How strong was the monarchy on the death of Edward IV in 1483?
By 9th April 1483 Edward IV had strengthened the monarchy substantially. The problems he faced when he began his second reign were twofold, those to do with securing his kingdom, both peace and finances, and those to do with the rewarding of loyal nobles and the punishment of enemies. The Bastard of Fauconberg, the leader of the May landing in Kent and the attempted march to London, with support from Kentishmen, was initially pardoned. However he was eventually executed and an enquiry led by the Bourchiers dealt with the southeastern counties. Edward rewarded Hastings for his allegiance, as he became the Commander of Calais, where Warwick’s former supporters having pardoned them and paid the garrison accepted him.
Edward attempted to cause little upset in the nobility by issuing few attainders and a large number of pardons, including Lord Stanley and the earl of Oxford. Edward had managed to regain the throne through his greater noble support and the dominance that the noble retinues gave him over the Lancastrians. On the night of Edward’s arrival in London to reclaim the throne Henry VI was murdered in the tower, which though usually blamed upon Richard, duke of Gloucester, was ultimately Edward’s responsibility.
The death of Henry and the eradication of the Nevilles, Warwick and Montagu signalled the end of the male Lancastrian line, save the exiled Henry Tudor. Edward now faced problems from within, the conspiring of Clarence and the increased influence of the Woodville family. Clarence was bitter following his marriage to Isabel Neville, when Gloucester chose to marry the widowed sister of Isabel, Anne Neville. This was seen as a threat to his inheritance and heightened the brotherly disputes, which had begun with the grant of Warwick’s lands first to Gloucester and then to Clarence. Edward calmed the situation by summoning the two brothers before the royal Council at the palace of Sheen in 1472. Edward forced a settlement in Clarence’s favour as he gained possession of most of the Neville estates and was later created Earl of Warwick and Salisbury.
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The brothers did not end their quarrelling at this point and they fought for the possession of the Beauchamp-Despenser estates. Clarence was the more resentful of the two, due to Gloucester’s marriage to Anne Neville placing Clarence’s inheritance into jeopardy. Edward made efforts to calm Clarence, even forcing Gloucester to resign from the post of Great Chamberlain of England in favour of Clarence. However, following various moves to secure their inheritance, Edward intervened in 1473 he passed an act of Resumption and deprived both brothers of all lands they owned by royal grant.
In 1474, following two years of planning and allying with both Burgundy and Brittany, along with various Italian states, Edward levied a benevolence to fund the invasion of France. He had also made trade agreements with the Hanse merchants in the Baltic Sea. However when he eventually invaded France in 1475, with a force of 11,000 men, Louis XI had no intention of fighting and the Treaty of Picquigny was agreed upon. This treaty ensured Edward received an annual pension of £4,000 and an initial payment of £12,000. Both the levying of benevolences and the Treaty of Picquigny helped to reinforce the financial situation of the monarchy in Edward’s second reign.
In 1476 Clarence’s wife died at Warwick, he began his search for a new wife almost immediately. His preferred choice was Mary, the daughter of Charles the Bold of Burgundy. Edward vetoed the marriage following the death of Charles the Bold at Nancy in 1477. This was necessary as it kept England out of an expensive alliance with Burgundy and avoided endangering the Treaty of Picquigny. This was also Edward enforcing his power for the first time over Clarence’s unappeasable aspirations.
Clarence could not cope with these restrictions on his ambition and he executed a former attendant, Ankarette Twynyho, and John Thursby, for ‘murdering his wife and son respectively. Having been involved in a revolt in Cambridgeshire in 1477, and questioning the processes of the law surrounding the case of two men who plotted to murder Edward, Clarence was imprisoned in the Tower. In January 1478 Edward’s patience had finally been expended and Clarence was, according to tradition, drowned in a butt of Malmesey wine, following his conviction for treason.
In 1480 Edward once more collected benevolences so as to fund the war with Scotland. Led by Gloucester the Yorkists managed to recapture Berwick-upon-Tweed and Gloucester began to carve out the individual state he planned in the north. Gloucester helped Edward by maintaining the peace in the historically troublesome, north.
During his second reign Edward had secured the monarchy by improving his financial methods and taking more control of both the government and the nobility. The King had laid more trust in his nobles, such as the power given to Lord Hastings in the midlands. He already had support from York and the Welsh Marches due to his former titles of duke of York and earl of March. Much of Wales was loyal thanks to the presence of the Prince of Wales at Ludlow and the beginnings of the council of Wales.
The loss of enemies such as the Nevilles and Clarence helped to strengthen the Edward’s support from the nobility further. Other faithful supporters were Thomas Grey, marquis of Dorset and Richard Grey, as was John Mowbray, duke of Norfolk. These dedicated supporters and the increased backing of the nobility helped Edward to instil a greater sense of Law and Order and control across the country and helped to eliminate the former factions within the nobility. Peace with neighbouring nations also helped as it avoided expensive wars and kept trade routes open with states such as Burgundy, which kept the London merchants contented and sympathetic towards Edward.
Law and Order was reinforced more by the newfound respect for judges and justice. Justices of the Peace became far more effective and people became more obedient. This was due to the increased respect for Edward and the confidence in his monarchy. A testament to Edward’s improved power was the sign of the reduction in corrupt subjects with far fewer attainders being issued in his second reign. The very fact that Edward could perpetrate frauds with major landed inheritances, as he did with the Mowbray and Exeter lands, shows the extent to which his power and authority reached, as this was one of the most dangerous things for a monarch to do. Edward appears to have had more support in 1461-1483, as there were far fewer complaints from people about lack of good governance, as there had been in the mid 15th century.
Edward improved the country’s finances in his second reign; a major factor in this was the gaining control of much land from estates including Chester, Wales, Cornwall, Lancaster, York and Norfolk. This removed territorial power from nobility and brought more land into the king (and family’s) possession. The king used customs duties, from the flourishing trade, to raise the finances further, as they were granted to him for life by the government. All of the finances were now diverted from the exchequer into the chamber, this allowed for money to be readily available and proved to be a far more efficient way of managing the finances.
Edward’s two benevolences, in aid of the wars with France and Scotland both helped to bolster funds, as they were eventually not even required. Furthermore the invasion of France brought even more income trough the Treaty of Picquigny. However Edward did have a more lavish court than Henry VI and had a larger number of royal households to expend money upon. The lack of parliamentary taxation in his second reign points to the fact that Edward had created a far safer country, as does the fewer number of parliaments called.
Edward’s ‘new monarchy’ left the Crown in a considerably stronger position in 1483 than it had been in 1461. Finance and trade were thriving in the time of relative concord, the nobility were more supportive of the king and due to the respect Edward had gained he controlled the nation and on 9th April 1483 he left a seemingly peaceful and strong monarchy behind him.
The Wars of the Roses, Christine Carpenter (1997)
The Lancastrians and Yorkists: The Wars of the Roses, David R. Cook (1984)
[Lectures and Notes of Graham D. Wood (2000)]