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Edward IV (1461-70) and (1471-83)
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Edward IV (1461-70) and (1471-83)Born in 1442, Edward was the son of Richard, Duke of York, and Cicely Neville. Four years later, York made his bid for the throne and so kindled the Wars of the Roses. After the duke’s death in 1460, his youthful, handsome son Edward became the Yorkist claimant, backed by his cousin Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, “the kingmaker”. Victory at Towton in 1461 deposed Henry VI and gave Edward the Crown.

Tall and engaging, Edward was also unreliable, self-indulgent and a womanizer. A Frenchman, Philippe de Commynes, commented, that Edward “thought upon nothing but women”. But his dashing skill on the battlefield was undeniable. Dissent between the Yorkist cousins arose after Edward secretly married Elizabeth Woodville in 1464 – money and promises having failed to gain her favours. This union wrecked Warwick’s plan for a royal marriage with a French princess (a deal for which the French king was willing to reward Warwick handsomely). Moreover, the new queen had power-hungry relatives, whose fortunes she was eager to advance. Warwick was sidelined, especially when the king made it clear he favoured Burgundy, rather than France, as an ally.

Between 1469 and 1471, a serious crisis faced the Yorkists when Warwick switched to the lancastrian side, causing Edward to flee to Burgundy in 1470. Warwick put Henry VI back on the throne, but in March 1471 Edward came home with Burgundian troops to boost his cause. Batllefield victories at Barnet (where Warwick was killed) and Tewkesbury (where Henry VI’s son Prince Edward died) restored Edward IV to power. Henry was put to death and the king reigned securely.

Edward ruled well for his last 12 years, though the execution for treason of his brother Clarence (traditionally drowned in a wine butt) and the influence of the Woodville clan alarmed and incensed other nobles. A lover of books, who found the new printing press fascinating, the king grew fat and lazy, relaxing in the company of his mistress Jane Shore. When Edward died suddenly in 1483, he left two sons – neither of them old enough to grasp the Crown securely. Beside them – as he had stood by Edward through the bloody civil wars – hovered the brooding figure of the king’s brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

“This Edward was a goodly man… of stature high, of countenance and beauty comely…of a pregnant wit… and high of courage…”
Extract from the Chronicle of John Harding (1378-1464)

Tewkesbury slaughter
The Battle of Tewkesbury, in May 1471, was among the bloodiest of Roses conflicts. The name “Bloody Meadow” survives from the day that effectively secured the Crown for Edward IV

Edward IV (1461-70) and (1471-83)

A king beset by his in-laws
Edward is shown in this painting with Elizabeth Woodville and their young son, Edward V. Woodville relatives cluster greedily around the fount of wealth and influence.

Edward IV (1461-70) and (1471-83)

Pensive power-seeker
Edward IV inherited the dynastic ambitions of his father, Richard of York, claiming to be true heir to the deposed Richard II.

Edward IV (1461-70) and (1471-83)

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