Descent from Edward III Edit
Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, 1st Earl of Cambridge, KG (5 June 1341 – 1 August 1402) was a younger son of King Edward III of England and Philippa of Hainault, the fourth of their five sons who lived to adulthood. He was the founder of the House of York, but it was through the marriage of his younger son, Richard to Anne de Mortimer that the Yorkist faction in the Wars of the Roses made its claim on the throne. The other party in the Wars of the Roses, the Lancasters, were descendants of Edmund's brother, John of Gaunt whose son Henry usurped the throne of Richard II in 1399 . Edmund had two sons, Edward, and Richard of Conisburgh. Edward succeeded to the dukedom in 1402, but was killed at the battle of Agincourt in 1415, with no issue. Richard married Anne de Mortimer, a great-granddaughter of Lionel of Antwerp, the second son (cadet line) of Edward III. Furthermore, Anne also became heiress to the earldom of March, after her only brother, Edmund, 5th Earl, died in 1425. As heir of his father Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March, Edmund was heir to Roger's claim to the throne through having been named heir presumptive of Richard II. Richard of Conisburgh was executed following his involvement in the Southampton Plot to depose Henry V of England in favour of the Earl of March. The dukedom of York therefore passed to his son, Richard Plantagenet. Through his mother, Richard Plantagenet also inherited the lands of the earldom of March, as well as the Mortimer claim to the throne.
Wars of the RosesEdit
Despite his elevated status, Richard Plantagenet was denied a position in government by the advisers of the weak Henry VI, particularly John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset, and the queen consort, Margaret of Anjou. Although he served as Protector of the Realm during Henry VI's period of incapacity in 1453-54, his reforms were reversed by Somerset's party once the king had recovered. The Wars of the Roses began the following year, with the First Battle of St Albans. Initially, Richard aimed only to purge his Lancastrian political opponents from positions of influence over the king. It was not until October 1460 that he claimed the throne for the House of York. In that year the Yorkists had captured the king at the battle of Northampton, but victory was short-lived. Richard and his second son Edmund were killed at the battle of Wakefield on December 30. Richard's claim to the throne was inherited by his son Edward. With the support of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick ("The Kingmaker"), Edward, already showing great promise as a leader of men, defeated the Lancastrians in a succession of battles. While Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou were campaigning in the north, Warwick gained control of the capital and had Edward declared king in London in 1461. Edward strengthened his claim with a decisive victory at the Battle of Towton in the same year, in the course of which the Lancastrian army was virtually wiped out.
Reigns of the Yorkist KingsEdit
The early reign of Edward IV was marred by Lancastrian plotting and uprisings in favour of Henry VI. Warwick himself changed sides, and supported Margaret of Anjou and the king's jealous brother George, Duke of Clarence, in briefly restoring Henry in 1470-71. However, Edward regained his throne, and the house of Lancaster was all but wiped out with the last male, Henry VI himself, murdered in the Tower of London in 1471. In 1478, the continued trouble caused by Clarence caused him to be executed in the Tower of London, popularly he is thought to have been drowned in a butt of malmsey wine. On Edward's death in 1483, the crown passed to his twelve year-old son Edward. Edward IV's younger brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was appointed Protector, and escorted the young king, and his brother Richard, to the Tower of London. The famous Princes in the Tower were never seen again. However it is unknown whether they were killed or who killed them if it happened. Parliament declared, in the document Titulus Regius, that the two boys were illegitimate, on the grounds that Edward IV's marriage was invalid, and as such Richard was heir to the throne. He was crowned Richard III in July 1483.
Defeat of the House of YorkEdit
Richard III had many enemies, chiefly the Lancastrian sympathisers, who now rallied behind Henry Tudor, the House of Tudor being closely linked with the House of Lancaster. A coup attempt failed in late 1483, but in 1485 Richard met Henry Tudor at the battle of Bosworth Field. During the battle, some of Richard's important supporters switched sides or withheld their retainers from the field. Richard himself was killed, the last Plantagenet king and the last king of England to die in battle. Henry Tudor declared himself king, took Elizabeth of York, eldest child of Edward IV, as his wife, symbolically uniting the surviving houses of York and Lancaster, and acceded to the throne as Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty which reigned until 1603.
The de la Pole family were sometimes suggested as heirs to the Yorkist cause, but Henry Tudor and his son Henry VIII of England efficiently suppressed all such opposition. Another Yorkist branch descends from George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence, and younger brother of Edward IV. The heir to this branch is the Earl of Loudoun, currently Simon Abney-Hastings. There was in Edward IV's reign a suspicion that this king was illegitimate. In 2004, the British station Channel 4 revived the George branch's claim as "Britain's Real Monarch". The Earls of Loudoun would then, at least, be the heirs to the Yorkists.
Upon Henry Tudor's uniting the rival houses of Lancaster and York, the title Duke of York became a royal prerogative and is traditionally accorded to the second son of the reigning monarch. Beginning with Richard of Shrewsbury, (son of Edward IV, one of the Princes in the Tower), none of its holders were able to transmit it; they either died without a male heir or succeeded to the throne. The title is held today by Prince Andrew, second son of Queen Elizabeth II and her consort Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The symbol of the House of York was a white rose, still used as the badge of Yorkshire and Jacobitism. York, Pennsylvania, is known as the White Rose City after the symbol of the House of York. The rivalry between York and Lancaster, in the modern form of the counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire, has continued into the present day on a more friendly basis.