In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Edward IV, King of England

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Overviews
  • Popes and Princes
  • Culture
  • Collections of Papers
  • Journals
  • Afterlives

Renaissance and Reformation Edward IV, King of England
by
Stella Fletcher
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0441

Introduction

Richard, duke of York, made a serious challenge for the throne of England during the reign of the ineffectual Lancastrian Henry VI but was killed at the battle of Wakefield in December 1460. His cause was taken up by his eldest surviving son Edward, earl of March (b. 1442–d. 1483). Thereafter, Edward made gains against the Lancastrian forces and secured the throne in March 1461, with Richard Neville, earl of Warwick (known as “Warwick the Kingmaker”) as his right-hand man. In 1464 he defied Warwick’s plan for a French dynastic marriage by taking as his bride the widowed mother of two who is generally known by her maiden name, Elizabeth Woodville. She produced a large number of children for her second husband, but they were still young at the time of Edward’s death. Her natal family, on the other hand, took full advantage of her illustrious position, causing much resentment among the men who regarded themselves as the king’s natural counselors. His brother George, duke of Clarence, married Warwick’s daughter Isabel in 1469; together Warwick and Clarence rebelled against Edward’s rule, forcing him to flee to the Low Countries and bringing back Henry VI as their puppet monarch in 1470–1471, the period known as the “readeption.” Edward returned and defeated the rebels at the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury, Warwick dying at the former. The temporary loss of his kingdom effectively taught Edward how to be a king, and his second reign was characterized by assertions of his power, both at home and against neighboring realms. Edward’s story has been told many times and in various genres, some of which appear here as Reference Works and Overviews. So many relevant Primary Sources exist that it is useful to consult Collections and Guides to them before delving into modern editions, which are here categorized as the Government (and Its Critics) and Letters and Chronicles. The biographical format (Lives and Times) is also popular for telling the story of 15th-century England, necessitating another artificial division, this time between the King himself, Yorkists, and Lancastrians. With regard to the King and His Subjects, the division is between Government, the English Regions, and Wales and Ireland, though in all cases Edward was obliged to rule through magnates and their power bases. Edward’s foreign relations are accounted for in the section on Popes and Princes. Culture is self-explanatory. Studies of all these areas can be found in Collections of Papers and Journals. The final section, Afterlives, is shorter than it would be for Edward’s youngest brother, Richard III, but demonstrates that he has not been immune to the attentions of poets and playwrights.

Reference Works

If the printed reference work is to survive at all, it has to reach an accommodation with the internet, where vast quantities of factual information can be found. The essential biographical work for all significant figures in English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh history, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, is available in print but is more frequently consulted online. The key bibliographical resource, the Bibliography of British and Irish History, is now maintained exclusively online. Between them, these two works should meet any student’s biographical and bibliographical needs. There is no shortage of printed reference works, which include short biographies and bibliographies for Edward IV and his contemporaries, but the only two singled out here are Wedgwood and Holt 1936–1938, on members of the House of Commons, and Emden 1957–1959, a compilation relating to members of the University of Oxford. Similarly, online information about 15th-century England increases by the day, so something distinctive is required in order to merit citation. Though societies devoted to Henry VI and, Henry VII have an online presence, nothing quite matches the Richard III Society, which extends its remit to all things Yorkist, including the person and reign of the first Yorkist king, Edward IV.

  • Bibliography of British and Irish History.

    E-mail Citation »

    This was formerly a print publication, but is now maintained exclusively online, being updated three times a year. It is an important resource for any aspect and period of British and Irish history. Access is via the website of the publisher, Brepols. Searches can be done bibliographically or by subject, including places and persons. Alternatively, the subject tree allows users to focus on specific areas using progressively more detailed categories.

  • Emden, A. B. A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to A.D. 1500. 3 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1957–1959.

    E-mail Citation »

    Most of the leading clerics in Yorkist England, whether bishops, priests, monks, or friars, were members of the University of Oxford and can be traced in Emden’s register. Two of Oxford’s chancellors, George Neville, archbishop of York, and the king’s brother-in-law Lionel Woodville, were particularly close to the monarch. The tables were turned under Richard III, when Cambridge men enjoyed royal favor. Emden’s one-volume Cambridge register was published in 1963.

  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

    E-mail Citation »

    The entry on Edward IV is by Rosemary Horrox. There are links to corresponding entries on Edward’s parents, wife, brothers, and some of his children, as well as to Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, Elizabeth [Jane] Shore, an essay on Yorkists by A. J. Pollard, and external resources. All the major figures of English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh history have their own entries, each with a supporting bibliography.

  • Richard III Society.

    E-mail Citation »

    The Richard III Society traces its origins back to 1924, the Fellowship of the White Boar, and a mission to reassess the reputation of the king who was best known as Shakespeare’s witty villain. Academic historians were wary of its fanaticism, but common ground was found by means of the society’s conferences and publications. Its website is a gateway to all things Ricardian, including the journal of that name (see The Ricardian, cited under Journals).

  • Wedgwood, Josiah C., with Anne D. Holt, eds. History of Parliament. . . 1439–1509. 2 vols. London: H. M. Stationery Office, 1936–1938.

    E-mail Citation »

    The first volume contains biographies of members of the House of Commons over a seventy-year period, from mid-way through Henry VI’s reign to the death of Henry VII, thereby facilitating comparisons between Edward IV’s reign and those either side of it. The second volume is a register of the king’s ministers and the members of both the Commons and the House of Lords during the same period.

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