Wikijunior:Kings and Queens of England/The House of York
Edward IV (1461-1470, 1471-1483)
Edward IV was born on 28 April 1442 at Rouen in France. He was the eldest son of Richard, Duke of York, a leading claimant to the throne of England. Richard's challenge to the ruling family started the Wars of the Roses. When his father was killed in 1460 whilst pressing his claim to be king against Henry VI at the Battle of Wakefield, Edward inherited his claim.
Edward won the support of Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick, whose nickname is "The Kingmaker". Edward then defeated the Lancastrians in a number of battles. While Henry was campaigning in the north, Warwick gained control of London and had Edward declared king in 1461. Edward strengthened his claim with victory at the Battle of Towton in the same year, where the Lancastrian army was virtually wiped out.
Marriage and children
Edward was tall, strong, handsome, generous, and popular. Warwick, believing that he could continue to rule through Edward, wanted him to marry into a major European family. Edward, however, secretly married a widow, Elizabeth Woodville. They had ten children together. Under an act of Parliament of 1484, one year after Edward IV's death, all of Edward's children by Elizabeth Woodville were declared illegitimate on the grounds that Edward had been due to marry another woman, Eleanor Talbot, before he entered into marriage with Elizabeth Woodville. This claim was only made after all these parties had died. The act was repealed shortly after Henry VII became king. Edward also had many mistresses and had several illegitimate children.
A series of conflicts
Elizabeth's family had little land, which was where real power came from, but Warwick did not like the influence they now had. Warwick allied himself with Edward's younger brother George, Duke of Clarence, and led an army against Edward. The main part of the king's army (without Edward) was defeated at the Battle of Edgecote Moor, and Edward was later captured at Olney. Warwick tried to rule in Edward's name, but the nobles, many of whom owed their position to the king, were not happy. A rebellion forced Warwick to free Edward, who tried to make peace with Warwick and Clarence. This did not work and they rebelled again in 1470, after which Warwick and Clarence were forced to flee to France. There, they allied with Henry VI's wife, Margaret, and Warwick agreed to restore Henry VI to the throne in return for French support. They invaded in 1470. This time, Edward was forced to flee after Warwick's brother switched to the Lancastrian side, making Edward's military position too weak, and Henry VI was king once more.
Edward fled to Burgundy. The rulers of Burgundy were his brother-in-law Charles, Duke of Burgundy, and his sister Margaret of Burgundy. After France declared war on Burgundy, Charles helped Edward to raise an army to win back his kingdom. When he returned to England with a small force he avoided capture by saying that he only wished to reclaim his dukedom. This is similar to the claim Henry Bolingbroke made seventy years before. The city of York, however, closed its gates to him, but as he marched southwards he began to gather support, and Clarence reunited with him. Edward defeated Warwick at the Battle of Barnet. With Warwick dead, he ended the remaining Lancastrian resistance at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. The Lancastrian heir, Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, was killed either on the battlefield or shortly afterwards. A few days later, on the night that Edward re-entered London, Henry VI, who held prisoner, was murdered to make sure there was no remaining Lancastrian opposition.
Edward did not face any further rebellions after his restoration. The only rival left was Henry Tudor, who was living in exile. Edward declared war on France in 1475, which ended with the Treaty of Picquigny, under which he was immediately paid 75,000 crowns, and then received a yearly pension of 50,000 crowns. Edward backed an attempt by Alexander Stewart, 1st Duke of Albany, brother of the Scottish king, James III, to take the throne in 1482. Although Edinburgh and James III were both captured, the Duke of Albany went back on his agreements with Edward, and the English forces were pulled back. England did, however, recover the border town of Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Edward fell ill at Easter 1483, and made some changes to his will, the most important being his naming of his brother, the Duke of Gloucester, as Protector after his death. He died on 9 April 1483 and is buried in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. He was succeeded by his twelve-year-old son, Edward. Edward IV's daughter, Elizabeth of York, later became King Henry VII's queen.
Was Edward illegitimate?
There have been many rumours that Edward IV was himself illegitimate, in which case he should never have been king. In his time, it was noted that Edward IV did not look much like his father. Before he became king in 1483, Richard III himself declared that Edward was illegitimate, and parliament even considered the matter. William Shakespeare, in his play, Richard III, which was written over a hundred years later, also referred to the claim. To this day it is not known whether these rumours were true.
