The Parties In The Wars Of The Roses
The greater nobility, who controlled parliament, were for the most part Lancastrian. The families of Beaufort, Holland, Courtenay, Talbot, Butler, Stafford, De Vere, Percy, the elder branch of Neville, Tudor; Grey, Clifford, Dacre, were Lancastrians, with the more disorderly elements of society, the Borderers, the Welsh. The more violent Lancastrians intrigued with France and Scotland for help. The younger branch of Neville, that is Salisbury, the brother-in-law to the Duke of York, with his son the Earl of Warwick, John Mowbray Duke of Norfolk, an hereditary enemy of the house of Lancaster, who married a sister of the Earl of Essex, and Henry Bourchier Earl of Essex, who married a sister of the Duke of York, were the principal Yorkist nobility at first . The party was strong in London and all the greater towns of the South and Midlands, in the Eastern Counties, Kent, Sussex, and in the Welsh Marches where the Mortimer estates had been. They possessed Calais, and had the sympathy of the English Pale in Ireland. In 1470 - 71 the French support of Lancaster was met by Burgundian support to York. The support of the Cinque Ports, however, and to some extent of London also, was given rather to the Earl of Warwick than to the House of York, and in 1470-7 1 the sympathies were consequently divided.
The Wars Of The Roses
The great nobles had become too powerful. They possessed enormous estates and commanded legions of armed retainers who wore their " livery " or distinctive badge. Family relationships, too, - bound groups of nobles together in units of tremendous power. The Duke of York, his staunch ally and brother-in-law Richard Duke of Salisbury, and the latter's famous son Richard Earl of Warwick, were all linked in the mighty Neville group. The people had little say in the struggle and wisely stood aside - when they could.
On the other hand were York and his supporters, most prominent among whom were the great Neville family (although one section even of them were Lancastrian), headed by the Earl of Salisbury, and before long by his son, who, like his father, married an heiress and took her title of Warwick. The history of the next few years is really the history of the struggle between Warwick and Margaret.
Not long after the English defeat at Chatillon, matters were complicated by the birth of a son after nine years of childless marriage. This infant's existence meant that York could no longer expect to succeed to the throne, poor Henry's most tragic weakness - one inherited from his mad grandfather, Charles VII of France came to light. he became insane. The Duke of York was no longer Henry's heir, though his rights as a descendant of Lionel of Clarence still remained. The changed position brought the Yorkists into power. Somerset was clapped into the Tower and Duke Richard was appointed Protector. Throughout the emergency he acted with complete loyalty to the new Prince of Wales. But, at Christmas 1454, Henry recovered; the Duke's office came to an end; and Margaret gleefully released Somerset.
The situation now became tense. Margaret's hatred of the Duke of York, as Somerset's avowed enemy, was deepened by her suspicions that he was reaching out for the sceptre. Soon their mutual enmity brought the first clash of arms and the suicidal Wars of the Roses. Fierce and determined Queen Margaret, was never able to understand or sympathise with English character and methods; allying herself with the enemies of York, who was the chief rival of her mad husband and her little son .
The King dismissed York and returned to power Somerset and his adherents,York and the Nevilles took up arms with the first battle in 1455 at St. Albans, Somerset was defeated and slain , a return of the King's malady brought the renewal of York's Protectorate . Henry's recovery again however restored the supremacy of the House of Beaufort , and after a tempory reconciliation there was a fresh outbreak of war .Salisbury defeated Lord Audley at Blore Heath ; then came a Yorkist defeat at Ludlow, and then a triumphant Yorkist victory at Northampton, when the King was captured and the Queen fled.
Then a marked change came over Duke Richard. Until now he had steadily declared that his only aim in taking to arms was to free the King. But now he brazenly claimed the crown. His supporters were aghast by urgent persuasions they succeeded in getting the Duke to forgo his claim to the throne .Within a few weeks, however, the Queen had gathered her forces together, and at Wakefield not only were the Yorkists routed, but York himself slain, and the aged Salisbury captured and executed.
Then came the battle of Wakefield, Richard, his second son the Earl of Rutland and Salisbury were killed. The cause of the Yorkists and of Richard's eldest son, Edward, who inherited his dead father's claim to the throne, now rested solely on Warwick "the King-maker," as he came to be known .
No cause could wish for a firmer support. The young earl held sway over vast estates and numberless retainers. He was a doughty fighter and a man of commanding will. His persuasive tongue and charming manner had won the affections of the people. Edward had been his pupil in war and was deeply under his influence.
The Lancastrian triumph was brief. The Queen could not control her unruly army; the two sons of the slain, Warwick, and Edward, Earl of March, pressed on from the west; the Lancastrians retreated northwards; Edward entered London and was proclaimed King. There was no time to waste. The disorganised Lancastrians were followed northwards, and in the skirmish at Ferrybridge, and the fierce battle of Towton, the Yorkists were again victorious, and many prominent Lancastrians were either killed in battle or captured and executed. The Welsh, who maintained their nationalism though they had finally abandoned their independence, still like to tell the English not only that Welsh soldiers were largely responsible for English victories in France (that, for instance, a third of the army which won Crecy was Welsh), but that Welsh armies put both Edward IV and later Henry VII upon the English throne.
The Civil Wars
The quarrels among the nobility culminated in that between the Duke of York and the Duke of Somerset, who, closely connected with the royal family, were rivals for power both in Normandy and England.
In the first phase of the war York was not ostensibly fighting against King Henry, but against the government in his name by the Beauforts and the Queen.
The battles of this stage were: St. Albans, 1455, when York and his brother-in-law Salisbury defeated and killed the Duke of Somerset and the Earl of Northumberland. In 1459 the Earl of Salisbury defeated and killed Lord Audley at Blore Heath. In 1460 the Earl of Salisbury and the Earl of Warwick his son, and Edward Earl of March, son of the Duke of York, defeated and killed the Queen's general, the Duke of Buckingham, at Northampton. York then formally claimed the crown; and a compromise was effected, by which he was to succeed Henry.
This agreement was broken by the Queen, and the second era of the wars begins - a struggle of rival dynasties. In reality a struggle for a firm, central government or the contrary, in which the disorderly nobility and the disorderly Borderers support the Lancastrians, and the towns and the more stable southern counties support York and Warwick his nephew.
At Wakefield the Queen and the Borderers defeated and killed the Duke of York and the Earl of Salisbury, December 30th, 1460. On February 2nd, 1461, the son of the Duke of York defeated the Earl of Pembroke at Mortimer's Cross, and assumed the crown in London, March 3rd. The Queen, with an army of Borderers and Yorkshiremen, defeated the Earl of Warwick at St. Albans, second battle, February 17th, 1461, but was shut out of London and retired to the North, whither King Edward IV. followed her, and won a crowning victory for York against Lancaster, for the South against the North, for the Crown against the nobility, after three days fighting and pursuit, March 28-30, at Ferrybridge and Towton.