It’s 1455 and the House of Lancaster holds the English throne. King Henry VI’s crown is challenged by the House of York. The rival houses clash in battle and the bloody war that ensued for over 30 years was to be known as, The War of the Roses…
Brand new for 2017, Warwick Castle is hosting a show of the unfolding events that is better known as The War of the Roses.
Performed by the highly talented Knights of Middle England, the show is filled with skilled horsemanship, stunts, sword fighting and of course the best part, jousting! Visitors are given the choice to pick a side, be it the House Lancaster or House York, then watch from the respective stands and cheer them on at the newly built riverside arena as their knights, kings and queens do battle up close and personal.
My Views on the War of the Roses event.
I was lucky enough to be able to see the show on 3 separate occasions (6 shows!!) to get the most out of it, and still have not been able to experience all that is on offer (there is that much happening at once)! War of the Roses Live is a highly entertaining show which is increased further by the interactions from the actors getting the crowd involved with the show as you hear the ‘cheers’ and ‘boos’ when both sides support their houses, be it for the Red rose or the White. Already people are giving this show a 5-star rating, and I can safely say it is well deserved.
I have seen quite a few jousting teams perform around different castles and arenas in the past, but in all honestly, I have yet to see a team who can match the performance, and be as memorable than the Knights of Middle England offer. If you have not seen one of their shows, let it be this one. No matter if you’re an adult or a child, this is a show that will make you want to come back for more.
Below is a brief history on who the main characters in the show are (forgive me if any inaccuracies are found with the history!), as well as a gallery of the photos taken during the 3 days I attended. alternatively, you can see all the photos in the online gallery (This gallery will be updated during the summer holidays with more photos of the show).
This show is currently on at Warwick castle until the 3rd September. Don’t miss it!
Who are the Key characters in War of the Roses Live?
Edward IV, King of England
Edward was the son of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. Edward’s father was the leading Yorkist in the dynastic struggle against the Lancastrians known as the Wars of the Roses, which began in 1455. When Richard Plantagenet was killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460, Edward inherited his claim. With the support of the powerful Earl of Warwick, known as ‘the Kingmaker’, Edward defeated the Lancastrians in a series of battles, culminating in the Battle of Towton in 1461. With the Lancastrian king, Henry VI, overthrown, Edward was crowned Edward IV.
Warwick believed he could continue to control the new king. He was keen to negotiate a foreign marriage for Edward, but in 1464 Edward secretly married Elizabeth Woodville, a commoner. Warwick was furious at the favours now shown to Elizabeth’s relatives and allied himself to Edward’s brother George, Duke of Clarence, leading a revolt against the king. Warwick and Clarence then fled to France, where they joined Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI. Margaret’s Lancastrian army invaded England in September 1470. Edward fled to the Netherlands until March 1471, when he and his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, returned to England. Edward defeated and killed Warwick at Barnet before defeating the Lancastrians at Tewkesbury in May. Henry VI was put to death in the Tower of London.
Richard, Duke of Gloucester
Richard III was King of England from 1483 until his death in 1485, at the age of 32, in the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat at Bosworth Field, the last decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, marked the end of the Middle Ages in England.
When his brother King Edward IV died in April 1483, Richard was named Lord Protector of the realm for Edward’s son and successor, the 12-year-old Edward V. As the young king travelled to London from Ludlow, Richard met and escorted him to lodgings in the Tower of London, where Edward V’s own brother Richard of Shrewsbury joined him shortly afterwards. Arrangements were made for Edward’s coronation on 22 June 1483; but, before the young king could be crowned, his father’s marriage to his mother Elizabeth Woodville was declared invalid, making their children illegitimate and ineligible for the throne. On 25 June, an assembly of Lords and commoners endorsed the claims. The following day, Richard III began his reign, and he was crowned on 6 July 1483. The young princes were not seen in public after August, and accusations circulated that the boys had been murdered on Richard’s orders, giving rise to the legend of the Princes in the Tower.
There were two major rebellions against Richard. The first, in October 1483, was led by staunch allies of Edward IV and Richard’s former ally, Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham; but the revolt collapsed. In August 1485, Henry Tudor and his uncle, Jasper Tudor, led a second rebellion. Henry Tudor landed in southern Wales with a small contingent of French troops and marched through his birthplace, Pembrokeshire, recruiting soldiers. Henry’s force engaged Richard’s army and defeated it at the Battle of Bosworth Field in Leicestershire. Richard was struck down in the conflict, making him the last English king to die in battle on home soil and the first since Harold Godwinson (who was killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066). Henry then ascended the throne as Henry VII.
