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Maps of the Battles of the Wars of the Roses
This clickable map shows the battles of the Wars of the Roses, from the first clash at St. Albansin in 1455 to the final battles of Bosworth in 1485 and Stoke in 1487. As this map shows the war directly affected large parts of England and Wales, but with clusters in the Midlands and the North East.
The death of gentlemanly war? The Battles of the Wars of the Roses 1455-1464
In the next in our series on the Wars of the Roses, this article looks at the key battles in the early years of the war. It follows our introduction to the Wars of the Roses available here and our article on Edward III’s descendants and the causes of the Wars of the Roses available here.
The grand old Duke of York, he had 3,000 men, he marched them toward London in order to fight for his right to be King.
Richard Plantagenet had an unbroken male line all the way to Edward III and so assumed he was more entitled to rule England than the mad king and his infant son. On May 22, 1455 Richard, leading the Yorkist army, marched on London. King Henry VI, leading the Lancastrian force, marched to intercept it and halted at St. Albans thinking an ambush would be in his benefit. He was wrong the Yorkists defeated the Lancaster force in 30 minutes. Henry was now a prisoner and his Queen and their son were in exile. This was the first battle of the Wars of the Roses its brutality would set the stage for the war that changed the face of England and changed the way the nation fought. It was also the first battle where Richard Neville – the Earl of Warwick – put fear in the enemy. Warwick would go on to have a near perfect battle record - his presence was like a secret elixir spurring the Yorkists to victory. That alone must have helped break the Lancastrian spirit as it took them four years to rally an army and stage a counter-attack. The battle of Ludford Bridge left the Yorkist army desecrated and running into the night. Indeed, there was a full scale retreat in the morning led by Richard of York, who fled to Ireland. As you can imagine, the Earl of Warwick did not attend this battle. Could that be why the Yorkists deserted in the night and why the Lancasters walked away with victory?
Shakespeare's King Henry VI, part III, act II. Warwick, Edward and Richard at the Battle of Towton
Nine months later, the Earl of Warwick, his father and the Earl of March led their army north to attack a Lancastrian army marching south. When the two armies met, Warwick chose discussion rather than battle and spent hours trying to reach a settlement with the King. Then finally, out of frustration, the Yorkist force attacked and won. The crown was now clearly under Yorkist control. England believed the civil war was over but the mad King’s Queen was assembling an army and planned to fight for her heir.
The battle of Wakefield is considered to be the end of chivalrous warfare. Until that point, those in retreat were not killed. Nor were nobles. There were rules to war. On December 30, 1460 those rules came to an end. Richard of York travelled to the city of York and took up a defensive position at Sandal Castle. For some unknown reason, Richard left his stronghold and directly attacked the Lancastrian force even though it was twice the size of his army. The Yorkists were brutalized retreating soldiers were slaughtered as they ran. And Richard of York, the man who fought to call himself King, was killed in cold blood. The Lancastrians walked away victorious and to show their victory, they captured the Earl of Warwick’s father and brother and executed them. Nobles were not meant to be slain those were not the ways of chivalrous warfare. Were the Lancastrians so desperate that they ignored chivalry or were the murders of Warwick’s father and brother a sign to him?
There were three more battles before the battle of Towton - one of the most important of the civil war. These three little engagements fuelled the fires of anger in both camps, especially since the Lancastrians managed to win one more battle. Interestingly enough, the Earl of Warwick was present at this engagement. Knowing full well what happened to his brother and father, Warwick fled, leaving his hostage King Henry VI under a tree. The sad old King was to be finally reunited with his Queen and son.
On March 29, 1461, the Yorkist forces attacked in a driving snowstorm, on a sloping hill at Towton. Using the snow and wind as an aid, the Yorkist archers were able to shoot further than their adversaries. The Lancastrians, believing that their best strategy was to charge, managed to weaken the Yorkist force. After hours of intense fighting, the Duke of Norfolk arrived with reinforcements which helped to defeat the Lancasters. Having lost their army, their weapons and their spirit, King Henry VI, his Queen and their son fled to Scotland, leaving a victorious Earl of March to be crowned King Edward IV. There were two more battles at Hedgeley Moor and Hexham over the next few years, but they did nothing more than further break the Lancastrian cause.
Edward IV may have been a ferocious and clever fighter but as a King and politician he was severely lacking. The Cousin’s War would have ended on the day he was crowned and the Plantagenets would more than likely still have been on the throne decades, if not centuries, later had Edward kept his nose clean and ruled the way he was advised to. But alas, fate had other ideas. And so after only eight years of peace, Edward’s own policies forced the civil war to rise from the dead. He forced the house of York and the house of Lancaster to once again do battle.
And as Shakespeare said, England hath long been mad and scarred herself the brother blindly shed the brother’s blood, the father rashly slaughtered his own son the son, compelled, been butcher to the sire: all this divided York and Lancaster.
What battle from The Wars of the Roses most intrigues you?
By M.L King, a history enthusiast and part-time blogger.
The next article in The Wars of the Roses series is the Kingmaker, the Earl of Warwick - available here.
A List of the Battles of the Wars of the Roses.
For this list of the battles we've included the Siege of Caister Castle in August 1469. It is not generally included in such a list but it the context of this Paston web site, we've put it in to illustrate the general unrest in England, with local Lords seeking to further their own ambitions whilst the battle for the throne went on around them.
You can also access the information and the links to the Paston letters and documents from the map page.
A letter from John Paston's cousin John Crane of Wood Norton provides early news of the battle. The Paston Letters also contain an official, detailed account of the battle and a list of the participants.
William Worcester (also known as Botoner) wrote to John Berney at Caister Castle describing the incident. Botoner writes about the incident at Sandwich to John Berney. His tone is somewhat sneering about Lancastrian attempts to thwart the naval raid on Sandwich.The raid from Calais, was led by the leader of the exiled Yorkists, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick.
Thomas Deynes wrote to John Paston recalling his service for the Yorkists under the Earl of Warwick at the Battle of Northampton and later at the second Battle of St Albans. Deynes recounts the events surrounding the two battles. In the letter Deynes alludes to some personal difficulties and was murdered the following year.
After the Battle of Wakefield, John Paston's brother Clement, wrote to strongly suggest that John should gather some men and ride north, to be seen to support the Yorkists cause. A Clement writes to his elder brother pressing him to join the King. At the time, John Paston had only recently inherited Caister Castle from Sir John Fastolf and was struggling to hold on to his prize.
Both John Paston's sons were in the Welsh Marches at the time of this battle. John (II) was travelling with King Edward's army and his younger brother was with the Duke of Norfolk's retinue, who were also in the area. John Paston II writes from The Marches. The Yorkists were gathering to thwart the threat posed from Wales by Jasper Tudor and the factions met at the Battle of Mortimers Cross.
