The Wars of the Roses was a series of bloody battles for the throne of England. It all began in 1455 when two royal houses of England claimed the right to the throne. The House of York, represented by a white rose, and the House of Lancaster, represented by a red rose, fought long and hard. Physically the Lancaster line sat on the throne while their cousins the Yorks declared they were the rightful heirs. It was years before that the Lancasters “stole” the crown. Now, the Yorks wanted it back.
The conflict waged until 1487, but the crown had been officially claimed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 by Henry, now known as Henry VII. His tie to the throne was far weaker than most, but he was the one to defeat Richard III who was killed in that same battle. Of the Lancasters on the field, Henry was the closest to the throne and therefore received the crown.
Covering All Bases
Henry was smart in not letting that be the only thing holding him up as king. He made sure all loopholes where completely sealed. One of the first things he did was seek to end the bloodshed. He married a York. The eldest daughter of Edward IV, Elizabeth, became the Queen of England.
This marriage to Elizabeth was a brilliant move. A solid king needed a queen. Without her by his side, he is weak as a monarch. The chance of heirs is non-existent. The political strength that she can help swing would be missing. No queen meant no heirs which meant that the house York still had a chance. One drop of poison or one slip of a knife could give them back the throne.
He needed a queen and quickly. To choose Elizabeth meant that his queen would also be safe. What York would deliberately murder their own? Any other woman would be dead before the marriage could be consummated.
Desire For Peace
Also in choosing a York woman to be his bride, Henry showed that he longed for peace. No more blood needed to be shed. He publicly brought the houses together with his marriage to Elizabeth. A York was now on the throne as well. In addition, any children of theirs would be both Lancaster and York. In a way, both sides won this way.
Not just any York woman would do either. It had to be Elizabeth. Why? She was the daughter of a former English king. Her brother never had children. Richard basically stole the crown from Edward V. Since Richard was dead and not legitimate, this left Edward IV’s descendants as the only ones to really have a strong claim to take back Henry’s crown. By having Elizabeth join him as monarch, he closed up that loophole. A descendent of Edward IV’s was wearing the title of Queen.
Henry went further to let all of England and the world know that the house of York had united with the house of Lancaster to bring peace to the land. He created a new coat of arms for his line now called the Tudors. It included a white rose and a red rose.
His marriage to Elizabeth was the smartest move Henry VII could possibly have made that early in his reign. He saved his own life and that of thousands of others as well while establishing a line that would ultimately bring the world Elizabeth I and other well-known monarchs. In all honesty, a marriage saved England.