War of the Roses Essay

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War of the Roses can be considered to be the bloodiest conflict fought in England to date. Beginning in 1455 and ending in 1487, the conflict was rooted in a struggle between the heirs of King Edward III and King Henry IV, who were divided into the House of Lancaster, represented by a red rose, and the House of York, represented by a white rose, hence, the conflict being commonly referred to as the War of the Roses (Jokinen, 2013). Ultimately resulted in the establishment of the Tudor dynasty, one of the most recognized, albeit short-lived dynasties of the British Empire. The Tudor dynasty was able to unite both houses and effectively eliminate the conflict between the House of Lancaster and the House of York, and ensured that neither House could lay claim to the throne.

The conflict between the House of York and the House of Lancaster dates back to King Edward III and the power struggle that between his sons that followed after his death. Although King Edward III's son, Edward, the Black Prince, was next in line to succeed the throne, he died in 1376, one year before King Richard III died (The Tudors -- the Wars of the Roses, 2013). As a result of Prince Edward's premature death, his son, Richard, later King Richard II, became king. However, because King Richard II was only 10-years-old at the time of his grandfather's death, his uncle, and King Richard II's third son, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, established himself as regent and helped to rule the country. When John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster died in 1399, King Richard II seized his lands, which was when the Duke of Lancaster's son, Henry Bolingbroke, raised an army and usurped the throne, declaring himself and subsequently declared himself King Henry VI after King Richard II surrendered (The Tudors -- the Wars of the Roses, 2013; War of the Roses, 2012). King Richard II died in February 1400 under mysterious circumstances, though many believe he was murdered. After King Richard II's death, the crown should have technically gone to Edmund, Earl of March, and Lionel of Antwerp, the Duke of Clarence's son, who was King Edward III's second son; King Edward III's fourth son, Edmund of Langley, the Duke of York was King Edward III's fourth son (The Tudors -- the Wars of the Roses, 2013). Because the Duke of York and the Duke of Lancaster were brothers, the fight for control of England essentially became a conflict between cousins.

Henry Bolingbroke, from the House of Lancaster, claimed the throne through his father, John of Gaunt; his supporters and descendants were considered to be part of the Lancastrian faction. On the other hand, the Yorkist faction was primarily associated with Richard, 3rd Duke of York, and supporters in northern England (Wheeler, 2013). King Henry VI was prone to bouts of insanity, thus, Richard, 3rd Duke of York, was often tasked with taking over in King Henry VI's stead (Wheeler, 2013). In 1454, Richard, 3rd Duke of York, who was a descendent of King Richard II, was appointed as regent by Parliament (The War of the Roses, n.d.). Richard, 3rd Duke of York, claimed King Henry VI's descendants did not have a rightful claim to the throne because the throne had been usurped. In October 1460, Richard, 3rd Duke of York, was named successor to the throne by the Act of Accord, thus disinheriting King Henry VI's six-year-old son, Prince Edward (War of the Roses, 2012). Richard, 3rd Duke of York, was killed near his castle in Wakefield in December 1460 (The War of the Roses, n.d.). Richard's son, Edward, was crowned King Edward IV in 1461, which caused King Henry VI, along with his wife, Margaret of Anjou, and their son, also named Edward, to flee to Scotland for nine years (The War of the Roses, n.d.). However, King Henry VI returned with an army, backed by Margaret of Anjou's French forces, and briefly regained control in 1470, which subsequently exiled King Edward IV to the Netherlands before he was able to return and reassume control of the throne (Wheeler, 2013). King Edward IV was able to defeat Margaret of Anjou's army, murder King Henry VI's son, Edward, and imprisoned King Henry VI in the Tower of London where he was murdered (Wheeler, 2013; The War of the Roses, n.d.).

When King Edward IV died in 1483, his son, King Edward V, was supposed to take control of the crown, however, he was too young so his uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, set himself up as regent, claiming that he would hold the position until King Edward V was old enough to take control of the crown (Wheeler, 2013). While the transition of the crown from King Edward IV to King Edward V should have been uncomplicated, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, King Edward IV's brother, took advantage of King Edward V's age to seize the crown for himself. After he was appointed as regent, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, declared martial law and sent King Edward V and his younger brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, to the Tower of London to allegedly protect them (Wheeler, 2013). King Edward V and his brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York, were declared illegitimate on June 25, 1483 via an Act of Parliament and were never heard from again (War of the Roses, 2012). Richard then proceeded to declare himself King Richard III. King Richard III's rule was highly disturbed by rebellion, especially on behalf of southerners who were angered by the presumed murders of Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury (Wheeler, 2013).

While the War of the Roses came to an abrupt end in 1485, a few years after King Richard III seized control of the throne, there were a number of decisive battled between the House of Lancaster and the House of York that took place between 1455 and 1485. The two opposing Houses first met on the battlefield on May 22, 1455 at the First Battle of St. Albans. During this battle, Richard of York led an army of about 3,000 towards London, which prompts King Henry VI to attempt to intercept the Yorkist army at St. Albans. Richard of York attacks and defeats King Henry VI, which forces Margaret of Anjou and Prince Edward to flee (Wheeler, 2013). Four years later, in 1459, the Yorkists defeat the Lancastrians again at the Battle of Blore, however, their victory would be short-lived as they were defeated by the Lancastrians later that year. On July 1460, Richard Neville helped Richard of York to capture King Henry VI at the Battle of Northampton. The Yorkists were defeated at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460 where Richard of York was killed in battle (Wheeler). In 1461, the Yorkists defeated the Lancastrians at the Battle of Mortimer's Cross, the Lancastrians defeated the Yorkists at the Second Battle of St. Albans, and the Yorkists defeated the Lancastrians at the Battle of Ferrybridge and the Battle of Towton (Wheeler, 2013; Gormley, 2010). In 1464, the Yorkists defeated the Lancastrians at the Battle of Hedgely Moor and at the Battle of Hexham; in 1469, the Lancastrians defeated the Yorkists at the Battle of Edgecote Moor, while the Yorkists defeated the Lancastrians at the Battle of Losecote Field; and in 1471, the Yorkists defeated the Lancastrians at the Battle of Barnet and at the Battle of Tewkesbury (Wheeler, 2013; Gormley, 2010). By this point in the War of the Roses, the majority of the Yorkist and Lancastrian claimants to the throne had killed each other off, thus providing Henry Tudor the opportunity to take control of the English throne. Henry raised an army against King Richard III and defeats him at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 (Wheeler, 2013; Gormley, 2010). King Richard III was the last of the Plantagenet family who had ruled England for 300 years (Wars of the Roses, n.d.)

The Tudors also had a legitimate claim to the English throne as they had blood ties to the House of Lancaster, and most of those belonging to the House of Lancaster and the House of York had killed each other off during the thirty years of fighting. Henry proceeded to declare himself King Henry VII and eliminated most of his rivals during his first years as king, officiating the final blow to any opposition in 1487 at the Battle of Stoke (Wheeler, 2013; Gormley, 2010). In what can be considered a brilliant political move, King Henry VII then married Elizabeth of York, King Henry IV's daughter, to strengthen his claim to the throne. Elizabeth of York had a matrilineal Yorkist claim to the throne, while King Henry VII had a patrilineal Lancastrian claim to the throne, thus ensuring that any children that the two had would have both a Yorkist and a Lancastrian claim to the throne. King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York would have seven children, of whom only four would live…[continue]

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