This portrait of Edward IV, taken from the Black Book of the Order of the Garter, shows him as a true king, strong, powerful, and ready for battle. It is in stout contrast to the image of Henry VI, the Lancastrian King deposed by Edward, who is portrayed instead as an old man in robes, weak and ineffective.
Edward’s reign began in bloodshed and civil war, in what has become known as the Wars of the Roses. At the time it was known as the Cousins’ War, with families fighting against each other in the battle between the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster. Edward would eventually be the winner, destroying his enemies in a series of spectacular victories. He was a very competent military leader who would never be defeated on the battle field.
But Edward was more than that; he was also a patron of the arts who was interested in history and literature, commissioning beautifully illuminated manuscripts from the best artists in Bruges, while also supporting William Caxton in his efforts at developing the printed book in England. He was also a keen businessman, personally investing in the trade of wool, lead and tin which operated out of London, and encouraging the rising export of English goods.
In his desire to establish a grand monument to his family, Edward IV enlarged and magnificently decorated St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Within its walls would be found the best examples of carved woodwork, gilded decoration and wrought ironwork anywhere in England in the 15th century. It would later act as a fitting burial place for Edward, and he left close instructions on how this was to be achieved. His wife, Elizabeth Woodville, is buried with him.
From 16 May 2013, a new exhibition in the South Quire Aisle will highlight these different aspects of Edward’s character, and his close association with St George’s Chapel.
The exhibition will be open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm when the Chapel is open to visitors. Windsor Castle admission charges apply.
Eleanor Cracknell, Assistant Archivist