Misericords

A ledge provided by a hinged seat in choir stalls for clerics to lean on during services. Translates from the French meaning of ‘mercy seat’. Ripon has 32 of them which were created at the end of the 15th century. I particularly like the bagpipe playing pig, Jonah emerging from a very sharp toothed whale, the lady (I think) in a wheel barrow and the mermaid.

It’s still the Nevilles- more sons of Joan Beaufort

Palace Green Durham

Joan Beaufort and Ralph Neville had ten sons. However, Henry, John, Thomas and Cuthbert died young. Which leaves us with the Earl of Salisbury, Robert Neville who became Bishop of Durham and three more. The count down begins! Robert, the earl’s fifth son, was born in 1404.

In 1413 when he was nine years old he became the prebend of Eldon in the collegiate church of St. Andrew, Auckland and made a collection of them through his teenage years demonstrating that he was always destined for the church.  He was sent to Oxford to study and afterwards returned to Yorkshire as the provost of Beverley.

When he was twenty-three he became the Bishop of Salisbury but then in 1437 the bishopric of Durham fell vacant so the following year Robert transferred north – presumably on the grounds that it would be much more helpful to his family if he was there rather than Salisbury. And let’s face it his uncle was Cardinal Beaufort and he could pull the necessary strings. Nepotism ruled ok in the fifteenth century! By placing the palatinate in friendly hands it meant that land deals, awkward tenancy agreements and disputes could be smoothed over. And to expedite matters even further one of the first things Robert did was to make his big brother Richard the Earl of Salisbury the ‘guardian of the temporalities.’

Aside from some building work which bears the Neville coat of arms and entertaining the English and Scottish commissioners who arrived in Durham in 1449 and in Newcastle in 1457 to ensure that the Anglo-Scottish truce held despite various border raids Robert seems to have not had a great impact on his diocese.

The bishop died on the 9 July 1457 and was buried in Durham Cathedral.

Joan Beaufort’s daughters – part 2

Eleanor Neville was married in the first instance to Richard le Despenser who was a cousin – his grandfather was Edmund of Langley, Duke of York one of Edward III’s sons. He died during his teens leaving a sister as his sole heiress.

A second marriage was arranged for Eleanor to Henry Percy the son of ‘Hotspur’. The marriage between the Nevilles and Percys which was contracted in May 1412 provided a link between the two dominant northern families. Henry Percy’s father and grandfather had both rebelled against Henry IV and paid with their lives. Young Henry grew up across the border in Scotland. Henry V favoured reconciliation but if Percy was to return to favour and regain his family lands and titles he had to be kept in line. Marriage to one of the Earl of Westmorland’s daughters was one of the caveats to Percy’s restoration. The marriage took place in Berwick in 1414 but Percy did not receive his grandfather’s earldom for another two years. It has been suggested that King Henry V who was waging war in France did not want Percy in Scotland and the Southampton Plot of 1415 was a reminder of the constant rebellions and uprisings plotted against Henry IV from the point that he usurped his cousin Richard II’s throne. The Percy family were restored to many of their lands but they did not regain their Yorkshire properties which became an increasingly bitter point of contention between the Nevilles and the Percys as the fifteenth century progressed. In 1453 the marriage of Eleanor’s nephew Thomas Percy to Maud Stanhope the nice of Lord Cromwell resulted in the feud escalating into violence.

Henry fought in France but seems to have mainly fulfilled the traditional role of the Percys on the border between England and Scotland. He also seems to have come under the political patronage of Eleanor’s uncle the wily Cardinal Beaufort.

Whatever the interfamilial relationships might have been like at a regional and national level Eleanor and Henry had at least ten children. Their eldest surviving son Henry who became the 3rd Earl was killed at Towton on the Lancastrian side in 1461 as was his younger brother Richard. Their second son Thomas Lord Egremont who was instrumental in the violence at Haworth Moor in 1453 was killed in 1460 at the Battle of Northampton.Ralph was killed in 1464 at the Battle of Hedgeley Moor. Eleanor had no reason to love her nephew the Kingmaker – thanks to the wars between Lancaster and York only two of her sons survived.

