A look at the primary holders or and contenders for the crown during this tumultuous era, presented in order of death, suggests that if one who wanted to live long might would do better to take holy orders. The list does not address the many relatives, followers and manipulators on each side who met untimely deaths.
While struggling to stay alive, contenders and holders of the throne could enjoy their sworn enemies, close relatives, and large swathes of the public variously describing them as cuckolds, illegitimate, drunk, feeble minded, degenerate, perverted, and murderous...frequently with good reason.
Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, who initially fronted the House of York in challenging Henry VI,
Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York
was dispatched in battle in 1460. by Lancastrian forces. To heap insult on the ultimate injury, his head was displayed on a pike. His son Edmund of Rutland died the same day, but for good or ill Richard had three other sons who continued to fight with Lancastrians and among themselves.
Henry VI, only son of Henry V, Agincourt conquerer, who died during his son's infancy) was reputed to be not very bright or mentally ill or perhaps just too pious and devoted to religion to be suited to the kingly role. His reign was an on and off affair, fighting off Richard, Duke of York and then Richard's son Edward, who became King Edward IV.
|Henry VI, saintly or just not quite all there?|
There were widespread rumors that Henry's wife, Margaret of Anjou, had resorted to outside help to impregnate her with their only child. Henry was ultimately murdered by or at the behest of his successor in the Tower in 1471, one day after the death of his only son (or not?) in battle.
George, Duke of Clarence, brother of Edward IV, kept trying to depose his brother. He defamed his own dear old Mum Cecily Neville, Duchess of York by spreading the word that Edward was her son, not by the duke, but by a hunky archer who had caught her eye. She was still alive and kicking when he told these tales and innocent or guilty she was surely royally not amused.Executed in the Tower in 1478 at the the behest of his brother the King, probably by being placed head down in a barrel of wine, which mirrored George's lifestyle.
Edward IV, reigned as king, his reign bifurcated by the brief return of Henry VI, from age 18 until his death of fever around age 40.
|Edward IV, a King of large appetites|
His own brother George had raised an allegation Edward was illegitimate on the basis that their mother, Cecily Neville, Duchess of York, had adultered with an archer while the Duke was away.
|Cecily Neville: did she let an archer take close aim?|
Seems to me that saying one's brother is base born because Mom had a roving eye could be used against oneself down the line, as well as annoying the aforementioned Mom who was very much alive when all this went down.
Edward and Richard, the two close-in age sons of Edward IV and his wife Elizabeth Woodville, first and second in line for the throne. They famously disappeared from being "protected" in the tower by their uncle, Richard III, who Edward IV had made the bad call of appointing to watch over during their minority. Richard took a leaf from the playbook of George and declared the boys were illegitimate based on the assertion that their father had been pre-contracted to marry somebody else when her married hottie Elizabeth.
|Elizabeth Woodville leveraged her looks and cunning|
to become queen, played the game and paid a price
Such pre contracts, often made during the early childhood of the pledged individuals, were frequently used to end marriages that one or both parties decided were less than ideal. Richard also put about that Elizabeth Woodville and her mother practiced witchcraft, but the basically relied on the legitimacy question. Under this pretext he put the princes aside and moved himself from Protector to King shortly before what would have been Edward's coronation. The princes, who were supposed to be comfortably housed in the Tower and studying with tutors, were never seen again. The disappearance dates to 1483, when they would have been twelve and ten.
The most widely believed theory is that Richard got a henchman to murder therm for obvious if unsavory reasons. However, some scholars and lots of fiction writers like the idea(s) that they were done away with by Henry Tudor, the eventual Henry VII to clear his own path and make Richard look bad, or that one or both were smuggled abroad. The princes had a boatload of legitimate siblings, but they were all girls. One of their sisters, Elizabeth of York, ultimately, after being pursued by Uncle Dickie, below, married Lancastrian Henry Tudor and thus helped unite the warring factions. She was also the mother of our uber-fascinating Henry VIII.
Richard III, oy vey, what can we say! Shakespeare, taking a leaf from chronicles by Thomas More, paints him as an ill-begotten envious and wretch with a deformed spine. Josephine Tey thinks he was a fine fellow. Most other fictionalizers come out somewhere in between. He very likely had his nephews killed and definitely tried to put aside his wife to marry his niece, which skeeved out even the thin family tree loving sensibilities of the time. Died a gruesome death at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.
|Richard III, malign or maligned?|
All these kings and contenders, and only Edward IV got to die in bed and he didn't have a peaceful time of it. Just sayin'