Edward IV was born in Rouen, Normandy, on 28th March 1442. He was proclaimed King of England in London following the Battles of Wakefield, Mortimer’s Cross and the Second Battle of St. Albans. Edward’s first reign ran from 4th March 1461 until 3rd October 1470. Following a brief exile in Flanders he returned to England, landing at Ravenspur on 14th March 1471. In a short campaign the Yorkist forces eliminated the risk posed by the Earl of Warwick at Barnet on 14th April 1471, the Lancastrian force of Margaret of Anjou, Prince Edward and Lords including the Duke of Somerset, at Tewkesbury on 4th May 1471, and forcing a navy commanded by the Bastard of Fauconberg away from London in mid May. Edward’s second reign is generally considered to have resumed upon his entry into London on 11th April 1471. It lasted until his death on 9th April 1483.
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Further Reading on King Edward IV
British Library – Edward IV was a patron of the arts and his collection of books is considered to have formed the nucleus of what became known as the Royal Library. This page on the British Library website provides an overview of Edward’s library, the influences on it, and examples of the the books which are within his collection. A related page is the Getty Foundation’s entry on the Master of Edward IV, so named because of the commissions given to the unnamed artist by the King of England.
Education Resources on King Edward IV
How did Edward IV gain the crown in 1461? A-Level History. Series of activities that explore the options available to the Lancastrians and Yorkists from the Battle of Wakefield to the Yorkist Victory at Towton.
Edward IV and his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. Detailed series of activities/ discussion points exploring the nature of the marriage, its impact on diplomacy and society, and contemporary views of the union.
Edward IV Image Credits
Parhelion, the Three Suns at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross. Source: Fig. 3. London, British Library, Harley MS 7353 f 1r, detail prophesy of Edward IV. © British Library Board” before shelfmark “Harley MS”. File embedded from The Kings’ Lines and Lies: Genealogical Rolls in Mythmaking and Political Rhetoric in the Reign of Henry VII – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate.
Biography of Edward IV from the Dictionary of National Biography
Edward IV lineage and claim to the throne
EDWARD IV (1442–1483), king of England, was the son of Richard, duke of York, by his wife Cecily Nevill, daughter of the first Earl of Westmorland. His father was descended from Edward III by both parents, being the lineal representative both of Lionel, duke of Clarence, Edward’s third son, and of Edmund, duke of York, his fifth. The rival house of Lancaster, on the other hand, were descended from John of Gaunt, the fourth son; but Lionel, duke of Clarence, though an elder brother, left no male issue, and his great-grandson, Edmund Mortimer, was a mere infant when Henry IV usurped the throne. Nor does it appear that in after years this Edmund himself showed any disposition to vindicate his right; but early in the reign of Henry V a conspiracy was formed in his behalf by his cousin Richard, earl of Cambridge, who had married his sister and was himself the son of the before-mentioned Edmund, duke of York. The Southampton plot was detected just before Henry V crossed the sea, in his first invasion of France; the Earl of Cambridge confessed and was beheaded, and nothing was heard for upwards of forty years of any further attempt to challenge the right of the house of Lancaster.
Childhood of Edward Earl of March
Richard duke of York, the father of Edward IV, was the son of this Richard, earl of Cambridge, by his wife, Anne Mortimer. Cecily, the wife of Richard, duke of York, bore him no less than eight sons and four daughters within the space of sixteen years, of whom the eldest was Anne, afterwards Duchess of Exeter, born at Fotheringay in 1439. Then came Henry, who did not live long, and then Edward, afterwards Edward IV, born at Rouen, as we are minutely told, at two o clock in the morning of Monday, 28 April 1442. As 28 April in that year was a Saturday, not a Monday, there is some error. At the age of twelve, when bearing the title of the Earl of March, he and his brother Edmund, called Earl of Rutland, who was a year his junior, wrote two joint letters to their father from Ludlow, the first dated Saturday in Easter week, the second on 3 June. In the first they thank hm for ‘our green gowns now sent unto us to our great comfort; beseeching your good lordship to remember our porteux [i.e. breviary], and that we might have some fine bonnets sent unto us by the next sure messenger, for necessity so requireth.’ In the other, taking note of a paternal admonition, to attend specially to our learning in our young age that should cause us to grow to honour and worship in our old age,’ they assure their father that they have been diligent in their studies ever since coming to Ludlow (Ellis Letters, 1st ser. i. 9; Paston Letters, new ed. vol. i. Introd. p. cxi).
Outbreak of War and Flight to Calais
This was in the year before the first actual outbreak of the civil war, which is considered to have begun with the battle of St. Albans. But at the very commencement of the year it was expected that the boy Edward would leave his studies and come up to London with his father, at the head of a separate company of armed men. Next year, by one account, he actually accompanied his father to the battle of St. Albans, or at least towards the council summoned to meet at Leicester just before (Three Fifteenth-century Chronicles, pp. 151 -2). But it seems clear that he was not in the battle, of which one rather minute report has come down to us; and if he went as far as Leicester, he probably returned to Ludlow. At all events, we hear nothing more of him till four years later (12 Oct. 1459), when there was a great muster of the Duke of York’s adherents at that very place, the duke himself at their head. But when the king’s army lay encamped opposite the Yorkists, the latter were deserted by a large body under Sir Andrew Trollope, and found it impossible to maintain the fight. The Duke of York and his second son Rutland fled first to Wales and then to Ireland, while Edward, his eldest, along with the Earls of Salisbury and Warwick, withdrew into Devonshire, and then sailed, first to Guernsey and afterwards to Calais. Then a parliament was held at Coventry in November, at which all the leading Yorkists were attainted, and among them Edward, earl of March by name, as having been arrayed against the king (Rolls of Parl. v. 348-9).
The Earl of Warwick, John Dynham and the raid on Sandwich
The Earl of Warwick, however, being governor of Calais, and having also command of the fleet, held a strong position, from which he and his allies, March and Salisbury, could invade England; so that every one looked for their return. A mutilated letter of the time says it was expected that Edward would claim by inheritance the earldom of Ha …. (Paston Letters, i. 497). It is difficult to fill up the name or to think of any earldom other than that of March to which he could lay reasonable claim. But the important fact was, that he and the two other earls were there at Calais and could not be dislodged, while Warwick, having command of the sea, could communicate with the Duke of York in Ireland. In vain did the government in England supersede Warwick in the command of Calais and of the fleet, the Duke of Somerset being appointed to the one office and Lord Rivers to the other. The lords refused Somerset admission into the town, and some vessels were collected at Sandwich to aid in reducing it. Lord Rivers and his son, Sir Anthony Woodville, were apparently to have conducted the squadron across the Channel. But John Dynham, a Devonshire squire, crossed the sea at night, and arriving at Sandwich between four and five on a dark winter morning, soon after Christmas, seized Lord Rivers in his bed, won the town, took the best ships lying in the harbour, and earned Rivers and his son across to Calais.
Edward berates his future father-in-law, Lord Rivers
‘My Lord Rivers,’ as a contemporary letter says, ‘was brought to Calais, and before the lords, with eight score torches; and there my lord of Sabsbury rated him, calling him knave’s son that he should be so rude to call him and these other lords traitors, for they should be found the king’s true liegemen when he should be found a traitor. And my lord of Warwick rated him, and said that his father was but a squire…. And my lord of March rated him in like wise.’ My lord of March was then scolding his future father-in-law!
