Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales

December 1473 – 9 April 31 March 1484

Edward of Middleham was the only child of King Richard III and his wife Anne Neville, younger daughter of Richard Nevile, Earl of Warwick known as 'the Kingmaker' and was born in December 1473 at Middleham Castle in Yorkshire. His birth is reputed to have taken place in the round tower at the south-west corner of the curtain wall of the castle, traditionally known as the Prince's Tower.

Cenotaph at Sherrif Hutton ChurchEdward of Middleham, Prince of Wales

On the death of King Edward IV in 1483, Edward of Middleham's father, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, seized the throne of Edward's young cousin, Edward V, having himself crowned as Richard III at Westminster Abbey on 6 July 1483. Edward, a sickly child, who was earlier known as Earl of Salisbury, did not attend his parents glittering coronation, possibly due to his poor health, he remained in Yorkshire.

Little is known about Edward's life prior to his father's accession to the throne in the summer of 1483. He was appointed nominal Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on 19th July and created Earl of Cornwall on 26 June 1483, his father later created him Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, the traditional titles given to the monarch's eldest son and heir, in a lavish ceremony at York on 24 August 1483.

Edward's investiture as Prince of Wales was held at the Archbishop's Palace, Richard girded Edward with a sword, placed a gold ring on his finger and a golden staff in his hand. During the ceremony, Edward's half-brother, Richard's illegitimate son John of Pontefract, and his nephew, Edward, Earl of Warwick, ( the son of George, Duke of Clarence) were knighted.

Edward, always a delicate child, died of what was probably tuberculosis on 31 March 1484. Many in that superstitious age were inclined to interpret the child's death as divine retribution for Richard's implication in the usurpation and subsequent disappearance of the young sons of his brother Edward IV. The Croyland Chronicle records of the event:-

Edward of Middleham with his parents, Richard III and Anne NevilleEdward of Middleham, Prince of Wales

'However, in a short time after, it was fully seen how vain are the thoughts of a man who desires to establish his interests without the aid of God. For, in the following month of April, on a day not very far distant from the anniversary of king Edward, this only son of his, in whom all the hopes of the royal succession, fortified with so many oaths, were centred, was seized with an illness of but short duration, and died at Middleham Castle, in the year of our Lord, 1484, being the first of the reign of the said king Richard. On hearing the news of this, at Nottingham, where they were then residing, you might have seen his father and mother in a state almost bordering on madness, by reason of their sudden grief.'

A monument which was long thought to be Edward of Middleham stands in the north-east corner of the medieval church of St. Helen and Holy Cross, in the Yorkshire village of Sheriff Hutton. The mutilated white alabaster effigy of a child wearing a long, belted robe and a coronet, is not a tomb but a cenotaph (i.e. it is empty), Richard buried his son in an unknown location. The tomb was tentatively identified as that of Edward partly based on the presence of a small piece of fifteenth-century stained glass set into the window above the tomb. The glass depicts the Sun in Splendour, a symbol used by the House of York. According to one story, he was buried in the church, not beneath where the effigy now stands, but on the opposite, southern side of the church, in the ancestral chapel of the Nevilles, his mother's family. It is now thought that Edward was buried in the church of Saints Mary and Alkelda in Middleham,

The monument was dismantled at some unknown date, attempts at cleaning and conservation were made in the nineteenth century, it was finally reassembled in the twentieth century and provided with a new core and damp course at the expense of the Richard III Society.

After Prince Edward's death, King Richard appointed John de la Pole, the son of his sister Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk, as his heir. De la Pole was slain at the Battle of Stoke during the reign of Richard III's enemy and supplanter, Henry VII.