Alice Neville, Baroness FitzHugh – she wore blue velvet

Marmion Tower, West Tanfield

Alice was one of Richard Neville’s sisters – so she was Anne Neville’s aunt. Her father married her to one of the sons of his northern affinity – Henry FitzHugh of Ravensworth. FitzHugh would become the 5th baron. In time Alice gave her husband a clutch of sons and at least five daughters. FitzHugh was able to. marry them off to improve his own standing and the Neville family, headed by the Earl of Warwick, benefitted as well. Anne FitzHugh found herself married to Francis Lovell who would become Richard of Gloucester’s friend and Lord Chamberlain. It could have been that King Edward thought that Warwick would marry the boy to one of his own daughters but the earl had his sights set on greater things.

Inevitably the family found them selves bound up with Robin of Redesdale’s revolt in 1469 but the family together with Francis Lovell were pardoned their part in Warwick’s rebellion. Alice’s husband died in 1472 and does not seem to have been present in his brother-in-law’s army at Barnet. Nor does he seem to have taken part in the Battle of Tewkesbury. Fortunately he and Alice had founded a chantry at Ravensworth so that masses could be said for their souls to speed them through purgatory.

Life changed for Alice and her children. There would be no more grand marriages now that Warwick was gone. Alice remained a widow but she seems to have been on good terms with her brother’s replacement, Richard Duke of Gloucester. The family changed its affinity from Neville to Plantagenet and Alice is likely to have been welcome at Middleham, especially when her niece, Anne, gave birth to her son Edward of Middleham. She was the only one of Anne’s aunts to attend her coronation in 1483. With her was her daughter Elizabeth married to Sir William Parr. All the ladies who attended Anne received new gowns of blue velvet.

Alice would mourn the death of Anne and perhaps, more quietly, the end of Richard. She and her sisters Katherine, the widow of Lord Hastings executed by Richard, and Margaret were still alive when Henry Tudor claimed the throne. Margaret who had lived a life of poverty because of her husband’s Lancastrian credentials was now welcome at court. Anne Lovell lost her home at Minster Lovell which fell to Jasper Tudor although there is no indication he ever lived there. After Lovell’s disappearance in 1487 she received an annuity from the king but like her mother chose not to marry again. Instead she may have lived with her mother in the FitzHugh dower house at West Tanfield. Alice took an active role in arranging the marriages of her grandchildren and administering her dower estate. Her life was perhaps the most untroubled of the Neville sisters’ experience of marriage and life in general.

Despite providing her husband with six sons the FitzHugh barony was divided between co-heiresses within a generation. Her eldest son, Richard, suggesting that he was named after his maternal grandfather, died while his son George was still a minor and Alice’s grandson was dead by 1513. Her other sons had no legitimate male heirs of their own.

And the advent theme for today? Tricky – I’m going with the gift of blue velvet. The cloth was imported at great expense from Italy. The centres of production were Venice and Genoa. I’m not sure what colour it was but I seem to recall that Henry VIII – ever a modest and economical man- had a toilet seat covered in velvet.

Baldwin, David, The Kingmaker’s Sisters

One thought on “Alice Neville, Baroness FitzHugh – she wore blue velvet

  1. I was told that our Fitzhugh connection brought is into family of King Edward 111 as young William Parr had sword fight in Kendal where he dispatched a Burgermaster member of town council .He was due to be hanged for murder of Hugh Haigh and in came King Edward 111 to release my ancestor of all crime and gave him orders to build a castle to defend the borders and port of Barrow. He is contained in the marble tomb in Parr Chapel Parish church Kendal as Baron William Parr . Yours Sir Kevin Parr

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