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Wars of the Roses


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(1455–85)

A protracted struggle for the throne of England, lasting for 30 years of sporadic fighting. These civil wars grew out of the bitter rivalry between two aspirants to the throne – Edmund Beaufort (1406–55), Duke of Somerset, of the House of Lancaster (whose badge was a red rose), and Richard, 3rd Duke of York (whose badge was a white rose); the former was a close supporter of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, while Richard of York became their opponent. In 1455 Richard gained power by winning the first Battle of St Albans; a whole series of private enmities and disputes was now absorbed into a bitter and openly fought civil war. Richard of York was killed at the Battle of Wakefield (1460), and Henry VI's supporters, the Lancastrians, won a further victory at the second Battle of St Albans (February 1461), yet their hesitations allowed Richard's son Edward to gain the throne a month later as Edward IV, the first Yorkist king of England. In September 1470 a Lancastrian invasion restored Henry VI to the throne (although power was effectively exercised by ‘the kingmaker’, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick), but in April 1471 Edward regained it by the victory of Barnet. Most of the remaining Lancastrian leaders were killed at Tewkesbury in May 1471, but the struggle ended only in 1485 when Henry Tudor defeated Richard III at Bosworth Field. Henry VII married Edward IV's eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York, in order to unite the two factions. The wars weakened the power of the nobility and after a bid for the throne from Lambert Simnel in 1487, there were no serious challenges to the Tudor dynasty.

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