Edward V served as the King of England for 86 days, from 9 April 1483 to 26 June 1483. He was subsequently dethroned and probably murdered by his uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. The eldest surviving son of Edward IV, Edward V was born while his father was in brief exile after being deposed by the Earl of Warwick. After Edward IV regained the throne, young Edward V was made Prince of Wales and was sent to Ludlow as the titular ruler of Wales and the Welsh Marches, where he stayed for the remainder of his father's reign. Upon his father’s ill-timed death, young Prince Edward ascended the throne at the age of 12, with his uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, being appointed as his protector. After initial conflicts between Gloucester and the Woodville nobles for the possession of Edward V, Richard was soon effective in arresting the Woodville party and successfully gained custody of Edward and his younger brother. Both the young princes were held in the Tower of London which at that time functioned as a royal residence as well as a prison. Before being crowned as the King, young Edward V's brief reign came to an end when parliament accepted Richard’s claim that Edward IV's marriage to Elizabeth was invalid and hence their children are illegitimate. Soon afterwards, the two princes mysteriously went missing from the Tower and the most generally believed theory relating to their disappearance was that they were murdered on Richard’s orders
Childhood & Early Life
Edward V was born on November 2, 1470, in Westminster Abbey, to the first Yorkist King of England, Edward IV, and his wife, Elizabeth Woodville.
In June 1471, Edward V was made the Prince of Wales, following his father’s restoration to the English throne. In 1473, he was established as nominal president of a newly created Council of Wales and the Marches.
Prince Edward V was placed under the guidance of the queen's brother Anthony, Earl Rivers, and Edward’s half-brother, Richard Grey, along with several other gentlemen. The young prince stayed at Ludlow Castle for the rest of his father's reign.
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Accession & Reign
On 9 April 1483, Edward IV died due to poor health and Edward V, who was a 12-year-old prince at the time, inherited the English throne. Edward IV's will also nominated his trusted brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, as the Protector during the minority of his son.
Edward V received the news on 14 April 1483, five days after the death. Upon hearing the news of his father’s death, Edward V left for London with his household officers and a 2,000-man escort. At the same time Richard, Duke of Gloucester, also set out for London.
Edward along with his men converged with Richard’s party at Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire. Richard met and dined with Earl Rivers and Richard Grey, but later arrested both of them, along with Thomas Vaughan, a loyal servant of Edward IV. The Dukes captured Edward and also arrested his household officers.
Edward V arrived in London, escorted by Richard and his men. Subsequently, William Hastings, the Lord Chamberlain and close friend of Edward IV, was also ambushed and executed in the Tower of London by Richard as part of his seizure of the throne.
In May 1483, Prince Edward V was housed in the Tower of London where he was later joined by his younger brother Richard, Duke of York. Despite the council’s continuous attempts to coronate the new King, as soon as possible, Richard, however, repeatedly kept postponing the event.
In June 1483, some of Richard’s spokespersons presented evidence that King Edward IV had already been contracted to marry Lady Eleanor Talbot, when he married Elizabeth Woodville in 1464. Hence, Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was declared invalid and their children were considered illegitimate and thereby unauthorized to inherit the throne.
Subsequently, Edward V was formally deposed by the assembly while his household officers and all of his supporters were later executed at Pontefract Castle.
Thereafter, an assembly of Lords and Commons declared the Protector, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to be the legitimate King. The verdict was later also confirmed by an Act of parliament entitled ‘Titulus Regius’ and he ascended the throne as King Richard III.
After Richard ascended the throne, both Edward V and his younger brother, who were kept in the Tower of London, mysteriously vanished without any trace. The most widely believed notion regarding their disappearance was that both the brothers were murdered in the Tower of London, on the orders of Richard III.
Personal Life & Legacy
A prestigious European marriage was planned by Edward IV for his son and he settled an alliance with the Duke of Brittany, Francis II, according to which Prince Edward V was engaged to the Duke's four-year-old heir, Anne. But, with the disappearance of Edward V, those plans also vanished straightaway.
Upon the mysterious disappearance of Edward V and his younger brother, the fate of both the princes remains unknown to this date. But the most widely accepted theory is that they were killed on the orders of their uncle, King Richard III.
In 1674, bones of two children were discovered by workmen in the Tower of London. On King Charles II’s instructions, the bones were subsequently placed in Westminster Abbey, in an urn bearing the names of Edward V and his brother, Richard.