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Edward IV - King of England

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A portrait of King Edward IV by Artist Rosie.

King Edward IV1 (ruled 1461–1470, 1471–1483) was King of England during one of the most chaotic periods of English history – the Wars of the Roses. Edward deposed King Henry VI from the throne. He was then himself briefly deposed by his closest ally and friend, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, known as the Kingmaker, before returning to power.

Claim to the Throne

Like Henry VI, Edward claimed the throne as an heir of King Edward III (1327–1377), who had many sons. Three of these sons are important to this story:

  • Edward III's third son was Lionel of Antwerp.
  • His fourth son was John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and founder of the House of Lancaster.
  • His fifth son was Edmund, Duke of York and founder of the House of York.

Henry VI was the great-grandson of John of Gaunt, being the son of King Henry V and the grandson of King Henry IV.

Lionel's great-granddaughter Anne married Edmund's grandson, Richard Earl of Cambridge. Their child was Richard of York, who was the father of Edward, Earl of March, later to be King Edward IV. Both Richard and Edward claimed the throne through descent from the third and fifth sons of Edward III, whereas Henry VI was descended from the fourth.

Chart showing descent of Edward IV and Henry VI.


Edward was the third of nine children of Richard, 3rd Duke of York and Cecily Neville. He was the second of five sons and had an older sister Anne, an older brother Henry of Hatfield, who died as an infant, with younger siblings Edmund Duke of Rutland, Elizabeth, Margaret, George Duke of Clarence, Richard Duke of Gloucester (later King Richard III) and Ursula, who died as an infant.

Just before his death, Edward's father, Richard of York, had forced Henry VI to declare him the heir to the throne, but Richard of York died soon after at the Battle of Wakefield outside Sandal Castle. Edward's brother Edmund Duke of Rutland, a young, innocent 16-year-old who was at Sandal Castle with his tutor when the battle erupted outside their home, was also slaughtered at the Battle of Wakefield, by 'Bloody' Clifford 'the Butcher' of Skipton2.


Edward was a tall, strong man. At six foot four inches tall (1.93m), he is the tallest British monarch to date. He had been born on 28 April, 1442 in Rouen Castle when his father, Richard of York, served as the King's Lieutenant in Normandy during the closing stages of the Hundred Years War. He is reported as being good looking and was a notorious womaniser throughout his life. He grew up in the warlike environment of the Wars of the Roses, and as a result in 1459, at the age of 17, Edward was in exile in Calais. Here he became close friends with 31-year-old Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and Captain of Calais, normally referred to just as 'Warwick'.

Both Edward and Warwick lost their fathers at the Battle of Wakefield in 1461, and this too helped bond them together and united them against a common enemy, the weak-willed Henry VI and especially his manipulative and ambitious wife, Queen Margaret.

Key Figures

The key figures in the reign and life of Edward IV were:

Person and TitleLivedSupported
Edward Plantagenet, Earl of March, later Edward IV1442–83York
Elizabeth Woodville, Queen of England1437–92Lancaster/York
George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence1449–1477York
Richard Plantagenet, Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III1452–85York
Edmund Plantagenet, Duke of Rutland1443–60York
Margaret Plantagenet, later Duchess of Burgundy1446–1503York
Elizabeth 'of York' Plantagenet, later Queen of England1465–1503York
Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, the Kingmaker1428–71York/Lancaster
King Henry VI1422–71Lancaster
Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England1430–82Lancaster
Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers1405–69Lancaster/York
Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers1440–83Lancaster/York
Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York1411–60York
Edward Plantagenet, later Edward V1470–83York
Richard Plantagenet, 5th Duke of York1473–83York
Edmund Beaufort, 4th Duke of Somerset1438–71Lancaster
Bloody John Clifford the Butcher, Baron of Skipton1435–61Lancaster
Jasper Tudor, 1st Duke of Bedford1431–95Lancaster
Edmund Tudor, 1st Earl of Richmond1431–56Lancaster
Henry Tudor, 2nd Earl of Richmond, later Henry VII1457–1509Lancaster
Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury1400–60York
John Neville, Earl (later Marquess) Montagu1431–71York/Lancaster

