Edward IV: champion of the Wars of the Roses

The first Yorkist king of England was given short shrift by Shakespeare. Yet AJ Pollard, author of a new book on Edward, argues that he was a remarkable military leader who decisively won the bloody, dynastic conflict

A portrait of Edward IV, the first Yorkist king of England. From the National Portrait Gallery. (Photo by Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the May 2016 issue of BBC History Magazine 

Shakespeare did not have much time for Edward IV. None of his history plays are dedicated to England’s first Yorkist king. Instead, the writer split that monarch’s reign between two plays: Henry VI, Part 3 and Richard III – and Edward almost disappears between the two. A shallow, fickle man, he is overshadowed first by the heroic Warwick ‘the Kingmaker’, then by his own villainous younger brother. In Richard III, the second part of his reign (1471–83) is reduced to five scenes, in which the king is a bit player in all but two. Rendered sick and pliable, Edward is largely irrelevant to the course of events as he is manipulated by the Machiavellian Richard.

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