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Edward IV

Edward IV
King of England
(first time)
Reign 4 March 1461 – 3 October 1470[1]
Coronation 28 June 1461
Predecessor Henry VI
Successor Henry VI
King of England
(second time)
Reign 11 April 1471 – 9 April 1483
Predecessor Henry VI
Successor Edward V
Spouse Elizabeth Woodville
Issue
Elizabeth, Queen of England
Mary of York
Cecily of York, Viscountess Welles
Edward V of England
Margaret of York
Richard of Shrewsbury, 1st Duke of York
Anne of York, Lady Howard
George Plantagenet, Duke of Bedford
Catherine of York, Countess of Devon
Bridget of York
House House of York
Father Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York
Mother Cecily Neville, Duchess of York
Born (1442-04-28)28 April 1442
Rouen, Normandy
Died 9 April 1483(1483-04-09) (aged 40)
Westminster
Burial St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle
Signature

Edward IV (28 April 1442 – 9 April 1483) was King of England from 4 March 1461 until 3 October 1470,[1][2] and again from 11 April 1471 until his death in 1483. He was the first Yorkist King of England.[3] The first half of his rule was marred by the violence associated with the Wars of the Roses, but he overcame the Lancastrian challenge to the throne at Tewkesbury in 1471 to reign in peace until his sudden death. Before becoming king he was 4th Duke of York,[4] 7th Earl of March, 5th Earl of Cambridge and 9th Earl of Ulster. He was also the 65th Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece.

Reign

Accession to the throne

Edward of York was born at Rouen in France, the second child of Richard, 3rd Duke of York (who had a strong genealogical claim to the throne of England[5]), and Cecily Neville. He was the eldest of the four sons who survived to adulthood. His younger brother Edmund, Earl of Rutland, died along with his father at Wakefield in 1460. The Duke of York's assertion of his claim to the crown in 1460 was the key escalation of the conflict known as the Wars of the Roses. When his father died, his claim did not die with him, and Edward inherited it.

With the support of his cousin Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick ("The Kingmaker"), Edward defeated the Lancastrians in a succession of battles. And while the Lancastrian Henry VI and Queen Margaret of Anjou were campaigning in the north of England, Warwick gained control of the capital and had Edward declared King in London in 1461. Edward strengthened his claim with a decisive victory at the Battle of Towton in the same year, in the course of which the Lancastrian army was virtually wiped out. Even at the age of nineteen, he had remarkable military acumen and a notable physique, being described as handsome and affable. His height is estimated at 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m), making him the tallest among all English, Scottish and British monarchs to date.[6]

Overthrow

Warwick, believing that he could continue to rule through Edward, pressed him to enter into a marital alliance with a major European power. Edward then alienated Warwick by secretly marrying Elizabeth Woodville, the widow of a Lancastrian sympathiser, in 1464.

Elizabeth's mother was Jacquetta of Luxembourg, widow of Henry VI's uncle, John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford, but her father, Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers, was a newly created baron. Elizabeth's marriage to Edward IV made the unmarried among her twelve siblings desirable matrimonial catches.

Although they posed no immediate threat to Warwick's own power, Warwick resented the influence this group had over the King and, with the aid of Edward's disaffected younger brother George, Duke of Clarence, Warwick led an army against Edward.

The main part of the king's army (without Edward) was defeated at the Battle of Edgecote Moor in 1469, and Edward was subsequently captured at Olney. Warwick then attempted to rule in Edward's name, but the nobility, many of whom owed their preferments to the king, were restive, and with the emergence of a counter-rebellion, Warwick was forced to release Edward.

At this point Edward did not seek to destroy either Warwick or Clarence but instead sought reconciliation. Nevertheless, a few months later in 1470 Warwick and Clarence rebelled again. This time they were defeated and forced to flee to France. There, they made an alliance with Margaret of Anjou, and Warwick agreed to restore Henry VI in return for French support in an invasion, which took place in late 1470. This time, Edward was forced to flee when he learned that Warwick's brother, John Neville, 1st Marquess of Montagu, had also switched to the Lancastrian side, making Edward's military position untenable.

Restoration

Henry VI was briefly restored to the throne in 1470 in an event known as the Readeption of Henry VI, and Edward took refuge in Burgundy, accompanied by his younger brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester. The rulers of Burgundy were his brother-in-law Charles, Duke of Burgundy, and his sister Margaret of York. Despite the fact that Charles was initially unwilling to help Edward, the French declared war on Burgundy. This prompted Charles to give his aid to Edward, and from Burgundy he raised an army to win back his kingdom.