War of the Roses

When his father, Richard of York, marched north, Edward Earl of March marched his force to the Welsh Marches. He was staying near the Welsh border at Shrewsbury when he heard that his father and brother had been killed at the Battle of Wakefield. The Lancastrian forces expected Edward to either attempt to rejoin Warwick's force in London or head north in an attempt to avenge his father's death, and so Queen Margaret led the main Lancastrian and Scottish army south from Yorkshire to London in an attempt to intercept and defeat Edward. Progress was slow as the army raided and plundered every town and village it passed through.

The 18-year-old Edward, showing that he was a masterful tactician, instead engaged the experienced Lancastrian army, led by Jasper Tudor, in Wales at the Battle of Mortimer's Cross on 3 February, 1461 and defeated it. Just before the battle, the fog and rare atmospheric conditions caused the appearance of three suns rising, which Edward took as a good omen, signifying the three surviving sons of York. Edward then adopted the 'Sun in Splendour' as his personal banner. At the battle Owen Tudor, the founder of the House of Tudor and husband of Henry V's widow, Catherine of Valois, was captured and executed.

Meanwhile the main Lancastrian and Scottish army marched on London, meeting the Yorkist army led by the Earl of Warwick at St Albans on 17 February, 1461. This, the second battle of St Albans3, was won by the Lancastrians under the brilliant tactician Andrew Trollope. Although Warwick escaped, King Henry who was his captive at the time was recaptured by Queen Margaret. He was found sitting in his tent next to two minor Yorkist lords who had accompanied him and had been promised safe conduct by him. Despite this, the 7-year-old Prince Edward4 ignored King Henry, his mother's husband, and ordered their decapitation, which was promptly carried out.

While the Lancastrians celebrated their victory and pillaged and plundered St Albans, Edward Earl of March entered London, rendezvoused with Warwick and on 4 March, 1461 was popularly proclaimed King Edward IV. Edward argued that Henry VI had, through his wife Margaret's acts at the Battle of Wakefield, broken his solemn promise to recognise Richard of York's valid claim to be heir to the throne. Edward therefore considered Henry to be no longer fit to rule and, as Edward was the eldest son of Henry VI's heir Richard of York, Edward claimed the throne.

Edward's first act as king was to muster all men between the ages of 16 and 60, the largest army seen in England to that date. Margaret retreated to the north and was pursued by Edward, with their armies meeting at Towton. Estimates at the total number of men involved in this pivotal battle of the Wars of the Roses have ranged up to 80,000, although muster rolls have indicated that Edward's army alone must have been over 45,000 men. The advanced guards of the armies first clashed on Friday 27 March, 1461 but the main battle occurred on Palm Sunday, 29 March. The Yorkist army won; Margaret, Henry, Prince Edward and the Duke of Somerset fled to Scotland and Lancastrians 'Bloody' Clifford and Sir Andrew Trollope were killed. King Edward IV and Warwick entered York and had Clifford's head put proudly on display.

Edward IV and Warwick

Edward was crowned on 28 June, 1461 at the age of 18. While he had previously allowed his older cousin, the Earl of Warwick, to dominate their friendship, from this point Edward began to exert his own influence. After both Warwick and Edward lost their fathers, Warwick had been defeated in battle while Edward had been victorious. The balance of power had shifted; Edward was king and Warwick remained an earl, although he was rewarded with profitable land and trusted military commands, and his family richly rewarded. One of Warwick's brothers, George Neville, became Chancellor and another brother, John Neville, Lord Montagu, was appointed Captain of the North. In 1464, John Neville captured and beheaded the Duke of Somerset at Hexham and as a reward was appointed Earl of Northumberland while George became Archbishop of York. The Neville family now controlled the whole of the Border region of the north of England.

