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Edward V of England

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Edward V of England

Edward V
Edward V as Prince of Wales, part of Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers (1477)
King of England more
Reign 9 April 1483 – 26 June 1483
Predecessor Edward IV
Successor Richard III
Protector Richard, Duke of Gloucester
House House of York
Father Edward IV of England
Mother Elizabeth Woodville
Born 2 November 1470 (1470-11-02)
Westminster, England
Died Unknown (presumed c. 1483)

Edward V (2 November 1470 – c.1483)[1] was King of England from his father Edward IV's death on 9 April 1483 until 26 June of the same year. He was never crowned, and his 86-day reign was dominated by the influence of his uncle and Lord Protector, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who succeeded him as Richard III on 26 June 1483; this was confirmed by the Act entitled Titulus Regius, which denounced any further claims through his father's heirs. Edward and his younger brother Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York were the Princes in the Tower who disappeared after being sent to heavily guarded royal lodgings in the Tower of London. Responsibility for their deaths is widely attributed to Richard III, but the lack of any solid evidence and conflicting contemporary accounts suggest four other primary suspects.

Along with Edward VIII, and the disputed Matilda and Jane, Edward V is one of four English monarchs since the Norman Conquest never to have been crowned. If he died close to the time of his disappearance he is the shortest-lived male monarch in English history – his great-nephew, who was crowned Edward VI, died in his sixteenth year.

Early life

Edward was born on 2 November 1470 in Westminster Abbey. His mother, Elizabeth Woodville, had sought sanctuary there from Lancastrians who had deposed his father, the Yorkist King Edward IV, during the course of the Wars of the Roses. Edward was created Prince of Wales in June 1471, following Edward IV's restoration to the throne, and in 1473 was established at Ludlow Castle on the Welsh Marches as nominal president of a newly created Council of Wales and the Marches.

Prince Edward was placed under the supervision of the queen's brother Anthony, Earl Rivers, a noted scholar, and in a letter to Rivers, Edward IV set down precise conditions for the upbringing of his son and the management of his household.[2] The prince was to "arise every morning at a convenient hour, according to his age". His day would begin with matins and then Mass, which he was to receive uninterrupted. After breakfast, the business of educating the prince began with "virtuous learning". Dinner was served from ten in the morning, and then the prince was to be read "noble stories ... of virtue, honour, cunning, wisdom, and of deeds of worship" but "of nothing that should move or stir him to vice". Perhaps aware of his own vices, the king was keen to safeguard his son's morals, and instructed Rivers to ensure that no one in the prince's household was a habitual "swearer, brawler, backbiter, common hazarder, adulterer, [or user of] words of ribaldry". After further study, in the afternoon the prince was to engage in sporting activities suitable for his class, before evensong. Supper was served from four, and curtains were to be drawn at eight. Following this, the prince's attendants were to "enforce themselves to make him merry and joyous towards his bed". They would then watch over him as he slept.

King Edward's diligence appeared to bear fruit, as Dominic Mancini reported of the young Edward V:

In word and deed he gave so many proofs of his liberal education, of polite nay rather scholarly, attainments far beyond his age; ... his special knowledge of literature ... enabled him to discourse elegantly, to understand fully, and to declaim most excellently from any work whether in verse or prose that came into his hands, unless it were from the more abstruse authors. He had such dignity in his whole person, and in his face such charm, that however much they might gaze, he never wearied the eyes of beholders.[3]

As with several of his other children, Edward IV planned a prestigious European marriage for his eldest son, and in 1480 concluded an alliance with the Duke of Brittany, Francis II, whereby Prince Edward was betrothed to the duke's four-year-old heir, Anne. The two were to be married upon their majority, and the devolution of Brittany would have been given to the second child to be born, the first becoming Prince of Wales. Those plans disappeared together with Edward V.


Late 16th-century portrait of King Edward V by unknown artist. National Portrait Gallery, London (NPG 4980(11))

It was at Ludlow that the 12-year-old prince received news, on Monday 14 April 1483, of his father's sudden death five days before. Edward IV's will, which has not survived, nominated his trusted brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, as Protector during the minority of his son. Both the new king and his party from the west, and Richard from the north, set out for London, converging in Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire.[4] On the night of 29 April Richard met and dined with Earl Rivers and Edward's half-brother, Richard Grey, but the following morning Rivers and Grey, along with the king's chamberlain, Thomas Vaughan, were arrested and sent north.[5] They were all subsequently executed. Domenico Mancini, an Italian who visited England in the 1480s, reports that Edward protested, but the remainder of his entourage was dismissed and Richard escorted him to London. On 19 May 1483, the new king took up residence in the Tower of London, where, on 16 June, he was joined by his younger brother Richard, Duke of York.[6]

The council had originally hoped for an immediate coronation to avoid the need for a protectorate. This had previously happened with Richard II, who had become king at the age of ten. Another precedent was Henry VI whose protectorate (which started when he inherited the crown aged 9 months) had ended with his coronation aged seven. Richard, however, repeatedly postponed the coronation.[7]

On 22 June, attainder, and therefore, on 25 June, an assembly of Lords and Commons declared Richard to be the legitimate king (this was later confirmed by the act of parliament Titulus Regius). The following day he acceded to the throne as King Richard III.


King Edward V and the Duke of York in the Tower of London by Paul Delaroche. The theme of innocent children awaiting an uncertain fate was a popular one amongst 19th-century painters.

After Richard III's accession, the princes were gradually seen less and less within the Tower, and by the end of the summer of 1483 they had disappeared from public view altogether.