When Edward returned to England with a relatively small force, he avoided capture. The city of York only opened its gates to him after he promised that he had just come to reclaim his dukedom – just as Henry Bolingbroke had done seventy years earlier. As he marched southwards he began to gather support, and Clarence (who had realised that his fortunes would be better off as brother to a king than under Henry VI) reunited with him. Edward entered London unopposed, where he took Henry VI prisoner. Edward and his brothers then defeated Warwick at the Battle of Barnet, and with Warwick dead he eliminated the remaining Lancastrian resistance at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. The Lancastrian heir, Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, was killed on the battlefield. A few days later, on the night that Edward re-entered London, Henry VI died. One contemporary chronicle claimed that his death was due to "melancholy," but it is widely suspected that Edward ordered Henry's murder in order to remove the Lancastrian opposition completely.

Edward's two younger brothers, George, Duke of Clarence, and Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later King Richard III of England), were married to Isabel Neville and Anne Neville. They were both daughters of Warwick by Anne Beauchamp and rival heirs to the considerable inheritance of their still-living mother, leading to a dispute between the brothers. In 1478, Clarence was eventually found guilty of plotting against Edward, imprisoned in the Tower of London and privately executed on 18 February 1478: according to a long standing tradition he was "drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine".

Later reign and death

Edward did not face any further rebellions after his restoration, as the Lancastrian line had virtually been extinguished, and the only rival left was Henry Tudor, who was living in exile.

In 1475, Edward declared war on France, landing at Calais in June. However, the failure of his ally Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, to provide any significant military assistance led him to undertake negotiations with the French. He came to terms with the Treaty of Picquigny, which provided him with an immediate payment of 75,000 crowns and a yearly pension of 50,000 crowns. He also backed an attempt by Alexander Stewart, 1st Duke of Albany, brother of King James III of Scotland, to take the Scottish throne in 1482. Gloucester led an invasion of Scotland that resulted in the capture of Edinburgh and the king of Scots himself, but Albany reneged on his agreement with Edward. Gloucester decided to withdraw from his position of strength in Edinburgh. However, Gloucester did recover Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Edward's health began to fail, and he became subject to an increasing number of ailments. He fell fatally ill at Easter 1483, but lingered on long enough to add some codicils to his will, the most important being his naming of his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, as Protector after his death. He died on 9 April 1483 and was buried in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. He was succeeded by his twelve-year-old son, Edward V of England (who was never crowned) and then by his brother, Richard.

It is not known what actually caused Edward's death. Pneumonia and typhoid have both been conjectured, as well as poison. Some attributed his death to an unhealthy lifestyle, as he had become stout and inactive in the years before his death.

Overview


Achievements

An extremely capable and daring military commander, Edward destroyed the House of Lancaster in a series of spectacular military victories; he was never defeated on the field of battle. Despite his occasional (if serious) political setbacks — usually at the hands of his great Machiavellian rival, Louis XI of France — Edward was a popular and very able king. While he lacked foresight and was at times cursed by bad judgement, he possessed an uncanny understanding of his most useful subjects, and the vast majority of those who served him remained unwaveringly loyal until his death.

Domestically, Edward's reign saw the restoration of law and order in England (indeed, his royal motto was modus et ordo, or "method and order"). The latter days of Henry VI's government had been marked by a general breakdown in law and order, as well as a sizeable increase in both piracy and banditry. Interestingly, Edward was also a shrewd and successful businessman and merchant, heavily investing in several corporations within the City of London. He also made the duchy of Lancaster property of the crown, which it still is today. During the reign of Henry there had been corruption in the exchequer. Edward made his household gain more control over finances and even investigated old records to see payments had been made. Documents of the exchequer show him sending letters threatening officials if they did not pay money. His properties earned large amounts of money for the crown.

The court

The court of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville was described by a visitor from Europe as "the most splendid ... in all Christendom".[7] Edward spent large amounts on expensive status symbols to show off his power and wealth as legitimate monarch of England. His collecting habits show that he was not only a good soldier and administrator, but had an eye for fashionable style and an interest in scholarship, particularly history. In addition to fine clothes, jewels and furnishings, he acquired a collection of beautifully illuminated historical and literary manuscripts, many of which were made specially for him by craftsmen in Bruges.[8][9] The contents of these works tell us something of his interests: they focus on the lives of great rulers including Julius Caesar,[10] historical chronicles,[11] as well as instructional and religious works.[12] These were books for both entertainment and instruction. It is not known where or how Edward's library was stored, but it is recorded that he transferred volumes from the Great Wardrobe to Eltham Palace and that he had a yeoman "to kepe the king's bookes".[13][14] The fact that more than forty of his books survive intact from the 15th century, suggests that they were carefully stored together.[15] Today they form the foundation of the Royal Collection of manuscripts at the British Library.

