Calke Abbey near Melbourne in Derbyshire is one of my favourite National Trust properties ever! On Friday we took the opportunity to visit it before the summer holiday. We still have no desire to join the crowds but have missed our adventures to stately stacks during the last two and a half years.
We began by exploring the house which from the outside isn’t much to shout about unless you like eighteenth century symmetrical stately stacks with columns and big windows. The house has become slightly tidier across the years we’ve been visiting but its delight is the sensation of walking into a house that hasn’t been touched – the wall paper is peeling, there’re piles of chairs in various states of disrepair, trunks and collections of seashells, seals, Victorian birds if you’re into that sort of thing and old papers – the Harpurs were once one of the richest families in Derbyshire but the Harpur-Crewes were clearly amongst the most eccentric. Not only did they wish to provide for the education of their tenants, they seem to have loved their wives, were passionate about their natural history and never threw anything away. Whilst the house isn’t as dark, dirty or as dusty as it used to be but it’s still pleasingly ramshackle and demonstrates what happened to the aristocracy when they could no longer afford a platoon of staff to maintain order and could no longer afford the lifestyle or the house.
On this occasion we discovered that the double thickness walls in the eighteenth century hall were not only to permit servants to move unseen but also to ensure that there was a symmetry to the grand residence – though you’d have thought they’d have considered a staircase to the rather elegant new rooms when they planned their mansion and not had to add one on later. There’s even a panel that opens to reveal a secret entrance – makes you wonder what might be lurking undiscovered in the skeleton of the house – and of course, there was a skeleton unearthed in the courtyard several years ago.
Then there’s the glorious silk bed – amidst the layers of history were two wooden chests, and inside, rolled not folded, was Lady Caroline Manners wedding present from Princess Anne, the daughter of King George II. The bed hangings were made for George I in about 1715 and as beautiful as the day they were carefully wrapped up and placed in the boxes where they lay forgotten for so many years. Obviously Caroline didn’t appreciate the gift or had no need for fancy bed hanging. Apparently there are coiled peacock feathers in the embroidered butterfly wings. For those of you who want technical terms rather than me describing beautiful embroidery – its a Palladian state bed which was apparently an essential household item…I’m sure we’ve all got one somewhere ….
Which leads us to the monastic element of the equation – Calke was never an abbey – priory is pushing it as well. It would perhaps best be described as a cell attached to Repton. When the monks of Repton realised what Cromwell was up to prior to the dissolution of the monasteries they let Calke to a certain John Prest – on a 99 year lease. It wasn’t straight forward and Thomas was not best pleased. Suffice it to say that it was only thanks to Cromwell’s demise that matters didn’t get out of hand and Calke ended up as a Tudor manor with a courtyard and a gateway. Everything you can see today was wrapped round the Elizabethan mansion which is why the stairs are slightly odd, there’s secret passages between the rooms and a blocked up entrance for a coach to drive through. The tour of the house finishes with a climb through the brick lined tunnels that the servants used so that they didn’t blight the landscape with their presence before you emerge in the brew house and back out into the sunlight.
The gardens are some distance from the house and to be honest I usually see them in the autumn so it was rather wonderful to find the walled gardens filled with flowers and a rather surprising mandrake nestling amongst the feverfew. Then there was time to see the deer lounging beneath various trees and inspect the grotto -again every one should have one, though the one at Calke isn’t going to win an RHS medal any time soon. Rather like the house it’s seen better days but has its charm for all of that and is rather more fun than some of the spotless but rather cold eighteenth century properties that can be found elsewhere.
This photo shows the remains of a Cluniac priory near Barnsley. It was the monks who gained a market charter for Barnsley which helped ensure the growth of the town. The eleventh century endowment included the advowsons (the right to appoint the vicar) of Ledsham, All Saints, Kippax, Darrington, and Silkstone.
