Рефераты. The war of the roses

The war of the roses

The War of the Roses.


The Prehistory

It was in this year [1411], that Richard Plantagenet was born to

Richard, fifth Earl of Cambridge and Anne Mortimer. His father was the son

of Edmund, the first Duke of York, who was in turn the fourth son of Edward

III. If Henry VI had died before 1453, the year of the birth of Edward,

Prince of Wales, then Richard would have undoubtedly been crowned King of

England, since there was no other noble (since the death of Henry VI's

uncle and heir Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who had died in 1447) with

such a strong claim to the throne at that time, other than Richard himself.

Being so highly placed in the royal household, Richard was destined to

play a significant role in the Government and politics of England

throughout his lifetime and in England's affairs in France during the later

stages of the Hundred Years War. He was appointed Lieutenant of France in

1436. Throughout his service in Europe, he had to pay for the services of

his men and finance the army in France from his own personal funds.

Although York was a wealthy man in his own right, (York was the sole

benefactor of the childless Edmund Mortimer, who had died of plague in

Ireland in 1425). It was his marriage to Cicely Neville in 1438 (who was

known as 'The Rose of Raby'), daughter to Ralph Neville, Earl of

Westmoreland and sister of Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, which had

brought him great wealth. Thus, he was able, albiet unhappily in doing so,

to fund the English army overseas. By the time he left France, York had

forwarded some Ј38,000 of his own money to maintain English interests in

France. To add insult to injury, in 1445 he was replaced as Lieutenant of

France by Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset. It is not to be doubted that

it was on Somerset's advice (who was Henry VI cousin, and someone Henry

trusted more than the Duke of York) that Henry VI created York Lieutenant

of Ireland, which was in reality, exile by office. Somerset was no doubt

fearful of York, a fear enhanced by the fact that Somerset, a man whom York

equally detested, and a favourite of Henry VI was forwarded funds to the

sum of Ј25,000 to sustain the king's army in France.

Not only did York detest Somerset because of his favouritism with the

king, but he also detested the fact that he had been given the office he

had previously held in France and the funds to support it, despite his

inability as a soldier. York's fears over the management of the campaign in

France was soon realised, as the war began to go badly for the English. The

Duke of Somerset was personally responsible for the surrender of the

strategic town of Rouen which subsequently led to the fall of Normandy to

Charles VII of France. Because of this, Somerset became distinctly

unpopular at home. However, because he retained the king's favour, he

maintained his prestigious position at court. In June 1451, Bordeaux in

France, and Gascony, were lost to the French. This was disastrous news for

the English and the King, Henry VI, took the loss very badly. York in turn,

was quick to blame Somerset for the disaster and, with support for the king

and his adherents at such a low point (due mainly to English failings in

France), York, decided to risk all and attempt to wrest control from the

king by force of arms and arrest the Duke of Somerset, thus removing him

from his position as the king's most senior advisor.

Doubtless this move was not only inspired by York's fear for the conduct

of the war in France, but also because he was equally fearful that Somerset

might take over the very position that York felt was his own, that of the

most likely heir to Henry in the absence of the king having any children of

his own. Thus York, believing that he had more popular support than he

actually had, sailed from Ireland and landed in North Wales, gathered his

forces and travelled straight for London and the encounter at Blackheath.

The Wars of the Roses Begin

After York's release from custody, there then followed several years of

relative peace. However, by the year 1453, the political storm clouds were

once again gathering over the country. By this year, England's possessions

in France had been almost lost as the disastrous Hundred Years War had all

but come to an end . It was this - it is said - that brought about the

first bout of madness in Henry VI. What form this illness took is not

recorded, but it seems that it manifested itself in a form of paralysis.

York, with the king incapacitated, was made protector of England and took

the opportunity to seek revenge on his earlier enemies, namely the Duke of

Somerset, who was sent to the Tower on a revised charge of treason (for his

poor management of the war in France) in September 1453. The Earl of

Salisbury, Richard Neville and his eldest son Richard, Earl of Warwick,

also took the opportunity afforded by the king's illness and, under the

cover of their kinsman's protectorate began to seek their revenge against

the Percy family, the Earls of Northumberland, with whom, they had held a

long running feud, over the issue of ownership of property in

Northumberland and Yorkshire .

Thus, England was plunged into a series of minor wars between the land's

most powerful lords to which the Duke of York, as protector was able to use

his authority to the advantage of his family and supporters. However, this

all came to an end when the king recovered from his illness in January

1455. Somerset was released from the Tower, and immediately formed a

natural alliance with Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland (and Percy's ally

in the north Lord Clifford), against the Duke of York - who was stripped of

his powers as protector - and his supporters, namely the Earl of Salisbury

and the Earl of Warwick. With this the battle lines for the 'Wars of the

Roses' were drawn. The pact between Somerset, Northumberland and Clifford,

supported by the king would in later years go by the name of Lancastrians,

taken from the family name of the House of Lancaster to which the lineage

of Henry VI was derived. While the followers of the House of York, Warwick,

Salisbury and the Duke of York himself became known as the Yorkists.


