Monthly Archives: November 2014

Lady Henrietta Wentworth and the Duke of Monmouth – a love story.

henrieta wentworthLady Henrietta Wentworth’s mother was Philadelphia Carey. Her grandfather was Ferdinardo Carey and her great grand-father was Henry Carey Lord Hunsden. Which, of course means that her two times great grandmother was Mary Boleyn.  I must admit to a fascination with the Carey family courtesy of Lord Robert Carey, another of Hunsden’s son, who was a Warden of the Marches during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and, indeed, who rode with Elizabeth’s ring to Edinburgh upon her death as proof that James VI of Scotland was now James I of England.


Henrietta was only eight when her father, Thomas Wentworth, 5th Baron Wentworth died. She became heir to Toddington Manor in Bedfordshire as well as the title.


As was proper to a lady of her station she made her debut at court.  Charles II had been restored to the throne in the same year that she was born – 1660.   She appeared in a masque alongside Princesses Mary and Anne.   Also present was James Scott, Duke of Monmouth. Jemmy Crofts, as he was also known, the illegitimate child of Charles II and Lucy Walter had been married to Anne Scott, Duchess of Buccleugh when he was fourteen and she was just twelve. He took her name and title. They’d had a family but by this time were estranged.


The existence of a wife did not stop Monmouth from pursuing seventeen-year-old Henrietta and she was just as smitten by him – even though she was supposed to be marrying Richard Tufton, the fifth Earl of Thanet.  There was a scandal.


Philadelphia dragged her daughter back to Toddington with Monmouth right behind them. He came to know Toddington very well because it was at Toddinton where the lovers made their home.  It was here that he came after the Rye House Plot of 1683 which sought to assassinate Charles II and James who was then the Duke of York. Monmouth was implicated in the murder. Monmouth, like his father before him, is supposed to have hidden in an oak tree.


Monmouth eventually fled to Brussels. Henrietta joined him. The Nineteenth century historian Macaulay paints a picture of domestic bliss. “He retired to Brussels accompanied by Henrietta Wentworth, Baroness Wentworth of Nettlestede, a damsel of high rank and ample fortune, who loved him passionately, who had sacrificed for his sake her maiden honour and the hope of a splendid alliance, who had followed him into exile, and whom he believed to be his wife in the sight of heaven. Under the soothing influence of female friendship, his lacerated mind healed fast. He seemed to have found happiness in obscurity and repose, and to have forgotten that he had been the ornament of a splendid court and the head of a great party, that he had commanded armies, and that he had aspired to a throne.”


Sadly when Charles II died in 1685 thought so the throne once more drifted through Jemmy Croft’s head and it was Henrietta who funded James’ dream by mortgaging her home and pawning her jewels.  Monmouth’s Rebellion was ill-thought and though it had the popular support of the commons in the west country it did not bring the support of the gentry.  Even worse, his troops cam dup against one John Churchill – a man history recalls as the Duke of Blenheim.


Monmouth sentenced to death after his capture is alleged to have said that he came to the scaffold to die rather than to talk. He also asserted that he had been married, ‘when but a child’, and he had never cared for his duchess; so that therefore his relationship with Henrietta was blameless in the eyes of God not least because he’d reformed him from his rakish and decidedly dodgy life of whoring, drinking and gambling. He told the assembled crowd that Henrietta was ‘a lady of virtue and honour, a very virtuous and godly woman.’


‘Had that poor man nothing to think of but me?’ Henrietta exclaimed when she was told.  It was probably just as well that James was thinking of Henrietta.  His death was not an easy one – the axe was blunt.


Henrietta came back to England in July 1685 with a broken bank balance as well as a broken heart. She died the following year on 23rd April. She was twenty-five. The letters of Henry Saville suggest that it was due to mercury poisoning, “My Lady Henrietta Wentworth is dead, having sacrificed her life to her beauty by painting so beyond measure that mercury got into her veins and killed her.” However we don’t know how or why Henrietta died – there were plenty of deadly diseases in the seventeenth century.


Let me finish with Macaulay who paints a tragic picture of Henrietta’s end.  “Yet a few months, and the quiet village of Toddington, in Bedfordshire, witnessed a still sadder funeral. Near that village stood an ancient and stately hall, the seat of the Wentworths. The transept of the parish church had long been their burial place. To that burial place, in the spring which followed the death of Monmouth, was borne the coffin of the young Baroness Wentworth of Nettlestede. Her family reared a sumptuous mausoleum over her remains: but a less costly memorial of her was long contemplated with far deeper interest. Her name, carved by the hand of him whom she loved too well, was, a few years ago, still discernible on a tree in the adjoining park.”



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George Neville, Archbishop of York

georgenevillearms2George Neville was the younger brother of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (a.k.a the Kingmaker) and also John Neville who was briefly the Earl of Northumberland.


He was only fourteen years old when the Pope made him a canon not only of York Minster but also of Salisbury. It can be no surprise that his meteoric rise in the church was followed by the Bishopric of Exeter – though he wasn’t legally old enough to run things (he received a dispensation to take the profits though) and in 1465 he was translated to the Archbishopric of York. This later move was by way of a reward given by King Edward IV to the Neville family.

George did study at Balliol College, Oxford in the 1440s so although his role within the spiritual estate reflects the politics of the time he did at least take the job seriously. Prior to become one of the ‘great men’ of the country he had time for a youthful fling with Elizabeth de Beauchamp and had a daughter called Alice.  He was chancellor of the college for a period and also fulfilled the role of chancellor in Edward IV’s government.  He went on diplomatic missions to Scotland. He even  found time to open two of Edward IV’s parliaments.


