Edward IV

Edward IV, 1442–83, king of England (1461–70, 1471–83), son of Richard, duke of York. He succeeded to the leadership of the Yorkist party (see Roses, Wars of the) after the death of his father in Wakefield in 1460. Edward defeated the Lancastrians at Mortimer's Cross in 1461, entered London shortly thereafter, and was proclaimed king. Later in the year he won another victory over the Lancastrians at Towton Field, after which the deposed Henry VI fled the country. Edward's secret marriage (1464) to Elizabeth Woodville and subsequent favoritism to his wife's family angered his cousin, the able and ambitious Richard Neville, earl of Warwick. At the same time severe reprisals taken by Edward's constable, John Tiptoft, earl of Worcester, against the Lancastrian party alienated many nobles. Warwick made a marriage alliance between his daughter and Edward's rebellious brother, George, duke of Clarence, and openly revolted in 1469. Although Warwick defeated Edward's forces at Edgecote, the king soon regained his strength, and Warwick fled (1470) to France. There he formed an alliance with Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI. He returned to England with an army, and Edward, who lacked the forces to fight, fled to Holland. Warwick then restored Henry VI to the throne. Edward, however, gathered an army and returned in 1471 to defeat and kill Warwick at Barnet and rout the Lancastrians at Tewkesbury. In the latter battle Margaret was captured and her son, Edward, prince of Wales, killed. After the death of Henry VI in the Tower of London later in the year, Edward's position was secure. The remainder of his reign was a peaceful one. Edward invaded France in 1475 but allowed himself to be bought off without actual fighting. He reorganized the revenues of the crown lands (now greatly expanded by the addition of the Yorkist estates) and promoted trade, benefiting from the increased customs revenues. His resulting wealth allowed him to be largely independent of Parliament, and he developed many of the absolutist precedents inherited and utilized by the Tudor monarchs.

See C. L. Scofield, The Life and Reign of Edward IV (2 vol., 1923; repr. 1967); E. F. Jacob, The Fifteenth Century (1961); C. Ross, Edward IV (1974).

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