Edward IV,king of England, born in Rouen, April 29, 1441, died April 9,1483. The lot of the feeble Henry VI. fell in an age of violence, to which he brought only meekness of spirit. His own insignificance, the dishonor of the English arms, and the passionate tyranny of his indomitable queen, Margaret of Anjou, revived the long forgotten pretensions of the house of York. The great Lancastrian chiefs, Cardinal Beaufort and the dukes of Bedford and Gloucester, who supported the throne during the minority of Henry, were dead, when Richard, duke of York, the father of Edward IV., cautiously and gradually advanced his claim to the throne, gained the support of the powerful earls of Warwick and Salisbury, took arms against Somerset, the last great nobleman of the Lancastrian branch, and began by a victory at St. Albans, in 1455, the wars between the red rose of Lancaster and the white rose of York. The claims of both these Plantagenet lines were derived from Edward III. From the first two sons of that sovereign no issue survived; the three Lancastrian kings who had occupied the throne for more than half a century were descended from the fourth son; the dukes of York were descended from the fifth son, but had also by intermarriage become heirs to the rights of the third son.
The question was rendered more complicated by the irregular accession of the first Lancaster while Edmund Mortimer, heir of the third son, was alive, and by decrees of parliament. Richard, duke of York, after various successes and reverses in maintaining his claim, was defeated and slain by Queen Margaret, at Wakefield, in 1460; but young Edward immediately put himself at the head of an army of Welsh borderers and mountaineers, and defeated a formidable force under the earls of Pembroke and Ormond, near Hereford. He then marched southward, supported by the earl of Warwick, who suffered a defeat at Barnet-by which Henry was again restored to his friends. Edward marched directly to London, which he entered without opposition, and where his youth, boldness, and beauty gained him the public favor. He was proclaimed king by parliament, March 4, 1461, and thus there were two kings and two royal armies in the land. Both parties made formidable preparations for battle, and at Towton, near York, 100,000 Englishmen were drawn up, in not very unequal division, in hostile array.
Proclamation had been made that no quarter should be given, and the battle (March 29, 1461) was probably the bloodiest ever fought in England. It lasted more than a day, and ended, after the slaughter of over 30,000 persons, in the total rout of the Lancastrians; and thus the crown was firmly placed on the brow of Edward IV. Margaret sailed to France, seeking the alliance of the French king; and in 1464 she appeared again in Scotland, at the head of only 500 French troops, with whom, and a band of Scottish borderers, she gave battle to the English general, Lord Monta-cute, near Hexham. The Lancastrians were again completely routed; the king and many of the chiefs were captured, and Margaret again made her escape into France. Edward, anticipating the maxim of Machiavelli, made a terrible slaughter of his enemies in the first moment of victory, and in his subsequent administration ruled with clemency. After this second retreat of Margaret, he devoted himself for a time to pleasure. He had privately married Elizabeth, widow of Sir John Gray and daughter of Richard Woodville, Baron Rivers, whom he had met at her father's house while hunting in the forest of Grafton. In September she was publicly acknowledged queen, and her father was made an earl.
This union displeased the powerful and haughty earl of Warwick, who had been authorized to negotiate a marriage between the king and the princess Bonne of Savoy, and had succeeded in doing so. Allying himself with Edward's brother, the duke of Clarence, he revolted in 1469. The effect of his combination with the discontented nobility and gentry was quickly seen in seditions fomented in every part of the country. In Yorkshire, Robin of Redesdale, a hero among the troopers of the frontier, took the field with 60,-000 men. Edward marched against them. Warwick, absent in France, had gained the favor of Louis XL, and become reconciled with his old enemy Margaret. He landed at Dartmouth with a small body of troops, where his popularity swelled his army in a few days to more than 60,000 men. He advanced to the north, and his approach shook the fidelity of the royal troops. Edward fled in 1470 to Holland, and his imprisoned rival was led forth from the tower to hear the streets of London resounding once more with the name of King Henry. A parliament was summoned in the name of the restored king, by which Edward was pronounced a usurper, his adherents were attainted, and all acts passed by his authority repealed.
Secretly assisted by the duke of Burgundy, Edward collected a body of Flemings and Dutchmen in a few months, with whom he landed at Ravenspur. He advanced into the interior, pretending at first that he came only to recover his patrimony as duke of York, and making his followers cry " Long live King Henry," till he received reinforcements which put him in a condition to face the enemy. The armies met at Barnet on April 14,1471, and the Lancastrians were defeated and Warwick himself was slain. Edward again became master of London, and of the person of Henry, who was remanded to the tower. Meanwhile Margaret, with her son Edward, 18 years of age, landed at Weymouth at the head of a body of French troops on the very day of the battle of Barnet. With an army commanded by the duke of Somerset she made a stand at Tewkesbury, May 4, 1471. Her army was defeated, her son Prince Edward slain, and she herself taken prisoner and held in captivity five years, when she was ransomed by the king of France. Her husband perished in the tower a few weeks after the battle.
Edward formed an alliance in 1474 with the duke of Burgundy, by which France was to be divided into two states, one of which, comprehending the northern and eastern provinces, should belong to Burgundy, and the other should be possessed by England. He passed over to Calais with a force of archers and men-at-arms, only to be disappointed by the duke of Burgundy, who sent his apology instead of an army, and to make an advantageous treaty with Louis without a battle. By this treaty pensions of considerable amounts were bestowed by Louis not only upon the English king, but upon all the considerable persons of the English court. Edward then became involved in a bitter strife with his brother Clarence. The interference of Edward prevented the marriage of Clarence with the wealthy heiress of Burgundy; soon afterward two of the friends of Clarence were put to death upon a frivolous pretence, joined with an accusation of sorcery; and when he maintained their innocence, he was himself privately put to death in February, 1478, on a charge of treason for arraigning public justice. During the latter part of his life Edward was sunk in indolence and pleasure.