Dynasty

Ultimately, despite his military and administrative genius, Edward's dynasty survived him by little more than two years, but Edward was one of the few male members of his dynasty to die of natural causes. Both Edward's father and brother were killed at the Battle of Wakefield, while his grandfather and another brother were executed for treason. Edward's two sons were imprisoned and disappeared (presumed killed) within a year of Edward's death. The king's youngest brother, Richard, (later Richard III) was famously killed in battle against Henry Tudor at Bosworth Field.

Ancestry

Marriage and children

Edward IV had ten children by Elizabeth Woodville, seven of whom survived him. They were declared illegitimate by Parliament in 1483, clearing the way for Richard III to become King.[16] The Act mentioned above, Titulus Regius (King's Title), was promptly repealed by Henry VII, thereby legitimizing those whom that Act had made illegitimate. In fact, Henry Tudor not only had the Act repealed without being read, he made it a crime to possess a copy or even to mention it.

Edward had numerous mistresses. The best known was Elizabeth Shore, also called Jane Shore.[17]

He reportedly had several illegitimate children:

  • By Elizabeth Lucy (or Elizabeth Wayte).
  • By unknown mothers. Recent speculations suggests them as children by Lucy or Waite.
    • Grace Plantagenet. She is known to have been present at the funeral of her stepmother Elizabeth Woodville in 1492.[20]
    • Mary Plantagenet, married Henry Harman of Ellam, son of Thomas and Elizabeth Harman and widower of certain Agnes.[21]
    • A daughter said to have been the first wife of John Tuchet, 6th Baron Audley.[22]

Perkin Warbeck, an impostor claimant to the English throne, who claimed to be Edward's son Richard of Shrewsbury, reportedly resembled Edward. There is unconfirmed speculation that Warbeck could have been another of Edward's illegitimate sons.

Successors

Edward IV's eldest son was invested with the title of Prince of Wales at the age of seven months. At the age of three, he was sent by his father to Ludlow Castle as nominal head of the Council of Wales and the Marches, a body that had originally been set up to help the future Edward V of England in his duties as Prince of Wales. The prince was accompanied to Ludlow by his mother and by his uncle, Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, who carried out many of the administrative duties associated with the presidency of the Council. The king visited his son occasionally at Ludlow, though, as far as is known, he never ventured into Wales itself. It is clear that he intended this experience of government to prepare his son for the throne.

Although his son was quickly barred from the throne and replaced by Richard of Gloucester, Edward IV's daughter Elizabeth of York later became the Queen consort of Henry VII of England. The grounds for Titulus Regius, passed to justify the accession of Richard of Gloucester, were that Edward had been contracted to marry another woman prior to his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. Lady Eleanor Butler (a young widow, daughter of John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury) and Edward were alleged to have been precontracted; both parties were dead by this time, but a clergyman (named only by Philippe de Commines as Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells), claimed to have carried out the ceremony. The declaration was repealed shortly after Henry VII assumed the throne, as it illegimitised Elizabeth of York, who was to be his queen.

The final fate of Edward IV's legitimate sons, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, is unknown. Speculation on the subject has given rise to the "Princes in the Tower" mystery.

Controversy

Questions about his paternity were raised during Edward's own reign (for example by Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, in 1469, and repeated by George shortly before his execution in 1478), and again by Richard of Gloucester's supporters in the brief reign of Edward V. This was a period in which illegitimacy was viewed as sinful and a bar to public life; accordingly, it was a frequent accusation levelled against public figures by their enemies. Edward was not the only one to be accused of illegitimacy in the 15th century: Charles VII of France, Edward of Westminster (son of Henry VI of England), and Joanna "La Beltraneja" of Castile also had this accusation slung at them by enemies seeking to disinherit them. Thus, for centuries historians viewed the story as no more than propaganda designed to discredit Edward and his heirs. In recent years, the question has been given real consideration; however, there is limited evidence that Richard of York was not the biological father of Edward IV, and that which might exist is subjective and open to interpretation.

