The History of the War of the Roses: An Essay by Simpy Sharma

The Rose's Scuffle: Extrication of the Petals of the War of the Roses

Warfare throughout history has changed not only the topography of countries, but also several other components such as economy, politics, society, culture, literature, and art. Responsible for geographical changes, battles have impacted political and geopolitical institutions. They had a significant impact on cultural and linguistic sectors. They are the driving forces behind the world's economic transformations as well as technological breakthroughs. Not to mention the loss of life and the humanitarian repercussions on the world. The famous wars that have been referenced with gloomier tones in the pages of our history books are World War I, World War II, the French Revolution, the American Revolution, the Mongolian Conquests, and so on.

A bloody struggle for the throne

One such war which had a profound effect on England is the War of Roses. This was series of civil wars fought in England between 1455 to 1485 between the two influential and noble families of Lancasters and Yorks, who belonged to Plantagenet dynasty. The Yorks represented a white rose whereas the Lancasters represented the red rose. Probably for this reason only the war was named after these two symbols which were used by the two factions to identify themselves. Despite various reasons the one most common and crucial reason for these series of wars were the claim to the English throne. These houses got their names by their respective leaders. The Lancasters were led by King Henry VI and the Yorks were led by Richard, Duke of York. The reason for these houses to choose white and red roses respectively is not clear in the history but there are many theories that suggest that the colours of the roses represented their innermost desires associated with a deep-rooted passion to serve the country. White colour often symbolises purity and red colour signifies love, passion and sacrifice. Hence, presumably both these noble houses might have associated their passions with the metaphorical representation of the colours, white and red. Many other historians suggest that the actual reason behind the choice of white and red roses might have been influenced by various factors such as personal preferences, family emblems and political propaganda.

Throughout the history there have been various factors that have played a significant role in waging wars. From political to economic agendas, from ideological factors to historical grievances, from the concerns of security issues to the concerns of nationalism and identity, from alliances and treaties to miscalculations and maladjustments, all have their fair share in making the empires to start war. It’s always best to understand the various outlined reasons as to why and on what basis these wars have happened and ultimately changed the future course of actions. Furthermore, the history always helps us to understand the current political, economic, and social fabrications of a country. The War of Roses between the two noble families of the Yorks and the Lancasters have multiple such reasons which changed the face of England.

Weak monarchy: it is often said if the head of the family is weak the family is going to shatter either by internal forces or by the external ones. Something similar happened to England during the War of Roses. The monarchy was relatively weak which resulted in lack of strong leadership and decision making. Several minor young kings came to rule the throne. As a result, they became puppets in the hands of regents which created a power vacuum and allowed the nobles to manipulate the young monarchs for their own selfish gains. Numerous noble families started maintaining their own private armies eventually which became one of the reasons to challenge the king’s authority and resist his ultimate control. Moreover, the Monarchy highly relied on the support of these noble families Which gave these families an upper hand over the king and the throne of England. They not only challenged the king but they often restored to private feuds and acts of violence without any fear. The lack of control that the king was exercising contributed to chaos which became the prime reason of the War of Roses.

Succession crisis: The throne of England has always worked on the principle of Primogeniture, which suggests that the eldest son inherits the title property and authority of his father upon his father’s death. This principle had been a prime practice not only in England but in many other monarchies around the world. The legitimate claim, after the death of King Edward III played a crucial role in igniting the war. The two main contenders to the throne stood against each other to claim their ultimate right, The House of Lancaster represented by, King Henry VI and House of York, led by Richard, Duke of York. The claim of King Henry VI to the throne traced it leaned its lineage back to Henry Bolingbrook, who had established the Lancaster and dynasty by deposing Richard II. On the other hand, The Yorks believed that their line had a stronger right to rule as they were descended from Edward III through the Mortimer family. There are traces in the history that suggest the mental illness of Henry VI leaving him unable to effectively govern and control the throne. All these reasons contributed into armed conflicts between the two noble families. Battles were fought, old alliances were broken and new were formed. Many other noble houses started taking sides based on their own interests and gains. Ultimately England saw the devastating conflict of War of Roses

Feudal system of England: Under the feudal system the king owned all the land in the realm. The nobles or the vessels of the king controlled the whole of the land and they were the ones who looked on the peasants or serfs, who were bound to work on the lands in return for protection. Hence, the noble families often fall into the vicious cycles of conflict over the land and its inheritance. These families fought to secure their rightful claims or sometimes expand their land holdings which ultimately resulted in wars. In doing so these noble families challenge the authority of the monarchy. Since, many noble families were having their own private armies the loyalty of the vessels lay with their lords rather than the king of England. This custom made difficult for the monarchy to exercise control.

Personal grievances: Few historians believe that personal grievances were also one of the reasons of War of Roses. Personal rivalry between queen Margaret of Anjou and the Duke of York aggravated the tensions and contributed to war. The queen held a bitterness towards the latter, which made the latter had lack of influence in the royal court. The tension between the two escalated with time and became one of reason of the war.