George the Rector of Rothbury and Caldbeck died in the same year as his mother and William became the Bishop of Carlisle but died in 1462. One of William’s sisters, Joan, became a nun.

Katherine Percy married Edmund Grey, 1st Earl of Kent – His mother was part of the Holland family descended from Joan of Kent the mother of Richard II by her first marriage and his father was one of the Greys of Ruthin and an active Lancastrian. Katherine’s son Anthony married one of Elizabeth Woodville’s sisters but there were not children from the union and he predeceased his father. Their second son George, who succeeded his father to the earldom, was also married to a Woodville sister – Anne who died in 1489. After her death he married into the Herbert family. Meanwhile Katherine’s daughter Elizabeth married back into the northern gentry network being contracted to Sir Robert Greystoke and her sister Anne married John Grey 8th Baron Grey of Wilton. The Greys of Wilton and Ruthin were different branches of the same family. And yes, Elizabeth Woodville’s first husband was part of the extended family network but that would require another family tree and I don’t need one of those just at the moment. Although – if nothing else it adds fuel to the concept of the naming of the Cousins War – they were all related one way or another!

Joan Beaufort Countess of Westmorland’s daughters

The daughters of Joan Beaufort.

Deep breath everyone! As you can see Joan Beaufort and Ralph Neville had five daughters. One of them, I am delighted to report, became a nun. Joan who was born according to different sources at the earliest in 1399 but often reported as a later birth was a Poor Clare. So I shall move swiftly on.

The countess’s eldest daughter was much married. Katherine was married in the first instance to John Mowbray 2nd Duke of Norfolk. The couple who were married for about twenty years had only one surviving child – named after his father who became the 3rd Duke. Katherine’s son has been described as having a decisive part to play at the Battle of Towton which settled Edward IV onto the throne. She would eventually become the great grandmother of Anne Mowbray Countess of Norfolk who was married as a child to her distant cousin Richard Duke of York, more famous as one of the ‘princes in the Tower.’ The pair were married in 1478 when the groom was five and the bride was six. Edward IV arranged the match because little Anne was a hugely wealthy heiress. After her death in 1481 the title should have gone to the Howard family who were her third cousins whilst Richard kept the lands and the money because he was Anne’s legal husband. In the event Edward IV passed an act of parliament making his son the Duke of Norfolk reverting to the Crown if the boy died without heirs. All of that changed in 1483.

Meanwhile Katherine retained her dower and jointure rights as the dowager Duchess of Norfolk. Her second marriage was somewhat scandalous as she married one her previous husband’s knights without license. Thomas came from Harlsey Castle near Northallerton and had a long association with the Neville family. The couple had two daughters Joan and Katherine before Strangeways death which occurred before August 1443. Joan married Sir William Willoughby of Lincolnshire –a further link in the network of gentry and aristocratic families which spread beyond county boundaries. And as an interesting aside it was a member of the Willoughby family who fought against Edward IV at the behest of the Kingmaker at Losecoat Field but I wouldn’t want to comment on the familial relationship.

Katherine Strangeways was married to Henry Grey of Codnor on 29 August 1454. Grey swapped his loyalties from Lancaster to York following Towton. He was a key member of the Derbyshire aristocracy and managed to get into a feud with the Vernon family in 1467 which resulted in the Duke of Clarence being sent to the region to restore order. In 1468 the families were required to swear not to intimidate jurors. Three years later Katherine’s husband was summoned to London because he caused a riot in Nottingham. Katherine had no children and predeceased her argumentative husband.

Meanwhile the dowager duchess was widowed for a second time and married for a third time to John Viscount Beaumont who was killed in 1460 at the Battle of Northampton. Beaumont was a rather wealthy Lancastrian who was always loyal to Henry VI. It is perhaps not surprising he met his death whilst guarding the king.

In January 1465 Katherine Neville, who might reasonably expected to have enjoyed her widowhood in charge of her own estates, made her final marriage to Sir John Woodville. A chronicler described the match as a ‘diabolical marriage.’The bride was past sixty years in age and the groom was not yet twenty. There is no indication about how Katherine felt about the match – it is usually rolled out to illustrate Woodville greed but for all we know the unlikely couple may have been on friendly terms. Rather unexpectedly Katherine outlived her young husband as he was executed without trial at Coventry by her nephew the Earl of Warwick following the Battle of Edgecote.

