The last post was about the turbulent life of Elizabeth of Lancaster, second daughter of John of Gaunt with her second husband John Holland, sometime Duke of Exeter. The couple had five children.
The relationships demonstrate the complicated times in which this group of Plantagenets lived and bring us a step closer to the Wars of the Roses – in fact by the end of this post we will have arrived there. We can also increasingly see the vertical lines of family descent being drawn together and knotted by marriage. There are also the political considerations of cousins finding themselves on opposite sides of the political fence and then finding themselves placed like dynastic pawns into marriages designed to bring old enmities to an end or ring fence land and power.
Elizabeth’s daughter Constance (born 1387) was a child when she was betrothed to Thomas Mowbray. Thomas was the son of the former Lord Appellant, the Duke of Norfolk, who had met Henry of Bolingbroke in 1387 near Coventry for trial by combat but found himself banished instead when Richard II changed his mind about the combat and took his revenge on the last two appellants. The Duke died in Venice. Henry of Bolingbroke became Henry IV.
Our Thomas Mowbray inherited the Earldom of Norfolk but not the Dukedom. He also found himself betrothed to Henry of Bolingbroke’s niece – you can’t help wondering how the resentment of his formative years and lack of full title played out in any relationship that the couple might have had. The marriage wasn’t consummated.
Ultimately Thomas became involved in the Earl of Northumberland’s revolt against Henry IV in 1405 and executed for his pains in York along with Archbishop Scrope. Thomas was only nineteen at the time and according to legend his head, displayed on Bootham Bar, remained remarkably fresh looking during the months it remained on display.
Constance meanwhile was in need of a new husband. Sir John Grey was the eldest son of Baron Grey of Ruthin. Sir John Grey of Groby who was Elizabeth Woodville’s first husband was our Sir John Grey’s nephew. Sir John and Constance required a papal dispensation as they were related to the fourth degree – so cousins again.
The pair had three children including a son Thomas Grey who fought at Towton in 1461 on the Lancastrian side. He was consequently attainted of treason by Edward IV and executed. No wonder it was called The Cousins War before gaining the title The Wars of the Roses.
Elizabeth’s younger daughter Alice was born in 1392. Her husband was the Earl of Oxford. The last Earl of Oxford that the History Jar encountered was Robert de Vere the 9th Earl of Oxford. He was Richard II’s favourite and had successfully irritated the Lords Appellant. He had to fling himself into the Thames in the aftermath of the Battle of Radcot Bridge before fleeing abroad. It didn’t do a lot for the de Vere family finances and he didn’t have an heir so the earldom went across the family tree to his brother Aubrey.
Alice’s de Vere was the 11th earl. He was related to the Percy and FitzAlan families on his mother’s side. The marriage between Alice and Richard de Vere reflected the fact that everything had been forgiven and forgotten between the de Veres and the Plantagenets.
Links with the Plantagenets were further reinforced by the fact that de Vere was part of Thomas of Lancaster’s affinity. Thomas was Henry IV’s son – so Elizabeth’s nephew. In 1415 Thomas oversaw the trial of the Southampton conspirators who sought to depose Henry V and replace him with Edmund Mortimer (the 5th earl of March.) The Earl of Oxford sat on the jury which condemned Anne Mortimer‘s husband, Richard of Cambridge (second son of Edmund of Langley, duke of York- another cousin), to death.
De Vere died in 1417 and Alice married Sir Nicholas Thorley without asking permission of the king or the Pope. Nicholas was packed off to the Tower and all Alice’s lands were confiscated until Alice paid a fine.
We are left with Elizabeth’s son John who married three times but only fathered two children inside wedlock who survived to adulthood.
First John married Anne Stafford the widow of Edmund Mortimer – the one who died from plague in 1425 having spent his childhood in Henry IV’s custody because of his claim to the throne – the same Edmund Mortimer that Richard of Cambridge plotted to put on the throne
Anne Stafford was the grand daughter of Thomas of Woodstock (the one murdered in Calais on the orders of Richard II) – yet another cousin and yet another great grand daughter of Edward III. The match produced the two children – Henry Holland who became the third Duke of Exeter- best known for his role as a Lancastrian commander in the wars of the Roses who was married to Anne of York – sister of Edward IV (the Grand son of Richard of Cambridge.) Henry Holland fought throughout the Wars of the Roses as a Lancastrian. However, he changed sides after the Battle of Barnet in 1471 having been seriously injured and left for dead. To cut a story with many twists and turns short, he accompanied Edward IV to France in 1475 – He “fell” overboard and drowned on the journey home…possibly pushed on the orders of his brother-in-law, and cousin, the Yorkist king Edward.
A game of happy families Plantagenet style anyone?