WHAT WERE THE WARS OF THE ROSES
Most people know, that the Wars of the Roses was a civil war in
England between the nobles of the two rival branches of the royal family,
IMPORTANT TO KNOW
The House of Lancaster and the House of York were
The Lancaster branch consisted of King Henry VI, descendant of John
as the Beauforts [descendants of John of Gaunt
The price of the fighting?
The throne of England, of course, which both the Beauforts as
will explain below.
But however dynastic rivalry played a role, is too simplistic
to point it out as a major cause of the War of Roses.
The major causes are more complicated
The great losses in the Hundred Years War and the subsequent
The diminishing of the royal mystic authority by
the usurping of thrones.
The weak reign of Henry VI. lie in the great losses in the Hundred Years
war, the diminishing of royal authority by usurping a throne.
and the weak reign of King Henry VI.
CAUSES OF THE WARS OF THE ROSES
CLAIMS TO THE THRONE
THE SONS OF EDWARD III ANF THEIR OFFSPRING
But first the deep rooted enmity, caused by various
claims to the throne.
When King Edward III died , his grandson Richard II
[son of the Black Prince]
inherited the throne.
However, his other sons had children too, like Lionel
of Antwerp, John of Gaunt, Edmund of Langley and Thomas of Woodstock.
from the descendants of the first son of Edward III, then [when
they remained childless] the second son, then the third and so on.
So when Richard II should die childless
the descendants of Lionel
of Antwerp, the second son of Edward III, would inherit the throne,
And in that spirit Richard II acted.
of Lionel of Antwerp
However, he died a year before Richard II.
When Richard II was deposed of the throne
[the son of John of Gaunt] and was probably murdered,
Henry Bolingbroke usurped the throne and became the
Not only Henry IV deposed Richard II, he also ignored the rights
Henry IV was only the son of the third son of Edward III, John of Gaunt,
AND PAY ATTENTION
The Roger Mortimer case had a direct connection with
with the House of Lancaster for the English throne.
a superior claim to the English throne.
He, his mother and Roger Mortimer were
Can you still follow it?
Yes, this explanation is necessary, otherwise the whole
history is unclear.
CAUSES OF THE WAR OF ROSES
THE DIMINISHING MYSTIQUE OF KINGS
A medieval king was believed to
have given his authority by God
and anointing a King was an almost holy ritual.
So deposing a king, as Henry IV did with Richard II
and also passing the heir to the throne [Edmund Mortimer,
son of the late presumptive heir, Roger Mortimer], was
a serious business, not undertaken lightly.
Usurpation [replacing an anointed King
by somebody else] was a dangerous thing, for
everytime it happened, the authority of
the monarchy weakened.
Indeed, the monarchy was not very stable under Henry IV,
, lay the basis for the assumption, that
replacing a King was not such a big deal, which
CAUSES OF THE WARS OF THE ROSES
THE LOSSES IN THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR
But there was more.
Because when it was only a matter of claiming the throne,
at which Richard, Duke of York and his maternal
family, the Mortimers, had a superior right, why not
claim that right earlier?
First there was that usurpation thing of course and
the fact, that Edmund of Mortimer was only a minor.
And then, especially under Henry V
, son of Henry IV,
Even when Henry V died in 1422 and baby Henry VI
became King [and was at his weakest] there was no sign
of challenging the throne.
[for the English] finally came.
revival of French struggle for liberation,
then piece by piece the English lost French possessions.
One of the reasons laid in the reign of Henry VI
, no warrior King
at all, who had no interest in occupying France anymore and
This was shown by his marriage with Margaret of Anjou, on condition
And on that point, two Court factions were formed, but not yet
on York/Lancaster basis.
Queen Margaret, Lord Suffolk and Lord Somerset [Edmund
Beaufort, Lancaster House] and Cardinal Beaufort [Lancaster
However, Richard Duke of York and the uncle of the King,
Tensions rose and eventually it would turn out in a fight
, who was a farvourite of Margaret of Anjou.
CAUSES OF THE WARS OF THE ROSES
SOCIAL UNREST/THE JACK CADE REBELLION
LINK WITH THE WAR OF ROSES, YORK STYLE
The agreement, to give Main and Anjou back to France,
had big consequences.
With the subsequent losses of other territories in
France, especially Normandy, led to rising unpopularity
of the monarchy, since it was associated with the Dukes
of Somerset and Suffolk, who were extremely unpopular
because of their peace policy with France.
English refugees [people who had lived in the
English territories of France] arrived, as English troops,
And who were his closest advisors?
Again, Somerset and Suffolk.
Other causes were the considerable debts England suffered because
of the costly war with France and since Normandy was lost
against corruption and extortion by the Kings councillors.
Most rebels were peasants, craftsmen and shopkeepers.
Initially succesful, Cade marched to London, but after
The uprising, that began in may, ended somewhere in july, when
The link with the War of Roses is the demands of the rebels,
back to England and to remove the Duke of Suffolk,
whom they considered a traitor.
