The historical reputation of Edward IV, 1461-1725
By Andrew Robert Whittle
PhD Dissertation, University of East Anglia, 2017
Abstract: This thesis comprises a chronological study of different historical accounts of Edward IV’s life and reign from his life until the early eighteenth century. It focusses primarily on the way that historical portrayals of the king changed and developed alongside political, cultural and technological factors, something which has never been done before in any great detail.
It begins begin with an examination of the primary sources from Edward’s reign, including the propagandist accounts The Historie of the Arrivall of Edward IV and The Chronicle of the Rebellion in Lincolnshire, the Crowland Chronicle Continuations, Warkworth’s Chronicle, and the vernacular urban chronicles of London and Bristol. It will contextualise these by briefly examining the English chronicle tradition up to the fifteenth century, as well as the historical treatment of other late medieval kings, especially Henry V and Henry VI.
The core of the thesis concerns itself with historical accounts over the period from 1485 to the early seventeenth century, during which Edward IV’s historical reputation underwent its greatest period of development. One chapter concerns itself with humanist authors, particularly Polydore Vergil and Thomas More, and the contribution of the French memoirist Philippe de Commynes.
The next examines the impact of commercial printing during the mid-Tudor period, focussing upon the work of Richard Grafton, John Stow and Raphael Holinshed. Tudor and early Stuart Ballads, poems and plays featuring Edward are studied in order to give some indication of the perception of Edward IV in popular culture, with particular attention played to Heywood’s First and Second Parts of King Edward IV and Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part 3 and Richard III. Finally, later Stuart and early eighteenth century histories showing the final consolidation of Edward IV’s historical reputation are studied, with particular reference to William Habington’s History of Edward IV and Rapin de Thoyras’s History of England.