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The Wars of the Roses

Long before the Hundred Years War ended the feudal struggle between the descendants of Edward III had broken out. Edward, who was well aware of the danger represented by the big barons to the Crown, married his sons to the daughters of the biggest baronial families — the Yorks and the Lancasters. Thus the royal family became related to powerful barons and the barons got equal claims for the Crown.

Henry IV became the first English King of the Lancaster dynasty, which was supported by the big barons. He was followed by Henry V and Henry VI in whose reign the interests of the big barons collided with the interests of the lesser barons and merchants of the towns, who supported the House of York.

In 1453, King Henry VI became ill with mental disease. The Parliament advanced its power and got the right to draw up Bills. In the country the two rivaling fractions appeared — the Lancastrians, led by the descendant of John of Gaunt, King Henry and his Queen Margaret and the Yorkists, led by the Duke of York, who inherited the claim to the throne through his mother. As the two families had roses in their coat of arms (the Lancasters had a red rose and the Yorks had a white rose), the war between them got the name of the War of Roses.

After Henry's disease the Duke of York was made Protector and the Duke of Somerset was arrested. When Henry recovered, he dismissed the Protector and called Somerset. The Yorkist immediately took up arms as to protect the King. At the first battle of St Albans in 1455, Somerset was killed and the King captured. The Duke of York was made Lord Protector of the kingdom.

By the end of the year the King recovered and got the protector disgraced, so now the Duke of York was down, and the Duke of Somerset was up. These ups and downs gradually separated the whole nation into two parties, which led to the terrible civil wars from 1455 to 1485. There were a lot of battles fought by professional soldiers, usually not in very large number. This fighting was not as devastating as civil wars in France, the buildings were not ruined and mostly the families of the fighters were involved into the wars.

The opposition of the Yorkists lasted for six years — in 1461 the son of the Duke of York Edward won a victory over the Lancastrians and the Queen. The Crown came to the Yorkists and Edward IV was proclaimed king.

The crowing of the new king didn't stop the war. In 1464, Somerset revolted, along with the former Queen Margaret, who wanted the throne for her young son. Fighting went on. The noblemen, led by greed and land expectations easily left either side and joined the other. The renewal of each party was possible because the magnates were shifting the alliances and changing sides.

In 1471, Edward IV connived at the murder of Henry VI and his son, which was followed by new plots and executions. The death of Edward in 1483 put his son Edward V on the throne. He reigned for a very short period, during his reign the Duke of Gloucester was named Protector of the State.

Being a sly and experienced politician, the Duke of Gloucester decided to get the Crown for himself. With the Duke of Buckingham he made a plot and announced that Edward V was not the child of the late King. Thus he took power in his hands, proclaimed himself a new monarch Richard III and soon was crowned twice — in London an*"* in York. After coronation Prince Edward V was murdered in the Tower.

National discontent against the murderous King rose and the nobles resolved to set the Crown to Henry, Earl of Richmond, who was the descendant of Henry V. As Henry was of the House of Lancaster, he was offered to marry the Princess Elizabeth, the heiress of the House of York. The unification of the rival families could put an end to the Wars of the Red and White Roses.

In 1485, Henry of Richmond with his army met King's army on Bos-worth Field. King Richard was killed in battle, Lord Stanley picked up the crown from Richard's head and put it upon the head of Duke Henry. Loud cries "Long Live King Henry" marked the beginning of the new political era in England — the Tudor dynasty took the Crown.

Henry's reign began with the strong opposition of the Yorkists, which ended when Henry married Princess Elisabeth of York in 1486. This marriage put an end to the struggle of the Houses of York and Lancaster, so in the portraits Henry VII was usually depicted holding "a Tudor rose" — a red rose with white outer petals symbolising the unity of two rivalling families.


Task 7.Match column A representing the royal dynasties of Lancaster and York to column B representing their distinctive features.


The Lancaster! and The Yorks
1. Henry IV   a) lost the lands in France controlled by the English and finished the Hundred Years War
2. Henry V   b) the first king from the House of York, who killed Henry VI and his son
3. Henry VI   c) was not generally recognised as a lawful king, being a king by election
4. Edward IV   d) was in power for a very short period. Was murdered in the Tower
5. Edward V   e) managed to control half of France and was declared the heir of King of France
6. Richard III   f) murdered his predecessor

Task 8. Answer the following questions.

1.Why was Richard II controlled by the Council of Eleven?

2.How was Richard II replaced by Henry Lancaster?

3. How did the work of Parliament change during the reign of Henry IV?

4.What were the revolts Henry IV connected with?

5.Why did England have favourable positions at home and abroad after the death of Henry V?

6.Why were the English likely to win the Hundred Years War in 1428?

7.What was English victory spoiled by?

8.How did the war between France and England finish?

9.How did the Wars of the Roses start?

10.When did the Crown come to the Yorkists?

11.What were the three kings of the House of York in England?

12.How did the York dynasty decline?

13.How did the rivalry between the Lancasters and the Yorks end?

14.What does the Tudor rose symbolise?

Task 9. Vocabulary development. State the meaning of the derivatives and complete the sentences.

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