I’ve been working on the family tree of Joan Beaufort’s second family with Ralph Neville Earl of Westmorland this afternoon – and just let’s say its not straightforward! I may be reverting to quill pen and parchment at my current rate of progress.
The family comprised five daughters and nine sons. John, Cuthbert, Thomas and Henry are straight forward as sadly in an era of high infant mortality they all died young. Continuing the de Roet tradition of service to the Church one of Joan Beaufort’s daughters also called Joan became a nun. Robert who was born in 1404 became the Bishop of Salisbury and Durham.
After that it becomes more complex. Katherine Neville who lived until 1484 was married four times. Her first marriage when she was Joan’s eldest daughter. When she was about twelve she was married to John Mowbray, the 2nd Duke of Norfolk. There appears to have been one child from the union, another John who became the third duke aged seventeen upon his father’s death in 1432. Katherine’s husband was a younger brother but his elder sibling, Thomas, revolted against Henry IV and paid the ultimate price. The 2nd duke kept his head down across the Channel fighting in the Hundred Years War for both Henry V and Henry VI. It was an expensive business for the duke though.
As Katherine’s son was still a minor he became Henry VI’s ward and initially appeared set to follow in his father’s footsteps as a warrior in France. However, the 3rd duke also became involved with the thorny problem of more local politics – History books tend to linger on his feud with fellow East Anglian peer, the earl (to become duke) of Suffolk, William de la Pole (de la Pole was Henry VI’s key adviser and guardian to Margaret Beaufort). It was unfortunate that de la Pole was such a powerful man that that Mowbray felt unable to get the better of his nemesis. The local arguments sent him in the direction of Richard of York’s faction at court. During the 1450s Katherine’s son seems to have been able to defend Henry VI during times of trouble despite his increasing sympathies for the claims of Richard of York.
Easter 1461, however, John Mowbray arrived at the Battle of Towton to take the side of Richard of York’s son Edward. His late arrival with reinforcements was one of the factors that ultimately swung one of England’s bloodiest battles in favour of the Yorkists.
The 3rd duke died in November 1461 so really had only six months in which to enjoy the position of favour in which he found himself. Katherine’s grandson – another John now assumed the mantle of duke of Norfolk. He had been known as the Earl of Surrey since 1451. It is this particular Duke of Norfolk who features in the Paston Letters as their opposition over the inheritance of Caistor Castle.
When the the fourth duke died unexpectedly in January 1476 there was only a three year-old-girl called Anne to inherit – The Paston Letters contain references to her birth at Framlingham as well as her baptism. As a result of the existence of just one girl child the title fell extinct. Although Anne was known as the Countess of Norfolk she could not hold the dukedom. Anne was a rich prize and it was less than a fortnight after her father’s death that Edward IV selected the little girl, who was now a ward of the Crown, to become his younger son’s bride. Richard Duke of York acquired the title to the dukedom through his wife but the dukedom of York took precedence over the Norfolk title. Anne was married aged five to Richard Duke of York who was four at the time. The marriage agreement included a clause that meant that Anne’s mother had to hand over her dower lands and that they along with the Norfolk estates would remain with the young groom if the bride died before they arrived at an age for the marriage to become a physical reality.
And that might have been that except for the fact that Anne Mowbray died on the 19th November 1481. She was just eight years-old. By rights as the marriage was a child marriage and there were no heirs to inherit the title and estates of the dukes of Norfolk should have been deposited elsewhere up the family tree along with the title. In this instance with Anne’s cousins – John Lord Howard being the elder of the potential claimants. Unfortunately Edward IV had no intention of allowing so rich a prize to escape his second son so in January 1483 parliament allowed Prince Richard to keep his wife’s titles and estates.
This must have annoyed the Howard family very much indeed because rather than supporting Edward IV’s children when Edward died the same year Lord Howard supported their uncle the duke of Gloucester in his bid to become Richard III. Howard was created Duke of Norfolk shortly after Richard III’s coronation and gained half the estate. The other half went to his cousin (William Berkeley)
Prince Richard, Duke of York ended up known to history as the younger of the vanishing Princes in the Tower. In yet another twist and turn of fate Anne Mowbray’s mother was Elizabeth Talbot – one of the daughters of the Earl of Shrewsbury. Anne Mowbray’s maternal aunt was Eleanor Butler who has her own infamy as the alleged legitimate spouse of Edward IV making Richard, Duke of York and all his siblings illegitimate.