Edward IV's second reign



Edward was restored to the throne of England in 1471, after killing his rival Warwick at the battle of Barnet and capturing Henry VI and Maragaret De Anjou, banishing her to France and imprisoning Henry in the tower of london where he died from 'melancholy'. Upon his restoration, Edward didnt change much. He kept a majority of his policies the same from his first reign, especially with finance keeping the chamber system of finance and making finances from newly acquired lands go through the kings chambers finances, not the exchequer. This made corruption much more uncommon. Overall, Edward's second reign was prosperous and faced little problems, with an exception being his rebellious brother George of Clarence. However, he was eventually executed after accusing the queen of witchcraft. He used his brother Richard, the future king to govern the north of the country; giving him the title of Magnate. With this, he could raise levies and taxes without the kings authority. He adopted a pro-burgundian stance, until Burgundy's dissolution in 1477. He did this as the French had supported the Lancastraisn during the civil war. He also led an invasion of France, but Burgundy's refusal to support militarily meant he had to sign a peace treaty where he renounced all claims on Normandy. This is the supposed end of the 100 years war. 

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How did Edward re-establish himself as king?

Remaining Lancastrian Support

To deal with the remaining Lancastrians support, Edward again like when he first took the throne in 1461 opted to not severly punish the rebellious nobles, instead opting to fine them for pardon.With no living Lancastrian Support apart from a faraway illegimate Lancastrian named Henry, most nobles saw no reason to fight for the lancastrians. Leading us onto our second reason, that Edward made himself militarily more powerful than all his other vassals. He never let vassals become overmighty again, discluding those in his immediate family, namely Richard of Gloucester who became the Magnate of the North.

His supporters

Edward's supporters were lavishly rewarded for their support during the crisis. His brothers, Clarence and Richard were both given Warwicks old estates. Lord Hastings was made Captain of Calais, and his stepson Thomas grey was made marquis of Dorset. Indeed, he was following similar trends to his last reign; his nespotism meant that members of his family did indeed benefit greatly. Even Clarence who had betrayed and rebelled against him several times. However despite this, the men Edward appointed were all capable and managed the country well.  

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Edward's policies towards Wales.

The Welsh Problem

Throughout Edward's reign Wales was always a significant problem. The Welsh were always resentful of Edward due to him being king, and so any support to depose him was always supported. For example, after the failure that was the battle of Northampton Margaret de Anjou fled to Harlech Castle and it continued to be a Lancastrian stronghold until its capture in 1468. During his second reign, Wales didnt cease to be a problem for the now experienced king. The current marcher lord of the south of Wales, William Herbert was less than able to keep the area under control so in 1479 he was forced to give up the Earldom of Pembroke for the Earldom of Huntingdon instead. To fill the power vaccum, Edward set up a council of Wales, which his son Edward would govern. From 1479, while Edward, Prince of Wales was the head of the estate Anthony, Earl Rivers being older ran the household. Many resented this action, as Anthony was a Woodville and many wanted to have the power in Wales, Such as the duke of Buckingham. With the introduction of the Council of Wales Edward finally asserted his authority over the Welsh Marches. There is little evidence of the beneficial effects, but the fact that Richard continued this council shows that it worked. Indeed, the council was still in effect until the 17th century, where it was dissolved with the unification of England and Wales. 

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Edward's policy towards the North

The Northern Problem

The North of England had been a historical problem for the English. First the Picts, and then the Scots were always conducting raids and engaging with skirmishes with English forces throughout the history of both countries. During Edward's first reign it had been especially problematic, resisting his efforts to assert authority and usually supporting the Lancastrian cause. Infact, the north was instrumental in the loss of the throne in 1470. To control the North, Edward entrusted two of his most loyal nobles: Richard, Duke of Gloucester and Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland. The Percy's were Lancastrian supporters initally, so this shows that Edwards reconciliarly policies had been working. Percy gained Edward's trust by following him to Burgundy and fighting with him to reclaim the throne, and with Richard gaining Warwick's old estates the North was split between Percy and Richard, and these two loyal subjects were extremely effective at executing the kings orders and stopping unrest in the area. They were both very loyal to the king, so the North was subdued, especially with the death of Henry VI and the removal of any Lancastrian figurehead. However, we know that Richards extensive power base from this time helped him remove Edward's son from power and become king himself. So, Edward's trust in Richard was faulted as he eventually murdered his children and took the throne for himself. 

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Edward's Policies towards Ireland.

