Edward V of England: Prince in the Tower

This article is a quick, uncluttered review of the basic facts. He succeeded to the throne when his father King Edward IV died in 1483, but he was never crowned. He reigned—not ruled—for only 77 days, until his uncle Richard usurped the throne.

He lived a tragically short life. This post is full of facts about his twelve years of life, just to honor him.

GENEALOGICAL TABLES

Let’s get the big picture, to see how he fits in to the family lines. He was a Yorkist.

The Chronicles of the Wars of the Roses: The Turbulent Years of the Last Plantagenets, Seven Kings from Richard II in 1377 to Richard III in 1485:

Dan Jones, Wars of the Roses:

BASIC FAMILY FACTS

For your quick information:

Edward, later Edward V, was born at Westminster 4 Nov 1470, while his father was in exile. He was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester 26 June 1471 and duke of Cornwall 17 July 1471. He succeeded his father as king of England 9 Apr 1483 as King Edward V.

However, he was deposed by his uncle, Richard, duke of Gloucester, on 25 June 1483, when Richard ascended to the throne as Richard III.

Edward V had been taken to the Tower of London and he and his brother Prince Richard were called “Princes in the Tower” or Princes of the Tower. He was alive in 1483, but died at an uncertain date of unknown causes, though it is likely he was killed by the order of his uncle Richard III in Aug.

Before his tragic demise, however, here is his daily schedule as a school boy, set down by the Ordinances of 20 Sep 1473:

  • 6 a.m. or dawn the Prince arose from his bed
  • Matins in his chamber (his private oratory?)
  • Breakfast
  • Mass
  • School “such virtuous learning as his age shall now suffice to receive”
  • Dinner (“Meat”)
  • Then to be read before him noble stories
  • More school
  • Recreation—sports and exercises
  • Supper
  • Evensong in his chamber
  • Recreation to make him joyous and merry before going to bed
  • 8 p.m. (20:00h) bedtime.

