There is no single history of the Wars of the Roses - the bloody conflict between supporters of the White Rose of Yorkshire and the Red Rose of Lancashire - which provides a military history while placing the conflict in the context of the political, cultural, religious and social background, not just in England and the rest of the British Isles but also in Europe. This book makes good that omission by producing the definitive account of one of the most dramatic and murderous periods in English history - the years when the rival heirs of King Edward III fought for the right to rule as absolute monarchs. It will also examine the wars and the main personalities against the account provided by William Shakespeare's cycle of historical plays. It paints the period on a broad canvas, refusing to be circumscribed by the narrow dates set down by earlier historians. Instead the story opens with the reign of Richard II and charts over a hundred years of dramatic internecine conflict, treachery and greed, a period in which powerful men perverted justice for their own ends, murdering their opponents and destroying their possessions in the process.