Katherine was issued with Coronation robes in 1483 and was part of Anne Neville’s coronation procession. She died later the same year.

Three Neville sisters to go!

Margaret Stafford’s younger children – more Nevilles

The family tree of Ralph Neville and Margaret Stafford (subject to amendments)

Sir Ralph Neville of Oversley, the second son of the Earl of Westmorland’s first family with Margaret Stafford married his step-sister Mary Ferrers – sometimes called Margaret or Margery- who was the daughter of Sir Robert Ferrers of Wem and Joan Beaufort.  She was born in about 1394 and died circa 1457. Her marriage took place in about 1411. Like other members of the Neville family, she and her husband were admitted to the Guild of the Holy Cross at Stratford-Upon-Avon.  She was the co-heiress of the 2nd Lord Ferrers of Wem. Neville became Lord of Oversrlsey in Warwickshire by right of his wife. Margaret appears to have had one son John Neville who was born in about 1416. John would become the Sheriff of Lincolnshire.  John died in 1482.

Ralph’s sister Maud was married to Peter de Mauley of Mulgrave in about 1400. Maud did not give her husband any children so held Mulgrave Castle in her own right after his death as part of her jointure (Rickard, p.487).  The marriage reflects a regional pattern of intermarriage and affinity that can be seen repeated in the marriages made by Maud’s sisters.

Alice Neville was married to Sir Thomas Grey. Grey came from Heton in Northumberland.  His uncle was Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk and he was also a descendent of King Edward I through his maternal line. Grey succeeded his father in 1400 and was shown great favour because of his father’s support for King Henry IV at the time when he took the throne from his cousin King Richard II. By 1404 Grey was a retainer of the Earl of Westmorland with a marriage to cement the relationship but Grey drew closer to Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge who had a claim to the throne by right of his Mortimer ancestry. Meanwhile the couple went on to have at least eight children. The pattern continued to reflect regional intermarriage amongst affinities and extended kinship networks. One of Alice’s sons married into the FitzHugh family of Ravensworth. Together with the earl and Henry Scrope of Masham Grey was one of the three conspirators executed for his part in the Southampton Plot in 1415. Grey’s alliance with the earl of Cambridge was cemented in 1412 when his son Thomas was betrothed to the earl’s daughter Isabel of York who was three at the time of the betrothal. 

Alice’s son Thomas died before 1426 leaving his widow and a son. Isabel went on to marry Henry Bourchier who was created the Earl of Essex by King Edward IV for his support of the Yorkists. The couple had a large family including a son married to Edward’s sister-in-law Anne Woodville.

Philippa married into the Dacre family, Margaret married into the Scrope family and Anne married Sir Gilbert Umfraville who seems to have come from Harbottle and was killed in 1421 at the Battle of Bauge without heirs. He’d inherited his title and estates whilst an infant but came into his inheritance in 1411.  His wardship had been secured by the Earl of Westmorland and his betrothal to Anne was completed during his childhood. I’m not sure what happened to Anne after her husband’s death.

 Elizabeth became a nun. There is a reference to an annuity being left to an Elizabeth Neville who was a London Minoress in 1386.  However, she was the daughter of John Neville so the aunt of Ralph and Margaret’s daughter. It appears that there was a tradition of Neville women joining the London minoresses at Aldgate as Elizabeth received her annuity at the same time that John’s sister Eleanor the widow of Geoffrey Scrope was left money for the care of the convent.  Not only had she joined the sisterhood but she became its abbess. The minoresses were an enclosed order of Poor Clares. It was a popular location for aristocratic womenfolk although they did not always take vows. Interestingly John of Gaunt left money to the sisters and after 1398 Margaret Beauchamp lived there after her widowhood.

Rickard, J. (2002). The Castle Community: The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422. United Kingdom: Boydell Press.

Bourdillon, A. F. C. (1926). The Order of Minoresses in England. United Kingdom: The University Press.

‘Friaries: The minoresses without Aldgate’, in A History of the County of London: Volume 1, London Within the Bars, Westminster and Southwark, ed. William Page (London, 1909), pp. 516-519. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/london/vol1/pp516-519 [accessed 31 March 2022].

