War of the roses

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Intro The 15th century was a time of change for knighthood. Knights no longer fought for their lords in return for land, since the feudal summons had long before given way to a system of contracts. Moreover, many knights now preferred the role of landowner, man-about-town or parliamentary representative. However, this was also the age of the knight in plate armour, of the battle of Agincourt and the conquests of Henry V, and of the Wars of the Roses, the bloody internecine struggle that tore medieval England apart. In this title Christopher Gravett describes the life of a 15th century knight, his equipment and experiences from his earliest days as a squire through to his experiences on the battlefields of England and France The Wars of the Roses (1455–1489) were a series of

civil wars fought over the throne of England between adherents of the House of Lancaster and the House of York. Both houses were branches of the Plantagenet royal house, tracing descent from King Edward III. The Wars of the Roses were a series of bloody dynastic civil wars between supporters of the rival houses of Lancaster and York, for the throne of England. They are generally accepted to have been fought in several spasmodic episodes between 1455 and 1487 (although there was related fighting both before and after this period.) The war ended with the victory of the Lancastrian Henry Tudor, who founded the House of Tudor which subsequently ruled England and Wales for 116 years. Henry of Bolingbroke had established the House of Lancaster on the throne in 1399 when he deposed his

cousin Richard II, whose rule had prompted widespread opposition among the nobles. Bolingbroke (who was crowned as Henry IV) and his son Henry V maintained their hold on the crown through sound administration and especially through military prowess, but when Henry V died, his heir was the infant Henry VI, who grew up to be mentally unstable, and dominated by quarrelsome regents. The Lancastrian claim to the throne descended from John of Gaunt, the third son of Edward III. Henry's inability to rule the Kingdom ultimately resulted in a challenge to his right to the crown by Richard, Duke of York, who could claim descent from Edward's second and fourth sons, Lionel of Antwerp and Edmund of Langley, and had also proved himself to be an able administrator, holding several important

offices of state. York quarrelled with prominent Lancastrians at court and with Henry's queen, Margaret of Anjou, who feared that he might later supplant her son, the infant Edward, Prince of Wales. Although armed clashes had occurred previously between supporters of York and Lancaster, the first open fighting broke out in 1455 at the First Battle of St Albans. Several prominent Lancastrians died but their heirs remained at deadly feud with Richard. Although peace was temporarily restored, the Lancastrians were inspired by Margaret of Anjou to contest York's influence. Fighting resumed more violently in 1459. York was forced to flee the country, but one of his most prominent supporters, the Earl of Warwick, invaded England from Calais and captured Henry at the Battle of

Northampton. York returned to the country and became Protector of England, but was dissuaded from claiming the throne. Margaret and the irreconcilable Lancastrian nobles gathered their forces in the north of England, and when York moved north to suppress them, he was killed in battle at the end of 1460. The Lancastrian army advanced south and recaptured the hapless Henry at the Second Battle of St Albans, but failed to occupy London, and subsequently retreated to the north. York's eldest son was proclaimed King Edward IV. He gathered the Yorkist armies and won a crushing victory at the Battle of Towton early in 1461. After minor Lancastrian revolts were suppressed in 1464 and Henry was captured once again, Edward fell out with his chief supporter and advisor, the Earl of Warwick