BASIC FACTS

  1. When Edward was born, his father, also named Edward, celebrated with these pious words: It was “the great bounty of our lord God has pleased to send unto us our first begotten son, whole and furnished in nature, to succeed us in our realm of England, France, and lordship of Ireland. For which we thank most humbly his infinite magnificence” (qtd. in Hicks, 2003, 55).
  2. In other words, thank God for the baby Prince!
  3. He replaced his elder sister Elizabeth, whose accession or taking the throne was simply not done back then (before Queen Mary and Elizabeth I). She would have married a man who would have become king and might have been a foreigner. Unworkable. He might have been Englishman, who would have complicated politics in a tense time. Civil war might have erupted again.
  4. Edward was created Prince of Wales and duke of Chester on 17 July 1471. His two uncles George and Richard confirmed the investiture.
  5. He got the best education, learning French, no longer the language of the English royals, but still needed for international diplomacy. He also learned English, of course.
  6. The queen’s brother, his uncle Anthony Lord Rivers, was appointed his governor and teacher—or supervisor over specialists who were appointed to teach him specialize subjects.
  7. The next chapter of the Order of the Garter was held on 24 Apr 1472 and the king presided at Windsor in person. He had to fill seven vacancies, and Prince Edward was one them.
  8. On 3 July 1471 a great council of the lords temporal (secular or lay) and spiritual (church leaders) and some knights met with the king in the parliament chamber at Westminster. The king’s uncle Cardinal Bourchier acknowledged his great-nephew as the future Edward V.
  9. They swore allegiance on the four Gospels:
  10. I, Thomas, Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury, acknowledge and repute Edward, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, Earl of Chester,, first begotten son of our sovereign lord Edward IV, King of England and of France and Lord of Ireland, to be the true and undoubted heir to our said sovereign lord, as to the crowns and realms of England and of France and the lordship of Ireland. And I promise and swear, that if in case hereafter it happen to you, by God’s disposition, to outlive our said sovereign lord, I shall take and accept you for true, very, and righteous King of England, etc. And faith and trouth to you shall bear, and in all things truly and faithfully behave me towards you and your heirs, as a true and faithful subject ought to behave to his sovereign lord and righteous King of England etc. So help me God and his saints, and these holy Gospels (qtd. in Hicks, 2003, 58)
  11. The act and oath was signed by forty-six people, including the king’s brothers George, duke of Clarence, and Richard duke of Gloucester (Edward V’s uncles).
  12. The Prince made his first appearance at a celebration of a visiting Louis of Bruges, lord Gurthuyse at Windsor Castle in Sep 1472. The Prince’s chamberlain, Thomas Vaughn, carried him in, and symbolically greeted Gruthuyse. (Vaughn was in royal service since at least 1446, a squire of the body to both Henry VI and Edward IV.)
  13. He must have been dressed lavishly, for this record survives, indicating his clothing: Five doublets at 6s 8d, two of velvet, purple and black, three of satin, two being green or black; five long gowns, price 6s 8d, three being satin, purple, black, and green and the others of black velvet; bonnets at 2s, one of purple velvet lined with great satin and the other of black velvet lines with green satin and the other of black velvet lined with black satin; and a sixth, even more splendid, long gown, perhaps what he wore for his audience with lord Gruthuyse—cloth of gold on damask, at £1. That is the only account that has survived.
  14. Coming from Ludlow, Wales, in the marches, on 28 Apr 1474, the Prince visited Coventry, which was the Prince’s chamber, just as London was the King’s. The city raised £80 as a gift and spent £66 13s 4d on a 15-ounce gilt cup and the balance on a kerchief of pleasance and expenses.
  15. Before King Edward departed on his invasion to France, a family celebration took place at Westminster on 18 Apr 1475. The Prince was knighted, and so was his brother Richard, duke of York.
  16. On 20 June 1475 he was appointed titular head of England—keeper of the realm and lieutenant. Of course he was much too young to rule, but his appointment did not last long, for the king was in France for only thirteen weeks.
  17. It was in Ludlow that the Prince lived and missed some ceremonies, like the christening of his younger sister Bridget in 1480.
  18. He visited other shires and cities from 1473 to 1482, like Warwick, with his uncle Clarence and at Chester in 1476, and so on. He was with his parents, for one example, at Windsor on 18 Aug 1477; another example he was with his father at Westminster for the great council from 9 Nov 1477.
  19. On the latter date, in the presence of the great council, Richard duke of Gloucester, led the dukes of Buckingham and Suffolk, Dorset, Rivers and their peers to render homage to the seven-year-old Prince. They were unbelted and put their hands between the Prince’s hands.
  20. Now what about marriage arrangements? (1) He might marry Ferdinand and Isabella’s daughter and heir presumptive, Infanta Isabella. But that prospect ended. (2) Anne, daughter of Duke Francis II of Brittany, was betrothed to the Prince, with a dowry of 100,000 crowns. However, any such marriage would bring war with France (at that time France was limited to the king’s demesne, a small area, not nearly all of France). Marriage plans canceled.
  21. He was created earl of March and earl of Pembroke on 8 July 1479.
  22. He was the greatest of aristocrats, behind the king his father. All total his lands brought in £6,000, while the king’s land brought in £65,000-70,000. The Prince’s income was huge for the time. Huge.
  23. The Prince had a council, made up mainly of estate officials and retained lawyers. All lords had them.
  24. When Edward IV died on 9 Apr 1483, Prince Edward was at Ludlow and heard the sad news on 14 Apr.
  25. On his father’s death he was now Edward V (or historian Michael Hicks says he acceded to the throne on 10 Apr).
  26. In any case, young Edward had been developing just fine for a boy of his age. He was good-looking (important back then and today). He had an air of assertiveness and authority. He was pious. His education was coming along just fine. He could discourse elegantly and understand fully, said one report at the time.
  27. In other words, he was fit to be king.
  28. His coronation was planned for 4 May.
  29. His maternal uncle Lord Rivers and an entourage were escorting Edward V to London, when word reached the traveling party from his paternal uncle Richard of Gloucester to head northward. Rivers had no substantial reason to question this request (demand?).
  30. He went a little north. The diversion was a fatal mistake. Now King Edward was in Richard’s hands. He delayed coming to London until the day before the coronation. Clever. Now he could not be crowned on 4 May. Too soon after the delayed arrival.
  31. Richard said the coronation should be postponed because the young king could form his government with the council’s—his—help, of course. It should be planned for 22 June.
  32. Then Richard’s protectorate could expire after that. See? Everything was running smoothly for the boy-king.
  33. However, Elizabeth, Edward V’s mother, was suspicious of Richard’s motives. She ran into Westminster Abbey for protection, a sacred quarantine and immunity of sorts. She took her son Prince Richard (Edward V’s younger brother) with her.
  34. She was right to be suspicious because through a series of clever maneuvers, Richard pushed aside the Woodvilles (Edward V’s mother’s side) and claimed to the boy-king’s protector. Richard, after all, was a Yorkist and of royal blood (Edward IV’s side).
  35. Richard led the young king to the Tower of London. Back then, it was a tradition to go to the tower before coronation, for it was also a residence, not just a prison.
  36. On 16 June Cardinal Bourchier decided King Edward’s brother, Prince Richard, should be there at the coronation, so he led Prince Richard to the Tower.
  37. However, that day or the next day both the coronation and parliament were canceled.
  38. Then the following Sunday Dr. Ralph Shaa preached that Edward V was illegitimate, so he was barred from kingship (never mind that William the Conqueror was a bastard and so were various kings around Europe). This timing could not be mere chance.
  39. On what grounds was Edward V (allegedly) a bastard? (1) His father Edward IV may have been precontracted to Lady Eleanor Butler, and since the late king had been promiscuous, the contract was probably consummated and therefore valid. (2) His “marriage” to Elizabeth Woodville was done in secret. (3) It was done in strange circumstances because how could a man of Edward IV’s standing and prestige take such an irrational decision to marry of low-level woman like Elizabeth Woodville? Answer: witchcraft. (4) Edward IV never annulled his precontract and did not get “remarried” to Elizabeth Woodville. (5) He never consulted the lords or parliament about the marriage.
  40. Richard of Gloucester (Edward V’s uncle) had an ally in the duke of Buckingham, Henry Stafford. Richard asked him to make the case on 25 June 1483 before the citizens of London at Guildhall (a non-parliamentary gathering) that Edward V and Prince Richard were illegitimate.
  41. Only duke Richard of Gloucester was the obvious choice to be king.
  42. Since the Woodvilles were unpopular in London, the people at Guildhall agreed. They voted for Richard on that very day.
  43. Of course Richard had a large army outside London, so that must have been persuasive.
  44. So from Gloucester’s point of view Edward V (and Prince Richard his brother) was a bastard child of Edward IV, just like any other bastard the late king had fathered.
  45. The next day, 26 June, Richard of Gloucester acceded to the throne as Richard III.
  46. On 6 July Richard and Anne Neville were crowned at Westminster Abbey. Archbishop Bourchier of Canterbury officiated and put the crown on his head.
  47. When did the Princes in the Tower die? Historian Michael Hicks says it was most likely in Aug 1483.
  48. If Edward IV, father of Edward V, had died a few years later, then Richard could never have taken over because the prince could reign without a Lord Protector.
  49. Edward V missed his chance by his father’s premature death. It must have been terrible for the twelve-year-old boy who knew his history, which told him he was about to die. Would it be the jangling of the keys this time that would foretell his death?
  50. Did the boys die of drowning, poison, or smothering?
  51. In 1674 the bones of two boys were dug up under a stairway in the White Tower. The bones were identified as the two princes, but their bones were not complete.
  52. Anatomical analysis of these bones was done in 1933 by Lawrence Tanner and William Wright, who confirmed that they were the princes. However, other people were buried on the site, including the bones of other children.
  53. DNA tests have not been done as of yet.
  54. His murder screams at us today, five centuries later: Justice!

