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Edward IV of England

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Edward IV of England
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Edward IV of England

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Edward IV (April 28, 1442April 9, 1483) was King of England from March 4, 1461 to April 9, 1483, with a break of a few months in the period 1470-1471.

Contents

Biography

Edward was born on April 28, 1442, at Rouen in France, the eldest son of Richard, Duke of York (a leading claimant to the throne of England) and Cecily Neville. York's challenge to the ruling family marked the beginning of the conflict known as the Wars of the Roses. When his father was killed in 1460, at the Battle of Wakefield, pressing his claim against the Lancastrian king, Henry VI of England, Edward became his heir.

With the support of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick ("The Kingmaker"), Edward, already showing great promise as a leader of men, defeated the Lancastrians in a succession of battles. While Henry and his militant queen, Margaret of Anjou, were campaigning in the north, Warwick gained control of the capital and had Edward declared king in London in 1461. Edward strengthened his claim with a decisive victory at the Battle of Towton in the same year, in the course of which the Lancastrian army was virtually wiped out.

Edward was tall, strong, handsome, and popular. Warwick, believing that he could continue to rule through him, pressed him to enter into a marital alliance with a major European power. Edward, who had appeared to go along with the wishes of his mentor, then alienated Warwick by secretly marrying a widow, Elizabeth Woodville (possibly having previously married another widow, Lady Eleanor Talbot, even more secretly). Elizabeth had a large group of relatively poor but very ambitious relations. Whilst it is true that these relations did dominate the marriage market and were given numerous titles, they were given little land which was the true source of power and thus were not a threat to Warwick's own power. However, Warwick resented the influence they had over the King and was angry at the emergence of a rival group for the King's favour, so with the aid of Edward's disaffected younger brother George, Duke of Clarence, the Earl changed sides and led an army against Edward.

The main part of the king's army (without Edward) was defeated at the Battle of Edgecote Moor, and Edward was subsequently captured at Olney. Warwick attempted to rule in Edward's name, but the nobility, many of whom owed their preferments to the king, were restive. With the emergence of a rebellion, Warwick was forced to release Edward. Edward did not seek to destroy either Warwick or Clarence, instead seeking reconciliation with them. However, shortly afterwards Warwick and Clarence rebelled again. After a failed rebellion in 1470, Warwick and Clarence were forced to flee to France. There, they made an alliance with the wife of Henry VI, Margaret of Anjou, and he agreed to restore Henry VI in return for French support in an invasion which took place in 1470. This time, Edward was forced to flee when he learned Warwick's brother, John Neville, 1st Marquess of Montagu, had also switched to the Lancastrian side, making his military position untenable.

Henry VI was briefly restored to the throne in an act known as the Readeption of Henry VI, and Edward took refuge in Burgundy. The rulers of Burgundy were his brother-in-law Charles, Duke of Burgundy and his sister Margaret of Burgundy. Despite the fact that Charles was initially unwilling to help Edward, the French declared war on Burgundy and so Charles decided to give his aid to Edward, and from there he raised an army to win back his kingdom.

When he returned to England his original claim, just as Henry Bolingbroke's had been, was that he merely desired his dukedom. The city of York however closed its gates to him, but as he marched southwards he began to gather support, and Clarence (who had realised that his fortunes would be better off as brother to a king than under Henry VI) reunited with him. Edward defeated Warwick at the Battle of Barnet. With Warwick dead, he eliminated the remaining Lancastrian resistance at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. The Lancastrian heir, Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, was killed either on the battlefield or shortly afterwards, and a few days later, on the night that Edward re-entered London, Henry VI, who was being held prisoner, was murdered in order to completely remove the Lancastrian opposition.

Edward's two younger brothers, George, Duke of Clarence, and Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later King Richard III of England) were married to Isabella Neville and Anne Neville. They were both daughters of Warwick by Anne Beauchamp and rival heirs to the considerable inheritance of their still-living mother. Clarence and Gloucester were at loggerheads for much of the rest of his reign. Clarence was eventually found guilty of plotting against Edward and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was "privately executed" on February 18, 1478.

Edward did not face any further rebellions after his restoration, as the Lancastrian line had virtually been extinguished, and the only rival left was Henry Tudor, who was living in exile. Edward declared war on France in 1475, and came to terms with the Treaty of Picquigny which provided him with an immediate payment of 75,000 crowns and a yearly pension thereafter of 50,000 crowns. Edward backed an attempt by Alexander, Duke of Albany, brother of the Scottish king James III to take the throne in 1482, and despite the fact that when Gloucester invaded he was able to capture Edinburgh and James III, Albany reneged on his agreement with Edward, and Gloucester decided to withdraw from his position of strength in Edinburgh. However, Gloucester did acquire the recovery of Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Edward fell ill at Easter 1483, but lingered on long enough to add some codicils to his will, the most important being his naming of his brother Gloucester as Protector after his death. He died on 9 April 1483 and is buried in St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. He was succeeded by his twelve-year-old son, Edward V of England. Although his son was quickly barred from the throne and succeeded by Richard of Gloucester, Edward IV's daughter, Elizabeth of York, later became the Queen consort of Henry VII of England.

