Happy Birthday Edward IV

Edward IV of England was born in France on 28 April 1442.


He was the second son of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, and Cecily Neville, but he was the eldest son to survive to adulthood and became the duke’s heir. His blood was forget-me-not blue from birth, because he was a direct descendant of Edward III on both sides. His father was descended from Edward III’s second surviving son Lionel of Antwerp, and his mother was the granddaughter of Edward III’s third surviving son John of Gaunt via his mistress-then-third-wife Katherine Swynford.

Edward IV was crowned twice during the Wars of the Roses. He proclaimed himself king in March 1461, a few months after his father’s death in battle, and then defeated Henry VI’s forces in the Battle of Towton in Yorkshire on 29 March 1461. The Yorkist win broke Lancastrian resistance for the time being, and Edward rode into London to be crowned king on 28 June. Henry VI was soon after captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London, while his deposed queen, Margaret of Anjou, took their son Edward of Westminster and escaped to the continent along with many of their supporters.

Things were looking good for Edward IV, but then he met the super-hot young widow of Sir John Grey, the soon-to-be queen Elizabeth Woodville. Edward married her in secret while his strongest and most valuable ally, the Earl of Warwick, was negotiating Edward’s marriage to a French princess in good faith. When Edward told everyone what he had done, it horrified his court and vexed thet humiliated Warwick to no end. Edward, who was stubborn when he needed to yield, did not butter up Warwick by giving him grants and honors. Nope. Edward even rubbed Warwick’s nose more raw by forbidding his two younger brothers to marry Warwick’s daughters. Worse, the king began elevating his wife’s family in an “I’ll-show-you” fit of sovereignty against his nobles. No one was going to tell Edward what to do!

(If you want to know more about the relationship between Elizabeth Woodville and Edward, I strongly recommend you read both Amy Licence’s new book about them and/or Susan Higginbotham’s accurate historical fiction about them written from the point of view of Elizabeth’s little sister, Katherine Woodville. Links to both books are included below the post)

So, Edward got his recalcitrant tushy deposed when Warwick and his brother turned against him an allied themselves with Henry VI. Warwick married his youngest daughter Anne, who had been betrothed to the king’s brother Richard, to Edward of Westminster and helped put Henry VI back on the throne in 1470.

The newly-uncrowned Edward fled to his brother in law in Flanders, where he got military aid to get back on his feet. He sailed to the north of England, where he sweet-talked York into letting him in so he could be duke again, and then marched south with a growing army. The Yorkists defeated and killed Warwick in April 1471, and then slaughtered Edward of Westminster and his army at the Battle of Tewkesbury in early May.

The reinstalled King Edward IV probably had Henry VI murdered soon thereafter, but word was put round that the former monarch “died of melancholy”.  Edward also allowed his brothers to marry Warwick’s daughters. The king’s youngest brother, Richard, wed Edward of Westminster’s widow, Anne Neville, to whom he had been betrothed before her marriage to the former Prince of Wales.

Edward IV was finally undisputed king. He even had two fine young heirs in the form of his two surviving legitimate sons, Edward Prince of Wales and Richard of Shrewsbury. Unfortunately for the boys, their seemingly robust father became ill in the early spring of 1483. The dying king made his beloved and trusted brother, Richard of Gloucester, the official royal Protector of Edward’s widow and children.

Edward IV died on 9 April 1483 and his 12 year old son was proclaimed Edward V.


Edward V ruled for only 86 days, during which time Richard of Gloucester stealthily rounded up all of the young monarch’s maternal uncles and half-uncles and relatives that he could get his hands on and had them judicially murdered for “treason” without trial. Once the boy-king’s strongest sources of support were dead, Richard declared the Edward V and his brother to be bastards and had himself crowned King Richard III. Shortly thereafter the boys disappeared from view and Richard, in spite of his excellent kingship, had his best allies turn against him. This has led to speculation that Richard III had his nephews murdered in the Tower. Richard III’s supporters insist their disappearance and Richard’s newfound unpopularity is merely a coincidence and the boys were really killed by someone else, but Occam’s razor and I think it was Uncle Richard who had the deed done.

Edward IV did have his dynasty continue in another way, though. His eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York, married Henry VII when Richard III was deposed and killed and her daughter, Margaret Tudor, wed the King of Scotland. Margaret Tudor’s great-grandson, King James VI of Scotland also became King James I of England in 1603.


The current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is a direct descendant of James I, and thus Edward IV’s descendants still sit on the throne.

Young Queen Elizabeth II 




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2 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Edward IV

  1. Somehow Henry VI became Henry IV (twice!) in one paragraph, so perhaps it would be a good idea to correct it:
    “So, Edward got his recalcitrant tushy deposed when Warwick and his brother turned against him an allied themselves with Henry IV. Warwick married his youngest daughter Anne, who had been betrothed to the king’s brother Richard, to Edward of Westminster and helped put Henry IV back on the throne in 1470.”

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