Gateway to the Classics: The World's Story: England by Eva March Tappan
The World's Story: England by  Eva March Tappan

Lancaster and York

Historical Note

OPPOSITION to the arbitrary government of Richard II (1377-1399), the last of the Plantagenet kings, resulted in the giving of the crown to his cousin, the Duke of Lancaster, who ascended the throne as Henry IV. By his son, Henry V, the old claim to the crown of France was renewed; and the English king was so successful that it was promised to him when the French king should die. After Henry's death, this claim was pressed in behalf of the baby king of England, Henry VI, but a great popular rising of the French people, inspired by Joan of Arc, stripped England of all her conquests in France except Calais and Guienne.

There were many in England who believed that the crown should have been given to Richard of York rather than to Henry of Lancaster. The result was the breaking-out of civil war in 1455. The badge of the House of Lancaster was a red rose; that of the House of York, a white rose. Therefore the struggle which now commenced was called the "Wars of the Roses." During the thirty years of civil war the crown was held successively by Edward IV of York, Henry VI of Lancaster (lifted to the throne by the Earl of Warwick, the "king-maker"), Edward V of York, and Richard III, his uncle. In 1485, Richard was defeated and killed on Bosworth Field by Henry Tudor, of the Lancaster family, and the long struggle was at last ended.

In 1471, in the midst of the civil war, William Caxton established at Westminster the first English printing-press.

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