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How did the Wars of the Roses challenge the concept of divine right to rule?

The Wars of the Roses challenged the concept of divine right to rule by demonstrating that power could be seized and maintained through force and political manoeuvring, rather than divine appointment.

The Wars of the Roses, a series of civil wars in England from 1455 to 1487, were primarily a power struggle between two rival branches of the Plantagenet family: the House of Lancaster and the House of York. The concept of divine right to rule, which posits that a monarch's authority is granted directly by God, was a fundamental principle of medieval kingship. However, the Wars of the Roses saw this principle repeatedly undermined as both sides sought to seize and maintain power through force, political alliances, and manipulation.

The conflict began when Richard, Duke of York, challenged the rule of the Lancastrian King Henry VI, claiming a superior right to the throne. This was a direct challenge to the divine right to rule, as it suggested that a king's authority could be questioned and overthrown. Throughout the wars, both the Yorkists and Lancastrians used force and political manoeuvring to gain and maintain power, further undermining the concept of divine right.

The Wars of the Roses also saw the rise of Richard III, who seized the throne from his nephew Edward V. Richard's usurpation was a clear demonstration that power could be taken by force, regardless of divine right. His rule was marked by political instability and rebellion, further illustrating the fragility of the divine right concept.

The wars ended with the victory of Henry Tudor, who became Henry VII. His claim to the throne was tenuous at best, being based on his mother's descent from a legitimised line of John of Gaunt's children with his mistress. Yet, he was able to seize and hold power, establishing the Tudor dynasty. This again demonstrated that power could be obtained and maintained through force and political alliances, rather than divine appointment.

In conclusion, the Wars of the Roses challenged the concept of divine right to rule by showing that power could be seized, held, and transferred through force and political manoeuvring. This marked a significant shift in the understanding of monarchy and power in England, paving the way for the more pragmatic politics of the Tudor era.

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