Margaret of Anjou, Disputed Queen of England
Margaret of Anjou was the Queen of England by marriage to King Henry VI of England from 1445 to 1461 and again from 1470 to 1471. Born in the Duchy of Lorraine into the House of Valois-Anjou, Margaret was the second eldest daughter of René of Anjou and Isabella, Duchess of Lorraine.
She was one of the principal figures in the series of dynastic civil wars known as the Wars of the Roses and at times personally led the Lancastrian faction. Owing to her husband’s frequent bouts of insanity, Margaret ruled the kingdom in his place. It was she who called for a Great Council in May 1455 that excluded the Yorkist faction headed by Richard of York, 3rd Duke of York, and thus provided the spark that ignited a civil conflict that lasted for more than 30 years, decimated the old nobility of England, and caused the deaths of thousands of men, including her only son Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471.
Margaret was taken prisoner by the victorious Yorkists after the Lancastrian defeat at Tewkesbury. In 1475, she was ransomed by her cousin, King Louis XI of France. She went to live in France as a poor relation of the French king, and she died there at the age of 52.
Henry Beaufort, 3rd Duke of Somerset
Henry Beaufort, third duke of Somerset (1436-1464) was a major Lancastrian military leader during the first phase of the Wars of the Roses. He considered the death of his father at the first battle of St. Albans as a murder that had to be avenged, and despite the best efforts of Edward IV to win him over died fighting for Henry VI.
Henry Beaufort, was the son of Edmund Beaufort, second Duke of Somerset, and Eleanor Beauchamp, daughter of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. He was raised to the title after the death of his father at the first Battle of St. Albans.
During the Wars of the Roses, young Somerset commanded the Lancastrian troops at the Battle of Wakefield (1460) and the second battle of St. Albans (1461) with great success. But after the dismal loss at the Battle of Towton (1461), he was forced to flee with Exeter to York, whence he accompanied Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, along with prince Edward, to Scotland.
Somerset spent some time in France and Flanders, until his titles and lands were restored to him by King Edward IV as a condition on the surrender of Bamborough and Dunstansburgh in 1462. He had only switched sides nominally and temporarily; in 1464, he joined Percy in the north, and fought on the Lancastrian side at the Battle of Hexham (1464). After the crushing defeat of the Lancastrians, Somerset was taken prisoner and beheaded, along with Hungerford and De Roos. He was buried at Hexham Abbey.
Elizabeth of York
Elizabeth of York became queen consort of England from 1486 until her death. As the wife of Henry VII, she was the first Tudor queen. She was the daughter of Edward IV and niece of Richard III, and she married the king following Henry’s victory at the Battle of Bosworth which started the last phase of the Wars of the Roses. She was the mother of King Henry VIII. Therefore, she was the daughter, sister, niece, wife, mother and grandmother of successive Kings of England.
As the eldest daughter of Edward IV with no surviving brothers, Elizabeth of York had a strong claim to the throne in her own right, but she did not assume the throne as queen regnant. Such a precedent would not truly come to England for another 67 years, when Elizabeth of York’s granddaughter, Mary I, acceded to the throne. Though initially reluctant to keep his promise Henry VII acknowledged the necessity of marrying Elizabeth of York to ensure the stability of his rule and weaken the claims of other surviving members of the House of York, but he ruled in his own right and claimed the throne by right of conquest and not by his marriage to the heir of the House of York. He had no intention of sharing power. He consequently chose to be crowned on 30 October 1485, before his marriage.
Henry VII had the Titulus Regius repealed, thereby legitimising the children of Edward IV, and acknowledged Edward V as his predecessor. After procuring papal dispensation, Cardinal Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, officiated at the wedding of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York on 18 January 1486, in Westminster Abbey. Their first son, Arthur, was born on 20 September 1486. Elizabeth of York was crowned queen on 25 November 1487. Following her coronation, she gave birth to six more children, but only four survived infancy: Arthur, Margaret, Henry and Mary.
Sir William Stanley was an English soldier and the younger brother of Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby. Stanley fought with his troops in several battles of the Wars of the Roses.
