As an exceedingly amateur history buff, I’ve read up on the rule of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, via the excellent books put out by Alison Weir. So when I was picking my next book to read, I decided to pick up what is essentially ‘the prequel’ to those stories, the Wars of the Roses. In an attempt to help myself remember this long, deep story down the road, I took fairly copious notes as I read. Hopefully you’ll find it interesting – a lot of the details are missing, so definitely pick up the book for the full, more interesting-than-this story!
tl;dr: Alison Weir’s Wars of the Roses is an excellent look at English history, starting with the fall of King Richard II (~1400 C.E.), and continuing through until the end of the Wars of the Roses in 1485. It’s extremely thorough, and worth the time, especially if you’re into English history. If you are, stop reading now and go buy the book instead of reading this!
This chapter is pretty much an ‘overview’ chapter. It tells us about the two Wars of the Roses, the first being a conflict between the Lancasters and Yorks, from 1455 to 1471, and the second being a much shorter conflict between the Yorks and the Tudors (who claim to be descendants of the Lancasters), from 1483-1487. In addition to these three families being involved, it also introduces us to the Earl of Warwick, a powerful magnate, who will be an important character throughout this story. It talks about the Tudor view of the wars, namely that the seeds were planted for war when King Henry IV (Lancastrian) deposes Richard II, and as this is an important event, Weir wants to trace why Richard II was deposed, entailing a look at the founding of the York household via Edward III. The book starts with the history of the Lancasters and the Yorks, and goes through the end of the First War of the Roses (the Second is actually really short in comparison). The Wars have commonly been a confusing period in history, but lots of research has been done in the last century, and this research is applied in her work.
The main question the book wants to ask: How did the murder of King Richard II in 1400 lead to the murder of King Henry VI in 1471?
The Black Death of 1348-9 kills a large proportion of people, so survivors are able to negotiate more money in exchange for their labor skills. Large areas of land once lived on by people are returned to nature, and are grazed by sheep for the profitable wool industry. People were generally rich, or at least well off, but there was a scarcity of people. Roughly .75-3mil people in England, of which 90% worked on the land. Outsiders saw the English as xenophobic, attached to their culture, warlike, and obsessed with ritual. Northerners and southerners were seen as distinct groups of people: northerners as hard and barbarian-like (from the point of view of the southerners), and southerners as soft, sophisticated but feminine in nature (from the point of view of the northerners). Dialects differed enough that people could not understand others outside their own dialect. Western Europe is united under the Catholic Church, in a strict hierarchy. Order is seen as good and godly, while disorder (heresy, rebellion, ‘too much ambition’) is seen as the work of the devil (and thus, mortal sin). The Black Death engenders social revolution, and the papacy’s authority is challenged by a lack of respect and increasing nationalism. The rise of materialism from trade gives birth to capitalism as we would recognize it. The princes of the Church begin to lose power to magnates (rich, influential nobles) as government becomes increasingly secular. Bishops had a luxurious life that the people see as being against the teachings of Jesus Christ. Men lived on average to the age of 50, women to 30 (due to the high mortality rates associated with childbirth), and half of children did not reach 20. Art shows a preoccupation with death, especially ‘Doom paintings’ (anything depicting the Last Judgment). Over time, kings delegated more and more to departments of state within the royal household.
The king still retains responsibility for foreign policy, patronage, and controlling the nobility. The king has to appear to be a competent warrior, and acting peaceful looks weak. There isn’t the notion of a standing army – the King gets troops from the nobility, who raise them in their respective regions. Succession rules were ill-defined. Usually it was primogeniture (first son takes over), but the ruler-to-be needed respect from the nobles, so ability becomes more important than direct lineage. The failures of Matilda (1100s) poisons the English against having a queen as a ruler, but there was no law against it, and it wasn’t really tested until the 1400s. In the 1400s, too many powerful magnates had a claim to the throne, and believed in might makes right (enhanced by lack of firm succession rules). Magnates blocked legal attempts to reform succession rules, saying common law could not resolve a godly issue. Thus, the Wars of the Roses are largely wars between the great magnates.
The Black Death kills a lot of the nobility class, so power becomes concentrated between a few, much stronger set of magnates. In the 1450s, feudalism gives way to ‘bastard feudalism’, in which people became indebted (for life) to magnates in exchange for the money they needed to keep up their lavish lifestyle. they wear their magnate’s uniform and badge and act as their knight, and the magnate protects them from enemies, pays their pension, and gives them gifts (land, lucrative offices) – this leads to the formation of large private armies. The private armies extort the countryside and peasants lose faith in the judicial system, as it appears that justice is only available to the rich. By the 1400s, aristocrats lack a sense of duty to the crown, are often corrupt, and try to gain political or economic power from other aristocrats or the King. Henry VI fails to curb this corruption, and issues thousands of pardons to friends. The Council governs the realm, but Parliament’s power rises in the 1400s (made up of the Lords spiritual and temporal, and the Commons). The royal household generates a lot of political influence due to physical proximity to the King.
King Edward III has many children. His first son produces no children, and starts off good but gets a bad reputation as the ‘Black Knight’. He dies before Edward III. Edward’s second son, Lionel, has a child, Richard II, who the Yorks will latch onto to establish their legitimacy for the throne. After Lionel dies, Richard II becomes king, with John of Gaunt (Edward III’s third son) as Regent. John of Gaunt marries into the Lancaster family (for his first marriage), then Constance of Castile (for his second marriage), then Katherine (for his third marriage). He is accused of being power-hungry and ambitious with respect to the English crown, but really wants Castile (a Spanish kingdom). John of Gaunt’s heir is John, his son from his first marriage. Edward III’s fourth son, Edmund, founds the House of York. Edward III’s fifth son, Thomas, does not apparently do very much.
Richard II prefers peace with France, which makes him unpopular with his people. Richard was attached to making monarchy into a ceremony, and invents the handkerchief. Richard relies on two advisors when in power, making him unpopular with the nobles as a whole. He had a rumored homosexual relationship with one of them, Robert de Vere. Gaunt’s son, Henry of Bolingbroke, forms an alliance opposing de Vere, and eventually has him banished. Richard seeks revenge for this, and takes government responsibility on personally. Richard’s wife’s death causes him to become more despotic. Richard sues for peace with France, and marries Isabella, an unpopular but pragmatic move. He wins Gaunt to his side by making his 3rd marriage legitimate and her family noble (previously common). From 1397 onwards, Richard becomes paranoid and grabs absolute power, stuffing Parliament with his supporters to get what he wants, and banishes enemies immediately. Richard moves against his uncle, Thomas of Woodstock, in retaliation for what happened to de Vere, and tries to have him murdered. He ends up banishing Bolingbroke, who escapes to Paris, and another enemy (Mowbray), who escapes to Jerusalem and dies of the Black Death. Richard fails to produce heirs and it looks like his nephew Roger Mortimer will take over after Richard’s death, until Mortimer is killed by the Irish. Mortimer leaves a son behind (Edmund), possibly the new heir.
Gaunt becomes depressed after his son (Bolingbroke) is exiled, and dies (apparently) from depression. Gaunt is a great supporter of Richard – Gaunt’s death causes Bolingbroke to return to England and deal with Richard, who suddenly repossesses Bolingbroke’s lands. Richard leaves north to deal with the Irish just as Bolingbroke returns to reclaim his lands and title as Duke of Lancaster. Bolingbroke executes some of Richard’s hated advisers and gathers a large army, as he is apparently quite popular in the south. Bad weather delays news of Bolingbroke’s return, and Richard returns immediately to deal with him. Richard is unable to summon an army, surrenders at Conway castle, and is taken to London (the Tower). Bolingbroke initially insists that he is not trying to depose the King, but asks the magnates who they prefer to be king. Some side with him, while others side with Richard. Eventually they decide to go with Bolingbroke. Richard is coerced to abdicate, and charges are presented against him in Parliament – this deposal starts a long period of dynastic and political instability, as Henry is not next in line to the throne, Edmund, son of Mortimer, is. Bolingbroke succeeds Richard, becoming King Henry IV.
