WAS RICHARD THE DUKE OF YORK RESPONSIBLE OF THE OUTBREAK OF THE WARS OF THE ROSES?

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WAS RICHARD THE DUKE OF YORK RESPONSIBLE OF THE OUTBREAK OF THE WARS OF THE ROSES?

Between 1455 and 1485 the Lancastrians and Yorkists battled for the English throne, in what is now known as ‘The Wars of the Roses’. This essay studies the events leading up to the Battle of St Albans, (the first of the wars,) and will hopefully determine who was responsible for the outbreak of war. There is still much debate amongst historians as to who or what is to blame for the start of the wars; York, the over mighty subject, King Henry IV, the under-mighty monarch, his wife Margaret of Anjou, his favourite The Duke of Somerset or other factors, for example, long term causes such as the usurpation of the Plantagenet King Richard II in 1399.

York was the wealthiest noble and the time and had a very strong claim to the throne; he would inherit the crown if Henry did not have any sons.  York’s over confidence and ambition could be seen as one of the catalysts for war; he had a hunger for kingship. One key example of this is the battle at Dartford in February 1450, when York marched against the King. However, only a small number of lesser nobles joined with York and he was forced to make a public apology to the King.  York’s personal quarrels with the king could also be to blame, when he returned without permission from Ireland after Cade’s Rebellion along with 3000 armed retainers; he presented two demanded bills to the King. The first verified his position as heir, the money he was owed from partially funding the wars in France and his ignored advice. The second echoed the demands of Cade’s rebels, (including the removal of the King’s evil advisors); both his demands were accepted. The fact that York misjudged some situations and was perhaps to ‘trigger happy’ is also a valid point. A key example of this was at the Great Council of Leicestershire which was a crucial turning point in the build-up to the battle of St. Albans. All of these factors clearly would have contributed to the outbreak of war.

Henry VI has often been described as one of England’s most ineffective monarchs, in character he was the complete opposite of what a king was expected to be. The King’s need for favourites, most notably the Duke of Somerset, lead some of his most powerful nobles to feel isolated and ignored in particular York, who felt he should be involved in governmental decisions because of his strong

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