The War of the Roses: the Historical Facts of the Tudor Myth (Shakespeare’s Histories)

  E. F. Jacob, The Fifteenth Century (1961); P. M. Kendall, The Yorkist Age (1962, repr. 1965); S. B. Chrimes, Lancastrians,

The War of the Roses: the Historical Facts of the Tudor Myth (Shakespeare’s Histories)

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  • Richard Drewett & Mark Redhead. The Trial of Richard III.
  • Rosemary Horrox. Richard III: A Study in Service.
  • Rosemary Horrox. Richard III and the North.
  • V.B. Lamb. The Betrayal of Richard III.
  • Winston Churchill. History of the English Speaking Peoples. The Birth of Britain, Vol. 1.
  • Pollard, Wars of the Roses (1995); A. Weir, Wars of the Roses (1995).
  • Appendix 1


    King Henry VI (1421-1471)

    He ruled England from 1422-1461 and then again from 1470-1471. Henry may fairly be said to have been a very good man, but a very bad king. He was pious and devoted to education, but lacked either the governing or the military skills to run 15th Century Britain. In 1445, Henry married Margaret of Anjou. Her favorites, such as Somerset and Buckingham ruled the court in all but name. In 1453, however, a mental breakdown by Henry allowed Richard, Duke of York, to step in as "Protector". When Henry regained his sanity, he was urged by his wife and her favorites to throw York and his allies out of the Government. On May 22nd of that year, York and his allies began to take that Government back. (Trivia: Henry VI was the first King of England to never personally command an Army against a foreign foe.)

    King Edward IV (1442-1483)

    He ruled England from 1461-1470 and again from 1471-1483. Upon the death of his father, the Duke of York, in the battle of Wakefield on December 31, 1460, Edward took up both the position and the quarrel of his sire. In 1461, He was taken to Parliament by "The Kingmaker", Richard Neville, and crowned king. The two of them then headed north and engaged with the Lancastrian army in the battle of Towton; a Yorkist victory. This spelled the beginning of the end for the Lancastrians. Edward ruled for the next 9 years and it would take the influence of the Kingmaker to bring the Lancastrians to power again. (Trivia: The battle of Towton was the largest battle ever fought on English soil. Contemporary sources reported the numbers of men in the hundreds of thousands, though they were prone to spice up amounts (the big fish syndrome) and the actual number was probably nearer to 40,000 individuals.)

    Queen Margaret of Anjou (1429-1482)

    Margaret was married to Henry VI in 1445. Despite the King's inate shyness and fear of women, they appear to have had a good marriage. With Henry's mental failings, however, it was left to Margaret and her favorites to try and hold the kingdom. Until the death of her son (at Tewkesbury in 1471), she was truly the backbone of the Lancastrian cause. At Tewkesbury in 1471, her son was defeated and killed and she was imprisoned. She was eventually ransomed by Louis of France in exchange for her French lands.

    King Edward V (1470-1483

    Duke Somerset

    Edmund Beaufort (Somerset) supported Henry and the Queen during the King's breakdown. Unfortunately for him, he also had a private feud in the north with the Nevilles. When York became Protector, Somerset found himself thrown out of court and into the Tower of London. In a reversal of fortunes, however, the King regained his sanity and Somerset was freed. This too was shortlived, however, as the Yorkists returned with an army that met with the Lancastrians at St Albans in the first battle of the Wars. The Yorkists were victorious (in great part due to the efforts of the Kingmaker who would begin to gain his personal fame at this time) and Somerset was hacked to death in front of the Castle Inn; May 22, 1455.

