The Wars of the Roses was the name given to a series of civil wars that were fought between the House of Lancaster and the House of York between 1455 and 1485. The name ‘Wars of the Roses’ was given because of the badges used by the two opposing groups. The Lancastrians brandished a red rose while the Yorkists were represented by a white rose.
The civil conflict came just two years after the Hundred Years War; however the civil wars were the product of a number of negative scenarios which led to a boiling pot situation in England, where numerous parties fought for the contention of the throne.
This timeline will take a look at some of the event s and battles that occurred during the Wars of the Roses.
1455 - 1459
During the reign of Lancastrian King Henry VI (1422 - 1461) the first War of the Roses battle took place, known as The First Battle of St.Albans on May 22, 1455. This marks the start of what will be a bloody civil war for England. The battle was a victory for the Yorkist army.
Battles continue to be fought throughout England at a variety of locations over the next few years. These battles include:
Blore Heath (1459 – Yorkist victory)
Ludford Bridge (1459 – Lancastrian victory)
A number of events occurred during 1460. The Lancastrian King Henry VI had a number of battles against the Yorkist forces, which were being led by the Duke of York and the Earl of Warwick.
On July 10th 1460 the Battle of Northampton saw the Yorkist forces capture Henry VI. During this time Henry VI suffered from a mental health illness and Richard Duke of York was appointed Regent of England. In October 1460 the Act of Accord named Richard Duke of York as King of England. Henry’s VI six year old son lost the throne to Richard.
However, Richard’s reign as King was incredibly short lived. Later in the year Richard adopted a strong position at Sandal castle. His army far outnumbered the Lancastrian army that was gathering. The Battle of Wakefield began, and somehow Richard lost. King Richard was killed during this campaign, and his son, Edward of York, claimed that he was entitled to take the throne.
In March of 1461, Edward of York was anointed King Edward IV. The House of York had taken the throne from the House of Lancaster, and it would remain in their possession for the next nine years. A number of small skirmishes occurred during 1461, including:
Mortimor’s Cross (February – Yorkist victory)
St Alban’s (February – Lancastrian victory)
Ferrybridge (March – Yorkist victory)
Towton (March – Yorkist victory)
1464 - 1469
The last five years f King Edward IV’s reign over England were not peaceful, however, they were not as brutal or as bloody as previous years. A number of small skirmishes were noted between the Lancastrian and Yorkist forces. These include:
Hedgley Moor (1464 – Yorkist victory)
Hexham (1464 – Yorkist victory)
Edgecote Moor (1469 – Lancastrian victory)
1470 saw a turn of ‘behind the scenes’ events that changed the face and pace of the battle, if not necessarily on the battlefield. A failed rebellion forced Warwick and Clarence to flee to France, where they agreed an allegiance with Margaret of Anjou.
The trio then launched their own invasion, with the support of the French. Warwick’s brother, John Neville, changed his allegiance to the Lancastrian army, forcing King Edward IV to temporarily flee. This created a window for Henry VI to reinstate the Lancastrian reign, and in October 1470 he took back the throne, albeit for a brief period. In December 1470 Prince Edward married Anne Neville, Warwick’s daughter. Only one battle was fought during this year, and that was in March at Losecote Field. This was yet another victory for the Yorkist army.
1471 was another decisive year for the Wars of the Roses. In March King Edward IV landed in England with his invading army. A month later the battle of Barnet was fought, which saw another victory for the Yorkist army. Warwick was killed during this fight. King Henry VI’s short reign comes to an end as he is imprisoned in the Tower of London. King Edward then goes on to win a decisive battle at Tewkesbury which sees the majority of the male Lancastrian blood line eliminated. A month later, King Henry VI’s dead body is found at the Tower of London. It has never been proven, but many feel the King was murdered. King Edward continues his Yorkist rule over the nation, and would continue to do so until 1483.
Things remained relatively peaceful until 1483, which saw the death of King Edward IV. Edward had, before his death, appointed his brother, Richard (Duke of Gloucester) as his Protector. He put his two young sons, Edward and Richard, into his care. On the 9th April, King Edward IV died, and his two young sons travelled to the Tower of London to await the ascension of the young Edward to the throne. However, in June that year Edward’s coronation was cancelled, and a few days later Parliament announced that the two boys were illegitimate heirs to the throne. Instead, the awarded the kingdom to King Edward IV’s brother, Richard, who Edward had entrusted with the safety and wellbeing of his sons. The two princes were never seen or heard of again. For two years Richard III ruled as king of England, until the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
The final big battle of the Wars of the Roses came with the Battle of Bosworth, in which King Richard was defeated and killed by Henry Tudor. Richard’s only son, Edward Plantagenet, had mysteriously and suddenly died the year before, making Richard III the last in the Plantagenet family. Henry’s victory heralded the start of the Tudor dynasty.
Ref.: The Timetables of History 1999
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