The War of Roses


  • The Wars of the Roses were a series of battles that took place in England from 1455 to 1485.
  • The fighting was between two families that claimed the right to the throne—the House of York and the House of Lancaster.
  • They were called the Wars of the Roses because the symbol of each house was a rose.
  • The House of York was represented by a white rose.
  • The House of Lancaster was represented by a red rose.


  • In 1453 Henry became mentally sick and could not rule effectively.
  • Richard, duke of York, then became the temporary ruler of England.
  • After Henry recovered, Richard did not want to give up his power.
  • This led to the first battle between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians, at Saint Albans on May 22, 1455.  Richard and the Yorkists won.
  • There was an uneasy peace until 1459. Battles were fought during 1459 and 1460.
  • Lancastrians surprised and killed Richard in December 1460.
  • Richard’s son Edward was proclaimed King Edward IV on March 4, 1461. Edward IV pursued the Lancastrians to Towton, where the bloodiest battle of the war took place
  • The Yorkists won. Henry, Margaret, and their son fled to Scotland.
  • The Yorkists then began to argue among themselves.
  • Edward IV’s brother George rebelled against Edward’s rule.
  • Supporters of George fought with supporters of Edward. George fled to France in 1470.
  • He became partners with the former queen, Margaret of Anjou.
  • They returned to England, forced Edward to flee to the Netherlands, and put Henry VI back on the throne.
  • However, Edward returned in 1471. He defeated the queen and king and killed their son.
  • Edward IV became king once again. He held the throne until he died in 1483.
  • After Edward’s death, his brother Richard III claimed the throne.
  • He declared that Edward’s son, Edward V, did not have the right to be king.
  • Edward V’s supporters turned to Henry Tudor, a Lancaster.
  • Henry and his forces defeated and killed Richard III at Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485. This battle ended the Wars of the Roses.

The Houses United

  • Henry Tudor was crowned Henry VII on October 30, 1485.
  • He united the York and Lancaster houses by marrying Edward IV’s daughter Elizabeth of York in 1486.
  • This began the reign of the House of Tudor.


  • One of the largest battles in the war was the Battle of Towton where over 50,000 soldiers fought and around 25,000 soldiers were killed.
  • Edward IV was six foot four inches tall. This was very tall for the time.
  • The two houses were both branches of the royal House of Plantagenet.
  • Some English nobles switched sides several times hoping to end up on the winning side in the end.
  • Margaret of Anjou led the Lancastrian army during several of the battles.
  • The Battle of Lose Cote Field got its name when several of the losers took off their coats in order to run away faster.