Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales

EDWARD, Prince of Wales (1453–1471), only son of Henry VI, was born at Westminster on 13 Oct. 1453, eight years after his father’s marriage with Margaret of Anjou, and the day being that of the translation of St. Edward the King and Confessor, he received the name of Edward at baptism. He was baptised by Bishop Waynfleet; Cardinal Kemp and Edmund,duke of Somerset, were his godfatthers, and Anne, duchess of Buckingham, was his godmother. His father’s faculties were at the time clouded by an illness which had begun in August. At the beginning of January 1454 an ineffectual attempt was made to bring the child under the unhappy parent’s notice. The babe was created Prinoe of Wales on Whitsunday, 9 June 1454. The government meanwhile had passed from the hands of Somerset into those of the Duke of York, who was appointed protector during the king’s imbecility, with a proviso that he should give up his charge to the Prince of Wales if the latter should be willing to undertake it when he attained years of discretion (Rolls of Parl. v. 243). But next Christmas the king recovered, and on 30 Dec. the queen again brought to him his child, now more than a twelvemonth old. He asked his name, and, being told Edward, held up his hands and thanked God. The king’s recovery only led the removal of the protector, the restoration of? inneficient ministers, distrust, and civil The king again fell ill, and York was protector; the king again recovered, and York was again removed. For seven years ?? was in confusion.

During this unsettled period the prince was continually with his mother, who tried to keep the government entirely in her own hands. It was insinuated by the Yorkists that her child was not King Henry’s; while she, on the other hand, actually sounded some of the lords as to the advisability of getting her husband to resign the crown in his favour. In the spring of 1466, after York’s first removal from the protectorship. she took him into the north to Tutbury, while the Yorkist lords at Sandall and Warwick kept watch what she would do. In 1459, when the Yorkists were for a time overthrown, a provision was made for him in parliament as Prince of Wales (Rolls of Parl. v. 356). In 1460 he was with his father aud mother at Coventry just before the battle of Northampton; and there the king on departing for the field took leave of him and the queen, desiring the latter for her safety not to come to him again in obedience to any message, unless he sent her a secret token known only to themselves. The day was lost for Henry, and Margaret, who had withdrawn to Eccleshall, fled further with her son to Chester, and from thence into Wales, being attacked and robbed on the way, near Malpas, by a dependent of her own whom she had put in trust as an officer of some kind to the prince The two reached Harlech Castle with only our attendants, and afterwards stole away in secret to join the king’s half-brother, Jasper, earl of Pembroke. They were in Wales in October, just before the Duke of York made his claim to the crown in parliament, which was settled at the time by a compromise that the duke should succeed on Henry’s death. Prince Edward was thus disinherited; but his mother refused to recognise the parliamentary settlement, and arranged secretly with a number of friends for a great meeting at Hull. It appears, however, that she herself and her son fled from Wales by sea to Scotland, and that while the Duke of York was defeated and slain by her adherents at Wakefield on 30 Dec, they had a meeting in January with the queen widow of James II at Lincluden Abbey, near Dumfries, where they all stayed together ten or twelve days, and arranged for mutual aid against the house of York. The surrender of Berwick to the Scots had already been agreed on; and there was some negotiation for a marriage between the Prince of Wales and Princess Mary, daughter of James II (Auchinleck Chronicle, 21; Wavrin, ed. Dupont, ii. 301). This interview over, Margaret returned southwards with her son, and joining her already victorious followers in Yorkshire pursued her way towards London as far as St. Albans. Here they were met on 17 Feb. 1461 by the Duke of Norfolk, the Earl of Warwick, and others, who brought with them King Henry, virtually a prisoner in their hands; and a battle ensued (the second battle of St. Albans), in which Margaret’s party was once more successful. The victors wore the prince’s livery — a band of crimson and black with ostrich feathers. The king was recaptured by his wife’s adherents, and made his son a knight upon the battle-field. The distinction was apparently considered due to a prince who in his eighth year had witnessed an engagement; for the only action recorded of him that day is, that after the battle he ordered Sir Thomas Kiriel to be beheaded. The queen, his mother, it is said, asked him what death was to be inflicted on Sir Thomas and his son, and the boy in answer proposed decapitation; on which the sentence was executed before both the prince and his mother (Wavrin, Chronicques d’Engleterre, ed. Dupont, ii. 265). Other accounts are silent aoout Sir Thomas Kiriel’s son, and say that Kiriel died in the field, and that it was Lord Bonvile on whom the prince pronounced judgment (Gregory, Chronicle, 212). It was at night after the battle that, as we are told, ‘the king blessed his son the prince, and Dr. Morton brought forth a book that was full of orisons, and there the book was opened, and blessed that young child “cum pinguedine terræ et cum rore coeli, and made him knight.’ The lad wore a pair of brigantines covered with purple velvet, ‘i-bete with goldesmythe ye worke,’ and being so exalted conferred the dignity of knighthood upon others, of whom the first was Sir Andrew Trollope (ib, 214). Dr. Morton, who was afterwards cardinal and archbishop of Canterbury, was at this time chancellor to the young prince(ib, 218). But the Duke of York’s son Edward came speedily to protect London against the Lancastrians, He was proclaimed king on 4 March, and pursuing the queen’s forces again into Yorkshire secured his position upon the throne by the bloody victory of Towton. Margaret and her son fled once more into Scotland, this time with the king her husband in her company, though it seems that he was for a short time besieged in some Yorkshire fortress. They first reached Newcastle and then Berwick, which, according to agreement, they delivered up to the Scots. Of course they were both attainted in Edward’s first parliament which met in November (Rolls of Parl. v. 479). In the course of that year Henry VI was at Kirkcudbright, and Margaret and her son at Edinburgh, where apparently she organised a scheme for the simultaneous invasion of England in three places, to take place at Candlemas following (Paston Letters, ii. 91; Three Fifteenth-century Chronicles, Camden Soc.158). Nothing, however, seems to have come of this, and in April 1462 Margaret took shipping at Kirkcudbright, and sailed through the Irish Channel to Brittany, where she met with a kind reception from the duke with a gift of twelve thousand crowns, then passed on to her father in Anjou, and from him to Louis XI. Her son had certainly left Scotland with her, and was in France along with her (Richard de Wassebourg, Antiquités de la Gaule Belgique, f. 510). On 23 June 1462, at Chinou, she executed a bond for the delivery of Calais to the French in return for aid which she was to receive from Louis against Edward. Louis gave her a fleet with which she sailed from Normandy, again accompanied by her son, and landed again in Scotland in October. Next month she gained possession of some castles in Northumberland, but hearing of the approach of King Edward with a large force she sailed for France, but was driven back by tempest to Berwick, which she reached with difficulty after being shipwrecked off the coast. The castles were recovered by King Edward, and at the beginning of 1463 the cause of the house of Lancaster was in a more hopeless state than ever.