Warwick expected to be consulted on all affairs of the realm and to have a strong influence at the very least, if not being the true power behind the throne. The Seneschal of Abbeyville wrote in an official dispatch to King Louis XI of France, They tell me they have two rulers in England, Monsieur de Warwick and another, whose name I have forgotten. Edward, on the other hand, felt he had no need of an advisor. He began to issue pardons to Lancastrian supporters who Warwick disliked and made his own policies. Determined to be no man's puppet, he began to rule and restore law and order. Despite this, Warwick remained Edward's closest friend and confident; after all, at Edward's coronation, his only surviving brothers, George Duke of Clarence and Richard Duke of Gloucester, were still children, aged 12 and nine.

Meanwhile, Margaret planned an assassination attempt on Edward, but this failed. She travelled to France, where she promised to give the port of Calais to Louis XI, the new king of France, in exchange for troops. She was given 300 mercenaries, all of whom promptly drowned or were captured when their ship was wrecked on the journey to Northumberland on 25 October, 1462. Margaret escaped to Scotland unharmed. Edward headed north with his army, but was struck with measles and confined to Durham over Christmas. His army besieged several Lancastrian strongholds in the north. In the spring of 1463, Margaret led her forces including a Scottish army into the north of England, but despite several skirmishes and sieges, little was achieved.

Edward's Marriage

Warwick was working hard trying to find a politically advantageous marriage for Edward. His first suggestion was the elderly Marie de Gueldres, Queen-Dowager of Scotland, but she died in late 1463. Her Scottish connections would have been useful in preventing Margaret from continuing to hide in that country and she was related to Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, a potential ally. Another potential ally was King Louis XI of France, who was keen to marry Edward to his sister-in-law Lady5 Bona of Savoy, although any alliance with France would anger Burgundy. Warwick was determined that this marriage would go ahead; in the council in Reading in September, 1464, however, Edward announced that he had in fact already married four months earlier. This marriage was to Lady Elizabeth Grey, daughter of Lancastrian supporting family, the Woodvilles, who had little importance or influence, and the widow of Lord Grey, a firm Lancastrian supporter.

After the marriage, the Woodville family, Elizabeth's 12 brothers and sisters, began to receive more and more influential appointments and marriages. Elizabeth's father was appointed Earl Rivers and became Treasurer. Her brother Anthony, Lord Scales, was given the lordship of the Isle of Wight6 in 1467, although most of the Woodville males were given minor titles and lordships in order to prevent creating another powerful family to rival the Nevilles. Elizabeth's sisters, however, were married off to many of the most influential men of the realm, hoping that these Woodville wives would ensure the loyalty of their new husbands. The Neville family began to feel their position of control over the king that they had enjoyed in the first years of Edward's reign was under threat.

Elizabeth Grey was crowned queen on 26 May, 1465 and she soon became pregnant, giving birth to a daughter, Elizabeth of York7, in February 1466. Henry, meanwhile, was hiding in Scotland and northern England. He was discovered and captured in July 1465, by the Earl of Warwick, and was taken to the Tower, where he stayed in reasonable comfort for five years, no longer known as King Henry VI but instead simply referred to as Henry of Windsor. Margaret and Prince Edward, meanwhile, were living in exile in France.

War with Warwick

I was the chief that raised him to the crown
And I'll be chief to bring him down.
...Not that I pity Henry's misery
But seek revenge of Edward's mockery.

– Warwick in Henry VI Part III by William Shakespeare

In 1467, Edward's brother George, Duke of Clarence, the heir to the throne, proposed to marry Warwick's daughter, Isobel Neville. He had to first seek permission from the Pope, due to Isobel being his cousin, and then from Edward, as any member of the royal family required the monarch's permission to marry. In June 1468, Edward refused the request. Warwick favoured a French alliance through marriage, but Edward was determined to invade France and married his sister Margaret to an enemy of France, Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, to be Charles' third wife. By 1468 the gap between Edward and Warwick had widened. Warwick, an ambitious man wishing to be the real power behind the throne, desired a king he could dominate and control, just as Queen Margaret dominated and controlled Henry, and he realised that Edward would never be a puppet. Edward's brother Clarence was jealous of the Woodville family and intended to marry Warwick's daughter. Warwick felt that in Clarence he had found the perfect replacement king.