Dominic Mancini recorded that after Richard III seized the throne, Edward and his younger brother Richard were taken into the "inner apartments of the Tower" and then were seen less and less until they disappeared altogether. During this period Mancini records Edward was regularly visited by a doctor, who reported that Edward, "like a victim prepared for sacrifice, sought remission of his sins by daily confession and penance, because he believed that death was facing him."[8] The Latin reference to "Argentinus medicus" had previously been translated to mean "a Strasbourg doctor"; however, D.E. Rhodes suggests it may actually refer to "Doctor Argentine", whom Rhodes identifies as John Argentine, an English physician who would later serve as provost of King's College, Cambridge, and as doctor to Arthur, Prince of Wales, eldest son of King Henry VII of England (Henry Tudor).[6]

Edward and his brother Richard's fate after their disappearance remains unknown, but the most widely accepted theory is that they were murdered on the orders of their uncle, King Richard.[9] Thomas More wrote that the princes were smothered to death with their pillows, and his account forms the basis of William Shakespeare's play Richard III, in which Tyrrell murders the princes on Richard's orders. Subsequent re-evaluations of Richard III have questioned his guilt, beginning with William Cornwallis early in the 17th century.[10] In the period before the boys' disappearance, Edward was regularly being visited by a doctor; historian David Baldwin extrapolates that contemporaries may have believed Edward had died either of an illness (or as the result of attempts to cure him).[11] In the absence of hard evidence a number of other theories have been put forward, of which the most widely discussed are that they were murdered on the orders of the Duke of Buckingham or by Henry Tudor. However, Pollard points out that these theories are less plausible than the straightforward one that they were murdered by their uncle[12] who in any case controlled access to them and was therefore regarded as responsible for their welfare.[13]

Bones belonging to two children were discovered in 1674 by workmen rebuilding a stairway in the Tower. On the orders of King Charles II, these were subsequently placed in Westminster Abbey, in an urn bearing the names of Edward and Richard.[14] The bones were reexamined in 1933 at which time it was discovered the skeletons were incomplete and had been interred with animal bones. It has never been proven that the bones belonged to the princes.[15]

In 1789, workmen carrying out repairs in [16]

In 1486 Edward IV's daughter, sister of Edward V, Elizabeth, married Henry VII, thereby uniting the Houses of York and Lancaster.


Portrayals in fiction

Edward is a character in the play Richard III by William Shakespeare. In film and television adaptations of this play he has been portrayed by the following actors:

Edward has also been portrayed by Ronald Sinclair in Tower of London, a 1939 horror film loosely dramatising the rise to power of Richard III, and by Eugene Martin in the 1962 remake. Jonathan Soper portrayed him in the "Who Killed the Princes in the Tower?" episode of the BBC drama documentary series Second Verdict in 1976, and Timotei Cresta played him in the 2005 British television drama Princes in the Tower.

Edward is a character in the fantasy novels To The Tower Born: A Novel of the Lost Princes by Robin Maxwell and Sent (from The Missing series by Margaret Peterson Haddix).

In the anime Black Butler (Kuroshitsuji), Edward and his brother are presented as ghosts haunting Ludlow Castle. Edward is voiced by Mitsugi Saiga in the original and by Josh Grelle in the English dub.

In Josephine Tey's classic 1951 detective novel, The Daughter of Time, Inspector Alan Grant occupies his convalescence by investigating the alleged murder of Edward and his brother.

In the 2013 TV series The White Queen, an adaptation of Philippa Gregory's historical novel series The Cousins' War, Edward is played by Sonny Ashbourne Serkis.


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ Letter from Edward IV to Earl Rivers and the Bishop of Rochester (1473), in (Cambridge University Press, 1921)Readings in English Social History, pp. 205–8.
  3. ^ Dominic Mancini, The Usurpation of Richard III (1483), in (Routledge, 1996)English Historical Documents 1327–1485A. R. Myers (ed.), , pp. 330–3.
  4. ^ 'Parishes : Stony Stratford', Victoria History of the Counties of England, A History of the County of Buckingham: Volume 4 (1927), pp. 476–482. URL: Date Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  5. ^ "History of Croyland Abbey, Third Continuation". Retrieved 17 August 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Rhodes, D.E. (April 1962). "The Princes in the Tower and Their Doctor". The English Historical Review (Oxford University Press) 77 (303): 304–306.  
  7. ^ a b Pollard, A.J. (1991). Richard III and the princes in the tower. Alan Sutton Publishing.  
  8. ^ "The Usurpation of Richard the Third", Dominicus Mancinus ad Angelum Catonem de occupatione regni Anglie per Riccardum Tercium libellus; Translated to English by C.A.J. Armstrong (London, 1936)
  9. ^ Horrox, Rosemary. "Edward V of England". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 25 August 2013. (subscription required)
  10. ^ Kendall, P.M., Richard III, Aylesbury 1972, p.427; in the Encomium of Richard III, dedicated to Sir John Donne.
  11. ^ David Baldwin, What happened to the Princes in the Tower?, BBC History: 2013
  12. ^ Pollard, A. J. (1991). Richard III and the Princes in the Tower. Stroud: Alan Sutton. pp. 124, 132. 
  13. ^ Pollard, A. J. (1991). Richard III and the Princes in the Tower. Stroud: Alan Sutton. p. 137. 
  14. ^ John Steane, The Archaeology of the Medieval English Monarchy (Routledge, 1993), page 65
  15. ^ Weir, Alison. The Princes in the Tower. 1992, Random House, ISBN 9780345391780
  16. ^ 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).

External links

Edward V of England
Cadet branch of the House of Plantagenet
Born: 2 November 1470 Died: 1483?
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Edward IV
King of England
Lord of Ireland

Succeeded by
Richard III
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Edward of Westminster
Prince of Wales
Succeeded by
Edward of Middleham
Duke of Cornwall
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