Medieval England was shaken by a power sruggle between two noble families. Involving a massive cast of characters with complex motives and shifting loyalties. The historical conflicts known as “War of The Roses” is the main inspiration for Game of Thrones.
The real-life seedss of ware were sewn by the death of King Edward III in 1377. Edward’s oldest son had died before his father, but his ten-year-old son, Richard II succeeded to the throne ahead of Edward’s three surviving sons. This skipping generation left lingering calims to the throne ampng their offspring, particularly the Lancasters, descended from Edward’s third son and the Yorks, descended from his fourth son.
The name of the ensuing wars comes from the symbol associated from the two families. The white rose of York and the red rose of Lancester. The Lancasters first gained the throne when Richard II was deposed by his cousin Henry IV in 1399. Their reign remained secure until 1422, when Henry V’s death in a military campaign left an infant Henry VI as king. Weak-willed and dominated by advisors, Hebry was eventually convinced to marry Margaret of Anjou to gain French support. Margaret was beautiful, ambitious and ruthless in persecuting any threat to her power, and she distrusted Richard of York, most of all. York had been the King’s close advisor and loyal General, but was increasingly sidelined by the Queen who promoted her favorite supporters, like the Earl of Suffolk and Somerset. York’s criticism of their inept handling of the war against France led to his exclusion from court and tranfer to Ireland.
Meanwhile, mounting military failures and corrupt rule by Margaret and her allies caused widespread discontent. Also in the midst of this chaos, Richard of York returned with an army to arrest Somerset and reform the court. Initially unsuccessful, he soon got his chance when he was appointed Protecter of the Realm after Henry suffered a mental breakdown because the loss of Bordeaux and Aquitaine. However, less than a year later, Henry suddenly recoverd. After that, the Queen convinced him to reverse York’s reforms. York fled and raised an army once more. Though he was unable to directly seize the throne, he managed to be reinstated as Protecter and have himself and his heirs designated to succeed Henry. But instead of a crown, York’s head acquired a pike.
After he was killed in a battle with the Queen’s loyalists. His young son took up the claim and was crowned Edward IV. Edward enjoyed great military success against the Lancasters. Henry was captured, while Margaret fled into exile with their cruel son, Edward of Westminster. But the newly crowned King made a tragi political mistake by backing out his arranged marriage with a French Princess to secretyly marry the widow of a minor Noble. This alienated his most powerful ally, the Earl of Warwick. Warwick allied with the Lancasters, turned Edward’s jealous younger Brother — George — against him. They even briefly managed to restore Henry as King but it did not last. Edward recapture the throne and the Lancaster Prince was killed in a battle. While Henry himself died in captivity not long after.
The rest of Edward IV’s reign was peaceful, but upon his death in 1483, the bloodshed resumed. Though his twelve years old son was due to succeed him, Edward’s younger brother Richard III declared his nephew illegitimate due to their father’s secret marriage. He assumed the regency himself and threw the boy in prison. Richard downfall would come only two years later from accross the narrow sea of English Channel.
Henry Tudor was a direct descendant of the first Duke of Lancaster, raised in exile after his father’s death in previous rebellion. With Richard III’s power grab causing a split in The York faction, Henry won support for his royal claim. Raising an army in France, he crossed the Channel in 1485. qnd quickly defeated Richard’s forces. Also, by marrying Elizabeth of York, elder sister of the disappeared Princes, the newly crowned Henry VII joined the two roses, finally ending nearly a century of war. We often think of historical wars as deciesive conflicts with clearly defined winners and losers. But the war of the roses, show us that victories can be uncertain, alliences are unstable, and even the power of Kings as fleeting as the seaonse.