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The Significance of the War of the Roses To England

The War of the Roses marked the end of the medieval era and a shift toward national stability. More importantly the War of the Roses had social and political consequences for England, largely shifting the balance of power away from feudal autonomy together with the rise of the merchant class. The purpose of this research paper is to explore the social and political changes brought on as a result of the War of the Roses with a view to demonstrating the significant impact the war had on England. Castor, Helen. Blood and Roses: One Family’s Struggles and Triumph During the Tumultuous Wars of the Roses.

US: Harper Collins, 2006 Helen Castor presents a picture of the impact of the Wars of the Roses on the average citizenry by isolating one family. This family portrait demonstrates how the Wars of the Roses forced England’s citizens to break from tradition and think independently. Having suffered the toils of peasantry as a farmer, and survived the Plague or Black Death of the Middle Ages, and the hard times brought about as a result of the Wars of the Clement Parson and his wife Beatrice were determined to provide a better life for their son.

(Castor, 20) Castor demonstrates that the diminishing population of England following the Plague, the Hundred Years Wars and the ensuing Wars of the Roses changed the dynamics of the two class system. Out of these newly created circumstances a Middle Class like the Parsons would emerge. A class hungry for a share of the economic progress. The farmer would evolve into a land owner and would insist that his offspring become educated. These new opportunities came about as a result of the Wars of the Roses.

The citizenry gained new strength, left to largely govern themselves and to protect what little properties they had as a result of a primarily lawless nation. Women would gain new strength and recognition as well. While their husbands were either jailed or at war, these women would learn to take charge of their families and lives. In this way, Castor takes the reader on a personal and detailed journey by isolating the Parson family and presenting them as an example of both the social costs and gains of the Wars of the Roses. D’Alcorn, Fran.

The Wars of the Roses and Henry VII: England 1459-c. 1513. Heinemann Educational Publishers, 2004 Fran D’Alcorn takes a thorough approach to the conflicts brewing within the Royal families, the Houses of Lancaster and York which ultimately gave way to a series of civil wars. D’Alcorn continues to highlight the difficulties that spilled over after the war and how it impacted Henry VII’s attempt to set up the Tudor dynasty in post-war England. D’Alcorn traces the tensions between the two houses that eventually gave way to the main civil war in .

(D’Alcorn, 16-23) In order to accomplish this the author explains the dynamics of the families’ lineage which all originate from King Edward III who died in 1389. ( D’Alcorn, 12) D’Alcorn begins by explaining that the tensions between the two houses for control of the Royal court commenced with House of Lancaster’s Henry IV’s “weakness” in the 1450s. (D’Alcorn, 3-23) Mistrust on the part of the House of York, primarily instigated by Richard Duke of York led to a war in which he took control of the Royal court in 1455. (D’Alcorn, 3-23) A series of civil wars commenced from that time on as power shifted from one house to the other.

It is the period from 1459, after Richard’s death at the battle of Wakefield to Henry VII’s rise to power that D’Alcorn focuses much of the book’s attention. By doing so the author is able to highlight the political struggles impacting England both before, during and after the Wars of the Roses. This book is important for developing the important political challenges that gave rise to the Wars and for helping to understand the challenges facing England during its reconstruction period once the House of Lancaster’s Tudor’s commenced their rule. Hicks, Michael. The Wars of the Roses, 1455-1487. Routledge, 2003.

Michael Hicks takes a unique and thorough approach to the Wars of the Roses by presenting details of the conflicts that spread out over 30 years from 1455-1475. Hicks “surveys these wars as a group” and examines the wars in the context of both the “international scene” and the domestic setting of each conflict. (Hicks, 7) Moreover, Hicks explores the social implications for England as a result of the Wars. In exploring the social consequences of the Wars of the Roses Hicks presents a portrait of the ladies of aristocracies. Many of these ladies were widowed, come at least twice as the wars raged on for at least three decades.

(Hicks, 78) One lady, Eleanor Countess of Northumberland who died in 1474 suffered the loss of her first, second and third husbands, a brother, two brothers-in-law and four sons during the course of the wars. (Hicks, 78) Countess Eleanor’s losses were similar to those of many women of title during this tumultuous period. (Hicks, 78) Ladies whose husbands were fighting against the regime suffered a social injustice. (Hicks, 78) In a typical case these ladies and their property were controlled by the government allowing the women only a small sum of money for maintenance and they were “consigned to monasteries or other reliable households.

” (Hicks, 78) This abrupt humbling of the aristocracy would serve to somewhat close the gap between classes. Holmes, Thomas. The Later Middle Ages. Nelson and Sons, 1962 Thomas Holmes sets the background to the Wars of the Roses in remarkable detail and gradually builds up to Wars of the Roses. This is necessary in order to make the point that the Wars of the Roses had strong political consequences for England’s monarchy and its relationship with Parliament. For a very long time, England’s monarchy thrived under the auspices of Parliament.

