Today is the anniversary of King Edward’s death in 1483. It set off a train of events that led to the Plantagenets losing the throne to the Tudors on the field at Bosworth, just over two years later.
Some facts are well known, though others are open to interpretation. He died on this day, though what he died from is debated in some circles. The usual reported fact is that he died from a cold that he caught while out fishing or hunting a few days previously. Other ideas are that he died from obesity or even poisoning. His wife, Elizabeth, was by his side when he expired, by all accounts, with his Mistress Jane Shore nearby.
His brother George had been executed for rather unclear reasons, usually simply referred to as ‘treason’, a few years before, so his youngest brother Richard, who had always shown exemplary loyalty to Edward, was called upon to be the Protector of the throne for the next King, Edward V. Elizabeth is said to have reluctantly agreed to this as her husband lay on his deathbed, though she did delay sending a messenger north to tell her brother in law of the King’s death.
He was informed, by Lord Hastings, and rushed to travel south and take up the ordered role, as he had always rushed to Edward’s orders. He did stop on the way at York to arrange and take part in a requiem mass for the soul of his brother, before meeting the new young King on the way and travelling to London with him.
Some of the entourage of the King was arrested and imprisoned, the reasons for this depend on your interpretation of the evidence. The reasons for the Dowager Queen rushing off into sanctuary at Westminster are also quite erroneous, there was not any clear evidence of enmity between Richard and Elizabeth before now, so seeing it as a little showboating, I think is ok.
The young King was taken to the Tower of London, which many see as imprisoning him, but if you look at the history of the time, the Tower was a palace, not the prison that it would become in the hands of Henry VIII, many years later. The new King’s own sister, Elizabeth, would stay there many times, including the night before her coronation and she actually went there to give birth to her youngest daughter Katherine. It was traditional at the time that Monarchs travelled to their coronations from this place and when he was taken there it would not have been strange to the young boy, he probably expected it. There is no evidence that he was housed anywhere but in the royal apartments there.
The next few months are again controversial, and I do not think that I need to go over them for anyone, most people have differeing views on what happened and my views will go into a future book (when I have time to write it!).
Needless to say, Richard became King and ruled for two years before the Tudor threat came to the English shores. And they met at Bosworth, and…….well the rest as they say, is history. The Plantagenets were beaten, by battle or treachery, whichever way you look at it, and the Tudors took power.
So Edward may have brought the Yorks into power, but his death on this day, also began the downfall of his wider Plantagent family from the throne.