The Real Game of Thrones

We all know that Game of Thrones is a fictional fantasy series, however there are many events in history that have inspired and themed the events of show, none more so than the dynastic battle that ended with the Wars of the Roses. 

Battle of Bosworth by Philip James de Loutherbourg

Battle of Bosworth by Philip James de Loutherbourg

The Wars of the Roses can best be best described as a battle for the throne of England, which ultimately ended in war, fought between the houses of Lancaster and York.  Following the death of Edward II in 1377, his grandson (Richard II) ascended to the throne as his son was killed in battle the year earlier. As Richard was too young to rule at age 10, his uncle John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, ruled until such time as Richard could rule. As Richard grew older he rebelled against his uncle and often made decisions that drew the ire of all nobles.

With John of Gaunt's death in 1399, Richard II made the decision to seize all of his lands. John's son Henry had a swift and strong response, he raised an army which ultimately defeated the King's army, and Richard II was placed in prison. Henry  took the throne for himself crowned as Henry IV, while shortly after Richard II suffered a mysterious death in prison. Henry IV ruled well and in relative peace until his death in 1413.

Following his death, his son Henry V, ascended to the throne, a stern and ruthless ruler, but brilliant military commander. In his first year he caught Richard, Earl of Cambridge, plotting to put Yorkist's on the throne, and Henry swiftly executed him. Henry V will mostly be known as the King that forged England as a European empire, with his conquering of Normandy in France. This gave Henry entitlement as heir to the French throne and he wed the daughter of the king of France to secure this (Katherine of Valois). Henry suffered an untimely death in 1422 after a bout of dysentery, and his son Henry VI ascended to the throne. Henry VI was only a 4 month old baby at the time so his uncle ruled until he came of age. England ultimately lost the French territories in 1424, as Joan of Arc's armies defeated the English.

 As Henry grew with age it became apparent that he was a very weak king, constantly manipulated and dominated by his French wife (Margaret of Anjou), who had to take control of Henry's rule at times, a move that ultimately led to the fall of the house of Lancaster. He also was prone to suffering bouts of insanity throughout his life, which led the Yorkist's to continually plot to take the throne.

The Yorkist's finally made their move in 1455, where Richard, Duke of York, defeated the Kings army in the field, Richard then imprisoned king Henry. Henry immediately suffered another bout of insanity and Richard was declared Protector of the Realm. Henry managed to recover a year later and took back his throne. Richard returned 3 years later but was ultimately killed by Margaret's army in the battle of Wakefield. 

2 years later in 1461, Richard's son Edward returned to seize the throne and defeated Margaret's army. Edward imprisoned Henry again and was crowned Edward IV. Henry and his wife Margaret took their son and fled to Wales where they were taken in by the king's half-brother Jaspar Tudor. Henry was ultimately recaptured in 1465 and put into the Tower.

By 1470 Queen Margaret had forged many secret alliances to get back the throne for her husband, most notably with a former Edward loyalist Richard Neville. Richard's army returned to England and forced Edward into exile, putting Henry back on the throne. It was only short lived though as Edward returned a year later and took back the throne for himself. As Henry's son Edward, Prince of Wales, was killed in the last battle, and with no other Lancastrian heir to challenge him, Edward IV remained king until his sudden, but natural death in 1483. Henry died while imprisoned in the Tower in 1471.

At the time of Edward's death his sons were too young to rule, so their uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, ruled in their stead as Lord Protector of the Realm. Richard moved quickly and convinced the court that the young king was illegitimate as Edward's marriage was invalid. Richard was subsequently crowned Richard III. Richard had arranged for the 2 young princes to go to the lodgings of the Tower of London, but the children mysteriously disappeared shortly after, believed to have been executed on Richard's orders, but were never seen again.

Richard was not a popular king by any means, but was a brilliant strategist and political statesman. He faced constant challenges to his throne, most notably from Henry Tudor, grandson of Owen Tudor, who had been second husband to Henry V's wife Katherine of Valois.

In 1485, Henry Tudor raised a great Lancastrian army against Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, even though their numbers were still inferior to Richard's. Richard was killed and the Yorkists defeated. It is told that Henry found Richard's crown on the battlefield and placed it on his head, Henry VII was subsequently crowned king and married Edward IV's daughter, Elizabeth of York, a move that was to end the Wars of the Roses, and begin the golden age of the Tudors. Henry VII put an end to the York line in 1499 when he executed all remaining heirs from the York line.