It did not go well for the monks during the Anarchy when they were unceremoniously booted out. Gilbert de Gaunt who had claimed the estates eventually acknowledged himself in error by then the original monastic buildings had been demolished. He was required to compensate the monks for his over enthusiasm and gave a property at South Ferriby, Lincs. This left the monks with nowhere to live so in about 1153 the monks moved to a temporary residence at Broughton donated by Alice de Rumelli. Being Cluniac was problematical as was Monk Bretton’s relationship with Pontefract so it eventually turned into a Benedictine priory and stayed that way until it was dissolved on 23 November 1539. None of the monks put up any resistance preferring to accept their pensions.
The handsome young man in the image has been on my mind rather a lot in the past year. During lockdown I wrote a historical biography about him for Pen and Sword which is due to be released in July and which can now be pre-ordered.
Robert Dudley was related to Queen Elizabeth I via his mother Lady Douglas Howard (yes she was a girl). His uncle was Lord Howard of Effingham and his father was the queen’s own favourite Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester – which is why the circumstances of his birth and upbringing are rather sketchy.
Douglas was eventually discarded – complete with conspiracy theory- in favour of Lettice Knollys who was the widow of the Earl of Essex not to mention the queen’s beautiful younger cousin. Whereas Douglas had been content to live a life in the shadows, Lettice was not – there was an awful lot of screaming, swearing and boxing of ears when the queen discovered that her favourite was married. Lettice unlike Douglas was never forgiven nor permitted to return to court. Young Robert came to hold a special place in Elizabeth’s heart reminding her as he did of the earl. Lettice was not so sentimental and tried to prevent Robert from entering into his inheritance.
Dudley loved the sea and he wanted nothing more than to be an explorer – his boarding school was close to the sea and his father and Uncle the Earl of Warwick were investors in foreign exploration as well as having vessels of their own. Robert was at Tilbury with his father and heard the queen’s famous speech as well as being introduced to her there. After the earl’s death Robert came to court in the hope that he would be permitted to go a voyage of exploration. Elizabeth wasn’t so keen on letting the son of her favourite run the risk of drowning but he sailed the Caribbean and went in search of El Dorado a few months before the rather better publicised adventures of Sir Walter Raleigh; he was at Cadiz with his step-brother the Earl of Essex and was knighted in the street in Plymouth. He also took a small part in the Earl of Essex’s rebellion against the queen.
The problem for Robert was that he came to believe that he was legitimate and more than anything else he wanted his father and uncle’s titles. When it came to a show down with James I he found that he was the son of the wrong father- James held Leicester conveniently responsible for his mother’s execution. Nor did it help that he was something of a sea dog with a reputation for privateering and gallantry which ran counter to James’ need for peace with Spain.
Dudley left England with his young beautiful cousin and started afresh in Florence leaving a wife and a family of daughters at home to fend for themselves. He carved a career working for the Dukes of Tuscany and had a large family (who had their own adventures.) His life was a tale of treachery, skullduggery, piracy, exploration and love – he was beloved by his cousin, his wife and by Queen Elizabeth I. By the end of his life gentleman were ticking him off their list of things to see whilst on the grand tour. His enduring achievement was a six volume sea atlas containing many beautiful engravings as well as charts using mercator projections which took twelve years to write and have printed. The sea and mathematics were his passion. When he died he left his collection of navigational instruments to the Duke of Tuscany.
He even had a small part to play in the English Civil War thanks to a pamphlet he wrote for King James when he was trying to charm his way back into favour so that he could return home – not sure how his two families would have coped with that particular scenario!
He deserves to be so much more than an unremembered footnote.
The book can be pre-ordered from Pen and Sword here:
For those of you familiar with the area just beyond Ripon you’re probably thinking Marmion! A medieval gatehouse near the church is all that remains of a medieval manor house. It’s possible that there was a Norman castle first but nothing remains. Licence to crenelate (fortify) was granted in 1314. The family associated with the area were the Marmions.
So starting with Robert. Our first Robert died in 1216 was married twice and had families with both his wives – and thought that it would be useful to call both of his first sons Robert. Thankfully he was part of the Staffordshire elite so lets just leave him as 3rd Baron Marmion of Tamworth.
