By 1483 Edward IV had dramatically improved the situation in England. He brought about widespread peace and stability, although it was not total as the events after his death in 1483 demonstrated. He achieved these successes in a number of ways. This essay will examine his removal of Lancastrian opposition, his control of the nobility, the image and prestige of the crown, his stronger government and also his financial situation and foreign policy, in order to assess the level of peace established. Edward ensured that by removing the Lancastrian opposition, in Henry VI, Margaret of Anjou and Prince Edward, England would remain peaceful. Arguably Edward was a very good military commander, he began his conquest of the house of Lancaster by defeating a force at Mortimer’s Cross in 1460.
He won a decisive victory at Towson, smashing the Lancastrian families and forcing Henry VI, Margaret of Anjou and Prince Edward to flee abroad. Once Edward had regained his throne in 1471, he took it upon himself to rid the country of the Lancastrian threat. The battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury saw the Neville brothers, Warwick and Montague, killed; along with Prince Edward. Margaret of Anjou was captured and placed in a nunnery soon after Tewkesbury, which left the Lancastrian line virtually non-existent. Henry VI was also captured and murdered in the same short space of time. By 1472 Henry Tudor was the only real threat to the peace of England, but he did not worry the king and did not mount an attack on England until after Edward was dead.
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Without significant opposition, the rest of Edward’s reign was relatively unchallenged, he was therefore successful and able to bring peace to England. Edward’s control of the nobility allowed him to bring peace to England after 1471. However, prior to this, his control over the nobles is questionable. Edward’s early control of his nobles was problematic. His main problem was of over mighty subjects, in particular Warwick ‘The Kingmaker’. Edward was unable to control Warwick and, like Henry before him, this lack of control led to tension and subsequent war between the two.
Edward’s attempts to raise Hastings and Herbert to a position where they could balance Warwick’s power, was an earnest effort to bring about peace to his kingdom. However it failed simply because of his lack of control over his nobles and the creation of factionalism between Richard Duke of Gloucester and Edward’s in-laws, the Wood villes. Edward’s failure to control this factionalism mean that there was no way of ensuring that it could not cause future problems. Nevertheless, the military campaigns of 1471 saw Edward destroy Warwick and many of the other nobles who had opposed him. Edward now began to rely on his personality to control his nobles.
Without Warwick and Clarence to oppose him, Edward had no further major problems with nobility after 1471. He left them to control law and order in their regions of power and would not intervene unless the stability of the nation was brought into question, particularly in cases of treason. In 1478 Edward tried to further the peace by introducing a law which reduced ‘retainers’, however it was unenforceable and Edward could do nothing about it. It can be said that he was successful to the extent that after 1471 there were no conflicts with the nobles and he was able to bring a relative peace to England.
Edward’s attempted restoration of prestige and image for the English crown, was also an attempt to bring peace to England. With a respected monarch there was less chance of conflict and Edward realised this. Similar to the financial situation of England, Henry had sunk the prestige of the throne during his reign. Edward sought to restore this image so that he would be given respect by his subjects and nobles. Edward set about this task with a number of military campaigns, aiming to claim back the land that Henry had lost.
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His maintenance of peace after 1471 restored most of the image he sought, but also his financial success, and to a certain extent, his foreign policy. Edward’s charismatic personality as well as his low cost banquets and parades, were of dramatic contrast to that of Henry, and subsequently seen as successful by many of his nobles. Throughout his reign Edward worked on gaining the prestige that the king of England deserved. By the end of his life, his only quandary was that he had left too young a king, in Edward V, to carry on these improvements in image. Subsequently the peace that Edward IV brought to England was greatly to do with the amount of respect and prestige he was able to generate for the crown. Edward’s establishment of a new and stronger system of government was a major catalyst toward the peace that followed.
Although Edward did not radically change his system of government, nor did he add anything new- it was simply reinvigorated, he did maintain and improve it. He gave it much more drive and effectiveness than before, by monitoring it, making sure that laws were enforced and abide by. Edward also abolished the Exchequer, where the king’s revenue was dealt with, in favour of the King’s Chamber. Money would now travel directly to the king, instead of through an inefficient bureaucracy. Furthermore the king’s use of a cygnet ring, instead of a royal stamp and wax, speeded up business and made it more efficient. Edward would promote lesser men to higher positions in order to keep the power balanced, although he still relied on his nobles to run the country from their respective areas.
A more efficient kingdom and form of government allowed Edward to rule better and bring about peace. This form of government was effective in that there were no full scale battles in England after 1471; it can therefore be said that this system was beneficial in Edward’s attempt to bring peace to the country. Edward brought relative peace to England through a number of financial success in his reign. However he was able to take more effective measures toward solvency after he regained his throne in 1471. Henry had been incompetent in financial matters, he had reduced the crown to near bankruptcy by granting away royal lands and being careless with money.
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Henry did not realise that to be a successful monarch you had to have good financial backing in order to avoid war and implement peace; a quality which Edward understood. In 1464 Edward began to take his first steps to reversing the situation that Henry had put him in. Edward introduced re-coinage in that year, by melting down all the old coins and inserting new ones. In the same period of time he reiterated the ‘Act of Resumption’ from Henry’s reign, however he used it more effectively in restoring the crown lands.
Still, Edward was unable to become solvent until he regained his throne in 1471. This done he began to promote trade, in order to increase customs duties, he also gained more income from royal estates and feudal dues such as ‘rights of wardship’. An increase in foreign trade and a campaign against the pirates saw Edward become more sound financially. Treaties linked to his foreign policy brought money from France in 1475 (Picquigny) of 50, 000 gold crowns as a yearly pension. By 1478 Edward had reached solvency and had restored the financial stability of England, the crown was now making a profit from its actions. Edward was very good at cutting costs while also retaining the image that he had worked so hard on.
With this skill and money to put towards maintaining the law and order in the country, England became more peaceful while Edward’s financial situation was good. Edward’s dealings with foreign policy can be seen as a success or failure. It is true, however, that without a strong foreign policy, Edward would not have been able to bring any peace to England. It is important to link Edward’s foreign campaigns to both gaining finance, as he did in Picquigny 1475, and also to restoring the prestige of the crown that Henry had lost. Those were the main motives behind his foreign policy, as well as eliminating opposition such as the Scottish, in order to keep the peace. In this Edward was successful, he succeeded in restoring respect for the crown by attacking France (1475) and Burgundy (1478), both made treaties which gained extra financial support from Louis and also a truce which would ensure that a peace in England would be held.
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Similarly an offensive in Scotland at Edinburgh (1477) would see off a threat from the north. Having gained foreign support Edward was excluded from a treaty at Arras (1482), which was to threaten the peace he had brought. Subsequently Edward lost his pension from the French king. Arguably Edward’s foreign policy was largely unsuccessful; however it achieved the recognition of his dynasty in Europe, was able to keep England peaceful and, in comparison with Henry, was a huge success. Had Edward lived longer than 1483, he would have been able to make his foreign policy into a more effective weapon of peace. In conclusion, it must be said that Edward did not actually bring about total peace to England.
However his attempts to do so and avoidance of full scale conflicts after 1471 are to his credit. Edward’s reign certainly ended a period of conflict within Henry VI’s time and he was able to establish a level of law and order which at least prevented large scale warfare in England after 1471.