The Wars of the Roses Part Two: The Early Years of Edward IV – Conquest and Marriage

Richard, Duke of York as depicted in the window of St Lawrence Church, Ludlow
Richard, Duke of York as depicted in the window of St Lawrence Church, Ludlow

This post carries on from my first post on the Wars of the Roses Part One: The Reign of Henry VI

King Edward IV came to the throne at a time where in which England had been thrown into a dynastic war for the throne.

This was between the Lancastrian King Henry VI, a unable King prone to mental illness and the Yorkist Richard, Duke of York, sometime protector of the realm and a man with a strong claim to the throne.

In 1460, Richard, Duke of York was killed in the Battle of Wakefield alongside his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland, and it was his 18 year old son Edward, Earl of March who took up his cause.

Ludlow Castle, where Edward IV spent much time as a boy.
Ludlow Castle, where Edward IV spent much time as a boy.

Events as Edward, The Earl of March

King Edward IV, portrait dated to 1540. Owned by the National Portrait Gallery
King Edward IV, portrait dated to 1540. Owned by the National Portrait Gallery

Edward Plantagenet was born at Rouen, France in 1442, and was the second son born to Richard, Duke of York and Cecily Neville. As a boy, he spent much of his time at Ludlow castle and was styled the Earl of March.

Edward was skilled in war from an early age, and was present at the first Battle of St. Albans, even though he was only 14 at the time.

By 1459, Edward was by his father’s side constantly and by the Battle of Ludford Bridge at Ludlow at the age of 17, he was involved in the fighting and had to flee with his father and brother after a sound win by the Lancastrians.

After the death of his father, Edward was the leader of the Yorkist cause at the age of 18.

His first battle in command was the Battle of Mortimer Cross in 1461 which resulted

Edward was declared King of England in London, March 1461
Edward was declared King of England in London, March 1461

in victory for the Yorkists but also in the escape of the Lancastrian leaders.

Nevertheless, Edward was welcomed into London and declared King in March 1461.

It was the Battle of Towton on the 29th of March that year that solidified Edward’s

kingship. It was an incredibly brutal battle, and has been said to have been the largest battle on British soil. 50,000 men fought on both sides and it was hampered by a bleak snow storm.

Even though Edward saw victory at Towton, this wasn’t to mean peace for him. Margaret of Anjou and Henry VI escaped into Scotland to fight another day.

Events as King

Edward, Earl of March was crowned Edward IV in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey in June 1461.

Westminster Abbey, the Coronation church
Westminster Abbey, the Coronation church

He had processed from the Tower of London to Westminster, to the acclaim of the city of London. Edward was received warmly as there was real hope that he would end the civil war.

Once he arrived at Westminster Abbey he was crowned by Thomas Bourchier, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the coronation was followed by a grand banquet.

Edward didn’t stay still for long, and was involved in or planned excursions up North and in Wales. By 1462, Margaret of Anjou had sailed to France to try to gain the support of King Louis, who initially agreed to help her cause.

During this time, the Earl of Warwick was winning strategic victories against Lancastrian supporters at Alnwick and Bamburgh. This was short-lived, as Margaret of Anjou soon won these back on her return to England, having reunited with Henry VI.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and Warwick the Kingmaker
Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and Warwick the Kingmaker

The Earl of Warwick had helped Edward gain and stay on the throne, and he was known as Warwick the Kingmaker because of it.

Edward owed much of his success to him, and when Edward announced to Warwick that he had married Elizabeth Woodville in May 1464, their bond never fully recovered.

The Earl of Warwick had been working on a diplomatic allegiance and marriage for Edward to the Princess Bona of France, and he must have felt overruled and a fool.

This is not something that would have sat comfortably with a man who considered himself the power behind the throne.

Elizabeth Woodville was an unlikely choice for Queen, and has often been thought to have been a love match.

This extremely unusual for the 15th century and unheard for a King.

She was a commoner Lancastrian widow, 5 years older than Edward, and already had 2 sons. However, as unlikely as the match seemed, they had a successful marriage, with Elizabeth baring Edward 10 children.

Depiction of King Edward IV, Queen Elizabeth and family in stained glass at Canterbury Cathedral
Depiction of King Edward IV, Queen Elizabeth and family in stained glass at Canterbury Cathedral

Next post: The Wars of The Roses Part 3: Edward IV – Betrayal of Warwick the Kingmaker

References
Wikipedia – Edward IV
National Portrait Gallery
Luminarium.org – Edward IV
History of War – Edward IV
Tudor Society – Coronation of Edward IV
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