    He reigned from 1483 until his death in 1485. One of the most controversial rulers in the history of the British Isles, Richard remains something of an enigma to historians. Histories surrounding him range from Sir Thomas More and Shakespeare portraying him as evil incarnate, to some modern revisionists who would clear him of all possible guilt and proclaim him to be the greatest of the English monarchs. As with all things the truth is probably somewhere in between. Opposing views on the subject are readily available even on the Web (see my intro page) and so I will refrain from pursuing the debate to any degree. Richard came to power in 1483 probably fearing for his power and perhaps his life under a Woodville Monarchy. He seems to have been content under his brother's rule (Edward IV), but when Edward died and Edward V was too young to rule for himself, Richard became Protector. He seems to have been a successful administrator, but his rule was wracked with as much controversy then as it is today and many in power mistrusted him. In 1485, at the battle of Bosworth Field, Richard was defeated and killed by the army of Henry Tudor (King Henry VII). (Trivia: Richard III was the last English Monarch to personally battle beside his troops in war.)

    Richard Neville (Earl of Warwick)(1428-1471)

    Also known as the Kingmaker, this figure has been called the last of the English Barons. He was central to the Wars and could even be considered to be the third party in them (ie. Lancastrians, Yorkists, and Nevilles). (Trivia: Richard Neville once held two Kings of England captive at the same time. Henry VI and Edward IV both feel under his control in 1469. For those of you who are vampire buffs, you might be interested in learning that the Kingmaker was born in the same year as Vlad Dracula; 1428.(There are others, including Rand McNally who put the Impaler's birth at 1431 which would make this trivia pointless, but I thought I'd mention it in order to be fair.)

    Henry Stafford, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham (1454-1483)

    Stafford became duke in 1460 with the death of his father. When Edward IV died, Buckingham supported Richard III's claim to the throne and was rewarded with the high constableship of England. In the same year, however, he led a rebellion against Richard and was captured and executed for treason.

    Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York (1411-1460)

    Father of Edward IV and Richard III, Richard was the namesake of the Yorkist side of the Wars. His claim to the throne was considered strong enough so that he was heir to Henry VI, until Henry produced a son. After the Battle of St Albans, Richard was again made heir to Henry disinheriting Edward of Lancaster. Queen Margaret would have none of that and by 1459 the two sides were in outright war with one another. In 1461 in Wakefield, York was tricked into leaving his castle and his forces were slaughtered by the Lancastrians. He, his son, and Salisbury were killed.

    Henry Tudor (1457-1509)

    The first of the Tudor kings, Henry VII defeated Richard III at Bosworth Fields on 22 August 1485. Henry was born to Edmund Tudor and Margaret Beaufort, though his father was killed before his birth and his mother was only 13. He spent 14 years in Wales and then another 14 in exile in France before making his bid for the throne. Early in 1486 he married Elizabeth of York, Edward IV's daughter and ostensibly united the two houses of York and Lancaster. His reign lasted from 1485 to 1509 when the crown passed to his more famous son, Henry VIII. (Trivia: Henry VII was something of a Mama's boy. His mother, Margaret Beaufort, had tremendous political influence during his reign as well as controlling the household. She even went to France to order them to pay up on War debts.)

    Richard Neville (Earl of Salisbury)(Abt 1400 - 1460)

    Father of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, Salisbury was the oldest of the Yorkists. He was a capable warleader and often seems to have been the voice of reason. Successful in the early part of the war, he was captured and beheaded just after the battle of Wakefield.

    Louis XI

    The King of France from 1461 until his death in 1483. Known as the "Spider King", Louis ran a game of serious international intrigue in order to rebuild his country which had been plagued with a century of war. In his 22 year reign, he showed a great understanding of changing politics and reclaimed the duchies of Burgundy and Brittany.

    Charles the Bold (1433-1477)

    The Duke of Burgundy. When his father, Philip the Good, died in 1467, Charles began his dream of expanding his Dukedom. In 1468 he married Margaret of York, the sister of Edward IV, and formed an alliance with England. He fought intermittant battles with France before being defeated and killed by Switzerland at the battle of Nancy on 5 January 1477. (Trivia: Fantastically wealthy, lavish, ambitious and tenacious, Charles had an abominable war record. In his war with Switzerland, his forces were defeated soundly at Grandson and later even more soundly at Morat. Despite the fact that he was a losing agressor, he nevertheless ignored peace attempts and laid siege to Nancy.)

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