Yorkist Invasion, 1460
The command of the fleet was then given to the Duke of Exeter, who fared little better than his predecessor, being driven back into port by Warwick’s men-of-war. Every attempt against the three earls was frustrated, and friends in large numbers came over from England to join them. At length Warwick, having sailed to Ireland and arranged measures in concert with the Duke of York, returned to Calais; and in June 1460 the three earls crossed the sea again to England. In their company went Francesco Coppini, bishop of Terni, a papal nuncio who had been in England the preceding year. Owing to the dissensions there, his mission had been a failure, but having reached Calais on his return he was induced by Warwick to remain there, and he became so complete a partisan of the three earls as to go back to England in their company, displaying the banner of the church (Pii II Commentarii a Gobellino, 161, ed. Rome, 1584). He was persuaded that their intentions were entirely loyal. So the three earls landed at Sandwich, as it were, with the blessing of the church; and Archbishop Bourchier, who met them on landing, conducted them to London with his cross borne before him.
Battle of Northampton and the Duke of York’s arrival in London
They reached the capital on 2 July, and, notwithstanding the opposition of a small minority, the city opened its gates to them. After a brief stay they advanced towards the king, whose army they found drawn up in a valley beside Northampton. The king was in the camp, but the real commander seems to have been the Duke of Buckingham. The three earls occupied a hill from which they could see almost all that was passing. They sent a message to know whether the king and his advisers would quit the field or fight; to which Buckingham replied disdainfully that he could not leave without fighting. After a two or three hours’ combat the royal army was defeated, the Duke of Buckingham slam, and the king himself taken prisoner, whom the earls conducted up to London with much outward respect and lodged in his palace of Westminster. The government was now conducted by the earls in the king’s name; and a parliament was summoned to meet at Westminster on 7 Oct. The Duke of York was expected over from Ireland, and he had actually crossed the Irish Channel by the middle of September. The duke, as we read in a letter of the time, ‘had divers strange commissions from the king to sit in divers towns’ on his way up to London; and it was not till 10 Oct. that he arrived there. And now, laying aside his former moderation, he at once made it manifest that he aimed at the deposition of the king.
Act of Accord, the battles of Wakefield, Mortimer’s Cross, and Second St. Albans
He took up his quarters in the royal palace, which he entered sword in hand. On the 16th he challenged the crown in parliament as rightfully his own. The lords were intimidated, and many stayed away. A compromise was finally agreed to on both sides that Henry should retain the crown for life, the succession being reserved to the duke and his heirs immediately after him – aee Act of Accord. And so it was accordingly enacted, the duke and his two eldest sons swearing fealty to Henry so long as he should live. The duke then with his second son, the Earl of Rutland, withdrew into the north to keep Christmas at his castle of Sandal, while Edward returned to the borders of Wales and kept his Christmas at the Friars at Shrewsbury. But the parliamentary settlement was not respected by Queen Margaret and her adherents, who on 30 Dec. defeated and slew the Duke of York at Wakefield; then with a host of rough northern followers advanced towards London, ravaging the country frightfully upon the way. Young Edward, who was then at Gloucester, hearing of this disaster, at once raised a body of thirty thousand men upon the borders of Wales, and would have gone immediately to meet the queen’s forces, but he was informed that the Earl of Wiltshire, with Jasper Tudor, earl of Pembroke, the king’s half-brother, had arrived in Wales by sea with a body of Frenchmen, Bretons, and Irishmen, who were ready to fall upon his rear. So he turned and gave them battle at Mortimer’s Cross in Herefordshire, where he completely defeated them and put them to flight on 2 Feb. 1461. In the morning, just before the battle, he is said to have been encouraged by what he interpreted as a happy omen. The sun appeared to be like three suns which ultimately joined together in one. After the victory he pushed on to London, where when he arrived he was received as a deliverer. For Margaret and her northern bands having meanwhile won the second battle of St. Albans (17 Feb.), she had thereby recovered her husband, and as it was clear no mercy could be expected even by those who had upheld the parliamentary settlement, the city was divided between fear and hatred. Emissaries of the queen came to demand a contribution of money and provisions for her army. They were not allowed entrance into the city, and when the mayor had laden some carts with the required supplies, the people took the carts and divided the provisions and money among themselves.
Great Council at Baynard’s Castle agree that Edward is rightful King of England
Edward arrived in London 26 Feb., the ninth day after the battle of St. Albans, having been joined on the way up by the Earl of Warwick at Burford in Oxfordshire. He and the earl together had forty thousand men along with them, and all classes of the community welcomed them with delight. For a few days he took up his abode in the Bishop of London’s palace, and numbers of the gentry of the south and east of England came up to show their devotion to him. On Sunday, 1 March, George Neville, bishop of Exeter, who had been appointed lord chancellor by the Yorkists shortly after the battle of Northampton, addressed a large meeting at Clerkenwell, composed partly of the citizens and partly of Edward’s soldiers, declaring how Edward might rightly claim the crown. On 3 March a great council was called at Baynard’s Castle, a mansion which had belonged to the Duke of York, and it was agreed that Edward was now the rightful king, Henry having forfeited his claim by breach of the late parliamentary settlement. On the 4th Edward entered Westminster Hall, seated himself on the royal throne, and declared his title to the people with his own mouth. The people were then asked if they would accept him, and there was a general cry of ‘Yea! yea!’ after which he entered the abbey and offered at St. Edward’s shrine. Next day proclamations were issued in his name as king.
The Battles of Ferrybridge and Towton: Secure as King Edward IV
Meanwhile Queen Margaret had withdrawn with her husband back into the north. Thither Edward determined to pursue them without loss of time, and he left the city on 13 March, accompanied by the Duke of Norfolk. The Earl of Warwick had already left for the north in advance of him, on Saturday the 7th, and the main body of Edward’s own infantry on Wednesday the 11th. The united forces, to which the city gladly contributed a company, were no doubt enormous, though the arithmetic of the time cannot be relied on as to their numbers. Having reached Pomfret their advanced guard took, after a six hours’ skirmish, the passage of the Aire at Ferrybridge, which Lord Fitzwalter was appointed to keep. Henry and Queen Margaret had thrown themselves into York, but a force under the Duke of Somerset, the Earl of Northumberland, and Lord Clifford crossed the Wharfe, and early in the morning of Saturday 28 March a detachment under Lord Clifford retook the bridge at Ferrybridge by surprise, and killed Lord Fitzwalter. Lord Falconbridge, however, forced a passage at Castleford, a few miles up the river; and Clifford, to avoid being surrounded, endeavoured to fall back upon the main body of the army under Somerset, but was slain by an arrow in the throat. Next day. Palm Sunday, took place the bloody battle of Towton, in which the Lancastrians were utterly defeated. It is not easy to credit the contemporary statement that twenty-eight thousand dead were actually counted by the heralds upon the field; but unquestionably the slaughter was tremendous, the fight being obstinately maintained for no less than ten hours. The snow which fell during the action and helped to defeat the Lancastrians, being driven by the wind in their faces, was dyed crimson as it lay. The Wharfe and its tributaries were also coloured with blood. The dead lay un-buried for two or three days over a space six miles in length by nearly half a mile broad.
