The War of the Roses: Cousins, Conflicts and the Crown

All-Day Program

Saturday, February 29, 2020 – 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.

“Plucking the Red and White Roses in the Old Temple Gardens”, ca. 1908, by Henry Payne

Can a family conflict change the history of England and Europe? When it’s the Plantagenet family, the answer is yes. Henry VI’s weakness as a medieval king led to a challenge for power, resulting in a series of battles and power grabs known as the Wars of the Roses. Tudor scholar Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger traces this tumultuous history from its earliest origins through its years of conflicts to its final result: the establishment of the most powerful family of the 16th century, the Tudors.

9:30­­–10:15 a.m.  King Edward III: My Five Sons

The conflicts of the mid-15th century had their start more than 100 years earlier when Plantagenet King Edward III died in 1327. He was succeeded by his grandson, Richard II, who was deposed by another grandson, Henry Bolingbroke. Half a century later, that shift in power would form the impetus as the next generation of Plantagenets split into the houses of York and Lancaster and engaged in a series of bloody battles for the throne.

11 a.m.–12:15 p.m.  Henry VI and Edward IV: Family Feud

Henry VI was the least effective Plantagenet king, and his strange illnesses and inability to rule led to a challenge by the Richard, Duke of York. Richard’s son Edward defeated Henry VI in battle, taking the throne as Edward IV. However, the wars were not over. Subsequent battles restored first Henry VI and then Edward IV to the throne. In all, battles rather than peaceful succession determined the king of England three times between 1455 and 1483 (and would again just two years later).

12:15–1:30 p.m.  Lunch (participants provide their own)

1:30–2:45 p.m.  Red and White Roses: The Women’s Stories

Although they typically exerted their power in more complicated and less visible ways, the women of the 15th century shaped the families, the men, and the nation around them. Mothers, sisters, and wives created and unraveled the webs of loyal and betrayal that energized the fighting. In a time of conflicts driven largely by personalities, the strong personalities of Marguerite of Anjou, Cecily of York, Queen Elizabeth (Wydville), Margaret Beaufort, and Elizabeth of York were key in the remaking of England’s monarchy.

3–4:15 p.m.  Battlefields to Bedchambers: Power Shifts in the Tudor Ascent

The death of Edward IV in 1483 was expected to be followed by the crowning of his son as Edward V. But Richard, Duke of Gloucester, had other plans. Richard claimed Edward’s marriage was invalid, his children illegitimate, and the throne was his. Richard’s disruption of the succession created an opportunity for the final Lancastrian heir, Henry Tudor, to return from France and claim the crown for himself. Henry overcame challenges, held onto the throne, and started the most famous (and infamous) dynasty of all—the Tudors.

Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger, the former manager of visitor education at the Folger Shakespeare Library, lectures nationally about Shakespeare and the Tudor period.


$90 Member $140 Non-Member

Information shared courtesy of Caroll Ann Lloyd-Stanger and Smithsonian Associates.

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