Henry is seen as right for the throne because of his record, not his birth, and he tries to justify his birth through reorganizing the family tree to make himself next in line to the throne – this apparently fools no one, but nobody really cares since he’s (by merit) the best person for the job. Nobody wants March (Edmund, Richard’s nephew) as king since he’s a child, and that didn’t work out great with Richard. March (bound to the House of York) will become a dangerous rival. Henry puts down conspiracies against him, and loses popularity as the people realize he cannot solve their problems overnight. Henry constantly has to ask Parliament for money to fund him putting down rebels, and other plans, and it is believed that this economic instability did much against the stability of his throne.
France refuses to recognize Henry as king, and England redeclares war, continuing the Hundred Years War (although not much military action takes place during his reign). Richard is banished from prison to a cozy estate, and is eventually moved to the home of a prominent Lancastrian – Richard gains many supporters in high places who want him to be king once more, and they wear his white badge. Four Dukes attempt to murder Henry, but it fails and Henry realizes he is not safe while Richard lives. Henry has him starved to death, and his body paraded around London. A cult around Richard emerges, of those who believe he is alive and they continuously try to rebel to put him back on the throne, or at least assassinate Henry. Henry has March watched by his female cousin, whose husband he had murdered for conspiracy. The Welsh rise up, led by Glendower, who gains the support of Edmund (Edward’s son).
In 1413, Henry V accends to the throne, after his father dies. Before ascension, he is largely a hedonistic man, but after accension, he straightens up and was well praised. Henry v was deeply pious, and was severe with heretics (especially the Lollards). He was chivalrous and impartial with respect to justice. Unlike Henry IV, Henry V is careful with his money, and stamps out corruption. He makes good allies out of the magnates, releases March from house arrest and makes him a Knight of the Bath. March is not politically ambitious, and is fearful of those around him. Henry V seeks to finish the war with France, and pulls off a miraculous victory at Agincourt. French heavily armored soldiers get stuck in mud, and Henry easily defeats them with archers. Henry spends a long time in France conquering, and takes Katherine as his wife, producing a single son. He never returns to England, dying in France of what appears to be dysentary.
The French sue for peace, but a rival French faction arises to continue the war. The English are once again poor from the war, and the French are far from defeated. The magnates argue about whether or not the war should be continued – this will split the magnates into different factions during the Wars of the Roses.
Henry VI is too young to rule, so the Council places Glouchester as Regent. Glouchester is really just a figurehead, and in reality, the Council is in charge. Katherine, now Queen dowager, does not yet seek to remarry. Glouchester favors continuing the war with France, while Beaufort (Henry V’s brother) does not want to. Aristocrats and the Council seek to grab power while Henry VI is young. March wants peace, and Glouchester sends him to Ireland. Henry’s minority is unexpectedly peaceful. March dies of plague in Ireland, childless. His nephew, Richard, should have inherited his properties, and technically was next in line to the throne, but gets neither. He does get married to Cecily, and becomes Duke of York. Katherine secretly marries Owen Tudor and has had many children with him, who strongly support the Lancasters.
Glouchester and Beaufort continue to fight, and when Joan of Arc appears in France, the tide of battle turns against the English. She is eventually captured and executed, but this does not help the English much. Henry takes the crown at the age of 8, but still doesn’t exercise sovereign power, as he still has much to learn. Richard becomes the richest magnate from March’s inheiritance and landownings.
1433 marks two events that start the decline of the Lancastrians. First, Bedford’s wife, Anne of Burgundy, dies, and Bedford remarries Jacquetta of Luxembourg. This shatters the English alliance with Burgundy (as he also does not like Luxembourg). Second, William de la Pole (Suffolk) rises as the dominant influence in the royal household. Burgundy pulls out of the war with France, and makes a separate peace. Bedford dies shortly after, who acted as a check on the Glouchester/Beaufort rivalry. Glouchester carries out a scorched earth policy in France, which further turns the French against the English. Richard (York) takes control of the French invasion after bedford dies, and gains military experience from it (although the Glouchester/Beaufort rivalry and Parliament deny him proper funding).
Katherine dies of cancer, and her kids go into the care of Suffolk’s sister. Owen Tudor is arrested by Glouchester. York has to fund the war against France personally, and despite military victories there, is not reimbursed financially, so he refuses a second term in the job there and returns to England. Henry VI declares himself of age to take power, and dispatches Warwick, his governor (his ward), to be Lieutenant in France in place of York. Henry VI wants peace but is not smart enough to deal with Glouchester, and is not interested in military glory.
Henry VI is competent but gullible. He wastes lots of money being suckered by the magnates, and is more interested in religion than the real world. He wears homely clothing, which is seen as unkingly by the magnates and the common people. Owen Tudor escapes from prison, is recaptured, and eventually becomes friends with Henry, getting a regular salary and eventually having a bastard son (David Owen). Owen’s grandson is Henry VII (Henry Tudor). Henry VI takes care of his two half brothers, Edmund and Jasper Tudor.
Henry VI supports Beaufort, leading to Glouchester becoming marginalized. Glouchester tries to regain power and discredit the peace talks with France, leading to Cardinal Beaufort trying to discredit him. Glouchester’s wife is arrested on (apparently true) charges of witchcraft, as she practices horoscopes and burns wax images of the King. She is banished and her husband’s status is substantially diminished after this point. He still criticizes the King, but now he is fully discredited.
Ranking system: Duke > Marquess (or Marquis) > Earl
Henry VI gets betrothed to Margaret, daughter of the Duke of Anjou, cousin to the King of France. Suffolk’s power greatly increases after Beaufort’s death (much later). York was stuck fighting the French again, with all promised monies going to Somerset, who is favored by the King, despite having little military experience. Somerset wastes the money and loses many battles and men. Part of the peace treaty with France is a secret provision that cedes control of Anjou and Maine. This is secret because it is known that this will not be popular at home. York and Margaret will one day be bitter enemies. It is worried that Margaret is too poor, looks too homely, and so on.
Henry VI marries Margaret, but does not produce an heir for 8 years. His confessor is thought to blame for this, as he warns Henry against self-indulgence / lust / etc. Margaret’s natural aggressiveness allows her to take up the slack that Henry VI leaves, and she naturally gains much power, using it effectively. She does not take up aggressiveness sexually though, and this is (nowadays) is seen as a failure on both of their parts – not providing for the succession, a crucial duty. Back then this is seen as the Queen’s failing. The marriage was never popular with the English people, as Margaret is seen as the symbol of the disgraceful peace with France.
Margaret goes on Beaufort’s side, making her an enemy of Glouchester and York. She ventures into politics and favors her friends, and while faction politics is ok in France and Italy, it was resented in England. Margaret’s opponents initially do not fear the massive power she has, as she is childless and won’t have any power if Henry VI dies without an heir. The Duke of York is recalled (through the Queen’s influence) in favor of Somerset being Lieutenant in France – this is a huge insult to York, who is still in massive debt over financing his troops with his money. York is accused of financial malpractice in Normandy, and as York suspects Suffolk is behind it, their relations sour.
Charles reminds Henry to cede Maine and Anjou so that peace negotiations can begin, and eventually Henry does, and much anger comes from his people at the decision – most of it is aimed at Suffolk, who negotiated it. Henry doesn’t push it too much, and its actual execution lingers. To keep peace on the table, Margaret proposes a marriage between York’s heir, the Earl of March, and Charles VII’s daughter, Madeline – nothing much comes of it, but it acknowledges York’s importance. York’s armorer is alleged to have said that York deserved the crown, leading to his death (for treason) and poisons the Queen against York.
