On this day in 1442 Edward IV of England (d. 1483) was born.
Edward IV was King of England from 4 March 1461 until 3 October 1470, and again from 11 April 1471 until his death in 1483. He was the first Yorkist King of England.
The first half of his rule was marred by the violence associated with the Wars of the Roses, but he overcame the Lancastrian challenge to the throne at Tewkesbury in 1471 to reign in peace until his sudden death.
Before becoming king he was 4th Duke of York, 7th Earl of March, 5th Earl of Cambridge and 9th Earl of Ulster. He was also the 65th Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece.
An extremely capable and daring military commander, Edward destroyed the House of Lancaster in a series of spectacular military victories; he was never defeated on the field of battle.
Despite his occasional (if serious) political setbacks — usually at the hands of his great Machiavellian rival, Louis XI of France — Edward was a popular and very able king.
While he lacked foresight and was at times cursed by bad judgement, he possessed an uncanny understanding of his most useful subjects, and the vast majority of those who served him remained unwaveringly loyal until his death.
On this day in 1471 Edward IV resumed the throne after his victory at the Battle of Barnet.
The battle lasted from two to three hours, and was over by the time the fog lifted in the early morning. As usual in most battles of the time, the routed army suffered the most casualties; fleeing men were cut down from behind. Contemporary sources give various casualty figures; the Great Chronicle of London reports 1,500 dead, whereas The Warkworth’s Chronicle states 4,000.
Edward Hall and Raphael Holinshed, both 16th century chroniclers, say that at least 10,000 men died in the battle. The Yorkists suffered half as many casualties as the Lancastrians. Royle favours the recorded approximate figures of 500 Yorkists and 1,000 Lancastrians dead.
The Battle of Barnet was an important engagement in the Wars of the Roses: it brought about the death of a prominent figure and secured the throne for another. Despite its importance to history, contemporary records about the battle are rare. The sole chronicle based on an eyewitness account—The Arrivall of Edward IV—was written by someone within Edward’s council, which presents a biased account of the battle.
Another first-hand observation was found in the Paston Letters, written by the Lancastrian Sir John Paston. Other records, such as The Warkworth Chronicle, offer only bits and pieces about the battle. Therefore, deficits in historical understanding must be filled through field research and discoveries of mediaeval documents.