English School , Late Sixteenth Century
Edward V is familiarly known as one of the ‘Princes in the Tower’ ...
This late-Tudor period oil on oak panel representing Edward V is an extreme scarcity within the context of sixteenth-century historical portraiture. He is one of the least portrayed monarchs within the context of ‘corridor portraiture’ which sought to represent the faces of appropriate dynastic precursors to the Tudors. The image represents a late-Elizabethan interpretation of the king’s only known contemporary likeness located in The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers (England, 1477). An engraving which shows Edward facing his father, supposedly published by the print seller Sir Robert Peake (c.1592-1667) in c.1640, shows a very similar portrait-type of Edward, albeit with a more intricately designed undergarment and the cap replaced by a floating crown.
The style of this painting which is decorative, bold and incisively inscribed with the subject’s identity, is an example of a type of portraiture in high demand from the mid-sixteenth century. Images such as this were almost certainly produced as part of a set of historical figures to line the walls of loyal aristocracy, and learned landed gentry alike for their domestic ‘long galleries’ (although Edward is an extremely infrequent inclusion). The period of this panel is confirmed by dendrochronological (tree-ring) analysis which places a plausible creation date from c.1588-1598, confirming its late-sixteenth century stylistic characteristics.
Edward V – familiarly known as one of the ‘Princes in the Tower’ - is one of the more tragic monarchs in English history, whose short life has recently been thrust to the forefront following the emergence of the remains of his uncle, Richard III (1452-85), historically credited by many with his murder.
Edward was the eldest son of King Edward IV (1442-83) who, by the time his son was born in November 1470, had been overthrown by King Henry VI and was now in exile. With French support Edward IV returned to England and successfully defeated Henry at the Battle of Tewkesbury in May 1471, and soon after created his son Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester. Edward’s education was overseen by John Alcock, Bishop of Rochester, and his interests, both financial and marital, were protected by his father and his council, based in Ludlow.
Edward was supposed to be crowned immediately following his father’s death on 9 April 1483, however instead he was captured by his uncle and Lord Protector Richard, Duke of Gloucester (1452-85) (later Richard III), and was escorted to the tower - later joined by his younger brother, Richard. The coronation of Edward was postponed as Richard, now planning to seize the throne for himself, continued to claim that the Woodville family (the family of Edward’s mother) was intent on seizing power. In June 1483 Richard published his claim to the throne and on 6 July he was crowned King Richard III. There was understandable uproar in support of young Edward, and by late 1483, following the discovery of a conspiracy to rescue them, both young boys disappeared, resulting in one of history’s greatest unsolved mysteries.