Edward IV‘s health had deteriorated in the latter years of his second reign. William, lord Hastings had noted the likelihood of his early death to officials in 1482. When his end did come, it was subject to some confusion. As Edward entered his final days word spread that he was already dead, resulting messages reaching the City of York that he was dead several days before he actually passed away. The funeral of the king took place quickly and was amid suspicions growing about the actions of senior members of the Royal Household.
His death triggered a sequence of events that has become one of the most hotly debated of the later medieval period. His son Edward V was moved from Ludlow to London for his coronation. As that happened his escorts Earl Rivers, Sir Richard Grey and Sir Thomas Vaughan were arrested. The 2000 strong escort was disbanded and replaced with another force.
The Death of Edward IV
For, shortly after the events already stated, and when the Parliament had been dissolved, the king, neither worn out with old age nor yet seized with any known kind of malady, the cure of which would not have appeared easy in the case of a person of more humble rank, took to his bed. This happened about the feast of Easter ; and, on the ninth day of April, he rendered up his spirit to his Creator, at his palace at Westminster, it being the year of our Lord, 1483, and the twenty-third of his reign.
This prince, although in his day he was thought to have indulged his passions and desires too intemperately, was still, in religion, a most devout Catholic, a most unsparing enemy to all heretics, and a most loving encourager of wise and learned men, and of the clergy. He was also a most devout reverer of the Sacraments of the Church, and most sincerely repentant for all his sins. This is testified by those who were present on the occasion of his decease; to whom, and especially to those whom he left as executors of his last will, he declared, in a distinct and Catholic form, that it was his desire that, out of the chattels which he left behind him in such great abundance, satisfaction should be made, either fully, or on a composition made voluntarily, and without extortion on their part, to all those persons to whom he was, by contract, extortion, fraud, or any other mode, indebted. Such was the most beseeming end of this worldly prince, a better than which could not be hoped for or conceived, after the manifestation by him of so large a share of the frailtie inherent to the lot of mankind.
Hence, too, very strong hopes were afforded to all his his servants, that be would not fail to receive the reward of eternal salvation. For after, like Zaccheus, he had expressed his wish that one half of his goods should be given unto the poor, and that if be bad defrauded any oue of aught, the same should be returned to him fourfold there can be no doubt that, through this intention on his part, salvation was wrought for his soul, because he was a son of Abraham, predestined to the light which God hsid formerly promised unto Abraham and bis seed. For we read that it was not the works of Zaccheus which Christ regarded, but his intentions. Probably, however, this intention on the part of Zaccheus, though he was not then on a bed of sickness, was afterwards carried out ; while the king, fully deserving the reward of these his good intentions, was carried off immediately [perhaps] in order that evil thoughts, supplanting them, might
not change his designs.
I shall here be silent upon the circumstance which might have been mentioned above, in a more befitting place, that men of every rank, condition, and degree of experience, throughout the kingdom, wondered that a man of such corpulence, and so fond of boon companionship, vanities, debauchery, extravagance, and sensual enjoyments, should have had a memory so retentive, in all respects, that the names and estates used to recur to him, just as though he had been in the habit of seeing them daily, of nearly all the persons dispersed throughout the counties of this kingdom ; and this even, if, in the districts in which they lived, they held the rank only of a private gentleman. Long before his illness he had made his will, at very considerable length, having abundant means to satisfy it; and had, after mature deliberation, appointed therein many persons to act as his executors, and carry out his wishes. On his death-bed he added some codicils thereto; but what a sad and unhappy result befell all these wise dispositions of his, the ensuing tragedy will more fully disclose.
(3rd Continuation of the Croyland Chronicle)
Featured Image. Photograph of tomb marker for Edward IV at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. From MurrayandBlue.