edmund Tudor, earl of Richmond, who died before Henry was born, and Margaret Beaufort, a descendant of Edward III through John
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.

Henry VII's marriage to Edward IV's daughter, Elizabeth, united the houses of Lancaster and York. Except for various efforts during Henry's reign to place Yorkist pretenders on the throne, the Wars of the Roses were ended. It is generally said that with them ended the era of feudalism in England, since the nobles who participated suffered heavy loss of life and property and were too weak, as a class, to contest the strong monarchy of the Tudors. The middle and lower classes were largely indifferent to the struggle and relatively untouched by it.

Bibliography

See E. F. Jacob, The Fifteenth Century (1961); P. M. Kendall, The Yorkist Age (1962, repr. 1965); S. B. Chrimes, Lancastrians, Yorkists, and Henry VII (1964); J. R. Lander, The Wars of the Roses (1965); C. D. Ross, Wars of the Roses: A Concise History (1976); E. Hallam, ed., Wars of the Roses (1988) and Chronicles of the Wars of the Roses (1988); A. J. Pollard, Wars of the Roses (1995); A. Weir, Wars of the Roses (1995); S. Gristwood, Blood Sisters: The Women behind the War of the Roses (2013); D. Jones, The Wars of the Roses (2014).

Wars of the Roses

 

protracted (1455–85) internecine wars of feudal cliques which took the form of the struggle for the English throne between two lines of the Royal Plan-tagenet dynasty—the Lancasters, whose coat of arms bore a red rose, and the Yorks, whose coat of arms bore a white rose. The wars began in the context of the crisis of the large feudal estates and the decline of their profitability for the great feudal lords, who were eliminated from participation in economic life; the defeat of the English in the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453), which deprived the feudal nobility of income from the plundering of France; and the suppression of Jack Cade’s rebellion (1450), as a result of which the forces opposing feudal anarchy were undermined. The Lancasters were supported mainly by the barons of the economically backward north and Wales, while the Yorks were supported by some of the great feudal lords of the more developed southeast and also by the new nobility and the rich townspeople, who were interested in the unhindered development of trade and commerce, the cessation of feudal anarchy, and the establishment of strong royal authority.

The battle at St. Albans on May 22, 1455, is generally considered the start of the war. Richard, the duke of York, had exploited the general discontent with the Lancaster clique, which ruled in the name of the feebleminded Henry VI, and had himself appointed protector. At the battle, he routed the partisans of the red rose. Eliminated from power shortly thereafter, he advanced claims to the English throne and in 1459 resumed armed struggle. After the death of Richard on Dec. 30, 1460, his son Edward became the leader of the Yorkists. Triumphant over Lancaster in the decisive battle at Towton on Mar. 29, 1461, he overthrew Henry VI and was proclaimed king under the name Edward IV. However, Edward’s striving to control the great feudal lords led to an uprising by his previous supporters, headed by Warwick (1470). Henry VI was restored to the throne. In 1471, Edward IV routed Warwick’s army and the army of Henry VI’s wife Margaret, which had come from France. Margaret relied on the support of the French king Louis XI. Overthrown for the second time, Henry VI was killed. After the death of Edward IV in 1483, the throne passed to his underage son Edward V; but the latter’s uncle, who became King Richard III, seized power. On his orders Edward V, who was overthrown that year, and his brother were strangled in the royal prison, the Tower. The executions and confiscations which Richard III ordered led both parties to rise up against him. They united around Henry Tudor, a distant relative of the Lancasters. Richard III was defeated and killed at Bosworth on Aug. 22, 1485. This battle concluded the war. Henry VII Tudor, the founder of the Tudor dynasty, became king. Marrying Elizabeth, the daughter of Edward IV and the York heiress, Henry merged the red and white roses in his emblem.

The Wars of the Roses, which were marked by extreme cruelty, were the last outburst of feudal anarchy before the establishment of absolutism. Internecine wars, oppressive taxes, the plundering of the treasury, the arbitrariness of the great feudal lords, and the disorganization of trade greatly worsened the situation of broad strata of the population. Both dynasties perished in the struggle. A significant part of the feudal aristocracy was exterminated, and its power was undermined by widespread confiscation of its land. The new nobility, whose landholdings and social importance had grown, as well as the emerging bourgeoisie, which required a strong central authority to struggle against popular movements, supported the new dynasty and thereby facilitated the establishment of Tudor absolutism.

REFERENCES

Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 22., p. 309.
Ramsay, J. H. Lancaster and York, vols. 1–2. Oxford, 1892.
Chrimes, S. B. Lancastrians, Yorkists, and Henry VII, 2nd ed. London-New York, 1967.
Lander, J. R. The Wars of the Roses. London, 1966.

IU. R. UL’IANOV

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