Saturday, 9 April 2011

This Sun of York

Today, 9 April, is the anniversary of the death of Edward IV in 1483.

Edward IV is perhaps England’s most under-rated king. He reigned for more than twenty years (with a brief hiatus in 1470-71 due to a Lancastrian resurgence), an achievement in itself in the Middle Ages.

He introduced many of the policies that Henry VII and Henry VIII are given credit for. He restored the authority of the monarchy, non-existent under Henry VI. He tried to diminish and counterbalance the power of the great noble families - that was the point of the Woodville marriage. He understood the importance of trade and paid attention to economic affairs and the interests of the merchant classes.

Is the lack of appreciation for Edward IV a sign that Tudor propaganda is still effective, five hundred years later?

The one thing Edward failed to do was live long enough for his heir to reach his majority. In the Middle Ages, an under-age king was nearly always a disaster for the country.

If Edward IV had lived another ten years or so, and Edward V had succeeded to the throne as an adult, would he have had a successful reign?

Would he have managed to break away from the Woodvilles and overcome the faction and rivalry among the nobility? Would he have defeated Henry Tudor in battle? Would the break with Rome and the Reformation still have happened in the sixteenth century?

Joan Aiken wrote a series of novels based on the idea that the Hanoverians never succeeded and the Stuart dynasty continued into the nineteenth century. (The novels were written for children, but can be enjoyed by adults.)

Perhaps a historical novelist should show us what English history might have been like if there had been no Tudors.

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