In 1215 Robert the Younger (the son from the second marriage) Marmion of Tamworth paid the avaricious King John £350 and five palfreys to marry Amicia/Avice the daughter of Jernigan or Gernegan FitzHugh of West Tanfield – a minor heiress with lands in Yorkshire. Needless to say starting the conversation with King John results in revolting barons, confiscations and general unhappiness especially when King John gave the order to demolish Tamworth Castle. Fortunately for the Marmions the contractors didn’t move in.
Eventually the Marmions got themselves back on track with the younger Robert coughing up more cash both for his own lands and his elder half-brother’s estates as he was continuing to rebel. By 1220 Robert the Elder was in control of Tamworth. There followed a series of male Marmions until yet another Robert Marmion died leaving his sister Avis as his heir. She held the manor jointly with her husband John de Grey of Rotherfield but their son rather than being called de Grey was known as Marmion which brings us back to the rather marvellous alabaster effigy in St Nicholas’s Church.
He died in 1387 in the service of John of Gaunt in Spain so the manor passed back into the hands of the FitzHugh family via John’s nice Elizabeth. Eventually the manor passed back up the family tree and across to the Parrs by right of Elizabeth FitzHugh before returning to the Crown and for a while into the hands of William Cecil Lord Burghley. The lady by Sir John’s side is his wife Elizabeth.
The gallery images also show a wall painting of St George slaying the dragon – St George is left handed I think. And some lions for recumbent effigies to rest their feet upon. I can’t resist the animal footrests or the rarer animal cushions. I think lions are supposed to show valour and nobility. And it turns out that in medieval bestiaries lion cubs who were born dead came back to life after three days because of their mother’s breathing on them – so not a huge step to the resurrection and life after death.
A ledge provided by a hinged seat in choir stalls for clerics to lean on during services. Translates from the French meaning of ‘mercy seat’. Ripon has 32 of them which were created at the end of the 15th century. I particularly like the bagpipe playing pig, Jonah emerging from a very sharp toothed whale, the lady (I think) in a wheel barrow and the mermaid.
The abbey of St Mary at Jervaulx was a Cistercian foundation which had a reputation for its horse breeding and cheese making – it also got itself tangled up with the Pilgrimage of Grace during the Dissolution of the monasteries. Abbot Sedbergh was required to join the pilgrims having hidden for four days on Witten Fell before threats to his abbey and his brethren forced him into the pilgrimage. The fact that he was coerced was quietly ignored and he was hanged at Tyburn for treason in June 1537 – the monastery being forfeit under the rules of treason which Cromwell bent to suit his purposes for the occasion.
Jervaulx was not without its moments in former times as in 1279 the abbot was murdered by one of his monks. His successor Abbot Thomas was accused but was acquitted of the crime.
By the beginning of the thirteenth century the abbey was experiencing some financial difficulty and by 1535 Cromwell’s Valor Ecclesiasticus revealed that its income came to just over £234. Part of the Jervaulx’s glass was allegedly transferred to Bedale, the choir stalls made their way to Aysgarth parish church and the lead which was melted down buried and forgotten about was used to repair the York Minster after the disastrous fire of 1984. The building was surveyed as part of the dissolution process at the beginning of July 1537. The Duke of Norfolk who had assisted with the suppression following the Pilgrimage of Grace corresponded with Cromwell about the matter:
As James Rokebye and William Blytheman should be present with Mr. Pollerd at the survey of Jervaulx (three weeks hence) to instruct him in divers things, I beg you will see them despatched with speed. Sheriffhutton, 19 June. (‘Henry VIII: June 1537, 11-20’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 12 Part 2, June-December 1537, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1891), pp. 25-42. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol12/no2/pp25-42 [accessed 23 April 2022].)
An earlier correspondence sent by Norfolk to Cromwell on the 2 June revealed that not only was it part of the government’s strategy to remove the lead from the abbeys to prevent the monks moving back in but that Jervaulx was in debt – the commissioners needed to clear those debts:
The house of Jervaulx was much in debt, but the moveables will discharge that, and likewise at Bridlington, especially if plumbers be sent down to take the lead off the houses and cast it in sows. Sheriff Hutton, 2 June. (‘Henry VIII: June 1537, 1-5’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 12 Part 2, June-December 1537, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1891), pp. 1-13. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol12/no2/pp1-13 [accessed 23 April 2022].)