First St. Albans, Northampton, Wakefield, Mortimer's Cross, Second St.

Albans, Towton and Hexham.

In May 1455 the queen and Somerset summoned a Council, to which no

prominent Yorkist was invited, and ordered a gathering of the peers at

Leicester to take steps for the king's safety. York marched south to secure

a fair hearing from the king, while the court moved towards Leicester,

escorted by a large number of nobles and their retainers. The king and

Somerset did not learn of York's actions until they were en route to

Leicester. They tried to assemble an army, but there was insufficient time;

at nightfall on 21 May, when the two sides camped only 20 miles apart, the

king's 'army' still consisted of just his escort and their retainers.

Both sides decided to advance against their adversary during the night,

and these marches became a race for the chief town of the area, St. Albans.

The king's army arrived there at 7am, and York halted at Key Fields, east

of the town, at about the same time. There followed a pause of three hours

while reconciliation was attempted, York offering to withdraw if the king

would surrender Somerset, whom York considered a traitor. The king (i.e.

Somerset!) refused, and York ordered the attack(see map).

Warwick was to lay down a barrage of arrows in support of flank attacks

by York and Salisbury. However, these attacks were repulsed and Warwick

therefore ordered his archers to concentrate on their own front. He then

attacked the center, broke through to the Chequers, and here established a

rallying point. Falling back to prevent their divided forces from being

outflanked by Warwick, the Lancastrians weakened their defense of the

Sopwell and Shropshire Lanes, and the forces of York and Salisbury almost

immediately burst into the town. The Lancastrians began to falter,

panicked, and broke, to be pursued up St. Peter's Street by the triumphant


Somerset and some retainers took cover in the Castle Inn while Lord

Clifford, with Percy, Harington and some other knights and esquires, fought

on outside the inn. When those outside were slain, Somerset led his men in

one last charge. He killed four men before being felled by an axe. The

king, the Duke of Buckingham, and the Earls of Devon and Dorset were

captured; Clifford, Somerset, Stafford, Percy and Harington were amongst

those killed.

York was appointed Protector in October and Warwick became Captain of

Calais, the city which possessed the only standing army of the king. For

the next three years there was an uneasy peace. York lost the protectorship

at the beginning of 1456 and returned to Ireland. Margaret gained control

of court and government, but Warwick refused to surrender Calais to her,

and this city thus became a refuge for the Yorkists, from which an attack

might be launched at any time.

In the late summer of 1459 both sides began arming again, and in October

York's forces were defeated at Ludford – mainly due to the treachery of

Andrew Trollope, captain of a body of professional soldiers sent over from

Calais by Warwick. York was forced to flee to Ireland again and his troops


In June 1460 Warwick landed at Sandwich with 2,000 men of the Calais

garrison, accompanied by the Earl of Salisbury and York's son Edward, Earl

of March. The king and queen were at Coventry when they received news of

the landing. Hastily gathering an army from his chief supporters – the

Percies, Staffords, Beauforts, Talbots and Beaumonts – the king began to

march south. However, in the meantime the men of south-east England had

flocked to the standard of the popular Warwick, and on 2 July he entered

London with 5,000 men. Only the Tower, commanded by Lord Scales, held out

for the king and, hearing that London had gone over to the Yorkists, the

king halted at Northampton and took up a defensive position to await


Pausing only to establish a siege force round the Tower, Warwick led his

army northwards, arriving between Towcester and Northampton on the 9th.

Early the next morning - 10 July 1460 – he deployed for battle, but first

attempted to negotiate a settlement. At 2pm, no agreement having proved

possible, Warwick gave the order to advance, with the three 'battles' in

'line astern'.

It was raining hard as the Yorkists arrived and Edward's 'battle',

consisting entirely of men-at-arms, made slow progress over the sodden

ground. As they came within bow range they were met by a fierce barrage of

arrows and this, together with a ditch and stakes, prevented the Yorkists

from getting to close quarters. At this critical moment Lord Grey suddenly

displayed Warwick's ragged staff badge and ordered his men to lay down

their weapons. Indeed, the men of Grey's command actually assisted their

enemies over the defenses and, once established within the defenses in

sufficient numbers, Edward and Warwick led their men-at-arms behind the

king's archers in the center to strike Buckingham in flank and rear. Unable

to maneuver within the narrow confines of the defenses, the Lancastrians

soon broke and fled, many being drowned in the shallow but wide river at

their backs. The Duke of Buckingham, Earl of Shrewbury, Thomas Percy, Lord

Beaumont and Lord Egremont were among the Lancastrian dead. The king was

captured again, taken to London, and compelled to sanction a Yorkist


York arrived from Ireland in mid-September and in October put forward a

claim to the throne. The peers rejected his claim (while Henry lived) but

made him Protector in view of the king's periods of insanity.

The queen and her son, who had remained at Coventry, fled to north

Wales, then to the North, where she began to gather a new army. With these

forces she overran Yorkshire, and a large number of Lancastrian supporters

from the West Country began to march across the Midlands to join her. York

sent his son Edward, Earl of March, to the Welsh borders to recruit an army

and to handle the minor local troubles stirred up by the Earl of Pembroke.

