Category Archives: Wars of the Roses

1478 – George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, is Executed

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Pictured above on a stained glass window at Cardiff Castle, George was the second of three living sons to the Yorkist line of the Plantagenet royal family, his elder brother being King Edward IV.  George was a turncoat during the Wars of the Roses, marrying the daughter of the most powerful man in England, the Duke of Warwick, also known as The Kingmaker, hoping to gain even more power and later sided against his own brother in favor of the deposed Henry VI.  According to George, he was the rightful heir to the Yorkist bloodline and Edward was in fact an illegitimate son, a claim that is still under scrutiny to this day.

When his younger brother Richard of Gloucester (later Richard III of England) married Anne Neville, sister to his wife Isabel, the lands of Warwick were up for grabs; with the Kingmaker dead, his lands fell to George as husband to the eldest daughter, but his claim would be forfeit should his wife die before her sister.  When Isabel did die on 22 December 1476, most likely due to childbirth complications, George looked for someone to blame, believing his wife had actually been poisoned by one of her ladies-in-waiting, whom he took to trial and executed after bullying the jury into handing out a conviction.  He then led yet another rebellion against King Edward.  About a year later, the king reluctantly ordered his brother’s execution for treason.  He was found guilty in a trial he did not attend and was privately executed at the Tower of London on this day in 1478.  No one knows the real method of execution used on the Duke, but legend says that he was drowned in a vat of his favorite wine.

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Posted by on February 18, 2017 in British Royalty, Wars of the Roses


The Beautifully Tragic Tale of Anne Neville

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Queen Anne Neville, wife of Richard III, was born on 11 June 1456, the second daughter of the powerful Earl of Warwick.  Warwick, commonly known as The Kingmaker, played a major part in the Wars of the Roses when he crowned Edward IV of York as King of England over the deposed Henry VI of Lancaster.  However, before the exiled Edward gained his crown, Warwick, still loyal to the Lancastian king, married his youngest daughter to Henry VI’s only son, the Prince of Wales.  Anne was just fourteen years old when she became Princess of Wales through this marriage, but the entire time, she was to be a pawn in her father’s quest for power, as was her older sister Isabel.

Her husband was killed in the Battle of Tewkesbury a few months later.  Warwick proclaimed the heir of the Duke of York as King of England and married his older daughter to the king’s brother, George, Duke of Clarence.  Meanwhile, Anne’s future was put into question.  The youngest of Edward IV’s brothers, Richard Duke of Gloucester, had expressed interest in marrying Anne, but Clarence stood in his way.  When the Duke of Warwick died, he left a great deal of landholdings to his daughters.  When he married Isabel Neville, Clarence became holder of the lands with Anne holding the other half; if Richard were to marry Anne, there was a possibility that Clarence’s lands would be forfeit if Isabel were to die before her sister.  Perhaps this means that the Duke wanted Anne to remain single so he could marry her himself if his wife died.  Legends say that Clarence had Anne hidden away and disguised as a serving girl, but Richard found her and whisked her way to sanctuary in the Church of St. Martin le Grand.  He renounced all claim to Warwick and Neville lands, and it was only after this that the Duke reluctantly agreed to his brother’s betrothal terms.  While the story itself may be nothing more than a cleverly told romantic tale, Richard and Anne did indeed marry in a quiet ceremony in Westminster Palace in the spring of 1472.

All evidence indicates that the marriage was a happy and affectionate one.  Despite his longstanding reputation for cruelty and tyranny (no thanks to Shakespeare’s infamously inaccurate play) Richard was a good man, a young knight who commanded troops despite suffering from scoliosis that caused a sideways curve in his spine.  He and Anne lived in Yorkshire, where Richard was appointed Governor of the North by his royal brother.  They had their only child around this time, a son named Edward.  Life was good for the couple and for England until 1476.

On December 22nd, at the age of twenty-five, Isabel Neville died.  We now know the cause of death to have been childbirth complications (she had given birth just two months before) but her husband was convinced that she had been poisoned.  Clarence in an act of vengeance had one of Isabel’s ladies-in-waiting wrongfully hanged for poisoning her and plotted to overthrow his brother the king.  The Duke spread word that Edward was an illegitimate son with no claim to the Yorkist bloodline, and that he himself  was really next in line for the throne.  Clarence was arrested for treason and Edward reluctantly had him executed away from the public eye in 1478.  Tradition says that the Duke died by drowning in his favorite Malmsey wine.

Life returned to normal until the fateful day of 9 April 1483, when a sickly Edward IV died, leaving two young sons behind to succeed him, the oldest being no more than twelve years old.  This boy was not officially crowned, but Edward V was the catalyst that ignited the Wars of the Roses yet again.

