Edward of Westminster ‘the most comfortable earthly treasure’ is born

Edward of Westminster and his parents

On the 13th of October 1453, on the feast of St. Edward the Confessor, Prince Edward was born on the Palace of Westminster. He was the son of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou. There are many misconceptions regarding this prince, the principal one consisting of an apocryphal story where Margaret presents her son to her husband and he says that he must have been conceived by the holy spirit. In the “White Queen” the Neville sisters repeat this myth saying adding there is no way the prince is the king’s son because the king was asleep at the time of his conception but this story is false and didn’t come about until 1461. Henry VI was within his mental capabilities at the time of his son’s conception. When Margaret knew she was with child, she and the Duchess of York went on a pilgrimage to Walsingham in Norfolk to give thanks to the Blessed Virgin.

cecily_neville_hours
Cecily Neville wrote the unborn child was “the most precious, most joyful, and most comfortable earthly treasure that might come unto this land and to the people thereof.”

But then something happened. On July 17 the town of Bordeaux was lost, it was a humiliating defeat for the English and when Henry was told he went into a catatonic state. Nothing could wake him up. Margaret went into her confinement uncertain of what the future would hold for her and her baby. She gave birth to her only son in Westminster. Immediately the birth was announced to London, according to Bale’s Chronicle:
“Wherefore the bells rang in every church and Te Deum was solemnly sang.”

The next day the prince was christened by William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester (Henry’s confessor). His godparents were the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edmund Beaufort (Duke of Somerset and Margaret Beaufort’s uncle), and Anne Stafford nee Neville the Duchess of Buckingham who was also Margaret Beaufort’s mother in law and Cecily Neville’s sister.
But as one historian points out, “if the birth was cause for great joy, it was also clear that the condition of the boy’s father could no longer be ignored.” His son was presented to him but Henry could not recognize him and his mother tried to make a bid for power and establish a regency council in her husband and son’s names but the nobles favored Richard (including the Tudor brothers, Edmund and Jasper).
With the destruction of the royal house of Lancaster, Margaret of Anjou remained in England for some time, until she was ransomed back in France where she died. If Edward had become King, given the education he was given, and the models he was taught to admire, he would have likely taken after his warring ancestors, including the much admired, Henry V. His life was cut short in the battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. His father followed suit. The official story was that he died of melancholy after he was informed of his son’s death. Not many believed this story, and the rumors abounded that Edward IV had him killed. Not long after his death, a cult grew around him, and during Henry VII, Edward’s tomb was also visited by many pilgrims.

Sources:

  • The Prince who did not become King: Edward of Westminster 1453-1471 by Susan Higginbotham
  • Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones
  • Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir
  • Cecily Neville: Mother of Kings by Amy Licence

May the 4th: The Twilight of the House of Lancaster

Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, only son of King Henry VI of House Lancaster and his Queen, Marguerite of Anjou.
Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, only son of King Henry VI of House Lancaster and his Queen, Marguerite of Anjou.

On May the 4th 1471, Edward Prince of Wales, otherwise known as Edward of Westminster for his place of birth, lost his life at the Battle of Tewkesbury. The prince was only seventeen years old, months short of being eighteen. He was the last hope of the Lancastrians. After the Earl of Warwick Richard Neville had been slain at the battle of Barnet the previous month, the Prince and his mother decided not to make any more haste and keep with the plan, and attack the Yorkists. Some historians like Skidmore believe that the death of Richard Neville might have been a blessing in disguise since it eliminated a potential rival, if they ever came to a complete win. However, others are not so sure of this. Jones, Higginbotham, Lisle, among many others view that Warwick’s death was truly the end-game for the Lancasters. The battle of Barnet destroyed whatever chance they had left. Marguerite of Anjou was never one to give up and continued to march forward unto the battlefield. With her, besides her son, was her daughter-in-law, Anne Neville. Anne Neville was the youngest daughter of Richard Neville, and the news of her father’s death when she touched English shore, must have been devastating. Yet, true to her position of Princess Consort of Wales, she kept moving and joined her husband and her mother-in-law in their fight, to completely restore the Lancastrian dynasty to its rightful place. Henry VI had already been captured and sent back to the Tower. London was back in Yorkist control but Marguerite remained optimistic. Weeks after they landed, they made their way to Exeter then to Bristol and the Severn Valley where Edward IV “prepared for a second round of battle, sending out orders to fifteen counties”. He wanted to stop them at all costs from crossing the river Severn but come the end of April he realized they were journeying to Bristol where they were joined by a larger army and supplied with more weapons.

