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  More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)

More than 5000 entries on the history, culture and life of Britain (published in 1993 by Macmillan, now out of print)
Wars of the Roses

The name which was later given to the dynastic wars in England between two rival lines of the royal family. They were known as the Lancastrians and the Yorkists because their rival claims went back to *John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, and to Edward of Langley, duke of York, both of them sons of *Edward III. Distinctive badges were worn by followers of feudal lords, and that of the Yorkists had long been a white rose. The corresponding red rose of the Lancastrians was not adopted as their main badge until the very end of the wars, in 1485.

The Lancastrians, descending in direct male line from *John of Gaunt, seized the throne from *Richard II in 1399. There followed three kings of their line – *Henry IV, *Henry V and *Henry VI – but the chaos resulting from the weak reign of Henry VI caused his Yorkist cousins to press their claim. (Their ancestor, the duke of York, was a younger brother of John of Gaunt, but they were also descended through the female line from an elder brother, the duke of Clarence.) The first battle was fought at St Albans in 1455, and the first Yorkist king, *Edward IV, was proclaimed in 1461. He was followed by his son, Edward V, and by his brother, *Richard III.

The final change of dynasty came after the Battle of *Bosworth Field (1485), in which an army led by *Henry VII defeated and killed Richard III. But the wars were not finally over until 1487, when Henry defeated a Yorkist army attempting to put a pretender, Lambert *Simnel, on the throne. In three decades those suffering violent death in the direct royal line had included Henry VI, his son Prince Edward, Richard III and almost certainly the two *princes in the Tower (Edward V and his brother Richard). These events left England with a distaste for anarchy which enabled the new *Tudor dynasty to exercise a strong rule. Henry VII, claiming to unite the two lines (through his marriage to Elizabeth of York), combined the white and red roses in a new badge, the Tudor rose.

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