In the Spring of 1469, Warwick, leading the powerful Neville family and Clarence, united with Lancastrians and rose against Edward. This was at first done subtly, with two rebellions led by Robin of Holderness and Robin of Redesdale – both leaders chose the name Robin because of its association with the legendary Robin Hood. Robin of Holderness was quickly beheaded while Robin of Redesdale gathered an army. Clarence, meanwhile, married Isobel without Edward's permission on 11 July, 1469 in a service conducted by George Neville, Archbishop of York. The Nevilles then requested that the people of England free King Edward from the evil influence of the Woodville family.

At the battle of Edgecote Field on 26 July, 1469, several Woodvilles, Edward's in-laws, were executed. These included Earl Rivers, Edward's father-in-law, and John Woodville. With himself now a target, Edward shrewdly surrendered to the Archbishop of York, George Neville, and the protection of the church. Warwick was now unable to kill him, yet unsure what to do next, other than execute some of his distant relatives who favoured restoring King Henry VI.

Edward, meanwhile, promised Lord Montagu, Earl of Northumberland that his son George Neville would marry Edward's daughter, Lady Elizabeth, in exchange for granting him his freedom. As George Neville would become Edward's son-in-law and would be a potential heir to the throne, Lord Montagu agreed, although this marriage never actually occurred. Lord Montagu was also granted the rank of Marquis and his son George the Dukedom of Bedford in exchange for restoring Lord Percy to the Earldom of Northumberland. With a Percy restored in the North, the Neville family's power was checked. As Earl Rivers had been executed, Edward appointed his trusted brother Richard of Gloucester, now 18, Chancellor.

Second War with Warwick

Peace was then uneasily restored by the end of 1469, but in spring 1470 Warwick and Clarence secretly raised an army and organised a rebellion to distract the king. The plot failed, and on 14 April Edward issued a proclamation declaring Warwick and Clarence traitors. Warwick, Clarence and Isobel fled to France; during the journey, Isobel suffered a miscarriage. Warwick was now tiring of Clarence, and decided to see if he could put Margaret's son, Prince Edward, on the throne instead, if Edward married his daughter Anne. Margaret consented to the marriage and Warwick promised to help Louis XI of France capture Burgundy in exchange for military aid against England now.

In 1470, the Duke of Somerset led an army back to England that included Jasper Tudor and Warwick. King Edward's army was commanded by Marquis Montagu, Warwick's brother, but he defected to his brother's side. King Edward and some loyal men including his brother Richard were forced to flee to Burgundy, while the pregnant Queen Elizabeth claimed sanctuary in Westminster. Warwick and Clarence freed King Henry VI from the Tower and Henry was recrowned at St Paul's Cathedral on 13 October, 1470, although all the king's men wore the bear and staff emblem of Warwick, now the King's Lieutenant. Warwick began to move his men into positions of power while Queen Elizabeth gave birth to a son, Edward, in Westminster.

England now had two crowned kings, Henry VI and Edward IV. There were two heirs to the throne; in Edward of Lancaster and Edward of Westminster, not to mention Clarence who Warwick declared to be Richard Plantagenet's oldest surviving legitimate son, claiming that King Edward was the son of an affair between his mother Cecily and a common archer. Edward was also declared not to be English, having been born in Normandy.

In late 1470, Warwick began to raise an army to help Louis XI of France invade Burgundy while Louis sent his army to attack Flanders in December. This act prompted Duke Charles of Burgundy to supply Edward with money to raise an army to reclaim England and by March 1471 Edward's army was in England. Warwick was outnumbered and awaited the force of his ally, Edward's brother Clarence, but Edward's youngest brother Richard persuaded Clarence to ally with Edward. Clarence was now aware that Warwick had no intention of keeping the promises made to make him king, and it was better to be the brother of a king then Warwick's puppet or pawn.

