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  • Wars often happen because different sides have intractable contradictions, but each

  • new war often creates the causes for the next one.

  • The Hundred YearsWar between England and France was no different, causing many conflicts

  • in Europe.

  • In England, the Wars of the Roses stemmed from the Hundred YearsWar.

  • The first phase of that conflict culminated in the bloodiest battle fought on English

  • soil - the battle of Towton.

  • The king of England Edward III had five sons who survived into adulthood.

  • For the first time in English history he created duchies for them, making his sons the biggest

  • landowners in the country.

  • On the one hand this strengthened the crown, but at the same time it formed a new class

  • of nobility, which had claims to the throne and enough power to vie for it.

  • Edward’s son and heir, the famous Hundred YearsWar commander Edward the Black Prince

  • passed away in 1376, followed by the king himself a year later.

  • The Black Prince’s son was crowned as Richard II.

  • The reign of this monarch was tumultuous: The PeasantsRevolt of 1381, was followed

  • by the Parliamentary crisis of 1386-1388.

  • Richard’s attempts to reach peace with France, his marriage to the young Valois princess,

  • the lack of an heir and the constant strife with the nobility made him deeply unpopular.

  • Richard’s cousin and one of the most powerful lords - the Duke of Lancaster Henry Bolingbroke

  • - was exiled to France in 1398.

  • In May of 1399 Richard embarked on a campaign in Ireland, and Henry used the opportunity

  • to return to England.

  • He immediately garnered enough support to dethrone Richard and assumed the throne as

  • Henry IV, the first Lancastrian king.

  • Richard was arrested and died in 1400, while his heir presumptive, another grandson of

  • Edward III - Edmund Mortimer was bypassed.

  • That created legitimacy problems for the king and he faced at least six significant rebellions.

  • In 1413 Henry IV succumbed to chronic disease and was succeeded by his son Henry V.

  • The new king was one of the most talented monarchs of England during this era.

  • In 1415 he renewed hostilities with France and won an impressive victory at Agincourt.

  • In less than a decade he conquered more French land than any English king before him.

  • The Treaty of Troyes was signed with France in 1420, according to which Henry married

  • French princess Catherine.

  • Their descendants would inherit the French throne after the death of Charles VI the mad.

  • Both sovereigns passed away in 1422.

  • Henry V’s son Henry VI, who was less than one year old, was crowned as the king of England.

  • The King’s uncle, John of Bedford, became the regent and took command in France, while

  • his other uncle Humphrey of Gloucester looked after English affairs.

  • Although Bedford was a decent commander, the French soon rallied around Joan of Arc and

  • Charles VII was crowned as king of France in Rheims.

  • Henry’s coronation in Paris was a mere symbol.

  • By the time Henry reached adulthood and started governing in 1437, Bedford was dead, and the

  • situation in France was untenable.

  • The king was weak and easily swayed by his nobles, and at that point the peace party

  • led by Edmund of Somerset and William of Suffolk had more influence on the king than the war

  • party of Gloucester and Richard of York.

  • The sides agreed to peace at Tours in 1444.

  • According to their agreement, Henry was to marry Charlesniece Margaret of Anjou and

  • return Maine and Anjou to France.

  • The marriage and the peace conditions were unpopular in England.

  • Among those who protested was Gloucester and that gave Henry a cause to imprison his uncle

  • in 1447.

  • Gloucester died shortly after and this weakened the war party even more.

  • Richard, who commanded the English lands in France, was stripped of his office and sent

  • to govern Ireland, which was an exile.

  • Somerset and Suffolk became dukes in this period.

  • However, Suffolk was exiled under popular pressure and then murdered.

  • Hostilities with France were renewed and Somerset, who was appointed the commander in Normandy,

  • lost all the northern holdings save for Calais by 1450 and returned to England.

  • He and Queen Margaret had the king under their influence.

  • The prestige of the monarchy was at an all-time low.

  • The Hundred YearsWar impoverished England, the losses in France were hard to swallow,

  • and the nobles who lost their lands on the continent were unhappy.

  • At the same time, all the duchies created in the last century had become too strong

  • and independent, and the dukes often had personal retinues larger than that of the king.

  • At this point it is essential to show you the family tree of the Plantagenet dynasty,

  • as many grandsons of Edward III controlled these duchies, ushering in the era of what

  • is controversially known as bastard feudalism.

  • This era was characterized by the loyalty of the soldiers being to their lords, rather

  • than the king.

  • The nobles would use that to procure offices, lands, and finances from the king.

  • These lords and their heirs would play a central role throughout the Wars of the Roses.

  • Richard, who had a strong claim to the throne as a great-grandson of Edward III, used the

  • circumstances to return from exile in 1452.

  • Although many came to his banner and demanded Somerset’s arrested, the queen’s party

  • still was stronger, and Margaret’s pregnancy made her position even more secure.

  • The situation would change in 1453: affected by the loss of Bordeaux and Aquitaine, the

  • king suffered a mental breakdown and became unresponsive.

  • Scholars still argue about the nature of his illness, but it is clear that Henry VI lost

  • the remainder of his political power.