Coronation of King Edward IV
This great victory secured Edward in the possession of the throne. Henry and Margaret were driven to seek refuge in Scotland, and Edward, after keeping Easter at York, returned to London to be crowned. His two brothers, George and Richard, whom the Duchess of York after her husband’s death had sent over to Utrecht for safety, came back and were created dukes with the titles of Clarence and Gloucester at the coronation, which took place on 28 June; and a parliament having been summoned to meet on 4 Nov., Henry VI and all his adherents were attainted as traitors.
Combatting Lancastrian Resistance
For some years Edward was by no means securely seated. Henry and his queen obtained the aid of the Scots by putting them in possession of Berwick, and Margaret crossing to France gained also that of Louis XI by a pledge to surrender Calais. She returned to Scotland, and for a time obtained possession of the castles of Bamborough, Dunstanborough, and Alnwick. Edward, who daring those early years was constantly upon the move, going from one part of his kingdom to another, left London at the beginning of November 1462, was at York on the 25th, and had reached Durham in December, when on Christmas eve the two former strongholds surrendered. Alnwick held out till 6 Jan. following (1463), when it too capitulated, and Edward was left for the moment master of all England and Wales, with the exception of Margaret’s last stronghold in the latter country, Harlech Castle.
Struggles in the North East and Edward IV’s abortive plan to invade Scotland
He would have pursued his enemies into Scotland and made war against the Scots, who had perfidiously broken a truce, but he was prevented by an illness brought on by youthful debauchery, and withdrew southwards, on which the Scots, about the time of Lent, again invaded England and retook Bamborough. Alnwick also was betrayed by Sir Ralph Grey, the constable, who took the captain. Sir John Ashley, prisoner And delivered him to Queen Margaret. Dunstanborough appears likewise to have been recovered by the Scots, who, however, laid siege to Norham unsuccessfully, and were put to flight by Warwick and Lord Montague. Margaret, sailing from Bamborough (where she left her husband behind her) in April, escaped abroad once more. Edward, on the other hand, prorogued in June a parliament which had met at Westminster in the end of April, in order to enable him to go in person against the Scots, who, in concert with English rebels, were continually molesting the kingdom (Rolls of Parl. v. 498). Great preparations appear to have been made for an army to march northward, and a fleet, which was put under command of the Earl of Worcester, but nothing came of them. Edward did indeed march northwards; he had got to Northampton in July, and as far as York by December, but he appears to have advanced no further, and at York in December he saw nothing better to do than to agree to a new truce with Scotland till the end of October following (Rtmer, xi. 510).
Edward IV’s Misplaced Confidence in the Reconciliation with the Duke of Somerset
The Northumbrian castles were still in Lancastrian hands, but Edward seems to have believed that without the aid of the Scots his enemies could do nothing against him, and he allowed himself to be lulled into a state of false security which was truly marvellous. One ground of his confidence seems to have been the belief that he had conciliated and won over to his side the young Duke of Somerset, whose father had been his own father’s chief opponent. Somerset accompanied him on his progress towards the north, much to the indignation of the people of Northamptonshire, who had been devoted to the Duke of York and would have killed the head of the rival house within the king’s own palace but for Edward’s special intervention. And not only did Edward save his life and soothe his own followers by fair speeches, giving them also a tun of wine to drink and make merry with at Northampton, but he sent the duke secretly to one of his castles in Wales for security, and his men to Newcastle to help to garrison the town, giving them good wages at his own expense. But about Christmas the duke stole out of Wales with a small company towards Newcastle, which he and his men had arranged to betray to the enemy. His movements were discovered, and he was very nearly taken in his bed in the neighbourhood of Durham, but he managed to escape barefooted in his shirt.
The Cause of Lancaster Crushed: 1464/5
Edward did not even yet bestir himself to meet the coming danger. He ‘sent a great fellowship of his household men to keep the town of Newcastle, and made the Lord Scrope of Bolton captain of the town,’ which he kept safe for the remainder of the winter. But he himself, after returning to London, spent the time in feasting with his lords, trusting to make a permanent peace with Scotland, for which the Scots themselves sued about Easter 1464, and commissioners were appointed on both sides to meet at York, when news reached him that the Lancastrians had gained possession not only of Norham Castle, but also of the castle of Skipton in Craven. He saw now that he must bestir himself, and began to move northwards again. Meanwhile, further events were taking place in Northumberland. Lord Montague, being assigned to meet the Scotch ambassadors on the frontier and conduct them to York, proceeded first to Newcastle, where he escaped an ambush laid for him on the way by the Duke of Somerset; and then collecting a considerable body of men for safety went on towards Norham. He was met at Hedgley Moor on St. Mark’s day, 25 April, by the Duke of Somerset, Sir Ralph Percy, Lord Hungerford, and others, with a force of five thousand men, which he completely defeated. He then passed on to Norham, which apparently he regained for Edward, and, receiving the Scotch ambassadors there, conducted them to Newcastle. Here, however, he had not rested long when he was compelled to advance towards Hexham, where he met King Henry himself, who from Bamborough had rejoined his defeated followers Somerset, lords Roos and Hungerford, and others — in short, the whole power of the Lancastrian party in the north of England. Lord Montague was again victorious. Somerset, Hungerford, and most of the other leaders were taken, and King Henry saved himself by flight. The principal prisoners were beheaded, some next day at Hexham, others three days after the battle at Newcastle, and the fourth day at Middleham; others, again, towards the end of the month at York. The cause of the house of Lancaster was completely crushed; and in the course of the summer Alnwick, Dunstanborough, and Bamborough again came under Edward’s power.
Edward IV’s Secret Marriage to Elizabeth Woodville
Edward had contributed nothing personally to this result. He had, indeed, left London towards the end of April, and had reached Stony Stratford by the 30th; but his mind was not even then much bent on war. He stole off early next morning (1 May) to pay a secret visit to Grafton, the residence of the old Duchess of Bedford, widow of the regent who had governed France in the early years of Henry VI. This lady, after Bedford’s death, had married a second husband, Richard Woodville, lord Rivers, by whom she had a grown-up daughter, Elizabeth, now the widow of Sir John Grey of Groby. Edward had already been much fascinated with the charms of this young widow, and though he stayed on this occasion a very brief time with her, returning in a few hours to Stony Stratford, he was privately married to her that day before he left Grafton; soon after which he went on to York, as if nothing particular had occurred to him, and created Montague Earl of Northumberland.
The Marriage of Edward IV Revealed and its Diplomatic Consequences
The marriage was carefully kept secret for some time. Matches had already been suggested for him in various quarters. Isabella, princess of Castile, afterwards queen and joint ruler with Ferdinand of Aragon, might have been his bride; and at this very time his council were inclined to favour a match with Bona of Savoy, sister-in-law of Louis XI of France. The chief promoter of this match was his powerful supporter the Earl of Warwick, who was expected in France in the course of the year to arrange it. Not only would Warwick be disgusted by the failure of the match, but Warwick’s policy, which was to make a cordial alliance with France and Burgundy, would probably be disconcerted. A truce with France had already been arranged in April to last till October, and a diet was meanwhile to take place at St. Omer’s, with a view to a more lasting peace (Rymer, 1st ed. xi. 518, 520, 521). The secret must be disclosed before Warwick went abroad to negotiate the match with Bona; and about Michaelmas at Reading Edward informed his council that he was already a married man (W. Wyrcester; see also foot-notes in Kirk, Charles the Bold, i. 415, ii. 15).