The claims were based around Edward's appearance and the circumstances surrounding his overseas birth. During his own lifetime, it was noted that Edward showed little resemblance to his father. Unlike his father, he was over six foot tall, an exceptional height for the age; but his younger brother George was also tall and fair, (and said to bear a marked resemblance to Edward), whilst their sister Margaret was at almost six foot an equally exceptional height (observers of her wedding to Charles the Bold of Burgundy remarked that the bride towered over the groom - she had to lean down to receive his kiss).[23]

Dominic Mancini claimed that when Edward's mother, Cecily Neville, found out about Edward's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville in 1464, she flew into a rage and offered to declare him a bastard. However, this episode is not reported by contemporary sources, which instead condemn the pair for making an unequal and inappropriate marriage in dubious circumstances.

Prior to his succession, on 22 June 1483, Richard III declared that Edward V was illegitimate, and three days later the matter was addressed by parliament. In Titulus Regius (the text of which is believed to come word-for-word from the petition presented by Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, to the assembly which met on 25 June 1483, to decide on the future of the monarchy), Richard III is described as "the undoubted son and heir" of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, and "born in this land" — an oblique reference to his brother's birth at Rouen and baptism in circumstances which could have been considered questionable. There is no confirmation for the view – as fictionalised in William Shakespeare's Richard III (Act 3, Scene 5) – that Richard made any claims about his brother's legitimacy, as his claim was based on the supposed illegitimacy of Edward IV's children. According to Polydore Vergil, Duchess Cecily, "being falsely accused of adultery, complained afterwards in sundry places to right many noble men, whereof some yet live, of that great injury which her son Richard had done her." If she had indeed complained – as would befit a high-ranking lady of renowned piety, as she had been regarded – these petitions may have had some effect: the allegations were dropped and never again pursued.

Edward was born on 28 April 1442. No contemporary evidence refers to him as being born prematurely. Accordingly, counting back nine months from birth would date his conception to late July 1441. A 2004 television documentary examined records in the archives of Rouen Cathedral, which indicated that from 14 July to 21 August 1441 Richard, Duke of York, was away on campaign at Pontoise, several days' march from Rouen (where Cecily of York was based), and that prayers were being offered at the cathedral for his safety. The programme also drew attention to the fact that the christening celebration of Edmund, Earl of Rutland, the second son of Richard and Cecily, was a lavish affair at the cathedral, whereas the christening of Edward, the firstborn, was low key, and in a side chapel. The programme concluded that Edward was illegitimate.[24] However, there is no strong reason to suggest Edward could not be premature: premature birth would not necessarily be mentioned in contemporary sources, and prematurely-born children could survive the perilous years of early childhood (Edward's grandson, Arthur, Prince of Wales, was at least 1 month premature and lived to age 15, outliving several siblings); high infant mortality meant baptisms were often performed quickly, Cecily had already had children who had died young, and if Edward was indeed premature there would be good cause for a hurried baptism. Richard, Duke of York, would have had every right, even a duty, to challenge the child's paternity if it was in doubt; refusing to do so, and allowing a child he knew was not his to remain his heir and an heir to the English throne, was tantamount to treason. However, he acknowledged Edward as his eldest son. Therefore, if the low-key nature of the ceremony was meant to be publicly taken as indicative of the child's illegitimacy, he would be impugning his wife's honour, and exposing himself as a cuckolded husband into the bargain, to no good end. Furthermore, he raised Edward as his heir, and nothing in their interactions suggests Edward was other than a well-loved and cherished eldest son and heir.

Even if Edward IV was illegitimate, he could in any case claim the crown from Henry VI by right of conquest. He also had a direct (albeit legally barred) blood-claim to the throne through his mother Cecily, who was a great-granddaughter of Edward III through John of Gaunt and his illegitimate daughter (Cecily's mother) Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland. Although this claim is via an illegitimate line, it is the same as the claim of Henry Tudor, who dislodged the House of York from the throne in 1485.

In fiction

References

  • pgs 211–217
  • page 909

External links

  • Edward IV in the Dictionary of National Biography (1888)
  • Edward IV at the official website of the British monarchy
  • Edward IV at BBC History
  • British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts (SEARCH: Keyword Edward IV, Start year 1470, End year 1480 for details and images of Edward IV's manuscripts).
Edward IV of England
Cadet branch of the House of Plantagenet
Born: 28 April 1442 Died: 9 April 1483
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Henry VI
King of England
Lord of Ireland

1461–1470
Succeeded by
Henry VI
King of England
Lord of Ireland

1471–1483
Succeeded by
Edward V
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Richard Plantagenet
Duke of York
Earl of Cambridge
Earl of March

1460 – 1461
Merged in Crown
Peerage of Ireland
Preceded by
Richard Plantagenet
Earl of Ulster
1460 – 1461
Merged in Crown
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