Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales

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Edward of Lancaster
Prince of Wales
Edward of Westminster.jpg
An 18th-century engraving of Edward.
Spouse Anne Neville
House House of Lancaster
Father Henry VI of England
Mother Margaret of Anjou
Born 13 October 1453 (1453-10-13)
Palace of Westminster, London, England
Died 4 May 1471 (1471-05-05) (aged 17)
Battle of Tewkesbury
Burial Tewkesbury Abbey
Religion Roman Catholicism

Edward of Westminster (13 October 1453 – 4 May 1471), also known as Edward of Lancaster, was the only son of King Henry VI of England and Margaret of Anjou. He was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury, making him the only heir apparent to the English throne ever to die in battle.

Early life[edit]

Edward was born at the Palace of Westminster, London, the only son of King Henry VI of England and his wife, Margaret of Anjou. At the time, there was strife between Henry's supporters, and Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, who had a claim to the throne and challenged the authority of Henry's officers of state. Henry was suffering from mental illness, and there were widespread rumors that the prince was the result of an affair between his mother and one of her loyal supporters. Edmund Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset, and James Butler, Earl of Wiltshire, were both suspected of fathering Prince Edward,[1] however, there is no firm evidence to support the rumors, and Henry himself never doubted the boy's legitimacy and publicly acknowledged paternity. Edward was invested as Prince of Wales at Windsor Castle in 1454.

War over the English throne[edit]

In 1460, King Henry was captured by the supporters of the Duke of York at the Battle of Northampton and taken to London. The Duke of York was dissuaded from claiming the throne immediately but he induced Parliament to pass the Act of Accord, by which Henry was allowed to reign but Edward was disinherited, as York or his heirs would become king on Henry's death.

Queen Margaret and Edward had meanwhile fled through Cheshire. By Margaret's later account, she induced outlaws and pillagers to aid her by pledging them to recognise the seven-year-old Edward as rightful heir to the crown. They subsequently reached safety in Wales and journeyed to Scotland, where Margaret raised support, while the Duke of York's enemies gathered in the north of England.

After York was killed at the Battle of Wakefield, the large army which Margaret had gathered advanced south. They defeated the army of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, one of York's most prominent supporters, at the Second Battle of St Albans. Warwick brought the captive King Henry in the train of his army, and he was found abandoned on the battlefield. Two of Warwick's knights, William Bonville, 1st Baron Bonville, and Sir Thomas Kyriell, who had agreed to remain with Henry and see that he came to no harm, were captured. The day after the battle, Margaret asked Edward what death the two knights should suffer. Edward readily replied that their heads should be cut off.[2]

Exile in France[edit]

English Royalty
House of Lancaster
Arms of the Prince of Wales (Modern).svg
Henry VI
  • Edward, Prince of Wales

Margaret hesitated to advance on London with her unruly army, and subsequently retreated. They were routed at the Battle of Towton a few weeks later. Margaret and Edward fled once again, to Scotland. For the next three years, Margaret inspired several revolts in the northernmost counties of England, but was eventually forced to sail to France, where she and Edward maintained a court in exile. (Henry had once again been captured and was a prisoner in the Tower of London.)

In 1467 the ambassador of the Duchy of Milan to the court of France wrote that Edward "already talks of nothing but cutting off heads or making war, as if he had everything in his hands or was the god of battle or the peaceful occupant of that throne."[3]

After several years in exile, Margaret took the best opportunity that presented itself and allied herself with the renegade Earl of Warwick. King Louis XI of France wanted to start a war with Burgundy, allies of the Yorkist King Edward IV. He believed if he allied himself to restoring Lancastrian rule they would help him conquer Burgundy. As a compliment to his new allies Louis made young Edward godfather to his son Charles. Prince Edward was married to Anne Neville, Warwick's younger daughter, in December 1470, though there is some doubt as to whether the marriage was ever solemnised.

Battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury[edit]

Warwick returned to England and defeated Edward IV. In this enterprise, he was assisted by Edward's IV younger brother, the Duke of Clarence, who had joined Warwick in his rebellions and his exile. Edward IV, his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and Lord Hastings fled into exile to Burgundy, while Warwick restored Henry VI to the throne.

Margaret and her court lingered behind in France. Shortly after her arrival in England with her son and her daughter-in-law, early in 1471, they heard of the Battle of Barnet. Shortly before the battle, Clarence had reconciled with Edward IV, was forgiven his past treason and now fought with his brothers and defeated and killed Warwick. With little real hope of success, the inexperienced prince and his mother led the remnant of their forces at the Battle of Tewkesbury, where Edward was killed.[4] Edward's body is buried at Tewkesbury Abbey. His widow, Anne Neville, married the Duke of Gloucester, to whom she had been betrothed before and who eventually succeeded as King Richard III in 1483.

According to some accounts, shortly after the rout of the Lancastrians at Tewkesbury, a small contingent of men under the Duke of Clarence found the grieving prince near a grove where he was immediately beheaded on a makeshift block, despite his pleas. Paul Murray Kendall, a biographer of Richard III, accepts this version of events.[5]

Another version of what happened was given by three Tudor sources: The Grand Chronicle of London, Polydore Vergil and Edward Hall. It was later dramatized by William Shakespeare in Henry VI, Part 3, Act V, scene v. The story they give is that Edward survived the battle and was taken captive. He was taken before the victorious Edward IV who was with George, Duke of Clarence; Richard, Duke of Gloucester; and William, Lord Hastings. The king received the prince graciously, and asked him why he had taken up arms against him. The prince replied defiantly, "I came to recover my father's heritage." The king then struck the prince across his face with his gauntlet hand and those with the king proceeded to kill the prince with their swords.

Ancestry[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Paul Murray Kendall, Richard The Third; page 32
  2. ^ Churchill, Winston (1956). A History of the English-Speaking Peoples: Vol1 The Birth of Britain. Cassell. p. 328. ISBN 0-304-29500-0. 
  3. ^ R. A. Griffiths, ‘Edward , prince of Wales (1453–1471)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  4. ^ John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72), entry for Tewkesbury
  5. ^ Paul Murray Kendall. Richard the Third (1956); pp. 118, 528-529 note

References[edit]

  • R. A. Griffiths, The Reign of King Henry VI (1981), especially the Epilogue. ISBN 0520043723
  • Alison Weir, Lancaster and York: The War of the Roses, London (1995) ISBN 0712666745

External links[edit]

Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales
Cadet branch of the House of Plantagenet
Born: 13 October 1453 Died: 4 May 1471
Vacant
Title last held by
Henry of Monmouth
Prince of Wales
Disputed with Richard Duke of York (Yorkist), 31 October-30 December 1460

1454–1471
Vacant
Title next held by
Edward
Vacant
Title last held by
Henry of Windsor
Duke of Cornwall
Disputed with Richard Duke of York (Yorkist), 31 October-30 December 1460

1454–1471