The Children Who Predeceased Edward IV

When Edward IV died in April 1483, he was survived by two sons and five daughters. His eldest daughter, Elizabeth, would become Henry VII’s queen, his sons would disappear during Richard III’s reign, his daughters Cecily, Anne, and Katherine would marry, and his youngest daughter, Bridget, would become a nun. But what of the often-forgotten children–three of them–who died before their father?

Mary

The first of these children, Mary, was Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville’s second daughter, who was born at Windsor Castle in August 1467. She was christened on 12 August 1467, a couple months after the famous tournament between Anthony Woodville and the Bastard of Burgundy at Smithfield. Cardinal Bourchier, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was her godfather; her godmothers are not recorded, but perhaps Elizabeth’s younger sister Mary served as one of them, and gave the infant her name. A year later, in October 1468, Edward IV granted the queen an allowance of 400 pounds per year for the expenses of her two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary. Mary’s governess during her early years was Margaret, Lady Berners, who served the princess until Lady Berners’ death in 1475.

Edward IV, preparing for what would be an anticlimatic expedition to France in 1475, drew up his will. Like her sister Elizabeth, Mary was to have a marriage portion of ten thousand marks if she married in accordance with the wishes of her mother and the Prince of Wales. If she disparaged herself, her ten thousand marks would go toward her father’s debts. Edward IV did not intend his daughters to make a runaway match as he had.

Instead of making war on the French king, Louis XI, Edward IV ended up entering into a peace treaty with him. As part of the arrangements, Elizabeth of York was promised to Charles, the Dauphin of France. In the event that Elizabeth died before the marriage took place, Mary was to take her place as the Dauphin’s promised bride.

In July 1476, Edward IV reburied his father, Richard, Duke of York, who had been killed at the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December 1460. The reburial took place at Fotheringhay. Among those making offerings at the requiem mass were “the queen and her two daughters,” presumably her first two daughters, Elizabeth and Mary, who was almost nine at the time.

The next ceremony Mary was called upon in which to participate was probably more to the young girl’s taste than the burial of the grandfather she had never known. In January 1478, Mary’s four-year-old brother Richard, Duke of York, married an older woman, the five-year-old Anne Mowbray. As the little bride entered the chapel, the king, the queen, and their daughters Elizabeth, Mary, and Cecily waited for her under a canopy of cloth of gold.

In 1481, Mary, apparently no longer needed as a stand-in for her older sister’s engagement, was proposed as a bride for Frederick I of Denmark. Sadly, instead of becoming queen of Denmark, Mary died in May 1482 at Greenwich–eleven months before her father.

Mary’s burial at Windsor, also her birthplace, took place on 27-28 May 1482. Among the ladies present were Jane, Lady Grey of Ruthyn (Elizabeth Woodville’s sister), the widow of Sir Anthony Grey of Ruthyn; Joan, Lady Strange, a niece of Elizabeth Woodville who was married to George Stanley; and Katherine Grey, probably the daughter of Jane, Lady Grey. The chief mourner is not identified but may have been Jane, Lady Grey, the first woman named by the herald who recorded the funeral ceremonies.

Mary was buried alongside her little brother George. Her grave was excavated in 1810.

Margaret

Conceived several months after her father recovered his throne in 1471, poor little Margaret was born at Windsor on 10 April 1472 and died on 11 December 1472. She was buried at Westminster Abbey before St. Edward’s shrine. According to Mary Ann Everett Green, her Latin tomb inscription, translated into English, reads: “Nobility and beauty, grace and tender youth are all hidden here in this chest of death. That thou mayest know the race, name, sex and time of death, the margin of the tomb will manifest all to thee.”

George

Ralph Griffiths believes that George, Edward IV’s little-known third son, was born during 1477. He could have been named after Edward IV’s younger brother George, Duke of Clarence, though any such tribute to Clarence would have taken place before George’s arrest in June 1477. Griffiths also suggests that George might have been named for Saint George, prompted by Edward IV’s rebuilding of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor.

Edward IV named George as his lieutenant of Ireland on 6 July 1478 and appointed Henry, Lord Grey of Codnor as his deputy. Young George never got a look at the emerald isle. In March 1479 he died, probably a victim of the plague or another epidemic disease. Griffiths believes that the boy was staying at Sheen at the time of his death.

George’s half-brother by the queen’s first marriage, Thomas, Marquess of Dorset, attended George’s funeral at Windsor, as did his uncle, Anthony, Earl Rivers; John, Lord Strange, the husband of Elizabeth’s sister Jacquetta; John Blunt, Lord Mountjoy; Richard Hastings, Lord Welles; and Lord Ferrers of Chartley. By custom, Edward IV was not publicly present at his son’s funeral, although it is possible that he observed the proceedings from an enclosed space. He was issued a robe of blue, however, a color worn by Margaret of Anjou and Elizabeth of York when their mothers died.

Sources:

James Gairdner, ed., The Paston Letters.