This was the time when Margaret and her son met with that celebrated adventure recorded by the continuator of Monstrelet, when wandering about they lost themselves in a forest and were attacked by robbers, who stripped them of all their jewels and afterwards fought among themselves for the booty. Margaret, seizing her advantage, gave her son to one of the brigands and said, ‘Here, my friend, save the son of your king!’ The conclusion of the story is thus related by the chronicler: ‘The brigand took him with very good will, and they departed, so that shortly after they came by sea to Sluys. And from Sluys she went to Bruges, her son still with her, where she was received very honourably, while her husband. King Henry, was in Wales, in one of the strongest places in England’ (Monstrelet, iii. 96, ed. 1595). That she and her son, and her husband also when they were together, had suffered very great distress, is attested by another writer of the time, who says that the three had been once five days witnout any food but a herring (Chastellain, iv. 299, ed. Brussels, 1863). But a slight improvement had taken place in the fortune of war before she crossed the sea, for she sailed from Bamborough, which must have been by that time again recovered for the house of Lancaster, as it was for some months at least. On her landing at Sluys she was received by the Count of Charolois(afterwards Charles the Bold), and conducted by him to his father, Philip, duke of Burgundy, at Lille, who relieved her with money. She then went to her father, René, in Lorraine, with whom she remained for some years watching the course of events in hope of better fortune, while her husband fell into the hands of Edward and was imprisoned in the Tower. During this period she and her son the prince, residing at St. Mihiel in Barrois, received a communication from the Earl of Ormonde, who had taken refuge in Portugal, by which they were encouraged to hope that the king of Portugal would assist in restoring Henry VI to the throne; but nothing appears to have come of their efforts to engage his sympathies. In May 1467 the Duke of Milan’s ambassador mentions Margaret and her son as being still in Lorraine (Venetian Cal. vol. i. No. 405). A letter of the French ambassador in England, dated 16 Jan. following, speaks of the great alarm excited among Edward’s friends by a report that overtures had been made for the marriage of the Prince of Wales to one of Louis XI’s daughters (Jehan de Wavrin, ed. Dupont, iii. 190). In 1470 the prince stood godfather to Louis’s son, afterwards Charles VIII of France, who was born on 30 June at Amboise. Just after this (15 July) a meeting took place at Angers of Louis XI, Margaret of Anjou, and her father King René, the prince, and the Earl of Warwick, at which Margaret was induced to forgive the earl for his past conduct and consent to the marriage of her son with his second daughter, Anne, in order to have his assistance against Edward IV. The young lady, who was also then at Angers, was placed in Margaret’s custody till the marriage should take effect, which was not to be till Warwick had recovered the kingdom, or the most part of it, for Henry; and when that took place the prince was to be regent in behalf of his father, whose incompetence to rule was now past dispute. A plan was then arranged with Louis for the immediate invasion of England, and was ratified by the oaths of the parties in St. Mary’s Church at Angers.

