The Wars of the Roses were caused by the protracted struggle for power between the reigning dynasty of the House of Lancaster (red rose) and the competing House of York (white rose). Edward, Earl of March, newly proclaimed King by his Yorkist supporters, led an army north to confront Queen Margaret whose forces upheld the Lancastrian cause of her husband, King Henry VI.
The forces met during a snowstorm on a plateau between Towton and Saxton on Palm Sunday, 29 March 1461. The Lancastrians attacked, but during the course of ten hours of fighting they were forced back until their line crumbled and the struggle degenerated into a series of combats stretching towards Towton and beyond. The heralds after the battle numbered the dead at 28,000.
Towton, reputedly the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought in England, was a decisive victory for the Yorkists. The Lancastrians were unable to muster a field army for three years after the defeat, but it was to be another twenty-five years before the political struggle came to an end. The battle took place over open arable fields much like the modern landscape, with substantial woodland on both flanks. But for the absence of narrow strips within the fields, the scene is remarkably unchanged from 1461.
Quo Fata Vocant-Whither the Fates call