Rise of the Woodville’s and the Contempt of Warwick
Warwick was offended, and many of the nobility shared his feelings. The mission of Warwick to France was broken off, and there was some uncertainty at first how far Louis would be inclined towards peace. The peers summoned to the council at Reading held consultations among themselves whether the marriage could not be annulled (Ven. Cal. i. No. 395). But Warwick concealed his resentment, and Louis had difficulties to contend with in his own kingdom which made it unadvisable to attempt immediately to raise up trouble for Edward. Meanwhile the disaffection was increased by the honours showered upon the new queen’s relations. Her father, a simple baron, was raised to the dignity of Earl. Rivers. Her brother Anthony had already married a wealthy heiress, and thereby won the title of Lord Scales; but another brother, five sisters, and her son by her first husband, Thomas Grey, were all married to members of great and wealthy houses. Leading offices of state were also engrossed by the upstarts in a way that did not tend to relieve their unpopularity.
Coronation of Elizabeth, Capture of Henry VI
Edward in fact did not shirk or endeavour in anyway to lessen the consequences of what he had done. On Whitsunday, 26 May 1465, he caused his queen to be crowned at Westminster. She seems to have borne him three daughters before the birth of their eldest son, who was only born in the seventh year of their married life; and the absence of male issue no doubt helped to strengthen the combination which drove him for a time into exile. Meanwhile fortune seemed to favour his cause. About the end of June 1465 Henry VI was taken in Lancashire, and being brought up to London in July was lodged safely in the Tower. Warwick s policy also was thwarted; for though Edward sent him to France in embassy in the spring of 1467, and he did his utmost to promote a cordial alliance, for the sake of which Louis was willing to have made large concessions, the French offers were not only rejected with disdain, but Edward showed himself bent rather on cultivating the friendship of France’s dangerous rival Burgundy.
Smithfield Tournament and Pro-Burgundian Policy
It was in honour of this alliance that the famous tournament took place in Smithfield in June 1467 between Lord Scales and the Bastard of Burgundy. About the same time Philip, duke of Burgundy, died at Bruges, and his son Charles, count of Charolois, already affianced to Edward’s sister Margaret, became duke in his place. Warwick was at that very time in France, and on his return brought with him an embassy from Louis to England; but he found that his brother, the Archbishop of York, had meanwhile been deprived of the great seal, and that Edward was less inclined to a French alliance than ever. He had been cultivating alliances all over Europe, except with the old traditional enemy of England, and the idea of revindicating Englisn claims on France was still popular.
Edward IV’s Intention to Invade France, and Jasper Tudor reduces the countryside around Harlech
In May 1468 Edward declared to parliament his intention of invading France in person, and obtained a grant of two fifteenths and two tenths, with a view to a future expedition (Rolls of Parl. v. 622-3). The marriage of his sister Margaret to Charles the Bold of Burgundy took place near Bruges in July following. Warwick, who had held his own correspondence with Louis XI for the purpose of thwarting Edward’s policy, disliked both the match and the alliance which it was to cement; but he dissembled his feelings, and conducted Margaret to the seaside on her way to the Low Countries. The French king was secretly encouraging Margaret of Anjou, and many arrests were made in England of persons accused of conveying or receiving messages from her. In June Jasper Tudor, the attainted earl of Pembroke, half-brother to Henry VI, landed at Harlech in Wales, a castle which alone at this time held out for the house of Lancaster, and succeeded for a while in reducing some of the neighbouring country, where he held sessions and assizes in King Henry’s name; but he was very soon driven out by Lord Herbert, whom Edward rewarded by creating him Earl of Pembroke, the better to discredit Jasper’s title.
The Earl of Warwick conspires against King Edward IV
Warwick, too, was actively intriguing against Edward in his own kingdom. He had already, apparently soon after the announcement of the king’s marriage, held a conference with the king’s two brothers at Cambridge, in which he made them many promises calculated to shake their allegiance. He offered the Duke of Clarence the hand of his eldest daughter, with the prospect of inheriting at least one half of his vast possessions. The duke at once accepted, and though he at first denied his engagement when Edward charged him with it, replied in answer to further remonstrances that even if he had made such a contract it was not a bad one. From this time his relations with the king were uncomfortable, and he was more and more in Warwick’s confidence. He was still further confirmed in this by Edward’s incivility to Warwick and the embassy that came with him from Louis XI. It was noted that he alone went to meet the ambassadors on their arrival; and when Edward, after admitting them to one formal interview, withdrew to Windsor, he and Warwick were the only persons with whom they had any opportunity to negotiate. Warwick accordingly showed the Frenchmen that the king was governed by traitors, as he called them, quite opposed to the interests of France, and that they must concert measures of vengeance together against him.
Robin of Redesdale’s insurrection
At the same time he promised Clarence to make him king, or at least the real ruler of all England. Clarence willingly trusted him, and Warwick, after the French embassy had left, conspired with his brother, the Archbishop of York, to raise up insurrections in the north at a word from nim. A commotion accordingly broke out in Yorkshire in June 1469, which is known as Robin of Redesdale’s insurrection, from the name assumed by its leader, Sir William Conyers. The insurgents published manifestos everywhere, complaining of the too great influence exercised by the queen’s relations. Warwick was then at Calais, of which he was still governor. To him Clarence crossed the sea, and on 11 July the marriage between the duke and the earl’s daughter was celebrated, while England was convulsed with a rebellion which might be called a renewal of civil war. The king went northwards to meet the insurgents, and sent a message to his brother to Warwick, and to the archbishop to come to his aid. The new Earl of Pembroke, with a strong force levied in Wales, met the rebels at Edgecote, near Banbury, and was defeated, 26 July, with great slaughter. He and his brother, Sir Richard Herbert, were taken prisoners and brought to Northampton, where they were beheaded. The king himself was taken by the Archbishop of York near Coventry, and brought first to the town of Warwick and afterwards to Middleham. Earl Rivers and his son, Sir John Woodville, were also taken by the rebels and put to death at Coventry.
Freedom for Edward and the Pretence of Friendly Relations
Clarence, Warwick, and the Archbishop of York had left Calais and come over to England on the king’s summons. They issued a proclamation on 12 July, couched in the ordinary language of revolted subjects, as if their only object was to be a medium with the king to redress the grievances of his people. This pretence they found it still advisable to keep up, for the city of London was devoted to Edward’s interests, and the Duke of Burgundy had written to the lord mayor to confirm their loyalty and promise aid if needful. Warwick, therefore, judged it best to release his prisoner, whom, indeed, he had not kept in very close confinement, allowing him freely to hunt, though with keepers beside him. He accordingly promised to the king that he should go up to London, see the queen, his wife, and show himself to the people; and he wrote to the Londoners that the king was going to pay them a visit, and that they should see there was no truth in the report that he had been made a prisoner. Edward was glad to condone the past. He came up to London, and though he bade the Archbishop of York remain behind till sent for at his palace of the Moor in Hertfordshire, he spoke not only of him but of Warwick and Clarence also as his very good friends.