However, things were not going smoothly between the Nevilles and their royal cousin in the 1460s. All Europe – well the Scots and the French- agreed that Edward would not have become king without the support of his cousin the Earl of Warwick. But by 1465 Edward was expressing his own opinions. He wanted a treaty with Philip of Burgundy rather than with Louis XI of France. Warwick favoured France. There was also the unfortunate issue of Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville to take into account. Warwick had been negotiating for the hand of a French princess at the time. It made him look a tad foolish and contributed to the cousins’ relationship deteriorating into open rebellion.


George appeared to broker a peace between Edward and Warwick but in reality he was providing his brother with a smokescreen while he planned the marriage of his eldest daughter, Isobel, to George, Duke of Clarence and then when he felt that his power had been eroded too far into rebellion. It should be added that George played a key role in the marriage; not only did he perform the nuptial service for the happy couple in Calais, he was also instrumental in applying for the papal dispensation that permitted George to marry Isobel – they were both descended from John of Gaunt after all. George’s mother (Cecily Neville) was the Earl of Warwick and the archbishop’s aunt.


Edward appeared tolerant of his archbishop though – he had a reputation for letting bygones be bygones. After the Battles of Tewkesbury George found himself in prison for a few months and then returned to his offices – business as usual so as to speak.

Then things went badly wrong for the archbishop.  Edward  said he would visit George at his palace in Hertfordshire to go hunting but the day before his intended arrival the king had the bishop arrested and his property confiscated.

Why?  Perhaps Edward remembered that it was the bishop who captured him at Olney near Coventry when the Earl of Warwick made his bid for power in 1469.  Perhaps he remembered all those occasions when George’s words were cast like oil upon troubled waters to disguise Warwick’s machinations.  Perhaps it was because the king remembered that it was also the archbishop who’d been responsible for defending London against Edward when Edward returned to claim his crown in 1471. The bishop summoned Lancastrian sympathisers to St. Pauls -600-700 armed men turned up. In fact when George paraded Lancastrian King Henry VI through the streets of London in a bid to raise support he’d had to hold Henry’s hand. It could have reasonably been either of those reasons that led to the archbishop’s re arrest –  Except of course, George Neville Archbishop of York wasn’t an innocent victim of a king’s mental accounting for past events. The last remaining son of the Earl of Salisbury should have learned not to rebel against Edward. It hadn’t got Warwick very far in the end but for all his learning George got himself entangled in a new plot against the king. Once again Northerners were involved just as they had been in 1469- then Edward had dawdled, had trusted his Neville cousins…now, he was older and wiser and George found himself languishing in a prison in Calais.

George Neville, last of the four Neville boys born to the Earl of Salisbury and his duchess died soon after his release from Calais four long years later – presumably chastened by the whole sorry experience.  He was on his way back to York but died in Staffordshire.

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Sir John Neville

ralphneville2earlSir John Neville, 1st Lord Neville was born in the first decade of the fifteenth century. His father, conveniently for memory, was John Neville and his grandfather was the first Earl of Westmorland.   John Neville senior had been the keeper of Roxburghe Castle and had been a warden of the West March – based in Carlisle. Lord Neville’s mother was Elizabeth Holland the daughter of the Earl of Kent – so ultimately descended from King Edward I. The reason for the Neville’s links with the royal family came from the fact that Ralph Neville, First Earl of Westmorland had been married twice. His second wife was Joan Beaufort – the only daughter of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt.


Aside from an introduction to the royal household for the relatively new member of the aristocracy the marriage to Joan Beaufort sewed discord in the Neville family. Ralph favoured his second crop of children rather than those by his first wife (Lady Margaret Stafford). John Neville and his son were descended from Margaret Stafford. John’s older brother Ralph became the Second Earl of Westmorland – but a rather impoverished one. It was Joan Beaufort’s family who got their hands on the money – which did not make for a very happy family at all -a fact that the Duke of York should have remembered as should his half uncle, the Earl of Salisbury (a son of Joan Beaufort, otherwise known as the side of the family that got the cash.)

Just as an aside, brother Ralph pictured at the start of this post, didn’t become actively involved in the Cousins war although his only son died at the First Battle of St Albans in 1455 which meant that it was John’s son Ralph (not the most imaginative family when it came to naming their off-spring) who eventually became the third Earl of Westmorland.


Anyway, back to the story – Richard, Duke of York and the Earl of Salisbury spent Christmas 1460 in Sandal Castle near Wakefield. It was slightly foolish as the castle was surrounded by Lancastrian loyalists but had Richard sat tight he might have been safe enough. In one version of events he and his men were running low on their supplies, in another version he accepted the terms offered by the Duke of Somerset, which offered peace throughout the festive season but Somerset reneged on his word. For whatever reason York found himself engaged in battle thinking that Sir John Neville would arrive to reinforce him.


Instead of coming to his half uncle and the duke’s aid Neville promptly changed sides and became a Lancastrian. His reward was to become Constable of Middleham Castle and Sheriff Hutton. Unfortunately Neville didn’t have long to enjoy his newfound favour. He was one of the Lancastrian commanders at the Battle of Ferrybridge but was killed the following day at Towton. King Edward IV had Sir John declared a traitor and his estate confiscated by act of attainder…another happy fifteenth century family story.



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