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English Civil Wars, The Wars of the Roses and more.

The War of the Roses

Do you know what a Civil War is? It is when people living in the same country start fighting each other, usually for political or religious reasons. England has had a great many civil wars and rebellions, the most major being in the 12th, the 15th and the 17th centuries.

The civil war in the 12th century is often called the Anarchy because the times were so brutal and lawless. It began when Henry I died and many of his nobles refuse to recognise his only surviving child, Matlida, as queen. Her cousin, a baron called Stephen, declared himself to be king. This started a war which lasted from 1135 until 1153. By the end everybody was tired of the fighting and only wanted peace. The war ended when Stephen agreed that Matilda's son, Henry, would be the heir to the throne. When Stephen died Henry became king Henry II.

The Wars of the Roses in thew 15th century were fought by the noble families of York and Lancaster between 1455 and 1485. They are called the Wars of the Roses because each family used a rose for its symbol - a red rose for York and a white rose for Lancaster. These wars were very blody, full of battles, betrayals and murders. Finally the last Yorkist king, Richard III, was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485
. He was beaten by a Welsh noble called Harri Tudur - Henry Tudor in English - who became King Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch. As he had married a princess from the House of York, he made a new rose out of the red rose and the white rose called a Tudor rose - a red rose with a white rose in the middle. This came to symbolise the peace that had come after all the fighting.

The civil wars in England that are called the English Civil Wars occured in the 17th century between the years of 1642 and 1651. These wars were fought for a great number of reasons, including religion and taxation. The wars were fought between the King of England and Scotland, Charles I, and his own Parliament. They disagreed about the amount of power a king should have. Charles I believed in the absolute power of the monarch - he thought that God had made him king to make the decisions for England, and so while he would take advice from others, he would be the one with the power. Memebers of the House of Commons believed that the King could not goven without the consent of his parliament, which represented the people of England. So whenever they disagreed about anything - taxation, foreign wars and religion usually - they could never decide who's opinion should win.

The King and Parliament argued with each other for many years - almost from the time he became King in 1625. Things turned nasty in 1641 when Parliament forced the King to execute one of his friends. When the King entered Parliament in January the next year with 400 soldiers to arrest five members of parliament, they escaped, and nobody helped Charles to find them. The war started that summer, with different parts of the country siding with either the King or Parliament.

Two wars were fought from then until 1649, with many battles and sieges, and both times King Charles was defeated by the forces of Parliament. By the end many on the side of Parliament, espcially the Army that had been raised to fight the wars, had had enough of King Charles, who they thought would betray them and start another war again. So Charles was tried for high treason as a "tyrant, traitor, murderer and public enemy", and was beheaded in January 1649.

This did not stop the wars though; Charles was succeeded by his son, who became King Charles II. But he did no better than his father and was defeated by the Parliamentary army again in 1651 at the Battle of Worcester.  Charles II escaped to France and the general who had become the leader of the Parliamentary Army, a man called Oliver Cromwell, eventually appointed himself as Lord Protector of England in 1653, effectively ruling as a king.

This is an original news article © The Kids Window

One in a series of articles about British history written for children, see our range of kids historical dressing up costumes.  

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