Battle played key role in shaping Britain

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The Independent Online

The Wars of the Roses probably owe much of their fame to Shakespeare who described them, in admittedly often biased fashion, in so many of his history plays.

But the wars were also of pivotal importance in real English History.

In a sense the craving for political stability and dynastic continuity, so frequently associated with 16th century Tudor government, was a reaction to the political and dynastic chaos of the mid to late 15th century – the era of the Wars of the Roses.

It was one of the most complex conflicts in history – fought between members of the landed aristocracy (and their retainers) who often changed sides. Some battles were even decided by pre-arranged defections.

The wars grew out of the growth of aristocratic power – and the reduction in royal authority which that caused.

In a way, after it had ended, the conflict served as a powerful political inoculation against weakness and disorder. In that sense it played a key role in helping to create the early modern state out of which modern Britain emerged.