He left Warwick in London to ensure the capital's support and guard the

king; and on 9 December he led the Yorkist army northwards to deal with the

queen. He took with him his younger son Edmund and all the artillery then

available at the Tower of London.

On the 16th York's 'vaward battle' clashed with the West Countrymen,

suffered heavy losses, and was unable to prevent the Lancastrians from

moving on to join the queen. Learning that Margaret's main force was at

Pontefract Castle, York marched to his castle at Sandal, two miles south of

Wakefield and only nine from Pontefract. He arrived at Sandal Castle on the

21st and, learning that the queen's army was now almost four times as

numerous as his own, remained in the castle to await reinforcements under

Edward. The Lancastrian forces closed round the castle to prevent foraging.

On 30 December 1460 half the Lancastrian army advanced against Sandal

Castle as if to make an assault, but under cover of this movement the

'vaward battle', commanded by the Earl of Wiltshire, and the cavalry under

Lord Roos, unobtrusively took up positions in the woods flanking the open


York, believing the entire Lancastrian army to be before him, and much

smaller than he had been told, deployed for open battle, and led his troops

straight down the slope from the castle to launch an attack on Somerset's

line. The Lancastrians fell back before the advance, drawing the Yorkists

into the trap, finally halting to receive the charge.

The Yorkist charge almost shattered Somerset's line and the Lancastrian

reserve under Clifford had to be committed to stem the advance. But then

Wiltshire and Roos charged from the flanks, and the battle was over. York,

his son Edmund, his two uncles Sir John and Sir Hugh Mortimer, Sir Thomas

Neville (son of Salisbury), Harington, Bourchier and Hastings were among

those killed. The Earl of Salisbury was captured, and subsequently beheaded

by the Percies because of their feud with the Nevilles.

The death of Richard of York was a severe blow to the Yorkists; but

Warwick in London and Edward, now Duke of York, in the Welsh Marches, were

both raising new armies. In the Welsh Marches, in particular, men flocked

to Edward's banner to avenge Richard and their own lords who had died with

him, and by the end of January 1461 Edward had a fair-sized army gathered

round Hereford.

From here he set out to unite with Warwick, probably at Warwick Castle,

in order to halt the queen's march on the capital. However, shortly after

starting out he learned that the Earls of Pembroke and Wiltshire were

moving towards Worcester from the west with a large force and, in order to

avoid being caught between two Lancastrian armies, Edward moved northwards

17 miles to Mortimer's Cross, not far from Ludlow and only three and a half

miles from his own castle at Wigmore, ancestral home of the Mortimers. Here

the River Lugg, flowing south to join the Wye, was bridged for the main

road from central Wales and the Roman road from Hereford, the two roads

meeting close by the bridge. Edward deployed his army at this important

crossroads and river crossing early on the morning of 2 February 1461.

The Lancastrians deployed for battle on the morning of the 2nd and

advanced against the Yorkist line about noon. After a fierce struggle the

Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond succeeded in forcing Edward's right flank back

across the road (see map), but at the same time Pembroke's 'main battle'

was completely defeated by Edward. Ormond's 'battle' reformed and moved on

to the center to support Pembroke but, finding him already defeated, for

some inexplicable reason halted and sat down to await the outcome of the

fighting on the other flank.

Owen Tudor's 'battle' was the last to become engaged, having swung right

in an attempt to outflank the Yorkist position. In carrying out this

maneuver the Lancastrians exposed their own left flank, and the waiting

Yorkists promptly seized the opportunity to charge, cutting the

Lancastrians in two and scattering them in all directions. A general

retreat by the Lancastrians in the direction of Leominstcr followed,

quickly transformed into a bloody rout by the Yorkists. Owen Tudor was

captured and later executed.

After the battle of Wakefield the queen's army of borderers, Scots,

Welsh and mercenaries had begun to march on London, pillaging as it went

and leaving a 30-mile-wide swathe of ruin in its wake: Margaret, whose aim

was now to rescue the king, was unable to pay her army and had promised

them the whole of southern England to plunder in compensation. London was

panic-stricken, and Warwick found himself faced with the problem of being

unable to raise enough men either to stop the Lancastrian advance or to

defend the city. Edward's victory at Mortimer's Cross solved this problem,

for men flocked to Warwick's banner when news of the battle reached London

on about 10 February; and on the 12th Warwick was able to leave London with

a force large enough to attempt to halt the queen, sending word to Edward

to join forces as soon as possible.

Warwick marched to St. Albans and began to prepare a defensive position

there with a three-mile front barring the two roads to London which passed

through Luton and Hitchin. Detachments were also placed in St. Albans and

Sandridge to watch the flanks, and in Dunstable to guard the Watling Street

approach to St. Albans.

The queen left York on 20 January, marching down Ermine Street towards

London. At Royston she swung left and moved south-west as if to prevent a

junction between Edward and Warwick. On 14 or 15 February the queen

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