Edward secretly marries Elizabeth Woodville at Grafton Manor. She is the widow of Sir John Grey, who died fighting for the Lancastrian cause at St Albans three years previously. Her mother, Jacquetta of Luxembourg, belonged to the upper ranks of the European aristocracy – but her father was no more than a member of a minor gentry family who’d provided an attractive second husband for a widowed duchess. Edward realises that this marriage is a serious political mistake and hence hides it from even close friends for the next four months.
At a council meeting, Edward finally reveals the fact of his marriage. The initial reaction of incomprehension finally gives way to anger and mistrust. Edward’s revelation also brings to a head a growing rift between himself and the man who helped put him on the throne – the Earl of Warwick. Warwick seems unaware of the fact that now Edward is king, he would like to be allowed to rule himself – rather than having to refer every policy decision to Warwick. Warwick may have put Edward on the throne, but that doesn’t mean he’s in charge of English foreign policy making.
Warwick’s belief that English policy = Warwick’s policy draws him into a net of flattery spun by king Louis XI of France. The Earl begins negotiations with Louis, despite Edward’s preference for an alliance with Burgundy. Warwick increasingly presses for a French alliance; an alliance that will be sealed by the marriage of Edward to one of Louis’ daughters. Edward’s revelation not only destroys several months of careful negotiation, but also does something far worse – it makes Warwick look a fool.
Another aspect of the Woodvilles begins to make itself felt. Elizabeth comes as part of a package – in this case five brothers, seven unmarried sisters and two sons by her first husband. All of these want their slice of the cake and providing for them is not easy. The lands seized from attainted Lancastrian nobles after Towton have all been parcelled out – hence the only way to satisfy the queen’s family is to arrange advantageous marriages for them. This Edward does, with the result that by 1469, every English earl with a male heir has chosen a Woodville wife for him to marry. Since Warwick has two daughters and no male heir, Edward’s action makes finding husbands for them next to impossible. Edward makes matters much worse by refusing to let them marry his two younger brothers, Richard Duke of Gloucester and George Duke of Clarence.
Warwick increasingly takes the view that he is being ousted from his rightful place as chief councillor to the king by a mob of graceless parvenus. Edward continues to treat him as a valued advisor and if the king has other friends to whom he listens as well, why that should be no cause for plotting rebellion…
However, it appears that Warwick’s attitude turns increasingly against his former protégé. Rather than look abroad for allies, the Earl finds them much closer to home in the shape of the Duke of Clarence and English public opinion.
Although George is probably annoyed at Edward’s refusal to let him marry Isabel Neville, he has lands and titles in plenty and no obvious reason to rebel. However, while Edward and Elizabeth remain childless, George is the heir to the throne. To this day it remains uncertain exactly what Warwick’s intentions were. Did he aim to bind Clarence to him by marriage to Isabel and then crown him as a puppet king, or was his wish simply to capture Edward and rule in his name? We will never know the exact truth and some historians have theorised that even Warwick himself was playing it by ear. Whichever the case, it appears that by the end of the year both Clarence and Warwick have come to a secret understanding.
Warwick carefully works to contrast his popularity with Edward’s growing unpopularity. A planned invasion of France with Breton and Burgundian backing comes to nothing when the crafty Louis XI makes peace with both countries. Edward cannot simply disband the expeditionary force he has assembled at such great expense and orders it to patrol the Channel under the pretext that Margaret of Anjou is at Harfleur preparing to invade. This is not the case and the fleet straggles back to port with nothing to show for the cash expended. For the first time since 1461, Edward begins to feel the cold wind of unpopularity.