Edward IV was the son of Richard, the Duke of York, and great-great-grandson of King Edward III of England. His father was head of the York side during the first part of the Wars of the Roses (starting in 1455) and battled against the Lancaster side, including King Henry VI, arguing that the Yorkist line had a better claim to the throne than did Henry's ancestors. Edward started fighting on his father's side as soon as he was old enough to, and after his father died in battle in 1460, Edward became the Yorkist claimant to the kingship. After a major Yorkist victory, Henry was deposed and Edward was declared king in Parliament on 4 March 1461 with the support of Richard, Earl of Warwick (eventually nicknamed "the kingmaker").

Edward married in semi-secret in May 1464 to a woman, Elizabeth Woodville, whose mother's first husband had been a son of King Henry IV -- in other words, her family were Lancastrians. The Earl of Warwick (along with most of the Yorkists) was angry at this marriage and withdrew his support from Edward. Warwick started up the war again and after raising troops in France, came back to return Henry VI to the throne in 1470. He briefly succeeded in doing so, but the next year Edward returned from temporary hiding in Burgundy and led the remaining Yorkists to victory at the battle of Tewkesbury where Henry's son was killed. Edward was restored to the throne, Henry died in prison soon after, and Edward imprisoned his own brother George for picking the other side. (Supposedly George drowned in a large container of wine while in the Tower of London; many think he was probably held down in it.)

Edward settled down for a while to womanizing and gorging himself at feasts. He died in April 1483 at the age of 40 of pneumonia caught on a fishing trip and was briefly succeeded by his eldest son Edward V.


Born in Rouen, France as the eldest son of Richard Plantagenet of York and Cecily Neville. He had a claim to the English throne as a descendant of Richard II's proclaimed heir. The family rebelled against the Lancastrian King Henry VI. After his father and brother Edmund were killed at the Battle of Wakefield, Edward continued the rebellion and had himself proclaimed King in 1461, ruling until 1470, then again from 1471 until his death in Westminster Palace in 1483.

In 1477, he banned cricket, as it distracted the English Army from archery.

You may recognize this fellow from his role in William Shakespeare's famous play Richard III.

To what extent had Edward IV re-established the authority of the crown by 1483?

Edward IV's fortunate victory at Barnet, followed by success at Tewkesbury with its bloody aftermath, had wiped the slate clean. The immediate threats to his position as King had been eliminated: the Lancastrians were left without an obvious champion after the deaths of Henry VI and his son and Warwick's days of ambitious scheming had finished. Since mere survival was no longer the priority Edward could devote himself to the task of building up the power of the Crown.

The last remaining threat to the Crown was removed in 1478 when Clarence was attainted. Whether his actions trully amounted to treason since he had been pardoned in 1471 is somewhat doubtful but his behaviour was erratic and potentially dangerous: his interest in a Burgundian marriage indicated the extent of his ambition and he had not heeded the warning when two members of his household had been executed for treason. The way in which he challenged the Council over this case and disregarded the law in securing the execution of his wife's "murderers" had contrbuted to his downfall. The message to the rest of Edward's powerful subjects about the king's power was very clear if he was able to remove his own brother with such ease.

Edward regarded the nobility as his closest allies in controlling the country: his strength depended upon theirs and he made them his partners in government. They were called upon for advice and he apprecitaed the need to cultivate good relations with them, rewarding them with gifts from time to time. He relied upon them especially to control those parts of the country which lay furthest from London and therefore came to delegate vast authority to seven powerful magnates, some of whom personally built up, like Hastings, or were close relations, like his younger brother, Richard of Gloucester. As long as their regions did not produce any disorders which might destabilise Edaward's own position he was confident of their loyalty and would not inquire too deeply into their methods. This arrangement woked admirably for him as the lack of rebellions indicates but the long-term deficiencies were starkly revealed as these magnates used their immense power to pursue their own ambitions once his restraining hand was removed by an untimely death. This was a personal monarchy: what suited one king might become an embarassment to his successor, who would have to construct his own arrangements.

Inevitably there were others who considered themselves worthy of such responsibility but found themselves overlooked. Pembroke's heir lost his lands and influence in Wales and was moved to pastures new. Buckingham, much put upon by being required to marry a Woodville, also hoped for better days. Those like Berkeley, deprived of their part of the Mowbray inheritance by Edward's sharp practice for the benefit of his son Richard also nursed a grievance. Much of this was directed against the Queen and her relations who incurred some resentment which they did little to counter. Such matters did not trouble Edward, but they were able to surface after his death.

Edward had shown that he could play an active role in the enforcement of justice if the case concerned him directly. He lent his authority by appearing alongside his judges or by making a royal progress in a part of the country which was being noisome, as was the case in 1475 and 1476. Commision of "oyer and terminer" were issued and he extended the authority of Justices of Peace, who seemed more concerned about law and order than the sheriffs, whose principles seemed to have been compromised by the nobility. But there was always a limit to Edward's concern for justice if he was not affected and complaints about abuse of power by the nobles and their retainers were heard frequently in parliament, even in 1483. Edward seemed content about to allow them licence in return for their loyalty to him and so Sir Hugh Bodrugan continued to terrorise his neighbours in Cornwall and effectively avoid punishment despite an attainder and being outlawed. In 1486 Edward had bowed to pressure and permitted a law against retaining but there is nothing to suggest he ever intended to enforce it: retainers of loyal nobles might alarm those trying to pursue their rights in the courts of law, but to Edward they were a potential source of strength.

Royal finances concerned him more since an accumulation of wealth would allow him to be generous with patronage and to impress with the sumptuousness of his court: the financial embarassment of Henry VI was lesson in the dangers of a poor King. Edward added to the royal lands through Acts of Attainder and Resumption although often squandering these assets through generous grants in a manner which would have appalled Henry VII. Yet by improving the administration of some of his estates by the appointment of recievers and surveyors the yield was improved. The Crown's feudal rights, such as wardship, were investigated more thoroughly for their financial value and the French pension was a useful additional resource. Customs proved the most rewarding source as trade revived (partly no doubt due to his largely peaceful foreign policy and trade agreements) and surveyors reduced evasion. Tough measures against pirates showed he was in earnest. This provided about half of the annual revenue of £70,000 achieved towards the end of the reign and Edward's own personal involvement in administration left its mark as the Exchequer was eclipsed as revenues were diverted into the Chamber where he could more easily supervise matters within his own household. He is renowned as the first King to die solvent which gives some measure of his achievement - so long as no-one mentions Henry VII! He managed to avoid seeking parliamentary taxation from 1475 to 1483 having been only too aware of the tension and murmurings which earlier requests had brought.

Thus by his own lights Edward would have been satisfied with the stability of his government since he felt perfectly secure. To many of his subjects however his standards may not have been high enough and they did not appreciate sacrificing law and order for Edward's and his magnates' convenience. Nor did those who survived him perhaps appreciate the wisdom of endowing a few nobles with so much power. The authority of the Crown seemed firmly re-established under Edward but his death soon revealed that what suited him had not necessarily secured a long-term future for his dynasty.

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