Wars Of The Roses 14551485

Wars of the Roses comprised a series of conflicts and battles in England between two branches of the English royal family—the House of Lancaster and the House of York—and refers to the heraldic symbols associated with Lancaster (red rose) and York (white rose). Both houses asserted competing claims to the English throne.

The king in 1455, Henry VI, was ineffective, perhaps mentally challenged, and subject to months-long fits of insanity. Henry was a Lancastrian, but during his incapacity, the duke of York ruled as protector of England. This instability helped create an opening for the first battle of the wars, on the streets of St. Albans in 1455. Though the victorious Yorkists professed loyalty to the king, the queen, Margaret of Anjou, was not convinced, and to protect her young son's right of succession, she gathered her own troops and munitions. A few years later, the Yorkists defeated the king's loyalists at Northampton in 1460, and Henry VI returned to London a virtual prisoner. Parliament recognized the duke of York as Henry's heir, thus dispossessing Henry and Margaret's son.

The following decade saw York killed in battle at Wakefield, and the Lancastrians also won at the Second Battle of St. Albans. However, the duke of York's son was proclaimed King Edward IV in London, and before his coronation in June 1461, the Yorkists won a decisive victory at Towton, while Henry vI fled to the protection of the Scots.

Edward and his ally, the earl of Warwick (known in later centuries as Warwick the Kingmaker), soon disagreed over alliances with Burgundy versus France, and over Edward's secret marriage to Elizabeth Wood-ville. Warwick attempted to raise a rebellion with the help of the king's brother George, duke of Clarence. When the rebellion failed, Warwick and Clarence escaped to France. During his exile, Warwick secured a rapprochement with his onetime enemy, Queen Margaret. By autumn 1470, Warwick had invaded England, and this time it was Edward who fled, to Burgundy. Edward's departure ushered in the brief "Readeption" of Henry VI as king. But this was not to last: Edward returned to England in early 1471, winning at the Battle of Barnet, where Warwick was killed, and at Tewkesbury, where Margaret was defeated and her son killed. Henry VI, who had fled the capital, now returned to his last confinement in the Tower of LonDoN and, in short order, his murder.

After Tewkesbury, Edward IV enjoyed over a decade of rule, but in 1483 he died following a brief illness

(perhaps appendicitis). He was succeeded by his brother Richard, duke of Gloucester, who took the throne as Richard III. Richard ruled only two years before dying in battle against another claimant to the throne, Henry Tudor, a Lancastrian offshoot, at Bos-worth in 1485. Upon ascending the throne as Henry VII, he married Elizabeth of York, thus uniting the two houses.

Many poems and ballads are associated with the Wars of the Roses, some written during the period. Printed anthologies of such medieval ballads appear as early as 1612. Sixteenth-century poems about the Wars of the Roses appear in A Mirror for Magistrates (1559), with 18 tragedies in verse (for example, poems on Henry VI and the earl of Warwick, and a long entry on Anthony Woodville, Queen Elizabeth Woodville's brother).

See also Hundred Years' War.

further reading

Chambers, E. K. English Literature at the Close of the Middle

Ages. oxford: Clarendon, 1964. Ross, Charles. The Wars of the Roses: A Concise History. New York and London: Thames/Hudson, 1986.

Graham N. Drake weddynge of sir gawen and dame ragnell, the (the weddyng of syr gawen and dame ragnell for helpyng of kyng arthoure)

Anonymous (ca. 1450-1500) Out hunting, King Arthur encounters Sir Gromer Somer Joure, who claims that Arthur has wrongfully given his lands to Sir Gawain (Gawen). He presents Arthur with a challenge: In one year's time, Arthur must return, alone, and reveal "whate wemen love best." If he cannot complete this challenge, Arthur will lose his head. Arthur agrees to the terms.