Edward was re-crowned in London and he met with King Henry VI, who said Cousin Edward, I am right glad to see you. I hold my life in no danger from your hands. Warwick and his brother Montagu marched south, meeting Edward's army at Barnet on 13 April, 1471. In the battle both Montagu and Warwick were killed.

Once more we sit on England's Royal Throne.
– Edward VI in Henry VI Part III by William Shakespeare

Shortly after, Margaret and Prince Edward of Lancaster and his bride Anne Neville returned to England to rendezvous with Warwick before learning of his defeat. Somerset chose to lead them to Wales to join with Jasper Tudor. Edward pursued them, racing to intercept them before they reached Wales. The two forces met at Tewkesbury on 4 May, 1471. Prince Edward of Lancaster was killed, Somerset was captured, put on trial by Richard of Gloucester and executed and three days later Margaret and Lady Anne Neville were captured. King Edward and his brothers George Duke of Clarence and Richard of Gloucester re-entered London on 21 May, 1471. That night, King Henry VI died in the Tower, almost certainly murdered.

Edward IV had finally triumphed over his enemies, and avenged the death of his father, Richard of York. Henry VI was dead, and was buried in St George's Chapel, Windsor. The only surviving descendant of the house of Lancaster was the young Henry Tudor.

Rule of Edward

After the death of Henry VI, Edward was able to rule virtually unchallenged. In 1472, claiming the French throne on the same grounds as Henry V, Edward planned an invasion of France and began to raise funds to this end. George Neville, Archbishop of York, was arrested in 1472 and imprisoned until 1476, but died in 1478. Edward's hold over England was strong and the country was beginning to settle down to good governorship.

Clarence and Richard

In 1472, Edward's traitorous brother Clarence persuaded Edward to let him become Grand Chamberlain of England, a post that at the time was held by Richard. Also that year, Richard announced he wished to marry Anne Neville8, Prince Edward's widow and eldest daughter of Warwick, but Clarence protested. Clarence was married to Isobel Neville, the youngest of Warwick's two daughters, and he hoped to inherit the entire Warwick estate on the death of Warwick's widow, the Countess of Warwick.

Clarence therefore kidnapped Anne and took her to London, but Richard pursued and rescued her, sending her to the safety of sanctuary in a convent. In 1473, Richard married Anne, who was only 15, with Clarence angered and preparing for armed conflict. Edward quickly dealt with the situation by depriving Clarence of all his lands held by Royal Grant and declaring that the Warwick estate would be shared between Clarence and Richard equally, even though the Countess of Warwick was not dead. Although the Countess of Warwick was left with nothing, Richard granted her a home in Middleham Castle, which would later prove his favourite castle and in 1473 Richard's son Edward was born there9.

Invasion of France

In 1475, Edward's invasion of France went ahead, supported by Duke Charles of Burgundy, who was married to his sister Margaret. Edward was to recover Normandy and Guyenne10 and to claim the French throne; in return Burgundy would gain Champagne11, Nevers and Bar. The Bishop of Lisieux recorded the English army as numbering 36,000 men with 15,000 mounted archers, although many historians believe the figure to be an exaggeration. Unfortunately the Duke of Burgundy's forces were besieging Neuss and did not rendezvous as promised; the Duke wished merely to set England and France at war and to take advantage of the chaos.

Despite this, Edward negotiated with Louis, who agreed to give pay Edward 75,000 crowns to call off the invasion, with an additional 50,00 crowns per year on promise of Edward's eldest daughter Elizabeth, then aged nine, to be betrothed to the Dauphin12, the marriage to be arranged when Elizabeth was old enough. Edward accepted and returned to England, with the monarchy rich again after the collapse of royal power experienced in the reign of Henry VI. Louis later boasted, I have chased the English out of France more easily than my father did, for he had to drive them out with armies, while I have sent them off with venison and good French wine.