Although Edward had the upper hand, one mistake (he knew) could’ve cost him everything. So it became a race against time, for the Yorkist King to encounter them when he was still strong before they reunited with others (such as Jasper Tudors who was far off and was looking forward to joining with them).

Edward of Westminster in the "White Queen" (2013)
Edward of Westminster in the “White Queen” (2013)

The Lancastrian army then reached Tewkesbury on 3 May. The next day they faced the Yorkist troops. The Prince of Wales along with the Duke of Somerset, Edmund Beaufort were the principal commanders. Marguerite and Anne Neville were likely hiding as Licence points out in her biography on Anne Neville; probably in Coventry with other Lancastrian wives waiting for news of the outcome.

The following day on Saturday May the 4th, Edward IV “donned his armor and divided his army into three divisions under the same leadership that had prevailed at Barnet -himself, Hastings and the brilliant young Gloucester, who was not given command of the vanguard.” Jones writes. The Lancastrias “were arrayed under Prince Edward” who was assisted by Lord Wenlock, Sir John Lagstrother (the prior of St. John) and of course his second in command Edmund Duke of Somerset, followed by John Courtenay the Earl of Devon. Edward IV began his assault with “a hail of arrows and gunshot” which was returned by the enemy. The Lancastrias had chosen a “strong defensive position” Skidmore notes “encamped on high ground to the south of Tewkesbury.” The battle raged on, “Somerset had chosen to command the right flank, placing the elderly veteran Lord Wenlock in charge of the center of the army.” Edward did not waste any time and told his brother leading the left flank to advance, the Lancastrians did their best to repel the wave of arrows flown at them, but they were soon overwhelmed.

“Outnumbered, Somerset’s forces force was slowly being driven back up the slope. It was at this point that Edward performed a masterstroke, ordering his 200 men-at-arms waiting hidden in the woods to launch a surprise attack into the side of Somerset’s beleaguered troops. The Duke’s men scattered, ‘dismayed and abashed’; some fled along the lanes, some into the park and down to the meadow by the river running alongside the abbey, but most would suffer the same fate of being cut down and killed as they ran. Somerset, however, refused to give up, making his way back to the Lancastrian center whose troops had stood motionless at Lord Wenlock’s order. Riding up to the aged nobleman, Somerset was in no mood for excuses; according to a latter account, in a fury, he raged at Wenlock, and before he had a chance to respond, Somerset seized his battle axe and beat his brains out, though a more contemporary chronicle suggests that this dramatic confrontation never took place, with Wenlock being captured and executed after the battle.” (Skidmore)

As everyone scrambled and ran to safety, Somerset took refuge in the Abbey with a few. The Prince was not so lucky.

“Exactly how Anne’s husband met his death is unclear. Literary and dramatic sources have presented a range of possibilities, implicating various Yorkists in differing degrees. Of the contemporary chroniclers recording the scene without being present, Commynes agrees with the Croyland and Benet chronicles, which clearly state that he fell on the field of battle, while the Arrival observes, ‘And there was slain in the field Prince Edward, which cried for succor to his brother-in-law, the Duke of Clarence.’ Even having sworn allegiance to him less than a year before, Clarenece clearly did not feel sufficiently moved to show the prince pity, stating in a letter to Henry Vernon that the Prince was ‘slain in plain battle’, differentiating his death from the ‘execution’ of Somerset also described in the correspondence. Warkworth agrees that the prince ‘was taken fleeing townwards, and slain in the field’, perhaps heading back for the safety of the abbey, or ‘poor religious place’ where his wife and mother waited. Tudor Historian Andre Bernanrd writing in 1501, also stated that the prince was slain in combat, even though, at the time, it would have been in his interests to slur the reputation of the Yorkist brothers. The alternative story of Edward’s murder began to gain credence soon after his death. Weeks after the battle, Bettini wrote to the Duke of Milan that the Yorkists had ‘not only routed the prince but taken and slain him, together with all the leading men with him’.” (Licence)

