The Wars of the Roses - York v Lancaster
The Wars of the Roses were a series of English civil wars for control of the throne of England fought between supporters of two rival branches of the royal House of Plantagenet: the House of Lancaster, represented by a red rose; and the House of York, represented by a white rose.
The clash ended in a decisive Tudor victory, and Richard III was killed during the fighting by a vicious blow to the head. Tudor was immediately crowned King Henry VII, launching a new Tudor Dynasty that flourished until the early 17th century.
The conflict was largely precipitated by the reign of Henry VI - a sad disappointment after his acclaimed father Henry V. Henry VI came to the throne as a baby in 1422, so the country suffered the unstable rule of the nobles around him for many years.
When Henry eventually reached maturity, he proved to be indecisive and inept, and suffered from episodes of catatonic insanity.
A rival faction arose, led by Richard of York, who had royal blood. He was killed in battle, but his son Edward seized the throne as Edward IV. The throne was taken again by Henry's forces, and over several years there was a tussle for the crown, resulting in Henry being captured and murdered by Edward, who then settled on the throne and ruled for many years.
However, upon Edward's unexpected death in middle age, his younger brother Richard had himself crowned, despite the better claim of Edward's two sons. These boys were imprisoned in the Tower by their uncle Richard, and soon disappeared forever. They became known to history as the "Princes in the Tower".
Henry Tudor, a Lancastrian claimant, with a very tenuous claim to the throne, invaded England from the Continent - with much sympathy and support. Richard III and Henry Tudor met in battle in 1485, and Richard was killed on the battlefield at Bosworth. Henry Tudor married Elizabeth of York, Edward IV's eldest child, and founded the Tudor dynasty.
The picture above is a 1908 painting by Henry Payne of the scene in the Temple Garden from Shakespeare's play Henry VI, Part 1, where supporters of the rival factions, Lancaster and York, pick either red or white roses.
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