wotr_logo.jpg (2835 bytes)

An Analysis of the causes of the Wars and the course which they took.

Michael D. Miller

Appendix 3: The Family Trees


What is very noticable from the family trees is how closely related were many of the great families which played a prominent part in the Wars of the Roses. The Houses of Lancaster, York, Mortimer, Stafford, Beaufort and Bourchier all sprang from the union of King Edward 111 (1327-1377) and Plilippa of Hainault, whilst the Hollands, who only became entangled in the web by marriages made in the late 14th- and early 15th-centuries, already had Plantagenet blood in their veins; this they owed to their descent from the youngest son of King Edward 1. Initially the Nevilles kept themselves aloof, but even they were drawn in by the marriages of two of the numerous daughters of Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland and Joan Beaufort in the 1430s. Cecille Neville, whose beauty earned her the nickname of "Red Rose of Raby", and whose pride that of "Proud Cis" married Richard, Duke of York, the head of the House of York during the early part of the wars, while her sister Anne wed the strongly Lancastrian Humphrey, Duke of Buckingham. Richard Neville, the "Kingmaker" Earl of Warwick, carried this one stage further when his elder daughter Isabel married George, Duke of Clarence in 1469. He was already dead when his younger daughter Anne maried George's younger brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester who became King Richard 111 in 1483.

0f the "Ruling Elite" of England, there were three families whose connections with this 'web' were somewhat looser, although on occasions they obtained husbands and wives from within it. The Percy Earls of Northumberland had always stood for themselves, ruling the North as they did in a vice-regal splendour of their own, and they preferred to have as little to do with the web as was possible. The Mowbray Dukes of Norfolk and the de La Pole Dukes of Suffolk did not become totally entangled in the web, although this was hardly by design. There was another family which were to begin as total strangers to it, the Wydevilles, although after Elizabeth Wydeville's marriage to King Edward IV in 1464, they gave the appearence of making up for lost time, so eagerly did they seek to become integrated.

There were of course many men and women within the web who sought husbands and wives from outside it. By doing so they did, to a greater or lesser degree, cut themselves and their families adrift from it, even though they and their children remained relatives and were entitled to the respect which this status conferred. They were not however always fully part of the "Ruling Elite".

Two consequences flowed to those that were. They were all cousins in various degrees of remoteness. When they wanted to marry, Papal dispensation was necessary. This must have kept His Holiness very busy, although it is tempting to believe that, as often as not, his permission was simply dispensed with. 0f greater concern, inbreeding was set to become a serious problem. It did not manifest itself to its fullest or most unattractive aspects, but it is not unreasonable to consider the poor health of the later Plantagenets or even that of the Tudors. Edward Plantagenet,  the son of George, Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville, was said to be feeble-witted. [In marked contrast to his sister Margaret. She became Countess of Salisbury, and may well have added to her 67 years if she had not been beheaded, the Tudors being less circumspect about beheading women than their Plantagenet predecessors]. Another Edward Plantagenet, the son of King Richard 111 and Anne Neville,  was sickly and died young in 1484. King Henry VIII, the product of two cousins within the web, managed to father only three children in spite of super-human efforts. Queen Mary bore no children, King Edward VI was sickly and never married, whilst Queen Elizabeth 1 (some opinion holds) sensed that she was barren, and that is why she never married. We do not know the true reason but, great patriot that she was, she may have chosen to remain unmarried for other reasons.

There are other points that can be noted:-

1. Warwick the "Kingmaker" detested the Beauforts almost as much as he did the Wydevilles. It is ironic that he had a Beaufort grand-mother.

2. Anne of Gloucester was the link which gave the Staffords and the Bourchiers their close relationship.

3. Richard, Duke of York, the head of the House of York until his death in 1460, could trace his descent to two sons of King Edward 111; through his mother Anne Mortimer to Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence (the second son), and through his father, Richard of Conisburgh, Earl of Cambridge to Edmund of Langley, Duke of York (the fourth son). It was his mother's line on which he had to depend to found his claim to the Throne in 1460.

4. There is a tendency in the family trees which can lead the student of the period to the conclusion that the Wars of the Roses were just a dynastic dispute and nothing more. So they were, but in part only, as the Chapters of this work have attempted to explain.

Copyright Michael D. Miller 2003