George Neville – who was required to stay alive but didn’t!

Middleham Castle

In the aftermath of the Battle of Barnet in 1471 the Earl of Warwick’s estates were divided up. The Warwick Inheritance which included Beauchamp lands and Despenser lands legally belonged to the Countess of Warwick but this problem was negated by having her declared legally dead. Her daughters then inherited and Edward IV’s brothers took control of sizeable chunks of land by right of their respective wives. The Neville Inheritance was trickier to deal with – setting aside the fact that the Earl of Warwick had rebelled against King Edward IV, who by May 1471 was secure on the throne.

The Neville estates were entailed. An entail limits by law who can inherit property. Medieval entails could be quite complicated. When John of Gaunt made his will he ensured that his Beaufort children were well provided for by issuing some very specific instructions in his will. More usually, an entail ensured that only male heirs could inherit.

The Earl of Warwick’s Neville inheritance was entailed to a male heir. The earl’s heir presumptive was his brother John Neville, Lord Montagu. John like his brother died at Barnet in the thick of the fighting rather than in the rout that followed if the chroniclers are to be believed. John’s ten-year old son, George Neville was the next male heir. Whilst the Nevilles supported the Yorkist regime George was likely to inherit vast estates and in 1470 he was elevated to the Dukedom of Bedford to make him an appropriate husband for King Edward IV’s daughter Elizabeth of York. However, when George’s uncle and father rebelled the following year George’s potential inheritance declined rather steeply.

The king could have passed an Act of Attainder against Richard and John Neville. A commission of Oyer and Terminer found them guilty of treason in 1472 – without an act of attainder to follow George Neville still stood to inherit the Neville estates. Instead an Act of Parliament of 1475 decreed that the Neville inheritance in the North of England including Middleham, Sheriff Hutton and Penrith Castle should pass to Richard, Duke of Gloucester whilst George and his heirs survived. Edward IV, according to Michael Hicks, preferred not to use an attainder or to divide the lands equally between his two brothers as George, Duke of Clarence was not known for his reliability whereas Richard of Gloucester, young as he was, had demonstrate his loyalty to his brother and was just the man to help keep all those troublesome northerners in line. The wording of the act proved unfortunate.

In the meantime George Neville was deprived of his titles and his wardship was passed to Richard of Gloucester after the death of George’s mother in 1476. By 1480, George was being raised in one of the Yorkshire castles which rightfully, since there was no attainder, belonged to him.

But then on the 4 May 1483 the young man died. He was unmarried so his sisters became co-heiresses and Richard of Gloucester who might reasonably have expected to leave his father-in-law’s northern power base to his own son Edward of Middleham was left as the tenant of the Neville inheritance of this life time only, thanks to the wording of the 1475 Act of Parliament. Even worse, King Edward IV was only recently dead and Gloucester was involved in a power struggle with the Woodvilles.

Hicks, Michael,  ‘Descent, Partition and Extinction: The ‘Warwick Inheritance’, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research lii (1979

The Welles Uprising and subsequent brushes with royalty…

Lionel Lord Welles

In the Spring of 1470, England was facing a fresh round of the intermittent warfare that punctuated the Wars of the Roses. The Earl of Warwick’s relationship with King Edward IV had been strained to breaking point the previous year and although the Kingmaker had captured and imprisoned his cousin he had been forced to let him go. There had been an apparent reconciliation. In reality Warwick plotted to overthrow the king and replace him with his son-in-law, George Duke of Clarence. He method for bringing this about involved the Welles family and the men of Lincolnshire.

Lord Richard Welles was the seventh Lord Welles descended from a family of Lincolnshire magnates. He was the son of staunch Lancastrian, Lionel. The sixth Lord is best remembered for his second wife, Margaret Beauchamp, the mother of Lady Margaret Beaufort. Lionel was killed at the Battle of Towton.

