Britain’s Bloody Crown Part 2 14.01.2016

Edward IV
Edward IV

One of the most turbulent and violent periods in Britain’s history.

1461 Henry VI had the throne snatched away by young and charismatic Edward IV – he was helped to the throne by Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick – the Kingmaker.

It took Edward 7 years to learn that to save the country a good king must do bad things.

3 months after Richard Duke of York’s death Edward IV takes his revenge on the king.

The bloodiest battle on English soil ends (Towton) and Edward IV succeeds as the king and queen’s forces have been wiped out and Henry VI and his family are forced to flee to Scotland.

28000 men slaughtered in 10 hours, pretty much half of the troops involved in the fight.

Edward declared king in 1461, aged just 18 – 12th plantagenet king of England.

Edward needs to end the violence, assisted by Warwick, to make the country stable and safe.

Edward needs to snuff out trouble in the north – Warwick heads north to Bamburgh Castle, the home of Ralph Percy, a supporter of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou.

Christmas Eve 1462 Warwick enters Bamburgh and takes Percy prisoner – after a siege lasting only a month.

Edward IV offers Percy a choice – he can side with Edward IV or lose his head. Turn enemies into allies to resolve fractured politics.

Warwick is responsible for Edward’s success. He gets things done and knows it.

1464 Edward is getting the nobility on side and the treasury is no longer bankrupt – still needs to find a wife, not just about an heir to the throne. Well-chosen foreign alliance can boost trade and other advantages.

Warwick believes he is the only one who can choose a suitable wife for Edward.

March 1464 Warwick meets envoys from Louis XI of France to arrange Edward’s marriage to Bona of Savoy – could stamp out battles with England’s oldest enemy, France. Edward agrees.

One French dignitary claimed that England had two rulers – Warwick and another.

September 1464 Warwick arrives at Reading Abbey to confirm the marriage arrangements. Before Warwick speaks Edward announces that he is already married, 5 months before – Elizabeth Woodville.

No valuable foreign princess but one of his subjects who has been married before.

Edward made a fool of Warwick and everyone knows it.

May 1465 Elizabeth Woodville is crowned Queen of England – Warwick refuses to attend the ceremony, a direct snub to the king and queen.

Edward lays on a spectacular feast after the ceremony but in Warwick’s eyes and that of many other nobles, her family are the enemy, and her father fought against Edward at Towton.

Elizabeth already had two children and comes from an ambitious family of minor nobles.

Elizabeth brings her whole family – parents, two sons, 3 brothers and 6 sisters.

Edward IV already planned to marry the Woodvilles into the oldest noble families – her brother John (age 20) would marry the Countess of Oxford (age 60).

Elizabeth Woodville c.1471.
Elizabeth Woodville c.1471.


Rumours suggest that Elizabeth played hard to get, claiming marriage was the only way he could bed her.

Edward IV married for love, or at least for lust – well-deserved reputation of being led by his loins.

Edward’s plan to reach out to his former enemies – give them the benefit of the doubt.

July 1465 Edward receives a late wedding present – Henry VI – he left Scotland and was caught skulking in the north of England, and is locked up in the Tower of London, well-treated and allowed visitors.

Edward goes all out to make it up to Warwick and gives him custody of Dover and Cockermouth Castle and the profits from the silver and gold mines north of the River Trent.

Warwick already has wealth, titles and land – he wants to be Edward’s right-hand man, but the Woodvilles take over.

Edward could have either the Woodvilles or Warwick.

1467 Edward sends Warwick to see the French – lucrative new trade deal on the cards, but Edward wants Warwick out of the way instead.

11 June 1467 Edward organises a massive tournament at Smithfield with just one purpose – to ally England to the Burgundians, the Woodville’s connection, against Warwick’s allies, the French.

Anthony Woodville takes pride of place, fighting a Burgundian – Warwick has become irrelevant, chosen Woodvilles over Warwick.

Warwick is becoming paranoid over his loss of influence – plans to win back influence and marry his daughter, Isobel, to Edward’s brother, the Duke of Clarence – until Elizabeth Woodville produces a son, Clarence is next in line to the throne.

Edward refuses Warwick’s offer – Clarence has to marry for political gain.

Warwick refuses to attend a meeting of the council at Coventry – he can’t bear to be in the same room as them.