The Queen, Suffolk, Beaufort, and Somerset convince Henry VI that Glouchester is plotting a coup so that Henry will get rid of Glouchester, who keeps causing trouble about the cession – Henry has Glouchester arrested and sent to Parliament. Glouchester is accused of treason and put on house arrest, dying 12 days later. Rumors are abound that he was murdered by Suffolk, but as Glouchester was an old man, the stress from his sudden knowledge of the conspiracy against him may have done the job. Regardless, Glouchester was remembered for his honesty and patriotism against France, and the negative stuff was forgotten – the people remembered who set him up, and thought of them as enemies of the state.
Glouchester was the heir presumptive, so his death (and w/o an heir) means that York is now heir presumptive – a good choice since he has 13 kids, a pious wife, military experience, etc. but his arrogance and being on the wrong faction are strong marks against him. York eventually inheirits Glouchester’s estate, which becomes the main York stronghold in the Wars of the Roses. Beaufort dies shortly after, and Somerset becomes head of the Beaufort family, and rumors are abound that Somerset will become heir presumptive (since he is of closer Lancastrian blood to the King than York).
The French bring up the Maine / Anjou thing again, and this time the people turn against Suffolk, for that and for causing in-fighting in the Council (which he was responsible for). The Queen is able to get around export restrictions on wool, which causes resentment from the merchant class, who to this point firmly supported the crown. The magnates not in the ruling faction rally around York, and those in the ruling faction want York out of the way, so they make him Lieutenant of Ireland for 10 years (which practically banishes him). York is able to delay it for 2 years. The French are tired of waiting for Maine / Anjou to be returned, and invade to take back the land. They claim it successfully, and Suffolk is blamed for the failures there. The King sends him on a 5 year exile, and promises to repay those who lost land there (which he never does). Much anger is felt at Suffolk, who is felt to have gotten off lightly – on the way to his exile in France, unknown ships abduct him, hold their own trial for him, find him guilty, and murder him. The Queen now knows that her faction is not invulnerable.
Henry VI is now in financial troubles – the Italian merchants won’t lend him more money, and since he gave away most of his lands to his faction, he isn’t generating the income from them. Parliament wants to return the lands to Henry, but Henry doesn’t want to anger his faction and refuses it. The people are angry at the government, which they see as ineffectual and controlled by the corrupt magnates – all the people want is a stable, functioning government, and this includes the upper class. The rich merchants see the corruption and begin to side with York’s faction.
Men at the city of Kent organize out of fear about the corruption in government, anger at the sad state of those returning from France, and fear of (what they saw as) the Queen’s retribution to come for Suffolk’s death. It was led by Jack Cade, so it was called Cade’s Rebellion. Cade presents a list of grievances and solutions for them (pretty much everything above), and calls himself John Mortimer to present a bond with the Duke of York. Cade gathers an army and marches towards London – he’s not interested in rebellion but just fixing the problems in government.
Henry gathers a large force to fight him, but at the last minute splits his army in two and only sends one half to fight Cade. This small army is defeated by Cade, causing the other half of Henry’s army to mutiny, and in response, Henry flees London and imprisons some minor nobles that the mob wants brought to justice. Cade marches on London, whose guards are sympathetic to him and let him in. Initially this goes well, but Cade eventually forgets his moral code and loots the town. This causes many to lose faith in him and, shortly thereafter, he is kicked out of London.
Henry promises to pardon all those involved as long as they stand down – Cade agrees as long as his grievances are heard and his recommendations put in place, which is agreed to. However, the King never follows through on it, leading to many people becoming more frustrated with the government.
Somerset loses all of France to the French except for Calais and Aquitaine, prompting York to ask Henry for Somerset’s arrest. Henry, on his wife’s wishes, instead rewards Somerset. This, and the people’s anger at it, prompts York to return from Ireland, and raises a small army on the way. York gives his list of grievances and solutions (which match well with Cade’s), and is in favor with the common people (but not the upper classes who have gained from Henry’s rule). York does not ask to be ruler, but wants to be named heir presumptive, since he is afraid it will go to Somerset. he also wants the remaining 30000 pounds he is owed. Henry puts York on the Council to appease him, but he still has little influence there.
York has power in Parliament since the House of Commons is on his side, and York has Somerset impeached and put in the Tower (he is quickly released on the Queen’s orders). York’s supporters are mad at Somerset’s release, and loot his house and his friends’ houses. The House of Commons calls for the removal from court of the magnates, and Henry obliges by removing all the non-important ones. York loses power after Henry dissolves Parliament. In 1451, the French invade Bordeaux, the capital of Aquitaine, which worries the merchant community, who rely on that area for the wine trade.
York now realizes that the only way to affect change is by force, and forms an army (allegedly 20k people) to force the King to get rid of Somerset. Henry VI brings an army slightly larger than that. Neither side wants to offer battle, and York offers to stand down if Henry gets rid of Somerset. The nobles distract the Queen while this news is delievered, and Henry agrees to it. York disbands his army, and as he is on the way to show his list of grievances and redresses about Somerset, the Queen learns of the plan and convinces Henry not to arrest Somerset. Many consider this to be the beginning conflict in the Wars of the Roses, even though no actual fighting occurs.
York arrives at Henry’s camp to arrest Somerset, learns what has happened, and is promptly detained by Henry. York swears allegiance to the King and he (and his army) are pardoned. The king is able to send a small force to Bordeaux and (led by Talbot) recaptures it (he has the troops but not the money, which he gets from Philip of Burgundy) – this lightens some of the tension in England.
Henry elevates his half-brothers, Edmund and Jasper Tudor, to Earls, and they now become close to the King, and join his court. They both get lands – Jasper gets part of Wales, and both become fiercely loyal to the Lancasters and the King. Parliament comes back into session, and York’s supporters are kicked out and replaced by the Tudors. An Act of Resumption is passed that reclaims the lands that York’s supporters own and gives it back to Henry VI. Parliament raises money to train 20k archers, in case York strikes up another rebellion.
Margaret Beauford moves in with the Tudors, presumably to marry Edmund Tudor at some point. Talbot asks Parliament for more money to defend himself in France and invade more land, but Parliament dithers. Charles VII takes advantage of this and sends a well-armed force, who kill Talbot in battle. The queen becomes pregnant and thinks it’s a boy. Talbot’s death causes Parliament to finally put up the money to send troops to France, but corruption and local inefficiency cause no troops to be enlisted. Charles VII then has the time he needs to conquer Aquitaine, and expel the English (who only control Calais now). This ends the Hundred Years War.
Parliament does not offer any pay or reparations for defeated soldiers – this creates a lot of anger with the common people, and the end of the Hundred Years War in many ways causes the Wars of the Roses.
In 1453, Henry falls ill. it was referred to as ‘madness’ back then, but nowadays was believed to be some type of complete mental breakdown (either catatonic schizophrenia or depressive stupor). This has an extremely negative effect on politics, as it removes the only balancing force between the factions, removes the head of state, etc. Queen Margaret has her child, a boy – Edward, named after Henry’s favorite, Edward the Confessor. Henry is needed to confirm that the child is his, but in his catatonic state, he cannot, and as the people do not know that he is sick, they start having doubts about whether he is the father.
The Percies and Nevilles, two rival families, finally break out into war with one another, and as the Nevilles have had properties taken from them and given to Somerset, they go to York for help (led by the Duke of Warwick). The Queen feels safe now that the succession is guaranteed, so she tries to become sole regent over Edward. Many of the magnates don’t trust an unpopular French woman to have total power (officially), so they side with York.
