Still on the Nevilles! The 5th Earl of Salisbury

Effigy of 5th Earl of Salisbury at Burghfield Church having been moved there from Bisham Abbey when it was dissolved.

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.

2 thoughts on “Still on the Nevilles! The 5th Earl of Salisbury

    • Pawns or players? The problem is that chroniclers so often only write about political history and the male players but it’s clear from some of the letters that still exist that women did have some ‘soft’ power. Its very frustrating as well to track them down sometimes.

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