During Henry VI's restoration to the throne in 1470, the Earls of Ireland made it known their support for the Yorkists. The Earls of Kilidare for example being one of the Earls supporting the Yorkists. Ireland never really posed a threat for Edward for one simple reason: He left them alone. He never invaded or tried to subjugate the Irish, and his fathers role as Lieutenant of Ireland made him popular in Ireland anyway. Whether or noth this was successful is up to debate, but it appears to be as Ireland never posed a true threat. 

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Edward's Domestic Policy

During his first reign, Edwards domestic policy was mixed. While he made huge improvements on Henry's terrible administration of England, he still was dealing with mass discontentment and rebellion among the people of England, and later the nobles. And although he had implemented new systems for finance, they had yet to properly work. 

How did Edward rule?

Edward was very competent administrator; he pushed for an efficient and able government. He did this with his selection of men to work for him, who were all able to work efficiently withn the current systems in place. He decentralised the state, with many nobles still holding significant power in their local areas, relying on them to govern their respective lands. Edward also focused more on someones actual skill rather than there blood ties. For example, the Head of the Welsh Council was granted to a lower nobility Woodville, Anthony, Earl of Rivers. Other examples include Bishop Morton, a lancastrian supporter who despite this was such an able man was allowed to retain his position on the council. 

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Did he improve Law and Order?

As can be seen from Henry VI's reign, maintaining order in England was essential to a smooth reign. Edward realised this, and focused on keeping Law and Order. He relied heavily on the nobility to keep their traditional roles, and to keep law and order in their respective estates. If someone failed; they were replaced. For example, William Herbert of South Wales. Edward did face rebellion however, from an illegitimate son of Lord Fauconberg, Thomas. Excluding this however there were no major rebellions, with the last Lancastrian attack occuring in 1473 when the Earl of Oxford captured St Micheal's Mount. However, by the end of the year Oxford pledged alliegance to Edward. 

George, Duke of Clarence

George was Edward's younger brother and he was a thorn in his side. Several times he had supported the Lancastrians in their attempts to overthrow the king, msot notablty supporting Warwick. However, after the failed rebellion George was pardoned and actually granted half of Warwicks old estates. However, he continued to be a problem, eventually accusing Edward's wife of witchcraft! Finally, Edward decicded to take action. He had George arrested and tried, accusing him of treason and they found him guilty. It is said he was drowned in a vat of his favourite malmsey wine. 

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Continued Law and Order

Ignoration of Crime

Despite fighting crime, Edward did ignore many crimes if they did not interfere with his overall goals. For example he did tackle the problem of piracy because it was interefering with his foreign policy and raising customs prices, but ignored the corruption within the English judicial system, even commiting wrongdoings himself when it came to inheritence, for example when the Dukedome of Exeter passed to Edward's sister instead of the actual male heir. 


Edward used the authority from his nobles to keep peace throughout the realm, he had often been seen as weak because of how much he pardoned nobles who commited treason, his use of patronage and failure to tackle retaining. However, as it can be seen from his enemies when crossed Edward was a deadly foe. He did afterall kill his own brother! Whenever Edward did something that upset people, nobody would dare challenge him because he was so strong. Indeed, Edward was one of the last English kings who were truly powerful, opting for a more decentralised state. 

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Edward's handling of Royal Finance

One of Edward's was his ability to fix the royal finances. Under Henry VI England had amassed a total debt of £350,000. However, by Edwards death in 1485 he was completely solvent - Debt free. His introduction of the Land revenue experiment increased revenues from farming massively, and his chamber system of finance scrapped the old and ineffective system which went through the exchequer. From this, corruption with finance was lessended. Also, from the land revenue experiment his vast estates produced more money, so he had much more power. 

Hanseatic League and War

Although the Hanseatic League and England had been at war 1469-74 after this war trade relations with the german trading power resumed. In fact, due to trade deals with France, Burgundy and the Hansa (Hanseatic League) under Edward England started making £35,000 a year in customs due to the trade with each of these powerful nations. Also, under Edward piracy was reduced. The treaty of Picquigny in 1475 after Edward's failed invasion of France meant that France paid off England to stop the war with £50,000, but in return England renounced all claims on the Normandy region and gave it up to France. This truly ended the 100 years war, with France the victor. Also, by ransoming Margaret to Louis he also got £10,000.