Cardinal Kempe dies, and as his successor can only be chosen by the King, this causes more problems with respect to who will be Regent. The Lords in Parliament visit the King one more time to see if he has improved, and has he didn’t, they have to decide between Somerset and York – they choose York, who becomes Regent and Protector of the Realm, to expire when the King comes of age (apparently 14). York immediately jails Somerset and removes all of his land, and sends the Queen to Windsor to keep an eye on the King, telling her not to return until he has recovered. York, Warwick, and Salisbury (Warwick’s father) become a triumvirate that rules the country effectively and apparently is light on revenge against their enemies. York reforms the government, eliminates many of the ways that the Queen used to give gifts to her favored people, and reduces many household’s sizes to save lots of money. York also solves the Percy / Neville problem in the north and problems with the Welsh in the north and west, as well as pirate problems in the English Channel.
After 16 months of comatose-ness, the King suddenly awakens on Christmas 1454, recovered, but would spend the rest of his life having short recurrences of it (believed to be genetic, from his grandfather on his mom’s side, who was violently insane). Henry becomes more introverted and controllable by his wife and the magnates.
Part 2, the Wars of the Roses
Now that Henry is recovered, he frees Somerset, returns all his lands to him, and fires Salisbury from his position as Archbishop. York is relieved of duty and is on the defensive again from Somerset. Somerset convinces Henry that York is trying to usurp him, so Henry summons York, Warwick, and Salisbury (which they dodge out on, as they sense it is a trap, like what happened to Glouchester). York forms an army with Warwick and Salisbury and heads south, and the King forms his own army to intercept him. York tries to tell Henry that he only wants Somerset, but Somerset intercepts the messages and destroys them.
The battle commences at St. Albans, and while the battle begins off evenly matched, Warwick’s forces come out from hiding on Henry’s flank and rout them, leaving Henry and his court party, who are wounded or killed. Somerset approaches ‘The Castle Inn’, and after being warned by a soothsayer to be wary of castles, falters, and in this moment of confusion, is killed by (possibly) Warwick. York finds the King and tells him that he does not wish to be a usurper, and killed Somerset only to save the nation. Peace is held but now a dangerous precedent has been set – both sides will have to work hard to maintain peace.
York becomes virtual ruler of England by putting his supporters in important positions and banning the Queen from being in London. A new Act of Resumption is passed, returning most lands to the King (except for the Tudors, who are needed to have a moderating influence on Parliament). Henry VI may be showing signs of mental illness again. In October 1455, Edmund Tudor (Earl of Richmond) marries Margaret Beaufort – their child will be a future king of England (Henry Tudor, later Henry VII). In November, York is given complete control, as the Queen leaves to take care of the King. While away, the Queen gathers support for her cause against York. Those in the house of commons are suspicious of York’s motives, and want to protect the prince.
The King returns and takes back power, although the Queen leaves London (the Londoners hate her and vice-versa) and York has influence over the King. The King nevertheless undoes most of the Acts of Resumption to protect his friends. The Queen leaves to gather support against the Yorkists, at a higher priority than fixing the country.
York convinces Henry to make Warwick the captain of Calais, effectively putting Calais under his control. it’s unclear why Henry would do this since it’s an incredibly valuable position, and later the Yorkists will use Calais as a major foreign base. Tensions rise in London as the new Duke of Somerset (son of the last one) starts trouble for York, who is being groomed by the Queen. York and Warwick take care of invaders from Scotland, and meanwhile, the Queen dismisses York’s friends from office and replaces them with her own.
The Duke of Richmond (Edmund Tudor) dies at 26, leaving behind his wife and (soon-to-be) child. His brother Jasper inherits all of his lands and takes care of his wife and child – the child will apparently be the founder of the Tudor dynasty, and is named Henry Tudor. Jasper realizes that he can’t be on both teams, so he starts moving over to the Lancaster team. Margaret (Edmund’s wife) will remarry to Buckingham’s son, Henry Stafford, to ally their families and provide protection for Margaret. The Queen tries to make peace with the French so that she can use them to fight the Yorkists, but before she can, the French destroy the town of Sandwich, provoking anger at the Queen.
York is in Dublin, and Warwick is in Calais, so to prepare to fight them, the Queen starts the draft (conscription), apparently never done before in England. The Queen attempts to put Warwick on trial for piracy against German ships, but riots break out by Warwick’s supporters and the Queen backs down. Warwick is almost accidentally killed by a royal kitchen servant, and another conflict breaks out – the Queen summons him to Parliament again and almost kills him via the retainers of Somerset and Wiltshire. Warwick begins to flee the country, and the Queen gets an army together to try to stop him.
In response to the King and Queen gathering an army, York, Warwick, and Salisbury raise armies, and although others support York, they do not want to be seen as treasonous. Warwick is unable to join his forces with Salisbury, so he heads towards York – the Queen sends Lord Audley and ~6-12k men to take care of Salisbury, who has ~3-4k men. Salisbury, knowing he is outnumbered, prepares numerous defenses, protecting his left with a hill, his right with a wall made of his provisions, and the center by having his troops be on a hill to provide higher ground. He wins the battle, killing Lord Audley at the Battle of Blore Heath.
Salisbury distracts the royal army by leaving his cannon to a friar, who fires it periodically, leading the royal army to believe that Salisbury is there, when in reality he leaves and successfully meets up with Warwick and York (although two of Salisbury’s sons are captured by the Lancastrians). York, Warwick, and Salisbury do not want to fight an army led by the King, so they continuously attempt to flee from him. Their morale eventually drains and they abandon their troops, seen as a cowardly act. Henry pardons the Yorkist army, as he is only after their leaders. His troops, however, pillage and rape the townsfolk, and do the same to neighboring Yorkist towns.
York, Warwick, and Salisbury flee to Calais, and back in England, corruption once again continues, with lands being given to the Queen’s favorites at the common person’s expense. Parliament comes in session, and is packed with the Queen’s supporters. York and crew are named to be treasonous, and his lands in England are reclaimed. Tudor troops are sent to Wales to prevent it being used as a way to re-enter England, and they try to do the same with Ireland, but as Ireland is fiercely pro-York, they fail (also, this is where York is hiding out).
The Council prevents trade with Calais, but then asks for money from the merchant class in London, who now doesn’t have any money, so they become incensed at the Queen. The Queen attempts an attack on Calais through Lord Rivers, but Warwick attacks first, capturing him, his troops, and his family. Warwick meets up with York, and plan a two-pronged attack, in which York attacks from the north and Warwick attacks from the south. The Queen dispatches the Duke of Exeter with ample troops to defend the English Channel from Warwick, but Warwick delays his invasion, causing Exeter’s troops to lose morale due to their low pay and poor living conditions. Exeter realizes he cannot trust most of his troops and disbands them, and without more money, he cannot acquire loyal troops, thus losing the Channel to Warwick.
Warwick invades England, and both York and Warwick disseminate their list of grievances and redresses to the people. The King, Queen, and the royal army are waiting at Coventry, as they suspect that York will invade from Wales – York is actually just biding his time.
Lord Fauconberg is able to establish a beachhead for Warwick at Sandwich, capturing forces that were going to invade Calais (but were waiting for the winds to improve). The Queen sends more troops to try to stop Warwick, who promptly defect. Warwick was received as a hero in the south-east, and moved towards London – apparently the Lancastrian government was pretty ill-equipped to handle the invasion that they knew was coming for quite some time. Archbishop Bourchier, previously a neutral mediator, becomes sick of the Queen’s misrule and rallies large numbers of men to Warwick at Kent.
Warwick picks up the papal legate (Coppini), who was sent by the Pope to quell the factional infighting so that he can rally troops for a crusade against the Turks. The Lancastrians rebuff him (thinking he sympathesizes with the Yorks), causing him to sympathesize with the Yorks. The papal legate supports Warwick, so many English Bishops follow him. London sends a dispatch to Warwick, initially against him, but later telling him that he can enter if his troops behave themselves. Lancastrians in the city hide in the Tower. Warwick enters London, to the excitement of the Londoners.