According to various accounts, he was executed by Edward IV, others say that he was killed by Richard III himself. Not surprisingly during the Tudor period the blame was lain on Richard’s feet. Even if this is true, as Licence argues in her biography of both of these men’s only wife, Anne Neville; he would not have risked doing something of that magnitude without his eldest brother and King, Edward IV’s approval. Edward IV wanted the entire Lancastrian line wiped, therefore he was not going to shrink away from executing him or giving the order to someone else if he was indeed brought before him.

Anne Neville played by Faye Marsay in the "White Queen" (2013).
Anne Neville played by Faye Marsay in the “White Queen” (2013).

The battle was a huge and decisive win, Jones notes for Edward because he had “at last gained a glorious victory” and two days after he had slain Edward Prince of Wales, he dragged Edmund Duke of Somerset, Sir John Langstrother, Sir Hugh Courtenay and other Lancastrians who had sought sanctuary inside the Abbey, to behead them. The following day on the 8th, he left Tewkesbury to track the Queen and her daughter-in-law, Anne Neville who was now a widow and like the Queen, at the mercy of the Yorkist King. Not long after, Henry VI also died under mysterious circumstances. No one believed the official story that he had died of melancholy.

Sources:

  • The Rise of the Tudors: The Family that Changes English History by Chris Skidmore
  • The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones
  • Anne Neville: Richard III’s Tragic Queen by Amy Licence
  • The Prince who did not become King: Edward of Lancaster (1453-1471) by Susan Higginbotham

Winds of confusion: The Battle of Barnet

The Battle of Barnet
The Battle of Barnet

On the 14th of April 1471, the Battle of Barnet was fought between the Lancastrian army commanded by Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, and the Yorkist commanded by the three sons of York -Edward IV, Richard Duke of Gloucester, and the recent traitor turned ally, George, Duke of Clarence.

George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence was Edward IV's younger brother and he allied himself with Warwick, marrying his eldest daughter, and then went back to Edward's side after his father-in-law allied himself with Marguerite of Anjou.
George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence was Edward IV’s younger brother and he allied himself with Warwick, marrying his eldest daughter, and then went back to Edward’s side after his father-in-law allied himself with Marguerite of Anjou.

George, Duke of Clarence had been Warwick’s ally since he married his eldest daughter, Isabel Neville in July of 1469. The Duchess Dowager of York, Cecily Neville “Queen by Rights” likely gave them her blessing before she returned to her residence. Her latest biographer, Amy Licence, believes it is possible that she also tried to warn them not to go because they would anger Edward and his wife. Obviously [if this was her intention] it didn’t work because George and Isabel married right away, had a lavish wedding reception unlike his eldest brother and his Lancastrian wife; and afterwards returned with a small army to depose him. The rebellions failed miserably. The upper class was angry at Edward but they didn’t want to launch England into another civil war –especially when there was another King locked in the Tower, and his Queen and their son vying for support across the Narrow Sea. Edward returned to his seat of power and pardoned his cousin and brother; but Elizabeth Woodville never trusted them again. There are no records as to how she felt in regards of the Earl of Warwick or her brothers-in-law. But after they had rebelled against her husband, captured him, killed her brother and father, and then released him so he would pardon them; it is likely she didn’t see them too well.

