The battles of the War of the Roses took place between 1455 and 1487. The war was fought
between supporters of several descendants of Edward III, the King of England from 1327 to 1377.
The war was not a constant fight that affected the whole country and its population, but a series of
battles spread out over the years between sets of supporters known as the Lancastrians and the Yorkists. Some of the battles were fought by thousands of men. The Battle of Towton being the
largest and the bloodiest.
Background to the War
It is not truely known why the Lancastrians and Yorkists went to War. There may have been more
than one reason.
Was the conflict just a struggle between two factions of supporters eager to improve their positions
of power in the country?
A popular suggestion is that the two factions disagreed who was the rightful heir to the English throne.
In 1399, some fifty years before the wars began, Richard II the King of England was overthrown by
Henry Bolingbroke who claimed the English throne as Henry IV. Bolingbroke's claim to the English
throne was through his father, John of Gaunt, the fourth son of Edward III. At the time there was
a stronger claim to the throne and that was by Edmund Mortimer who was descended from Edward
III's third son. Edmund was not old enough to rule the country and it was agreed that Henry Bolingbroke
should become king. It would be more than hald a century later that this unsafe claim to the English
throne would become important.
Although slightly complicated, the following family tree of Edward III shows how both sides had claim
to the English throne.
Richard II deposed.
Henry IV deposed Richard II.
Edmund Mortimer had a better claim to the throne than Henry IV.
Anne Mortimer married Richard, Earl of Cambridge.
Richard, Earl of Cambridge like Anne Mortimer was also a descendant of Edward III. But he was
descended from Edmund of Langley, the Duke of York (d. 1402), a younger brother.
Henry VI, who suffered bouts of mental illness.
Richard Duke of York, descended from Edmund Mortimer, attempted to become King of England
because of Henry's illness.