Children

He had ten legitimate children by Elizabeth Woodville though only seven survived him:

Edward had numerous mistresses, the most well-known of whom is Jane Shore.

He reportedly had several illegitimate children:

Perkin Warbeck, an impostor claimant to the English throne reportedly resembled Edward. There is unconfirmed speculation that Warbeck could be another illegitimate son to Edward.

Was Edward illegitimate?

Until recently, evidence of Edward's illegitimacy was lacking. Despite some concerns raised by some scholars, it was generally accepted that the issue was raised as propaganda to support Richard III.

In his time, it was noted that Edward IV looked nothing like his father. Questions about his paternity were raised during Edward's own reign, for example by Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick in 1469, and repeated by George, Duke of Clarence shortly before his death in 1478, but with no evidence. It was suggested that the real father may have been an archer called Blaybourne.

Prior to his succession, on June 22, 1483, Richard III declared that Edward was illegitimate, and three days later the matter was addressed by parliament. In Titulus Regius (the text of which is believed to come word-for-word from the petition presented by Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham to the assembly which met on June 25, 1483, to decide on the future of the monarchy). It describes Richard III as "the undoubted son and heir" of Richard, Duke of York and "born in this land" -- an oblique reference to his brother's birth at Rouen and baptism in circumstances which could have been considered questionable. Dominic Mancini says that Cecily Neville, mother of both Edward IV and Richard III, was herself the basis for the story: When she found out about Edward's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, in 1464, "Proud Cis" flew into a rage. One of the things she is reported to have then said was that she was of a good mind to declare he was illegitimate and so have him kicked off the throne for his foolishness.

As historical novelist Sharon Kay Penman believes, paid propagandists for Henry Tudor, after he became Henry VII (and King Richard was dead), concocted out of whole cloth the story that Richard III had said his brother Edward was illegitimate: "Tudor's official historian, Polydore Vergil, . . . contend[ed] that Richard based his claim to the crown upon his brother Edward's illegitimacy. This was, of course, an out-and-out lie." Richard III's claim to the throne is generally believed to be based on his claim that Edward IV's children were illegitimate.

The matter is also raised in William Shakespeare's Richard III, in the following lines from Act 3 Scene 5:

Tell them, when that my mother went with child
Of that unsatiate Edward, noble York
My princely father then had wars in France
And, by just computation of the time,
Found that the issue was not his begot

Evidence of illegitimacy

In 2003, historian Dr Michael Jones revealed in a Channel 4 documentary (first broadcast January 3, 2004) previously overlooked evidence from Rouen, cathedral, France, discovered while researching the Hundred Years' War. In the cathedral register, an entry in 1441 records that the clergy were paid for a sermon for the safety of the Duke of York, going to Pontoise (near Paris) on campaign. He would have been on campaign from July 14 to August 21, 1441, several days' march from Rouen.

If a child with a claim to the throne was born small or sickly it would normally have been recorded, and there is apparently no such record, consequently, proponents of the theory of illegitimacy claim it is likely that Edward was not born prematurely. By calculating back from Edward's birth on April 28, it seems apparent that Richard was not present at the time of Edward's conception around the first week of August 1441.

Additionally, the cathedral records reveal that Edward's christening took place in private in a side chapel, whereas for the christening of Richard's second son the whole cathedral was used for a huge celebration, again suggesting to proponents of the theory that Edward was indeed illegitimate, although in spite of this, the Duke never disclaimed his paternity of his wife's eldest son.

Some historians have raised the criticism that it is logistically possible for Richard Duke of York to have returned briefly from battle to Rouen because often military leaders led their forces from the rear.

Dr Jones argues that, if it were true that Edward IV was illegitimate, this would have invalidated his claim to the throne of England thus rendering the existing royal family path as illegitimate. Dr Jones argues that tracing through Edward's younger brother, George Duke of Clarence (whom Jones argues was the legitimate heir), the current heir would be Michael Abney-Hastings, 14th Earl of Loudoun who recides in Australia as a rice researcher. However, since King Henry VII claimed the throne of England through right of conquest, it can be argued that Michael Abney-Hastings is no more legitimate to the throne then the blood line that would have continued if William the Conqueror had not taken over. Furthermore, under English law, the son of a married woman is automatically considered the son of her husband unless he is disclaimed at birth. Since Richard did not do this, Edward remained his legal son and heir, whether or not he was actually Richard's biological son.


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