Edward returned to England wealthy and triumphant. He had two healthy male sons, Edward and Richard, his enemies in England had been defeated, France was securing his wealth and he was beginning to enjoy the leisure, fine dining and mistresses that being king entailed. Edward invested heavily in England's wool trade; English wool throughout the mediæval period was considered the highest quality, and Edward's interest in trade and keeping markets secure reassured England's merchants and ensured that England was financially stable.


Clarence, however, was yet again was out to cause trouble. In October 1476, Clarence's wife Isobel gave birth to a son, Richard, but sadly both wife and son13 died soon after of natural causes. Clarence reacted by kidnapping Isobel's lady-in-waiting, Ankarette Twynho of Frome, accusing her of witchcraft and executing her and then going on a rampage, murdering anyone he felt might have had any involvement in the death of his wife and son. Soon after, a plot was discovered where three men were accused of being employed by Clarence to use sorcery against the king and a rebellion in Cambridgeshire occurred which was apparently started by Clarence.

In January 1477, Duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy was killed, fighting the Swiss at Nancy. Charles was the last Valois Duke of Burgundy and his daughter Mary was the heir to the duchy. Clarence, now a widower, began to make overtures of marriage to Mary. If they married, Clarence would rule Burgundy.

In his lifetime Clarence had claimed that Edward was illegitimate, had fought with Warwick against Edward, had insisted on replacing his loyal brother Richard as Grand Chamberlain and had squabbled with Richard over the Duke of Warwick's land. He was now involved in rebellions and had plans of ruling one of the wealthiest duchies in Europe. Enough was enough. In 1477, Edward sent Clarence to the Tower accused of treason and of placing himself above the law. On 7 February, 1478, an Act of Parliament was passed for his execution, and he died on 18 February, 1478, according to legend drowned in a barrel of malmsey wine.

The Last Years of Edward's Reign

In the last five years of his reign, Edward was content to enjoy the debauchery of his royal court. He enjoyed food and drink, became extremely fat and had several mistresses. He rewarded his loyal brother Richard with titles and land, especially in the north of England, where he acquired the land of the Nevilles, Warwick and Montagu. Richard's growing power alarmed the remaining Woodvilles, whose wealth and influence was derived directly from Edward. Richard, however, had no interest in life at court and stayed in Middleham Castle in Yorkshire, where his wife Anne lived and suffered from tuberculosis. Richard's duties were to ensure that peace was maintained both with the border of Scotland and between the great northern families, the Percys, Nevilles and Stanleys.

In 1478, Edward's youngest son Richard, Duke of York, aged 4, was married to Anne Mowbray, aged 5. Edward collected a library, was a generous benefactor to Henry VI's colleges at Eton and Cambridge and encouraged the setting up of a printing press. Edward was concerned how sport was proving more popular than archery, and so passed laws to encourage young men to practise archery and to discourage them from playing football and quoits.

In 1479, Louis XI chose to attack the English-held city of Calais, but the campaign was a failure14. Encouraged by Louis, the Scots attacked the northern border of England in 1481, when Edward was ill, possibly having had a heart attack. In 1482, Richard led the couter-attack against the Scots. He led his forces north and recaptured Berwick, which Henry VI and Margaret had given to Scotland in 1460 in exchange for Scottish troops. Proceeding into Scotland, he captured Edinburgh (although not the Castle), where he was to help put the exiled brother of King James III of Scotland, Alexander Duke of Albany, on the Scottish throne and marry him to Edward's daughter Cicely. The threat from Scotland neutralised, Richard returned to England.

Edward's health was now visibly failing and his court was beginning to split into factions, those of the old nobility and the new, led by the Woodvilles.

In 1482, Duchess Mary of Burgundy died from a fall from her horse and the merchants of Flanders, wishing to avoid war, signed the Treaty of Arras, in which Mary's daughter Margaret was married to the Dauphin of France, who was also granted Artois and other land. Edward's key European ally against France was gone, and he began to prepare for war. He summoned Parliament to raise funds and supplies in 1483, but was taken ill and died suddenly on 9 April, 1483. King Edward IV was buried in St George's Chapel, Windsor near the remains of Henry VI.

