22.05.

1455: Beginning of the Medieval “Wars of the Roses”

1455: Beginning of the Medieval “Wars of the Roses”
Photo Credit To Wikipedia Commons/ Painting of the scene in the Temple Garden, from Shakespeare's play "Henry VI Part 1", where supporters of the rival factions pick either red or white roses

Story Highlights

  • Historical event:
  • 22 May 1455
  • The wars that were fought in medieval England were called "Wars of the Roses", after the two roses that were the symbols of the warring dynasties (the House of Lancaster used the symbol of the red rose and the House of York the white rose).

On this day a long-standing war for the English throne, called the Wars of the Roses, began.

The name comes from the fact that the two warring dynasties that fought for the throne had symbols in the form of roses – the House of Lancaster had a red rose and the House of York had a white one. The cause of the conflict was the violent usurpation of the throne by the House of Lancaster.

Supporters of the House of York started the fight, and the first conflict occurred on this day at St. Albans, 35 kilometers north of London. Two armies of knights clashed. At the forefront of the Yorks (White Rose) was the head of the House of York – Richard, Duke of York – the pretender to the English throne. His right-hand man was the powerful Earl of Warrick, nicknamed “Warwick the Kingmaker”, the richest landowner throughout England. At the head of the knights of the House of Lancaster was the Duke of Somerset, with the ruler of the House of Lancaster nearby – the current English King Henry VI (famous from Shakespeare’s tragedy of the same name).

The armies clashed in the town of St. Albans. At one point “Warwick the Kingmaker” saw a hole in the enemy’s defense and led the squad of Yorks from the back of the city through gardens and small alleys. They found themselves on the town square where they found Lancaster knights resting, without helmets on their heads. The king himself was among them. They attacked and killed their supreme commander – the Duke of Somerset – and captured the king.

Richard, Duke of York held the king in captivity throughout the summer. He took the highest military title in England – Lord High Constable. The Wars of the Roses continued during the next 30 years, finally uniting the two houses with the wedding of the heir of the House of Lancaster to the heiress of the house of York. That is how the Tudor dynasty came to be. It ruled England for the next 117 years.

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