Coppini gets a letter from the Pope that summarizes York’s case, and the legate writes a letter to Henry begging him to accept York’s terms. The royal army hangs at Coventry, afraid of York returning from Ireland and Wales, so they do not attempt to defend London. in the meanwhile, Warwick and march (York’s older son) move towards the royal army (Salisbury and Fauconberg stay in London). Henry marches towards Northampton (southeast from Coventry), apparently towards Warwick, and leaves his wife and child behind. At Northampton, he builds defensive fortifications preventing access from London. Warwick meets Henry’s forces near Northampton and sends Coppini and the bishop of Salisbury to listen to York’s demands, which Henry refuses.
Henry’s forces (led by Buckingham) are half in number of Warwick’s forces (the main Yorkist army), and one of their commanders, Lord Grey, offers to turn coat to the Earl of March in exchange for his backing on a property dispute. March accepts and as the battle is underway, Lord Grey joins March. Although March suffers some casualties in the defensive fortifications (a marsh, archers, palisades), the battle ends quickly in Warwick’s favor and the royal army retreats – but not before Buckingham was killed and the King was captured.
The Queen and prince leave to Wales, but are ambushed by a robber and almost killed, barely making it to Jasper Tudor at Harlech castle, and they eventually leave for his other castle (previously York’s castle). Salisbury and friends begin besieging Lord Scales in the Tower of London, and after Warwick returns with the King, Scales surrenders.
The Queen leaves Wales and arrives in Scotland, receiving aid from the Scottish queen (Mary) and her son, the new king (after his father, James II, dies in a cannon explosion while attacking the Yorkists). Margaret receives loans to use against the Yorkists in exchange for the cession of Berwick to the scots. She casually agrees, and apparently this border town is very sensitive / prized to the English, so this will cause a lot of trouble later.
York now realizes that the only way he can save the government and stay in power is to be king, reviving the long-dormant Mortimer claim – the people take this seriously from years of misrule. York returns from Ireland but fails to ask his advisors if his right to rule would be taken seriously by the magnates. York enters London and proclaims himself to be king, to which the magnates and the King look confused and fail to understand. They’ve taken oaths of allegiance to Henry VI, and although they think he’s incompetent, they still think he’s the legitimate king. This seems to be because many magnates prospered under Henry VI, and thus think of him as legitimate, while in contrast, Richard II did not allow magnates to prosper, and thus they don’t mind deposing him.
Even Warwick and Salisbury are angered that York did not consult them before doing this, but York pushes the issue. The magnates thus don’t know what to do, and defer the issue to the King and the House of Lords. The Lords eventually agree that York has a better claim to the throne, but not that Henry should be deposed. They come to a compromise – that Prince Edward should be disinherited, and York becomes the heir after Henry’s death. The problem is that York is ten years older than Henry, so York is not likely to outlive Henry. Henry sends word to the Queen to return the prince to London.
Now that the dynastic issue is raised, the Wars of the Roses changes course – no longer about York v. Queen’s faction, but about the throne itself, and reform second. The Queen quickly raises a large army to march on London, and York raises a much smaller army to intercept her, making defensive fortifications at Sandal Castle, waiting for March to arrive with reinforcements. Somerset, leading the Queen’s army, lacks siege equipment, and thus needs to find a way to lure York out of the castle before March arrives. York underestimates the royal army, fails to use his scouts to learn of his enemy’s plans, and by constantly foraging for food, broadcasts to the enemy that he is low on food. Somerset reacts by forming a peace treaty with York and then harassing him, and dressing up 400 Lancaster men as Yorkists and having them infiltrate the Yorkist army. For some reason, York leaves the safety of the castle (likely not enough food), and his troops are drawn out far enough that they get flanked on both sides, and York is killed.
York’s son is also killed in combat, and Salisbury is captured the following night and killed by commoners who dislike him, leaving Warwick the richest magnate in England by far. One of the enemy commanders (Clifford), decapitates York and his younger son Rutland, and places a paper crown on York’s head, and parades him around town. The people swear vengeance on Clifford for this. The magnates did not mourn York’s death, as his arrogance offended them, but the common people grieved for him. March succeeds his father, and becomes the new Duke of York. This battle is referred to as the Battle of Wakefield, and marks a turning point in that now the battles become a lot more violent, as before this point confrontation had been avoided.
The new York believes that he should be king (since his father should have been king), and since Salisbury supported York, Warwick supports the new York.
Queen Margaret heads south from Scotland to eliminate Warwick and March, but as Mary fails to give her the loans she promised, Margaret allows her troops to pillage the land they come across. Warwick uses this knowledge to spread propaganda against the Queen, and raise more money and troops for battle. Pembroke, Wiltshire, and Owen Tudor led an army to meet up with the Queen, but were intercepted by a slightly larger and much more experienced army led by Edward of York (son of the now deceased Duke of York). Edward sees a parhelion, the illusion of multiple suns, and this is used as an omen for Yorkist victory, leading to the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross. Edward sets up a strong defensive position, with a river to his rear (that he also guards with archers), and while Wiltshire makes progress against Edward’s right flank, the center (led by Edward) holds strong and pushes into the Lancastrian line, causing strong losses for the Lancasters. Pembroke retreats, but Tudor is later executed.
The Queen organizes a marriage between her son and the princess of Scotland (Mary’s daughter), and hopes that she can leverage the Scottish and French as military assistance against the English. Warwick gathers an army and meets the royal army near St. Albans, preparing defensive fortifications as needed. The Queen catches Warwick off guard before he is able to finish preparations, and chases his army out of the city. the battle comes to a stalemate, but one of Warwick’s commanders, Lovelace, defects and joins the Queen, causing her to win the battle (the most decisive Lancastrian victory of the war). The Queen finds the King at the battle and saves him. The Queen’s troops pillage the surrounding area, feeding the propaganda that the northerners are barbarians who hate the south. This also furthers the notion that the war was a north v. south war (poor, barbarian north as Lancasters v. rich, sophisticated south as Yorks).
The Queen moves towards London, but as the Londoners refuse to prepare food for her rampaging army, she holds back on retaking the city (she doesn’t want London to get pillaged and the people to hate her further) – this apparently loses a great opportunity for the Lancastrians to take the city. The mayor of London offers to let the King and Queen in if they can prevent the pillaging, but they can’t prevent it, and the Londoners hear the news of the pillaging in St. Albans and decide against it. The Queen considers invading London, but realizes she does not have the resources to do so, and backs off, which allows Edward and his army to slip in, who are hailed as heroes.
Edward is now in a situation where he is attempting to remove the King and install himself as king, and the people now see the corruption not as of the Council, but as of the King himself. Edward is made king, and becomes King Edward IV, restoring the crown to Plantagenet rule. What apparently mattered was that he controlled the capital, had a military advantage over the Lancastrians, and had the support of most of the magnates (especially Warwick). Edward holds off on a formal coronation, wanting to do so only after Henry and Margaret are dead or captured.
Henry and Margaret’s army heads north after they learn of Edward in London. Edward and Warwick head north to fight the royal army, while Somerset takes the royal army south to fight them. News of the widespread Lancastrian looting makes it easier for York to raise forces and gain support, especially in the south. The armies meet at the Pontefract river, and while Henry sues for peace, Edward refuses. The battle that ensues is bloody but goes in favor of the Yorks, and Lord Clifford dies near the end of the battle. The Yorks attempt to cross the bridge there to fight the Lancastrians, who promptly burn the bridge, causing the Yorks to build a raft to cross it, which the Lancastrians promptly steal, causing the Yorks just to cross the river the old fashioned way.
