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HENRY VI. OF WINDSOR—THE RED ROSE AND THE WHITE
 YOU remember that Henry IV., who took the crown from Richard
II., was descended from
John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster,
the fourth son of Edward III.
But there was some one who had
a better right to the throne. That was Edmund Mortimer, who
was descended from the third son of Edward III. Now in the
time of Henry VI. there was still living a descendant of
Edmund Mortimer. He was called Richard, Duke of York.
The Wars of the Roses began because Richard claimed to be
the rightful heir to the throne. At first Richard said he
only wanted to be made protector of the kingdom because he
saw how weak and easily led the King was. It seemed indeed
as if the King needed a protector, for he was not only weak
and foolish, but at times he was quite mad and unable even
to speak for days. The Duke of York hoped that if he was
protector during Henry's life, the people would make him
King after Henry died.
The people would very likely have agreed to this had not a
little son been born to Henry. This little son was called
Edward, and many of the nobles turned from the Duke of York
for his sake. Although Henry was quite unfit to rule, they
hoped that his little son would grow up wise and good and
more like his grandfather, Henry V.
So some of the nobles sided with the Duke of York
 and others
with the King, and the quarrelling between them became very
bad. Many at first were afraid to speak out and say openly
on which side they were, but soon the quarrel grew to be so
bitter that not only the nobles but the whole nation took
One day while walking in the Temple gardens in London with
some other nobles, Richard, Duke of York tried to persuade
them to join his cause. "Ah," he said at last, "I see you are
afraid to speak out. Well, then, give me a sign to show on
whose side you are."
"Let him that is a true-born gentleman,
And stands upon the honour of his birth,
If he supposes that I have pleaded truth,
From off this brier pluck a white rose with me."
Saying that he pulled a white rose which grew on a bush near
and stuck it in his cap.
Then the Duke of Somerset sprang forward and, tearing a red
rose from another bush, said:—
"Let him that is no coward, nor no flatterer,
But dare maintain the party of the truth
Pluck a red rose from off the thorn with me."
Then one after another all the nobles who were there plucked
red or white roses. Those who were for Lancaster, that is
the King, because he was descended from John of Gaunt, Duke
of Lancaster, wore red roses in their caps; those who were
for the Duke of York wore white roses in theirs. And ever
after, during all the years that the wars lasted, red and
white roses were the sign or badge of the two parties, and
the wars were called the Wars of the Roses.
"ONE AFTER ANOTHER ALL THE NOBLES PLUCKED RED OR WHITE ROSES AND PUT THEM IN THEIR CAPS"
The first battle was fought at St. Albans in 1455 A.D. The
White Rose won this battle and King Henry
 was taken
prisoner. The Duke of York treated Henry very kindly, and, as
he became quite mad for a time, the duke ruled the country.
The next year, however, the King recovered from his madness.
He sent the duke away, and once more ruled the kingdom
himself, or rather it was the Queen who ruled, for she was
very fond of power, but did not care in the least to do what
was best for the people. So she was greatly hated, and it
was not long before war again broke out.
This time, too, the White Rose was successful. Queen
Margaret fled to Scotland with her little son, and Henry was
again taken prisoner.
The Duke of York now claimed the throne in earnest. He
entered London in great state. Trumpets were sounded, the
sword of office was carried before him, and he was followed
and surrounded by a train of soldiers and servants. He rode
straight to Westminster, where Parliament was sitting, and
did not pause until he reached the House of Lords. There he
marched up to the throne and laid his hand upon the cloth of
state with which it was covered, as if he meant to show that
he had taken possession of it. But he did not sit on the
He stood for some time in silence looking at the empty seat,
keeping his hand still upon the cloth. Then turning he
looked at the nobles, as they crowded before him. Still
silent he stood wondering and as if asking himself, "Are
they glad or sorry to see me?"
Then in the silence the Archbishop of Canterbury stepped
forward. "My lord duke," he said, "will you come to see the
The Duke of York drew himself up proudly. "I cannot
remember, my lord archbishop," he said, "that there is any
one in this kingdom who should not rather
 come to me than I
go to him." Then he turned and boldly sat upon the throne.
Sitting there, the duke made a long speech to the lords. He
reminded them that Henry IV. had taken the crown by force,
and tried to show that he, the Duke of York, had a better
right to the throne than Henry VI.
"Therefore," he said, "according to my just and free title I
have and do take possession of this royal throne and, with
God's help, I shall keep it for His glory, my own honour, and
the good of all my people."
When the duke had finished there was a deep silence. The
lords sat as if struck dumb. In their astonishment they
seemed afraid even to whisper or utter one word.
"It is good," said the duke at last, "that you should think
well of what I have said," and rising he went away, not very
pleased at their silence, yet not quite displeased either.
He went to the royal palace, took possession of Henry's own
rooms, and lived there more like a king than a duke.
Left to themselves, the lords and the commons, after a great
deal of talking, decided that while Henry lived he should
still be called King, but that the Duke of York should be
protector, and that when Henry died the duke should be the
Henry, who was weak and idle, was quite satisfied with this.
So was the duke, for he was a wise man who really love his
country. He meant to rule well, and hoped in this way to
become King without further fighting. But Queen Margaret was
very angry. She loved to rule and she hated the Duke of
York, and she would not be ruled by him nor have her son set
aside for him. She came from Scotland, where she had been
hiding with her little
 boy and gathering an army, fought
another battle with the Duke of York and his followers.
It was a terrible battle. This time the Red Rose won, and
the Duke of York himself was taken prisoner.
After the battle was over the Red Rose soldiers set the duke
on a little mound. They crowned him with bulrushes and then
knelt before him crying, "Hail king without rule! Hail king
without heritage! Hail duke and prince without people or
possessions!" and after this cruel mocking of a helpless
prisoner they cut off his head.
The wicked Queen Margaret laughed with joy when she saw it
and, to mock the dead man still further, she placed a paper
crown upon the head and stuck it upon the walls of York.
One of the duke's sons, a pretty boy of only twelve, was
killed too. He was trying to run away with his tutor when he
was caught by one of the Red Rose soldiers.
"Oh please, please do not kill me," sobbed the boy, the
tears running down his cheeks, "I do not want to die." But
the soldier had a cruel heart and would not listen. Dumb
with fear, the poor little boy fell upon his knees, holding
up his hands to beg for mercy. But the soldier had no mercy.
"Your father killed mine," he cried, "I will kill you." So
the poor little boy died.
Queen Margaret had no mercy either. She seemed mad with
revenge. She killed as many of the White Rose nobles as she
could, and the White Rose cause seemed lost.
But although Richard, Duke of York, was dead, he had a son
called Edward, who now became duke and the head of the White
Rose party, and more terrible battles were fought.
The people hated the Queen for her cruelty and her
 wickedness. She had no money with which to pay her soldiers, so
she allowed them to plunder, and they too were hated and
feared wherever they went. The gates of London were closed
against them, the people refusing to give them even the
But Edward of York was young, brave, and handsome, and, when
he came to London with his army, the people threw open the
gates to him welcoming him as their King.
Then the Bishop of Exeter, standing up among the great
crowds who had gathered to meet him, reminded the people of
all the cruel wrongs which they had suffered during Henry's
reign. "Will you have him still to rule over you?" he asked.
"No! no!" shouted the people. "No! no!"
"If you will not have Henry, whom will you have?" asked the
bishop. "Will you serve, love, honour, and obey Edward, Earl
of March and Duke of York, as your only King and sovereign
"Yes, yes," shouted the people. "King Edward, King Edward,
long live King Edward!"
So with shouting and cheering and clapping of hands the
people chose Edward of York to be their King.