In 1471 Edward IV had reigned for a decade, with just a short period of Henry VI resuming power to break that control. In April of 1471 Edward held London and Henry VI was in captivity in the Tower of London. Faced with the invasion force of Margaret of Anjou, Prince Edward, and the ranks of the retainers of men such as the duke of Somerset, he issued the Abingdon Proclamation regarding his right to the throne. It was used to make it clear that his foes were considered traitors by himself and his court. A tool designed as much as to deter people siding with the Lancastrians as it was to reiterate his own right to the throne.
The Abingdon Proclamation came in late April 1471. This was after Edward IV had returned from exile in Flanders, been admitted into London, secured King Henry VI as a captive, and defeated and killed the Earl of Warwick in the Battle of Barnet. However, even though Henry VI was in Edward’s custody Edward’s kingship was far from secure. A second army had landed in the South West. This army was a Lancastrian Loyalist army. With it travelled Queen Margaret of Anjou, Prince Edward, and among its commanders were the Dukes of Somerset and Exeter. Edward IV needed to eliminate the risk that this army presented, ideally before it merged with forces being arrayed by Jasper Tudor in South Wales. As he travelled west to tackle this threat, Edward IV reiterated his credentials as monarch and chose to denounce those opposing him. It is political theatre typical of both sides in the wars.
Edward IV’s Claim to the Throne: The Abingdon Proclamation
What is interesting about Edward IV’s 1471 Proclamation is that he does not refer to lineage as a justification for his kingship. There is no reference at all to his Mortimer roots and the arguments that this line should be monarchs by right. Instead, he cites three other justifications for his kingship. As outlined in the Chronicles of the White Rose of York:
From Abingdon Edward issued a proclamation dated April 27th, setting forth, that his title to the crown was unquestionable I first, by reason; secondly, by authority of parliament; thirdly, by his victories, and particularly the last, wherein the Earl of Warwick, and the Marquis of Montague were slain. That notwithstanding these three most firm foundations, namely, reason , parliamentary authority, and victory, sundry persons had taken up arms against him…
Source Material: The Abingdon Proclamation
The full text of the Abingdon Proclamation incorporates a list of persons whom Edward denounces as rebels and traitors. A transcript is available via Rymer’s Feodora v11 p709.
De Proclamationibus pro Rege, super Titulo & Jure ad Regna Angliae & Franciae, tam in Parliamento declaratis, quam in Pugna per Victoriam approbatis.
An. 11. E. 4. Claus. 11. E. 4. m. 26. dor.
Rex Vicecomiti Kantiae, Salutem.
Praecipimus Tibi, firmiter injungentes, quòd statim, post Receptionem Praesentium, in singulis Locis infra Comitatum praedictum magis necessariis & expedientibus, publicas & solempnes Proclamationes fieri facias in haec verba,
Where we Edward the Fourth, by the disposition of our Lord God and right of Enheritaunce, be verey and rightwyse Kyng of Englond and of France and Lord of Irland, which our Right and Title, afore this time, in dyvers maners, have be openly and solempnely Declared and Approved, bothby Jugement yeven in dyvers Parlements and by Auctorite of the same, as alsoe by Victorye yeven unto us by our Lord Almighty God in dyvers Battailles ayenst our Grete Adversaire Herry and his Adherents, and in especiall now late at the Fest of Pasch last past in the Feld bysyde Barnet in the Counte of Middlesex, where Battaille was moeved and leveed ayenst us for the Partie of the said Herry, by Harry late Duc of Excestre, John Marques Mountague, Richard Erle of Warwyk, John Erle of Oxenford, and many other in grete Multitude, our Rebelles Adherentes to the seid Herry our grete Adversarye,
In which Conflict and Bataill the said Marques Mountacu and Richard Erle of Warrewyk with many other were Slayen, soo that not only by reason and auctoritie, but also by dyvers Victories in Battailles, the Trouth, Right, and Will of God appereth evydently, to every wyse, indifferent and well disposed Man, for our Party,
Considered, namely, in such Division and Contraversie, moved betwyxt Princes uppon the high Soveraigne Power Roiall, more evident Prove or Declaration of Trouth, Right, and Godd’s Will may not be had than by the said Meanes, that is to witte, Reason, Auctoritie, and Victorie in Batailles,
No consideration had to the Premisses, nother to th’auctorite of that holy Fadir Richard Scrope, sometyme Archbyshop of Yorke, which for the Right and Title of oure Auncestrie (whos Astate we now bere and have) dyed and suffred Deth and Martyrdome.
