Edward V of England

Orfeas Katsoulis | Dec 8, 2023

Table of Content


Edward V of England (2 November 1470 - 1483) King of England (9 April 1483 - 26 June 1483) of the House of York was the eldest son and heir of Edward IV of England and Elizabeth Woodville. He was never formally crowned king and in his brief time on the throne he ruled under the stifling tutelage of his uncle Richard of Gloucester who succeeded him as Richard III of England. His deposition was confirmed by an edict declaring all the descendants of his father Edward IV illegitimate and therefore ineligible to ascend the throne. Edward V and his younger brother Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York were the two princes of the Tower who disappeared from the Tower of London while prisoners of Richard III. Most rumours that circulated after their disappearance mentioned murder by their uncle but modern historical research has shown that it is possible that others were the murderers.

Edward V was born at Westminster Abbey where his mother Elizabeth had taken refuge when his father Edward IV was deposed at the beginning of the War of the Roses. Edward IV after his restoration to the throne re-established the title of Prince of Wales in June 1471 and in 1473 the young Edward was installed at Ludlow Castle as the legitimate president of the Council of Wales and Marsh in 1473. The young prince was placed under the tutelage of his mother's brother Anthony, the Earl of Rivers, Edward IV paid great attention to his son's household. The young Edward was to 'rise every morning at the same time according to his age', morning prayer and the morning meal were essential, then he began a 'virtuous education'. Dinner was to be served at ten in the morning, and then the prince was to read "stories of chivalry, goodness, and honour" but none of these "were to have anything to do with the regency". Edward IV gave strict advice to remove from young Edward's household anything related to "adultery, theft, immorality, and lawlessness". After morning schooling the prince was to be engaged in sports, dinner would be served at four in the afternoon and at eight he would go to bed. Members of the household were required to "entertain him when he went to bed" and to watch him sleep.

Little Edward's careful care is beginning to pay off, Italian observer Dominique Mancini reports:

"His liberal education showed in his words and actions; his accomplishments were far above his age; his poetic and literary knowledge made him speak elegantly and express himself in verse and prose better than the most accomplished writers. The dignity in his face was so great and shone with such charm that the eyes of all the spectators could not turn their gaze from him."

Edward IV was planning an imposing wedding for his eldest son, allied with Francis II of Brittany to marry young Edward to his four-year-old daughter Anne of Brittany when they came of age. Their plans were to hand over Brittany to their second son while their first son would take the title of Prince of Wales, the plans never came to fruition.

The 12-year-old Edward was in Ludlow on 14 April 1483 when he heard the news of his father's sudden death five days earlier. Edward IV had named in his will his younger brother Richard of Gloucester as his son's guardian while he was a minor, the new king departed for the west and Richard for the north bound for London, they gathered together at Stony Stratford in Buckinghamshire. On the night of 29 April, Richard of Gloucester dined with the Earl of Rivers, his nephew Richard Grey and Thomas Vaughan (1410 - 1483), after the meal they were arrested and taken to Pontecroft Castle. The men were executed for treason against Richard's guardian after a court presided over by Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumbria. Dominique Mancini reports that Edward V protested to his uncle about his action, Richard of Gloucester accompanied the young king to London and carried him to the Tower with his younger brother Richard, Duke of York. The royal council called for a speedy coronation of the new king so that the kingdom would not become a protectorate as in the past with Richard II of England and Henry VI of England, but Richard's uncle Richard deliberately delayed the coronation too long.

On 22 June 1483 a priest named Ralph Shah proclaimed that Edward IV's children were bastards because at the time their father married Elizabeth Woodville he was married to Eleanor Butler. The children of George Plantagenet's older brother, 1st Duke of Clarence had been excluded from the throne and Parliament declared Richard of Gloucester the new king, the following day he was crowned as Richard III of England. Dominique Mancini records that when Richard III came to the throne, Edward V and his younger brother Richard were moved by their uncle to the 'inner chambers of the Tower', their appearances were from then on increasingly rare until the summer of 1483 when they disappeared.

Mancini also records that at that time the young Edward V was frequently visited by a doctor "like a victim ready for sacrifice, asking forgiveness for his sins because he saw death before him". The Latin rendering for the doctor named "Argentine" is translated "doctor from Strasbourg" because Strasbourg in Roman times was called "Argentoratum". Rhodes rules it out by stating that Doctor Argentine was a well-known English doctor from Cambridge College who later became physician to Arthur of Wales the eldest son of Henry VII of England.