As the last surviving male of his family, Richard became regent for his young nephew, as per his brother’s will.  A council meeting then had one question; legitimacy.  Edward IV had married his wife Elizabeth Woodville in secret, while at the same time betrothed to another woman.  There was no way to prove that the late ruler’s marriage was legal.  Thus in a document called Titulus Regius, all children born to Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville were declared to be bastards, meaning that there was only one living man with royal blood to take the throne – Richard Duke of Gloucester.

Richard’s role in this act is not concretely known, nor were his feelings on the matter recorded, but either way, Richard III and Anne were crowned King and Queen of England on July 6th of that year, and Edward V and his brother were sent to the royal residence in the Tower of London only to disappear.

Then in 1484, Anne and Richard’s son Edward died and, in her grief, Anne grew sick.  Her health deteriorated rapidly, possibly the result of tuberculosis, and less then a year later, on 16 March 1485, during an eclipse, Anne died at the age of twenty-eight.  Richard was said to have dropped to his knees and wept during her funeral in Westminster Abbey, but even so, rumors circulated through England that he had poisoned his sickly bride so he could instead marry his niece, Elizabeth of York.  Five months later, Richard too was dead, slain savagely at the Battle of Bosworth, allowing the exhiled Duke of Richmond, Henry Tudor, to claim the crown as Henry VII.

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Posted by on December 2, 2015 in British Royalty, Wars of the Roses


Elizabeth of York – Daughter, Wife, Niece, and Mother of Kings

Since so much is known of Elizabeth I and because I have begun reading this wonderful book, I wanted to do something to commemorate the first of the Tudor Queens, whom she was named for.

Elizabeth of York was born as the first child of King Edward IV and Queen Elizabeth Woodville on 11 February 1466.  Her father was of the House of York, and one of two kings vying for England’s crown during the Wars of the Roses, the other being the deposed Henry VI of Lancaster, which meant that Elizabeth grew up in a time of civil war.  However, when she was seventeen, her father died, leaving two sons behind to succeed him, Edward V and Richard of York.  Before the young Edward could be crowned, Parliament issued a document called Titulus Regius, which declared that all of Edward IV children by Elizabeth Woodville were born during an invalid marriage, and thus had no legitimate standing nor right to the throne, allowing the late king’s brother Richard III to claim the title as his own.

Richard III was in trouble in 1483.  Rumors had spread that he had ordered the deaths of his nephews and planned to marry Elizabeth once his sickly wife Anne Neville was dead.  Whatever the case may have been, Elizabeth’s mother made an alliance with the Lancastrians, betrothing her daughter to the Lancastrian heir, Henry Tudor, whose claim to power stemmed from a female branch of the family line.  Negotiations were made and when Richard was slain at Bosworth Field in August 1485, Henry Tudor was crowned King of England and the Plantagenet Dynasty came to an end.

Henry VII’s first act as king was to revoke Titulus Regius and legitimize his future bride and her remaining sisters.  This gave Elizabeth the rights of heir apparent, and when at last she and Henry were married on 18 January, the Wars of the Roses came to an end.  Soon, Elizabeth would give birth to the couple’s first child, Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales, uniting both the Houses of Lancaster and York forever.  Three more living heirs would follow, including two queens (one daughter married the King of Scotland and another briefly became Queen of France before marrying the Duke of Suffolk) and, of course, the notorious Henry VIII.

Elizabeth’s marriage to Henry VII is truly noteworthy among medieval unions; while it began as a political match, Henry and Elizabeth fell deeply in love.  Their marriage lasted sixteen years, during which time, Henry VII unusually took no mistress.  Theirs was an emotional connection that is evidenced to have been the envy of the court.

When Elizabeth died on her on her thirty-seventh birthday after giving birth to a daughter that lived for only minutes, the king was devastated, shutting himself away and for the rest of his life, burying himself in matters of state while becoming a cold recluse in his palace, obsessed with his money.  Despite his thrifty ways, he gave Elizabeth a grand funeral, sparing no expense for his beloved queen.  When Henry died just six years later in 1509, it was rumored to have been from a broken heart.  He was buried beside Elizabeth in Westminster Abbey beneath a monument erected by their son Henry VIII.

This painting depicts Henry VII and Elizabeth of York in the back and, in front, stands Henry VIII and the favorite of his six wives, Jane Seymour.

Henry VIII also took his mother’s death very hard.  He seems to have spent his life searching for the same romantic connection his parents shared, even going as far as to take six wives to do so.  None of his brides would have happy endings.  Catalina d’Aragona (best know by her English name of Catherine of Aragon) was divorced after over twenty years; Anne Boleyn was beheaded for treason when rumors surfaced that she was having affairs; Jane Seymour died in childbirth; Anne of Cleves had her marriage annulled as quickly as it began; Katherine Howard was executed for adultery; and Katheryn Parr, though she outlived the king, died in childbirth, her new husband executed for treason when he conspired to marry the late king’s youngest daughter.


