Tuesday, December 3, 2013

War of the Roses

1453 to 1485

Lancastrians — versus — Yorkists

Introduction : 


 One after another all the nobles plucked red or white roses and put them in their caps.
The War of the Roses was a terribly destructive, long-lasting, civil war in England between two families with rival claims to the throne, the Yorks and the Lancasters. Its net result was to kill off almost all the direct claimants to the throne on either side of the royal family, wreak havoc and destruction, turn long term resentments into blood-feuds, and bring the entire Plantagenet line, which had ruled England for over 300 years, to an ignominious end. Furthermore, in terms of convoluted plot twists, reversals, treachery, shifting alliances, military setbacks, and 'surprise' endings, it has few parallels in history. In other words, it is not an easy war to follow either in terms of alliances, or military progress.
The war takes its name from the two Roses that symbolized respectively, the houses of Lancaster (red rose) and York (white rose), among the English aristocracy. It had its roots in a disputed succession that had occurred two generations previously, when Henry IV (Bolingbroke, a Lancaster), ascended to the throne after Richard II had been deposed. It truth, his cousin Clarence, whose descendents were the Yorks, had a better claim, but Bolingbroke was able to make good his claim because his father, John of Gaunt, had been regent and was very influential. Henry V, who succeeded Bolingbroke was very popular due to his great victories in France, so no one disputed his claim to the throne, or that of his son, as long as he lived. Unfortunately, Henry V died young, and Henry VI proved to be a weak and indecisive king, surrounded by unpopular advisors. In this circumstance, the York family, spurred on by the Earl of Warwick, began to actively reassert their claim.
The political machinations to reclaim the throne for the York line started long before the actual fighting, and when, after the first several years of his marriage to Margaret of Anjou, Henry VI failed to produce an heir, there was great optimism that on his death, the throne would pass peaceably to the Yorks. An official agreement of succession was made, and for a long while, it appeared that the Yorks would prevail without bloodshed. But after seven years of marriage, Henry VI did unexpectedly produce an heir, and his wife Margaret of Anjou, who had all of the strength of character and decision that her husband lacked, abrogated the agreement on Yorkish succession, and insisted on the rights of her son to the throne of England.
In the early years of the war, Margaret of Anjou, rather than her husband was driving force behind the Lancaster cause, and she shrank at nothing, from leading armies herself, to beheading her enemies to promote the cause of her son. On the York side, the driving force was the Earl of Warwick, and the Duke of York, who were cousins by marriage. Warwick was the wealthiest and most influential man in England at the time, but had no male heirs and was therefore, determined that his daughters should marry into the Royal family.
The war itself occurred in three phases. The first phase was the longest and bloodiest, and resulted in a York victory. The second phase involved a rebellion within the York family which provided an opportunity for the Lancaster's to reassert their claim. They briefly succeeded, but the crown soon fell back into the hands of the Yorks. The third phase occurred following the death of the Yorkish King Edward IV, and was fought between Richard III, a usurper, and Henry Tudor a distant cousin on the Lancaster side.

Phase I—Defeat and exile of Lancasters : 1453–1464


 Early battle in the War of the Roses
The most serious years of fighting between the Yorks and Lancasters occurred between 1459 and 1461, and resulted in a victory for the Yorks—the Lancaster Royal family was sent into exile in France, and Henry VI was imprisoned in England. There were however, very many striking reverses during this period of the fighting, and at times it seemed as though the Yorkish cause was lost. In 1453 at Stamford bridge, and again in 1455 at St. Albans, the conflict between the Lancaster's and Yorks had broken into armed combat, but on both of these occasions, the conflicts were temporarily resolved by compromise. The underlying issues however, and the conflict between the Queen, who was essentially running the country, and the Duke of York worsened over time and again broke into open warfare at the battle of Blore Heath.
Once both sides had settled on open war, the early victories went in favor of the Yorks, but at the battle of Wakefield, in December of 1460, the Yorks met with disaster. The Duke of York and his eldest son were both ambushed and beheaded, and the Yorkish forces were scattered. Far from discouraging the Yorks however, this horrid loss enraged their supporters and over the next few months, the Yorks raised more armies under Edward IV, the second son of the deceased Duke of York. The Yorks prevailed over the Lancasters first at (second) St. Albans, and then at Towton, the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil. Towton was as great a disaster for the Lancasters as Wakefield was for the Yorks, and the royal family scarcely escaped with their lives. London had been, from the beginning, a Yorkish stronghold, so with the Royals in exile, in 1461, Edward IV was crowned King of England and assumed control of the government in the south. Lancastrian strongholds in the north continued to hold out, however, and broke out in rebellion in 1464. When Somerset, the military leader of the Lancasters, was killed at the battle of Hexham however, all armed resistance ceased for almost a decade.

