The Wars of the Roses, 1455 - 1487 
Bosworth, Stoke, Blackheath and Exete (1483-1487)

Edward IV died in April 1483 when his son and heir, Edward V, was only twelve. Inevitably rival factions immediately emerged – the boy king and the court controlled by the queen mother and her relations, and Edward's favorites Lord Hastings and Thomas Lord Stanley, opposed by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, now the most powerful man in the kingdom, whom Edward IV had intended should be regent.

Richard acted swiftly. Moving south, he joined forces with Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, and seized Edward V en route to London in the care of Lord Rivers, the queen mother's brother. Her son, Dorset, at once fled the country, while the queen mother sought sanctuary in Westminster Abbey. Within a month of Edward IV's death, Richard was Protector of the Realm.

In June Hastings was suddenly arrested and executed. Two weeks later Richard informed Parliament that Edward's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was invalid due to an earlier marriage, and therefore Edward V was a bastard – which left Richard the rightful successor. Richard became Richard III, Lord Rivers was executed, and Edward V and his younger brother Richard, Duke of York, were placed in the Tower.

That autumn there was a revolt in the West Country, led by Buckingham, apparently in conspiracy with the exiled Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond and now head of the House of Lancaster. (Henry could claim the throne, in right of his mother, Margaret Beaufort, as surviving male representative of the House of Lancaster, the Beauforts being descended from John of Gaunt.) Buckingham was supported by the Woodvillcs and Courtenays. Richard quickly and efficiently crushed the revolt, and Buckingham was executed. Henry Tudor withdrew to France, but in 1485, with about 3,000 French mercenaries, he landed in Pembrokeshire, where his uncle Jasper was earl. He marched quickly through Wales and the Marches, picking up considerable support on the way, and confronted Richard in battle for the throne at Bosworth in Leicestershire on 22 August 1485.
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Бой на Босуортском поле, 22 августа 1485 г.

The two main forces drew up facing each other but both Henry Tudor and Richard III looked anxiously for support from the forces of the two brothers Stanley: those of Sir Willaim Stanley were visible to the north-west of the battlefield, and those of Lord Stanley to the southeast.

The battle commenced without the Stanleys, the opposing forces both making a bid for Ambien Hill. Richard's troops reached the ridge first, and his 'vaward battle' deployed on it in a defensive position. The 'main battle' followed, while the 'rearward battle' was ordered to take position on the left of this line as soon as possible, and to face due south.

Henry advanced to engage in an archery duel at long range, and Richard looked in vain for his 'rearward battle': the Earl of Northumberland had decided to avoid action until the Stanleys showed their hands.

As the archers began to run out of arrows, the two armies advanced to melee, and only now did the Stanleys move – to attack both flanks of Richard's line, while Northumberland remained immobile. Richard mounted, collected his bodyguard around him, and rode into the center of the enemy, intent on killing Henry Tudor or dying like a king. Unhorsed in the marsh, Richard was soon overwhelmed by superior numbers and killed. The battle ceased when his death became known, and his army melted away with little or no pursuit. Lord Stanley took the circlet indicating Richard's rank from the dead king's helmet and, placing it on Henry Tudor's head, proclaimed him King Henry VII.

In the early years of his reign Henry VII was in continual danger, and it is erroneous to regard Bosworth as the end of the Wars of the Roses. The first of the king's troubles was a rising in 1486 in the North Riding of Yorkshire, where Richard III had been very popular. It was led by Lord Lovel, Richard's chamberlain and admiral, but the rebels dispersed when Henry marched against them with a large force. Lovel fled to Flanders.

In May 1487 Lovel landed in Ireland with some 2,000 Swiss and 1,500 German mercenaries, supplied by Margaret of Burgundy and commanded by the Swiss captain Martin Schwarz, accompanied by John, Earl of Lincoln, and about 200 other exiled Yorkists. This revolt was in the name of Edward, Earl of Warwick, son of Clarence, but as he was a prisoner in the Tower a 'double' named Lambert Simnel played his part.

