Arms of Edward, 4th Duke of York, before he became King Edward IV
Edward IV (28 April 1442 – 9 April 1483) was King of England from 4 March 1461 to 3 October 1470, and again from 11 April 1471 until his death. He was the first Yorkist king.
As a child, he grew up during the early phases of the Wars of the Roses, with his father Richard, 3rd Duke of York claiming to be the rightful heir to the throne in opposition to Henry VI. Richard had multiple times been offered, and later denied, the throne; a series of Yorkist military victories led to the Act of Accord, in which Henry VI disinherited his own son Edward of Westminster and recognized Richard as his heir. The war continued, however, under the leadership of Henry VI's wife Margaret of Anjou, and only a few weeks later Richard was killed in battle; his claims to the throne devolving to his own son Edward. After a series of Yorkist victories over the Lancastrians, Edward proclaimed himself king in March, 1461, traveled to London, and had himself crowned.
While many leading families still supported Henry VI, Edward was able to gain the throne and maintain control of it through the patronage of the Neville family, primarily Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, who was known to history as "The Kingmaker" for his role in bringing Edward to the throne. Edward's impetuous marriage to Elizabeth Woodville greatly offended the Nevilles, largely because Warwick had been negotiating several continental alliances to support Edward's tenuous reign, including a marriage to one of several family members of Louis XI of France. Warwick, embarrassed by the actions of Edward, withdrew his and his family's support for the Yorkist faction. As Edward showered honors and titles upon the Woodville family, his support among the other nobles of the realm evaporated, and the Wars of the Roses began anew. The Lancastrian faction won several battles throughout 1469 and 1470, and Edward had to flee to Flanders as Henry VI was restored to the throne.
Edward did not wait idle in Flanders; he used his alliance with the Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy to support a small invasion force which landed in the city of York (the base of his power in England) in early 1471, and marched south, gaining supporters along the way. After first defeating and killing Warwick at the Battle of Barnet, his forces fought and won the Battle of Tewkesbury in which Edward of Westminster, Henry's heir, was killed. Henry died under mysterious circumstances only a few days later, and Edward was restored to the throne. Having resoundingly defeated all of his opposition, he reigned in relative domestic peace until his sudden death in 1483, leaving two young sons, the older of which became king briefly before Edward's brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester seized the throne and declared himself king.
Edward of York was born at Rouen in Normandy, the second son of Richard, 3rd Duke of York (who had a strong genealogical claim to the throne of England[a]), and Cecily Neville. He was the eldest of the four sons who survived to adulthood. He bore the title Earl of March before his father's death and his accession to the throne.
Edward's father Richard of York had been the designated heir to King Henry VI (reigned 1422–1461) until the birth of Henry's son Edward in 1453. Richard carried on a factional struggle with the king's Beaufort relatives. He established a dominant position after his victory at the First Battle of St Albans in 1455, in which his chief rival Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, was killed. However, Henry's wife, Margaret of Anjou, rebuilt a powerful faction to oppose the Yorkists over the following years. In 1459 Margaret moved against the Duke of York and his principal supporters—his brother-in-law Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, and Salisbury's son Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who rose in revolt.
The Yorkist leaders fled from England after the collapse of their army in the confrontation at Ludford Bridge. The Duke of York took refuge in Ireland, while Edward went with the Nevilles to Calais where Warwick was governor. In 1460 Edward landed in Kent with Salisbury, Warwick and Salisbury's brother William Neville, Lord Fauconberg, raised an army, and occupied London. Edward, Warwick and Fauconberg left Salisbury besieging the Tower of London and advanced against the king, who was with an army in the Midlands, and defeated and captured him in the Battle of Northampton. York returned to England and was declared the king's heir by parliament (in the Act of Accord), but Queen Margaret raised a fresh army against him, and he was killed at the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December 1460, along with his second surviving son Edmund, Earl of Rutland, and the Earl of Salisbury.