Edward IV 1442-1483

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series House of York

Edward IV 1442-1483 King of England 1461-1483

Edward IV 1442-1483 became King of England in 1461. With his father Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York killed at Wakefield in Dec 1460 Edward by default became the Yorkist heir to Henry VI by way of an arrangement and agreement that would have possibly seen his father as King. His Mother was Cecily NEVILLE and hence his cousin was Earl of WARWICK (Richard NEVILLE) who was defeated at the Battle of St Albans and had enabled the Lancastrians to recover possession of King Henry. In the heat of the moment the Yorkists were forced into a hasty nomination of Edward as King at just 18 years of age. 

His adoption by the Yorkists closely followed his victory in his first major command at Mortimer’s Cross. On his proclamation as King he immediately marched north to seize the moment  and crushed the Lancastrians at the Battle of Townton.

King who enjoyed his leisure as well as his work

Edward enjoyed life to the full but also kept his hand on the matters of state that were central to policy, a continuing irritation to  Richard of WARWICK who felt that responsibility and power should rest with him. Edward was a charismatic and personable King, never forgetting a name or a face but he perhaps leaned too heavily on his natural charm and ability to retain friends ensnare his enemies.

1464 Edward Marries for Love Elizabeth Woodville

Much has been made in fiction as well as in history of his marriage for love ,which was in social standing beneath him, to Elizabeth WOODVILLE but it is likely that he foresaw the danger this would create for him when he kept the marriage secret for four months after the ceremony in May 1464. The marriage and its ramifications for a King were complicated by the fact that Elizabeth was a Widow, with two children by that first marriage ,five brothers ad seven as yet unmarried sisters. Hardly surprising that family life would be complicated still further as it became embroiled with matters of state.

These were turbulent times and if you look to the Timeline and complex jigsaw of events that made-up and led to the War of Roses, it is not difficult to see why he would have been so cautious. The marriage for love also exacerbated an already problematic relationship with WARWICK to who he was related via his mother Cecily NEVILLE.

1469 Warwick conspires with the King’s Brother George Duke of Clarence to take King Prisoner

The seeds of disloyalty had grown to the point of explosion when George, the King’s brother was persuaded to conspire with Warwick against the King. The imprisonment being brought to an end just two months late becuase of the force of public opinion against the co-conspirators.

1470 Edward ruthlessly puts down the Lincolnshire Rising

A petty feud in Lincolnshire between the WELLES family and the King’s Master of Horse escalated out of control into a revolt against the Crown. Edward IV responded rapidly and ruthlessly defeating the rebels at Losecote Field (just north of Stamford.) This was particularly important as the rebels were about to join forces with the treacherous Warwick and Calrence who had already proven themselves to be dangerous and openly conspiring against the king.

These hapless conspirators escaped by fleeing to France where they sought to align with Margaret of ANJOU.

Then caught-out himself Edward IV has to flee as Warwick’s previously loyal brother John NEVILLE also related to Edward and Marquess of Montagu also turned on the King. Dangerous times and difficult when your own brother has joined forces against you.

1471 Edward supported by the Navy of Charles of Burgundy returns to England

The King garners the support of Charles of Burgundy and is able to then return to England in March 1471. In just two difficult months he recovers the Throne acting deviously to disarm the opposition and then diplomatically to lure back the transient loyalty of his brother George, the Duke of CLARENCE.

Edward shows commanding decisive prowess and brings to heel via battles  separately at BARNET and TWEKESBURY his enemies. Perhaps as the result of the treachery he had witnessed Henry VI whom Edward had spared previously was now murdered on the King’s orders.

1475 Edward IV Invades France

Edward invaded France but allows himself to be bough-off by the Treaty Of PULIGNY

1478 Clarence continued his misdemeanors and never learnt from the error of his ways is executed

George failed to reform his ways, continued to conspire and eventually was executed for treason by Edward in 1478.

1480 Edward IV Claims Lordship over Scotland

Edward appointed the Duke of ALBANY as a puppet King of Scotland against the Duke’s brother James III.

1482 English capture Berwick

English troops capitalised on Scottish King and captured BERWICK.

1483 Edward IV died 9 April

Edward IV Points to Ponder and Questions to Debate

There are some grey areas as with most of our history and Edward IV is no exception. Key points to ponder and certainly open to debate include the following:

  1. Was Edward IV Illegitimate?
  2. Edward IV an irresponsible Monarch who fails to secure the future for his male heirs?
  3. Were the Princes in the Tower Legitimate Children of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville?
  4. In light of the DNA Evidence what next?
  5. Loyal to Edward in his lifetime why does Richard III turn on Edward’s heirs, rich and powerful already as Protector they posed no threat?

To ponder these question we need to understand more about the House of York its relationships within its own family and the machinations from the line of Edward III, the end of the Plantagenets and of course the Tudors and their Lancastrian relatives. follow our House of Yor series if you would like to join the lines of enquiry we can explore along the way.

Historians debate whether Edward IV’s untimely death was the direct result of his love of life, leisure and associated excesses and indulgences but the truth is difficult to determine, In the crisis’s of his reign he demonstrated courage , political astuteness and true leadership but was this wasted by a certain irresponsible attitude to securing the stable inheritance of his own line because of his promiscuous lifestyle?

Securing the future for his own line was far from sure and certain and his early death led to the arguably tragic early death of his own sons, the princes in the Tower. But what of his other children and those of Elizabeth Woodville, and the machinations still hotly debated that would lead to Richard his other brother claiming the throne and usurping his nephews imprisoned at his own hand.  Follow our related Periods of History to find out more.

To explore and find out more  go to our House of York and House of Lancaster periods as a start and see all the machinations of these ruling families of York, Lancaster and Tudor that contributed to the debacle of the War of the Roses and the recent rediscovery of a King’s remains that will see the last King of York Richard III buried again in Leicester after his remains were rescued from a Car Park in Leicester. Shakespeare himself could not have envisaged that storyline.


Influences and key relationships in Edward IV’s Life

  • Richard PLANTAGENET 3rd Duke of York, his father
  • Cecily NEVILLE his mother
    • George Duke of CLARENCE, his brother
    • Richard III his brother
  • Elizabeth Woodville his Queen and Wife
      • Elizabeth of York, queen consort to Henry VII of England ( 1466 –  1503).
      • Mary of York (1467 – 1482).
      • Cecily of York (1469 – 1507); married first John Welles, 1st Viscount Welles and second Thomas Kyme or Keme.
      • Edward V of England (1470 – c. 1483); briefly succeeded his father, as King Edward V of England. Was the elder of the Princes in the Tower.
      • Margaret of York (10 April 1472 – 11 December 1472).
      • Richard of Shrewsbury, 1st Duke of York (1473 – c. 1483). Was the younger of the Princes in the Tower.
      • Anne of York (1475 – 23  1511); married Thomas Howard (later 3rd Duke of Norfolk).
      • George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Bedford ( 1477 – 1479).
      • Catherine of York ( 1479 – 1527); married William Courtenay, 1st Earl of Devon.
      • Bridget of York ( 1480 – 1517); became a nun
  • Jane Shore Mistress
  • Richard Neville (WARWICK)









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