LATER PLANTAGENETS

The years denote their reigns.

Henry IV (1399-1413)

Henry V (1413-1422)

Henry VI (1429-1461, 1470-1471)

Edward IV (1461-1470, 1471-1483)

Edward V (1483)

Richard III (1483-1485)

EARLY PLANTAGENETS

Henry II

Eleanor of Aquitaine (duchess of Aquitaine, queen, and Henry II’s wife)

Richard I

King John

Henry III

Eleanor of Provence (wife of Henry III and mother of Edward I)

Edward I

Eleanor of Castile (married Edward I)

Edward II

Edward III

Richard II

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SOURCES

Image credit: National Portrait Gallery.

Christine Carpenter, The Wars of the Roses: Politics and Constitution in England c. 1437-1509, Cambridge Medieval Textbooks (Cambridge UP 1997).

Ian Crofton, The Kings and Queens of England (New York: Metro Books, 2006).

The Chronicles of the Wars of the Roses: The Turbulent Years of the Last Plantagenets, Seven Kings from Richard II in 1377 to Richard III in 1485, gen. ed. Elizabeth Hallam (CLB 1997).

Anne Curry, Henry V: Playboy Prince to Warrior King, Penguin Monarchs (Allen Lane Penguin, 2015).

The Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, gen. ed. Norman Cantor (Viking 1999).

John Gillingham, The Wars of the Roses: Peace and Conflict in Fifteenth-Century England (Louisiana State U 1981).

Michael Hicks, The War of the Roses, 1455-1485, Essential Histories: (Osprey 2013).

—, Edward V: The Prince of the Tower (Tempus 2003).

Dan Jones, The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors (Penguin 2014).

Charles Philips, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Royal Britain (New York: Metro Books, 2009).

A. J. Pollard, The Wars of the Roses, 2nd ed. British History in Perspective (Palgrave Macmillan 2001).

The Plantagenet Encyclopedia: An Alphabetical Guide to 400 Years of English History, gen. ed. Elizabeth Hallam, (Crescent Books, 1996).

Douglas Richardson, Royal Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, 5 vols. (Salt Lake: Published Privately, 2013).

Charles Ross, Richard III, Yale English Monarchs, new ed. (Yale UP, 1999).

—, Edward IV, new ed. Yale English Monarchs (Yale UP, 1997).

James Ross, Henry VI: A Good, Simple, and Innocent Man, Penguin Monarchs (Allen Lane Penguin 2016).

Desmond Seward, The Demon’s Brood: A History of the Plantagenet Dynasty (Pegasus, 2014).

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