The Wars of the Roses Part 5 – The Later Reign of Edward IV

King Edward IV, painted in 1520. Image from Wikipedia
King Edward IV, painted in 1520. Image from Wikipedia

By May, 1471, King Edward IV had been on the throne for 10 years and had only known upheaval and rebellion.

This included the defection of one of his closest allies Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, and his brief disposal in 1470 when Henry VI had been returned to the throne.

Edward had proven himself to be a superior military commander, having fought alongside his father, defeating Warwick at the Battle of Barnet in 1470, and scotching the Lancastrian cause at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471.

Finally, Edward was secure on his throne and the remainder of his reign passed without him having to fight another battle in person.

However, the final 12 years of his reign were not entirely peaceful.

French Relations and the Treaty of Picquigny

In 1475. Edward invaded France alongside his brothers Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later King Richard III) and George, Duke of Clarence. He also had the support of allies Burgundy and Brittany.

The Treaty of Picquigny was signed close to Amiens, France
The Treaty of Picquigny was signed close to Amiens, France

Relations between France and England had been turbulent for many years, from the days of the early Plantagenet King’s to the 100 years war in the 14th century.

There was also a remarkable English victory at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, made so remarkable due to the fact that Henry V was named the heir to the French crown, only to die two months before the French King.

There was the lamented loss of French territory under the reign of his son Henry VI, and successive monarchs would desire to gain this territory back, and continued to claim the title of King of France for many years.

Edward had been planning the invasion for quite sometime alongside his brother in law Charles, Duke of Burgundy with the intention of dividing conquered French territory between them.

Amiens Cathedral
Amiens Cathedral

Edward’s army crossed to Calais in June 1475, and it is thought he commanded one of the largest English armies to land on French soil, some say it was up to 16 000 strong.

When Edward met up with Charles, Duke of Burgundy, he found him to be under prepared and the French a force to be reckoned with. The French were prepared to negotiate a treaty with Edward, which he accepted.

The Treaty of Picquigny was signed on the 29th of August, 1475 just outside Amiens.

The town of Amiens
The town of Amiens

It was a 7 year truce, and Edward agreed to leave France in return for 75,000 gold crowns, and a further 50 000 gold crowns a year.

Richard, Duke of Gloucester refused to be part of the negotiations of this treaty, it is thought that he may have believed the treaty to be dishonourable. Despite his feelings, he supported his brother at the celebrations of the signing at Amiens.

Invasion of Scotland

English army at Berwick upon Tweed, French, 15th-century. Image from Wikipedia
English army at Berwick upon Tweed, French, 15th-century. Image from Wikipedia

In 1482, Alexander Stewart, Duke of Albany and brother to James III of Scotland declared himself King of Scotland.

Edward IV decided to back his claim and sent forth an army to support him.

A treaty had been signed between Edward and James  where in which James promised to marry his son to Edward’s daughter, Cecily of York. He did not honour this promise, despite Edward making payments of Cecily’s dowry.

By 1480, border conflict had reignited, possibly influenced by Scotland’s alliance with France.

Edward had a force of 20,000 men to invade Scotland and appointed Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later King Richard III) as commander.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

In August, 1482 Gloucester’s army entered Edinburgh, and due to a lack of resources was unable to besiege Edinburgh castle and capture James III who was safe within.

Gloucester’s army spared Edinburgh and did not pillage the town, and a truce was made on 4 August 1482.

A clause was agreed to that Edinburgh would repay some of Cecily’s dowry seeing James III had broken the agreement for his son to marry her.

Gloucester then withdrew from Edinburgh and captured the town of Berwick upon Tweed and the castle surrendered. Berwick upon Tweed has remained in English hands ever since.

Death of the King

Westminster Hall, the only remaining part of the Palace of Westminster that Edward knew
Westminster Hall, the only remaining part of the Palace of Westminster that Edward knew

Edward’s health had been ailing, he had become increasingly corpulent and pleasure loving as he had got older.

He had often delegated tasks to his nobles and advisers, as seen by the invasion of Scotland in 1482.

Edward fell mortally ill in March 1483 and it is not known what caused his illness. Some state that he was just generally unhealthy from living a debauched life style, others that he caught a chill whilst fishing.

By the 9th of April, 1483, he was dead at the young age of 41.

He had written his will and nominated his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester to be the Lord Protector as his son, Edward V was 12 at the time. Edward was buried in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.

However, the succession would turn out to be one of the most controversial in history and is a story for another day! I did write briefly about it in my post about Richard III’s coronation, but it needs time and thought to do that period of history justice.

In closing

I think it was a sad end for a charismatic, larger than life King who started his reign with a bang and good intentions, only to fade out from life, and from history.

Even though he was an accomplished, popular King who never lost a battle he lurks in the shadows of the collective consciousness, hidden behind his brother King Richard III, and the turbulent reign of The Tudors.

I often think that the one descendant he would be truly be proud of is his Great Grand Daughter, the unmatchable Elizabeth I

St Georges Chapel, Windsor, the final resting place of King Edward IV
St Georges Chapel, Windsor, the final resting place of King Edward IV

References:

Wikipedia – Treaty of Picquigny

Wikipedia – Capture of Berwick

History of War – Edward IV

Britannica.com – Edward IV

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2 thoughts on “The Wars of the Roses Part 5 – The Later Reign of Edward IV

  1. S.B. Chrimes, in his biography of Henry VII, is very complimentary of Edward IV’s reign. He finds he was successful administrator, implementing and maintaining good policies. Chrimes says Henry VII built on this and profited from it.

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