Edward IV was indisputably the most effective general of the Wars of the Roses. His actions on the battlefields against the Lancastrians saw him become King of England twice, a title which he contended with Henry VI for almost twenty years before his sudden death in 1483 at the age of 41. In this time, Edward was undefeated in battle and proved himself as a formidable and deadly military leader.
Edward’s first exposure to warfare came when he was just thirteen years-old when he stood beside his father, the Duke of York, at the Battle of St Albans in 1455. In the sixteen years that followed, a series of bloody battles ensued. Yet Edward never achieved the martial reputation of other warrior kings such as Henry V – perhaps because he fought his battles against his own people. It has also been suggested that he lacked the personal discipline expected of a truly great commander. However, as David Santiuste shows in this discerning and highly readable new book, Edward was a superb military leader whose strengths and subtlety have not been fully recognised.
On the battlefield he was an audacious soldier, fighting like a lion to defend his rights. As well as showing superb combat skills, his strategic nature and sound military mind allowed him to withdraw when the odds were stacked against him. Yet for all his military prowess, warfare to Edward was always a means to an end and he often preferred to forgive his enemies rather than destroy them. Nevertheless, in 1461 and 1471, he waged two brutal and relentless campaigns, crushing all the opposition in his path.
David Santiuste’s reassessment of Edward’s military role, and of the Wars of the Roses in which he played such a vital part, gives a fascinating insight into the politics and the fighting. Based on contemporary sources and the latest scholarly research, Edward IV and the Wars of the Roses brings to life an extraordinary period of English history and is essential reading for anyone with an interest in this fascinating period.