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Wars of the Roses Live – It’s Back.

  • Tuesday June 29th 2021
  • Aimee
  • Wars of the Roses Live

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Wars of the Roses Live is back! After a 2-year hiatus, this critically acclaimed jousting show is galloping back into the grounds for Summer 2021. The House of Lancaster and House of York are rallying for support, and they’re counting on you to pledge your allegiance.

The Wars of the Roses Live Show will run 24th July-5th September with shows twice daily. This show is included in the admission price.

Book your tickets now

Following our surprise announcement of the long-awaited return of Wars of the Roses Live, we’re looking back at the history of these wars, and their importance to Warwick Castle.

The Wars of the Roses took place from 1455 to 1485 and chronicled the series of wars between two rival families competing for the throne – the House of York and the House of Lancaster. The rivals of these wars were later emblematically identified by the Tudors as follows. Red Roses signified the Lancastrian House, with King Henry VI as their figurehead. The White Rose signified the House of York, the challengers who favoured Edward, son of the Duke of York, to be king.

Closer to home, Warwick Castle’s Earl, Richard Neville, was plotting his own trajectory into power. Richard, who would later become known as the Kingmaker, understood that you didn’t necessarily need to be king to be powerful. To be in favour with the king was to have the comforts and freedoms of court. The Earl of Warwick was originally a supporter of King Henry VI. But over time, confidence in the king had plummeted, and the Kingmaker’s allegiances changed…

This is where it gets complicated, so let’s break it down…

1455 – The Battle of St. Albans

By 1455, confidence in the monarchy was low. Henry VI had lost the Hundred Years’ War in 1453 and had since failed to regain the trust of the masses. As civil unrest heightened, the House of York saw an opportunity for new leadership - their own. The Battle of St. Albans was the first of the Wars of the Roses; it ended with a York victory and King Henry VI was captured.

1456 – Richard Neville named Captain of Calais

This afforded the Kingmaker a great deal of power and, more importantly, a larger army. Henry VI had been released on the terms that he would grant York the title of Lord Protector, but this title had since been revoked, leaving Warwick and York seemingly back where they started.

This time, however, the Kingmaker had a larger army, which put him in much better stead to invade…

1460 – Henry VI captured by Warwick

In 1460 the Kingmaker invaded London and Kent in quick succession, and Henry VI was held captive once again. With England now in need of a king, Warwick had laid the groundwork for York to return from exile and take his place on the throne.

1461 – York Victory at the Battle of Towton

The Battle of Towton was the bloodiest battle in the Wars of the Roses. The battle lasted only one day, and was a culmination of the Kingmaker’s efforts, having invaded much of England in York’s name. The York challenger Edward IV, son of the Duke of York, ascended the throne whilst King Henry VI and Queen Margaret fled. The House of York had won the first war of succession! But it wasn’t to last…

1464 – Edward IV secretly marries Elizabeth Woodville

This marks a key turning point in our Kingmaker’s allegiance to Edward IV. Elizabeth Woodville was not of noble birth. This undermined the Kingmaker’s plans to solidify Edward’s power by arranging for him to marry a powerful French ally. Embittered by Edward’s secret marriage, the Kingmaker joined forces with Edward’s brother, George, in revolt.

1469 – Warwick changes sides and Edward taken prisoner

Having imprisoned his previous friend King Edward IV, and witnessed his release, the Kingmaker fled to France where he sought help from an old foe. Margaret of Anjou, the wife of the exiled King Henry VI, was a formidable woman that held absolute control over her husband. The Kingmaker offered his services to Margaret and, together with Henry, they returned to England to take back the throne.

1470 – Henry VI is restored to the throne

With Warwick’s help, Margaret and Henry returned from exile and regained their throne, driving Edward IV of York into exile once more. Lancaster had won the next war of succession! But it wasn’t to last…

 1471 – Earl of Warwick is killed in the Battle of Barnet

On Easter Sunday 1471, Warwick’s Lancastrian Army of 15,000 men marched against Edward IV’s Yorkist forces, numbering 10,000. A heavy mist on the day of the battle caused chaos on the battlefield and within a few hours the Yorkists emerged victorious. The Earl of Warwick was captured and murdered whilst trying to reach his horse. His body was displayed at St Paul’s Cathedral as proof of his death for a few days following.

For the Kingmaker, our story ends in 1471. But 550 years later in 2021, we invite you to get involved in the action. Let us take you back to 1455, with epic stunts and exhilarating jousting. With the castle as our backdrop, we’ll relive the disputes, the unrest, the betrayals, and the victories.

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Do you display the Red Rose of Lancaster or the White Rose of York? Perhaps you’re already dedicated to a cause, perhaps you’d like to see them battle it out first. No matter your affiliation, you can support your side in battle at Wars of the Roses Live.

Book now