John Paston's sister Elizabeth was married to Sir Robert Poynings who was killed at the battle fighting for the Yorkist cause. Clement Paston wrote to John Paston about the battle. Poynings had supported Jack Cade's rebellion in 1450.
William Paston, John Paston's younger brother, wrote with a hasty account of the battle and a list of casualties. William Paston provides a first account of the battle
The siege of Caister Castle, starting on 21st August, was not one of the main battles between the Lancastrians and the Yorkists. But it was an example of the local feuds that were taking place whilst the country was in turmoil as Henry and Edward and their followers sort to establish rule. John Paston III led the defence of the castle the Duke of Norfolk besieged the castle. The balance of forces and weapons eventually forced John Paston to surrender the Caister Castle, although the defenders held out for several weeks. Margaret Paston writes to John Paston III with news of the Siege
John Paston II and his younger brother John III both fought at Barnet for their Lancastrian patron John de Vere, Earl of Oxford. John Paston III wrote to his motherwith a report on the battle. The younger John received an arrow wound to the arm and his older brother reassured their mother Margaret that he was recovering well.
The Paston Letters contain a full list of the battle's participants and their fates as a record of the battle. Listed among those knighted on the battlefield after this decisive Yorkist victory was Sir George Browne, third husband to Elizabeth Paston. Sir George later turned his coat in 1483 to support the Tudor uprising and was executed for treason. Both he and Elizabeth were buried at Whitefriars in London.
The Duke of Norfolk wrote to John Paston (III) on the eve of battle with instructions for John to join him at Bury St Edmunds with a company of tall men. The Duke of Norfolk writes to John Paston III with his request. Evidently John did not respond and his old employer was subsequently killed in the battle. Legend has it that the Pastons' new patron, the Earl of Oxford, was responsible for Norfolk's demise.
John Paston (III) fought at the Battle of Stoke with the Earl of Oxford. Oxford, following his success at Bosworth, was now King Henry VII's leading supporter. Henry VII triumphed in the battle against the Yorkist rebels and John Paston was among those subsequently knighted on the battlefield by a grateful King.
Maps of the Battles of the Wars of the Roses - History
The Wars of the Roses was a prolonged period of civil unrest in England, focussed on a period of just over thirty years which saw seventeen battles between rivals, the initiative swinging swiftly between the sides and the crown changing hands four times as a direct result of battles won and lost. One of the most difficult question to answer is which, amongst those seventeen engagements, was the most important in determining the course of the wars?
I’m going to count down my top five and see how it compares with yours.
5. The Battle of Ludford Bridge – 12th October 1459
I know – there wasn’t even any fighting, so how did this make my top five? This battle represented a watershed moment in the escalating conflict and was the first engagement that really pitched King Henry VI against his most powerful subject, Richard, Duke of York. Henry headed an army much larger than York’s though the numbers on each side are unknown. York was joined by his brother-in-law Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, who had encountered a force sent by Queen Margaret at Blore Heath on his way to Ludlow. Also within Ludlow’s stunning fortress were Salisbury’s namesake son the Earl of Warwick who would be remembered as the Kingmaker and York’s own family, his two oldest sons Edward, Earl of March and Edmund, Earl of Rutland ready for their first taste of battle.
The magnates arrayed against each other were not dissimilar from St Albans four years earlier. With the exception of those ensconced within Ludlow noble support was vested entirely in the king, headed by Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset and Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. The big difference, and the reason for Ludford’s impact, was Henry VI’s position at the front of his army under his banners. The defection of the Calais garrison under Andrew Trollope during the night left the Yorkist force exposed and caused their retreat into the night. Ludlow was sacked by the king’s army in punishment for the town’s support of its lord.
The importance of Ludford lies in the confrontation between King Henry and York. No longer was this about control of the king, a war between magnates claiming to know what was best for Henry. York was forced to back down from confronting the king himself. This may have been the very point of the court faction’s efforts to place Henry at their head and if it was, it worked perfectly. Ludford’s real impact lay in its aftermath. Even before the royal army arrived at Ludlow a Parliament had been summoned, later known as the Parliament of Devils, to punish the rebel lords. York, his two oldest sons, Salisbury, Warwick and even Salisbury’s wife were attainted and deprived of all of their titles and lands forever. The move left the Yorkist lords with nothing to lose and forced them into a corner from which attack was their only option. Ludford, or at least its aftermath, was the first battle that changed the entire landscape of the conflicts in England and made the civil war a dynastic question of the right to the throne.
Inner Bailey of Ludlow Castle
4. The Battle of Stoke Field – 16th June 1487
The inclusion of this battle may surprise some, too. It is often no more than a footnote in the telling of the Wars of the Roses, which are frequently described as having ended two years earlier. It suited the fledgling Tudor regime of Henry VII to underplay the importance of Stoke Field to detract from the very real threats that remained to his crown and so Stoke Field has been consigned to the tiniest footnotes of history, swept under the carpet.
Stoke Field’s importance is twofold. It was the last armed confrontation of the Wars of the Roses. Bosworth did not end the fighting, Stoke Field did. Never again would a Yorkist army challenge for the throne. How can the Wars of the Roses possibly have ended in 1485 when there was a battle between invading Yorkist and royalist forces in 1487? It is true that the Yorkists had around 8,000 men to the Tudor’s 12,000 and that the majority of the Yorkist army was ill-equipped Irish kerns who fell quickly under arrow fire but it is important to remember the other reason that Stoke Field was important.
The Yorkist army was led by John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, a grandson of Richard, Duke of York, nephew to Edward IV and Richard III and cousin of Elizabeth of York, Henry VII’s queen. The aim of the invading army has become somewhat muddied but they intended to place Edward, Earl of Warwick, the last grandson of Richard, Duke of York through the male line, on the throne. The thousands of Irish soldiers were led by Thomas Fitzgerald, younger brother of Gerald FitzGerald, 8th Earl of Kildare and their presence was a powerful reminder of the latent Yorkist sympathy that would remain in Ireland for years to come. There was a professional element to the Yorkist army too Swiss mercenaries led by Colonel Martin Schwartz, they were a very real threat, though Colonel Schwartz would fall amongst around 4,000 other Yorkist soldiers at Stoke Field. These expensive mercenaries were funded by Margaret, Dowager Duchess of Burgundy, a sister of Edward IV and Richard III. Margaret was wealthy, influential and utterly committed to dislodging Henry VII from the throne he had won at her family’s expense.
Stoke Field deserves more attention than it usually receives not only because it was the last battle of over thirty years of civil war but because it reminded the fledgling Tudor dynasty that it was far from secure and that it was surrounded by enemies, from Ireland, the continent and Yorkist blood within the kingdom. Stoke Field has been largely forgotten because the early Tudor government wanted it forgotten, but Henry VII was probably never able to shake the threats that it made all too clear to him.
