Fotheringhay Church and Yorkist Mausoleum 1804. Watercolour by unknown artist.
Edmund, son of Richard Duke of York and Cicely Neville was born on the 17th May 1443 and died at the Battle of Wakefield with his father on the 30 December 1460. A short life….
I think, had he lived longer Edmund may have become a dependable and worthy member of the Plantagenets and his early death, at the age of 17, leads to a ‘what if?’. Everything may well have been so different. But it was not to be and its easy to imagine the grief that must have overwhelmed his mother, when the news was broken to her of the terrible outcome of Wakefield. Not only did she lose Edmund but her husband, who must have been her rock throughout most of her life. However Cicely was to carry on and to suffer even more tragedy later including the judicial murder of another son, Clarence, and the violent death of her youngest surviving son Richard at Bosworth. But that is another story.
To focus back on Edmund – he shared much of his childhood with his oldest brother Edward as can be seen by delightful letters written by the pair of them while at Ludlow to their father, which alway make me smile. Assuring their ‘Lorde and Fader‘ of their ‘wilfare‘ at the writing of the letter, they tell him ‘We were in good helth of bodis thonked be God‘ and ‘beseche your good Lordeschip that hit may plaese yowe to sende us Harry Lovedeyne grome of your kechyn whose svice is to us ryght agreable And we will sende yowe John Boyes to wayte on your good Lordeschip‘ (1)! Nice try boys!..sadly we dont know if it worked..
Edmund’s and Edward’s signatures on a letter to their father June 1454.
But the madness that become known as the Wars of the Roses was to end Edmund’s life in the cruellest way. Edmund fought along side his father and maternal uncle at the Battle of Wakefield – 30th December 1460 – and its hard to read the suggestion that, had Edmund had travelled west with his brother Edward, he may have survived. But stay with his father he did – and died – after a failed attempt to flee, murdered some say by Lord Clifford or at the very least on his orders.
After the battle Edmund and his father’s heads, together with that of his uncle Richard Earl of Salisbury, which had been detached ty a mob, were placed upon Micklegate Bar, York. A further heartache no doubt for Cicely but an act which spurred the Yorkists on. Determined to avenge his father and brother’s deaths, but three months later, Edward finally crushed the Lancastrians at Towton. One of his first actions was to have Edmund buried with his father at the Cluniac Priory of St John in Pontefract. Later in 1476, they were both ceremoniously reburied at Fotheringhey in the chancel of St Mary’s Church, but it remains unclear whether Edmund was buried in the same vault as his father or in the Lady Chapel. When Cicely’s time came she was, presumably, buried in her husband’s vault according to a request in her will. Richard and Cicely’s bodies were moved into a joint tomb in 1573 on the instructions of Elizabeth I, where they rest to this day. The Lady Chapel was destroyed and it is not known whether Edmund was found and re-buried with his parents – no mention of it was made – or found and lost again or still remains undiscovered. It would appear, sadly, that his remains were forgotten about at the time and are now lost (2). I do hope very much that, whether his remains were found or not, they still lay not far from his parents.
The tomb of Richard Duke of York and Cicely Neville Edmund’s parents. It is unknown whether Edmund was reburied with his parents. Tomb erected at the instruction of Elizabeth Ist.
- Excerpta Histórica: Or, Illustrations of English History p9, Samuel Bentley
- Creating and Recreating Yorkist Tombs in Fotheringhay online article Sofija Matich and Jennifer S Alexander.