Edward IV’s Relationships, Robert Baratheon’s Death

In my last post, I wrote about the complexities of medieval relationships in the Wars of the Roses. This post, which builds on the last one, primes you on Edward IV’s relationships, the complexities of which form the basis of Robert Baratheon’s last days.

Like Robert Baratheon, Edward IV was close to several different noble families. In Robert’s case, he was close to the Starks, the Lannisters, Jon Arryn, and others. As these families pursued their interests, hatred arose.

Similar to Robert, Edward IV’s friends and family grew to loathe each other. Mistrust blossomed as they aggressively pursued land, power, and fruitful marriage pacts.  Sadly, like Robert Baratheon, after Edward’s death, factions became entrenched and the feuding became fatal.

Edward IV had relationships with four major groups of people—some of which parallel those of Robert Baratheon:

  • His brothers, Clarence and Richard III – a tricky relationship since these two potent rivals often competed for land, power, or position. This parallels the divide between Robert Baratheon’s brothers, the opposing Stannis and Renly Baratheon.
  • His mother’s family, the Nevilles – one of the largest and most powerful families in England. This included Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who was twenty years older than Edward and his cousin. Richard was exceptionally rich and powerful and helped put Edward on the throne. Game of Thrones alludes to this large family with Lord Frey, which is a subject of a future post. 
  • His wife Elizabeth’s family, the Woodvilles – not unlike the Lannisters in Game of Thrones, the Woodvilles were a huge gentry family whom Warwick hated with deadly consequences. Warwick claimed the Woodvilles were upstarts, resented their monopoly of the marriage market, and probably hated Elizabeth’s father because he investigated Warwick for privateering and piracy.
  • William “Hastings” – Edward’s wingman, wenching companion, and unstintingly loyal best friend. Ten years Edward’s senior, Hastings started as a squire in the House of York as a boy. Exceptionally popular, brave, and deeply admired, Hastings controlled access to the King, which also made him extremely powerful. Edward implicitly trusted Hastings and elevated him to earldom. 
This diagram shows Edward IV at the center of his complex relationships. From the left upper corner moving clockwise, Cecily Neville his mother and Edward's cousin Warwick, were powerful influences in his life. Both hated his wife Elizabeth, in the upper-right corner, for being common and, allegedly, grasping. Elizabeth Woodville, in turn, hated Hastings in the bottom right corner, for going alone with (and encouraging Edward) on his partying with prostitutes. However, her sons from her first marriage (listed in upper-right corner) were also Edward's wenching companions. Hastings was loved by everyone, except Edward's brother the future Richard III, who executed Hastings in 1483. Clarence, Edward's other brother, made Edward lose sleep with his treasonuous rebellions with Warwick (upper-left corner), attempts to overthrow Edward, and feuding with Richard, which threatened to escalate into war. Both Richard and Clarence married Warwick's daughters, the Neville sisters, who were the sole heirs to his massive estates.

This diagram shows Edward IV at the center of his complex relationships. From the upper-left corner moving clockwise, Cecily Neville his mother and Edward’s cousin Warwick, were powerful influences in his life. Both hated his wife Elizabeth, in the upper-right corner, for being common and, allegedly, grasping. Elizabeth Woodville, in turn, hated Hastings in the bottom right corner, for accompanying (and, as a result, encouraging) Edward in his partying with prostitutes. However, Elizabeth’s sons from her first marriage (listed in upper-right corner) were also Edward’s sordid sidekicks. Hastings was loved by everyone, except Edward’s brother the future Richard III, who executed Hastings in 1483. Clarence, Edward’s other brother, made Edward lose sleep with his treasonous rebellions with Warwick (upper-left corner), attempts to overthrow Edward, and feuding with Richard III, which threatened to escalate into war. Both Richard III and Clarence married Warwick’s daughters, the Neville sisters, who were the sole heirs to his massive estates.

Edward was too laissez faire in his attempts to reconcile the factions. By 1483:

  • Warwick, and indirectly Clarence, had killed Elizabeth’s father and brother. Just to rub salt in the wounds, after he overthrew Edward, Warwick arranged for Elizabeth’s mother to be arrested for witchcraft. 
  • Edward indirectly killed Warwick and his brother.
  • Elizabeth and her family, who likely blamed Clarence for their father and brother’s death, allegedly helped drive Edward to convict and execute Clarence—possibly by drowning in a vat of malmsey wine.

Finally, of course, the future Richard III, possibly due to his fear of the Woodvilles, kidnapped Edward’s heir and imprisoned him in the Tower from which he never emerged. This set in motion 1483’s illegitimacy and succession crisis, which somewhat parallels the events that unfold in Games of Thrones as Ned Stark fatally investigates Joffrey Lannister’s legitimacy.

Learn More, Explore More

To learn more about Edward’s best friend, the charming and dissolute Hastings, see The Wars of the Roses: The Bloody Rivalry for the Throne of England by Desmond Seward.

To learn more about the Woodvilles, see Elizabeth: England’s Slandered Queen by Arlene Okerlund and Elizabeth Woodville: Mother of the Princes in the Tower for an apologist’s view on Elizabeth as well as the Princes in the Tower by Alison Weir for a more critical view. Many general biographies of Edward IV also discuss Elizabeth and the Woodvilles, such as Edward IV by Charles Ross and Edward IV by Hannes Kleineke.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick is discussed in Warwick the Kingmaker by Paul Murray Kendall and Warwick the Kingmaker by Michael Hicks, who also wrote a biography of his daughter Anne Neville, Richard III’s queen.

 

 

Jamie Adair is the editor of History Behind Game of Thrones, a website about the history behind George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels and the hit TV show, "Game of Thrones."

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