Death of King Edward IV 9th April 1483
Edward IV died at the Palace of Westminster after a short illness. Sources at the time varied as to the cause of death. Commynes suggested that Edward had suffered from stroke, the Croyland Chronicle that ‘was affected neither by old age nor by any known kind of disease which would not have seemed easy to cure in a lesser person.’ In recent years there has been speculation as to the precise nature of the king’s demise.
A death that is shrouded in mystery. His soul was prayed for before he died, which has fuelled speculation that he may have been poisoned.
Edward’s kingship in his last few years is often looked at more through the lens of what others were doing. With the events that followed his death, emphasis is largely placed on Richard’s governance in the north, the campaigns against Scotland and the role of the Woodville family. It was also a period in which International affairs were very important. Events in Burgundy had threatened to drag England into continental conflict, and perhaps more importantly, threaten the free cash that the crown was getting from France each year.
Edward IV is the monarch I find most fascinating. Lots of military successes, 1461 and 1471 are both quite remarkable in the speed of execution and success. A few diplomatic blunders, largely the result of letting different factions within his own court pursue things without them having a crystal clear view of what the Kings aims were – Warwick courting half of Europe, particularly France, as the Woodvilles did exactly the same with Burgundy (1478) being one such example.
I forget which historian it was that suggested this, but one noted that Edward IV was the first crowned King of England since the conquest to have not secured the succession of his heir. Even in the case of the Anarchy, there had been a succession plan made clear, with oaths having been sworn in favour of Empress Matilda. For all his brilliance on campaigns, that is a blunder of massive proportions. Even Henry VI described at the time as being docile and an imbecile had named an heir (ok, granted he then dropped the heir and rolled over for the Act of Accord but that, at least, was pretty clear in legal terms as to what ought to happen).
For a man who gained the throne due to disputes around succession to let his own son be subjected to the same issues, whilst just a child, is pretty much as big a failure as a medieval king could have. But it does suggest that he and others saw no immediate chance of the 40-year-old king dying anytime soon – clearly, they were wrong, unless he was in fact murdered.