WARS of the Roses……if Edward IV had only lived longer..

The period

~ 1455-1487, about 22 years, but only a few years of fighting, and by later standards the violence and intensity of the fighting was not great..

Causes of wars?

Underlying tension, and pressure on kings to perform, from:

  • “Bastard feudalism”: emergence of more powerful, restless,ambitious nobles. Their support had to be managed.
  • State of lands in France, the wars there, see-sawing, big gains by Edward IIL in mid 1300s, then losses under Richard II (ruled 1377-99) and Henry IV (1399-1413), then brief win again by Henry V, but then French territories are steadily lost, through poor English leadership, but big French recovery after c1435, Duke of Bedford dies (weak king Henry VI) and French unite. Tax drain paying for it.

Result was pressure on kings to perform. Or else. Thus deposition became a precedent!

What IF??

But TWO BIG CHANCE factors impacted the outcome, such that the Tudor accession was by no means inevitable:

  • Genetics
    • Richard II, was rightful heir (son of Ed II) but produced NO heirs, and was succeeded by Henry IV who struggled to enforce his claim..
    • and in particular there were TWO dud kings: Richard II and Henry VI
  • Longevity: TWO able kings died early, Henry V and especially Edward IV.
  • Thus the short life of Edward IV was perhaps the most consequential element of chance, with lasting implications.
    • If he had lived then almost certainly Henry Tudor would not have succeeded, thus NO HENRY VII, period. The next king would almost certainly be one of Edward’s sons.
    • Thus the date remembered by history would be 1471 not 1485.
    • But then… no Henry VII.. no Elizabeth I?!
    • And Shakespeare’s history plays would have been vastly different!
    • Edward IV had stabilised the monarchy: (1) he was running a good government, had fixed the finances, and law & order, and (2) he had seen off the Lancastrians.
    • Thus he did what Henry VII did, ran the country well.
    • And England would still have emerged as a powerhouse country in 16thC and beyond?


Consequences of the “wars”?

No great political or social change? Life went on.

Perhaps the main change was the continued growth of the role of Parliament?

And there followed rapid recovery of royal power under the Tudors.

Feudal nobility remained unchanged.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s