The Life of Edward IV: Edward IV was born on April 28, 1442, the eldest son of Richard, duke of York and Cecily Neville. He was born in Rouen, France, where his father was serving as King Henry VI's Lieutenant-General. He was created Earl of March about September 1445.
Because his father was involved in the political turmoil of the 1450s, Edward himself first appears on the political stage at the age of ten, marching at the head of an army to free his father from captivity. After his father's forces were routed at Ludlow in 1459, Edward accompanied his cousins Richard, earl of Warwick and Richard, earl of Salisbury to Calais. At this point Edward emerges as a political figure in his own right, playing a key role in the invasion of England and the capture of Henry VI at the battle of Northampton in the summer of 1460.
Following his father's death at Wakefield (December 30, 1460), Edward rallied the Yorkist troops to spectacular victory at the battle of Mortimer's Cross (February 2-3, 1461). He assumed the throne March 4, 1461, won a second and decisive victory at the Battle of Towton (March 29, 1461), and was crowned king on June 28, 1461. The Edward IV Roll was quite possibly commissioned between March 4 and June 28 or shortly thereafter.
Despite some Lancastrian
attempts to regain the throne in the early 1460s, Edward settled into
a largely peaceful reign. His political alliance with the powerful
magnate Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick ("the Kingmaker")
was strained, however, when Edward secretly married an impoverished
Lancastrian widow, Elizabeth Woodville, in 1464. This clandestine marriage
thwarted Warwick's hopes for a royal alliance with France. Relations
were further strained when Edward favored an alliance with France's
adversary, the Duchy of Burgundy.
In 1469 Warwick
entered into an alliance with the Lancastrian forces and in 1470 was
successful in reinstating Henry VI on the throne. Edward and his brother
Richard, together with other Yorkist adherents, fled to Burgundy, where
they gathered mercenaries and returned to England in the spring of
1471. In two hard-fought battles, Barnet and Tewkesbury, Edward delivered
the final blow to the House of Lancaster. Warwick was killed during
the Battle of Barnet, Henry VI's only son Edward of Lancaster was slain
during or immediately after the battle of Tewkesbury, and Henry VI
himself met his end, probably at Edward's orders, in the Tower of London
From this time until
his death, Edward ruled with little opposition. He mounted an invasion
of France in 1475, but accepted a treaty and a financial settlement
in lieu of a war. In 1477, Edward accused his brother George duke of
Clarence of treason. George was executed in February 1478, and rumor
had it that he was drowned in a barrel of malmsey wine, a rumor immortalized
in Shakespeare's Richard III. In the early 1480s, England was
involved in a series of border skirmishes with the Scots, a campaign
Edward entrusted to his remaining brother, Richard, duke of Gloucester.
Edward was a vigorous,
handsome and charming man and a charismatic leader by popular accounts.
As his biographer, Charles Ross, describes him, "He was clearly
a man of considerable intelligence, equipped with a particularly retentive
memory. He had considerable personal charm and affability and by temperament
was generous, good-natured and even-tempered. Consistently courageous,
he had great confidence in himself and the capacity to inspire it in
others, and from early in his career showed natural gifts of leadership." His
contemporaries described him as handsome, and when his coffin was opened
in 1789 his skeleton found to measure 6'3-1/2". He was not a particularly
scholarly man, although like many of his contemporaries he ordered
lavish manuscripts for his personal library, nor was he especially
pious or devout. He enjoyed the pursuits of ceremony and display (especially
lavish dress), hunting, feasting, and the company of women. His court
borrowed heavily from the culture of the Burgundian court, where his
sister Margaret presided as Duchess of Burgundy.
When Edward died,
on April 9, 1483, he left behind a widow and seven surviving children
-- two sons and five daughters. After
two months of political upheaval, in which Edward's widow and her supporters
were involved in a struggle with Edward's brother for control of the
government, Edward's son was set aside and his brother Richard assumed
the throne as Richard III. The fate of Edward's sons is a hotly debated
mystery to this day. Following the death of Richard III at the Battle
of Bosworth Field in 1485, Edward's eldest daughter Elizabeth became
the queen of King Henry VII.
- Keith Dockray, Edward
IV: A Source Book. Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1999. Readings
from contemporary sources with commentary and analysis.
- Charles D. Ross, Edward
IV. London, Eyre Methuen, 1981. Now available in paperback
as part of the Yale University Press monarchs series. The standard
Edward IV's lifetime
spans the principal events of the Wars of the Roses. There are several
excellent reviews of the political and military history of the time,
including the following:
- Boardman, Andrew
W. The Medieval Soldier in the Wars of the Roses. Stroud:
Sutton Publishing, 1998.
- Dockray Keith, Henry
VI, Margaret of Anjou and the Wars of the Roses: A Source Book. Stroud:
Sutton Publishing, 2000.
- John Gillingham, The
Wars of the Roses, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1981.
- Anthony Goodman, The
Wars of the Roses: Military Activity and English Society, 1452-97.
New York: Dorset Press, 1981.
- Lander, J. R. The
Wars of the Roses. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990.
- Pollard, A. J. The
Wars of the Roses. St. Martin's Press, 1995.
- Charles D. Ross, The
Wars of the Roses: A Concise History. London: Thames & Hudson,