3. The Battle of Bosworth Field – 22nd August 1485
One of the most famous battles in English history, Bosworth’s inclusion is not contentious. Its importance lies in the demonstration of opposition to Richard III’s brief rule amongst the nobility and gentry and in the ending of the 331 years of Plantagenet rule. As we have seen, it was not the end of the Wars of the Roses, but it was the close of Plantagenet rule, the end of the House of York’s time on the throne and the dawn of the Tudor age, a period that would have an immense impact on England (whether for good or ill is a matter for discussion).
The defeat of Richard III at Bosworth had a huge impact on English history because of the questions it left unanswered too. Would Richard III have been a good king? Was he socially progressive? Would a marriage into the Portuguese royal family, who had Lancastrian blood, have served to heal the wounds that Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York’s union sought to? Would the mystery of the fate of the Princes in the Tower have been solved if Richard had lived a little longer (and precisely how would it have been solved?)? Bosworth Field left us with these questions and they are still hot topics for debate over 500 years later.
Just as Stoke Field served to remind Henry VII that he had not been accepted by all, Bosworth exposed unhealed wounds across a nation that must have believed the wars were long gone. There had been no battle for fourteen years, yet disaffected Edwardian Yorkists still viewed war as the route by which they could vent their frustration. Lancastrian sympathies, lacking a figurehead for fourteen years, were swift to emerge from hiding and gather behind Henry Tudor, drawing unhappy Yorkists to them to swell opposition to Richard. Bosworth therefore demonstrated that resorting to the field of battle had become ingrained in the English psyche as a legitimate way to resolve disputes. Many taking the field had lived and grown through the troubles of earlier years and this was something the Tudor regime would have to deal with, as Stoke Field demonstrated.
Bosworth was a defining moment in English history, but only makes number three in my list of battles of the Wars of the Roses. Its impact on wider history may be larger than my other two suggestions, but in terms of this civil war, two battles strike me as more crucial.
Richard III’s Cavalry Charge at Bosworth Re-enactment 2013
2. The Battle of Towton – 29th March 1461
England’s Apocalypse really needs no justification for making the list. For many, Bosworth and Towton might be vying for the number one rank and there is certainly an argument for both to take the top spot. Towton is renowned as the largest battle ever to take place of English soil, around 100,000 men possibly taking the field, with possibly slightly more on the Lancastrian side than the Yorkist. Edward, Earl of March (by now Duke of York and legal heir to the throne) led a force also made up of the Earl of Warwick and Duke of Norfolk. The Lancastrians were led by Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset and contained Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter and Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland.
The battle was cataclysmic. It was fought on Palm Sunday in driving snow, the wind favouring the Yorkist archers but the subsequent fighting too close to call until the Duke of Norfolk’s army arrived late to the field and broke the Lancastrian’s resolve. Heralds and other reports gave a shocking figure of 29,000 casualties when the battle ended. Mass graves had to be dug in the frozen earth to house the battered corpses that littered the field.
Towton broke Lancastrian resistance to Edward and allowed him to assume the throne with a degree of security that lasted almost a decade (barring two of the civil war’s least important confrontations at Hexham and Hedgeley Moor). The crown of England had sat upon a Lancastrian head for 62 years but was now lowered onto the head of the first king of the House of York. Most people within England had known nothing but Lancastrian rule and Towton radically altered the political landscape. It tarnished anew the notion of kingship as divine and unquestionable and meant none knew what to expect from a dynastic change. Henry IV, the first Lancastrian king, had not enjoyed his crown and it must have seemed likely that Edward would suffer the same continual threats and uncertainties.
What battle could have been more important than either Bosworth or Towton?
1. The Battle of Wakefield – 30 December 1460
Not an obvious choice, I know, but one I think I can justify. I should probably declare an interest here, since I have a biography of Richard, Duke of York due for release on 15th April 2016, but it was researching this that convinced me of Wakefield’s crucial position within the conflicts of the Wars of the Roses.
Wakefield sits between two of the other crucial battles I have listed above, taking place after Ludford Bridge but before Towton. It came about because of the consequences of Ludford Bridge, which saw Richard, Duke of York return to England to sensationally lay claim to his cousin’s throne. The act was not welcomed and produced a stalemate that was shelved by the unsatisfactory device of parliament that allowed Henry VI to keep his throne but disinherited his son Prince Edward, making Richard and his descendants legal heirs to the crown of England. York and his sons swore loyalty to Henry and Richard was granted the trappings associated with the position of Prince of Wales. Crucially, it was made treason to attack Richard and his heirs.
In the north, Henry VI’s queen, Margaret of Anjou, was gathering a huge force with the support of Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset and others. This was the beginning of the massive force that would arrive at Towton to face Richard’s son, Edward but it was the Duke of York who marched north to confront them whilst his oldest son gathered reinforcements on the Welsh border. Richard stopped at his northern stronghold of Sandal Castle at Wakefield when it became clear that he was hopelessly outnumbered.
Sources are unclear precisely what happened next but it is likely that a truce was agreed for the Christmas period. Richard seems to have been tricked into believing men were joining his side when in fact their sympathies were with the queen so that he thought he had more men than he ever did. There was possibly an attack on a foraging party from Sandal Castle that caused Richard to sally out to confront the Lancastrian army who had probably broken the truce. Those he believed were with him instantly turned on Richard and the battle was brief and decisive. Richard was killed, as was his 17 year-old son Edmund. The Earl of Salisbury was captured but beheaded the following day. The three heads were famously placed on spikes outside York, on Micklegate Bar, with a paper crown mockingly fixed to York’s head.
It might be significant enough that Richard, Duke of York fell at Wakefield. He was the most powerful man in England and legally heir to the throne, but the impact was far wider than that. The Battle of Wakefield took place at a time when matters were at their most complex. Richard, Duke of York held the legal right, granted by Parliament and enshrined in statute. Queen Margaret surely felt that she held the moral right. Her son had been disinherited by the force of York’s will and was still the rightful heir.
Margaret may have been acting to protect her son, but in legal terms her attack on Richard was treason. It made her and her army outlaws, legitimate targets for reprisals and it damaged their position and cause. The first engagement of the Wars of the Roses at St Albans had left the sons of the Duke of Somset, Earl of Northumberland and Lord Clifford swearing to have their revenge. Five years later they each got it. Somerset saw York killed. Northumberland’s old enemy Salisbury was executed and Clifford supposedly took great delight in slaying the seventeen-year-old Edmund. In satisfying their long quest for vengeance, these men unleashed more sons baying for revenge. Edward, Earl of March would seek to avenge his father and brother. Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick wanted revenge for his father’s treatment. Neither were men to wait five months, let alone five years, for what they wanted.
Towton was a direct consequence of Wakefield. Edward and Warwick were whipped into a frenzy and had the law on their side. Wakefield escalated the conflict to a new level, giving Edward permission, as he saw it, to unseat Henry and slaughter his followers. Margaret believed she had the initiative after destroying a foe she had feared for a decade or more, certain that right was on her side as she sought to win back her son’s birth right. It was Wakefield that caused Edward to proclaim himself King of England and bring the dynastic rivalry unsatisfactorily shelved by his father into sharp focus.