”His true commons desire that he will remove from him all the false progeny and affinity of the Duke of Suffolk and to take about his noble person his true blood of his royal realm, that is to say, the high and mighty prince the Duke of York, exiled from our sovereign lord’s person by the noising of the false traitor, the Duke of Suffolk, and his affinity. Also to take about his person the mighty prince, the Duke of Exeter, the Duke of Buckingham, the Duke of Norfolk, and his true earls and barons of his land, and he shall be the richest king Christian.”
CAUSES OF THE WARS OFTHE ROSES
THE WEAK REIGN OF HENRY VI
Part of the outbreak of the Wars ofthe Roses lies in the
person and reign of King Henry VI.
deeds and charity, but not as a ruler and a King.
He was generous, pious, forgiving and didn’t like
war or violence.
Not suited to a medieval King.
He was in everything the opposite of his
warrior father, King Henry V.
Alas he had psychic problems, which resulted in various
nervous breakdowns, with as a consequence, that rival
noblemen sought to control the crown.
That was not so strange, since an incapacitated King
meant anarchy and unrest, and a strong government
Untill 1453 [when his only son was born], he had no children,
what made the Duke of York [who had inherited the Mortimer
claim to the throne after the death of his maternal uncle,
When King Henry VI was incapacitated, York became
He did a pretty good job in ruling the country, untill
Henry VI wake up again [he was in a sort of
coma], reversed York’s action, Somerset in power
again and the country prepared for civil war.
Unwisely the King was encouraged by his wife Margaret of
Anjou, who was a strong opposer of York, aligning
The King was not able to control the rivalling noble factions
Queen Margaret of Anjou unwisely favoured Somerset, embittering
the Yorkists, tensions flow to extremes, all hell burst out.
A civil war.
A situation of an undermighty King and overmighty subjects.
CAUSES OF THE WARS OF THE ROSES
KING HENRY VI CHOOSES SIDES
What not has been pointed out thouroughly, that King Henry VI,
on purpose or not, was not ”above the rivalling parties”,
but became party himself.
And in 1455, after the Duke of York ruled the country two years when
Henry was in coma, he dismissed the Duke of York, putting
Somerset in charge again.
And Henry being a Lancaster himself, like the Duke
of Somerset [whose grandfather had been the half brother of
Henry IV, sharing the same father, John of Gaunt], quickly the
whole thing became not only Somerset against York,
but Somerset AND the King against York, added the preference of
Margaret of Anjou for Somerset.
WARS OF THE ROSES
MARGARET OF ANJOU
DUKE OF SOMERSET
DUKE OF YORK
Duke of Somerset was killed, the Yorkists were victorious
and King Henry VI came into the hands of the victorious
Fighting went on and on, when than one side, than the other
After a final attempt for reconciliation, the socalled
at instigation of Margaret of Anjou, the Duke of York and his
that King Henry VI remained King, but that after his death,
York and his heirs would rule.
King, which infuriated Margaret of Anjou.
The struggle went on.
At 1460, the Duke of York was killed in the battle of
, as his brother in law, Lord Salisbury.
Certainly, Lord Salisbury was executed afterwards.
But the tides were turning.
York´s eldest son Edward, then Earl of March, was victorious
Margaret of Anjou left the country (Henry VI was in
Yorkist hands and yearlong prisoner of
the Tower) for exile in France, did a last attempt
to conquer the throne (together with former Yorkist
Shortly after that, Henry VI died in prison,
Margaret was imprisoned for some years,
ransomed by the French King Louis XI
A sad and tragic end.
WARS OF THE ROSES
succeeded him, disinheriting Edward IV´s eldest
He and his brother disappeared in the Tower,
Rebellion against his reign took place, and
1485, Richard III was defeated in the Battle of
of Lancaster, (niece of
, daughter of King Edward IV.
So in a way, the House of Lancaster (the Beaufort branche) and
the House of York were united.
The Tudor era began.
And through their granddaughter Elisabeth of York,
WARS OF THE ROSES
MARGARET OF ANJOU IN LITERATURE
The way history is written [apart from the main undeniable
facts as ”there was a war” or ”that king ruled”] is important
in giving a positive or negative image of the persons involved.
In the case of Margaret of Anjou, her image is very much
she is portrayed as a ruthlless, murderous, vindictive and extraordinary cruel
The Duke of York, in the contrary, was pictured as chivalrous
, manganimous and brave, sides he undoubtedly posessed, but leading
a fight to the death against the Beaufort branche of
the House of Lancaste first, and later openly
against King Henry VI, whom
he forced to disinherit his own son, in favour of York
and his heirs, he must have been hard and ruthless, too.
A warlord, like his Beaufort enemies.
Coming back to Shakespeare’s Henry VI
After the Battle of Wakefield, where the Duke of York
When he is dead, she orders to put his head on a pike
and to be crowned with a paper crown, to mock
his rights to the throne.
That horrible image of Margaret of Anjou was shown
in the work of many historians and influenced generations
and generations, including myself.