(Holmes, 227) At the beginning of the 1400 “royal power” was derived from and dependant upon Parliament. (Holmes, 227) However, following the Wars of the Roses a new and strong monarchy came into being with the Royal court gained a new sense of dependence and was no longer obliged to the “will of his subjects. ” (Holmes, 227) The significance of the Wars of the Roses for England in this regard was a “stronger and more self-sufficient monarchy”. (Holmes, 227) Holmes also explores the gradual changes that took place as England emerged out of the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance.

(Holmes, 1) This gradual change brought with it a new and provocative social awareness, one that was particularly important in the after effects of the Wars of the Roses. With all the casualties to the aristocrats who fought in the frontline battles in the Wars, and the abrupt loss of social status and wealth by family members of the titled men who resisted the regime, the transformation from the feudal system into the dynamics of the Renaissance which placed more emphasis on the arts and thought than personal possessions, was almost a natural process. (Holmes, 210-226)

To fully understand the political an social changes that occurred as a result of the Wars of the Roses, Holmes paints a detailed picture of the hierarchal system of the Middle Ages. In England this period saw a system whereby there were two classes of people. The aristocrats and the peasants/serfs who were regarded as the property of the aristocrats. (Holmes, 1) At the end of the thirty year Wars of the Roses, a new era came to light in England. A separation of power and the emergence of a whole new class of people, merchants, academics and a glimmer of middle classes.

(Holmes, 131-167) Hudson, Ann. Lollards and Their Books. London: Hambledon Press, 1991 Ann Hudson dedicates a chapter in her book, Lollards and Their Books to the significance of the Wars of the Roses for one family in England during the mid-15th Century. The chapter titled The Hazards of Civil War: The Mountford Family and the Wars of the Roses by isolating one family brings with it a poignant understanding of the political and social significance of the Wars of the Roses. (Hudson, 365) Hudson explains that 15th Century England emphasised personal wealth.

It had everything to do with one’s reputation and ones worth. Sadly, as witnessed by the feuding Houses of York and Lancaster, wealth could either unite a family or divide it. (Hudson, 365) While there were inheritance battles in the Houses over who was fit to inherit the throne of England, the gentry feuded over their own family’s inheritance. (Hudson, 365) This was the concept of identity and represented the people “patronized” by the fragile monarchy. (Hudson, 367) The overall significance of the Wars, as presented by Hudson was the shifting of priorities.

The gentry would gain a new respect for personal values and a new respect for the toiling peasant. This new attitude came about at the end of the Wars when Henry VII took charge of the throne. Although the change did not come over night it was a hard learned lesson and the Wars were the catalyst for not only a unification of the Houses of York and Lancaster, but for the unification of its people. It started with family values and ended with family values. (Hudson, 365-382) Mackie, J. D. The Earlier Tudors, 1485-1558 Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1952

Mackie’s work is primarily focused on the strength of the new Tudor monarchy following the Wars of the Roses, although he does dedicate some time to the final battle of Bosworth which resulted in the crowing of Henry VII. By doing so, Mackie draws attention to the death and destruction that characterized the rivalries between the Houses of Lancaster and York . The final battle is presented with the poignant picture of Richard III’s death and the impromptu coronation of Henry VII as he takes the slain king’s crown at the site of the battle. (Mackie, 46)

In the background to this picture Mackie paints a picture of a changing England. One that was making a smooth transition from the serfdom of the Middle Ages, all brought on by the casualties of war and death of so many titled Englishmen. With the age of realism coming in with the Renaissance, the new Monarchy would bring in a new England. (Mackie, 25) With Henry VII’s stronger monarchy there would be no pretending that Parliament ruled England. Mackie’s portrait of Henry VII demonstrates the impact of the Wars, particularly the will it created in Henry VII to get a firm grip on the Monarchy in an attempt to solidify England.

A spirit of patriotism followed and this is the main focus of Mackie’s work and poignantly portrays the social and political changes that followed the final battle of the Wars of the Roses. In England there was new measure of pride among the citizenry in all things England. Those things included agriculture, natural resources, land and the Monarchy. (Mackie, 25) Neillands, Robin. The Wars of the Roses. London: Brockhampton Press, 1999 Robin Neillands takes the position that a number of political and social struggles gave way to the Wars of the Roses.

She explains that immediately following the Hundred Years War, England existed in a state of political and social chaos to the extent that it was virtually lawless. (Neillands, 10) The author takes the position that in light of these circumstances, “civil unrest” was only natural. (Neillands, 10) Neillands presents a realistic portrait of the impact of the Wars of the Roses on social and political culture. The author first points out that the Hundred Years War and the Black Death had already diminished the population.

(Neillands, 25) With the Wars of the Roses, those numbers would continue to fall with the result that there was a labour shortage. This shortage would give way to new opportunities for the peasantry as wages would become more competitive. Moreover, as the peasants wealth increased, attitudes toward them would change and the Middle Ages idea that they were mere tenants of the land they toiled would be overcome to allow ownership. (Neillands, 25) The overall significance of the Wars of Roses as presented by Neillands is an increasing narrowing of the gap between the classes.