Both sides had a degree of right on their side, but neither would back down. This was now a war for the crown between Lancaster and York in a way it had never been before. Wakefield’s impact did not end there, though. York was almost certainly killed during the fighting. His body was then posthumously beheaded and mocked with the paper crown. Edmund was captured but rather than being held and ransomed he is killed in an act of simple vengeance. Salisbury was reportedly dragged from his prison cell by a mob and beheaded without trial or the intervention of any Lancastrian noble to protect him. Warfare was being radically altered by the queen’s army. Chivalry was dealt a fatal blow at Wakefield. No longer would the bodies of the most noble dead be respected – they were weapons in a propaganda war. Capture did not afford valuable individuals the protection of their captor but risked summary murder. Even those taken prisoner could be left to mob justice at a point when traditional chivalry required their captor to protect them. Nobles, previously targets for capture rather than killing, were targeted for death above the common soldiery. Wakefield was a clear demonstration of the changing nature of warfare in England in the mid fifteenth century.
So there you have it my top five battles of the Wars of the Roses. I’m not suggesting my choices are definitive and I’d love to hear what you think. Probably the most notable omissions, sitting at numbers six and seven respectively, are Tewkesbury and Barnet. They saw the deaths of hugely important figures – Prince Edward at Tewkesbury, ending the Lancastrian male line, and the Kingmaker Earl of Warwick at Barnet, a man who dominated politics in England for over a decade. My choices were made within the context of the civil war and taking account of their wider impacts on the political situation and it is clear that some of the less well-known encounters probably had the widest bearing on future events.
What would you consider to be the most important battle of the Wars of the Roses?
Matt’s latest book, Richard, Duke of York, King By Right, is released by Amberley Publishing on 15th April 2016 and will reveal a very different man from the one who has passed into myth amongst the stories of the Wars of the Roses.
Matthew Lewis has written The Wars of the Roses (Amberley Publishing), a detailed look at the key players of the civil war that tore England apart in the fifteenth century, and Medieval Britain in 100 Facts (Amberley Publishing), which offers a tour of the middle ages by explaining facts and putting the record straight on common misconceptions.
Matt is also the author of a brief biography of Richard III, A Glimpse of King Richard III along with a brief overview of the Wars of the Roses, A Glimpse of the Wars of the Roses.
Matt has two novels available too Loyalty, the story of King Richard III’s life, and Honour, which follows Francis, Lord Lovell in the aftermath of Bosworth.
The Richard III Podcast and the Wars of the Roses Podcast can be subscribed to via iTunes or on YouTube.
MajEvent: War of the Roses
|1435||Death of John Beaufort Duke of Bedford. 14 Sep||After the death of King Henry V, his brothers John of Lancaster (Beaufort) Duke of Bedford and Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester vied for control of England. John became Regent but mainly took care of affairs in France and Humphrey became Lord Protector of the young Henry VI. The country felt the loss of such a strong Regent.||St Katherine's by the Tower London|
|1441||Richard 3rd Duke of York appointed Lieutenant General of Normandy. 1 June||In 1439 Richard 3rd Duke of York was appointed Lieutenant General of Normandy, a measure taken to try to retain some of the French territories.He worked hard with some success to hold Normandy and to restore order there. He had been put in a very difficult situation there with insufficient funds to pay his troops and he had to use his own money to take care of many outstanding debts and his term of office there was greatly extended. In 1441, after failed negotiationswith the French, Henry sent him back to Normandy. This time his position was put under pressure by the king diverting resources to Somerset in Gascony.||Normandy|
|1442||Edward IV born. 28 Apr||Edward IV was born in Rouen in France||Rouen France|
|1444||Treaty of Tours between Henry VI and Charles VII. 1 May||During the negotiations leading to the truce of Tours in 1444, the English made important concessions in saying that the claim to the French crown might be traded in return for sovereignty in Normandy In December 1445, In March 1448 the capital, Le Mans, finally surrendered. This meant that Henry VI had initiated the dispossession of English soldiers whose homes and livelihoods were in Maine||Tours France|
|1445||Henry VI marries Margaret of Anjou at Titchfield Abbey. 23 Apr||Henry's marriage to the beautiful young Margaret, she was only 15 at the time of her marriage is interesting. She was not of particularly high rank and brought little of value to the English monarchy. Henry at the time also claimed the Kingdom of France and controlled various parts of northern France. Henry's uncle King Charles VII of France, also claimed the crown of France He agreed to the marriage of Margaret to Henry on the condition that he would not have to provide a dowry and would receive the lands of Maine and Anjou from the English. Henry at this time is thought to have been in an unstable mental condition and agreed tothis. But why was it allowed to proceed? The English government, fearing a highly negative reaction, kept the fact of the relinquishing of the French lands secret from the English public.||Titchfield Hampshire|
|1445||Margaret is crowned Queen. 30 May||Margaret of Anjou is crowned Queen at Westminster Abbey||Westminster Abbey|
|1445||Henry VI secret deal to surrender Maine to the French. 1 Dec||In December 1445, Henry VI secretly undertook the surrender of Maine, in so doing he appeared to renounce sovereignty over it. The implication of this was that the English might yield to further military or diplomatic pressure. Charles VII threatens to attack English Garrisons, Henry has to make secret deal to surrender Maine. He is perpetually on his back foot and concedes far too much ground to France.|
|1447||Humphrey Duke Of Gloucester dies having been imprisoned. 1 Feb||Humphrey had run England as co-regent with his brother John of Bedford. Their partnership had been successful and Humphrey was a popular leader. He made an unfortunate second marriage with Eleanor of Cobham who was arrested for sorcery in 1441 and he himself became tainted by her alledged wrong doings. The problems mount as Henry VI takes over in his majority and in 1447 was tried with treason and then died just three days after his arrest in Bury St Edmunds.||Bury St Edmunds|
|1447||Death of Cardinal Beaufort. 11 Apr||Cardinal Beaufort was a steadying hand throughout the period of King Henry IV and V's reign. His death removes a very important player in the politics of the day.||Winchester|
|1447||York exiled as Lieutenant of Ireland. 1 Dec||York is posted as Lieutenant of Ireland. An insult to York, a demotion but actually a political convenience as it removes York from the disastrous capitulations and appeasements by Henry and Somerset in France||Ireland|
|1448||England surrenders Le Mans to the French. 15 Mar||Maine had been English since 1425 when John Duke of Bedford seized it's capital Le Mans. By Feb 1448 the French laid seige to it and on 15 March the English surrendered it. Henry VI had made secret commitments to surrender Maine as part of the Treaty of Tours. Many English nobles resented such weakness and whilst in modern opinion peace would be preferable, in this period War creates commercial opportunity and revenue raising capabilities. War was about land in effect property rights. Henry VI had also sold short and dispossesed his Soldiers who lived and earnt their living from their lives in Maine.||Le Mans France|
|1448||Henry VI promotes some main players. 1 Mar||King Henry decides to promote some of the main protagonists in the period and they start jostling for power. He promotes William de la Pole as Duke of Suffolk and Edmund Beaufort as Duke of Somerset. Richard of Yorks styles himself as a Plantagenet promoting his close Royal Family connections.|