In late October of the following year when Warwick had switched bands yet again, Elizabeth escaped to sanctuary while her husband and youngest brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, escaped to Burgundy to take refuge in their brother-in-law, Charles “the Bold” Duke of Burgundy’s court. Elizabeth was very far along; and contrary to what is shown on fiction where Warwick is a complete ogre and pretty much says Elizabeth and her poor mother and daughters taken refuge in Westminster Abbey, living in relative poverty and fed by the mercy of the bakers nearby, could go to hell; he showed them mercy. Warwick was not one to enjoy the killing of women and children, and much less a pregnant woman so he allowed Elizabeth and her family to stay in sanctuary and paid for a midwife to assist her in the birth of her firstborn royal son. During this time, Marguerite of Anjou and her son, Edward of Westminster, the Prince of Wales, were growing anxious to have the papal dispensation that would allow him to marry the Earl’s youngest daughter, Anne Neville. With the realm torn between two kings and time running short, it was vital that the pope grant the Lancastrians that dispensation. After all, Anne and Edward were distant cousins and if they married without it, their marriage would seem unlawful and heavily criticized as Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville’s was. When the dispensation was finally granted, the couple didn’t waste time and married. Marguerite planned to set sail that November to England but there were two problems: she didn’t want to risk her son and daughter-in-law and wanted the two to get to know each other better *and* the weather. When she finally set sail on March of next year, 1471, the country was in more chaos than she had expected. Just as she had amassed a great army of Lancastrian loyalists and French-men; Edward had also amassed an army that consisted of loyal Yorksits and Burgundians.

Max Irons (center) and Aneurin Barnard as Edward IV and Richard, Duke of Gloucester in the White Queen (2013).
Max Irons (center) and Aneurin Barnard as Edward IV and Richard, Duke of Gloucester in the White Queen (2013).

Edward IV’s forces captured London and took the King, Henry VI, prisoner, “to the universal acclamation of the citizens” who looked kinder on him (because of his wife). While she had been criticized for being of low birth [despite the fact that her mother had noble and royal blood]; she had behaved differently than her predecessor. Her retinue and ladies-in-waiting numbered less than Marguerite’s and her spending was also less. When she went to take refuge, she refused to raise up in arms as her Lancastrian counterpart would have done, and instead stayed put, patiently and obediently waiting for her husband to rescue her. Such virtues of passivity and acceptance of her gender role, were well seen among the populace. After Edward went to St. Paul to give thanks for his victory, he went to visit his wife who presented him with his namesake “to the King’s greatest joy, a fair son, a prince.”

The war was far from over, as Dan Jones and Chris Skidmore write in their respective biographies of this conflict. The King was their prisoner, but there were many Lancastrians loyalists and anxious to see him back on the throne. Out of these, Warwick was the first one that Edward encountered after he took London, on the town of Barnet. The Battle was fought from nightfall Saturday April 13 to Easter Sunday, April 14. The weather was foggy and it caused a lot of confusion, together with the canon fire that Warwick ordered as night fell –hoping to surprise his enemies. According to some accounts, Warwick’s army greatly outnumbered Edward’s but because of the “damp, cold night air” and the scattered men from both armies; people began to wonder who were fighting who and some of Warwick’s men “mistook Oxford’s livery badges of a star with streams that the Earl’s men displayed on their coats for Edward’s badge of the Yorkist sun in splendor.” Gloucester’s flank managed to penetrate Exeter’s while “Hastings was hobbled in his fight against Oxford” whose numbers had been decimated because of Warwick’s forces’ foolishness. Battle raged on “cruel and mortal”. Edward IV could barely see because of the fog, but still charged against his enemies, managing (barely) to distinguish them. When Richard’s brother, Lord Montague, realized all was lost he “harangued his brother … insisting that he should demonstrate the Neville family’s courage by fighting on foot and sending his horses away” to confuse his enemies. If they did this, he promised his older brother, they might still had a chance. But this, as historian Jones points out, turned out to be Warwick’s gravest mistake.

James Frain as Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick in the White Queen (2013).
James Frain as Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick in the White Queen (2013).

The battle lasted three hours. One thousand Lancastrians were killed, and five hundred Yorkists. The “Kingmaker” Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and his younger brother, Lord Montague were killed. The few Lancastrian noblemen who survived, fled to Scotland Edward lost a few of his noblemen too, among them were Lord Cromwell, Lord Saye and Sir William Blount. His brother-in-law and younger brother, Anthony Woodville and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, were severely injured.

