His life was plagued by the strife between his father’s supporters and those of Richard of York, the Duke of York, who had a claim to the throne and challenged the authority of Henry‘s officers of state.
Edward‘s life came to a tragic end when he was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury at the young age of 17.
In this article, we will delve deeper into Edward‘s life and the events that led to his untimely death.
Early Life and Legitimacy
Edward Of Westminster Prince Of Wales was born on October 13, 1453, at the Palace of Westminster in London. He was the only son of Henry VI of England and Margaret of Anjou.
At the time of his birth, there were rumours that Edward was the result of an affair between his mother and one of her loyal supporters, Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset, or James Butler, 5th Earl of Ormond.
However, there is no concrete evidence to support these rumours, and Henry VI never doubted the boy’s legitimacy. Edward was invested as Prince of Wales at Windsor Castle in 1454.
The War Over the English Throne
In 1460, Henry VI was captured by the supporters of the Duke of York at the Battle of Northampton and taken to London.
The Duke of York was dissuaded from claiming the throne immediately, but he induced Parliament to pass the Act of Accord, by which Henry was allowed to reign but Edward Of Westminster Prince Of Wales was disinherited.
Queen Margaret and Edward fled through Cheshire, and they subsequently reached safety in Wales and journeyed to Scotland, where Margaret raised support.
After the Duke of York was killed at the Battle of Wakefield, Margaret‘s army advanced south and defeated the army of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, at the Second Battle of St Albans.
Edward Of Westminster Prince Of Wales was just a boy at the time, but Margaret reportedly asked him what death two knights should suffer after they were captured in battle. Edward replied that their heads should be cut off, demonstrating the brutal nature of the war over the English throne.
Exile in France
After Margaret‘s army was routed at the Battle of Towton, Margaret and Edward fled once again, this time to Scotland. For the next three years, Margaret inspired several revolts in the northernmost counties of England, but she was eventually forced to sail to France, where she and Edward Of Westminster Prince Of Wales maintained a court in exile.
Meanwhile, Henry VI was once again captured and was a prisoner in the Tower of London.
In 1467, the ambassador of the Duchy of Milan to the court of France wrote that Edward Of Westminster Prince Of Wales “already talks of nothing but cutting off heads or making war, as if he had everything in his hands or was the god of battle or the peaceful occupant of that throne.” This shows the young prince’s eagerness to reclaim his father’s throne.
Battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury
After several years in exile, Margaret allied herself with the renegade Earl of Warwick, who deposed Edward IV with the help of Edward IV‘s younger brother, the Duke of Clarence.
Edward IV fled into exile to Burgundy with his youngest brother, the Duke of Gloucester, while Warwick restored Henry VI to the throne. Prince Edward and Margaret lingered behind in France until April 1471.
However, Edward IV had already raised an army, returned to England, and reconciled with Clarence. On the same day Margaret and Edward Of Westminster Prince Of Wales landed in England (14 April), Edward IV defeated and killed Warwick at the Battle of Barnet.
With little real hope of success, the inexperienced prince and his mother led the remnant of their forces to meet Edward IV in the Battle of Tewkesbury. Unfortunately, they were defeated, and Edward of Westminster was killed.
There are different versions of how Edward Of Westminster Prince Of Wales died. According to contemporary sources, Edward was overtaken and slain in the battle during the rout of the Lancastrians.
However, some accounts attribute his death to the Duke of Clarence, who the prince appealed to for help, while other sources state that Clarence and his men found the grieving prince near a grove following the battle and immediately beheaded him on a makeshift block, despite his pleas.
Another account of Edward‘s death is given by three Tudor sources: The Grand Chronicle of London, Polydore Vergil, and Edward Hall. It was later dramatized by William Shakespeare in Henry VI, Part 3, Act V, scene v.
Their story is that Edward Of Westminster Prince Of Wales was captured and brought before the victorious Edward IV and his brothers and followers. The king received the prince graciously and asked him why he had taken up arms against him.
The prince replied defiantly, “I came to recover my father’s heritage.” The king then struck the prince across his face with his gauntlet hand, and his brothers killed the prince with their swords. However, none of these accounts appears in any of the contemporaneous sources, which all report that Edward died in battle.
Edward‘s body was buried at Tewkesbury Abbey. His widow, Anne Neville, married the Duke of Gloucester, who eventually succeeded as Richard III in 1483.
Edward Of Westminster Prince Of Wales had a tumultuous life due to the ongoing war over the English throne. Despite being invested as Prince of Wales, he was disinherited by the Act of Accord and spent most of his life in exile with his mother.
His eagerness to reclaim his father’s throne and his involvement in the Wars of the Roses ultimately led to his tragic death at the Battle of Tewkesbury.
While there are different accounts of how Edward Of Westminster Prince Of Wales died, there is no denying that he was just a young man when his life was cut short.
*Feature Image: Wikimedia