|1449||Richard Neville succeeds as Earl of Warwick. 1 July||Richard Neville married Anne Beauchamp, who, when her brother's daughter dies, brings her husband Richard Neville the title and chief share of the Warwick estates, making him a very wealthy man.|
|1449||English surrender Rouen and have lost Normandy. 1 Oct||In English hearts the loss of Normandy is devastating. This was a view shared amongst the public not just the nobles. A weak king with a pious approach always seeking peace and appeasement was contrary to what the English valued amongst its majority.||Rouen France|
|1450||Bishop Moelyns Murdered in Portsmouth explaining Misdemeanours of Suffolk. 9 Jan||Bishop Moleyns had both a political and religious career but was keen to exticate himself from the former as he became involved in a dispute with Richard, duke of York who claimed that Moleyns had accused him of financial irregularities, defamed his reputation, and blamed him for endangering the security of Normandy. Moleyns denied this. Soon after, York was removed from the post of lieutenant-general in France and as the situation there deteriorated Moleyns found himself exposed to criticism, particularly because of his close association with the Duke of Suffolk, but also because he advocated giving up French territory. He attempted to concentrate on his religious career and came to Portsmouth possibly to go oon pilgrimage. Some stories say he came with money to pay the troops in Portsmouth. He was set upon by a mob and murdered but quite who these mobsters were or their motives is still not certain. As a result the city of Portsmouth was excommunicated.||Church Old Portsmouth Hampshire|
|1450||The Hundred Years War- Battle of Formingy. 15 Apr||The Hundred Years War with France was becoming an expensive and wearying burden on the English population and levels of intolerance are running high. A further defeat of the English at the Battle of Formingy, leaves the English people looking for a scapegoat.ent and the Bishop is murdered. Given the intensity of events was this mob action or a convenient assassination?||Formingy France|
|1450||Insurrection in many parts of England||Insurrection broke out in this year in various parts of England. It was directed against the Duke of Suffolk and his supporters who were governing the country under King Henry VI.||Dover Kent|
|1450||Duke of Suffolk Impeached and Murdered/Executed. 28 Jan||William de la Pole the Duke of Suffolk was identified as that scapegoat. He was impeached because he was suspected of being an accomplice in the murder of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester.It was a popular decision because the public felt he should shoulder the blame for a number of things including the many lands lost to the French. He had received many appointments including, the earldom of Pembroke,Lord Chamberlain, and Lord High Admiral of England, and in 1448 was created Duke of Suffolk. Suffolk was committed to the Tower and sentenced, without trial, to five years' banishment. He declared his innocence and then got on a boat at Ipswich. The Duke of Exeter, Constable of the Tower took another vessel and boarded Suffolk's ship. He ordered him to be beheaded and his body was returned to Dover and laid out on the sands.|
Decimation of a generation, the relative casualties would have a profound impact on a generation. Britain would not face such a scale of loss again until WW1.
Blood ties were close, the War of the Roses was not so much an outright continuous war but a series of phases and events that would ebb and wane as one or more families and political figures fought for their own self-interests. The days of actual fighting were not as protracted as we might have thought. But the impact on the life of a nation was great. It would be a very long time until there would be any such event that would so disrupt British society and proportionally decimate the younger generations and that would be the horrors of a the WW1 (World War 1).
Out of this confusion and bitter disputes, motivated largely by self-interests, would emerge the House of Tudor but the right to be Kings of England was at least tenuous, as much as it had been with those that went before them. A convenient marriage between Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York seems to bring hostilities to an end, but for how long would that last? Was this a unique event or really just a repeat of violent wealthy families pursuing their own agendas, which had gone on from the earliest of our fledgling British Monarchs and would this be an end to the traumas such disputes created.
Look to the Tudor Dynasty and you just might think that this was the continuance of feuding that is almost inevitable when a country is ruled by a single individual and the success or failure of that king or queen as much depends on the strength of a single character? But with the arrival of the Tudors a whole new series of events transpires equally as divisive and driven by the desire for power wealth and supremacy at almost any price.
War of the Roses Timeline and Chronology with interactive map and narrative
This is a series of events that transpire with the build-up stretching as far back as 1399 and continuing to its conclusion around 1485. Many will shorten that start date back to 1450 but the importance of events before 1450 should not be underestimated. Hence we are bulding an interactive timeline and map plus family trees to help us all explore and unravel some of the intriguing connections in this complex vilent and ruthless series of events.
War of the Roses Collection
You will also find links and connections to the events explored in more detail linked to this page below. These articles aim to help extend the connections and reveal some more intriguing people, their families, roles and significance in this massive series of events. We try to identify existing physical places and map those to the events and people who participated together with the relevance across the broader sweep of our history in the 15th century and for the specific royal houses that are connected to this series of events. For more on the Plantagenets, the House of Lancaster, House of York and the emergence of the Tudors (click on the related links.
In the extraordinary evidence that has been scientifically researched by the University of Tudor we now learn that whilst the research team are more than 99.99% certain that the remains recovered in Leicester are Richard III, they have also discovered a complex issue that there is a non-paternity event (an illegitimacy) compared to the established genealogies which traverses over some 13 links. This brings into question the possibility that one or more of these factions connected to Richard’s genealogy was in fact invalid, incorrect and may have mean’t that the often cited smear of illegitimacy on a child of the royal family may well have had some substance and changed the course of history. Find out more here about Richard III’s DNA and new eveidence here and make your mind-up. Was the War of the Roses , more of what had gone before and would follow again with the Tudors whilst England suffered the rule and absolute power of an anointed monarch or was it the lesser of two evils when Civil War challenged the Monarchy and put a Commoner at the head of a nation. When would Parliament get some real diplomatic teeth and govern by consent and democracy? Who would rid us of these despotic dynastic kings?
There are many online versions of fifteenth and sixteenth century texts available and the easiest places to access them are often archive.org, Project Gutenberg, the Hathi Trust or Medieval Genealogy. Throughout this website you will find images taken from the British Library’s Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts. Some of their original manuscripts are available in full online. You can also find a number of sources specifically about Richard III on the website of the American Branch of the Richard III Society. There are dedicated projects on certain texts which provide especially useful editions. If you are aware of a better edition of any of the following texts, please do let us know so that we can share them with others.