Warwick presently sailed with the expedition, and was so successful that in October Edward IV was driven out of the kingdom and Henry VI restored. But unhappily for the Lancastrian cause, Margaret and ner son forbore to cross the sea till March following, and King Edward, having set sail for England again three weeks before them, had practically recovered his kingdom by the time they set foot in it. For although they embarked at Honfleur on 24 March, and might with a favourable breeze have reached the English coast in twelve hours, they were beaten by contrary winds for seventeen days and nights, and only reached Weymouth on the evening of 14 April, the very day the battle of Barnet was fought and the Earl of Warwick slain. They proceeded to Cerne Abbey, where they learned on the 15th the news of this great reverse; but the Duke of Somerset and other friends who came thither to welcome them on their arrival encouraged them to rely on the loyalty of the western counties, which were ready to rise at once in their behalf. They accordingly issued orders for a general muster and proceeded westward to Exeter; then having collected a considerable force advanced to Bristol. King Edward was now on his way to meet them, but was uncertain whether they intended to march on London or draw northwards by the borders of Wales to Cheshire, and they contrived to deceive him as to their movements while they passed on to Gloucester, where, however, they were denied entrance by Lord Beauchamp. They were thus compelled to continue their march to Tewkesbury, where they arrived much fatigued on the afternoon of 3 May, and pitched their camp before the town in a position well secured by ‘foul lanes, deep dykes, and many hedges.’ The king that evening reached Cheltenham, and next morning, 4 May, coming to Tewkesbury, arranged his army for battle. They first opened fire on the enemy with ordnance and a shower of arrows, till the Duke of Somerset unwisely carried his men out of their more secure position and brought them by certain bypaths on to a hill in front of Edward’s van. Here; while engaging the king’s forces in front, they were suddenly attacked in flank by a detachment of two hundred spears told off by Edward before the battle to guard against a possible ambush in a wood. Thus Somerset’s men were thrown into confusion, and very soon the rest of the Lancastrian forces were broken and put to flight.

The Prince of Wales had been put in nominal command of the ‘middle ward’ of this army, but he acted under the advice of two experienced officers. Sir John Longstruther, prior of the knights of St. John, and Lord Wenlock. When Somerset first moved from his position he seems to have reckoned on being followed by Lord Wenlock in an attack on Edward’s van. But Wenlock stood still and simply looked on, till Somerset returning called him traitor and dashed his brains out with a battle-axe. Sir John Longstruther fled and took refuge in the abbey, and the Prince of Wales, flying towards the town, appealed for protection to his brother-in-law Clarence. In what may be called an official account of Edward IV’s recovery of his kingdom, it is said that the prince was slain in the field; but a more detailed account written in the next generation says that he was taken prisoner by a knight named Sir Richard Croftes, who delivered him up to King Edward on the faith of a proclamation issued after the battle, that whoever brought him to the king alive or dead should have an annuity of 100l., and that the prince’s life should be saved. Yet the promise was shamefully violated, if not by the king himself, at least by those about him; for when the young man was brought before him Edward first inquired of him ‘how he durst so presumptuously enter his realm with banner displayed?’ The prince replied, ‘To recover my fathers kingdom,’ and Edward, we are told, ‘with his hand thrust him from him, or, as some say, struck him with his gauntlet,’ on which the Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester, the Marquis of Dorset, and Lord Hastings, who stood by, at once assassinated him. It seems to have been regarded as a favour that the king allowed him honourable burial.

Thus fell Edward, prince of Wales, who is described as ‘a goodly feminine and a well-featured young gentleman,’ in the eighteenth year of his age. His intended bride, Anne Nevill, whom the writers of that day call his wife, was taken prisoner after the battle, and a little later became the wife of Richard, duke of Gloucester [see Anne, queen of Richard III].

[An English Chronicle, ed. Davies (Camd. Soc.); Paston Letters; Wil. Wyrcester, Annales; Collections of a London Citizen (Camd. Soc.); Three Fifteenth-century Chronicles (Camd. Soc.); Burnett’s Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, vol. vii. (Scotch Record Publications); Anchiennes Cronicques d’Engleterre par Jehan de Wavrin (Dupont’s edit.); Registrum J. Whethamstede, ed. Riley (Rolls Series); Leland’s Collectanea, ii. 498–9; Hearne’s Fragment (after Sprott), 304; Hist. Croyland. Contin. in Fulman’s Scriptores, i. 533, 550, 553, 555; Ellis’s Letters, 2nd ser. i. 132–5; Clermont’s Fortescue, i. 22–31; Fabyan’s Chronicle; Hall’s Chronicle; Polydore Vergil.]

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 17
Edward (1453-1471) by James Gairdner

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