At court in Carlisle, Arthur tells Sir Gawain, one of his knights, what has happened. Gawain proposes that together they seek out the answer to the question, so the two ride out, stopping everyone they see and recording in books the various answers they receive. The answers vary widely and include such things as "to be welle arayd" (well dressed) and "a lusty man" (a strong man). None of the answers satisfies Arthur, who rides out again in desperation. This time, he encounters an ugly lady, Dame Ragnell, whose hideousness, or "lothynesse" (loathliness) is described at length. She purports to have the answer to the question but will only give it to Arthur if she marries Gawain. Arthur agrees, somewhat unwillingly, to ask Gawain.

Gawain readily agrees to marry her. Arthur meets her once more in the forest, and she tells him the answer: Women desire to have sovereignty, or authority and rule, over men. Arthur then returns to Gromer Somer Joure and gives him all the answers he has received, including the correct one. Gromer Somer Joure is infuriated that Arthur has found the correct answer; however, he is forced to concede that Arthur is right. As Arthur leaves, Gromer Somer Joure curses Dame Ragnell, who, it emerges, is his sister.

Ragnell accompanies Arthur back to the court, where she meets Gawain, and the wedding preparations begin. Guinevere tries to persuade Ragnell to marry in private, but she insists on a public celebration. Gawain fulfils his duties without complaint until the wedding night arrives. In bed, Ragnell asks Gawain for a kiss, whereupon he responds, "I wolle do more!" However, when he turns to face her, he discovers a beautiful lady instead of an ugly hag. Gawain is surprised but delighted. Then Ragnell offers him a choice: She can be fair by night and foul by day or the other way around. Instead of choosing, Gawain gives the choice over to her. In doing so, he breaks the enchantment Ragnell had been under, which could be broken only by marrying "the best of Englond" and winning sovereignty over him. Now she will be beautiful all the time.

The next day, a concerned Arthur seeks out Gawain, and is told the delightful truth. Ragnell then promises Gawain that she will be obedient to him for the rest of her life, and Arthur forgives Gromer Somer Joure. Gawain and Ragnell have a son together, Gyngolyn, but their marriage lasts only five years before Ragnell's death. Gawain marries many more times but never loves as well again. The narrator of the tale ends by asking for God's help, since he is imprisoned.

The Weddynge of Sir Gawen and Dame Ragnell is a late 15th-century romance written in an East Midlands dialect of the Middle English language. Although no author is named in the text, Sir Thomas Malory has been suggested as a possibility, partly on the basis of the poem's final references to imprisonment. It is composed in tail-rhyme stanzas of six lines each, rhyming aabccb, but this frequently breaks down, indicating that many lines are likely missing.

The Weddynge of Sir Gawen and Dame Ragnell belongs to a group of late medieval texts that feature the motif of a loathly lady transformed into a beautiful one. Its narrative is very close to that of Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale," John Gow-er's "Tale of Florent" in his Confessio Amantis, and the fragmentary ballad "The Marriage of Sir Gawain." No common source is known. There are two main differences between the Weddynge of Sir Gawen and "The Wife of Bath's Tale." First, the Wife's Tale features an unnamed knight who is forced to answer the question and to unwillingly marry the hag as punishment for a rape, whereas in the Weddynge of Sir Gawen, the transgression is Arthur's, and it is Gawain who (willingly) marries. Second, Chaucer presents the choice as having the wife be fair and unfaithful or foul and humble, not fair by night and foul by day.

Early critical commentary on the Weddynge of Sir Gawen disparaged its poetic quality and lack of moral and aesthetic complexity and compared it unfavorably to its more famous analogues. However, there has been a growing appreciation of its humor and liveliness, including the grotesque descriptions of Ragnell and the comedy of Arthur and Gawain riding the land to collect in their books the answers. Some argue that it is intended to be read as a satiric response to or a comic imitation of other late romances (see satire).

other recent criticism has centred on the text's handling of noble values. The land dispute that precipitates the action of the poem seems to be a commentary on contemporary practices of land inheritance. The Weddynge of Sir Gawen and Dame Ragnell also gives prominence to the values of courtesy, beauty, and fidelity. It has been seen as weighing the importance of such values and, simultaneously, examining the ability of the noble world to live up to them. Gawain emerges as a man of exemplary honor and loyalty, treating Ragnell with respect and remaining true to his word.

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