Women of the Wars of the Roses - A Day of Short Talks

Join us for a day of short talks about the powerful women of the Wars of the Roses - it's going to be epic!

For nearly fifty years, the rival houses of Lancaster and York battled to take the crown of England, and once they had taken it, to hold it. Fighting for glory, for honour, for loyalty, and for power was the raison d’etre of medieval noblemen, but what was it like for the women, whose natal and marital families were often in conflict, and who lost their husbands, brothers, and sons in this bloody conflict?

In this day of talks from experts, we will hear about the courage, the resourcefulness, the trauma, and the sheer resilience of six remarkable women who were at the heart of the Wars of the Roses.

These talks will take place in the Cathedral nave and this event is in-person only and won't be streamed or recorded.


9.30am - 10:00am

Doors open

10:20am – 10:30am

Introduction and welcome


Dr Lauren Johnson on Marguerite of Anjou

Lauren Johnson is a historian specializing in the Fifteenth and Early Sixteenth Centuries – the age of the Hundred Years War, Wars of the Roses and the dawn of the Tudors.

These are the topics of her non-fiction books, So Great a Prince: England and the Accession of Henry VIII and Shadow King: The Life and Death of Henry VI

Lauren is currently working on a biography of Margaret Beaufort, the survivor of the Wars of the Roses and matriarch of the Tudor dynasty (Head of Zeus).


Dr Joanna Laynesmith on Cecily Neville

Joanna Laynesmith is a medieval historian writing on queens, noblewomen and royal adultery in medieval Britain. She regularly gives lectures at conferences, local history groups or schools and has just been appointed editor of The Ricardian (the academic journal of the Richard III Society). She has been a guest on Radio 4's In Our Time, and has appeared on Time Team and The Real White Queen and her Rivals.

Her biography of Cecily Duchess of York, published by Bloomsbury Academic in July 2017, won the 2018 Royal Studies Network Book Prize.


Melita Thomas on Elizabeth Woodville

Elizabeth Woodville was a Lancastrian widow, a Yorkist queen, and a Tudor queen dowager. Her life encompassed all of the sorrows and joys that noblewomen caught up in the Wars of the Roses could experience – loss, betrayal, and suffering when her husband, her father, her brothers and her sons died in battle, were executed, or disappeared, contrasted with glory, splendour, and renown as a queen who ultimately saw her descendants triumph.

Melita Thomas is a historian of the early modern period, a doctoral candidate at UCL and the co-founder and editor of the popular Tudor Times website. She is the author of The King’s Pearl: Henry VIII and his daughter Mary, The House of Grey: Friends and Foes of Kings, and 1000 Tudor People.

12.00pm – 1.00pm

Lunch Break


Sarah Gristwood on Anne Neville

Few women - even in these extraordinary years - have so dramatic a story as Anne Neville. Or have so painfully been caught up in the rivalry between Lancaster and York. Born daughter of Warwick 'the Kingmaker, the man who split the Yorkist dynasty, she was originally married off to the Lancastrian Prince of Wales; then seized by the Yorkists, and by the future Richard III, to become his wife and later queen. Yet we have singularly little information as to what Anne herself actually thought or felt about it all... A comment on the sources of the period? Or on women's history in general?

Sarah Gristwood is the author of several books on the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, most recently Game of Queens and The Tudors in Love: The Courtly Code Behind the Last Medieval Dynasty, as well as Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses. She is also a frequent broadcaster, both on historical topics and on the modern royal family. Her latest book is Secret Voices: A Year of Women's Diaries.


Dr Elizabeth Norton on Margaret Beaufort

Few historical figures lived a life as turbulent as Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII. Highly political and driven, Margaret endured childhood marriages, disinheritance and imprisonment to emerge as the most powerful woman in England. Highly controversial today thanks to the novels of Philippa Gregory, the real Margaret was a woman devoted to her family, education, religion and the continuation of the Tudor Dynasty. She deserves the credit as both its true founder and its architect.

Dr Elizabeth Norton is a British historian specialising in the queens of England and the Tudor dynasty. She has published widely, including a biography of Margaret Beaufort, biographies of four of Henry VIII's wives and the critically acclaimed 'The Lives of Tudor Women'. She makes regular appearances on television, including 'The Boleyns, A Scandalous Family' (BBC2), on which she also acted as consultant, 'Digging Up Britain's Past (Channel 4) and Danny Dyer's Right Royal Family (BBC1). She is the lead historical consultant on the forthcoming feature film 'Firebrand', which stars Jude Law. She is currently working on the first academic study of Jane Seymour.


Dr Alison Weir on Elizabeth of York

Alison Weir is a bestselling historical novelist of Tudor fiction, and the leading female historian in the United Kingdom. She has published more than thirty books, including many leading works of non-fiction, and has sold over three million copies worldwide. Her novels include the Tudor Rose trilogy, which spans three generations of history's most iconic family - the Tudors, and the highly acclaimed Six Tudor Queens series about the wives of Henry VIII, all of which were Sunday Times bestsellers.

Alison is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and an honorary life patron of Historic Royal Palaces.

2.30pm – 3.00pm


3.00pm – 4.00pm

Q & A with speakers and book signing