If you are examining sources in Middle English, you may find it helpful to refer to an online dictionary of Middle English. And if you are trying to work out a calendar date the Medieval Genealogy calendar page is very useful
Some important Primary Sources that were published by the Richard Society are now available online here. These include
- Richard III’s signet book: BL MS Harley 433
- Records of royal funerals, a christening and a coronation pageant
- Contemporary reports of events in England by Caspar Weinreich (in Danzig), Niclas von Popplau (a visiting Silesian knight), Gerhard von Wesel (from Cologne), and others
- Some chancery warrants from Richard III’s reign
- and the inventory of a fifteenth-century necromancer!
Other especially useful online sources, in approximate chronological order, include:
Statutes of the Realm, these are the versions of the statutes that were circulated after the relevant parliament. The original French in which they were first published is given alongside an English translation. Henry VI’s start at 237 (p. 213), Edward IV’s at 404 (p. 380) Richard III’s start at 503 (p. 477).
The Paston Letters are a fantastic archive of family correspondence over a period of 70 years. Many are about domestic matters and local events while others provide unique details about national politics. The online version is not the most up to date but the correspondence has been digitised by the British Library.
An English Chronicle for the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI is a continuation of a Brut chronicle which is commonly called Davies’ Chronicle after the name of its first editor. A better manuscript has since been found and edited, but that is not online and the most significant differences relate to Richard II’s reign. The last part of the work (1440-61) was written by an ardent Yorkist.
The Edward IV Roll: an illustrated genealogy celebrating Edward IV’s claim to the English, French and Castilian thrones and his position as King Arthur’s heir.
The Historie of the Arrivall of Edward IV was written to celebrate Edward IV’s return to England in 1471. Find out more here. The manuscript image in the headers of this website comes from the frontispiece to Ghent University Library’s manuscript of this book.
Warkworth’s Chronicle of the first thirteen years of Edward IV’s reign, written in 1484, is unusual for its northern focus. It expresses some sympathy for Henry VI but is fairly balanced. It is often attributed to John Warkworth, an Oxford academic and clergyman from Northumberland, but this is only because he owned one of the two known manuscripts.
John Blacman’s Compilation of the Meekness and Good Life of Henry VI was probably written shortly before Henry VI’s body was moved from Chertsey to Windsor by Richard III. Blacman was a fellow at Eton and Henry VI’s confessor.
The Crowland Chronicle. The Second Continuation of this chronicle was written in 1486 by someone close to the centre of events, although their identity remains a matter of great debate. The online edition is a nineteenth-century version. A more up to date edition of the continuations, in parallel with its Latin original, was produced by Nicholas Pronay & John Cox in 1986 and is worth getting hold of if you can. There is more about the chronicle here.
Philippe de Commynes was a Franco-Burgundian diplomat who wrote a very useful, albeit sometimes rather colourful, memoir of his experiences which can be found in several versions. The most recent editions (by Blanchard or Dufournet) are not online. Volume 2 of Dupont’s edition covering the period from the mid 1470s is here. There is a nineteenth-century English translation of Dupont’s version volumes 1 and 2 and a more modern translation of the early books of the Calmette and Durvelle (1920s) edition here. This last includes a valuable introduction about Commynes.
John Rous was a Warwickshire antiquary who wrote beautiful rolls on the history of the earls of Warwick during Richard III’s reign. He also wrote a History of the Kings of England over the period 1480-86. The history is not especially useful for understanding the events of the Wars of the Roses but it does show one clergyman’s view of things. It is notable for the violent hostility of his account of Richard III compared with the panegyric in the Rous Roll. Online you can find the Latin text of his Historia Regum Angliae a translation of the section on Richard III is in Alison Hanham’s Richard III and his Early Historians and the manuscript itself is in the British Library. The British Library have fully digitised The Rous Roll.
The Privy Purse Expenses of Elizabeth of York have recently been edited as part of the Tudor Chamber Books project.
Robert Fabyan‘s New Chronicles of England and France were published in 1516. Fabyan was probably born in the late 1450s and was a draper, sheriff, mayor and alderman of London. He died in 1513.
Polydore Vergil was an Italian scholar and papal employee (an agent of Adriano Castellesi da Corneto), who arrived in England in 1502. Henry VII encouraged him to write his Anglica Historia in about 1506. It was completed in 1513 although not published until 1534. He revised it for new editions in 1546 and again in 1555. This last is the online version, edited and translated by Dana Sutton.
Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland are actually an early secondary source since Holinshed was not born until 1525. His chronicles were nonetheless an important source for many later histories and for Shakespeare. Find out more on the British Library’s website.
Wars of the Roses
Yorkists and Lancastrians taking white and red roses in the Inner Temple Garden: First Battle of St Albans, fought on 22nd May 1455 in the Wars of the Roses: allegorical picture from William Shakespeare by Henry Arthur Payne
First Battle of St Albans: The First Battle of the Wars of the Roses, fought in the streets of St Albans on 22 nd May 1455.
Battle of Blore Heath: The battle fought on 23 rd September 1459, at which the Earl of Salisbury’s Yorkist army defeated a larger Lancastrian army, enabling it to join the Duke of York at Ludlow.
Battle of Northampton: King Henry VI, captured for a second time by the Yorkists, after the crushing defeat of the Lancastrians at the Battle of Northampton, fought on 10 th July 1460.
Battle of Wakefield 1460: Queen Margaret of Anjou’s crushing defeat of the Yorkists on 30 th December 1460, with the death of the Yorkist leader, Richard, Duke of York and his young son, the Duke of Rutland.
Battle of Mortimer’s Cross: Edward, Earl of March’s decisive defeat of Jasper Tudor, on 3 rd February 1461, on the Welsh Border
Second Battle of St Albans: The second battle of St Albans, fought in and to the north of the City of St Albans, on 17 th February 1461.
Battle of Towton: Edward IV’s crushing defeat of the Lancastrians on 29 th March 1461, leading to his coronation as King of England
Battle of Barnet: King Edward IV’s victory over his erstwhile ally, the Earl of Warwick, on 14 th April 1471
Battle of Tewkesbury: Final defeat of the Lancastrians on 4 th May 1471, with the death of Edward Prince of Wales and the murder in the tower of King Henry VI, leaving the Yorkist King Edward IV free to continue his reign unopposed.
Battle of Bosworth Field: Henry Tudor’s historic victory over King Richard III on 22 nd August 1485, with the death of Richard and the establishment of the Tudor Dynasty as Kings and Queens of England.
Murder of the Duke of Rutland by Lord Clifford, at the Battle of Wakefield on 30th December 1460 in the Wars of the Roses: picture by Charles Robert Leslie
The Wars of the Roses
The Plantaganet King Henry VI was a weak king, married to an ambitious French princess, Margaret of Anjou. At this time, there was a complex series of rivalries and jealousies at court between powerful noble families. The Queen and her circle of nobles were known as Lancastrians after Henry’s surname of Lancaster. The party of nobles who opposed the Queen and the Lancastrians was led by Richard, Duke of York, Henry’s cousin, who was also descended from King Edward III and therefore also had a claim to the throne of England. They were known as Yorkists.