The invaders were welcomed by most of the Irish lords and 'Clarence' was crowned Edward VI at Dublin. Within a few weeks Lincoln had recruited some 4,000 – 5,000 Irish soldiers under Thomas Fitzgerald. These forces now sailed for England, landing in Lancashire. However, few Yorkists had joined the invaders by the time Henry VII brought them to battle at Stoke, near Newark, on 17 July 1487. Despite fierce resistance by the foreign mercenaries the rebels were routed, Lincoln and Fitzgerald killed, and Simnel captured. Lovel disappeared.

For the next four years Henry enjoyed a relatively peaceful reign, but then Yorkist conspiracies began once more to thicken. Ever since 1483 it had been rumored that one or both of Edward IV's sons had escaped from the Tower: Henry Tudor claimed they had been murdered by Richard III, but no bodies had ever been found or displayed as proof of their death. One Perkin Warbeck, a citizen of Tournai, was chosen for his similarity of appearance to Edward IV, and declared to be Richard, Duke of York.

He gained some support in Ireland, and was recognized as York by Margaret of Burgundy and Maximilian of Austria. For two years Warbeck followed the Imperial court while his patrons intrigued with English malcontents; but in the winter of 1494-5 Henry's spies infiltrated the conspiracy and large numbers of the conspirators were arrested, including Lord Fitz Walter and Sir William Stanley. The latter was beheaded, as were several others, while the remainder were hanged or imprisoned.

Nevertheless, in July 1495 Warbeck sailed from Flanders with 2,000 exiles and German mercenaries. He attempted to land at Deal, but his vanguard was destroyed by Kentish levies and he drew off and made for Ireland. Henry had anticipated such a move, and had already sent to Ireland Sir Edward Poynings, who had suppressed the Irish supporters of Warbeck.

Warbeck landed at Munster, but only the Earl of Desmond came to his support. Unable to face Poynings' forces, Warbeck sailed to Scotland. With James IV he raided Northumberland in 1496, but a pretender backed by Scottish spears was not acceptable to the English borderers, and not one man rallied to the Yorkist banner.

However, discontent over the taxes imposed to pay for the war with Scotland did lead to rioting in the south-east counties, and in Cornwall open rebellion broke out. A rebel army marched on Eondon, sweeping over five counties unopposed and collecting recruits en route, and was only stopped by a hard fight at Blackheath.

Warbeck, hearing of the rising, landed in Devon in August. Gathering together 8,000 rebels, he marched on Exeter. The city closed its gates against him and, after an attempt to besiege the city, Warbeck had to march away to confront a royal army dispatched to relieve Exeter. When he reached Taunton Warbeck found his followers so dispirited that disaster was inevitable. He took sanctuary on the abbey of Beaulieu, and later confessed his fraud in exchange for his life. In 1498 Warbeck escaped from the Tower but was recaptured and thereafter confined in a dungeon. The next year he planned another escape, together with the unfortunate Edward of Clarence, but spies in the Tower betrayed this. Henry allowed the plot to proceed almost to completion, then had both Edward and Warbeck executed for planning rebellion.

The last real fighting of the Wars of the Roses had taken place at Blackheath and the siege of Exeter, but Clarence had been a true male heir of the House of Plantagenet and all the time he lived he was a threat to the House of Tudor. His death truly marked the end of the Wars of the Roses, and thereafter Henry VII’s reign was peaceful apart from a few minor and futile plots by the exiled Edmund, Earl of Suffolk, younger brother of John, Earl of Lincoln, and the last possible Yorkist claimant to the throne of England.

 
 
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Война Алой и Белой Розы, 1483 - 1487 гг. (134 Кб)
Text by Terence Wise from Men-at-Arms 145: Wars of the Roses
© Osprey Publishing