Edward V of England was born in London, England, on November 2, 1470. The eldest legitimate son of King Edward IV and Queen Elizabeth, the prince was born while his father was an exile in Holland. At this time, England was engulfed in a civil war called the Wars of the Roses. During the 1450s, the Yorkist faction of the royal family rose up against the ruling Lancastrian faction. Fed up with the Lancastrian King Henry VI‘s incompetence and his corrupt government, the Yorkists attempted to take power. Led by Prince Edward’s grandfather, Richard, Duke of York, the two sides engaged in a bloody war to control the throne.
Although Richard died in battle in December 1460, his son, Edward, continued fighting. Three months later, Edward was crowned King Edward IV in London with the populace’s backing. Having deposed Henry VI, Edward ruled England for the next nine years. However, he would be betrayed by his former close ally, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, and younger brother, George, Duke of Clarence. Together, the two men conspired to overthrow Edward. With the support of former Queen Margaret of Anjou and Louis XI of France, Richard Neville invaded England, causing Edward to flee abroad to Holland.
In June 1471, Edward IV returned and crushed the Lancastrians at the Battle of Tewkesbury. Henry VI’s only heir, Edward, died fighting, while his father was murdered soon after. With his throne secured, the king made his son Prince of Wales, a title given to the heir to the English throne. Prince Edward would later be sent to Ludlow in 1473 to act as ruler of Wales and the Welsh marshlands. Throughout the remainder of his father’s reign, Edward primarily grew up and was educated in Ludlow.
King of England
On April 9, 1483, Edward IV unexpectedly died. The king designated his younger brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, as his heir’s guardian in his will. Unlike the treacherous George, Richard was loyal to King Edward throughout his life. Despite his reliability, Queen Elizabeth and her Woodville relatives were suspicious of Richard. They believed Gloucester would seize the still uncrowned Edward V from their custody. Without him under their control, the upstart Woodvilles would lose their political power and influence at court.
Richard detested his Woodville relatives and sought to undermine them. To this end, the duke intercepted Anthony Woodville and Edward V of England on their way to London. After having Woodville executed, Richard escorted Edward to London and imprisoned him in the Tower of London. He would later be joined by his younger brother, Richard. With both boys under his control, Richard convinced parliament that Edward IV’s marriage had been invalid and his children were illegitimate. Their approval ended Edward’s short reign and effectively sealed his fate.
After Richard III became king, the imprisoned Edward V of England was seen less and less. By August 1483, the brothers were no longer seen. Despite questions about their whereabouts, Richard remained silent. Although unproven, it was widely believed that the king had his nephews killed. Regardless of whether it was true or not, the rumor damaged Richard’s reputation, causing former Yorkists to join the Lancastrian remnant, led by Henry Tudor. During the Battle of Bosworth Field in August 1485, Henry killed Richard, avenging Edward and his brother.
Edward V of England spent his two-month reign caught in a power struggle between his uncle and his Woodville relatives. Although proclaimed king, the unfortunate 12-year-old would never be crowned. Instead, Edward spent the remainder of his known life imprisoned and awaiting death. His subsequent disappearance remains unsolved to this day.
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.
Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (n.d.). Edward V. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved June 27, 2022, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Edward-V