Henry VI suffered from periods of insanity. During one of these periods in 1454, Richard of York was appointed ‘Protector of the Realm’. His first act was to dismiss some of the Queen’s Lancastrian advisors which caused great bad feeling. The King recovered some months later and York was summarily dismissed.
The weak, sick king was unable to control his ambitious queen on one side, and the Yorkist Earl of Warwick, the ‘kingmaker’, on the other side.
Both sides started to recruit soldiers and prepare for war. Many soldiers had just returned from the Hundred Years War in France, so recruiting trained men to fight was easy. Each side chose a badge: the Red Rose for Lancaster and the White Rose for York.
In 1455, just two years after the end of the Hundred Years War, this dynastic civil war broke out. There was tremendous bloodshed as defeated forces on both sides were brutally murdered by the victors.
A Chronology of the Wars of the Roses
22 May 1455: First Battle of St Albans. A Yorkist victory during which the Duke of Somerset (one of the Lancastrian leaders) was killed. The Duke of York was re-appointed Protector, then dismissed again in 1456. Queen Margaret fuelled anti-Yorkist sentiment at court. Richard, Duke of York’s influence was undermined and he was excluded from the royal council.
23 September 1459: Battle of Blore Heath. A Yorkist victory.
12 October 1459: Battle of Ludford Bridge. This time, a Lancastrian victory. The Queen declared Yorkist property and lives forfeit. Richard of York fled to Ireland.
10 July 1460: Battle of Northampton. A Yorkist victory King Henry VI captured. Massacre of prisoners ordered by the Earl of Warwick. The Queen fled to Wales.
10 October 1460. The return of Richard of York who was declared heir to the throne. In response, the Queen raised a new army.
30 December 1460. Battle of Wakefield. The Yorkists were defeated and Richard, Duke of York, was killed. He was succeeded by his son Edward.
2 February 1461: Battle of Mortimer Cross. Richard of York’s son Edward, Earl of March was victorious.
17 February 1461: Second Battle of St Albans. A victory for the House of Lancaster. Henry VI rescued.
from left to right:
Henry VI, Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III
4 March 1461. Edward of York, Edward IV, proclaimed king in London.
9 March 1461. Battle of Towton. Another Yorkist victory for The Earl of Warwick. Flight of King Henry, Queen Margaret and the Prince of Wales to Scotland.
24 June 1465: Henry VI captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London.
1 May 1470. After quarrelling with Edward IV, Warwick the Kingmaker fled to France There he joined forces with Queen Margaret before returning to England and restoring the Lancastrian Henry VI to the throne on 13th October.
14 March 1471. The Yorkist King Edward fled to France, returning with a small army.
14 April 1471. Battle of Barnet. A victory for Edward’s Yorkist army. Warwick the Kingmaker killed.
4 May 1471. Battle of Tewkesbury. A defeat for the Lancastrian army, led by Queen Margaret and the Prince of Wales. The Prince of Wales was killed and the queen was captured.
21- 22 May 1471. Henry VI was killed in the Tower of London. Henry Tudor, the Earl of Richmond and Lancastrian claimant to the throne, fled to France.
The Yorkist Edward IV was now the undisputed king.
9 April 1483. Death of Edward IV, succeeded by his young son Edward V.
June 1483. Edward V and his brother declared illegitimate by Parliament. Richard Duke of Gloucester, brother of Edward IV, asked to take the throne as Richard III
Probably summer of 1483. Murder of Edward V and his brother in the Tower of London.
7 August 1485. Henry Tudor, last of the Lancastrians, landed at Milford Haven in Wales.
22 August 1485. Battle of Bosworth. King Richard III killed and the Lancastrian Henry Tudor became King Henry VII.
Henry married Elizabeth of York thus uniting the two houses, and founded the Tudor dynasty. The Tudor Rose includes both red and white roses to symbolise the uniting of the Houses of York and Lancaster.
History Jar Challenge week 9 answers. Battles of the Wars of the Roses
Map showing Wars of the Roses battles
22 May 1455. First Battle of St. Albans— York and his allies, the Neville earls of Salisbury and Warwick, win control of the king and kill their chief enemies: Somerset, Northumberland, and Clifford.
23 September 1459. Battle of Blore Heath—Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, defeats a Lancastrian force trying to block his junction with York.
12-13 October 1459. Heavily outnumbered, the Yorkist lords abandon their men and flee from the royal army at Ludford Bridge Richard of York goes to Ireland whilst the earls of Warwick, Salisbury, and Edward Earl of March go to Calais. The Battle of Ludford Bridge is virtually bloodless. The sack of Ludlow followed.
10 July 1460. Battle of Northampton— Warwick captures Henry VI and control of the government.
30 December1460 Battle of Wakefield— defeat and death of Richard of York, Earl of Salisbury, and York’s second son, Edmund Plantagenet, Earl of Rutland.
2 February 1461 Battle of Mortimer’s Cross—Yorkist victory in Wales.
17 February 1461. Second Battle of St. Albans—Margaret of Anjou defeats Warwick and reunites herself and her son with Henry VI.
27-28 March 1461. Battle of Ferrybridge—Lancastrian attempts to prevent a Yorkist crossing of the River Aire.
29 March 1461. Battle of Towton— Edward IV wins throne and Henry VI and his family flee into Scotland.
16 October 1461. Battle of Twt Hill— Yorkist victory in Wales
25 April 1464. Battle of Hedgeley Moor—Yorkist victory in the north.
15 May 1464. Battle of Hexham— Yorkist victory leads to the execution of Henry Beaufort, the Lancastrian duke of Somerset.
26 July 1469. Battle of Edgecote Moor—William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, and other Yorkist lords are defeated and executed by the Earl of Warwick who turned against Edward IV.
12 March 1470. Battle of Losecote Field—Edward IV defeats rebels operating under the direction of the Earl of Warwick and George Duke of Clarence. Both men will now flee to France where Warwick will reach an agreement with Margaret of Anjou – fully turning his coat.
14 April 1471. Battle of Barnet—Warwick is defeated and killed Margaret of Anjou and Prince Edward of Lancaster land in England at Weymouth.
4 May 1471. Battle of Tewkesbury— Prince Edward of Lancaster is killed on the field. Henry VI, a prisoner in the Tower, is murdered shortly afterwards.
22 August 1485. Battle of Bosworth Field—Richard III is defeated and killed accession of Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, as Henry VII.
16 June 1487. Battle of Stoke—Henry VII defeats Yorkist supporters of Lambert Simnel.
10 Essential Facts About the Wars of the Roses
The Wars of the Roses were a series of battles to secure the throne of England. It was a domestic feud, which enacted between the supporters of two rivaling families of the royal House of Plantagenet: the House of Lancaster and York. The Wars of the Roses were first fought in episodes from 1455 till 1487, but there were also occasional battles before the designated historic period. The first and most important cause of the conflict were the social and financial hardships, which England had to deal with in the aftermath of the Hundred Years’ War. The contemporary ruler of England, Henry VI, had also shown many signs of incompetence. This triggered a spark in Richard, Duke of York, who put forward his claim to the throne.