1461 – Edward IV is Crowned King of England

During the Wars of the Roses, two kings fought for full control of the English throne, but on 28 June 1461, the first of the Yorkist kings, Edward Plantagenet, son of the Duke of York, overthrew the unstable Lancastrian Henry VI to be crowned as Edward IV.  Born in Rouen in 1442, Edward was still a young man when he became King of England, and was considered incredibly handsome at the time.  Despite the fact that he was a good fighter and horseman, he was an impulsive man, breaking off his own betrothal to marry Elizabeth Woodville, the widow of a Lancastrian sympathizer, and later taking to binge eating, which may have contributed to his death at the age of forty.  Soon after, his children were declared illegitimate and his younger brother Richard of Gloucester took the crown for himself as Richard III.  Exactly thirty years after his coronation, Edward’s grandson, the future Henry VIII (pictured below with his second wife Anne Boleyn) was born at Greenwich.


Documentary Sunday – Henry VII, the Winter King

Today in 1486, less than a year after he won the crown at Bosworth, the first Tudor monarch Henry VII married Elizabeth of York, heiress to England’s Plantagenet family and daughter of Edward IV.  While it was originally a political match, Henry and Elizabeth fell deeply in love, and their marriage joined the Houses of Lancaster and York, effectively ending the Wars of the Roses.

To mark the occasion, I thought I would share this for Documentary Sunday.  What we have below is the story of Henry Tudor, the exile who would later become King of England despite his shaky pedigree.  It is a tale of intrigue, love, rebellion, madness, and murder as well as the reason I love the era so much.  Enjoy, all!


Happy Birthday to Richard III

On this day in 1452, Richard Plantagenet of the House of York was born in Northamptonshire to the Duke of York and his wife Cecily.  He would become the Duke of Gloucester during the reign of his elder brother Edward IV and eventually claim the throne as his own in 1483, after a controversial declaration that his nephews were illegitimate and not fit to rule (see the Princes in the Tower)   Richard’s death and defeat at Bosworth in 1485 signified the end of the Plantagenet Dynasty and the final battle of the Wars of the Roses.  For more, please feel free to check out my article on Richard’s life here.

Happy Birthday, Richard!


23 March – Margaret of Anjou is Born

As of late, my posting has been limited greatly, mostly due to medical reasons concerning my mother, whom injured her arm and thus needs my assistance, but I wanted to jump online to wish the English queen a happy yet slightly early birthday!


On 23 March 1440, Margaret of Anjou was born to the French House of Valois to René of Anjou, King of Naples and his wife Isabella, Duchess of Lorraine.  She was influenced greatly by her mother, whom acted in her husband’s stead during his absences in war, and even led his army to free him after he was captured by the Duke of Burgundy.  Margaret was headstrong and ambitious, one of ten children, but despite her father’s many titles, he was “a king with no kingdoms” and the family was slightly poor compared to the majority of the aristocracy  At age fifteen, she was married to a young king named Henry VI of England, eight years her senior and son of England’s great warrior king Henry V, of Shakespearian fame.  However, despite the immense power she obtained through her marriage, her husband was definitely not suited for his high status; he was far too peaceful to govern a kingdom such as England and his frequent bouts with mental illness meant that the country was ruled primarily by his advisors.  Henry was the face of the monarchy, but ultimately, it was Margaret who was the power behind the throne.  She and her husband had a single child, Prince Edward of Lancaster, heir to the crown, but when the Wars of the Roses broke out and the Yorkist party put Henry’s strong and handsome cousin Edward IV on the throne, deposing him, Margaret led the Lancastrian army into battle and continued to battle Yorkist forces even after her husband’s capture and death, all to take the throne back for her son.  Finally, the Battle of Tewkesbury ended the war when the seventeen-year-old prince was slain on the battlefield, making Edward IV the ultimate victor and unchallenged King of England.  Broken in spirit by her son’s death, Margaret was captured and taken into custody until she was ransomed and returned to France, where she died in poverty on 25 August 1482 at the age of fifty-two.  She was buried without ceremony in Angers Cathedral in France, her reputation tarnished.

Veerle Baetens portrays Margaret in The White Queen

Veerle Baetens portrays Margaret in The White Queen

I plan to write a longer article on Margaret and the Lancastrian party when I have the chance, but for now, this will have to do. Until my mother is back on her feet, my posts here may be limited.  I apologise to my readers, but rest assured, there are many more articles to come.  In the meantime, I wish you all a good day and a happy birthday to Queen Margaret!