Joan Beaufort – a family divided

Joan Beaufort.jpg

Joan Beaufort (pictured above with her daughters from her second marriage), the only daughter of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford was married twice.  Her first marriage to Robert Ferrers, 2nd Baron Ferrers of Wem in 1391 reflects an affiliation within the Lancaster affinity and was a suitable match for the illegitimate daughter of a duke.  The pair had two daughters as shown on the family tree below.  The name of the second daughter is Margaret, Mary or Maud depending upon the source that you read – Burke’s Peerage gives it as Mary.

Joan Beaufort family tree1Ferrers died at the beginning of 1396 as John of Gaunt was clearing the way to marry  Katherine Swynford. It meant that Joan soon became engaged to Sir Ralph Neville of Raby, the first Earl of Westmorland and a suitable match for the legitimate daughter of a duke.

As Joan and Ferrers only had daughters the Wem title went back up the family tree, in this case to his mother’s third husband whilst the daughters of the marriage became co-heiresses.

Elizabeth, the elder of the siblings, married John, the fourth Baron Greystoke at Greystoke Church in Cumberland in 1407.  Again sources vary but it appears that they had eleven or twelve children – they are not all identified on the family tree for obvious reasons.  Elizabeth’s eldest son Ralph succeeded his father as Fifth Baron Greystoke in 1436. He served in Henry VI’s parliaments from that time onwards as well as serving on commissions to deal with the relations between England and Scotland. Given the northern nature of Greystoke’s power base the family were adherents of the Percy family however it is also true to say that he came under the patronage of his mother’s half-brother the Earl of Salisbury with the passage of time – which ultimately must have led to a conflict of interests from the Greystoke family as Henry VI’s reign deteriorated into conflict between various cousins with royal blood somewhere in their veins allied either to Henry and Lancaster or Richard and York.

Elizabeth Ferrer’s only Greystoke grandson, Sir Robert, married another Elizabeth, daughter of Edmund Grey of Ruthyn who was Lord High Treasurer and elevated to the Earldom of Kent during the Yorkist period. Robert predeceased his father so Ralph was succeeded by his grand-daughter Elizabeth – who does not appear on the family tree. She married Thomas Dacre of Gilsland.

In the context of the Wars of the Roses this information can be seen as follows – the Greystokes were a family with Lancastrian affinities in terms of ancestry and loyalty. Ralph Greystoke, Elizabeth Ferrer’s son, was part of the entourage that accompanied Margaret of Anjou to England for her wedding to Henry VI. To all intents and purposes Greystoke married his son into another Lancastrian family – the Greys of Ruthyn. This was complicated by local rater than national politics and blood ties to Richard Earl of Salisbury who supported the claims of his brother-in-law Richard of York – another member of the extended Greystoke family,  both Salisbury and York being Ralph Greystoke’s uncles and Robert Greystoke’s great-uncles – the first by blood and the second by marriage to Cecily Neville (there’s another family tree coming any day now).

Meanwhile Edmund Grey, Robert Greystoke’s father-in-law, had served in France during the 1430s and was seen as supporting Henry VI during the 1450s. He even declared himself as the king’s man during the Coventry Parliament of 1459 – this was the parliament that attainted Richard of York of treason along with the Nevilles (to whom of course the Greystokes were related and had been affiliated locally since the 1430s).


On the 10th July 1460, Edmund Grey commanded the right flank of the Lancastrian King’s army at the Battle of Northampton. He and his men changed sides as the battle got under way. Grey’s men permitted the Yorkists through their lines into the heart of King Henry VI’s camp. It turns out that this wasn’t a spur of the moment action as the Yorkist Earl of Warwick had forewarned his men to spare anyone wearing Grey’s symbol of the black ragged staff.  Edmund Grey was rewarded with the Earldom of Kent, became England’s treasurer under the Yorkist regime, was at Richard III’s coronation and continued to hold his titles even when Henry VII claimed the throne.


Without wishing to send anyone cross-eyed with the complication of relationships and disparate loyalties it is also interesting to note that the Greystokes were related through marriage to the Welles family meaning that they also had links to Margaret Beaufort through her mother’s third marriage to Lionel the 6th Lord Welles.  Lionel’s mother was Maud Greystoke – the sister-in-law of Elizabeth Ferrers, who was, just in case you’d forgotten, the daughter of Joan Beaufort by her first husband.

Oh and while I’m thinking about it Lady Elizabeth Greystoke who inherited the barony of Greystoke from her grandfather Ralph Greystoke and  who married Thomas Dacre of Gilsland is my husband’s fourteen times great grandmother, meaning rather unfortunately, that his sixteen times great grandfather was a bit of a turncoat. In turn it means that he is also descended from Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt as well as King John… I don’t know about you but I think I’m in need of a lay down in a darkened room or a strong drink after all of that!

Wagner, John A. (2001). Encyclopaedia of the Wards of the Roses.  Oxford: ABC Clio


Filed under The Plantagenets, Wars of the Roses

9 responses to “Joan Beaufort – a family divided

  1. Susan Feuille

    Excellent post and photos of the complicated Beaufort-Neville family!

  2. Sir Kevin Parr , Baronet.

    What is his surname as you have not included it in the line up to bloodline to my lot? Only fair you do so one can check it ones self so to speak. John of Gaunt and King John lead to just one family. To Gaunt some 6000 links are available to that Swinford marriage , eventually.

    • JuliaH

      The son of many younger sons, the link is actually through the Musgrave family. I shall do a very long post about it in the summer when I’m not scrambling my brains with Beauforts and Nevilles.

  3. Deborah Reed

    Julia, This is certainly confusing! I can’t wait until you get to Cecily Neville, my link to all this.

    Deborah Reed

  4. Julia l

    Julia…any idea why Joan Beaufort is buried next to her mother, Kathryn instead of a husband or child? Thanks.

  5. JuliaH

    Hi Julia – It was a request that Joan made – but to be honest I’m not absolutely sure why she’s not buried next to one of her husbands. If i find the answer I’ll pst about it because it is a very good question. Sorry not to be more informative.

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