Duke of Lancaster, Duke of York, Edmund Crouchback, Henry Bolingbroke, House of Lancaster, House of York, King Edward IV of England and Lord of Ireland, King Henry IV of England, King Henry VI of England, Usurper, Wars of the Roses
This is the concluding post to whether or not King Edward IV of England, Lord of Ireland was a usurper. I took the long and winding road through many posts to demonstrate that King Edward IV had a much more superior claim to the throne than King Henry VI.
For a long time I did not consider King Edward IV a usurper. However, over the last several years I have run into many other historians who do consider King Edward IV a usurper and I have changed my mind.
The main reasons why I did not consider Edward IV a usurper for many years was because his assuming the crown restored the superior claim to the throne via primogenitor that was broken when Henry Bolingbroke usurped the throne.
In other words, I viewed that when Edward IV became king he restored the line of hereditary succession to how it would have been had Henry IV never usurped the throne. For myself there was a sense of justice with the superior claim of Edward IV being restored which negated any claim of illegality
Or so I thought.
Edward IV took the throne during the Wars of the Roses which is generally considered the conflict for the crown that began with the reign of Henry VI and concluded with Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond becoming King Henry VII after defeating King Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth field in August of 1485.
We have seen however, that the seeds for the War of the Roses were actually sown a few generations prior with the usurpation of Henry Bolingbroke as King Henry IV who stole the crown from King Richard II.
It is clear that Henry IV was a usurper. The definition of a usurper being someone who does not have the legal right to the throne. King Henry IV tried to legitimize his succession by outrageously claiming that Edmund Crouchback, Earl of Lancaster and Earl of Leicester (1245 – 1296) the second son of King Henry III of England and Eleanor of Provence, was actually the eldest son of King Henry III and that King Edward I was, in reality, a younger son of King Henry III and therefore all Kings of England from Edward I to Richard II were usurpers.
In this scenario Henry Bolingbroke claimed that his right to the throne stemmed from his descent from his mother and not his father.
Henry Bolingbrook descended twice from King Henry III. The first line of descent was through the male line from King Edward I through to Edward III who was Henry Bolingbrook’s grandfather via his father, John of Gaunt fourth son of King Edward III of England.
The second line of descent was through the female line from King Henry III through to Bolingbrook’s mother, Blanche of Lancaster, a great-great granddaughter of King Henry III via Henry III’s second son Edmund Crouchback Earl of Lancaster.
This is the line which Henry Bolingbroke asserted gave him hereditary right to the throne. Again, Bolingbroke, erroneously claimed that Edmund Crouchback was the eldest son of King Henry III and not King Edward I.
The usurpation of the throne by Henry Bolingbrook raises an interesting question for the House of Lancaster. Namely, when a king clearly usurps the throne how does that illegal reign affect the next king, the son and heir?
In other words, since Henry IV was a usurper shouldn’t that technically bar or disqualify his son, in this case King Henry V, from legally assuming the throne when it came his time to succeed?
Apparently not. As they say, when there is a revolution or a war, those that win are able to rewrite the rules. When Henry IV died on March 20, 1413 his eldest son succeeded to the throne is King Henry V despite the fact that there were others who had the superior hereditary claim.
When the young King Henry VI succeeded to the throne 9 years later upon the death of his father in 1422 he was regarded as the legal King of England.
Therefore, despite Edward IV and his father Richard, 3rd Duke of York, having had the superior hereditary claim to the throne; this fact was irrelevant because King Henry VI was the legal monarch of England.
So when Edward, 4th Duke of York, took the throne from King Henry VI basically by force, without any intervention of Parliament to legalize an altered succession, his assumption of the throne as King Edward IV of England was indeed a userpation.