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Aftermath and effects





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Tudor Rose

Historians still debate the true extent of the conflict's impact on medieval English life, and some revisionists, such as the Oxford historianK.B. McFarlane, suggest that the conflicts during this period have been radically overstated, and that there were, in fact, no Wars of the Roses at all.[33]Many places were largely unaffected by the wars, particularly in the eastern part of England, such as East Anglia.[34]

With their heavy casualties among the nobility, the wars are thought to have continued the changes in feudal English society caused by the effects of the Black Death, including a weakening of the feudal power of the nobles and a corresponding strengthening of the merchant classes, and the growth of a strong, centralised monarchy under the Tudors. It heralded the end of the medieval period in England and the movement towards the Renaissance.

It has also been suggested that the traumatic impact of the wars was exaggerated by Henry VII to magnify his achievement in quelling them and bringing peace. Certainly, the effect of the wars on the merchant and labouring classes was far less than in the long drawn-out wars of siege and pillage in France and elsewhere in Europe, which were carried out by mercenaries who profited from the prolonging of the war. Although there were some lengthy sieges, such as at Harlech Castle and Bamburgh Castle, these were in comparatively remote and sparsely inhabited regions. In the populated areas, both factions had much to lose by the ruin of the country and sought quick resolution of the conflict by pitched battle.[35]

Many areas did little or nothing to change their city defences, perhaps an indication that they were left untouched by the wars. City walls were either left in their ruinous state or only partially rebuilt. In the case of London, the city was able to avoid being decimated by convincing the York and Lancaster armies to stay out after the inability to recreate the once-defensive city walls.[36]

The kings of France and Scotland as well as the dukes of Burgundy played the two factions off against each other, pledging military and financial aid and offering asylum to defeated nobles and pretenders, to prevent a strong and unified England from making war on them. The post-war period was also the death knell for the large standing baronial armies, which had helped fuel the conflict. Henry VII, wary of any further fighting, kept the barons on a very tight leash, removing their right to raise, arm, and supply armies of retainers so that they could not make war on each other or the king. As a result the military power of individual barons declined, and the Tudor court became a place where baronial squabbles were decided with the influence of the monarch.

Few noble houses were actually exterminated during the wars. For example, in the period from 1425 to 1449, before the outbreak of the war, there were as many extinctions of noble lines (25) as occurred during the period of fighting (24) from 1450 to 1474.[37] However, the most openly ambitious nobles died, and by the later period of the wars, fewer nobles were prepared to risk their lives and titles in an uncertain struggle.

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