The British Isles 1399–1488


Map Code: Ax01752

The 15th century was book-ended by usurpations; at the outset Henry Bolingbroke from the House of Lancaster seized the throne from the effete and extravagant Richard II (leaving him to starve in prison) then vanquished the upstart Percys (and Owain Glyndwr) at Shrewsbury (1403) and Bramham Moor (1408). The cloud over succession festered, erupting in the Wars of the Roses between the Houses of York and Lancaster. The scion of the Neville family (who had acquired the Percys’ lands), the Earl of Warwick, known as ‘the Kingmaker’, became fomenter in chief in the conflict, fighting first for York, then Lancaster. After Warwick’s death in battle (and another murdered king, the hapless Henry VI) the York faction, in the person of Edward IV, seemed victorious. But his sudden death led to the second usurpation by his brother Richard III (and two more royal murders – of the ‘princes in the tower’ in 1483). With victory at Bosworth Field (1485), Henry Tudor (Henry VII) ended the Wars of the Roses and established an illustrious dynasty.

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