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Wars of the Roses
Plucking the Red and White Roses, by Henry Payne.jpg
Framed print after 1908 painting by Henry Payne of a scene from Shakespeare's play Henry VI, Part 1, where supporters of the rival factions pick either red or white roses
Date 22 May 1455 – 22 August 1485 (30 years, 3 months)
England, Wales, Calais

Initial Yorkist victory

Eventual Lancastrian victory

Red Rose Badge of Lancaster.svg House of Lancaster
Tudor Rose.svg House of Tudor
Supported by:
Royal Arms of the Kingdom of Scotland.svg Kingdom of Scotland
France moderne.svg Kingdom of France

White Rose Badge of York.svg House of York

Supported by:
Blason fr Bourgogne.svg Duchy of Burgundy
Commanders and leaders

Royal Arms of England (1470-1471).svg Henry VI Surrendered Executed
Arms of Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond.svg Henry VII
Arms of Margaret of Anjou.svg Margaret of Anjou Surrendered #
Arms of the Prince of Wales (Modern).svg Prince of Wales 
Beaufort Arms (France modern).svg Duke of Somerset Executed
Arms of John Holland, 2nd Duke of Exeter.svg Duke of Exeter #
SIr Andrew Trollope's coat of arms.svg Andrew Trollope 
Modern arms of Percy.svg E. of Northumberland 
Coat of arms of Sir John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford.png Earl of Oxford
Arms of Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford.svg Jasper Tudor
Arms of Owen Tudor.svg Owen Tudor Executed
Stafford Coat of Arms.jpg Duke of Buckingham 
De Ros arms.svg Baron de Ros Executed
Talbot arms.svg Earl of Shrewsbury 
COA Tuchet.svg Lord Audley 
Arms of Clifford.svg Baron Clifford 
Neville arms.svg Baron Neville 
Coat of Arms of Sir James Butler, 1st Earl of Wiltshire, KG.png Earl of Wiltshire Executed
Courtenay of Devon.svg Earl of Devon 
Neville Warwick Arms.svg Earl of Warwick 
Neville arms.svg Marquess of Montagu 
Neville arms.svg Thomas Neville Executed

Coat of Arms of Sir John Conyers, KG.png Robin of Redesdale

WilloughbyArms.png Baron Willoughby Executed

Royal Arms of England (1399-1603).svg Edward IV #
Arms of Thomas of Lancaster, 1st Duke of Clarence.svg Richard III 
Arms of Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York.svg Duke of York 
Neville Warwick Arms.svg Earl of Warwick
Neville arms.svg Lord Montagu
Neville arms.svg Earl of Salisbury Executed
Neville arms.svg Earl of Kent #
Neville arms.svg Thomas Neville
Arms of Thomas of Brotherton, 1st Earl of Norfolk.svg Duke of Norfolk #
Arms of Edmund, Earl of Rutland.svg Earl of Rutland 
Arms of George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence.svg Duke of Clarence Executed
Coat of Arms of Sir William Hastings, 1st Baron Hastings, KG.png Lord Hastings Executed
Howard arms (John, duke of Norfolk).svg Baron Howard 

John de la Pole, 1st Earl of Lincoln.svg Earl of Lincoln 
Coat of Arms of Sir Francis Lovell, 1st Viscount Lovell, KG.png Viscount Lovell

The Wars of the Roses (1455–1487) were a series of civil wars, fought over the throne of England, between supporters of the House of Lancaster (the Lancastrians) and supporters of the House of York (the Yorkists). Both houses were branches of the Plantagenet royal house, and were related through King Edward III.

The wars began for several reasons. Historians have different ideas over which was the most important. King Henry VI was seen as a poor ruler by many of his people, due to his lack of interest in politics and his mental illness (his French queen Margaret of Anjou often made key decisions instead). It was also caused by to England's defeat in the Hundred Years' War in France, money problems afterwards and problems with the feudal system of government.

The name of the Wars of the Roses comes from the white rose symbol for the House of York and the red rose symbol for the House of Lancaster. However, the red rose symbol was not used until after the wars ended, and most soldiers fought under the symbol of their local nobleman. The name was not used until the 19th century. In earlier years they were known as the "Civil Wars". The houses were named after the cities of Lancaster and York, but these cities played little role in the war. The two houses owned land all over England and Wales.


King Edward III had many sons, as shown in the family tree below. His oldest son, known by his nickname "The Black Prince" died first, and the throne passed to the Black Prince's son, Richard, who became King Richard II of England in 1377 at the age of only ten. He grew up to be a weak and unpopular king, and one of his actions was to send his cousin Henry into exile. Henry later returned, while Richard was away in Ireland, and took over the country. When Richard returned, Henry tricked him into giving himself up. Richard was put in prison, where he died. Henry became King Henry IV of England.

Although Henry IV reigned until his death, and was followed by his son, King Henry V (in 1413), the next king in line, King Henry VI was only a baby when crowned in 1422. Henry VI ruled for many years, but was considered a poor ruler by some of his people, due to his lack of interest in politics, ongoing mental illness and the dominance of his French queen, Margaret of Anjou.

