The Wars of the Roses III

Richard III

Edward IV

Edward IV to Richard III


Edward IV - The first reign (1461-71

bullet After the victory at Towton, Edward went to London, where he was crowned king (June 1461.)
bulletEdward's position was far from secure, and initially he aimed at conciliating all but his most hard-line opponents. He even forgave his long-term enemies Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, and Sir Ralph Percy:  both soon betrayed him.

Louis XI

Margaret of Anjou - the most committed of all Lancastrians - escaped to France (April 1462) to try and obtain support from Louis XI (King of France, 1461-83.) She also hoped to obtain help from James III (King of Scotland 1460-88).

James III


bullet During the following three years, intermittent violence continued, until the Lancastrians were finally defeated at Hedgeley Moor (25 April 1464) and at Hexham (15 May 1464.) Somerset and Lords Roos and Hungerford, along with a number of other Lancastrians were executed soon afterwards.
bullet With the military threat removed, Edward IV concentrated on administration. He placed Yorkist supporters in local offices, but his eagerness to treat Lancastrians with moderation meant that many Yorkists did not receive the rewards they expected. One of those disappointed was Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick.



Edward, Nevilles and Woodvilles

bullet Richard Neville's father, Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury had been executed after the battle of Wakefield. Both men had loyally supported the Yorkist cause.
bulletRichard Neville, Earl of Warwick (1428-71) was married in 1436 to Anne Beauchamp, whose brother's death ten years later brought the wealth of the Beauchamp and Despenser families under Warwick's control.

The first problems arose between Warwick and Edward over the latter's clandestine marriage to Elizabeth Woodville (1 May 1464). Warwick had been trying to arrange a diplomatically-advantageous marriage to a French princess, and strongly disapproved Edward's choice of a mere knight's widow. In addition, Elizabeth had many poor relations.

Elizabeth Woodville


Once Elizabeth was married to the king, the nobility were eager for links with her family, who were in turn keen to rise from their humble origins. There were a lot of them:  - two sons by her marriage to John Grey, five brothers and seven sisters.

Some of the family connections of Elizabeth Woodville


bullet In fact, Edward was not especially generous to the Woodvilles in material terms (cash, lands, and offices) but the Nevilles saw the hordes of Woodvilles as competitors for power. This was especially true because many of the Woodvilles were given wealthy marriage partners, and this made it difficult for Warwick to find desirable husbands for his two daughters. Edward personally refused to allow Warwick's daughter Isabel to marry his own brother George Duke of Clarence.
bullet The Woodvilles also soon earned a reputation for being greedy, arrogant and spiteful courtiers, who monopolized the king's ear.
bulletWarwick conspired with Clarence to overthrow Edward IV, and did all he could to foster popular dissatisfaction with royal government. When in the summer of July 1469 rebellion erupted in the North of England (probably organized by Warwick himself,) Warwick seized the moment to rally forces against the king.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick

Edward IV waited in Nottingham for forces led by William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, and by the Earl of Devon, while Warwick marched north from London.

The two armies met at the Battle of Edgecote Moor (26 July 1469,) but Devon and Pembroke's forces were divided and easily defeated. Warwick summarily executed the captive Pembroke soon afterwards.


bullet Warwick captured Edward IV soon after the battle. The marriage of Isabel Neville to Clarence cemented their alliance, and Warwick even seems to have considered putting Clarence on the throne in place of Edward IV, who was not about to let Warwick rule in his name.
bullet During the Spring of 1470, Edward IV began to organize his forces in an attempt to regain power, and Warwick and Clarence went to France to gain support. In September 1470, Warwick and Clarence landed in Devon and declared their intention of putting Henry VI back on the throne. They were joined by Jasper Tudor; John de Vere, Earl of Oxford; John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury; and Thomas Lord Stanley.

Louis de Gruuthuse
Friend and ally of Edward IV
during his exile in the Low Countries

Edward IV felt that he did not have enough support to risk war against Warwick, and so fled to Burgundy (October 1470.) There he was helped by Louis of Bruges, Lord of Gruuthuse (Gruthuyse.)

