- Wars of the Roses
- Series of sporadic civil wars among con-tending factions of the English royal family and their aristocratic sup-porters (1455-1485). The underlying causes of the wars were the un-resolved questions of the extent of the king's personal authority, the transformation of the higher nobility into military adventurers and subcontractors during the Hundred Years' War, and the inability of the crown's traditional sources of revenue to meet the financial needs of government. More immediately responsible, however, was the pe-riodic insanity of King Henry VI, which made it impossible to estab-lish firm royal control over the agencies of government and produced bitter rivalries among factions of the high nobility who had become financially dependent on their ability to control royal patronage and revenues. The ruling Lancastrian dynasty had usurped the throne by force in 1399, and the king's illness motivated Richard, duke of York, to rebel aganst his own exclusion from the council of regency set up to run the government during the king's incapacity. A further cause of civil war was recriminations over the defeat of the English in the fi-nal campaign of the Hundred Years' War.The internal struggle led to the death of Duke Richard of York in battle, the dethronement of Henry VI by Richard's son Edward, duke of York, in 1461, a brief restoration of Henry VI by the Lancastrian faction in 1470, and a resurgence of Yorkist power with the aid of the duke of Burgundy in 1471. Once restored to power, the Yorkist king, Edward IV, managed to impose a measure of internal order, but his early death, leaving two minor sons in charge of his brother, Richard, duke of Gloucester, ended in the usurpation of the throne by Glouces-ter (who ruled as Richard III from 1483 to 1485), and he in turn was defeated and killed in battle by a distant relative of the Lancastrian kings, Henry Tudor, who took the throne as Henry VII. The new Tu-dor dynasty ruled England until the death of its last direct member, Elizabeth I, in 1603.The term "Wars of the Roses" is something of a misnomer. Accord-ing to tradition, the white rose had been the symbol of the house of York and the red rose, of the house of Lancaster, but the term was applied only later, no doubt as part of the successful propaganda of Henry VII, who married the daughter of the Yorkist king Edward IV, to present his victory as a permanent solution of the dynastic problems that had led to civil war. Traditional historiography associates the beginning of the English Renaissance with the new Tudor dynasty and records the Wars of the Roses as the last act in English medieval history, but this is largely a product of Tudor propaganda: the wars occurred during a period when Renaissance art and humanistic culture were reaching their peak in Italy and when influences from Italy were already beginning to attract educated persons in both England and France.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.