An old feud between two powerful families in the North, the Nevilles and the Percys, caused further grievance between York and the Throne. The Percys were supporters of the House of Lancaster and the Nevilles, related to York through marriage, declared support for the House of York.
The painting on left by H. A. Payne depicts Yorkists and Lancastrians choosing the opposing symbols of a white and red rose.
During Henry the Sixth's first episode of insanity in 1453, Queen Margaret gave birth to a son, Edward, thus crushing York's hopes as heir to the throne. The Queen saw York as a dangerous threat to the House of Lancaster. However the Council, worried about Somerset's influence should the King not recover, sent for Richard of York.
After rejecting the Queen's bid, the Council appointed York as Protector in 1454 and sent Somerset to the Tower. For the first time in history, many peers who were absent from this parliament forfeited their positions. Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury was made Chancellor, and soon after, his son, the Earl of Warwick joined the Royal Council.
By December, the King had improved and the Queen reasserted herself. Somerset was released and after their dismissal, York, Warwick and Salisbury fled to their estates. Feeling much concern for their safety when receiving a summons to appear before a Great Council in Leicester in May 1455, they raised an army and marched to meet the King. The confrontation took place at St. Albans and on May 22nd 1455, the first battle of the Wars of the Roses was fought.
In this inaugural battle, where Henry VI had an arrow neck wound, York won the day and Somerset was hunted down and killed. Although the casualties numbered less than 100, several prominent Lancastrians died. York and Salisbury escorted the King back to London, with Warwick leading the way bearing the King's sword.
Warwick was bestowed with the Captaincy of Calais, while Salisbury was re-invested with the Chancellorship. Soon after however, York lost the battle at Ludlow Bridge causing the family and followers to flee to Ireland and Calais. In 1460, the House of York reunited and again marched on London. They were admitted without resistance due to the Capital's suffering because the Court's withdrawal to the Midlands had left them vulnerable.
So here began five major battles, which ultimately did not end the dispute between York and Lancaster.
The Yorkist were victorious at the battle of Northampton, and although several leading Lancastrians were dead, Henry VI was still King of England as far as York was concerned. However, Richard of York overplayed his hand and his blatant bearings of Kingship left his peers feeling uneasy.