Edward V

(1470—1483) king of England and lord of Ireland

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Uncrowned king of England, b. 2 Nov. 1470, s. of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville; acc. 9 Apr. 1483; d. Tower of London, 1483(?).

Edward was brought up for safety at Ludlow under his maternal uncle, earl Rivers. On the death of Edward IV in April 1483, the twelve-year-old proceeded to London, but at Stony Stratford the followers of his paternal uncle, Richard of Gloucester, took the boy into their keeping, while Rivers was arrested at Northampton. Edward was duly proclaimed king in London, and moved to the royal apartments in the Tower in May as part of the coronation preparations; he was joined there a month later by his younger brother Richard, when they were seen shooting and playing in the garden. Later, however, both boys (according to a visiting Italian) ‘were withdrawn into the inner apartments of the Tower proper, and day by day began to be seen more rarely behind the bars and windows, till at length they ceased to appear altogether’.

Rumours and revulsion swept London, then Europe. The contested succession that ensued has been followed by continued controversy over the reliability of contemporary accounts (especially those by later Tudor propagandists anxious to blacken Richard III's name), the manner of the presumed death of the princes, and the degree of involvement of Richard, who had by then declared himself king. Sir Thomas More's account, inspiring Shakespeare and nineteenth-century artists, implicated Sir James Tyrell (his servant John Dighton smothering the boys at night), but this is little more than elaboration of several circulating tales. The incomplete skeletons of two juveniles unearthed in 1674 in the Tower grounds have been presumed to be those of the princes, but the 1933 exhumation in Westminster abbey merely confirmed them to be human in origin, of approximately the right ages.

Subjects: British History.

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