What they had not calculated was that the price of lead took a tumble because there was so much monastic lead and plumbing being sold on.
Joan Beaufort and Ralph Neville had ten sons. However, Henry, John, Thomas and Cuthbert died young. Which leaves us with the Earl of Salisbury, Robert Neville who became Bishop of Durham and three more. The count down begins! Robert, the earl’s fifth son, was born in 1404.
In 1413 when he was nine years old he became the prebend of Eldon in the collegiate church of St. Andrew, Auckland and made a collection of them through his teenage years demonstrating that he was always destined for the church. He was sent to Oxford to study and afterwards returned to Yorkshire as the provost of Beverley.
When he was twenty-three he became the Bishop of Salisbury but then in 1437 the bishopric of Durham fell vacant so the following year Robert transferred north – presumably on the grounds that it would be much more helpful to his family if he was there rather than Salisbury. And let’s face it his uncle was Cardinal Beaufort and he could pull the necessary strings. Nepotism ruled ok in the fifteenth century! By placing the palatinate in friendly hands it meant that land deals, awkward tenancy agreements and disputes could be smoothed over. And to expedite matters even further one of the first things Robert did was to make his big brother Richard the Earl of Salisbury the ‘guardian of the temporalities.’
Aside from some building work which bears the Neville coat of arms and entertaining the English and Scottish commissioners who arrived in Durham in 1449 and in Newcastle in 1457 to ensure that the Anglo-Scottish truce held despite various border raids Robert seems to have not had a great impact on his diocese.
The bishop died on the 9 July 1457 and was buried in Durham Cathedral.
Having worked my way through Joan Beaufort’s daughters logically its time to move on to the sons. By rights I should start with Richard Neville 5th Earl of Salisbury. He was the third of Westmorland’s sons to survive infancy – the first of Joan Beaufort’s sons. So in the great scheme of things he really wasn’t originally destined to be much more than a footnote. His parents arranged a match with Alice Montagu who was the daughter of the 4th Earl of Salisbury. It wasn’t a foregone conclusion that Alice would be an heiress as her father married Alice Chaucer, the poet’s grand daughter, so it wasn’t beyond the bounds of possibility that he could have had a son.
Salisbury died in 1428 in France at the Siege of Orleans leaving Alice as suo jure countess of Salisbury meaning that Neville who seems to have married her the year before acquired the title by right of his wife as well as possession of her lands which were largely based in Hampshire and Wiltshire rather than the north of the country more usually associated with the Neville family. Although his principal residence was now Bisham he continued in his role as a warden of the marches which was periodically renewed by the state and which required his presence there.
Eventually, following Joan’s death in 1440, he took possession of his father’s Yorkshire manors ar Middleham and Sheriff Hutton and settled down to a feud with his elder half siblings who were somewhat aggrieved that whilst they had the title that the the 1st earl’s second family had acquired the estates thanks to their mother Joan. There was also the Neville-Percy feud to take into consideration which gradually escalated across the years as the two families vied for land, power and influence. Unsurprisingly the government found itself intervening on occasion. However, thanks to his mother’s canny legal arrangements and his wife’s patrimony Salisbury found himself very wealthy and rather more influential than he might have expected given that there weren’t many earls with more wealth than him.
Salisbury’s power in the north thanks to the inheritance of accumulated Neville estates coincided with King Henry VI’s deteriorating mental health. The king, known for his piety, relied upon his wife Margaret of Anjou and her court favourites notably Edmund Beaufort 2nd Duke of Somerset. The treasury was empty, there were times when the royal family didn’t have food for their table and the situation in France went from bad to worse. Richard of York who was Salisbury’s brother-in-law denied his rightful role at the heart of the King’s counsels gradually became a champion for reform which led to an armed stand off at Dartford in 1452 followed by the First Battle of St Albans in 1455. Salisbury rose or fell with his brother-in-law. In 1459 he joined York at Ludlow and was forced to flee the country along with his eldest son the Earl of Warwick. The pair went to Calais with York’s son Edward Earl of March and in 1460 was with York at Sandal when a Lancastrian army arrived and began to taunt the duke – the result was a pitched battle and the death not only of York and his second son the Earl of Rutland but also of Salisbury and his son Thomas.
