Edward of Westminster

Edward of Westminster
October 13, 1453 – May 4, 1471

Edward of Westminster was born on October 13, 1453, in the Palace of Westminster, London, England. The only son of the Lancastrian King Henry VI and his queen, Margaret of Anjou, Edward’s birth was received with mixed reactions at court. During the early 1450s, the ruling Lancastrians were at odds with their Yorkist relatives. Although the rulers of England since 1399, the Yorkist faction believed their leader, Richard, Duke of York, to have a better claim to the throne. Since Richard descended from Edward III’s second and fourth sons, while Henry descended from only the third, the duke technically had a stronger claim.

Before Edward of Westminster’s birth, Richard was the childless Henry VI’s heir. For many years, the duke believed that his position was secure due to the king’s intense piety and the royal marriage being unhappy. When Henry began to show signs of mental instability, Richard all but secured his power by becoming regent. However, upon the queen giving birth to a son, the duke lost his position as heir and eventually the regency.

Despite Margaret producing an heir, rumors surrounded Edward’s paternity. Due to Henry VI’s aversion to sex, many believed the prince to be the result of an affair. When presented with his infant son, the king simply glanced at Edward before turning away. This was seen as Henry refusing to acknowledge the prince as his own. However, the king was dealing with a mental illness and probably didn’t understand what was happening. When he regained his senses, a surprised Henry acknowledged Edward as his son, and the paternity rumor died down.

Wars of the Roses

Henry VI of England
Henry VI of England

As the 1450s progressed, tensions at court increased. When the Wars of the Roses broke out in 1455, the Lancastrians sought to defend King Henry VI and Prince Edward’s right to the throne. More concerned with her son’s future, Queen Margaret kept Edward by her side to protect him. When Yorkists captured Henry VI in 1460, Richard, Duke of York, had parliament pass the Act of Accord, which disinherited Edward. The prince and his mother were forced to flee to Wales for safety.

Edward of Westminster and Margaret eventually made their way to Scotland. Rallying support, the exiled prince and his mother marched an army south to London. Learning of the Lancastrian’s movement, the Duke of York led the Yorkists north to meet his enemies. During the Battle of Wakefield on December 30, 1460, the Yorkist force suffered defeat, with the duke being killed in combat. The victorious Lancastrians capitalized on this victory by defeating another Yorkist army at the Second Battle of St. Albans.

Recovering Henry VI after the battle, Edward ordered the beheadings of two prominent Yorkist knights. Despite their victories, Margaret could have built on them by taking London. Two weeks later, the Lancastrians were defeated at the Battle of Towton. Unable to rally, Edward fled back to Scotland with his mother. The pair eventually sailed to France, while a captured Henry remained a prisoner in London.

Exile in France

Margaret of Anjou
Margaret of Anjou

During his exile in France, Edward of Westminster developed a passion for warfare. Unlike his father, who disliked violence, Edward took great interest in it. The prince allegedly enjoyed speaking about war and cutting off the heads of his enemies. After several years in France, an opportunity arose for the Lancastrians to return to England. Richard Neville, Duke of Warwick, a former Yorkist loyalist, had become disillusioned with King Edward IV. Upon his arrival in France, Warwick arranged an uneasy alliance with his former hated enemy, Queen Margaret.

Edward would marry one of the duke’s daughters in exchange for Richard Neville’s support. In December 1470, the exiled prince married Anne Neville, sealing the terms of the alliance. As a result, the duke gathered an army and returned to England. The invasion surprised the Yorkists, and Edward IV fled to Burgundy. With Edward deposed, the victorious Warwick freed Henry VI from prison and restored him to the throne.

Lancastrian Restoration

Although the Lancastrians had regained control of the English government, Henry VI’s second reign won’t last long. On April 14, 1471, Queen Margaret and Prince Edward returned to England. Unfortunately, their timing couldn’t have been worse. Edward IV had returned to England before them, and his army defeated Richard Neville at the Battle of Barnet. After the duke’s death, Margaret gathered the remaining Lancastrians for one final battle against the Yorkists.

On May 4, 1471, Edward IV and the Yorkists intercepted Margaret and the Lancastrians near Tewkesbury. The Lancastrians initially held a strong defensive position during the Battle of Tewkesbury. However, Yorkist soldiers would break the Lancastrian line. The Lancastrian army’s subsequent route led to the deaths of many high-ranking members. Unfortunately, Edward was one of the casualties.

Despite being Henry VI’s only male heir, the 17-year-old prince had taken part in the battle. As the remaining Lancastrians fled, Yorkist soldiers surrounded Edward and killed him. Weeks after the prince’s death, Yorkist soldiers murdered a praying Henry in the Tower of London on May 21. As a result of Edward and Henry’s deaths, the Lancastrian line of the royal family ended. Having dealt a crushing blow to the Lancastrian cause, Edward IV secured the throne for the Yorkists until 1485.


Edward of Westminster served as a rallying figure for the Lancastrians. His supporters believed that the prince had more of a right to the English throne than the Yorkist Edward IV. Unlike his pious father, the prince demonstrated warrior-like qualities similar to his grandfather, Henry V. However, Edward’s early death ended any hopes of his kingship. Although the prince’s and king’s deaths crippled the Lancastrian cause, it wasn’t extinguished. Rallying behind Henry Tudor, the remaining Lancastrians overthrew the Yorkists in August 1485, returning the English throne to a Lancastrian king.


Cawthorne, N. (2012). Kings & Queens of England: From the Saxon Kings to the House of Windsor. London: Arcturus.

Cheetham, A. (2000). The Wars of the Roses. London: Cassell.


Andy Tree

I'm a European history enthusiast who seeks to share his passion with others. I hope to inform and inspire readers with my posts!

Leave a Comment