At Towton on March 29th, 1461 over 100,000 men fought all day in a blinding blizzard. The population of England in 1461 was under two million and so this one battle engaged 5% of the total population, or nearly 25% of men aged between 20 and 40. Edward IV, at eighteen years of age, had declared himself King the previous day. Approximately 28,000 men died in this crucial test of wether he could fulfil his proclamation. Many believed that he was the rightful King of England and were prepared to die to make that come about, but nothing about the “Wars of the Roses” is absolutely certain!
The Wars of the Roses is also called the “Cousins War” because this conflict was between two factions of the rulers of the Plantagenet Empire. The Empire they were fighting over nominally included England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and most of what is today Northern and Western France. For a short period the Plantagenets also claimed Castile, which in turn was the largest part of what is now Spain. The Wars covered the period 1399-1505 and distracted the Plantagenets from the routine governance of their Empire. The wars were therefore a major contributor to the loss of Scotland and virtually all their European possessions. They had particularly unfortunate outcomes for the governance of Ireland.
The two sides in the conflict, chose roses as their symbols; the red rose for the house of Lancaster, the white rose for the house of York.