Why did Edward IV’s death cause a bitter power struggle in 1483? Edward IV’s death caused many issues with regards to power shortly after he died because of many difficulties. This ranges from a complicated will, to the betrayal from his brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Shortly before Edward IV’s death, he amended his will, and the only copy of the new will was ruined and nobody ever really knew what changes Edward IV made. Because of this, there was a bitter power struggle.This power struggle revolved around two competing factions, Woodville and Gloucester. Firstly, because of the issues with the will, there was no direct heir to the throne, and it was either going to be Edward V on the throne or Richard of Gloucester, nonetheless Edward IV’s son Edward V had to take the throne. However, because Edward V was a minor, the two factions competed to control the country until Edward V was old enough where he could govern by himself, thus resulting in a bitter feud within the Yorkist family.
This became such a struggle for power simply because Edward V’s mother, Elizabeth Woodville had such a great bond with her son, and also, because Richard, Duke of Gloucester truly wanted to become King. At the time of Edward IV’s death, both factions had their strengths and weaknesses. For the Woodville family, they had strategic advantages primarily because Prince Edward was with Elizabeth Woodville’s brother. Furthermore, Woodville’s brother was appointed ‘Governor and ruler of the Princes household’. The power and influence of the Princes counsel grew, and with it the status of the Woodville family.
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However, the Woodville family were seen as social climbers, and they were resented by members of established nobility, especially Gloucester, Hastings and Buckingham. Additionally, being seen a social climber in 1483 was practically as bad as sinning. This was perceived as a significant drain on the royal patronage. For Gloucester, the strengths would be that he had the active support of two of the greatest magnates, the Duke of Buckingham and Lord Hastings. They were established enemies of the Woodville’s, having competed against Earl Rivers in 1471 for lieutenancy of Calais.
Secondly, Henry Stafford was Gloucester’s most powerful ally. Buckingham had a remote claim to the throne, being descended from Edward III’s youngest son. Moreover, Lord Hastings was loyal to Edward V, but opposed the Woodville’s. The only weakness for Gloucester would be that Prince Edward was brought up almost entirely by members of the Woodville family, thereby feared by Gloucester as being more Woodville than York. The Woodville’s hoped for an early coronation on the 4th of May, as it would represent the end of Edward V’s protectorship and therefore undermine Gloucester’s position as protector.
This would have been a clear, easy win for the throne for the Woodville family; however the Counsel could not make a clear decision for who to be protector. One section of the Counsel wanted Gloucester to be protector but the other section of the Counsel wanted a regency Counsel to include Gloucester. As tension brewed, Richard Duke, of Gloucester decided to end the entire struggle for power by bringing up past rumours of Woodville and Edward IV’s relationship issues.
Richard, Duke of Gloucester always detested his brother Edward IV after his secret marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, as he was made to look a fool by him when he found out they was married. Furthermore, when society found out of this marriage, this almost put Gloucester at an advantage because in that century, the King was supposed to marry a person that would influence the Kingdom in a good way, not out of love. Nevertheless, Because of this, Gloucester revealed that it was rumoured that Edward IV was already married, when he was got married to Elizabeth Woodville.
For this reason, the marriage was deemed illegitimate, thus making Edward V’s inheritance of the throne illegitimate. This was a very strong move from Gloucester, and ultimately, because of this, he gained the throne, and the power to rule. To conclude, the whole situation of this bitter power struggle could have been completely avoided if Edward IV was not blinded by love. Edward IV should have made it clear whether it is his Son to rule or his brother, and not have left his wills conflicting with each other.
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