Battle / Outcome

Battle of Stamford Bridge
Drawn Battle (Yorks vs. Lancastrians)
An encounter between the retainers of Sir Thomas Neville, and those of Lord Egremont, which developed into a pitched battle, in August, 1453. It is considered to be the beginning of the Wars of the Roses.
Battle of St. Alban's
Yorks defeat Lancastrians
Two engagements were fought here in the course of the war. On May 22, 1455, 2,000 Lancastrians, under Henry VI, posted in the town, were attacked by 3,000 Yorkists, under the Duke of York. The Duke pierced the Lancastrian centre, and drove them out of St. Alban's with heavy loss, among those who were killed being the Earls of Somerset and Northumberland.
Battle of Bloore Heath
Yorks defeat Lancastrians
Fought September 23, 1459, between the Yorkists under the Earl of Salisbury, and the Lancastrians under Henry VI. The former, who were inferior in numbers, were attacked by Henry, who crossed a brook before the assault. As the Lancastrians were reforming after the crossing, the Yorkists charged down upon them, and dispersed them with heavy loss.
Battle of Northampton
Yorks defeat Lancastrians
Fought July 10, 1460, between the Lancastrians, under Henry VI, and the Yorkists, under the Earl of Warwick. The king's entrenchments were betrayed by Lord Grey de Ruthyn, and the Lancastrians were defeated with a loss of 300 killed, including Buckingham, Shrewsbury, Egremont, and other prominent men. The King was made prisoner.
Battle of Wakefield
Lancastrians defeat Yorks
Fought December 30, 1460, between the Lancastrians, under Somerset, and the Yorkists, under Richard, Duke of York. The Lancastrians advanced from Pontefract and offered battle to Richard, who, though weakened by the absence of foraging parties, accepted the challenge. Somerset prepared an ambush, into which the Duke fell as he marched out of Wakefield, and the Yorkists were defeated with heavy loss. The Duke and many other nobles were killed, and Salisbury captured and beheaded.
Battle of Mortimer's Cross
Yorks defeat Lancastrians
Fought February 2, 1461, when Edward, Duke of York, defeated the Lancastrians, under the Earls of Pembroke and Wiltshire, and drove them back into Wales, thus preventing a concentration of the Lancastrian forces.
Battle of St. Alban’s
Lancastrians defeat Yorks
The second battle took place February 17, 1461, when the army of Margaret of Anjou, led by Somerset, Exeter, and others, attacked the Yorkists, under Warwick, Warwick withdrew his main body, leaving his left unsupported to withstand the Lancastrian attacks, and these troops, after a feeble resistance, broke and fled. Henry VI, who was a prisoner in Warwick's camp, escaped and rejoined the Queen, and a rapid advance on London would probably have led to his reinstatement. Warwick, however, took such prompt measures as to render the Lancastrian victory practically fruitless.
Battle of Ferrybridge
Lancastrians defeat Yorks
Fought 1461, shortly before the battle of Towton, when a force of Lancastrian cavalry, under Lord Clifford, defeated the Yorkists, under Lord Fitzwalter, who was endeavoring to secure the passage of the Aire at Ferrybridge. Lord Fitzwalter was killed.
Battle of Towton
Yorks defeat Lancastrians
Fought March 29, 1461, when Edward IV, immediately after his proclamation, marched against the Lancastrians, under Henry VI, and vigorously attacked their entrenched position at Towton. Aided by a heavy snowstorm, blowing in the faces of the defenders, Edward defeated them all along the line, with heavy loss, among the killed being Northumberland, Dacre and de Manley. Henry and Margaret escaped from the field, and fled northward.
Battle of Hedgeley Moor
Yorks defeat Lancastrians
Fought April 25, 1464, between the Lancastrians, under Margaret of Anjou and Sir Ralph Percy, and the Yorkists, under Lord Montague. The Lancastrians were totally defeated, Percy falling in the battle.
Battle of Hexham
Yorks defeat Lancastrians
Fought May 15, 1464, when the Yorkists, under Montague, surprised the Lancastrians, under Somerset, in their camp at Linnels, near Hexham. The Lancastrians were practically in a trap, and had no option but to surrender. Somerset and many other important leaders were taken, and promptly executed. This success secured Edward IV on the throne.


Short Biography
Earl of WarwickPrimary figure in war of the Roses. Changed sides from York to Lancaster. Killed at Barnet.
Margaret of AnjouRuled in stead of her weak husband, Henry VI. Led armies against Yorks. Deposed after the York victory at Hexham.
Duke of YorkAspirant to the throne in the early years of War of the Roses. Killed in action with eldest son.
Henry VI of EnglandLancastrian king of England whose weak rule, and loss of much of France, inspired the Yorks to oppose him in the War of the Roses.
SomersetLeading general on the Lancaster side. Killed at the battle of Hexham.

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