Losecoat Field and the Discovery of Clarence and Warwick’s Treason
Warwick and Clarence received a general pardon before Christmas for all their past offences. Edward’s confidence in his brother at least appears to have returned; and it was confirmed when in the beginning of March 1470, on the breaking out of a new insurrection in Lincolnshire, Clarence sent to offer him his service and that of the Earl of Warwick to put it down. This new outbreak was a movement avowedly in behalf of King Henry, headed bv Sir Robert Welles, the eldest son of Lord Welles; it had been carefully organised by Warwick and Clarence beforehand, and had been purposely deferred till they had left the king and retired into Warwickshire. They had now intimated to the rebels that they would come from the west and join them; yet Edward was slow to believe their treason. Fortunately for him Warwick and Clarence failed to make good their promise when he came upon the insurgents at Stamford and utterly routed them in the battle of Losecoat Field. Sir Robert Welles was put to death after the battle, and before he suffered made a full confession, by which it appeared that he was merely the instrument of Clarence and Warwick’s perfidy.
Flight of Clarence and Warwick to France
On this revelation Edward summoned the duke and earl to come to him and clear themselves, but they withdrew into Lancashire, endeavouring still to raise the north of England against the king. Edward could not pursue them through the barren country intervening, but pushed northwards to York, where several insurgent leaders came in and submitted to him; then issued a proclamation dated 24 March allowing the duke and earl still four days to come to him and clear themselves. The four days expired, and Edward, who finding Yorkshire submissive was now returning southwards, proclaimed them traitors at Nottingham on the 31st. They now prepared for flight, and, taking their wives along with them, embarked somewhere on the west coast for Calais, where they expected to be secure. Edward had anticipated this movement, and had warned the Lord Wenlock, the earl’s lieutenant there, not to let him enter the town; and though he fired a few shots he found it was hopeless to force an entry, as the Duke of Burgundy, being notified of the situation, was coming to the rescue. Warwick then cruised about the channel and captured a number of vessels. In the end he and Clarence sailed to Normandy and landed at Honfleur, where they left their vessels and repaired to the king of France at Angers. And here occurred one of the strangest negotiations in all history.
The Angers Agreement and Edward IV’s Flight to Burgundy
Warwick, Clarence, Margaret of Anjou, and her son, Prince Edward, were all equally opposed to Edward IV, but they had been no less enemies to each other; and Margaret particularly looked upon Warwick as the cause of all her misfortunes. Nevertheless Louis contrived to bring them together at Angers and reconcile them with a view to united action against their common enemy. In the end Margaret was not only induced to pardon Warwick, but to seal the matter with a compact for the marriage of her son to the earl s second daughter on condition that Warwick should in the first place invade England and recover the kingdom for Henry VI. Assisted by Louis he and Clarence crossed the Channel (a convenient storm having dispersed the Burgundian fleet) and landed a force in the ports of Plymouth and Dartmouth shortly before Michaelmas. Edward was then in Yorkshire, having been drawn thither to put down a new rebellion under Lord Fitzhugh, who fled to Scotland on his approach. He had heard of the proposed enterprise at York as early as 7 Sept., and the news of the accomplished landing reached him towards the end of the month at Doncaster. But among those who raised troops, and no further off than Pomfret, was Warwick’s brother Montague, whom he had created Earl of Northumberland in 1464. This nobleman, notwithstanding his brother’s defection, had preserved his allegiance till now. But unfortunately Edward had lately persuaded him to resign the earldom of Northumberland in favour of the heir of the Percy’s, whose attainder he intended to reverse, and had promoted him instead to the dignity of a marquis with his old title of Montague. This was really more of a burden than a compensation, seeing that, as he himself said, the king had given him but ‘a pye’s-nest to maintain his estate with.’ So, having raised six thousand men, as if for King Edward’s service, and advanced to within six or seven miles of the king, he informed his followers that he had now changed masters, and a cry of ‘King Henry!’ rose from all his host. A faithful servant of Edward’s galloped in hot haste to warn him. He found him, by one account, in bed; by another, sitting at dinner. The king had to fly. Accompanied by his brother Gloucester, his brother-in-law Rivers, his devoted friend and chamberlain Lord Hastings, and about eight hundred men, he escaped to Lynn, where they found shipping, 29 Sept., to convey them to Holland. So precipitate had been their flight that they had no clothes except those they wore, and they landed at Alkmaar in a state of great destitution, after escaping some dangers at sea from the Easterlings, who were then at war both with the English and the French.
King Edward IV an Unwelcome Guest in Flanders
Louis de Bruges, Lord de la Grutuyse, who was governor for the Duke of Burgundy in Holland, at once succoured them, and paid their expenses until he had conducted them to the Hague, where they arrived 11 Oct. He also sent on the news to the Duke of Burgundy, who, having in vain sent Edward repeated warnings beforehand of Warwick’s projected invasion, would now, according to Commines, have been better pleased to hear of his death, for even to shelter Edward, under present circumstances, exposed him to the resentment of an old enemy who had become all at once undisputed master of England. There were also refugees of the house of Lancaster at his court, and these strongly urged him not to give any succour to the exiled king. He visited Edward, however, at Aire on 2 Jan. 1471, and the latter also came to his court at St. Pol; but he protested publicly he would give him no kind of assistance to recover his throne.
Readeption of Henry VI
Edward had even left behind him in England his wife and children. They seemed to be secure in the Tower of London when he went northwards, but Elizabeth, when she heard that he had escaped abroad, withdrew secretly with her children into the sanctuary at Westminster, where she gave birth to a son, afterwards Edward V. Meanwhile Henry VI was released from prison and proclaimed king once more. In a short time Margaret of Anjou and her son were expected to rejoin him in England. The Duke of Burgundy, however, yielded privately to Edward s entreaties, sent him underhand a sum of fifty thousand florins, and placed at his disposal three or four great ships which he got ready for him at Veere in Holland, and secretly hired for him fourteen Easterling vessels besides to transport him into England.
Edward lands at Ravenspur
He accordingly embarked at Flushing on 2 March 1471 with his brother Gloucester, Earl Rivers, and some twelve thousand fighting men. Kept back for some days by contrary winds, he arrived before Cromer in Norfolk 12 March, where he caused Sir Robert Chamberlain, Sir Gilbert Debenham, and others to land and ascertain how the people of those parts were affected towards his return. Finding that the district was quite under the power of Warwick and the Earl of Oxford, he sailed further north, and during the next two days met with violent storms which compelled the whole expedition to land in different places near the Humber. He himself landed 14 March at Ravenspur, the spot, now swallowed up by the North Sea, where Henry IV had landed before him. His brother disembarked four miles and Rivers fourteen miles from him, but they and all their companies met next day. The people declined at first to join him, and musters were made in some places to resist him; but following once more the precedent of Henry IV, he gave out that he only came to claim his dukedom of York, and not the crown. He even caused his men to cry ‘King Henry and Prince Edward I’ as they passed along, making them wear the prince’s badge of the ostrich feather, and exhibited a letter from Percy, the restored Earl of Northumberland, who, grateful for his restoration, seems heartily to have entered into the scheme, to indicate that he came upon summons.