Salisbury escaped the battle unlike his son Thomas and son-in-law Lord Harington but was captured and taken to Pontefract where he was executed. His head was placed on Micklegate Bar in York. After the Battle of Towton the following Easter the earl’s body was moved to Bisham Abbey as his will requested.
Salisbury was related not only to York through his sister Cecily’s marriage to the duke but was also related through his own mother to Somerset who was the duke’s principal court opponent.
It was Thomas’s marriage to Maud Stanhope the niece and co-heiress of Lord Cromwell which resulted in the escalation of the Neville Percy feud in 1453 and which probably moved Salisbury from a neutral position to an alliance with York. salisbury received little help from either the queen or Somerset agains the Percy family – Somerset was friendly to Northumberland.
Salisbury and Alice had a large family of their own – ten children in all.
Anne Neville was born in about 1410 (depending on the source you read). By the time she was fourteen she was married to Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Stafford who would go on to become the First Duke of Buckingham. The family was hugely wealthy. Anne like many of the other women in her family became noted for her interest in books and spent money on lavishly illustrated prayer books and psalters. The Wingfield Book of Hours was hers for example. In addition, as with others of her family History also has her book of accounts detailing her expenditure. She died in 1480 at the age of seventy (ish) after two marriages and many children – again figures vary depending upon the source but there were at least ten of them. Sadly of their sons, only three survived to adulthood.
Anne’s eldest son with Humphrey Stafford – unsurprisingly another Humphrey died in 1458 of plague – a reminder of the fact that disease stalked the land culling various Neville descendants just as much as war. Anne’s son had been married to his cousin Margaret Beaufort – not to be confused with the Margaret Beaufort. This one was the daughter of Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset (the one who had a thing with Katherine of Valois and managed to get himself killed at the first Battle of St Albans in May 1455) rather than Margaret’s more famous cousin who was first married to Edmund Tudor.
The next son was Henry Stafford who married the widowed Margaret Tudor – nee Beaufort. It must have been a bit confusing to have two Margaret Beauforts in the family. This Margaret, other than being Henry VII’s mother, was the daughter of John Beaufort the older brother of Edmund who died in 1444 under suspicious circumstances having lost vast chunks of France due to ineptitude. Henry Stafford seems to have had a skin condition called St Anthony’s Fire – the condition involving inflammation of the skin as well as headaches and sickness which cannot have been ideal when you had to get togged up in armour and go and fight battles. There were no children from this union but the pair seem to have genuinely loved one another celebrating their wedding anniversary each year and Margaret Beaufort celebrated St Anthony’s day throughout her life. Sir Henry fell victim to the Wars of the Roses dying from injuries sustained at the Battle of Barnet in October 1470. Although the family had started off loyal to Henry VI, Henry had made his peace with Edward IV and when he was injured was fighting on the side of the White Rose. Soon afterwards, in 1472, Lady Margaret Beaufort married Thomas Stanley.
Anne’s third and final son to survive to adulthood was called John and he would become the Earl of Wiltshire. Like his brothers he fought in the Wars of the Roses. History knows that he was at Hexham in 1464 fighting on the side of Edward IV. He went on to become Chief Butler for England. Like his brothers also married an heiress. He and his wife, Constance Green, had one son born in 1470 who inherited John’s title and estates when he was just three years old. As his cousin Buckingham would do, the child Edward found himself under the care of his paternal grandmother – Anne Neville Duchess of Buckingham. In 1483, now thirteen, Edward carried Queen Anne’s crown at the coronation of King Richard III and he was also in York for Edward of Middleham’s creation as Prince of Wales. Four years later Stafford was at Elizabeth of York’s coronation as Henry Tudor’s queen. The earldom of Wiltshire became extinct on Stafford’s death in 1499 but was recreated at a later date.