I myself read in old Dutch history books, that Margaret of
Anjou personally ordered to put the heads of York his son
and brother in law, on pikes, tarnishing York´s head with
a paper crown.
But historical fact is, that this is not altogether true.
Margaret of Anjou could not have ordered the execution
of York and the paper crown thing or torturing York
Modern historical investigation shows that.
Probably York would have suffered considerably, when she
could have lain her hands upon him, but that´s of
no importance, because she did not.
PICTURING MEDIEVAL QUEENS
MARGARET OF ANJOU REVIEWED
THE ROLE OF WOMEN
The bad image Shakespeare had of Margaret of Anjou
is probably inspired by the picture of medieval women, who
were supposed to be mild, soft, forgiving, obedient wives
and caring mothers.
Being a noblewoman and certainly a Queen, good works,
charity and being forgiving were other characteristics.
Often it happened, that when the King conquered
a city, his Queen plead for mercy of the citizens, which
as a rule could be granted.
Women, who took a firm stand in men´s affairs (as politics
and war was seen in the Middle Ages) were viewed as
Therefore, apart from her personality, Margaret of Anjou
provoked little sympathy for her active political
role, which she probably not would have fullfilled,
whether Henry VI was capable of ruling and there were
no rival branches in the royal family.
Had she been the wife of warrior King Henry V, for
example, she probably would go in history unnoticed,
a loyal wife, doing good works and trying to soften
the harder sides of the King sometimes.
But her circumstances were extraordinary, with an incpacitated
husband, a growing unpopularity (being a French Queen, allgning
herself with unpopular nobles like Edmund of Beaufort, Duke
of Somerset and the Duke of Suffolk) and childless until 1453, standing
against powerful men like the Duke of York, claiming the throne,
with a superior claim indeed.
As I see it, it was a difficult situation for her and when she really
At the other side, her character limited her possibilities.
the Duke of York in an early stage (also by her alliance with his
a strong reign, since her husband was not able to do it.
The fact, that the Duke of York should be regent or Protector
, but soon enough Margaret considered all
his action in a treacherous light, with escalating consequences.
So the aversion of men for women taking power, combined
with her uncompromising attitude, caused many of the
MARGARET OF ANJOU
WOMAN OR SHE WOLF
HISTORY AND FICTION
There were two sort of critics on Margaret of Anjou
The fact, that she was a woman
Her uncompromising character and ruthless acts
In my view,Shakespeare and many elder historians
were especially influenced, not by cruel or unreasonable
acts of Margaret of Anjou, but the fact, she was a woman.
Admitted, she was hard and uncomprfomising, ordering executions
and forfeited her adversies of all their lands (which gave York
no alternative than eventually demanding the crown for himself
she did no worse than the men in that time.
Otherwise, you can condemn or criticize her hard and uncompromising
character, alienating many and driving her enemies to the point
But that is another stand than critic, because she is a woman.
Considering the Middle Ages and later, that is what can be expected,
but in present days actions have to be valuated, not whether
male or female.
In each case unacceptable are the myths about Margaret,
presenting as historical facts.
She was not present at the Battle of Wakefield, not ordering
And concerning her hardness and cruelty, honesty
but she also spared prisoners of war.
At least three Yorkist prisoners of war, including John of Neville, The Earl
But that’s speculation.
Fact is, she spared his life.
So in her hardness, she had outburst of mercy too.
In fact, she was no better or worse as the warrior men, Lancaster
But hardness and cruelty are no characteristics I can valuate,
especially (I admit that) when there are women involved.
to me, that, not denying the responsibility of the men involved,
especially the Dukes of York and Somerset, she was more vengeful,
a peaceful solution still possible.
And that has nothing to do with a man/woman thing, but with character.
So although her hardness is not sympathetic to me,
one must pity her fate.
Loosing both husband and especially son, for whom she
fought so hard and died in poverty.
SUSAN HIGGINBOTHAM’S VIEWS OF
MARGARET OF ANJOU
historians, an exaggerated image of ”Margaret the she wolf”
She was hard, uncompromising and certainly merciless at
to be justified, but she was no worse than the men involved.
She was no she devil.
But following the common views about women,
the fact, that she was involved in politics which was
considered a man’s world, was reason enough
to condemn her.
So historical fiction writer Susan Higginbotham must be
highly appreciated for her succesful attempts to
give a more balanced picture of Margaret of Anjou.
She did that by her interesting novel
I have some points of criticism.
, in order to reach that goal.
givenby York out of a desire to come closer to the thrown.
so a large marriage portion was not unusual.
Edmund Mortimer died childless.
So there WAS already a claim.
1446 already, but there’s no historical proof whatsoever.
Richard of York.
control over King Henry VI, and yet he did him no harm.
to kill the King.
But for the historical objectivity, Higginbottham should have made the same reservation as I did.
First a word of compliment.
The way it is written, moves the reader from the beginning.
of the people around her.
talking, having their own intentions, ambitions and dreams.
of York, is the villain and the traitor here.
and being a warrior, but he is no cardboard villain either.
I refer to that later.
too mild image of Margaret of Anjou.