Marguerite of Anjou and her son, Prince Edward. They arrived two days after the battle of Barnet on April 16. They received news of the Earl's death but still decided to move on. Edward died nearly a month later on May 4, and his father -the last Lancastrian King two weeks later under mysterious circumstances. Marguerite was ransomed back to France four years later in 1475.
Marguerite of Anjou and her son, Prince Edward. They arrived two days after the battle of Barnet on April 16. They received news of the Earl’s death but still decided to move on. Edward died nearly a month later on May 4, and his father -the last Lancastrian King two weeks later under mysterious circumstances. Marguerite was ransomed back to France four years later in 1475.

This was not the end of the war however. “Just one enemy remained” Jones says, and that was Queen Marguerite and her son Prince Edward and his wife, Anne Neville, who had just landed on the south coast at Weymouth two days after the battle of Barnet. Imagine their surprise when they found out what had happened. Skidmore believes that Marguerite might not have been too angry, and actually glad since this left her completely in charge but it is hard to imagine this since Warwick’s forces were a lot and if the two met, it would have made a difference in the  end.

Margaret Beaufort, Lady Tudor, Lady Stafford, her second husband was Stafford and although the two had previously entertained Edward IV at their house; the Lancastrian Readeption returned her to her old family roots and she tried to convince him to fight for them, but Stafford decided to aid Edward IV instead. Perhaps he foresaw the outcome, He was grievously injured, Margaret nursed him but he died months later. Margaret grew very scared as she started to hear the news of defeat and all Lancastrians being rooted out, imprisoned and killed. She would not see her son, Henry Tudor, considered the last Lancastrian scion, in fourteen years. In the White Queen she is portrayed by Amanda Hale (left).
Margaret Beaufort, Lady Tudor, Lady Stafford, her second husband was Stafford and although the two had previously entertained Edward IV at their house; the Lancastrian Readeption returned her to her old family roots and she tried to convince him to fight for them, but Stafford decided to aid Edward IV instead. Perhaps he foresaw the outcome, He was grievously injured, Margaret nursed him but he died months later. Margaret grew very scared as she started to hear the news of defeat and all Lancastrians being rooted out, imprisoned and killed. She would not see her son, Henry Tudor, considered the last Lancastrian scion, in fourteen years. In the White Queen she is portrayed by Amanda Hale (left).

Margaret Beaufort who had courted the Lancastrian king and her cousin, Edmund, Duke of Somerset for their favor after the Readeption, suddenly found herself on the losing side again. Her husband had refused to help her family and instead remained loyal to Edward; but fighting for Edward had cost him his life and then there was Margaret’s most precious jewel: Henry. What would happen with the young Earl of Richmond? They were killing Lancastrians. Edward IV didn’t want to see any more Lancastrian threats. As Cersei from the popular fantasy series based on history, game of thrones, says “if you want to win, this is how you do battle. You lie in a bed of weeds and you start ripping them out one by one before they strangle you in your sleep.” Well, Edward was not far behind; he was rooting out all his Lancastrian enemies one by one, caring very little about violating sanctuary. Margaret’s cousin and his allies who had taken refuge after the defeat at Tewkesbury, were dragged out of the church and beheaded right in front of Edward. She was not going to risk her son face the same fate. We do not know if she corresponded with her fourteen year old son’s uncle, Jasper Tudor; but immediately after news of Barnet and Tewkesbury and Henry VI’s death circulated England; he and her son escaped, intending to sail to France but a heavy wind made them deviate from course and they landed in Brittany where they would be the Duke’s “guests” for the next thirteen years.

Sources:

  • Tudor. Passion. Manipulation. Murder: The Story of England’s Most Notorious Family by Leanda de Lisle
  • The Rise of the Tudors by Chris Skidmore
  • The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones
  • Cecily Neville by Amy Licence
  • Jasper Tudor: The Godfather of the Tudor Dynasty by Terry Beverton
  • Elizabeth of York: A Tudor Queen and her World by Alison Weir