As a child, he grew up during the early phases of the Wars of the Roses, with his father Richard, 3rd Duke of York claiming to be the rightful heir to the throne in opposition to Henry VI. Richard had multiple times been offered, and later denied, the throne. A series of Yorkist military victories led, in 1460, to the Act of Accord, in which Henry VI disinherited his own son Edward of Westminster and recognized Richard as his heir. The war continued, however, under the leadership of Henry VI's wife Margaret of Anjou, and only a few weeks later Richard was killed in battle, his claims to the throne devolving to his own son Edward. After a series of Yorkist victories over the Lancastrians, Edward proclaimed himself king in March, 1461, traveled to London, and had himself crowned.
While many leading families still supported Henry VI, Edward was able to gain the throne and maintain control of it through the patronage of the Neville family, primarily Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, who was known to history as "The Kingmaker" for his role in bringing Edward to the throne. Edward's impetuous marriage to Elizabeth Woodville greatly offended the Nevilles, largely because Warwick had been negotiating several continental alliances to support Edward's tenuous reign, including a marriage to one of several family members of Louis XI of France. Warwick, embarrassed by the actions of Edward, withdrew his and his family's support for the Yorkist faction. As Edward showered honors and titles upon the Woodville family, his support among the other nobles of the realm evaporated, and the Wars of the Roses began anew. The Lancastrian faction won several battles throughout 1469 and 1470, and Edward had to flee to Flanders as Henry VI was restored to the throne.
Edward did not wait idle in Flanders; he used his alliance with the Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy to support a small invasion force which landed in the city of York (the base of his power in England) in early 1471, and marched south, gaining supporters along the way. After first defeating and killing Warwick at the Battle of Barnet, his forces fought and won the Battle of Tewkesbury in which Edward of Westminster, Henry's heir, was killed. Henry died under mysterious circumstances only a few days later, and Edward was restored to the throne. Having resoundingly defeated all of his opposition, he reigned in relative domestic peace until his sudden death in 1483, leaving two young sons, the older of which became king briefly before being declared illegitimate, whereupon Edward's brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester was advanced to the throne.