Peasants found new opportunities and there was more of a sharing of the nations’ wealth. Education naturally followed as more and more people acquired property they needed to learn to manage their earnings. With literacy came a better understanding of the Bible and with that the Churches influence would “decline. ” (Neillands, 25) The lawlessness that pervaded the Wars of the Roses however, as Neillands relates it placed a damper on the economic and social progress. Judges were increasingly corrupt, juries could be intimidated, land could be taken by violence and murders and riots raged in the villages.

(Neillands, 26) When Henry VII fortified the monarchy following the Wars, law and order would be restored and England could advance in its new social and political state. Pollard, A. J. The Wars of The Roses. Palgrave MacMillian, 2000 Professor Pollard highlights the political consequences for the England as a direct result of the War of the Roses. Pollard, takes the position that although the Wars of the Roses is notorious for its length of time and for the casualties associated with it, it presents it as a necessary chapter in the history of England’s political development.

(Pollard, 5-18) The fact remains, the amalgamation of the two houses and the overthrowing of weak and indecisive kings was necessary for the establishment of England’s constitution. (Pollard, 19) There were far too many diverse personalities existing in the Houses of York and Lancaster and any attempt at solidification would not come easily and it would not come over night. (Pollard, 19) Pollard explores how each of the diverse personalities vying for the crown had one thing in common and that was a keen awareness of the instability of the monarchy.

(Pollard, 8) Each king upon taking office would make similar public declarations, although calculated to speak out against predecessors and rivals, each were characterized by a recognition that no man in England could be certain of his future. (Pollard, 8) In the final analysis, Pollard presents a complete picture of the political and social nuances that both gave way to the Wars of the Roses and those that were finally settled by the Wars. Henry VII’s accession to the throne in 1485 became the turning point in the Wars of the Roses.

(Pollard, 10) Although he might have been recorded in History as a despot, it was he that unified the Houses of York and Lancaster with the result that England could move freely into its political and social future. Webster, Bruce. The Wars of the Roses. London: UCL Press, 1998 Webster explores the totality of the social and political problems existing during the Middle Ages that gave way to the Wars of the Roses. (Webster, 39) One usurpation of the Crown in 1399 gave way to many more, this struggle for the crown divided the Houses of Lancaster and York.

On a deeper level, famine, the Plague, the Hundred Years War together with the Royal crisis would demand change and that change would only come about with the Wars of the Roses. Webster presents the Wars as the final straw for England. The fact remains, the monarchy did not have automatic power, and this weakness gave way to a struggle for power both internally and externally. (Webster, 51) At the same time, England had no “professional police force” nor did it have a “standing army.

” (Webster, 51) Taking these things into account, it was inevitable that the instability cultivated by the Wars of the Roses would only lead to a period of stability after all the casualties were in and a new royal dynasty was established under Henry VII. Webster looks closely at the dynamics of Henry VII and what he achieved even in his role as a despot. (Webster, 72) Henry brought political stability, at least when compared to his predecessors who were largely regarded as weak and prone to errors of judgment.

(Webster, 72) On another level, Henry was able to bring a measure of unity between the House of York and Lancaster by marrying Elizabeth of York. Under Henry a new political culture took place. It was a culture that emphasised the “importance of order” and “the dangers of treason”. (Webster, 71) Wise, Terrence and Embleton, Gerry. The Wars of The Roses. Osprey Publishing, 1982 Wise and Embleton’s The Wars of The Roses is a detailed critique of every aspect of the war itself. It is not intended to address the significance of the war itself, but the overall history itself is very telling.

The political struggles and the war campaigns tell more about the changes that were necessary to rid the country of the bloody struggle for power among its royal families. The increasing lawlessness that prevailed prior to the Wars and only escalated during the Wars could only be sustained by a firm and strong ruler and that was what England achieved in Henry VII. Wise and Embleton explore the dynamics of the personalities of the various members of the House of York and Lancaster.

(Wise and Embleton, 5) They adhere to a theory that each of the personalities were intrinsically flawed with the result that they themselves were unstable and this instability gave way to a need for some dramatic changes that only a bloody battle could have achieved. The fact that the battle itself endured for so long is only a manifestation of the unstable personalities that occupied the Houses of York and Lancaster. This instability was characterized by a constant shifting of powers that gave way to war. More importantly, the instability was far more deeply rooted.

It was implicitly obvious by the shifting of loyalties and the inter-marriages. (Wise and Embleton, 5) Separate and apart from the power struggles, Wise and Embleton provide great details about the actual war itself, bring the reader to a greater understanding of who stood on the battle lines, what brought them there and why they were fighting. But before getting into the details of the war, Wise and Embleton trace the origins of the Wars of the Roses. By doing so the reader can appreciate for himself the significance for political and social change associated with the Wars of the Roses.

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