William Stanley fought on the Yorkist side at the Battle of Blore Heath in 1459, whereas his elder brother Thomas, Lord Stanley had raised troops by the commission of the Lancastrian Crown but refrained from committing his forces on either side. Attainted in 1459, he fled into exile, but returned to fight for the Yorkists at Towton. In 1465 he was granted the Skipton lands and castle of the dispossessed Lancastrian Cliffords. Following the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471, it was he who captured Queen Margaret of Anjou, who led the Lancastrian faction, and he was made a Knight Banneret by the king. In 1483 he was made Chief Justice of North Wales. Richard III, shortly after becoming king, rewarded Sir William by granting him land in North Wales.
Having been loyal to Richard, Stanley nevertheless changed sides in 1485, and suddenly supported the Lancastrian Henry Tudor’s bid for the throne. Stanley is best known for his action at the Battle of Bosworth, where he decisively attacked the Yorkists under Richard, helping to secure Henry VII’s victory. This was in contrast to the non-committal attitude of his elder brother, Henry’s stepfather, who was inhibited by the fact that Richard held his son hostage. In gratitude for his timely intervention, the new king bestowed many favours on Sir William, including the post of Lord Chamberlain and Chamberlain of the Exchequer.
Henry VII became King of England from seizing the crown on 22 August 1485 and stayed in power until his death on 21 April 1509, and the first monarch of the House of Tudor. He ruled the Principality of Wales until 29 November 1489 and was Lord of Ireland.
By 1483, Henry’s mother was actively promoting him as an alternative to Richard III, despite her being married to a Yorkist, Lord Stanley. At Rennes Cathedral on Christmas Day 1483, Henry pledged to marry the eldest daughter of Edward IV, Elizabeth of York, who was also Edward’s heir since the presumed death of her brothers, the Princes in the Tower (King Edward V and his brother Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York). Henry then received the homage of his supporters.
With money and supplies borrowed from his host, Francis II, Duke of Brittany, Henry tried to land in England, but his conspiracy unravelled, resulting in the execution of his primary co-conspirator, the Duke of Buckingham. Now supported by Francis II’s prime-minister, Pierre Landais, Richard III attempted to extradite Henry from Brittany, but Henry escaped to France. He was welcomed by the French, who readily supplied him with troops and equipment for a second invasion.
Henry gained the support of the Woodvilles, in-laws of the late Edward IV, and sailed with a small French and Scottish force, landing in Mill Bay, Pembrokeshire, close to his birthplace. He marched towards England accompanied by his uncle Jasper and the Earl of Oxford. Wales was traditionally a Lancastrian stronghold, and Henry owed the support he gathered to his Welsh birth and ancestry, being directly descended, through his father, from Rhys ap Gruffydd. He amassed an army of around 5,000 soldiers.
Henry was aware that his best chance to seize the throne was to engage Richard quickly and defeat him immediately, as Richard had reinforcements in Nottingham and Leicester. Richard only needed to avoid being killed to keep his throne. Though outnumbered, Henry’s Lancastrian forces decisively defeated Richard’s Yorkist army at the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485. Several of Richard’s key allies, such as the Earl of Northumberland and William and Thomas Stanley, crucially switched sides or left the battlefield. Richard III’s death at Bosworth Field effectively ended the Wars of the Roses, although it was not the last battle Henry had to fight.
Henry won the throne when his forces defeated King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, the culmination of the Wars of the Roses. Henry was the last king of England to win his throne on the field of battle. He cemented his claim by marrying Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and niece of Richard III. Henry was successful in restoring the power and stability of the English monarchy after the civil war, and after a reign of nearly 24 years, he was peacefully succeeded by his son, Henry VIII.
Who are The Knights of Middle England?
The Knights of Middle England and KOME Entertainment are headed by Karl Ude-Martinez; a trained actor, TV presenter and professional polo player who has vast TV, Film and Theatre experience. Karl has performed in live jousting shows and displays worldwide, for several medieval companies over the last 16 years and now produces all shows for The Knights of Middle England and KOME Entertainment.
The Knights include expert horsemen and women from varying equestrian backgrounds. The team do not just specialise in Medieval Jousting and Stunt/Trick Riding; they are also all performers which ensure The Knights of Middle England give you a unique and engaging experience, whether you have come to learn or be entertained.
The Knights of Middle England are constantly raising money for charity and have so far helped raise over £10,000 for leading charities such as Help for Heroes, Macmillan Cancer Support, NSPCC and the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance.
If you would like to find out more about The Knights of Middle England, please visit their website.