1399 - 1471 - Lancasterian Kings
The Duke of Lancaster began to reign in the year 1400, and was called Henry the Fourth. There were two rebellions against this king. One was headed by the Earl of Northumberland, and the other by the Archbishop of York; for, in those times, bishops often put on armor and turned soldiers. Henry conquered the rebels, and reigned several years in peace. As long as his father lived, the king's eldest son was a wild and dissipated young man; but no sooner was the old king dead than his character underwent a complete change. He now threw off his dissipation, and devoted himself care fully to the business of governing his kingdom. He Wm crowned as Henry the Fifth, in 1413. Two years afterwards he invaded France. Henry vanquished the French in the famous battle of Agincourt, and he afterwards became master of the whole kingdom of France. His death took place in 1422, in the midst of his triumphs, at the age of thirty-four.
The Wars of the Roses is the name given to a long, shameful, and selfish contest between the adherents of the Houses of York and Lancaster, rival branches of the royal family of England. The strife was so named because the Yorkists adopted as their badge a white rose and the Lancastrians a red one. One thing which made the English nobles so ready to plunge into this civil conflict was the disastrous ending of the Hundred Years' War, and their consequent expulsion from the immense estates which they had acquired in France, chiefly by robbery and conquest. Stripped of their foreign possessions, and encumbered by luxurious habits fostered during several generations of fictitious prosperity, they found it irksome to retrench their expenses to meet their altered incomes, and were thus ever ready to take part in contentions for supremacy among themselves.
The new king of England, Henry the Sixth, was a baby only nine months old. At that tender age, while he was still in his nurse's arms, the heavy crowns of England and France were put upon his head. The ceremony of this poor child's coronation was performed in the city of Paris. He soon lost the crown of France; but the crown of England continued a torment to him as long as he lived, and caused his death at last. When he grew up, he turned out to be a mild, quiet simple sort of man, with barely sense enough to get along respectably as a private person. As a king, he was an object of contempt. His wife had far more manhood than himself and she governed him like a child.
During this king's reign began the war of the Roses. The Duke of Lancaster had unlawfully taken the crown from Richard the Second. Both he and his son reigned without much opposition, because they were warlike men, and could have defended the throne with their swords. Henry the Sixth, on the contrary, was soft, meek, and peaceable, without spirit enough to fight for the crown which his father left him. The heirs of Richard the Second therefore thought this a proper time to get hack their lawful inheritance. The Duke of York was the nearest heir. He began a war in 1455. If there had been nobody but Henry the Sixth to resist him, he might have got the crown at once. But Henry's wife, (whose name was Margaret,) and many of the nobility, took up arms for the king. Other noblemen lent assistance to the Duke of York.
All the Yorkists, or partisans of the Duke of York, wore white roses either in their hats or at their breasts. The Lancastrians, or those of the king's party, wore a red rose in the same manner. Whenever two persons happened to meet, one wearing a red rose and the other a white, they drew their swords and fought. Thus the people of England were divided into two great parties, who were ready to cut each other's throats, merely for the difference between a red and white rose.
The Wars of the Roses lasted thirty years. The most celebrated general in these wars was the Earl of Warwick. It was chiefly by his means that the soldiers of the white rose gained a decisive victory at Towton, in which thirty-six thousand of the red rose men were killed. The young Duke of York was then proclaimed king, under the name of Edward the Fourth. This was in 1461. But, not long afterwards, the Earl of Warwick quarrelled with King Edward, and quitted the party of Yorkists. He took King Henry the Sixth out of prison, and placed him on the throne again, and Edward he compelled to flee over to France. As the Earl of Warwick showed himself so powerful in pulling down kings and setting them up again, he gained the name of the king-maker. But he was finally killed in battle while fighting bravely for the Lancastrians; and then the white rose flourished again.