Edward V

Edward V became king upon the death of his father, Edward IV, on April 9th 1483. Though members of the Council wanted to crown him at his tender age of 12, his uncle, the Lord Protector Richard Duke of Gloucester, put off the ceremony. Soon, Richard had discredited Edward’s right to be king. He took the throne himself and Edward V and his brother soon vanished. Edward and his younger brother, Richard, are now remembered as being the Princes in the Tower: a mystery that to this day has not been conclusively solved.

Edward V whilst he was Prince of Wales

Edward was born in Westminster Abbey in 1470. His mother was there to take sanctuary as Edward IV was at the time in exile in France following his deposition. Edward was placed under the supervision of Elizabeth Woodville’s brother. Earl Rivers arranged a programme of study that would prepare Edward for his envisaged future as king. It combined study with the pursuit of sports and a reverence to god.

Even as a child Edward’s future as King made arranging a marriage important. He was betrothed to Anne of Brittany, the 4 year old heiress to the Duchy. The marriage contract stated that their eldest son would receive the title Prince of Wales and be heir, their second eldest would inherit the Duchy of Brittany.

When Edward IV died the new king, his tutors and guards made their way to London. They met with Edward V’d uncle, Richard of Gloucester, the Lord Protector on the way. Richard had some of Edward’s entourage arrested and executed. This meant that the King was now under the control of his uncle.

In London the Royal Council believed that it was right to crown the young king as soon as possible. Similar had been done with the accession of children in the past. Richard II and Henry VI had both had their coronations at a similar age. Richard, as Lord Protector, delayed any plans for a coronation.

Instead of protecting the King, Richard set about undermining his legitimacy. In May, Edward moved to the Tower of London. He was soon joined by his brother. Shortly afterwards a sermon was preached that stated that Edward IV had broken a contract of marriage to Lady Elizabeth Butler when he married Elizabeth Woodville. This, if true, would invalidate Edward V’s claim to the throne. The Duke of Clarence’s children had already been disbarred from succeeding to the throne due to Clarence’s execution for treason.

On 25th June 1483 a meeting of the Houses of Commons and Lords declared that Richard of Gloucester was the legitimate King, not Edward. Richard acceded to the throne the following day and Parliament confirmed his position in the Titus Regius soon after.

Edward was now the illegitimate son of Edward IV. He remained, with his brother, in the Tower of London. He continued to receive visitors and the physician saw him regularly. Gradually though, these visits reduced in number. Then stopped altogether. Edward and his brother, Richard, simply vanished.

The brothers are now known as the Princes in the Tower. No conclusive evidence has yet been found as to what happened to either boy though. The bones of two children of a similar age were discovered in the Tower of London but these were mixed with animal bones and cannot be identified as being those of the Princes. Other bones have been found entombed in Westminster Abbey. These were initially thought to be of other members of the Royal Family who had died in childhood, but are now unknown remains as those bodies have since been found.

There are theories that the boys died of an illness. This is supported by the fact that a physician was attending to them and then stopped visiting. Other theories suggest that the boys remained alive until Henry Tudor became King and that they died on his orders. There was also the case of Perkin Welbeck who claimed to be Richard, Duke of York, the younger of the two Princes.

As none of the theories have been proven, the date or nature of Edward V’s death is not known.

Causes of the Wars of the Roses – Course of the War of the Roses – Events of the War of the Roses

Battles in the Wars of the Roses

First Battle of St. Albans  – Battle of Blore Heath – Battle of Ludford Bridge – Battle of Northampton – Battle of Wakefield – Battle of Mortimer’s Cross – Second Battle of St. Albans Battle of Ferrybridge – Battle of Towton – Battle of Hedgeley Moor – Battle of Hexham – Battle of Edgecote Moor – Battle of Losecote Field – Battle of Barnet – Battle of Tewkesbury – Battle of Bosworth – Battle of Stoke Field

Documents, Maps and Evidence

The Rous Rolls – Paston Letters – Edward IV Roll

People and periods

British History – The Wars of the Roses – The Plantagenets – The Tudors – King Henry IV – King Henry V – King Henry VI – King Edward IV – King Edward V – King Richard III – King Henry VII – Margaret of Anjou

Schoolshistory – teaching resources for Key Stage 3, GCSE and A Level history

The Plantagenets
Henry IIRichard IKing John
Henry IIIEdward IEdward II
Edward IIIRichard II
House of Lancaster
Henry IVHenry VHenry VI
House of York
Edward IVEdward VRichard III
Murder of Thomas BecketMagna CartaTen Facts about the Black Death
Edward I's Conquest of WalesMadog ap LlywelynCauses of the Peasants Revolt
Timeline of the Peasants Revolt
Sources and Interpretations
Paston LettersJohn Rous
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