1902 Encyclopedia > Edward IV, King of England

Edward IV
King of England

EDWARD IV. (1441-1483), king of England, was the second son of Richard duke of York, and was born at Bouen, April 29, 1441. His father was appointed protector of the kingdom during the incapacity of Henry VI., and having in 1460 laid claim to the throne as a descendant of Edward III., was named by Parliament successor of Henry VI. on condition that he allowed Henry to retain his throne. As an heir had been born to the king, it was only natural that Queen Margaret should seek to resist this proposal. She accordingly raised an army against the duke of York, and he was defeated and slain at the battle of Wakefield, December 30, 1460. Edward,, who was at that time in Wales, on hearing of his father's death resolved to avenge it, and gathering a mixed army of Welsh and English, defeated the earls of Pembroke and Ormond at Mortimer's Cross in Hereford, February 7, 1461. On February 17, Queen Margaret defeated the Yorkists at St Albans; but Edward, notwithstanding her victory, having united his forces with those under Warwick entered London, and, being received by the citizens with loud shouts of welcome, was proclaimed king 4th March 1461. But he could not permit himself to enjoy his dignities in idle security. King Henry had escaped and joined the army of the queen, which, having withdrawn to the north, was to the number of about 60,000 encamped at Towton, about eight miles from York. Here Edward and Warwick met the queen's forces, and a battle of great obstinacy ensued, which, notwithstanding the arrival of a reinforcement to Margaret in the middle of the battle, ended in her utter defeat. Henry and Margaret fled to Scotland, and on the 28 June Edward was crowned at London. Margaret afterwards escaped to France, from which country in 1462 she made two separate attempts to retrieve the fallen fortunes of her house, but these, as well as one made by Henry in 1464, proved utterly abortive. In May 1461 Edward was secretly married to Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Woodville, Lord Rivers, and widow of Sir John Gray ; and having in the September following publicly acknowledged her as his queen, he grievously disappointed and displeased his chief supporter, the earl of Warwick, who had been negotiating for the marriage of Edward with the sister of Louis XI. of France. Though from this time secretly bending all his energies to accomplish Edward's overthrow, Warwick skilfully concealed not only his intentions but even his share in overt acts; and it was not till 1469 that, receiving intelligence of the success of an insurrection secretly fomented by him in Yorkshire, he showed his hand by taking the king prisoner near Coventry. Shortly after, Edward either escaped or was allowed his freedom; and in 1470 he defeated the rebels near Stamford, and compelled Warwick to make his escape to France. Here the earl, through the good offices of Lords, was reconciled with Queen Margaret, and agreed to invade England in behalf of her husband. Landing at Dartmouth, he soon had an army of 60,000 men. Edward, taken by surprise and unable to raise a force sufficient to oppose him, fled to Holland; and Warwick, having released Henry, again got him acknowledged king. Edward in his turn adopted the tactics that had been successful against him. In 1471 he landed at Ravenspur, and professing at first to resign all claims, to the throne, and to have no further aim than merely to recover his inheritance as duke of York, he soon collected sympathizers, and then, throwing off all disguise, issued proclamations against Henry and Warwick. He marched without opposition direct to London, and after entering it and taking Henry prisoner, advanced against the army which had been collected to oppose him. The encounter took place at New Barnet, April 14, when the party of Warwick were defeated and Warwick himself was slain. On the same day Margaret with her son Edward, now eighteen years of age, had landed at Weymouth, but on May 4 she was defeated at Tewkesbury and taken prisoner. Her son either perished in battle, or was slain shortly afterwards by the order of the king; and her husband Henry died in the Tower on May 21, the evening of the day on which Edward re-entered London. Secure at home, Edward now turned his thoughts on foreign conquest. In 1475 he formed an alliance with Charles of Burgundy against Louis, but on landing on the Continent with a large army he learned that the duke and Louis had come to an understanding, and prudence compelled him to enter into a seven years' treaty with the power he had hoped to conquer. Shortly after this, the duke of Burgundy having died, Clarence, the brother of Edward, wished to marry Mary, the duke's daughter and heiress; but Edward, perhaps on account of chagrin at the former deceit of her father, refused his consent to the suit. Exasperated at his brother's conduct, Clarence took no pains to conceal his anger, and Edward thought it necessary to impeach him of treason before the House of Lords. He was condemned to death, February 7, 1478, and on February 17 was executed in the Tower, but with so great secrecy that the manner of his death is unknown. Edward died April 9, 1483. The beauty of his person and the freedom of his manners rendered Edward a great favourite with the lower and middle classes, but there appears to have been little in his character to awaken real esteem. He had certainly an ability for subtle scheming and intrigue, but his memory is connected with no act conferring any benefit of importance on his country, and it is tarnished by several deeds of ruthless cruelty, and by the helpless self-indulgence into which he sank during his later years. On account of the unsettled nature of the country during his reign, the influence of Parliament on the affairs of the kingdom became virtually suspended; while the antipathy and contentions between the two parties of the nobles made it almost a necessity that that party which supported the king should be unable to present any strong resistance against undue exercise of authority on his part. The result was the inauguration of that form of despotism known as the New Monarchy.

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