The Lancastrians retreat to towton, where a much larger battle takes place (the Battle of Towton) – one of the most important battles, on Palm Sunday, in the middle of a blizzard. The snow was blowing against the Lancastrians, so whenever they would fire arrows, they wouldn’t go far enough, and the Yorkists would just run and pick up the arrows and fire them back at the Lancastrians. Once the Lancastrians realize this is going on, they drop their bows and charge the Yorkists, who do the same. The battle goes on for 11 hours, and due to the heavy snow, neither side can see who is winning (and both sides keep replenishing their armies with reserve forces). Eventually it is clear that the Yorkists have won, and the Lancastrians retreat, suffering more fatalities as their only escape route is a freezing cold river. The only bridge there collapses from the weight of those on it, and some try to escape on the dead bodies of their compatriots. Towton was apparently the bloodiest battle fought on English soil – ~20-30k casualties, maybe up to 40k if we include those killed during the rout.
Henry and Margaret escape north, and York gains support of most of England (including the north after he spares many of the lords he captures at Towton). Edward rides to York, and upon seeing the heads of his father and Salisbury, has them taken down and replaced with new Lancastrian heads. Edward tries to prevent Henry and Margaret from reaching Scotland, but fails. they then form an alliance with the Queen Regent of Scotland (mary), and gain control of the border town of Berwick, using it as a beachhead to raid England with. Edward returns to London and raises a new army, and Warwick defends the north from the Queen’s invasion forces. Edward then focuses upon Wales, another possible beachhead into England. Edward is formally crowned, and the people are ecstatic at his being king.
Edward was handsome and showed it off, eating and drinking accordingly – apparently looked very similar to his grandson, Henry VIII. Edward gets around, but none of his mistresses come up in politics. He was loved for his pursuit of justice, being fair on the throne and was tolerant of heresy. He also reforms England to cut back on wasteful spending, welcomes the educated, and sets new standards for manners and codes of conduct. Edward’s first decade in power is marked by him establishing order and trying to reduce the influence of factions, and while he doesn’t eliminate them (favoring the Nevilles – Warwick’s family), he does limit their influence.
Edward uses Acts of Resumption to reclaim most of the lands that Henry VI gifted away, giving other gifts to those to keep them in favor. He is shrewd with business, and after a few years, creates a royal household that is solvent (generating money) – a rarity in the middle ages. Edward then promises to live off his own means only, and only raise taxes for national defense. He becomes prosperous off of the wool trade. Warwick has much power in the early years, but Edward limits his influence as well. Warwick also lacks an heir, and has several daughters that he can marry off as needed. His designs are on the international stage, and seeks power, although not the kingship itself.
Warwick’s brother, Fortescue, aims to reform the Council – instead of being only aristocrats, it should instead be a meritocracy, half clerics, and half secularists, and this is largely implemented. The King always consults his magnates when discussing matters with the council, as he knows they are the ultimate enforcers of his laws, and he treats them favorably in exchange for their continued support. The King becomes popular in London for the increased prosperity, and he shows them some amount of favoritism.
Margaret loses favor with the Scots after she gives them Berwick (as now she doesn’t have anything they want), so she focuses on appealing to Charles VII in France for help. Margaret receives a loan from France, and this infuriates the English further (as the French are England’s traditional enemies) – this alters the dynamics of the Wars of the Roses, as now it’s not a civil war, it’s other countries using Margaret to subvert England. Charles VII dies before Somerset and friends can visit him, and is succeeded by his son, Louis XI, who hates the Anjou family. France wants to conquer Burgundy, who wants to trade with England (and vice versa), so he’s willing to forgive Margaret for being an Anjou.
Edward IV is a young, eligible bachelor, so he wants to use that to negotiate with France and Burgundy. Seeing that civil war in England is best for France, Louis supports Margaret – the news of which sparks Edward IV to have Warwick capture more northern lands, and most of Wales. Warwick begins feuding with Herbert over who should have influence in Wales. Parliament comes into session once more, and Edward encourages all subjects to bring criminals to justice – a record number of people are brought to court, and justice is seen as being done.
Edward uses Acts of Attainder to formally reclaim Lancastrian lands, and bans communication with Henry and Margaret. Henry Tudor is also stripped of his title as Earl of Richmond. The Duke of Oxford secretly communicates with Henry, and is convicted / executed for treason upon the discovery of his letters with Margaret. Margaret and Prince Edward leave to France to meet Louis in person, meanwhile, Warwick makes an incursion into Scotland, so put pressure on Mary to drop her support of Margaret.
Louis offers Margaret 20k crowns and assistance in exchange for Calais – Margaret eventually agrees, making her even more unpopular in England. Margaret returns to England, with a very small army and capturing (but not conquering) multiple castles in the north. Edward and Warwick respond by raising a large army and heading north, recapturing most of the castles and winning over Somerset to their side. Edward and Louis come to a truce agreeing not to harbor rebels from each other’s countries, so Margaret falls back on the Scots for help (which they do not give much of), and Burgundy. The Queen is robbed again, and is captured in a boat at some point – she escapes both times, and eventually meets with Philip of Burgundy, who offers her a minimal amount of money (as he wants to be on Edward’s good side). Margaret eventually returns to France and stays with her father and family in Anjou.
Somerset turns tail and betrays Edward IV for Margaret, fleeing into Europe. Somerset’s betrayal prompts Edward to sue for permanent peace with Scotland, dispatching Montague north, who is nearly ambushed by Somerset and friends. Montague wins the ensuing battle, killing Ralph Percy, a rallier of Lancastrian support in the north. A 15-year truce is agreed on between the Scots and English.
Edward falls in love with Elizabeth Wydville, daughter of the Earl of Rivers. She was a lady-in-waiting to Queen Margaret, making her from the Lancastrian camp and thus automatically unpopular. The people are becoming worried that Edward has no wife and that he is sleeping around with random ladies. Edward marries Elizabeth in secret, knowing that the marriage is not advantageous and that this wastes his opportunities to make advantageous marriages.
Somerset gathers a new army and meets up against Montague at Hexham, fortifying himself on three sides by a river and hillsides – this prevents him from escaping as Montague rushes him, and Somerset’s forces are easily routed – Somerset was captured. Somerset is executed, and leaves behind no legitimate heirs (just a bastard son).
Henry VI escapes capture, leaving behind his crown, sword, and valuables, and goes into hiding in various safe houses.
Warwick arrives with an army at Bamburgh, demanding the surrender of the traitor Sir Ralph Grey and friends – pardons are offered to all except Grey, who refuses to surrender the castle. One of Warwick’s cannons shoots Grey’s room, knocking him unconscious and causing the others to surrender the castle (Grey is beheaded soon after by Tiptoft). The fall of Bamburgh means there are no more Lancastrian power bases except for Harlech Castle in Wales. Herbert is dispatched to conquer Harlech Castle, and despite ample funding, the castle is too well defended for him to capture.
Warwick pushes Edward to marry a French princess (bona of savoy), causing Edward to eventually reveal that he is already married, horrifying everyone – the magnates are angered that they were not consulted, the nobles are mad that the new queen is so far below him in rank, and Yorkists are mad that he would marry a Lancastrian servant. Louis wants Warwick to start a rebellion against Edward, and Warwick is already frustrated that Edward is suppressing his ambition and did not confide in him about the marriage. Edward supports Burgundy, and Warwick supports Louis, and as Edward’s new wife’s family (the Wydvilles) will support Burgundy, Warwick will hate them. For the moment, Warwick pretends all is well with Edward and the Wydvilles, who are now rising in power due to the royal marriage. The Wydvilles also rise by intermarrying with the noble class, who are honor bound not to refuse, but still hate the Wydvilles for it – especially Warwick, who now loses lots of matches for his daughters.