Several daughters from Anne’s union to Humphrey survived to marriageable age and this proved to be a bit of a headache for the Buckinghams despite the wealth I mentioned earlier. Part of the problem was the Humphrey’s mother held extensive dower estates having not only been married to Humphrey’s father but to his older brother before that. Until she died the dower estates were hers rather than the dukes. Buckingham must have sympathised with Katherine Neville, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk whose marriage to the duke ended with his death many decades before her own. Buckingham wished to make extremely good marriages for his daughters and that cost money.
The couple’s oldest daughter, another Anne, married the heir to the Earl of Oxford. Aubrey de Vere is best known to history for being executed for treason in 1462 along with his father the twelfth Earl of Oxford. Edward IV had Aubrey and his father arrested for writing to Margaret of Anjou and planning to have a Lancastrian force land in England. This was rather unfortunate as up until that time the de Veres had done rather well at keeping themselves out of the fifteenth century fracas. It would also have to be said that the exact nature of the plot is rather blurred round the edges. Anne de Vere nee Stafford went on to marry Thomas, Lord Cobham. Thomas died in 1471 without legitimate male issue so his title passed to Anne’s daughter also called Anne who was married to Edward Burgh of Gainsborough who was unfortunately declared insane.
Anne Cobham married Edward Burgh when he was thirteen. Katherine Parr’s first spouse was a member of the Burgh family. Anne Neville and Humphrey Stafford’s 2x-great grandson Thomas Burgh fought at Flodden in 1513 and sat on Anne Boleyn’s trial having been very forceful in her favour at the time of Henry VIII’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon – he is on record as ripping the royal coat of arms from her barge. His residence in Gainsborough was Gainsborough Old Hall which I have posted about before. Sir Thomas does not seem to have been a terribly pleasant man given his towering rages and having his own grandchildren declared illegitimate.
But back to the daughters of Anne Neville and Humphrey Stafford. Joan Stafford, was married aged ten to William, Viscount Beaumont who started out as a Lancastrian, became temporarily Yorkist after Towton when he was captured but wasn’t given back his lands- Edward chose to give them to his friend Lord Hastings- so remained Lancastrian at heart which meant that the next two decades were eventful for him until he returned with Henry Tudor and took part in the Battle of Bosworth. William was unusual in that his loyalty to the Lancastrians was pretty much unwavering. Unfortunately for Joan the marriage was set aside in 1477. She went on to marry Sir William Knyvett of Buckenham in Norfolk. The family was an important part of the Norfolk gentry and feature in the Paston Letters. Like her mother, Joan commissioned many books which survive today.
A third daughter called Catherine married into the Talbot family. John Talbot became the 3rd Earl of Shrewsbury after his father’s death in 1460.The couple had two sons and a daughter. It feels as though Neville strands of DNA link most of the important fifteenth century families and reflects the way in which a power base and affinity could be built. Another daughter, Margaret married Robert Dunham of Devon.
Humphrey Stafford overstretched himself as he was still paying his daughters’ dowries when he died and accommodation had to be made for that in his will. The Buckinghams were good Lancastrians. Humphrey was killed in 1460 at the Battle of Northampton whilst guarding Henry VI’s tent. If you recall this was the battle that Edmund Grey rather ruined for the Lancastrians by changing sides mid battle and allowing the Earl of Warwick through his lines. This event rather changed things within the wider Neville family dynamic. In 1459 after the Battle of Ludford Bridge (which really wasn’t a battle – more of a stand-off followed by a tactical scarpering by Richard of York) Anne and Humphrey had accommodated Anne’s sister Cecily who was Richard of York’s wife along with her younger children. Thanks to popular fiction if we think of Anne at all it is usually in her rather frosty welcome of disgraced Cecily. The wheel of Fortune turned in 1460 at the Battle of Northampton and by Easter 1461 the Lancastrians had been labelled traitors and the house of York was in the ascendant with Cecily lording it over widowed Anne.
The Second duke of Buckingham was Anne’s grandson. He wasn’t even five years old when he acquired the title. Wardship of the new duke passed into the hands of Anne but Edward IV – who was Anne’s nephew (Cecily Neville was his mother)- purchased the wardship from her and with it the right to organise the young duke’s marriage. He ended up married to Katherine Woodville who he thought was rather beneath him in social status and feeling resentful of his Yorkist cousin who didn’t allow him the freedoms and rights that he felt were his due. Ultimately he undertook a spot of light revolting against Richard III in October 1483 which ended in his execution at the beginning of November the same year in Salisbury.
