Wooden Tudor rose image from istockphoto.com

11: The coming of the Tudors and the Act of Union

The Wars of the Roses

Between the 1450s and the 1480s, the territories of the English crown were divided by the struggle between the houses of Lancaster and York. The Lancastrian line was descended from the third son of Edward III, while the Yorkists were descended, via the Mortimers, from Edward's second and fourth son.

In 1460 Henry VI, grandson of Henry IV, was replaced on the throne by the Yorkist Edward IV. In 1485, Edward's brother, the usurper Richard III, was replaced by the Lancastrian, Henry VII. Henry married Edward IV's daughter, and their son, Henry VIII, was representative of both houses.

Sketch of Henry VIII
Henry VIII, was representative of the houses of both Lancaster and York

This struggle had a major impact on Wales. Initially at least, the principality was a Lancastrian stronghold, while the March, particularly the Mortimer lordships, was central to the ambitions of the Yorkists.

The ultimate victor, Henry Tudor, a descendant of Edward III on his mother's side, was of Welsh and French descent on his father's side. The Tudor dynasty, with perhaps somewhat overblown connections with the ancient princes of Wales, became the focus of the loyalties of the Welsh gentry.

The Tudor dynasty

The house of Tudor ruled England, Wales and Ireland from 1485 to 1603. Henry VII showed some favour to the land of his paternal grandfather, and his granddaughter Elizabeth I was not without sympathy for Wales. Indeed it was perhaps the accession of the Tudor dynasty which ensured that the irreconcilability with English power, so evident in Ireland, was not seen in Wales.

With the crown in possession of the principality, as well as the Lancastrian and the Yorkist lordships of the March, the king's power was paramount in virtually all parts of Wales. Henry VII maintained the Council in the Marches, established at Ludlow by Edward IV; he abolished villeinage in much of the north, but did little else. He and his son took lethal action against leading figures in Wales, including the Stanleys in the north east, the house of Dinefwr in the south west and the Duke of Buckingham in the south east.

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