Neyther alsoe to the solempne Publications and Sermons of Affirmation and declaring of our said Right and Title, aswell at Powles Crosse in our Citee of London as dyvers other places of our land, by Georg now Archbishop of Yorke, in such manere and fourme as is openly knowne, which estsones, in the Vigile of Pasche last past, in the Presence of Us and many other Lordes in likewise, Affermed and Declared and eftsones made unto us Othe of Fidelty, upon the holy Evangelies, and receyved thereupon the blissed Sacrament of our Lordes Body, as to his King and Soverain Lige Lord,
Margarete, calling her Quiene (which is a Frenshwoman borne, and Daughter to hym that is extreme Adversarie and Mortall Enemye to all this our Land and People of the same) and her Sonne Edward, assembled unto theym a grete Nombre of Frensh Men, besydes others Traitours and Rebelles Adherent unto theym, now late have entred this our Realme, Robbyng and Spoyling, and have moeved and leveed Werre and Battaille agenst us, in their intent to the Subversion and Destruction of Us and of the seid our Realme and good Pollecie of the same, which to the uttermost of our Power We woll Socour, Defend, and Maintaine,
Wherefore, sith it is and must be to the Displeasure of God, and alsoe contrary to all gode Pollecie infinitely, to procede in such Querelles with soe grete Effusion of Christen Blode, which by all ways possible unto us we entend to eschewe, to th’ entent that no Man shall mowe probably hereafter pretend Ignorance in this Partie, by any maner colour, we Notefie and Declare,
The seid Margaret,
Edward her Son,
Herry late Duke of Exceter,
Edmund Beauford calling himselfe Duke of Somerset,
John Erle of Oxenford,
John Courtenay calling him Erle of Devonshire,
William late Vicont Beaumont,
John Beauford Knyght,
Hugh Courtnay Knyght,
Thomas Fulford Knyght,
John Fortescue Knyght,
Thomas Seymour Knyght,
Thomas Tresham Knyght,
Gerveys Clyfton Knyght,
John Delves Squyer,
John Leukenore Squyer,
Rauf Makerell Clerke,
John Whelpdale Clerke,
John Beedon Clerke,
Freer John Gaseley,
And every of theym, which have been Adherentes to the seid Herry, Margaret, and Edward, to be oure open and notarie Traitours, Rebelles and Enemies.
Willing therefore and in the straitest wyse Charging and Commaunding all maner Persones within this our Realme, upon Payn of Deth and Forfeitment of their Goodes and Lyvelode, and of all that thay may forfait unto us, that they or noon of theym in any wyse from hensforth, Help, Assist, Favour, or Socour,
The said Margaret,
Edward her Son,
Herry late Duke of Exeter,
John late Erle of Oxonford,
William late Vicont Beaumont,
Freer John Gaseley,
Or any of them, or any other Adherentes, with Persones, Gode, Vitailles, Word, Writing, or any otherwise whatsoever, Latyng them wyt that, if the doe the contrarye, and that eny Inconvenience and Effusion of Blode ensue thereof, we call Almighty God to record, that it shall be ayenst our Will and Entent, and in their owne Frowardness, Obstinacye, and Defaute, afore Almyghty God and all the World.
Et hoc, sicut Nobis in hac parte respondere volueris, nullatenus omittas.
Teste Rege apud Westmonasterium, vicesimo septimo die Aprilis.
Consimiles Literae diriguntur Vicecomitibus, Majori, & Ballivis, in Civitatibus, Villis, & Comitatibus subscriptis, sub eadem Data; videlicet,
Vicecomitibus London. & Midd.
Vicecomitibus Villae Bristoll.
Vicecomiti Somers. & Dors.
Vicecomiti Oxon. & Berk.
Majori & Ballivis Civitatis Exon.
Vicecomiti Warr. & Leyc.
Vicecomiti Notingh. & Derb.
Vicecomitibus Civitatis Eborum.
Vicecom. Villae Novi Castri sub Tynam.
Vicecom. Bedf. & Buk.
Vicecom. Villae Notingh.
Vicecomitibus Civitatis Lincoln.
Vicecomitibus Civitatis Coventr.
Vicecom. Villae Sutht.
Vicecom. Surr. Sussex.
Vicecomiti Essex. & Hertf.
Vicecomitibus Civitatis Norwici.
Vicecom. Norff. & Suff.
References and Further Reading
Context: Edward IV and the Wars of the Roses, Chapter 7. David Santiuste.