1. The Wars started with the Battle of St. Albans.
On May 22, 1455 Richard, Duke of York decided to act and confronted King Henry VI and his forces at the First Battle of St. Albans. There were, all in all, two battles at this location during the Wars of the Roses, but the first one marks the formal start of the conflict. The First Battle of St. Albans featured Richard showing up with his allies his allies, the Neville Earls of Salisbury and Warwick . He had a strong force and the royal army commanded by Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset , was soon defeated. King Henry VI also was captured as a result of the battle, and the Government proclaimed Richard of York Lord Protector.
2. Both the Yorks and the Lancasters had a common ancestor.
Although the houses were pitted against one another in a fierce military conflict, it still did not change the fact that they both descended from the same family tree, namely the Plantagenets. Both Yorks and Lancasters could trace their roots back to Edward III of the House of Plantagenets. The Yorks were then descended from the female kin of Edward’s second son and fourth son, whereas the Lancasters were descendants of John of Gaunt, Edward’s third son. Modern historians tend to believe that the Yorkists claim was more legitimate, but of course no one paid much attention to that during the Wars.
Battle of Barnet
3. The Wars might not have happened if it wasn’t for the Hundred Years’ War.
The state of England in the 1450s was far from ideal. The people’s morale was low, the treasury was depleted and scores of unemployed soldiers had nowhere to go. At the same time, King Henry VI, was a weak ruler, not only due to his political indecision, but also due to a severe mental illness, which left him oftentimes in quite a vegetative state, unable to rule at all. All the above factors sparked the will in the Yorks and Lancasters to shake things up and try to fix their country. Of course, power and splendor came along with it. Who would have said no?
4. Rose was not used as a primary symbol by any party.
Today at school we often learn that the Wars of the Roses got their names from the red Lancaster rose and the white York rose, because those were the symbols proudly displayed by the two houses. In fact, both Lancasters and Yorks had their own coat of arms, which they displayed much more often than the alleged rose symbol. It was simply one of the many badges used for identification. The white rose was an earlier symbol as well, because the red rose of Lancaster was apparently not in use until the late 1480s, that is not until the last years of the Wars. It seems also that the historic term ‘Wars of the Roses’ was not invented until the 19th century. The contemporaries simply called them ‘Cousins’ Wars’.
Battle of Stoke Field
5. The Lancasters had a gifted strategist, and it was a woman.
This exceptional title has to go to Queen Margaret of Anjou. Although, in theory, it was King Henry VI, who led the party, his deteriorating health stood in the way of effective military planning. This role was then taken over by Queen Margaret of Anjou. Her achievements include commanding an army, which prevailed over Richard of York, subsequently killing the poor old Duke and recovering King Henry from captivity. But, as the tides have turned, Margaret was forced to leave England for France. This, however, did not stop her from further skillful planing against the Lancasters and she even managed to reestablish Henry VI briefly on the throne in 1470. She was also known to execute her enemies asking her 7-year-old son for his opinion on how they should be killed.
6. The Wars of the Roses were pretty much like ‘musical chairs’.
Everyone who knows the game, knows what it’s like. Once you score and once you miss, and the chair gets occupied by someone else. The English throne during the time of the Wars of the Roses was much like such a musical chair. Richard of York nearly managed to secure his position as the King of England in 1460, and later he was killed. Ten years later, Richard’s son, Edward IV, claimed the throne bu t became deposed almost immediately after. And then he died, in 1483, leaving space for Richard III of Yorks and Henry Tudor of Lancasters to haggle over the throne of England once again. In total, England had five rulers in a span of mere 25 years, and three of them were executed as well. That is your brutal version of the ‘musical chairs’.
Battle of Towton
7. The Battle of Towton was the bloodiest battle ever fought in England.
The Wars of the Roses saw a total bloodshed happening on the English territory. In March 1461, the York forces led by Edward IV met the Lancaster forces under the command of Margaret of Anjou near a small village of Towton. What happened next, involved slaying over 40,000 men by means or archery and individual close combat. The Battle of Towton lasted for 10 hours, and the ones whose written records we find today, mention that the ‘river ran red with blood’. Edward IV won the battle, but its cost was significant to both of the combating sides.
8. Treachery was very common during the Wars of the Roses.
In the times of uncertainty as to who the next ruler will be, everyone wants to be close to the prospective King. And some of the York and Lancaster nobles treated the whole conflict much as one would a betting game. They simply became allies with whoever was stronger in a given moment. Such is the case of the Earl of Warwick, who in 1470 suddenly decided to drop his allegiance to Richard, Duke of York. This was more shocking still, due to the fact that he helped Duke’s son Edward IV ascend to the throne. But, apparently the Earl of Warwick wanted to support Edward’s brother, the Duke of Clarence now, instead. When their mutual coup proved unsuccessful, they even teamed up with the Lancasters under Queen Margaret in France. This tribulations however, proved ineffective once Clarence decided to head back to the Yorkists and the Earl of Warwick was killed in battle. They managed to briefly depose Edward off his throne, though.
Battle of Northhampton
9. The Wars of the Roses contributed to a famous missing persons case.
When Edward IV of York died in 1483, Edward V, his son became the new King of England. By the time of the coronation, Edward V was only 12, and his uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was ruling as his regent. Edward V and his brother Richard of Shrewsbury were offered to stay at the Tower of London, which by then was not a prison yet. They were both assured that they would be guests, but things escalated quickly and they were soon locked up after the good uncle Richard declared them illegitimate. Richard of Gloucester went even further, crowning himself as Richard III shortly after the incident. As to the boys, both of them vanished from historic records forever. In 1674, a pair of skeletons was found under one of the Tower’s staircases leading many to think that Edward V and his brother shared a cruel fate by their uncle’s orders.
10. The last battle of the Wars of the Roses was the Battle of Bosworth Field.
Richard III’s move might not have been the smartest, as many of his Yorkist allies decided not to support him any more afterwards. Some even decided to turn to Henry Tudor instead. Henry Tudor found himself in England in 1485 and faced Richard on August 22, 1485 in the epic and decisive Battle of Bosworth Field. Richard III suffered a deathly blow to the head, and Henry Tudor was the undisputed winner. He was then crowned to rule as King Henry VII, and the Tudor dynasty held its royal position for some good 200 years. Henry VII also united the York and the Lancaster houses, by marrying Elizabeth of York, Edward IV’s daughter. The symbolic end to the Wars of the Roses was the adoption of a new emblem, the Tudor rose, white in the middle and red on the outside.
Battle of Bosworth Field