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To what Extent was Edward IV's foreign policy a fa

When Edward regained the throne of England in 1471, his principal aim was to deal with Louis XI of France. As we have seen Louis had been nothing but a thorn in the side of Edward, constantly funding rebellions and fueling the war of the roses. In return, Edward looked to France's historical allies: Britanny and Burgundy so he could try halt Louis' expansionist policies. In the September of 1472 the treaty of Chateaugiron was signed, and was an alliance between Britanny and England in which they would both invade England. However, Britanny fearful of France signed a truce but still encouraged Edward to attack. So he still raised a tax and assembled an army, this time relying on the duke of Burgundy, Charles I 'The Bold'. He arrived in Calais in 1475, only to find his allies let him down. Its uncertain if Edward really wanted to invade France or if he just wanted to scare Louis. Whatever his plan was, Louis quickly agreed to a truce with the treaty of Picquingcy in 1475. The treaty agreed on:

  • A ten year truce
  • A pension of £50,000 crowns to Edward. 
  • Edward would leave France on a receipt of £75,000 crowns
  • There would be no secret alliances made to any countries.
  • The Dauphin Charles would marry Elizabeth of York
  • All tolls and charges placed on English Merchants would be abolished, same with French.
  • If either king was faced with rebellion, the other king would lend support.
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Public Reaction and Benefits on the Treaty.

The people of England felt betrayed by the treaty of Piquingcy as they had paid a tax to the king yet again, and he had failed to even fight France. To be fair to Edward, he only took 25% of the tax but still, he failed to impress the English people as they were more bothered about the fact he didnt fight. They wanted to see England returned to its glory days, where France was under the heel of England and the fact that Edward didnt even fight. Not only that, but for the pension to be paid in full Edward had to remain in good relations with France. It was simply insulting! However, due to the strong domestic position Edward was in no rebellion awaited him on his return home. 

Benefits and Failures of the treaty

The treaty benefitted many parts of English society. For example, the king could now live off his own, not relying on his vassals or taxes from parliment. Also, the commerical terms of the treaty benefitted the merchants of England. However, despite this the treaty is still seen as a failure by many historians. His several year preparation for the war indicates that he really wanted a serious war with France, and the only reason he didnt go to war was because of Burgundy's failure to support him. For the rest of his reign, he focused on keeping the pension with France and so he never attacked the French until his death in 1485. 

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Foreign Policy Regarding Burgundy

Was the foreign policy regarding the Dukedom of Burgundy a failure?

After Charles I death in 1477 without a male heir Burgundy was caught in a succession crisis, as the only heir Mary was married to Maximillian of Austria, the heir to the holy roman emperor. However, France wanted the Burgundian possessions so a war started between the now habsurg Burgundy and France. Edward promised to help the Burgundians for £50,000 crowns. However, with the death of Mary in 1482 the infant heir of Maxmillian and Mary was to be married to the French Dauphin Charles. Louis, not having to worry about a Anglo-Burgundian alliance then canceling the pension as he had not to worry about an alliance against him. Overall, Louis outmanevoured Edward and kept France as the dominant power in Europe. 

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Foreign Policy Regarding Scotland

Was the policy regarding Scotland a failure?

Up to 1480 Edward remained on good terms with Scotland. He had a marriage alliance concluded between Edward's daughter Cecily and the heir to the Scottish kingdom James III. However, stirred by the french in 1480 Scotland participated in some cross border raiding, and in retaliation Edward started amassing an army. However, any actual action was hampered by the failure of Charles I of Burgundy to help. While Edward did fail with Scotland, he was more focused on France than Scotland. He had appointed his youngest brother Richard of Gloucester to deal with the Scots, and deal with them he did. In 1482, after two years of skirmishes he attacked Scotland with a pretender, the Duke of Albany. He quickly captured Berwick-upon-Tweed, the last time it would change hands. While not economically important, it was strategically of much importance as it was right on the border between Scotland and England. Then moving to Edinborough. However, Albany defected so the war was fundamentally pointless. 

Overall, stragetically the foreign policy was Scotland was good as the important city of Berwick was recaptured. However, it bore little fruit as Albany defected.

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Overall, was Edward's foreign policy good or bad?

Throughout his reign Edward was outsmarted and outmanouvered by Louis XI of France, who was a sneaky little b a s t a r d. Many historians are critical of his actions. He seemed to be very greedy, and allowed his greed to dominate his foreign policy. The policy lacked an overall sense of direction or goal and his attempts to both dominate Scotland and Burgundy were unrealistic with no financial support. Despite this, Edward's reign was dominated by peace and rising prosperity which was far more in Englands interests than a war in Europe. Edward had been taken surprise by Louis' briliant intriuge skills. Had he not died in 1483 he could have resurrected his position among the European kings and despite the his loss of face, he made the York dynasty truly legimate in Europe.

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