Edward’s Journey: York, Tadcaster, Nottingham and Newark
On consultation with his friends it was determined first to go to York, where he arrived on the 18th. The recorder, Thomas Conyers, met him three miles from the city and endeavoured to dissuade him from attempting to enter it. But as Conyers was suspected to be no sympathiser he went on and had a friendly reception. Next day he and his company went to Tadcaster, ‘a town of the Earl of Northumberland’s, ten miles south of York, from which they proceeded to Wakefield and his father’s seat at Sandal. The Marquis Montague, who lay in Pomfret Castle, seems to have thought it prudent not to molest his passage, and the influence of the Earl of Northumberland prevented men from stirring, although the earl himself forbore to take open part with him. Few men, however, actually joined him, even about Wakefield, where his father’s influence was greatest, till he had passed Doncaster and come to Nottingham. Here Sir William Parr and Sir James Harington came to him with two good bands of men to the number of six hundred. Here also, being informed that the Duke of Exeter, the Earl of Oxford, and others had gathered their forces at Newark, he turned to meet them, but they fled. He pursued his journey southwards to Leicester, where his friend Lord Hastings’s influence brought an accession to his forces of three thousand men.
Edward challenges the Earl of Warwick at Coventry
Here the Earl of Warwick could have attacked him, but he was now in the midst of friends, and people could not be raised against him in sufficient numbers. The earl was also dissuaded by a letter from the Duke of Clarence, whose counsel under the circumstances seemed only prudent. So he retired and shut himself up in Coventry, whither he was pursued, 29 March, by Edward, who for three days challenged him to come out and decide the quarrel with him in the open field. As the earl did not accept the invitation, Edward went on to the town of Warwick, where he was received as king, and issued proclamations as such. He also offered the earl a free pardon if he would submit, but this was not accepted either. He had better hopes, however, of winning over his brother Clarence, who had secretly promised him when they were both in exile that he would desert Warwick and come to his support on his return to England. A lady passing into France from the Duke of Burgundy had carried letters to the Duchess of Clarence as if to promote a general agreement between France, Burgundy, and the house of Lancaster, but having gained access thereby, not merely to the Duchess but to the Duke of Clarence, she pointed out to him that the course he was then pursuing, besides being ruinous to his family, was utterly against his own interests.
Reconciliation of King Edward IV and the Duke of Clarence
Edward accordingly with seven thousand men issued one day three miles out of Warwick, on the road to Banbury, and saw his brother Clarence advancing to meet him at the head of a company of soldiers. When the two hosts stood face to face within half a mile of each other, Edward, accompanied by his brother Gloucester, Rivers, Hastings, and a few others, advanced towards the opposite lines, while Clarence, likewise with a select company, came out to meet him. A personal reconciliation took place, and then the two armies joined and went together to Warwick. Clarence then made some efforts, but without success, to get Warwick also to come to terms with his brother. The earl had gone too far to recede; and he was now joined by the Duke of Exeter, the Marquis Montague, the Earl of Oxford, and hosts of followers. Edward accordingly removed from Warwick towards London on Friday, 5 April; spent the Saturday and Sunday (which was Palm Sunday) at Daventry, where he duly attended the services of the day, and a very encouraging miracle was said to have been witnessed as he knelt before an image of St. Anne; and from that went to Northampton. The Duke of Somerset, the Earl of Devonshire, and others of his opponents had left London for the west, where Margaret and her son were expected to land, to strengthen them on their arrival. He arrived in London on Thursday, 11 April, his cause being so dear to the citizens — partly from the debts he had left behind him, partly, it is said, from the attentions he had paid to the citizens’ wives —that he could not be kept out, and the Archbishop of York, who, perceiving this beforehand, had sued to be admitted into favour, delivered himself and King Henry into his hands. He took his queen out of the sanctuary at Westminster to his mother’s palace of Baynard’s Castle, and spent Good Friday in London; but next day, 13 April, soon after noon, he marched out with his army to Barnet to meet the Earl of Warwick, who, with Exeter, Montague, and Oxford, were now coming up rather late to contest possession of the capital.
Battle of Barnet
Edward took King Henry along with him to the field. He that evening occupied the town of Barnet, from which his foreriders had expelled those of the Earl of Warwick before he came, and driven them half a mile further, where the earl’s main body was drawn up under a hedge. Edward, coming after, placed his men in position nearly opposite to them, but a little to one side. It was by this time dark, and his true position was not understood by the enemy, who continued firing during the night at vacancy. Day broke next morning between four and five, but a dense mist still obscured matters, and while Edward’s forces, being greatly outflanked to the left by those of Warwick, began to give way, they had an almost equal advantage over their opponents at the opposite or eastern end; and while fugitives from the western part of the field carried to London the news that the day was lost for Edward, the combat was still maintained with varying fortunes for three hours or more. Owing to the fog Warwick’s men fired upon those of the Earl of Oxford, whose badge, a star with streams, was mistaken for ‘the sun of York,’ and Oxford with his company fled the field, crying ‘Treason!’ as they went. At length, after great slaughter on both sides, Edward was completely triumphant, and Warwick and Montague lay dead upon the field. The Earl of Oxford escaped to Scotland.
Battle of Tewkesbury
Next day Edward caused the bodies of Warwick and his brother to be brought to London and exhibited at St. Paul’s. He had little leisure to rest in London, for news arrived on Tuesday the 16th of the landing of Margaret and her son at Weymouth; and, after arranging for the sick and wounded who had been with him at Barnet, he left on Friday the 19th, first for Windsor, where he duly kept the feast of St. George, and afterwards to Abingdon, which he reached on the 27th. Uncertain of the enemy’s motions he was anxious to intercept them either on the road to London, if they attempted to march thither direct, or near the southern seacoast if they came that way, or passing northwards by the borders of Wales. At length he fought with them at Tewkesbury on 4 May and was completely victorious. Margaret was taken prisoner, her son slain, or more probably murdered after the battle; and Edward further stained his laurels by a gross act of perfidy in beheading two days later the Duke of Somerset and fourteen other persons who had sought refuge in the abbey of Tewkesbury, and been delivered up to him on the assurance of their lives being spared.
Siege of London Broken
The news of the victory at once sufficed to quiet an insurrection that was on the point of breaking out in the north; to suppress which, however, Edward had scarcely gone as far as Coventry when he heard of a much more formidable movement in the south. For Calais being still under the government of Warwick’s deputies, they had sent over to England a naval captain named the Bastard Falconbridge [q. v.], who after overawing Canterbury endeavoured to force an entrance into London, 5 May. Foiled in this attempt the Bastard withdrew westward to Kingston-upon-Thames, intending to have offered battle to King Edward in the centre of the kingdom, for he had a strong force with him, reckoned at twenty thousand men, which grew as he advanced, while most of Edward’s followers had dispersed after the victory of Tewkesbury. But Scales managed to prevail on one of his adherents, Nicholas Faunt, mayor of Canterbury, to urge him to return to Blackheath, from which place he stole away with only six hundred horsemen out of his army by Rochester to Sandwich, where he stood simply on the defensive.