In 1453, Henry VI's mental illness left him unable run the country. A powerful nobleman called Richard, Duke of York persuaded the other nobles to make him "Lord Protector". This meant that he would run the country until the king recovered. Henry recovered in 1455. Margaret persuaded Henry to remove York from power. York then became afraid the king would have him executed.


Early fighting (1455)

York decided the only way he could protect himself was to defeat the king in battle. He raised an army of many people who were unhappy with Henry and Margaret. This led to the First Battle of St Albans in 1455. It was the first to be fought between the Yorkists (who supported York) and the Lancastrians (who supported Henry). York won with the help of the Earl of Warwick. Henry was found hiding in a leather shop and taken prisoner. He was again overcome with mental illness. Some of his key supporters were killed in the battle. York was again made Lord Protector.

The next year, Henry recovered. York let him go back to running the country and was put in charge of running Ireland. Henry and Margaret knew that they could not get rid of Richard easily. For the next few years, both sides wanted to stop a war from breaking out. But they could not agree on several things. York wanted to be the next king after Henry died, rather than Henry and Margaret's newborn son Edward. Margaret would not allow this. Henry moved to Coventry, where he had more support.

Main fighting (1459-61)

A more serious war broke out in 1459. It started because Neville was the Captain of Calais and had attacked other country's ships. Henry asked Warwick to meet to explain what he doing, but Warwick refused. Soon enough, York and Warwick started putting together an army. They were stopped at the Battle of Ludford Bridge and fled England. Henry and the Lancastrians now had control. They ordered York and Warwick to be executed if they were found.

It did not last long. York and Warwick returned and raised an army. They won the Battle of Northampton. For the second time, Henry was captured after being overcome with mental illness. York was made Lord Protector for a third time. York then announced that he wanted to take the throne for himself. Many of his supporters thought this was a step too far. So instead, they agreed that Henry would still be king but York (and not Henry's son) would be the next king.

York then travelled to the north of England to attack the remaining Lancastrians. This led to a disaster. York lost the Battle of Wakefield at the end of 1460 and was killed. His son Edward the became leader of the Yorkists. The next year saw mixed results for both sides. Edward defeated a Lancastrian army at the Battle of Mortimer's Cross, but the Lancastrians won the Second Battle of St Albans where Henry escaped. In London, Edward was met with lots of support. He announced he wanted to take the throne. He then defeated the Lancastrians at the Battle of Towton. This was the bloodiest battle to have ever been fought on British soil.

After Towton, Edward was in control of England. He was crowned as Edward IV in June 1461. Over the next few years, he and his allies put down small Lancastrian rebellions. Henry was again captured in 1465.

Warwick changes sides (1469-71)

Fighting broke out again in 1469 when Edward's most powerful supporter, the Earl of Warwick, switched sides. Warwick was furious that Edward had married Elizabeth Woodville, a common woman. Many people also thought this was wrong. At the time, kings were expected to marry the daughters of noblemen or other kings. Warwick led a rebellion against the king. The country was left in confusion. At one point Warwick captured Edward, meaning that he had two kings captured. He soon let Edward go.

Warwick then supported making Henry king again. He believed he could run the country while Henry was on the throne. He also arranged for Henry's son to marry Warwick's daughter Anne Neville. Edward could not raise an army to fight, so he fled the country in 1470. Henry VI then became the ruler again. Warwick's role in bringing Edward and then Henry to power led to him being nicknamed "Kingmaker".

Henry's return did not last long. Warwick planned to help France invade Burgundy, so Burgundy helped Edward find soldiers. Edward returned in 1471. He then won two big victories over the Lancastrians. The first was the Battle of Barnet, where Warwick was killed. The second was the Battle of Tewksbury, where Margaret was taken prisoner and her son was killed. Edward IV took the throne again and Henry VI died soon afterwards. Historians think Edward had him murdered. This left the Lancastrians without a leader. There was little fighting for the next 12 years. Margaret was released in 1475 and went back to France. She died in 1482.

Richard III (1483-85)

Edward IV ruled until his sudden death in 1483. Just before dying, Edward had said that his 12-year old son should become king as Edward V, while Edward's brother Richard would be "Lord Protector". Richard would run the country until Edward V became an adult.

Edward V was the king for 78 days before Richard took the throne for himself. He was crowned as Richard III. The young Edward and his brother disappeared a few months later while living in the Tower of London. Many people thought Richard had ordered the boys to be killed (some historians agree). This caused many Yorkists to turn against Richard III.

Richard managed to win against a rebellion by his old friend, the Duke of Buckingham. Henry Tudor, a distant relative of Henry VI, then returned to England. He became the leader of the rebellions, creating a new Lancastrian army. In the Battle of Bosworth Field, Richard III was killed and his army was defeated. Henry took the throne as King Henry VII, the first king of the House of Tudor.


The Battle of Bosworth Field is often seen as the end of the war. However, there was another big battle two years later when Henry VII stopped a rebellion. Despite this, Henry was able to bring peace to the country.

Henry told people that he was bringing the two houses together. To show this, he married Edward IV's daughter Elizabeth of York. He also invented the Tudor rose symbol, with a red rose and white rose joined together.

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