  • In the north, two noble families, the Nevilles and Percys, used the lack of central power

  • to renew a feud, and as Somerset supported the latter, the Nevilles allied with Richard.

  • By 1454 Richard had enough backing to become the Royal Protector and appoint his supporters

  • to offices, while Somerset was arrested.

  • However, in 1455 the king recovered, and queen Margaret managed to influence him yet again.

  • Richard’s decisions were rolled back, and he was exiled.

  • This time the Duke of York wasn’t going to take it, and he raised an army to move

  • to London.

  • The conflict that would be later called the Wars of the Roses because of the heraldic

  • badges used by the Lancasters and the Yorks became inevitable.

  • Henry knew that he would receive no support in London and moved out to a town called St.

  • Albans with his 2 thousand men, where an at least 5 thousand strong Yorkist army was waiting

  • for him.

  • Richard wasn’t ready to dethrone Henry, so negotiations started, but as the latter

  • refused to surrender Somerset, the Yorkists attacked.

  • Many Lancastrian commanders, among them Somerset, were killed, while the king was captured.

  • Richard returned him to London and was appointed the Protector by Parliament.

  • By that time Margaret gave birth to Edward and became the leader of the Lancastrian party.

  • It seemed that both sides were shocked by St. Albans as hostilities continued only in

  • the form of Percy-Neville feud between 1456 and 1459.

  • Henry attempted to reconcile the parties on a few occasions, but the suspicions were too

  • strong, and in the Fall of 1459, the sides clashed once again.

  • This time the Lancastrians gained the upper hand, and the Yorkists were forced to find

  • refuge in Calais and Ireland.

  • The Yorkists recovered quickly and returned to England in the Summer of 1460.

  • The King’s forces were defeated at Northampton, and Henry was captured.

  • Richard attempted to claim the throne, but even his staunchest supporters refused.

  • Instead, the so-called Act of Accord was adopted, according to which, Henry VI would rule for

  • life, but would be succeeded by Richard of York.

  • The Queen was willing to fight for her son’s inheritance and was gathering her forces in

  • the north.

  • Richard moved toward the Lancastrian troops to prevent their recruitment efforts, but

  • his enemies were already on the way, and their 18 thousand blockaded his 5 to 10 thousand

  • strong force near Sandal castle.

  • What happened next is still debated, but the Yorkists sallied out from the castle and were

  • crushed near the town of Wakefield.

  • Richard of York was killed.

  • In early 1461 his son Edward became the leader of the Yorkists.

  • In February he defeated a Lancastrian army at Mortimer’s Cross.

  • Meanwhile, a smaller Yorkist force under Warwick was defeated at St. Albans by the army commanded

  • by the Queen.

  • Henry VI was recaptured by the Lancastrians.

  • Edward learned about this defeat and moved south where he united with the remainder of

  • Warwick’s troops.

  • As Lancastrian soldiers committed atrocities in the area, Margaret and Henry lost all their

  • support and decided to move to the north.

  • That allowed Edward to enter London in March and take the throne as Edward IV.

  • The showdown was imminent.

  • Both sides continued to recruit troops over the next few weeks.

  • Edward left London on the 13th and arrived in Nottingham on the 22nd.

  • Here he received the news that the 30 to 35 thousand Lancastrian troops commanded by Somerset

  • were to the south of the city of York.

  • Edward had less than 30 thousand.

  • On the 28th of March King Edward sent FitzWalter to secure the bridge over the Aire River,

  • near Ferrybridge.

  • However, Fitzwalter was ambushed by Clifford’s cavalry.

  • Many Yorkists were massacred or drowned.

  • King Henry had sent a messenger to negotiate, but his offer was refused.

  • Edward knew that the main Lancastrian forces led by Somerset were waiting two miles away,

  • ready to crush the Yorkists if they pushed Clifford away and crossed the river.

  • He sent a vanguard under Suffolk, which managed to push the Lancastrians back to the end of

  • the bridge.

  • Edward then marched with the main force to Ferrybridge and led his men personally to

  • Suffolk’s aid.

  • To stop the Yorkist advance, the Lancastrians destroyed the bridge, but the former constructed

  • a narrow raft to ferry across.

  • This raft was captured by the Lancastrians, and the fight continued in the area for some

  • time, until the Yorkists managed to cross the river to the north, at Castleford and

  • set up camp.

  • At dawn on the 29th of March, both armies found themselves in a snowstorm.

  • At eleven in the morning, the Yorkists marched northward and encamped on the hill ten miles

  • south of York, with their backs to the village of Saxton.

  • Edward put his men in formation - their lines stretched for a mile along the ridge.

  • At the same time, the Lancastrians moved north and took positions to the north of the Yorkists

  • on high ground a hundred feet above them, on the meadowland to the south of Towton.

  • Part of their cavalry was hidden in the forest to the west of the Yorkist positions.

  • The Lancastrians had the advantage of the high ground.

  • The Yorkist position was shaky, as any retreat would trap them along the river.

  • Edward had artillery, but the weather conditions did not allow its usage.

  • Somerset didn’t want to descend from the high ground and waited for the Yorkists to