1469 tax riots break out across the north amid rumours that the Woodvilles are skimming off tax money for themselves – Warwick plans to take advantage of this.

Robin of Redesdale demands that the queen’s family is removed from power. Edward heads north to deal with it.

Edward needs Warwick back to help deal with the rebellion. Warwick refuses to reply and has turned to the Duke of Clarence in Calais and Clarence has married Isobel Neville.

Edward demands Warwick meets him in Nottingham, but he declines and instead publishes an open letter.

Mentions Anthony, John, Richard and Jacquetta Woodville by name – accuses them of enriching themselves at the expense of the country – open invitation to rebellion to meet at Canterbury.

1469 Warwick lands in Kent and 2 days later they head north from London. Warwick claims he is trying to save Edward from the Woodvilles.

Warwick is approaching from the south and Robin of Redesdale from the north.

July 26 1469 Warwick’s forces annihilate the royal forces and Edward IV is taken as a prisoner to Middleham Castle.

Robin of Redesdale is almost certainly Conyers, a loyal servant of Warwick – the rebellion was stage-managed by Warwick from the start.

If you’re going to imprison a king, you have to be prepared to replace the king and kill him. He doesn’t seem able to take the final step and kill the king to replace him with Clarence.

Warwick goes on a killing spree aiming to wipe out the Woodvilles – Richard Woodville, Lord Rivers, is executed at Kenilworth.

Warwick appeals to other nobles for help stabilising the country, but there is nothing in it for them – he triggered the trouble in the first place.

Warwick is good in a battle and tactics but he can’t deal with the politics and negotiations of peace time.

Just a couple of months later, he has no choice but to let Edward go – back in control of England and forgives Warwick and Clarence and welcomes them back to court.

England still perilously unstable.

March 1470 rebellion breaks out in Lincolnshire – rebels beaten at the Battle of Loosecote Field. They find letters implicating Warwick and Clarence in the rebellion.

Edward can’t trust either of them again – second act of treason, bullheaded but not a fool.

George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, 1700s, by Richard Godfrey
George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, 1700s, by Richard Godfrey

Warwick knows the king is coming for him and is reduced to running for the safety of France with Clarence and his family.

Warwick can try to wipe out Edward permanently, but he needs a powerful ally, which he finds in Margaret of Anjou – outrageous plan to kick Edward IV off the throne and replace him with Henry VI who is in the Tower.

Warwick lands on the Devonshire coast and heads north.

Edward is near Doncaster when he is woken and warned that rebels troops are only a mile away – he flees to Flanders, leaving Elizabeth Woodville, again pregnant, to seek sanctuary at Westminster Abbey.

Warwick releases Henry VI from the Tower after 10 years in captivity in the Tower – Henry VI is king for the second time in his life.

March 1471 Edward IV lands in Yorkshire claiming he only wants the Dukedom of York, but he doesn’t convince anyone. Thousands follow Edward and he heads south to London.

Warwick is in Coventry and sends a message to London to try and rally support for Henry VI he is paraded through the streets of London.

Warwick is merely pointing out all of Henry VI’s failings.

The same day, Edward IV enters London at the head of an army – picture-perfect example of kingship and Edward is welcomed with universal acclaim throughout the city.

Edward heads to Lambeth Palace to see Henry VI, who is taken back to the Tower.

Edward then goes to Westminster Abbey to see his wife, who has given birth to a son while in sanctuary.

Edward has learned the lessons of kingship the hard way – forgiveness has its limits, and the only way to keep the throne sometimes is to deploy the ultimate sanction – he heads north to hunt Warwick down.

April 14 1471 Warwick and Edward go into battle one last time at Barnet. Only Edward or Warwick can leave the field alive. Edward has 12000 men and Warwick 15000.

Warwick’s army is confused in the fog and attacks itself and Edward’s army triumphs.

Warwick flees the battlefield but it hunted down by Edward’s troops like a dog, and killed.

Warwick’s body is brought to London stripped naked and put on display for everyone to see, at St Paul’s.

Henry VI 1540 at the National Portrait Gallery
Henry VI 1540 at the National Portrait Gallery


There will be no more forgiveness, and Henry VI is killed in the Tower of London 21 May 1471 – the official cause of death is displeasure and melancholy – reportedly his corpse was found with congealed blood in his hair.

Edward had him killed without a doubt – in the end there was only one way that Edward would earn his crown, in blood.

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