Edward V (1483)
Edward V was born in sanctuary within Westminster Abbey on 4 November 1470, while his mother was taking refuge from the Lancastrians who were then in charge of the kingdom while his father, the Yorkist King Edward IV of England, was out of power. After his father returned to the throne, he was made Prince of Wales in June 1471 and appeared with his parents on state occasions. Edward IV had set up a Council of Wales and the Marches, and sent his son to Ludlow Castle to be its president. The prince was at Ludlow when news came of his father's sudden death. Therefore Edward became king on 9 April 1483, aged only 12.
His father's brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was given the role of Protector to his young nephews, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York. He caught up with Edward on his journey from Ludlow and took the princes to London. Less than three months later, Richard took the throne himself after parliament declared Edward to be illegitimate.
After the two boys went to the Tower of London, they were never seen in public again. What happened to them is one of the great mysteries of history, and many books have been written on the subject. It is believed that they were killed, and the usual suspects are: their uncle, King Richard; Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham; and Henry Tudor, who later defeated Richard and took the throne as Henry VII.
In 1674 some workmen remodeling the Tower of London dug up a box that had two small human skeletons in it. They threw them on a rubbish heap, but some days or weeks later someone decided they might be the bones of the two princes, so they gathered them up and put some of them in an urn that was buried at Westminster Abbey. In 1933 the bones were taken out and examined and then replaced in the urn. The experts who examined them could not agree on what age the children would have been when they died or even whether they were boys or girls.
Richard III (1483-1485)
Richard III was born at Fotheringay Castle on 2 October 1452. He was the fourth surviving son of Richard Plantagenet, the 3rd Duke of York, who was a strong claimant to the throne of King Henry VI. He has been portrayed as having a withered arm, limp and a crooked back, but this is most probably an invention from many years later. Richard was King of England from 1483, when he effectively deposed his nephew, Edward V. A rebellion rose against Richard later that year, and he died at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. He is the last English king to die in battle, and he was succeeded by the winner of the battle, Henry Tudor.
Marriage and children
Richard spent much of his childhood at Middleham Castle in Wensleydale, under the care of his uncle, Richard Neville, the 16th Earl of Warwick (the "Kingmaker"), as Richard's father died when he was young. Following the Yorkist victory over the Lancastrians at the Battle of Tewkesbury, Richard married the widowed Anne Neville, younger daughter of the now dead 16th Earl of Warwick on 12 July 1472. Anne's first husband had been Edward of Westminster, son of Henry VI. Richard and Anne had one son, Edward Plantagenet, who was born in 1473. He died soon after being made Prince of Wales in 1483. Richard also had a number of illegitimate children.
Reign of Edward IV
During the reign of his brother, King Edward IV, Richard was a loyal and skilful military commander. He was rewarded with large estates in Northern England, and given the title Duke of Gloucester and the position of Governor of the North, becoming the richest and most powerful noble in England. Richard continued to control the north of England until Edward's death. In 1482 Richard recaptured Berwick-upon-Tweed from the Scots, and was noted as being fair and just, making gifts to universities and the Church.
Death and legacy
On 22 June 1483, outside St Paul's Cathedral, a statement was read out on behalf of Richard declaring for the first time that he was taking the throne for himself. On 6 July 1483, Richard was crowned at Westminster Abbey. Except for three earls not old enough to be there and a few lesser nobles, the entire peerage attended his coronation. Richard was known as a devout man and an efficient administrator. However, he was a Yorkist and heirless, and had ruthlessly removed many of his enemies but some, led by Henry Tudor, remained. Richard's enemies united against him and he fought them at the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485, where he was killed. Henry Tudor succeeded Richard to become King Henry VII. Richard was buried at Greyfriars Church, Leicester, but his body was lost during the later Dissolution of the Monasteries. There is currently a memorial plaque on the site of the Cathedral where he may have once been buried. Since his death, Richard III has become one of England's most controversial kings. He was portrayed as a bad king by historians of the House of Tudor. He has now largely lost his notoriety, except in relation to the mystery surrounding the two Princes in the Tower.