House of York
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The House of York was a branch of the English royal House of
Plantagenet, three of whom became English kings in the late 15th
century. The House of York was descended in the paternal line from
Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, the fourth surviving son of Edward
III, but also represented Edward's senior line, being maternal
descendants of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, Edward III's second surviving
son, and based on these descents they claimed the English crown.
Descent from Edward III
Edmund of Langley had two sons, Edward, and Richard of Conisburgh.
Edward succeeded to the dukedom in 1402, but was killed at the battle of
Agincourt in 1415, with no issue. His younger brother married Anne de
Mortimer, a great-granddaughter of Lionel of Antwerp, the second son of
Edward III. Anne was also heiress to the earldom of March, following the
death of her brother Edmund, 5th Earl in 1425. Edmund Mortimer was the
son of Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March, who had been named heir
presumptive of Richard II, prior to the usurpation of the House of
Lancaster, in the person of Henry Bolingbroke, in 1399.
Richard of Conisburgh was executed following his involvement in the
Southampton Plot to depose Henry V of England in favour of the Earl of
March. The dukedom of York therefore passed to his son, Richard
Plantagenet. Through his mother, Richard Plantagenet also inherited the
lands of the earldom of March, as well as the Mortimer claim to the
Wars of the Roses
Despite his elevated status, Richard Plantagenet was denied a
position in government by the advisers of the weak Henry VI,
particularly John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset, and the queen consort,
Margaret of Anjou. Although he served as Protector of the Realm during
Henry VI's period of incapacity in 1453-54, his reforms were reversed by
Somerset's party once the king had recovered.
The Wars of the Roses began the following year, with the First Battle of
St Albans. Initially, Richard aimed only to purge his Lancastrian
political opponents from positions of influence over the king. It was
not until October 1460 that he claimed the throne for the House of York.
In that year the Yorkists had captured the king at the battle of
Northampton, but victory was shortlived. Richard and his second son
Edmund were killed at the battle of Wakefield on December 30.
Richard's claim to the throne was inherited by his son Edward. With the
support of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick ("The Kingmaker"),
Edward, already showing great promise as a leader of men, defeated the
Lancastrians in a succession of battles. While Henry VI and Margaret of
Anjou were campaigning in the north, Warwick gained control of the
capital and had Edward declared king in London in 1461. Edward
strengthened his claim with a decisive victory at the Battle of Towton
in the same year, in the course of which the Lancastrian army was
virtually wiped out.
Reigns of the Yorkist Kings
The early reign of Edward IV was marred by Lancastrian plotting and
uprisings in favour of Henry VI. Warwick himself changed sides, and
supported Margaret of Anjou and the king's jealous brother George, Duke
of Clarence in briefly restoring Henry in 1470-71. However, Edward
regained his throne, and the house of Lancaster was all but wiped out
with the last male, Henry VI himself, murdered in the Tower of London in
On Edward's death in 1483, the crown passed to his twelve year-old son
Edward. Edward IV's younger brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester was
appointed Protector, and escorted the young king, and his brother
Richard, to the Tower of London. The famous Princes in the Tower were
never seen again. Parliament declared, in the document Titulus Regius,
that the two boys were illegitimate, on the grounds that Edward IV's
marriage was invalid, and as such Richard was heir to the throne. He was
crowned Richard III in July 1483.
Defeat of the House of York
Richard III had many enemies, chiefly the Lancastrian sympathisers,
who now rallied behind Henry Tudor, the House of Tudor being closely
linked with the House of Lancaster. A coup attempt failed in late 1483,
but in 1485 Richard met Henry Tudor at the battle of Bosworth Field.
During the battle, some of Richard's important supporters switched sides
or withheld their retainers from the field. Richard himself was killed,
the last Plantagenet king and the last king of England to die in battle.
Henry Tudor declared himself king, took Elizabeth of York, eldest child
of Edward IV, as his wife, symbolically uniting the surviving houses of
York and Lancaster, and acceded to the throne as Henry VII, founder of
the Tudor dynasty which reigned until 1603. The de la Pole family were
sometimes suggested as heirs to the Yorkist cause, but Henry Tudor and
his son Henry VIII of England efficiently suppressed all such
The symbol of the House of York was a white rose, still used as the
badge of Yorkshire and Jacobitism. The rivalry between York and
Lancaster, in the modern form of the counties of Yorkshire and
Lancashire, has continued into the present day on a more friendly basis.
Yorkist—Dukes of York
Edmund of Langley
(House of York founder)
Edward of Norwich
Yorkist—Kings of England
9 April–25 June 1483