The Wars of the Roses

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  • Henry VII (1457-1509)

    The posthumous child of Edmund Tudor, half-brother of Henry VI, Henry spent most of his early life in exile in Britanny. His appearance as a young man was recorded and copied in a book of drawings known as the Receuil d'Arras, which also includes portraits of the pretender Perkin Warbeck and Cardinal Wolsey. Following his victory over Richard III in 1485 Henry reigned uneasily over a kingdom that yearned for the return of the more glamorous Yorkist line. In 1499 he was described as 'old before his time', personally checking his household accounts in a miserly and un-kingly way. A portrait painted by Michel Sittow in 1504 emphasises these characteristics but a terracotta bust by the sculptor Torrigiano shows a nobler side. Torrigiano also fashioned the king's tomb effigy in Westminster Abbey.

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  • Edward IV (1442-1483)

    Chosen as king by a segment of the nobility who wanted an end to the inept rule of the Lancastrian Henry VI, Edward IV was tall, handsome and brave; he was also generous, inclined to be trusting and prone to sexual adventures (cf Bill Clinton who he physically resembled). After finding himself in exile when Henry was briefly restored (1470-1) Edward returned to defeat his opponents at the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury, making him the most successful general of his time. In his second reign he proved more astute and ruthless, amassing wealth through trade and ruling England through regional power-bases controlled by close friends or relatives. Unfortunately this carefully constructed network fell apart when Edward died suddenly with his heir still a child. Edward's surviving brother, Richard, fearing for his position under a new regime, took the throne, probably killing his nephews as he inevitable price of security.

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