House of York

The house of York was a branch of the Plantagenet dynasty and reigned over England from 1461-1485, being briefly deprived of power in 1470-71. They represent the last members of the Plantagents, who sat on England's throne since 1154. Through the male line, the house of York traced their descent from Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York (1341-1402), forth surviving son of King Edward III. Edmund, in turn, had two sons: Edward (1373-1415) and Richard (1375-1415). Richard, who would eventually become Earl of Cambridge, was executed for treason for his participation in the Southampton plot against King Henry V. Later that same year, Edward, who succeeded his father as 2nd Duke of York after the elder duke's death, died at the Battle of Agincourt. Being that he died childless, the dukedom of York was inherited by Cambridge's young son Richard. The 3rd duke (1411-1460) would, in turn, be the father of both Edward IV and Richard III. Although the house of York was descended from Edward III in the male line, it is the descent from Edward III in the female line that gave them a stronger claim to the throne than the reigning house of Lancaster. The 3rd duke of York's mother was Anne Mortimer (1390-1411), heir to her brother, Edmund Mortimer (1391-1425), both of whom were children of Roger Mortimer (1374-1398), the son of Phillipa (1355-1382), daughter of Lionel of Antwerp (1338-1368), second surviving son of Edward III. Therefore, if succession could pass through the female, the house of York had a better claim than that of Lancaster, who were descended from Edward III's third surviving son, John of Gaunt. Both Roger and Edmund Mortimer were, successively, heirs to the throne of the childless King Richard II. However, Henry Bolingbroke, son and heir to John of Gaunt, deposed and murdered Richard II to become Henry IV, the first Lancastrian monarch. The claim of Edmund Mortimer was set aside and he died in Ireland in 1425, leaving the claim to his young nephew, the Duke of York.

As the Lancastrians continued to reign (through Henry IV, Henry V, and, finally, Henry VI), the Duke of York stayed loyal despite his supposedly superior claim to the throne. This continued until the Wars of the Roses began in 1455. Even then, York did not claim the throne. This happened in 1460 when the Yorkist faction had no other choice. Unfortunately, York himself was killed at the end of the year and the Yorkist cause was taken up by his eldest son, the Earl of March (and subsequently 4th Duke of York), who deposed Henry VI and had himself crowned as King Edward IV, with the help of Warwick the "Kingmaker." Edward IV reigned for nine years before being deposed (by Warwick) in favor of Henry VI in 1470. The following year, however, Edward IV returned from exile, took back his throne and wiped out the house of Lancaster, including Henry VI himself. Edward then reigned, unopposed, until his death in 1483. He was succeeded by his young son, Edward V. Edward's IV's younger son took the title of Duke of York, thereby establishing that the younger son of the reigning monarch would take that title. Edward V's reign would be a short one and he would soon be deposed by his uncle, the Duke of Gloucester (Edward IV's younger brother), who bastardized, imprisoned and, most likely, murdered, the king and his brother, before having himself crowned as King Richard III. Richard's reign, too, would be a fairly short one. His only son, Edward died in 1484 and Richard III was deposed the following year by Henry Tudor, an obscure Lancastrian claimant. Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field, against Tudor's forces, becoming the last English king to die in battle and ushering in the house of Tudor to England's throne. After Richard's death, there was one remaining legitimate member (in the male line) of the house of York in the form of the Earl of Warwick, son of the Duke of Clarence (executed in 1478), brother to Edward IV and Richard III. He was executed under orders of King Henry VII in 1499, officially ending the house of York and the house of Plantagenet in the legitimate male line. The last legitimate member of the house of York (and Plantagenet) was Warwick's sister Margaret, Countess of Salisbury. She was, in turn, executed by Henry VIII in 1541. A majority of all the lesser members (through female lines) of the house of York were either executed or killed in battle during the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII.

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