Six years after the death of Humphrey Stafford, Anne married again to Walter Blount who was the first Baron Mountjoy. They had no children (and trust me when I say that I am grateful whenever I come across that fact as I don’t have to try and fit more descendants onto a small piece of paper.) Mountjoy died in 1474 mentioning his beloved wife in his will.
Anne died in 1480 and is buried in Pleshy, Essex next to Humphrey Stafford as her will requested. Only her daughter Joan Stafford survived her. Most famously she left books to her one time daughter-in-law Lady Margaret Beaufort who was now married to Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby.
Baldwin, David. (2009). The Kingmaker’s Sisters. Stroud: The History Press
Eleanor Neville was married in the first instance to Richard le Despenser who was a cousin – his grandfather was Edmund of Langley, Duke of York one of Edward III’s sons. He died during his teens leaving a sister as his sole heiress.
A second marriage was arranged for Eleanor to Henry Percy the son of ‘Hotspur’. The marriage between the Nevilles and Percys which was contracted in May 1412 provided a link between the two dominant northern families. Henry Percy’s father and grandfather had both rebelled against Henry IV and paid with their lives. Young Henry grew up across the border in Scotland. Henry V favoured reconciliation but if Percy was to return to favour and regain his family lands and titles he had to be kept in line. Marriage to one of the Earl of Westmorland’s daughters was one of the caveats to Percy’s restoration. The marriage took place in Berwick in 1414 but Percy did not receive his grandfather’s earldom for another two years. It has been suggested that King Henry V who was waging war in France did not want Percy in Scotland and the Southampton Plot of 1415 was a reminder of the constant rebellions and uprisings plotted against Henry IV from the point that he usurped his cousin Richard II’s throne. The Percy family were restored to many of their lands but they did not regain their Yorkshire properties which became an increasingly bitter point of contention between the Nevilles and the Percys as the fifteenth century progressed. In 1453 the marriage of Eleanor’s nephew Thomas Percy to Maud Stanhope the nice of Lord Cromwell resulted in the feud escalating into violence.
Henry fought in France but seems to have mainly fulfilled the traditional role of the Percys on the border between England and Scotland. He also seems to have come under the political patronage of Eleanor’s uncle the wily Cardinal Beaufort.
Whatever the interfamilial relationships might have been like at a regional and national level Eleanor and Henry had at least ten children. Their eldest surviving son Henry who became the 3rd Earl was killed at Towton on the Lancastrian side in 1461 as was his younger brother Richard. Their second son Thomas Lord Egremont who was instrumental in the violence at Haworth Moor in 1453 was killed in 1460 at the Battle of Northampton.Ralph was killed in 1464 at the Battle of Hedgeley Moor. Eleanor had no reason to love her nephew the Kingmaker – thanks to the wars between Lancaster and York only two of her sons survived.
George the Rector of Rothbury and Caldbeck died in the same year as his mother and William became the Bishop of Carlisle but died in 1462. One of William’s sisters, Joan, became a nun.
Katherine Percy married Edmund Grey, 1st Earl of Kent – His mother was part of the Holland family descended from Joan of Kent the mother of Richard II by her first marriage and his father was one of the Greys of Ruthin and an active Lancastrian. Katherine’s son Anthony married one of Elizabeth Woodville’s sisters but there were not children from the union and he predeceased his father. Their second son George, who succeeded his father to the earldom, was also married to a Woodville sister – Anne who died in 1489. After her death he married into the Herbert family. Meanwhile Katherine’s daughter Elizabeth married back into the northern gentry network being contracted to Sir Robert Greystoke and her sister Anne married John Grey 8th Baron Grey of Wilton. The Greys of Wilton and Ruthin were different branches of the same family. And yes, Elizabeth Woodville’s first husband was part of the extended family network but that would require another family tree and I don’t need one of those just at the moment. Although – if nothing else it adds fuel to the concept of the naming of the Cousins War – they were all related one way or another!