the war of the roses

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the war of the roses

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The line of succession wasn’t crystal clear as it is now, so two rival claimants to the throne and their respective clans fought over the throne. Henry Tudor emerged victorious and was crowned Henry VII, the last monarch on the British Isles to be proclaimed King by right of conquest.

The first thing to note is that there was more than one War – at a minimum it is two wars, one between Henry of Lancaster (the son of the previous King, and the reigning King of England) and the House of York (Richard the father, and his two sons, Edward and Richard).

All of these men were descendents of King Edward III, and the Lancaster branch of the family had taken the Crown in 1399, under disputed circumstances.

Richard was descended from King Edward III’s second son (through his mother) and his fourth son (through his father). Henry however was descended from Edward’s third son. This gave Richard a strong claim to the throne, and he was also absurdly wealthy.

War ensued for various reasons – familial distrust, xenophobia against Henry’s French wife, military failures in the 100 years war. After the war Richard was dead, but his children were to be Henry’s heirs.

Several more wars ensued, where eventually Henry was dead, and Edward of York was king.

Edward spent his time feasting, drinking, and enjoying the company of many women, and eventually died. In theory, his 13 year old son became king after him (he even gets called King Edward V), but he was never crowned, and he certainly didn’t rule. For a couple of months, Richard acted as “Lord Protector” on behalf of his Nephew, and then eventually declared himself king.

Edward V and his younger brother both died in the Tower of London, with Richard being most commonly blamed, but other people are also blamed by some historians.

Now comes the second big war, Tudor versus York. A young man, also called Henry, comes from a small Welsh noble family called Tudor, but most importantly his mother is descended from Edward III. This kid has a good claim to the throne. He spent most of his life growing up in exhile in France, but eventually returns to England and leads an army into battle in 1485, during which Richard III is killed (last English King killed in battle), and Henry Tudor puts an end to the Wars of the Roses (other than a brief spat with someone claiming to be Edward V’s younger brother, which can also be considered yet another War of the Roses).