Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick (February 25, 1475 – November 28, 1499) was the son of George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville and a potential claimant to the English throne during the reigns of both his uncle, Richard III (1483–1485), and Richard’s successor, Henry VII (1485–1509). He was also a younger brother of Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury. Edward was tried and executed for treason in 1499.
Edward Plantagenet was the son of George Plantagenet, 1st Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville.
George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence (1449 – 1478), was the 6th son of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, and Cecily Neville, and the brother of English kings Edward IV and Richard III.
His mother was Lady Isabel Neville (1451 – 1476) was the elder daughter and co-heiress of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick (the Kingmaker of the Wars of the Roses), and Anne de Beauchamp, suo jure 16th Countess of Warwick.
She was also the elder sister of Anne Neville, who was Princess of Wales as the wife of Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales, the only son and heir apparent of King Henry VI. Through her second marriage she was Queen of England as the wife of King Richard III.
Edward was born on February 25, 1475 at Warwick, the family home of his mother. At his christening, his uncle King Edward IV stood as godfather. He was styled as Earl of Warwick from birth, but was not officially granted the title until after his father’s death in 1478.
Edward’s potential claim to the throne following the deposition of his cousin Edward V in 1483 was overlooked because of the argument that the attainder of his father barred Warwick from the succession (although that could have been reversed by an Act of Parliament). Despite this, he was knighted at York by Richard III in September 1483.
In 1480, Edward was made a ward of King Edward IV’s stepson, Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset, who as his guardian had the power to decide whom he would marry. Clements Markham, writing in 1906, claimed that Richard III had “liberated” Edward from the Tower of London, where Dorset had placed him; however, there are no contemporary sources for this claim, although Dorset was Constable of the Tower.
Dominic Mancini wrote that Richard, on becoming king, “gave orders that the son of the duke of Clarence, his other brother, then a boy of ten years old, should come to the city: and commanded that the lad should be kept in confinement in the household of his wife”.
John Rous (died 1492) wrote that after the death of Richard III’s only legitimate son, Edward of Middleham, Richard III named Edward Earl of Warwick as heir to the throne; however, there is no other evidence for this, and historians have pointed out that it would be illogical for Richard to claim that Clarence’s attainder barred Warwick from the throne while at the same time naming him as his heir.
However, in 1485, upon the death of Richard’s queen, Anne, Edward was created Earl of Salisbury by right of his mother, who was a co-heiress with Anne to the earldom.
Imprisonment and execution
After King Richard III’s death in 1485, Edward, Earl of Warwick, only ten years old, was kept as prisoner in the Tower of London by Henry VII. His claim to the English throne, albeit tarnished, remained a potential threat to Henry VII, particularly after the appearance of the pretender Lambert Simnel in 1487.
In 1490, he was confirmed in his title of Earl of Warwick despite his father’s attainder (his claim to the earldom of Warwick being through his mother). But he remained a prisoner until 1499, when he became involved (willingly or unwillingly) in a plot to escape with Perkin Warbeck.
On November 21, 1499, Edward, Earl of Warwick appeared at Westminster for a trial before his peers, presided over by John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford. A week later, Edward, Earl of Warwick was beheaded for treason on Tower Hill.
Henry VII paid for his body and head to be taken to Bisham Abbey in Berkshire for burial. It was thought at the time that the Earl of Warwick was executed in response to pressure from Fernando II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, whose daughter, Catherine of Aragon, was to marry Henry VII’s heir, Arthur. Catherine was said to feel very guilty about Warwick’s death, and believed that her trials in later life were punishment for it.
A number of historians have claimed that Warwick had a mental disability. This conclusion appears entirely based on the chronicler Edward Hall’s contention that Warwick’s lengthy imprisonment from a young age had left him “out of all company of men, and sight of beasts, in so much that he could not discern a goose from a capon.”
Upon Warwick’s death, the House of Plantagenet became extinct in the legitimate male line. However, the surviving sons of his aunt Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk, continued to claim the throne for the Yorkist line.