Margaret asks the King of Portugal (John of Gaunt’s descendent) for assistance – he offers assistance but doesn’t come through. Margaret begs Louis for help, and receives none, and Louis takes away her military advisor, who dies in battle against Burgundy. In 1465, Elizabeth is crowned Queen. Henry, in hiding, is eventually discovered and captured. He is sent to Warwick at London, and kept in the tower – this is a fatal blow to Margaret’s confidence, as she cannot act while Henry is a hostage (apparently Henry is not mistreated in the Tower).
Elizabeth has a daughter, also named Elizabeth – Warwick is the godfather. Edward moves towards a treaty with Burgundy, since the English hate the French (not forgiving them for the Hundred Years War), but Warwick still wants peace with France, even forging a letter from Edward saying that he desires peace with France. This becomes increasingly divisive, causing a fallout between Warwick and Edward, and even after Philip of Burgundy dies, a more advantageous agreement is reached with his son, Charles the Bold. Edward also kicks George Neville out of the Archbishop position and puts in his own candidate, to prevent George from marrying Warwick’s daughter to Edward’s sister.
In 1467 Elizabeth bears another daughter, Mary. Sir Thomas Cook, a former mayor, refuses to sell a tapestry he loves to the Queen’s mother, who in return, accuses him of Lancastrian sympathies and has him fined 8000 pounds – he defects to the Lancastrians out of anger. Margaret of York (the King’s sister) marries Charles the Bold. Louis sends military aid to the Lancastrians, who continue their efforts in Wales. Harlech castle in Wales finally falls to the Yorkists, after 4 years of sieging.
Continued bad blood between the Wydvilles and Warwick sets Warwick up for defection, and he finds an ally in Clarence, mad at the Wydvilles for similar reasons. The people become concerned that justice is not being fulfilled at home – that Edward is only concerned with foreign affairs (France/Burgundy) and crushing the Lancastrian resistance, and that they are being taxed too much to do so. The King was popular, but Warwick was much more so (hailed as a hero), and Warwick does little to quell the anger that is rising in the north (using it to his advantage). This is not helped by the Queen, who bears another daughter (Cecily).
Warwick is sent to Calais to check up on the area (as he has been captain of Calais for quite some time now), and sends letters instructing his people in the north to rise in revolt against Edward, which they do. Edward fails to do anything about the revolt, and eventually dispatches Warwick to put it down. Warwick gathers an army to do so, with the intent of having his new army join forces with those in the north. Edward suspects this will happen, forbidding assembles of armies without his permission. Edward tries to raise his own army, but finds it difficult, raising only a third of what Warwick can raise.
Clarence marries Isabel (Warwick’s daughter) once they get the dispensation from the Pope (as they are within the forbidden affinities of marriage), which Edward denied to them. Warwick brings forth a familiar set of grievances and redresses forward, to try to remove those around the King that he sees as poisonous. Warwick returns to England from Calais, and gathers a large army in London (whose mayor believes that Warwick is taking them to the King to put down northern rebels).
Pembroke and Devon have a personal conflict and thus are in bad spirits when they are surprised by Neville’s forces at the Battle of Edgecote. Pembroke initially takes a river for strategic reasons, but loses many men doing so, and Devon leaves the battle with his troops (thinking that Pembroke can handle it by himself). Warwick’s advance guard appears and destroys Pembroke’s forces, causing Neville to win the battle (Pembroke is also captured).
Herbert is executed, freeing up his territory in Wales – it is believed that Jasper Tudor will try to reclaim it, or Warwick will. This also leaves Henry Tudor without a protector, but he is taken in by the Countess of Pembroke. Devon is captured shortly after by the common people at Somerset, and decapitated. Once the King learns of the defeat at Edgecote, his magnates and armies abandon him, and Warwick / Clarence easily capture him, placing him under essentially house arrest. Warwick rules in his name, and has the Queen’s father and brother murdered as retribution for their family taking power and plotting against him.
Keeping the King hostage allows the other magnates to take revenge against their enemies, and anarchy breaks out, which Warwick is able to resolve only by freeing Edward (which Warwick thinks is temporary, but when Edward surrounds himself with loyal lords, he is able to escape, returning to London). Edward reestablishes power, putting his brother Glouchester in charge of Wales, which he takes care of efficiently. Warwick’s influence drops rapidly after this, and Louis publicly allies himself with the house of Lancaster, getting Margaret ready to lead an invasion force. Warwick and friends are pardoned, and return to the north where their territories are.
Warwick sees that his grievances are not being addressed, and once again spreads propaganda to gain support from the common people – he wants to depose the King and set himself in power (since Clarence is mentally unstable and can’t be trusted, and Warwick does not trust Margaret). Before Warwick is able to raise an army, Lancastrian sympathizers raise their own army to reinstate Henry VI, as well as Yorkists in the north who want Edward to restore Percy to an earl (the former being influenced by Clarence). The King quickly raises an army and heads north to deal with the matter, while the rebels move to meet with Warwick, who has raised his own army. The King, with superior artillery and better trained troops (and better magnates as generals) surprises Warwick and Clarence’s armies and easily defeats them at the Battle of Losecoat Field (interested readers should look up why it’s called this).
The rebel leaders are executed, but Warwick and Clarence are still at large. Edward summons them to court, but they refuse, so Edward takes his army north to capture them. Warwick and Clarence evade him. Edward is worried that John Neville would desert him for Warwick, so Edward deprives him of his earldom, giving it to his rival Percy and attempting to make all well with Neville by making him a Marquess, his son the Duke of Bedford, and offering to marry his daughter, Elizabeth of York, to the new Duke of Bedford. Neville is now angry since he has no lands to generate the income that he needs to support his stature / rank.
Warwick escapes to Calais, but they refuse him harbor, so he leaves to France, where he is warmly received by Louis, who reconciles him with Margaret, knowing that they are needed together to invade England. Margaret eventually pardons Warwick and agrees to the marriage between prince Edward and Anne Neville, Warwick’s daughter, and they are betrothed in France. As they are cousins, fourth removed, they have to get a dispensation from the pope, so Louis sends money the pope’s way to speed the process up. Clarence sees that he has been removed from the plan and will not be getting the throne, so he plots to betray the others.
Jasper Tudor arrives in France, and it is agreed that he and Warwick will lead the invasion – Tudor from Wales, and Warwick from the south east. A spy arrives with a deal for Clarence, in which he can be pardoned by Edward and restored to glory (monetarily) if he betrays Warwick. Clarence keeps his options open and agrees to this (but it’s not clear if he will actually go through with it at this point). Edward IV underestimates the invasion force, despite constant warnings and updates from the Duke of Burgundy. Warwick’s brother-in-law stages a sham rebellion in Yorkshire, drawing Edward away from London with an army, leaving his pregnant wife behind in the Tower – in the meanwhile, Warwick easily invades England.
A storm destroys the forces that Edward leaves to defend the channel, and Warwick arrives, easily forming a new army and hailed by the people as a hero. Warwick makes it clear that there is no pillaging and no raping – unlike back in 1461 (St. Albans). The Marquess of Montague (the once earl that Edward strips of rank) forms an army in the north to seek revenge on Edward, heading south. Edward’s forces desert him once again, and he flees the area, taking refuge on a Dutch ship heading home (to Burgundy). Calais turns sides and supports Warwick, but is fine supporting Burgundy if they support Henry VI.
Queen Elizabeth flees the tower to Westminster Abbey, and Warwick’s forces enter London unopposed, freeing and taking control over Henry VI (who apparently has been captive in the Tower this whole time). Henry VI is reinstated as king (called ‘the readeption’), although Warwick, as lieutenant, controls the scenes – Henry is also a shadow of his former self, presumably from the years of imprisonment. Tiptoft is found to be treasonous and is executed.
