In a follow-up to The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings Who Invented England (2012), British historian Jones authoritatively sets the scene for the next brutal act: the 15th-century succession crises.
With the warrior king Henry V’s death in 1422, his infant son became Henry VI, leaving the kingdom at the mercy of warring usurpers from France and the young king “beneath an almost crushing burden of expectation.” Indeed, Henry VI was not an effective king, and into the vacuum of leadership stepped traitorous aristocrats like the Earl of Suffolk and the Duke of Gloucester, as well as Richard, Duke of York, the king’s cousin, who became a dangerous rival. Henry’s wife, Queen Margaret, was not able to get rid of Richard, and she sheltered her young scion to the throne and directed allied armies (now called the Lancastrians) as civil war raged around them. However, the Lancastrians were defeated at the Battle of Towton and sent into exile or destroyed, while the York line, led by Richard’s son Edward IV took over, with great vigor of rule, lustiness of appetite and confinement of enemies. However, more family trouble erupted with the machinations of Edward’s younger brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who suffered from scoliosis of the spine; this villain had his brother’s two sons killed in the Tower of London and crowned himself Richard III in 1483. Now, where did the Tudors come in? For this thread, we must return to Henry V’s widow, Catherine of Valois, who remarried in some obscurity in 1431 a charming Welsh squire named Oweyn Tidr, aka Owen Tudor. Their grandson in exile, Henry Tudor, would emerge gloriously to defeat Richard III at Bosworth Field in 1485, become King Henry VII and marry Edward’s daughter Elizabeth of York in order to consolidate the houses of white and red roses.
Valiantly pared down for fluid readability.