UK Constitution and Government/Houses of Lancaster and York

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Houses of Lancaster and York
House of Tudor
House of Tudor
List of Topics
List of Topics
House of Tudor
House of Tudor


The Houses of Lancaster and York (1399-1485)

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Henry IV

Henry of Bolingbroke deposed his weak cousin, Richard II, in 1399. Henry IV's reign was marked by widespread rebellion. These were put down thanks to the great military skill of the Henry IV's son, the future King Henry V. Henry IV died in 1413 while plagued by a severe skin disease (possibly leprosy).

Henry V

Henry V's reign was markedly different from his father's in that it involved little domestic turmoil. Overseas, Henry V's armies won several important victories in France. In 1415, the English defeated the French King Charles VI decisively at the Battle of Agincourt. About 100 English soldiers were killed, along with about 5000 Frenchmen.

For the next two years, Henry V conducted delicate diplomacy to improve England's chances of conquering France. He negotiated with the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund, who agreed to end the German alliance with France. In 1417, the war was renewed; by 1419, English troops were about to take Paris. The parties agreed to a treaty whereby Henry V was named heir of France. Henry V, however, died before he could succeed to the French throne, which therefore remained in the hands of the Frenchmen.

Henry VI and Edward IV

Figure 3-1: Edward IV (left) and the future Edward V (centre)

Henry VI succeeded to the throne while still an infant. His uncles, the Dukes of Bedford and Gloucester, both functioned as Regents. During his reign, many French territories won during the Hundred Years War were lost.

Henry VI's reign was interrupted by Edward IV's due to the War of the Roses. Henry VI was a member of the House of Lancaster, while Edward IV was from the House of York. The former House descended from Henry of Bolingbroke, the fourth son of King Edward III; the latter House descended from Edmund of Langley, Edward III's fifth son.

In 1461, the Lancastrians lost to the Yorkists at the Battle of Towton. The Yorkist claimant, Edward IV, ascended to the throne, with the support of the powerful nobleman Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, known by the nickname Warwick the Kingmaker. In 1464, Lancastrian revolts were put down. In 1469, however, Warwick the Kingmaker switched his allegiance, and in 1470, Henry VI was restored to the throne. The exiled Edward, however, soon returned and defeated Henry's forces. At the Battle of Tewkesbury, the remaining Lancastrians were defeated; Henry VI was also murdered.

Edward V and Richard III

Edward IV was succeeded by his twelve year-old son in 1483. Edward IV's brother, Richard, was made guardian of Edward V and his brother, also named Richard. The young King's uncle usurped the throne and had Parliament declare the two brothers illegitimate. The two princes were then imprisoned in the Tower of London, where they might have been killed (their fate, however, is not certain).

In 1485, Richard III faced Henry Tudor, the Lancastrian claimant, at the Battle of Bosworth Field, during which Richard became the last English monarch to be killed during battle. Henry came to power as Henry VII, establishing the Tudor Dynasty.