Jasper Tudor arrives in Wales, and brings Henry Tudor to London to be presented to Henry VI. Warwick realizes it will be hard to hold England together – the magnates distrust him, the middle class feels that he is allowing London to be vandalized, but the common people love him. The Lancastrians hate him b/c of his earlier involvement in deposing Henry VI, and it is not clear that Margaret will allow him to hold onto power when she arrives. Queen Elizabeth has a son in captivity, named Edward, prompting Margaret and Prince Edward to return from France to consolidate power.
Meanwhile, Parliament reverses the Acts of Attainder, giving lands back to Lancastrians. Clarence is put out by this (he loses land as a result), and does not believe that Warwick will come through on his promises to make Clarence rich and powerful. Louis invades Burgundy and asks England for help, and the move is unpopular in England, where new trade prosperity with Burgundy makes it a tough sell. Louis gets a dispensation from the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch in Jerusalem since the Pope won’t give it to him, so prince Edward and Anne Neville are finally married, although it is hinted that the marriage is not consummated (so that Prince Edward can remarry if needed). Charles and Edward IV meet, but Charles is non-committal at this time.
Margaret tries to leave to England, but miscommunication prevents her from being in the same city as Warwick, so he returns to England without her. Clarence places spies in many of the important households, to learn of their true intentions. Meanwhile, Warwick is unable to get Parliament to raise money for troops to fight Burgundy, so Warwick has his troops at Calais attack Burgundy, infuriating the London merchants, who realize that they have been dragged into a war with their most profitable business partner. This aggression causes Charles to form an alliance with Edward IV, giving him 50k crowns, enough to form an invasion force. The people are mad at Warwick for allying with the French, and Edward forms a small army to invade England.
Edward returns to England, and while he cannot land at his preferred landing spot (blocked by Warwick’s defensive forces), he is able to land at an alternative location, despite bad weather. He moves unopposed but does not gather supporters – his odds are not seen as very good, and he had alienated his magnates (which he was aware of). Warwick calls to the magnates to form armies to oppose Edward IV, but many do not respond to it. Edward IV returns to York, and once again, does not gather forces nor run into resistance. Once he gets firmly into Yorkist territory, he gathers many more troops.
Warwick saves his army at Coventry, waiting for more reinforcements, and believes that Edward’s army is small. Edward IV arrives at Coventry and demands that Warwick surrender, which he does not. Edward IV leaves Coventry to intercept Warwick’s reinforcements, and Clarence betrays Warwick for Edward IV. Edward IV waits for Clarence, who promptly apologizes and is pardoned. Both Edward IV and Warwick make a run for London, with Edward leaving for London first, and Warwick coming afterwards.
Edward sends scouts to London to see how favorably he will be received – in London, Henry VI is already sent on a horse to march around and raise support, but the troops look so pitiful that it has the adverse effect. Archbishop Neville promises Warwick that he will hold the city for him, but realizes that he cannot, so he promises to deliver Henry VI into Edward IV’s hands to get back in good graces with him.
Louis XI realizes that Warwick will not be able to help him against Burgundy, so he signs a 3-month truce with Burgundy to see if Warwick will be able to restore control over England. Edward IV returns to London and is hailed by the people, as he now has a son (and thus an heir) and the money by which he can repay the nobles/merchants – Edward immediately recaptures Henry VI and frees all Yorkists held in the tower. Edward IV puts his army on defensive position, knowing that Warwick is on the way. A few days later, Edward IV puts his family in the tower where they will be safe, recruits more reinforcements, and leaves with Henry to face Warwick, at Barnet.
Their forces line up, but due to heavy mist they really can’t see each other and thus line up extremely close to one another. Warwick has about twice as many men and begins by firing his cannon, but thinks Edward is further away (since he can’t see him) and misses. Edward, in the center of his troops, leads the attack, and shortly after, both centers hold, but both left sides do not. Montague’s men (from Warwick’s side) attack men that he sees a star insignia on, believing them to be the King’s ‘Sun in Splendour’ badge, but in reality it’s Oxford’s ‘Blazing Star’ badge, so it is friendly fire. Oxford’s men are routed, screaming ‘treason!’, which infects Warwick’s entire army, believing that everybody is turning on everybody else, turning the tide of battle against Warwick. Montague is killed in the ensuing battle, possibly by oxford’s men.
Warwick tries to rally his men, but fails, and abandons the battle. the King orders that he should be spared, but his soldiers either ignore or do not hear the order, and kill him as he flees. News of Warwick’s death causes his army to flee. Edward returns to London with Warwick’s body to show that he has won, and to put down rumors that Warwick is alive. Edward forms another army to head west to fight off Margaret and Prince Edward.
Margaret raises a small army and moves up the western coast, to try to raise more reinforcements. Realizing this, Edward IV forms an army and attempts to intercept her. Edward tails Margaret for quite a while, but Margaret continuously gives him the slip, until he finally catches up with her at Tewkesbury, where her forces are in defensive position, with rivers on two sides and a town behind them. They are on a hill as well. Margaret’s army has 5-6k people, while Edward IV has 3.5k-5k. Edward has more professional troops and more magnates (so better generals)
Edward IV strikes first, leading his troops up the hill, firing a volley of arrows, and retreating,to try to get Somerset to abandon his good defensive position (which he promptly does). As Somerset’s forces advance, they are pinned on the left by Edward IV’s forces, and Edward IV sends in spearmen on the right, stopping him on three sides. Wenlock prevents Prince Edward from falling into the trap, but this also prevents Somerset from getting reinforcements and his men are cut down – Somerset barely escapes, and once he realizes that Wenlock didn’t help him, he kills Wenlock with his mace, leaving the inexperienced Prince Edward in charge of the center of the Lancastrian army.
Glouchester (Yorkist) leads the center charge, breaking Prince Edward’s line and routing the Lancastrian army. The Yorkists follow the rout and kill a large number of Lancastrians, especially Prince Edward (who may have been killed by Glouchester personally at Edward IV’s orders). Somerset is captured and beheaded, and as he was the last male Beaufort, the Beaufort line passes to Margaret Beaufort (Henry VII’s mother).
Margaret flees again, but this apparently ends the wars between the Lancasters and the Yorks. Margaret is captured shortly thereafter, and is a sobbing mess – Edward does not execute her, as it is not seen as a knightly thing to do. Edward instead puts down some last rebellions in the north and starts returning to London. On the way, Fauconberg raises a rebellion in the south (near Kent) and starts besieging London itself, but when he hears of the King’s impending arrival, his forces dissipate and he surrenders. As Fauconberg rises up in the name of Henry VI, Edward IV realizes that as long as Henry lives, more pointless rebellions will be started in his name, so he has Henry VI put to death – the method of death is not obvious, but it involved some kind of head trauma, and was definitely a murder involving Glouchester. Henry’s body was put on public display for three days to dispel rumors that he was alive.
The Wars of the Roses eroded the gap between the King and the magnates and eroded royal authority, and the slaughter of so many lords and knights signaled an end to the age of chivalry. Lots of very short battles and campaigns – feeding large armies for long periods of time was too difficult. Battles took place in countrysides, and oftentimes did not impact towns / cities (except for St. Albans, sacking / pillaging was pretty rare). This era showed that people did not really care if the sovereign came from god, but just wanted effective rulership, and were thus easily manipulated by magnates and kings. Henry VI’s reputation changed over time from an incompetent ruler to a holy man.
Margaret is eventually moved from the Tower to being under house arrest at Windsor. She is eventually ransomed by Louis XI and returns to France, living on a small stipend from him and dies in poverty. Clarence is executed for treason in 1478.
Disorder rises once more after Edward IV dies in 1483 – he had a second son, but a power struggle arises between Glouchester (the new protector of England), and the Wydvilles. Glouchester wins, imprisons the new king (Edward V), and crowns himself Richard III. This is so unpopular that within two years he and the house of York are overthrown by Henry Tudor (renaming himself King Henry VII), after the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
THE END (thanks for making it all the way through!)