Death of King Henry VI and the Suppression of the South East Rebels
Edward in the meantime was issuing commissions and raising men in the different counties, so that he arrived in London, 21 May, at the head of thirty thousand men. On the night of his arrival Henry VI died—of a broken heart as Edward’s friends pretended. Next day Edward knighted no less than twelve aldermen of London for the good service they had done him, and the day following (Ascension day) he marched forward into Kent. Coming to Canterbury he caused Nicholas Faunt to be brought thither from the Tower and hanged, drawn, and quartered. Some other adherents of the Bastard were also put to death. Commissions were also issued for Kent, Sussex, and Essex to levy fines on those who had gone with him to Blackheath, and many who were not really there were made to pay exorbitantly, some unfortunate men having to sell their spare clothing and borrow money before they were admitted to mercy. On 26 May Edward and his army reached Sandwich, where the Bastard surrendered the town and all his navy, amounting to forty-three vessels.
Henry Tudor the sole Lancastrian Male Claimant
Edward had now triumphed so decisively over his enemies that the rest of his reign was passed in comparative tranquillity. The direct line of Lancaster was extinct, and the family of John of Gaunt was represented only by Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond, whose ancestors, the Beauforts, were of doubtful legitimacy. Henry’s uncle, the Earl of Pembroke, finding no safety in Wales, took him over sea, meaning to go to France, but they were forced to land in Brittany, where Duke Francis II detained them in a kind of honourable confinement, refusing more than one application from King Edward to deliver them up to him, but promising that they should not escape to do him injury. Yet it could only have been on behalf of Richmond that the Earl of Oxford sought unsuccessfully to invade the kingdom in 1473. He landed first at St. Osyth in Essex, 28 May, but made a speedy retreat on hearing that the Earl of Essex was coming to meet him. Then on 30 Sept. he took St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall by surprise, but was immediately besieged there and surrendered in the following February.
KIng Edward IV’s Preparations for the Invasion of France
The king began to revive the project of an invasion of France, to be undertaken in concert with his ally the Duke of Burgundy. In 1472, before the Earl of Oxford’s attempt, parliament had voted a levy of thirteen thousand archers for the defence of the kingdom against external enemies, and of a tenth to pay expenses; and the grant, which had not yet been fully put in force, was renewed and increased in 1474 with a view to the proposed expedition. The taxation was severely felt, yet it was not sufficient to warrant the enterprise without additional aid, and to make up the deficiency Edward had recourse to a new and unprecedented kind of impost, by which, as the continuator of the ‘Croyland Chronicle’ remarks, ‘every one was to give just what he pleased, or rather what he did not please, by way of benevolence.’ Edward himself did not disdain to levy sums in this way by personal solicitation, and in some cases, it would seem, the money was really granted with goodwill. An amusing instance is recorded by Hall the chronicler of a rich widow who on personal solicitation promised the king what was then the large sum of 20l., and on Edward showing his gratitude by a kiss immediately doubled the contribution.
Diplomatic Exchanges from Calais to the King of France
Extraordinary contributions seemed necessary for the object in view. When all was ready Edward crossed to Calais at the head of a splendid army, consisting of fifteen hundred men-at-arms, fifteen thousand archers on horseback, and a large body of foot, another expedition being arranged to land at the same time in Brittany to strengthen the Duke of Brittany against an attack from France. Before embarking at Dover Edward sent Louis a letter of defiance in the approved style of chivalry, so elegantly and politely penned that Commines could hardly believe an Englishman wrote it. He called upon Louis to surrender the kingdom of France to him as rightful owner, that he might relieve the church and the people from the oppression under which they groaned; otherwise all the miseries of war would lie at his door. Louis having read the letter called in the herald who brought it, and told him he was sure his master had no wish to invade France on his own account, but had merely done so to satisfy his own subjects and the Duke of Burgundy; that the latter could give little aid, as he had wasted time and strength over the siege of Neuss, and the summer was already far spent; and that Edward would do well to listen to some accommodation, which the herald might have it in his power to promote. The artifice was successful. The herald, indeed, told Louis that no proposal could be listened to until the whole army had landed in France, and so great was the force that it took three weeks to convey them across the straits of Dover. But the French king when the herald left him had already some reason to believe that he had by his policy taken the heart out of the expedition. The progress of events rather tended to confirm the suspicion he had sown in English minds that they were fighting for the Duke of Burgundy’s interests more than for their own; for after Edward’s landings the duke came to meet him, not at the head of an army but merely with a personal escort, and only stayed with him a very short time, feeling himself called away to defend Luxemburg. Nor were the English better pleased when the perfidious constable of St. Pol, a professed ally of Burgundy, but an intriguer who had betrayed all sides in turn, opened fire upon them from St. Quentin. They could not understand the people they had come among, and wondered if Burgundy had any army at all.
Treaty of Picquigny
In this state of matters Louis sent to the English camp an irregular messenger dressed like a herald, who urged the case for peace with wonderful astuteness; and it was not long before commissioners to treat were appointed on both sides. A seven years’ treaty was arranged, with stipulation for a pension of seventy-five thousand crowns to be paid by Louis during the joint lives of the two kings, and a contract for the marriage of the dauphin to Edward’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth, as soon as the parties should be of suitable age. The peace was ratified at a personal interview of the two kings at Picquigny on 29 Aug., and the invading army soon returned home without having struck a blow. It was not a very noble conclusion, for Edward really broke faith with his ally the Duke of Burgundy, and several of his council, including his own brother Gloucester, absented themselves from the interview in consequence. The French king, however, was highly pleased, and to allay the prejudices of Edward’s councillors gave them handsome presents before they left France and pensions afterwards.
Brittany and the Earl of Richmond
Whatever may be said of Edward’s conduct towards Burgundy, he was more faithful on this occasion towards another ally whom Louis vainly endeavoured to induce him to desert. This was the Duke of Brittany, in whose territory the Earl of Richmond had found an asylum, and who it seems, in gratitude to Edward, was on the point of delivering the furtive up to him not long afterwards, but that he was dissuaded at the last moment.
Trial and Execution of George Duke of Clarence
Not long after this the Duke of Burgundy met his fate at the battle of Nancy, 5 Jan. 1477, leaving an only daughter, Mary, as his heiress. The Duke of Clarence, who was now a widower, aspired to her hand in marriage, and thereby revived the old jealousy of his brother Edward, who took care to prevent the match. This with other circumstances inflamed the duke’s indignation, and his conduct gave so much offence that Edward first had him sent to the Tower, and then accused him before parliament in the beginning of 1478. The scene is recorded by a contemporary with an expression of horror. ‘No one,’ says the writer, ‘argued against the duke except the king, no one made answer to the king except the duke.’ Sentence was formally pronounced against him, but the execution was for some time delayed, till the speaker made request in the name of the commons that it should take effect. The king complied; but, to avoid the disgrace of a public execution, ordered it to be done secretly within the Tower, and it was reported that Clarence was drowned in a butt of malmsey.