Mary Anne Everett Green, Lives of the Princesses of England

William Nichol, Illustrations of Ancient State and Chivalry

Cora Scofield, The Life and Reign of Edward the Fourth

Anne Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs with R. A. Griffiths, The Royal Funerals at the House of York at Windsor

Anne Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs with P. W. Hammond, The Reburial of Richard, Duke of York 21-30 July 1476

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19 Responses to The Children Who Predeceased Edward IV

  1. Mary Tod says:

    It is always so difficult to keep the relationships amongst royal families straight. The families are so intertwined and the people have more than one name, more than one marriage and so on. And then, of course, they had so many children! Interesting to hear about these forgotten ones who played their parts despite their short lives.

  2. While researching royal genealogy over the years, it has always amazed me that King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville had so many children together and yet only Elizabeth of York’s descendents have survived and thrived over the centuries. Except for Elizabeth of York’s half-brother, Thomas Grey, whose descendents also thrived, the rest of their siblings’ lines eventually all died out.

    • boswellbaxter says:

      It’s strange, isn’t it? And Elizabeth’s brothers were equally unproductive, except for Anthony Woodville’s illegitimate daughter.

    • Christina Wells says:

      I am a direct decedent of Edward IV and Elizabeth through there daughter Cecily who married my direct ancestor (great grandfather) Lord Welles.

  3. Elizabeth Gayle Fellows says:

    Enjoyed the information, and to keep all the family members straight is difficult, however, Edward IV did have an illegitimate son Arthur – his first born child. He did raise this chap, he lived in Edward IV’s household. He grew up to marry and have children of his own.. He had 3 daughters, one of them was another Elizabeth Plantagenet… they also used the Plantagenet name… All three daughter survived, and married.

    • boswellbaxter says:

      Thanks, Elizabeth! I should have made it more clear that the post was only about Edward’s legitimate children.

  4. Michael Williams says:

    Hi I have always been keenly interested in history and watch most costume dramas,but would be interested to know in which order Edward iv children were born and who survivded.
    Thank You.

  5. Jamie Adair says:

    This is a great blog and a neat article. George of Windsor was born in March 1477 according to Charles Ross. I haven’t been able to find out who the baby’s godfather was. However, given the fact that Clarence’s son had only died two months before and Edward had denied him Mary of Burgundy’s hand, Clarence seems like a possibility. I believe babies were often named for their godparents. Like you point out, Clarence wasn’t arrested until 10 June 1477, acc Hicks in “False, Fleeting, Perjur’d Clarence.”

    Your point about Saint George is very interesting. If you’ve learned anything since this post about Baby George, please let us know!

  6. Janet Kennedy says:

    I would love to know more about his illegitimate son with Elizabeth Waite, Arthur Plantagenet. I loved to hear that he lived with the king. According to Ancestry.com, I am a direct descendent of Arthur through his daughter Frances Plantagenet and my grandmother Alma Duke. (Of course I need to confirm with more research than someone else’ tree but its fun to think about). For example, their records show he died in the Tower of London ABT 1470 but at age 72. Why would he be murdered at such an old age and with three heirs remaining alive? What was happening abt 1470? I understand the male York line was pretty much wiped out thanks to and after Richard III. But I just discovered the possible connection so I may be getting things mixed up.

    • boswellbaxter says:

      Arthur was imprisoned by Henry VIII, but not murdered–he died of a heart attack after learning that he had been pardoned and was set to be released. Poor man!

  7. Janet Kennedy says:

    Sorry, that’s when he was born– he died March 3, 1542 –Arthur Plantagenet

  8. I am curious about the baby boy who was born prematurely and died the same day the Queen Mother did. Was he ever named?

    • boswellbaxter says:

      I don’t think there could have been such a boy. Elizabeth’s daughter Margaret was born on April 10, 1472, and Jacquetta died on May 30, 1472.

  9. C. O'Grady says:

    I am interested in Edward IV’s illegitimate children.
    Of course it was claimed that all the children he had with Elizabeth Woodville were illegitimate due to a prior contract and Richard 111 used this to his advantage.
    But I am also interested in the 4 illegitimate children-those he had by other women. One wonders who they and their mothers were?

    One of these children was said to be Lord Lille.

    This came up when a relative was tracing our family tree. He
    was the great (unknown how many times) grand-father of Lady Rawlinson. My great grandmother said she was her great grandmother.

    Perhaps someone reading this might be very kind and suggest any possible means to research all this further.

    • boswellbaxter says:

      Arthur, Viscount Lisle, was an illegitimate son of Edward IV. Elizabeth Lucy is generally thought to have been his mother. Another child, Grace, is mentioned in the account of Elizabeth Woodville’s funeral as an illegitimate daughter of Edward IV, but nothing else is known about her. Other possible children have been named, but there doesn’t seem to be solid evidence for their connection to the king.

  10. Great post, I’ve been reading a lot about Edward IV and his family lately, and in my own family research I am always drawn to the individuals who have died young and risk being forgotten.

  11. Pingback: [ elizabeth woodville queen of england family tree ] Best Web Pages | (NetizenOpinion)

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