Edward's Legacy

Edward had ruled successfully, had taken the total defeat of his father at the Battle of Wakefield and had turned it into victory, becoming king. Under his rule trade was restored and encouraged. His reign was on the whole stable and secure after the chaos of that of Henry VI. Edward died solvent and wealthy, having won all his battles and with two strong sons, Edward V and Richard, to be protected by their paternal uncle and Protector of the Realm, Richard. The House of York was in a strong position to rule England for the foreseeable future.

On his death, however, things quickly began to unravel. Richard, in Yorkshire, was not informed of his brother's death. Instead the Woodvilles in court in London seized the royal treasure in the Tower, took command of the Royal Fleet and filled London with troops in an attempt to crown their nephew and manoeuvre into positions of power, with Edward's widow and queen, Elizabeth, ruling as regent. Richard retaliated, had most of the Woodville faction arrested or executed and had Edward IV's sons, Edward V and Richard Duke of York sent to the Tower of London for safety, from which they later vanished, believed murdered.

Richard proclaimed that at the time Edward IV secretly married Elizabeth Woodville, he had already secretly married Lady Eleanor Butler, daughter of the Earl of Wiltshire, the service being conducted by Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells15. Therefore, Richard claimed all Edward's children by Elizabeth were illegitimate and unable to inherit the throne.

Within three months of his death, Edward IV's brother Richard claimed the throne to become King Richard III.

Shakespeare's Edward IV

Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York.
– Richard describing Edward IV, in Richard III by William Shakespeare

King Edward IV appears in three of William Shakespeare's plays. These are:

  • Henry VI Part II  – also known as The First Part Of The Contention of the Two Famous Houses of York and Lancaster with the Death of the Good Duke Humphrey  – This concerns the events of 1445–1455 including the power struggle between York, Gloucester, Suffolk and Somerset.

  • Henry VI Part III  – also known as The True Tragedy of Richard, Duke of York and the Death of Good King Henry the Sixth, with the whole Contention between the two Houses Lancaster and York. This concerns the events of 1456–71

  • Richard III  – This concerns the latter years of Edward's reign and his brother Richard's greed for power.

These are not historically accurate. Warwick is portrayed as being in France, and not Reading, when he discovers Edward's marriage and Richard III takes an active role fighting in both the Battle of Saint Albans and the Battle of Wakefield although in real life he was only three and eight respectively when these took place.

1Edward IV was actually the seventh king of England named Edward.2It was through his murdering of the young non-combatant Edmund that Clifford gained the names 'Bloody' and 'the Butcher' as it was not considered chivalrous to kill women or children. Clifford, however, revelled in his new-found notoriety and nickname.3The second battle of St Albans is the first recorded battle in England in which hand-guns played a part.4Prince Edward was the son of Queen Margaret and was Henry VI's heir to the throne. Initially on Prince Edward's birth, Henry VI denied being Prince Edward's father. It was rumoured that the real father was the Duke of Somerset, close friend of Queen Margaret and Prince Edward's godfather.5The title Princess was not yet in existence, and princesses were then known simply as 'Lady'.6Anthony Rivers, Lord Scales, would use this position to improve Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight.7Elizabeth of York would later marry Henry VII and help legitimise the Tudor claim to the throne.8Between 1465 and 1468 Richard had lived at Middleham Castle, a prime seat of Richard Neville Earl of Warwick.9Although he also died there in 1484 at the age of ten.10Southwest France.11The region, not the beverage.12The heir to the throne of France.13Of Clarence's other children, Anne died at birth, Edward Earl of Warwick was sent to the Tower of London by Henry VII in 1485 and beheaded in 1499, and Margaret Countess of Salisbury was beheaded in the Tower by Henry VIII in 1541 for having a greater claim to the throne than he did.14Calais would remain in English hands until 1558.15Edward IV later made Robert Stillington Chancellor of England despite him having no administrative talent. Curiously in 1475 Robert Stillington was ordered to Rome to face a Papal Commission, the subject of which still has not been released by the Vatican.

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