Duke Charles of Burgundy was far from pleased by his brother-in-law's sudden arrival. (Charles had married Margaret, Edward IV's sister.) It was only in January 1471 that he agreed (secretly) to finance an attempt by Edward to regain his realm.


bulletEdward IV landed with his small army at Ravenspur in Yorkshire (where Henry IV had landed in 1399) and marched inland. The success of his enterprise was far from assured.

"It is a difficult matter to go out by the door and then try to enter by the windows. They think he will leave his skin there."

(Milan's ambassador to France on the prospects for Edward IV's invasion.)


bullet The half-hearted supporters of Warwick and Henry VI failed to move against Edward when he was weak, and his strength increased with important defections - notably Clarence. Edward marched on London, seized Henry VI and then moved north against Warwick.
bullet On the evening of 13 April 1471, Edward's army of about 9,000 men encountered Warwick's roughly equal force, drawn up on high ground north of the town of Barnet.

The Battle of Barnet
14 April 1471

Battle was joined next day and soon dissolved into a confusing mle. Eventually, the tide turned in the Yorkists' favor and Warwick tried to flee, but was killed and "spoiled naked" by some of Edward's troops.

bullet Margaret of Anjou returned from France with her son, Prince Edward, on the same day as the Battle of Barnet. She immediately began to rally support in the southwest of England.
bullet Edward IV promptly reinforced his army and marched in pursuit of Margaret, eventually intercepting her near Tewkesbury. Battle was joined 4 May 1471 and after hard fighting proved a complete victory for Edward IV and the Yorkists. Prince Edward was killed in the battle, while other senior commanders, including John Courtenay, Earl of Devon, and Edmund Beaufort Duke of Somerset, died during or soon after the battle.
bullet Edward IV entered London on 21 May 1471 and Henry VI died in the Tower of London the same night. So exceedingly opportune was his death that few doubted Edward had ordered his murder.

From 1471 to 1483 Edward IV was firmly in control of the country. His biggest problem was his brother George, Duke of Clarence..

After the death of his wife, Isabel Neville, in 1476, George wanted to marry Mary of Burgundy, daughter of Charles the Bold. Charles' mother was Isabella of Portugal - granddaughter of John of Gaunt. Naturally, Edward feared that such a marriage might encourage a resurgence of Clarence's plans to replace him on the throne.

The Duke of Clarence's bones in Tewkesbury Abbey

bulletBut Edward's refusal to permit the marriage angered Clarence, who returned to plotting Edward's downfall. Edward had Clarence arrested (June 1477) and summoned a Parliament to try him for treason. In February 1478, Clarence was found guilty, sentenced to death and sent to the Tower of London. Here he was privately executed - possibly by drowning in a bath, possibly by drowning in a barrel of wine - 18 February 1478.


Richard, Duke of Gloucester.

bulletWhere George had been completely untrustworthy, Richard Duke of Gloucester had remained loyal to Edward IV throughout his vicissitudes. So when Edward died (9 April 1483,) it seemed natural that Richard should act as protector of the young king Edward V.
bulletAt the time of his father's death, however, Edward V was in the control of his mother Elizabeth Woodville and her relatives. Richard feared that once Edward was crowned, the Woodvilles would dominate power, so he seized Edward V. He also arrested Elizabeth's brother, Anthony, Earl Rivers, and Sir Richard Grey, her son by her first marriage; both were executed in June 1483.
bulletElizabeth took sanctuary with Richard, Duke of York (Edward V's younger brother) in Westminster Abbey, but he was soon extracted and joined his brother in the Tower.
bulletRichard Duke of Gloucester then proclaimed that Edward IV's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville had infringed canon law, that Edward and Richard were therefore bastards, and that he Richard was the legitimate heir to the throne.
bullet 6 July 1483, Richard III was crowned King of England.


The two princes in the Tower were never seen publicly again. Two skeletons discovered in the Tower in 1674, and examined in 1933, may have been those of Edward V and Richard, but it is not certain. It is also just possible that the children survived Richard III's reign and were murdered by Henry VII. However, the most probable explanation of their disappearance is that Richard III ordered their murder.

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