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The War of the Roses

The war of the roses began in May 1455, with the first battle at St. Albans. The last armed engagement was at Stokes, in 1487; just over thirty years of grievances between two families, played out in various corners of England.

Although the confrontations were bloody and vicious, thankfully the general population of England wasn't dragged into taking sides. Two families who had pride to uphold, feuds to take care of, and grievances to repair were the only combatants in a war for superiority, with the ultimate prize being the Throne of England.

The players? The Family of York, which was headed by Richard, Duke of York. The Family of Lancaster had at its head the weak-willed Henry VI. Richard (who until the birth of Edward, Prince of Wales, was Henry's heir) was replaced by Henry's cousin, Somerset, in the position of Lieutenant of France.

When Henry fell ill, Richard took his revenge by proclaiming himself Protector of England, and sending Somerset to The Tower. With the recovery of the king, Richard was removed, Somerset was released, and the rivalry quickly escalated into the conflict that became known as the war of the roses.

From St. Albans in 1455 (where Somerset met his death) to Wakefield in 1460 (where Richard, Duke of York was killed), it was cousin against cousin, supporter against supporter, sometimes brother against brother. Treachery and betrayal were the order of the day, neither side truly winning the war.

Until the biggest battle fought on English soil, Towton in 1461, saw Edward, the Duke of York's son, become king. Henry VI, having been taken prisoner was given an apartment in The Tower, while Henry's queen, Margaret and Edward, Prince of Wales, sought sanctuary in France.

As the fourth of that name, Edward reigned with only minor opposition until 1470. His cousin, Warwick the Kingmaker, switched sides and was instrumental in putting the mentally declining Henry VI back on the throne. Queen Margaret and her son, Edward, were back on English soil.

Fleeing to Burgundy (of which his sister was duchess), Edward IV, along with his brother, Richard, was able to gather an army, cross back over The Channel, and reclaim his throne. Warwick was killed at Barnet, as was Edward, Prince of Wales. Margaret, who had hoped to hold her place as queen, was sent back to France. Henry VI, once again in The Tower, was murdered. The Family of Lancaster was defeated - or so it was thought...

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