Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Who Are All These Kings?: Edward V

Edward V was briefly King of England in 1483, and is chiefly remembered as one of the "Princes in the Tower", allegedly murdered.

He was born at Westminster Abbey in 1470, the fourth child, but eldest son, of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. At the time of his birth, his father had been deposed and his mother had sought sanctuary in the abbey.

The following year, however, his father regained the crown and the young Edward was created Prince of Wales, Earl of Chester and Duke of Cornwall. In 1479 he was made Earl of March and Earl of Pembroke.

Little is known about his character, although he is said to have been good at his lessons.

Edward IV died in 1483, and the young Edward became king as Edward V. He was brought from Ludlow Castle, where his household had been established, and taken towards London escorted by his mother`s brother Lord Rivers.

However, England was still in the grip of dynastic disputes, normally known as the Wars of the Roses, and under such circumstances it was even more important than usual that there should be an undisputed strong succession. Clearly a thirteen year old boy would not be ideal.

His uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, met the party at Stony Stratford and Rivers was arrested at Northampton. Richard installed his nephews in the Tower of London, which was a Royal residence and not necessarily a prison.

Not long afterwards, Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells, announced his belief that Edward IV`s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville had been illegal as he was already engaged to Lady Eleanor Butler. This would make his children illegitimate, an ironic situation as his own legitimacy has been shown to be seriously in question.

Edward V was deposed. Richard was offered the crown at Crosby House in Bishopsgate, and was duly crowned as Richard III.

Edward and his brother were never seen again outside the Tower, and

long standing stories claim that they were murdered, perhaps by Richard III or perhaps at his instigation. Sir James Tyrrell is alleged to have told Henry VII that he or his servant smothered them under the orders of Richard III.

But it has to be remembered that Richard of Gloucester had always been fiercely loyal to his brother, which makes it very unlikely that he would be a party to the murder of his brother`s sons. It should also be remembered that as soon as he was dead, the Tudor propaganda writers, especially William Shakespeare and Thomas More, began the systematic blackening of Richard`s name.

It is also often forgotten that the victor of the battle fought near Market Bosworth, Henry VII, would have had a large vested interest in the boys` deaths. With either alive, it would have been very difficult for him to sustain ideas of being a rightful king, so he has to be considered a suspect.

But there is no real evidence for any of this, and it is entirely possible that Edward V and his brother simply eventually died.