The fate of Edward V and his younger brother Richard is unknown, according to most known sources of the time they were murdered under the orders of their uncle King Richard. Thomas More on whose information William Shakespeare relied for his play "Richard III" states that the two children were murdered on their pillows by Tyrell who was carrying out Richard III's orders. Richard III's guilt, which everyone thought was certain, began to be questioned in the 17th century, first by William Cornwallis. At the time of his disappearance Edward V was receiving frequent visits from a doctor which led historian David Baldwin (1946 - 2016) to conclude that Edward V died of illness. The lack of evidence led later historians to different conclusions such as that he was murdered by the Duke of Buckingham or Henry Tudor. Pollard however notes that it is most likely that he was murdered by his uncle Richard, all other theories without excluding anything have much lower chances. Perkin Warbeck put forward an alternative theory that Edward V's younger brother Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York escaped to Flanders after his uncle's defeat and murder at the Battle of Bosworth and was raised by an aunt.

The remains of the two children were found by a workman constructing a staircase in the Tower (1674), the remains were placed at the order of Charles II of England in Westminster Abbey in a container bearing the names of Edward and Richard. The bones were examined again (1933) and found to have been mixed with animal bones but were never proved to belong to the two princes although they were buried before the Tower was repaired. The permission they requested to proceed with further investigations was not granted. Workmen repairing St George's Chapel in Windsor discovered after an accident the grave of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, the coffins of the two young children were found very close by. The names of two other young children of Edward IV are in this grave : George, 1st Duke of Bedford who died at the age of 2 years and Mary of York who died at the age of 14 years, both children died before their father. The remains were later found in the chapel but the owners of the coffins remained unknown. Edward IV's eldest daughter Elizabeth of York married Henry Tudor (1486), joining the House of York and the House of Lancaster.

The remains of the two children were taken by order of Charles II to Westminster Abbey for burial in the place of their birth. The white marble sarcophagus designed by Christopher Wren and made by Josh Marshall was found in the north wing of Henry VII Chapel near the tomb of Elizabeth I of England.

The Latin inscription is translated :

"Here lie the bones of Edward V, King of England, and Richard, Prince of York, both brothers killed in the Tower of London and drowned with their pillows by order of their uncle Richard the Restorer. Their remains were found 191 years later in the ruins of the staircase on the 17th of July 1674 in the same place where they were buried. Charles II a very compassionate king who forgave their ill fate ordered them to be reburied in 1678 in the 30th year of his reign in the same monument as their ancestors."

Edward V appears as a main character in William Shakespeare's play "Richard III", Edward is only active in "Act III, Scene I" where he and his brother are described as bright and anticipate the irrational ambitions of their uncle Richard. Edward is more wise for his age and ambitious; the deaths of Edward and his brother are present in the play but occur offstage. Their ghosts return in "Act E, Scene C"', threatening their uncle and promising to help the Earl of Richmond's rival. In the television plays, Edward V is played by the following actors :

Edward V also had a silent role in another Shakespeare play "Henry VI, Part C" in which a baby appears in the last scene. His father Edward IV turned to his brothers and said "Clarence and Gloucester I love the Queen and kiss with them dear nephews and brothers". Gloucester's Richard the future Richard III at the end of the play whispered : "To tell the truth Judas kissed wonderfully and cried all hail meaning all evil".


  1. Edward V of England
  2. Εδουάρδος Ε΄ της Αγγλίας
  3. ^ a b c Alison, Weir (2008). Britain's Royal Family: the Complete Genealogy. p. 143. ISBN 978-0-0995-3973-5.
  4. R. F. Walker, "Princes in the Tower", in S. H. Steinberg et al, A New Dictionary of British History, St. Martin's Press, New York, 1963, p.286.
  5. Horrox, Rosemary. "Edward V of England". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
  6. Letter from Edward IV to Earl Rivers and the Bishop of Rochester (1473), in Readings in English Social History (Cambridge University Press, 1921)
  7. Dominic Mancini, The Usurpation of Richard III (1483), in A. R. Myers (ed.), English Historical Documents 1327–1485 (Routledge, 1996)
  8. ^ a b Pollard, A.J. (1991). Richard III and the princes in the tower. Alan Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0862996600.
  9. ^ 1..Chapter Records XXIII to XXVI, The Chapter Library, St. George's Chapel, Windsor (Permission required) 2..William St. John Hope: "Windsor Castle: An Architectural History", pages 418–419. (1913). 3..Vetusta Monumenta, Volume III, page 4 (1789).
  10. Такой прецедент уже существовал: Ричард II стал королём в десять лет, а протекторат при Генрихе VI, который стал королём в девять месяцев, окончился с его коронацией в возрасте семи лет.
  11. Лорд-протектор герцог Глостерский заявил, что дети его старшего брата вместе с Елизаветой Вудвилл незаконны на том основании, что его брат был обручён с вдовой леди Элеонорой Батлер, что в те времена считалось юридически обязывающим договором, и вследствие чего любые другие брачные договоры становились недействительными. Бургундский хронист Филипп де Коммин говорил, что Роберт Стиллингтон, епископ Бата и Уэльса, утверждал, что провел церемонию обручения между Эдуардом IV и леди Элеанор[8][9].

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