Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1478, died George, Duke of Clarence.

Clarence was a royal prince of the House of York who plotted with the Lancastrians against his brother, King Edward IV, and was assassinated by drowning in a butt of malmsey wine.  

George of Clarence was the second son of Richard, Duke of York, claimant to the throne of England. Richard fought a series of battles with king Henry VI, in the Wars of The Roses, but was eventually defeated and killed in battle. His elder son, Edward, carried on the conflict, deposing Henry VI, and proclaiming himself king Edward IV in 1461.  

The new king elevated his brother, George, to the title of Duke of Clarence, but the young duke conspired with Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, against Edward. Clarence married Warwick’s daughter, Isabel, forming an alliance and the two conspirators raised a force in the North and led an uprising against Edward, deposing him from the throne in 1470. They restored the ineffectual, and by now insane, monarch Henry VI to the throne, using him as a puppet king while they had power over the kingdom.  

But Clarence soon became embittered with Warwick’s government and reconciled himself with his brother, fighting another series of battles, deposing Henry VI and restoring Edward to the throne once more in 1471.  

But Edward, now restored to the throne, did not trust his younger brother. He suspected that he was plotting against him again and had him thrown into the Tower. Edward complained to Parliament that Clarence had been preparing yet another rebellion and Parliament passed a ‘Bill of Attainder’ sentencing Clarence to death by beheading.  

The circumstances of Clarence’s death are unclear. Some say that he was beheaded secretly, some say that he was murdered by his younger and more ambitious brother, Richard of Gloucester, later Richard III, but the most prevalent rumour was that he had been despatched by drowning in a in a butt of malmsey wine. A body, supposedly that of Clarence, was later exhumed from the Tower, but the corpse was intact complete with head, and was buried as Clarence in Tewksbury Abbey. [Church Street, Tewksbury, Gloucester, GL20 5RZ]  

Edward IV died mysteriously in 1483, and was succeeded by his son, Edward V, who was deposed and murdered by the third brother, Richard III.

For other unusual royal deaths see 24th March.

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