Usurpation of 1483

   In June 1483, when Richard, duke of Gloucester (see Richard III, King of England), usurped his nephew’s throne, he alienated many loyal followers of the house of YORK, revived the claim of the surviving heir of the house of LANCASTER, and reopened the WARS OF THE ROSES.
   On 9 April 1483, EDWARD IV died at Westminster at age forty, leaving his Crown to his twelve-year-old son. Prince Edward, now EDWARDV,was at Ludlow on the Welsh border, under the supervision of his maternal uncle, Anthony WOODVILLE, Earl Rivers. Gloucester, Edward’s only surviving paternal uncle, was in the north. Although word of the king’s death reached neither of them until about 14 April, the royal COUNCIL in LONDON, following precedents established during previous royal minorities, assumed control of the government and set the new king’s coronation for 4 May. Having been named protector by Edward IV, Gloucester started south on 23 April, one day before his nephew left Ludlow. Although Gloucester was the logical choice for protector, the WOODVILLE FAMILY, Edward V’s maternal relatives, were in a good position to dominate the regency government. Rivers had custody of and influence over the king; Queen Elizabeth WOODVILLE and her son Thomas GREY, marquis of Dorset, controlled the TOWER OF LONDON and the royal treasury; and the queen’s brother, Sir Edward Woodville, controlled the fleet. The prospect of a Woodville ascendancy dismayed many, including William HASTINGS, Lord Hastings, a friend of Edward IV and a rival of both Rivers and Dorset. Fearful that Rivers would bring an army to London to impose Woodville rule, Hastings convinced the council to limit the royal escort to 2,000 men. On 29 April, Gloucester, accompanied by Henry STAFFORD, duke of Buckingham, met Rivers at Northampton, where the three men apparently spent a convivial evening. However, at dawn the next morning, Rivers; the king’s half brother, Richard Grey; and the king’s chamberlain, Thomas VAUGHAN, were denounced as traitors and arrested. Hustled off to Gloucester’s northern strongholds, all three were executed in late June. Gloucester and Buckingham rode to Stony Stratford and took custody of Edward, who vigorously but unsuccessfully protested Rivers’s detention. Fearing for his political future, and perhaps even for his life, Gloucester had decided to strike the Woodvilles before they struck at him.
   About 1 May, when word of Rivers’s arrest reached London, the queen took SANCTUARY at Westminster with her daughters and her younger son, Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York. Hastings, meanwhile, persuaded a nervous council that Gloucester’s actions were justified. Entering the capital on 4 May, the king was briefly housed in the bishop of London’s palace, before being transferred to the Tower. On 8 May, the council formally appointed Gloucester protector, summoned PARLIAMENT for late June, and rescheduled Edward’s coronation for 22 June. Matters stood thus until 13 June, when Gloucester launched a second series of unexpected arrests, seizing Hastings, Archbishop Thomas ROTHERHAM, Bishop John MORTON, and Thomas STANLEY, Lord Stanley, during a council meeting in the Tower (see Council Meeting of 13 june 1483). Accused of plotting against the protector, Hastings was summarily executed. Although his support had helped Gloucester forestall a Woodville coup, Hastings, who was firmly committed to Edward V, had apparently grown suspicious of the duke’s intentions, and he may even have plotted against Gloucester with the Woodvilles. Three days later, Cardinal Thomas BOURCHIER, speaking on Gloucester’s behalf, persuaded the queen to surrender York, who joined his brother in the Tower. On 17 June, both Parliament and the coronation were delayed until November. Apparently, at some point in late May or early June Gloucester had decided that his best interests required him to seize the throne for himself
   On 22 June, the popular preacher Ralph Shaw, speaking at Paul’s Cross in London, proclaimed the bastardy of Edward IV’s children and declared Gloucester the true heir of York. To support his claims, Shaw alleged the existence, recently revealed by Bishop Robert STILLINGTON, of the BUTLER PRECONTRACT, a marriage agreement entered into by Edward IV before his union with Queen Elizabeth (see Shaw’s Sermon). If genuine, this precontract invalidated the Woodville marriage and made the princes illegitimate and thus unable to inherit the throne. On 24 June, Buckingham addressed the London authorities at the Guildhall, where he again set forth Gloucester’s right to the Crown and urged the citizens to call upon the duke to take the throne. He repeated this call next day at a meeting of the lords assembled in London, who drafted a petition requesting Gloucester to assume the Crown (see Titulus Regius). On 26 June, Buckingham led this assembly and a deputation of London citizens to Baynard’s Castle, where they prevailed upon the briefly reluctant duke to accede to their request. Gloucester then rode to Westminster, seated himself upon the throne, and set his coronation for 6 July. The usurpation was complete—the reign of Edward V had ended and that of Richard III had begun. Opposition to the usurpation, along with revulsion arising from the belief that the princes were subsequently murdered by Richard, created a coalition of dissident Yorkists and former Lancastrians that revived the civil wars by supporting the efforts of Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond (see Henry VII, King of England), the Lancastrian heir, to overthrow Richard.
   Further Reading: Kendall, Paul Murray, Richard the Third (New York:W.W. Norton, 1956); Mancini, Dominic, The Usurpation of Richard III, edited and translated by C. A. J. Armstrong (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK:Alan Sutton, 1989); Ross, Charles, Richard III (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); see also the Richard III Society Web site at for various materials relating to the usurpation of 1483.

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Shaw’s Sermon — (1483)    The sermon delivered by Dr. Ralph Shaw (or Sha) from the open air pulpit at Paul’s Cross in LONDON on Sunday 22 June 1483 was the first public exposition of the duke of Gloucester’s claim to the throne. After weeks of uncertainty as to… …   Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses

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