End of Europe's Middle Ages

The Wars of the Roses (1455-1485)

The Wars of the Roses were a series of civil wars in England that imediately followed the conclusion of the Hundred Years' War. The opposing factions were the Lancastrians (whose emblem was a red rose) and the Yorkists (whose emblem was a white rose). Both sides laid claim to the throne, both being descendants of King Edard III. Aisde from dynastic legalities, the war represented nothing more than a struggle for power between the two houses. This war, like most medieval conflicts, affected only a small minority of the population.

The Wars of the Roses were temporarily halted when Edward of York defeated Henry VI of Lancaster and took the throne as King Edward IV in 1461. Henry Vi briefly regained his crown in 1471, a success that cost him his life. In the following years, murder and acts of atrocity eliminated the other pwoerful nobles. When Edward IV died in 1483, the Duke of Gloucester (Edward IV's brother) usurped the crown as Richard III. Soon afterward, Edward IV's young son and his younger brother both disappeared into the Tower of London where they were probably murdered.

The Wars of the Roses came to a close in 1485 when Henry Tudor (subsequently King Henry VII, 1485-1509) defeated and killed Richard III at Bosworth Field. Henry's rather weak hereditary claim to the English throne was strengthened when he married one of Edward IV's daughters. The wars left the ranks of the nobility depleted, thus allowing the monarchy to restore order, check the nobles' ambitions and enforce the law.

  Richard III: The Princes in the Tower

Return to New Monarchies: England

The End of Europe's Middle Ages / Applied History Research Group / University of Calgary
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