Edward’s Position of Strength
It was noted that his removal placed the whole kingdom more entirely at Edward’s command than it had been before. No other member of the council was so popular or influential; and no one now could advocate a policy opposed to the king’s personal will. Yet the memory of what he had done embittered Edward’s after years, insomuch that when solicited for the pardon of an offender he would sometimes say, ‘O unfortunate brother, for whose life not one creature would make intercession!’
Foreign Affairs: Burgundy and France
One result of this greater absolutism was that the law officers of the crown became severe in searching out penal offences, by which wealthy gentlemen and nobles were harassed by prosecutions, and the king’s treasure increased by fines. But these practices were not long continued. Edward was now wealthy, corpulent, and fond of ease, and he loved popularity too well to endanger it by persistent oppression. Another matter in which he was allowed to have his own way doubtless alarmed many of his subjects long before he found reason to repent the course he had taken himself. His whole foreign policy had undergone a change at the treaty of Picquigny when he accepted a French alliance instead of a Burgundian; and when, after the death of Charles the Bold, Louis XI overran Burgundy and Picardy, depriving the young duchess Mary of her inheritance, she appealed in vain to Edward for assistance. Not to listen to such an appeal was little short of infatuation, for the success of France imperilled English commerce with the Low Countries. But Edward was more afraid of losing the French pension and the stipulated marriage of his daughter to the dauphin, and he was base enough even to offer to take part with Louis if the latter would share with him his conquests on the Somme. His queen, on the other hand, would have engaged him the other way if the council of Flanders would have allowed the marriage of Mary to her brother Anthony, earl Rivers; but the match was considered too unequal in point of rank, and the young lady, for her own protection, was driven to marry Maximilian of Austria.
Foreign Affairs: Scotland and France
The French pension was for some years punctually paid, but Louis still delayed sending for the Princess Elizabeth to be married to his son, alleging as his excuse the war in Burgundy, and sending such honourable embassies that Edward’s suspicions were completely lulled to sleep. A like spirit showed itself in Edward’s relations with Scotland, with which country he had made peace in 1474, marrying his second daughter, Cecily, by proxy, to the eldest son of James III, and had since paid three instalments of her stipulated dowry of twenty thousand marks. But misunderstandings gradually grew up, secretly encouraged by France. A Scotch invasion was anticipated as early as May 1480 (Rymer, xii. 115), and the Scotch actually overran the borders not long after (‘Chronicle’ cited in Pinkerton, i. 503). James excused the aggression as made without his consent; but Edward made alliances against him with the Lord of the Isles and other Scotch nobles (Rymer, xii. 140), and a secret treaty with his brother Albany, whom he recognised as rightful king of Scotland, on the pretence that James was illegitimate (ib. 156). This Albany had been imprisoned by James in Scotland, and had escaped to France, but was now under Edward’s protection in England; and he engaged, on being placed on the throne of Scotland, to restore Berwick to the English and abandon the old French alliance. In return for these services Edward promised him the hand of that princess whom he had already given to the Scotch king’s heir-apparent, provided Albany on his part could ‘make himself clear from all other women.’
1482 Invasion of Scotland
An expedition against Scotland, for the equipment of which benevolences had been again resorted to, was at length set on foot in May 1482. It was placed under the command of Richard, duke of Gloucester, and Albany went with it. Berwick was besieged, and the town soon surrendered, though the castle still held out. The invasion was made easier by the revolt of the Scotch nobles, who hanged James’s favourite ministers, shut up James himself in Edinburgh Castle, concluded a treaty with Gloucester and Albany, and bound the town of Edinburgh to repay Edward the money advanced by him for the Princess Cecily’s dower, the marriage being now annulled. Nothing, however, was said about Albany’s pretensions to the crown, and the Scotch lords undertook to procure his pardon. The invading army withdrew to the borders, and the campaign ended by the capitulation of Berwick Castle on 24 Aug.
Foreign Affairs: Treaty of Arras
Scarcely, however, had the difference with Scotland been arranged, when the full extent of the French king’s perfidy was made manifest. The Duchess Mary of Burgundy was unexpectedly killed by a fall from her horse in March 1482, leaving behind her two young children, Philip and Margaret, of whom the former was heir to the duchy. Their father, Maximilian, being entirely dependent for money on the Flemings, who were not his natural subjects, was unable to exercise any authority as their guardian. The men of Ghent, supported by France, controlled everything, and compelled him to conclude with Louis the treaty of Arras (23 Dec. 1482), by which it was arranged that Margaret should be married to the dauphin, and have as her dower the county of Artois and some of the best lands in Burgundy taken from the inheritance of her brother Philip. Thus the compact for the marriage of the dauphin to Edward’s daughter was boldly violated, with a view to a future annexation of provinces to the crown of France.
Death of Edward IV
It was remarked that Edward kept his Christmas that year at Westminster with particular magnificence. But the news of the treaty of Arras sank deep into his heart. He thought of vengeance, and called parliament together in January 1483 to obtain further supplies. A tenth and a fifteenth were voted by the commons, not as if for an aggressive war, but expressly ‘for the hasty and necessary defence of the kingdom. The clergy also were called on for a contribution. But while occupied with these thoughts he was visited by illness, which in a short time proved fatal. He died on 9 April 1483, as French writers believed, of mortification at the treaty of Arras.
Edward IV, a Summary
Commines speaks of Edward IV as the most handsome prince he ever saw, and similar testimony is given by others to his personal appearance. When his coffin was opened at Windsor in 1789 his skeleton measured no less than six feet three inches in length. Although latterly he had grown somewhat corpulent, his good looks had not deserted him, and his ingratiating manners contributed to render him highly popular. The good fortune which attended him throughout life may have been partly owing to this cause as well as to his undoubted valour, for though he never lost a battle, nothing is more astounding than his imprudence and the easy confidence with which he trusted Somerset, Warwick, Montague, and others, all the while they were betraying him. Careless and self-indulgent, he allowed dangers to accumulate; but whenever it came to action he was firm and decisive. His familiarity with the wives of London citizens was the subject of much comment, and so were his exactions, whether in the shape of parliamentary taxations, benevolences, or debasement of the currency, to which last device he had recourse in 1464. His queen, Elizabeth Woodville, bore him ten children, of whom only seven survived him, two of them being sons and five daughters.
References[English Chronicle, ed. Davies (Camden Soc.); Wilhelmi Wyrcester Annales; Venetian Cal. vol. i.; Paston Letters; Hist. Croylandensis Continuatio in Fulman’s Scriptores; Warkworth’s Chronicle; Collections of a London Citizen; Three Fifteenth-century Chronicles; History of the Arrival of Edward IV (the last four published by the Camden Soc.); Leland’s Collectanea (ed. 1774), ii. 497-509; Fragment, printed by Hearne. at end of T. Sprotti Chronica(1719); Jeban do Wavrin, Anchiennes Croniques, ed. Dupont; Ezcerpta Historica, 282-4; Commines; Polydore Vergil; Hall’s Chronicle; Fabyan’s Chronicle. Besides these sources of information, Habington’s History of Edward IV (1640) may be referred to with advantage.]
Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 17
Edward IV by James Gairdner