Edward of Lancaster, Prince of Wales

(1453–1471)
   The birth of Edward of Lancaster, the only child of HENRY VI and MARGARET OF ANJOU, enormously complicated the political crisis of the 1450s. Occurring on 13 October 1453, during Henry VI’s first period of mental incapacity, Edward’s birth removed Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, from his position as heir apparent to the throne and thrust the queen into leadership of an anti-York court party on her son’s behalf.With the birth of the prince, the easiest political solution to the problems of Henry’s inability to rule and York’s dissatisfaction with his lack of influence— that is, the naming of York as the king’s heir—could no longer be undertaken without risking war and political upheaval. In March 1454,York and the queen maneuvered against one another for the right to exercise royal authority during the king’s illness (see Henry VI, Illness of). The lords in PARLIAMENT named the infant Prince of Wales and heir to the throne, but appointed York protector of the realm during the king’s pleasure or until the prince came of age. Edward’s early years were marked by his father’s continuing mental illness and by the increasingly violent struggle for power between his mother’s party and the Yorkists. Having spent the first years of his life largely in his mother’s company, the prince by 1459 was closely identified with her struggle against York and became the subject of Yorkist rumors questioning his paternity. The Yorkist victory at the Battle of NORTHAMPTON in July 1460 resulted in the capture of the king and the flight of the prince and his mother to HARLECH CASTLE in WALES. In October, York claimed the throne by right of hereditary succession. A compromise Act of ACCORD allowed Henry to retain the Crown but disinherited the prince in favor of York and his heirs.To win support for their cause, Margaret and the prince took ship for SCOTLAND, where the queen agreed in January 1461 to give BERWICK to the Scots in return for military assistance and a marriage between the prince and a sister of JAMES III. The death of York at the Battle of WAKEFIELD in December 1460 and the queen’s victory over a Yorkist army under Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, at the Battle of ST. ALBANS in February 1461 restored Lancastrian fortunes. Reunited with his wife and son on the battlefield, Henry VI knighted the prince, who in turn knighted ANDREW TROLLOPE. At his mother’s instigation, the seven-year-old prince then pronounced a death sentence upon several captured Yorkists and witnessed their executions.
   After EDWARD IV’s victory at the Battle of TOWTON in March 1461, the prince fled with his parents to Scotland. In 1462, he was with the Lancastrian force with which his mother recaptured BAMBURGH and DUNSTANBURGH castles in Northumberland. At the approach of a Yorkist army, the prince and his mother escaped, but were shipwrecked and wandered for weeks along the coast; the two were eventually captured by robbers and escaped only with the help of one of their captors. From 1463, the prince and his mother lived in FRANCE at the castle of St. MichelenBarrois. Under the tutelage of Sir John FORTESCUE and the strong influence of his mother, Edward grew into a handsome and intelligent young man with a warlike turn of mind. A 1467 letter to the duke of Milan described the thirteen-year-old as talking of “nothing but cutting off heads or making war” (Seward, p. 129). Fortescue himself described how fiercely the prince applied himself to feats of arms.
   In 1470, after his estrangement from Edward IV,Warwick agreed to restore Henry VI in return for a marriage between the prince and the earl’s younger daughter, Anne NEVILLE (see Angers Agreement). Although the two sixteen-year-olds were betrothed at Angers in July, the queen refused to allow her son to go to England until Warwick had secured the kingdom for the house of LANCASTER. The queen’s decision weakened Warwick’s regime and cost the earl vital Lancastrian support. The prince finally landed in England with his mother on 14 April 1471, within hours of the death of Warwick at the Battle of BARNET. The queen and prince 86 EDWARD OF LANCASTER, PRINCE OF WALES then based themselves in the friendly western counties, where they came to ruin at the Battle of TEWKESBURY on 4 May. The seventeenyear-old prince, in nominal command of the Lancastrian army, was slain while fleeing the field. The prince’s death sealed the fate of Henry VI, who was murdered in the TOWER OF LONDON on 21 May 1471, thus ending the direct male line of Lancaster (see Henry VI, Murder of).
   Further Reading: Griffiths, Ralph A., The Reign of King Henry VI (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Seward, Desmond, The Wars of the Roses (New York:Viking, 1995); Wolffe, Bertram, Henry VI (London: Eyre Methuen, 1981).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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