The Aftermath of the Bloody Conquest

The consequences of the wars reverberate through nations and people. These conflicts are often followed by immense loss of lives, material loss, physical devastation, displaced communities, broken families and in the end, there is a lifetime mourning for the loved ones who bid farewell to the world. As far as the physical loss is concerned, the nations are left with ruins and memorials with weekend political systems, new emerged leaders and grievances of common man looking for justice mechanism in order to find peace and stability. Hence the new leaders try to promote reconciliation in the middle of profound psychological implications trauma loss and the challenges of rebuilding the nation. If we talk about the long-lasting implications of the wars then one must take the future into consideration. Sometimes the nations succeed to achieve the desired goals whereas in few other cases the nation struggles for a very long period of time to find stability.

In case of England, The War of Roses reshaped the course of English history in numerous ways and ultimately it held the seeds of a peaceful happy economy which grew strong and had a mark over the globe for centuries to come. There’s no doubt that this conflict created a power vacuum which was a cause of worry for quite some time but ultimately due to the rise of new noble houses the more centralised monarchy under the Tudors found its way. This war paved the way for the Tudor dynasty’s ascension to the throne and it welcomed one of the most powerful and influential queens of England which was to be remembered for ages to come, the Queen Elizabeth I.

Initial success of Lancaster House: In Lancaster’s emerged victorious during the first battle of St Albans. They were led by Queen Margaret of Anjou. They not only captured various Yorkist leaders but executed them.

The ascendancy of the Yorks: Later, Edward IV, won the battles of Towton, in 1461 securing the claim to the throne. He ruled from 1461 to 1470 and again from 1471 till his death in 1483.

The widespread economic impact: Like many other wars in the history, this war too disrupted the trade and commerce. Economic chaos was widespread in England as the finances for the war led to increase taxes and economic strain on the commoners.

Loss of life: this war resulted in significant devastation of human life across England. This bloody and brutal war led to numerous deaths of soldiers and civilians. The Battle of Towton witnessed high casualties.

Demise of feudalism: One positive outcome of this war was the slow demise of feudalism in England. This brutal war eroded the feudal system's strength. With the advent of the Tudor Dynasty, authority was centralised under them, reducing the feudal military and bringing an end to the pointless hierarchy.

The emergence of literature and culture: Another positive effect of the conflict was its contribution to English literature and culture. The historical events of the War of the Roses inspired numerous literary works, including William Shakespeare's history dramas Henry VI and Richard III. Literature has always served as a mirror for society, revealing the underlying workings of society to future generations. Such fleas shaved the public's perception of the war and its important players. 

A severe blow to the Roman Catholic Church's supremacy: This battle occurred during an era of religious upheaval in Europe, primarily the Protestant Reformation. The primary emphasis of this conflict was not religious, but the developments of the battle, including the formation of the Tudor Dynasty, which emerged triumphant, opened the ground for the Roman Catholic Church's supremacy to be broken and the Church of England to be established.

The establishment of Tudor dynasty: This battle can be viewed positively in various ways. Most importantly, with the Tudor reign came stability, economic success, and cultural advancement to England. The succeeding kings worked to restore peace, putting an end to decades of civil strife and pervasive insecurity. Many historians agree that it was one of the best results for England since the Tudors helped England recover from the upheaval of civil war and develop in all domains, allowing it to become a great nation. Because of the significant financial reforms introduced by the Tudor Monarchs, England saw economic growth and prosperity during their reign, eventually elevating England to the status of European superpower. This also sparks the English Renaissance. And new figures appeared, like as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, who made enormous contributions to English literature and culture. These kings centralised authority, reducing the influence of the nobility and introducing effective decision making and policy implementation in governance. Furthermore, religious stability was established with the creation of the Church of England.


Sometimes great pain and suffering are required to achieve peak performance, just as a diamond is produced under intense pressure. Adversity and challenges contribute to growth because they present opportunities for growth and learning that cannot be learned in schools or colleges. Life practically demonstrates the different fields and methods for implementing the best feasible strategy to overcome a challenge. Individually, a person, after experiencing setbacks, recognises the flaws and changes course of action to reach ultimate success. If we consider the nation as a whole, particularly England, it has learned from its years of suffering and thus worked for a brighter future. The excellence attained by this nation after years of sorrow and suffering will be remembered for many years to come. Is it, however, correct to state that the loss paved the way for the profit? As history offers numerous examples of ongoing losses, not just by individuals but also by nations. Some civilizations have been wiped off of the face of the Earth owing to poor decisions, yet others have proven to be the most successful when they executed different measures after having confronted sequence of failures. England certainly learnt a lot, and it soon became the world's superpower, not just in Europe. The monarchs such as Elizabeth I, James I, and Queen Victoria I are still remembered not just by the English people but also by the people of other countries for how accurately they grasped the fabrications of England and succeeded in projecting the image of a happy and prosperous society.