The Wars of the Roses were a series of bloody dynastic civil wars between supporters of the rival houses of Lancaster and York, for the throne of England. They are generally accepted to have been fought in several spasmodic episodes between 1455 and 1487 (although there was related fighting both before and after this period.) The war ended in 1487 with the victory of the Lancastrian Henry Tudor, who founded the House of Tudor which subsequently ruled England and Wales for 116 years.
Henry of Bolingbroke had established the House of Lancaster on the throne in 1399 when he deposed his cousin Richard II, whose rule had prompted widespread opposition among the nobles. Bolingbroke (who was crowned as Henry IV) and his son Henry V maintained their hold on the crown through sound administration and especially through military prowess, but when Henry V died, his heir was the infant Henry VI, who grew up to be mentally unstable, and dominated by quarrelsome regents.
The Lancastrian claim to the throne descended from John of Gaunt, the third son of Edward III. Henry's inability to rule the Kingdom ultimately resulted in a challenge to his right to the crown by Richard, Duke of York, who could claim descent from Edward's second and fourth sons, Lionel of Antwerp and Edmund of Langley, and had also proved himself to be an able administrator, holding several important offices of state. York quarrelled with prominent Lancastrians at court and with Henry's queen, Margaret of Anjou, who feared that he might later supplant her son, the infant Edward, Prince of Wales.
Although armed clashes had occurred previously between supporters of York and Lancaster, the first open fighting broke out in 1455 at the First Battle of St Albans. Several prominent Lancastrians died but their heirs remained at deadly feud with Richard. Although peace was temporarily restored, the Lancastrians were inspired by Margaret of Anjou to contest York's influence.
Fighting resumed more violently in...