Lionel was born in 1410 and was knighted in 1425 at Leicester by the Duke of Bedford who knighted King Henry VI at the same time. In 1446 he received a licence to marry Margaret Beauchamp, the Duke of Somerset’s widow. His loyalty to the Lancastrian cause was absolute. His heir, Richard and his sons-in-law were attainted by Parliament for their support of the Lancastrian cause but as the Yorkist king became reconciled to former Lancastrian supporters the Welles family land and titles were returned.

However by the ninth year of Edward’s reign relations between the Welles and the Yorkist king of England nose dived. Richard and his brother-in-law Sir Thomas Dymmock either became involved with a private feud with Sir Thomas Burgh who was the king’s Master of Horse or they were inveigled to rebellion by the Earl of Warwick who was also a kinsman ( Richard’s wife was a granddaughter of the 3rd Earl of Salisbury as well as being suo jure Lady Willoughby.) In either event, they attacked Gainsburgh Old Hall which was Burgh’s property and the Master of Horse was forced to flee the county whilst his property was looted or destroyed. King Edward summoned both men to London. Initially pleading illness, the pair then took sanctuary in Westminster Abbey only emerging with a royal promise of a pardon – which was granted on 3 March 1470. The pardon did not give them their freedom. Edward marched north and took the two men with him as collateral.

In Lincolnshire, Sir Richard’s son, Robert raised an army calling the men of Lincolnshire to defend themselves against the king, who is was said was determined to punish the county for supporting Robin of Redesdale’s rebellion the previous year (1469). If he had done this it would have meant that he intended to go back on the pardon he granted the rebels the previous year. Robin of Redesdale is a shadowy figure. Most historians believe that the rebellion was fermented by the Earl of Warwick for his own ends. In 1470, the Earl of Warwick was plotting the overthrow of the king who was marching north. The earl planned to trap Edward between Welles’ army and his own.

King Edward was not so easily outmanoeuvred. He marched out of London along the Great North Road in the direction of Lincolnshire but he threatened to have Robert’s father and uncle executed if Welles did not submit to the king’s will. By then Robert and his men were on course to render-vous with Warwick’s army. On hearing the king’s threat, Robert turned back, the king catching up with him just outside Stamford. The two armies drew up opposite one another on the 12th March 1470 at Empingham. Edward gave orders for Lord Welles and his brother-in-law to be summarily executed in the space between the two armies. Other sources state that Edward had the two men executed in Stamford.

The battle became a rout with rebels fleeing the field. Hoping to avoid capture and punishment they shed their jerkins which bore the insignia of Warwick and Clarence. This resulted in the battle being renamed Losecoat during the nineteenth century. As a direct consequence of Welles failure to win the battle the Earl of Warwick and the Duke of Clarence were forced to flee the country.

Sir Robert was captured and confessed the involvement of Warwick and the Duke of Clarence on the 14 March. Further incriminating evidence was found amongst Welles’ documents. It appeared that Warwick intended to make his son-in-law the King of England and Wales in Edward’s place. Sir Robert was executed on 19 March and his only surviving sibling Joan became heiress to her brother’s estates. Strictly Welles’ land was forfeit to the Crown, and it was confiscated a month after Sir Robert’s execution but it was returned to Joan in June that year. Joan died sometime in 1474/1475 and a formal act of attainder was passed against Lord Welles and his son in order to prevent Joan’s inheritance going back into the Welles family. Joan was married to Richard Hastings, the brother of Edward’s drinking buddy and Chamberlain of the Household circa 1470. Hastings ensured the king provided Joan, now suo jure 9th Baroness Willoughby de Eresby with her father and brother’s estates. After her death the regime ensured that Hastings didn’t lose out. It also meant that a large chunk of Lincolnshire was held by a loyal Yorkist.

It was only on the accession of King Henry VII that the attainder against the Welles family was reversed and John Welles, Joan and Robert’s uncle from their father’s second marriage inherited the titles and estates along with their cousin Christopher Willoughby. Even so, Sir Richard Hastings, who died in 1503 continued to be known as Lord Willoughby, a title which should have more properly belonged to Christopher Willoughby whose mother Cecily was a daughter of Lionel, 6th Lord Welles, who died at Towton.

Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk by Hans Holbein

And before I finish… if the name Willoughby is ringing bells its because Christopher’s son married Katherine of Aragon’s loyal lady in waiting Maria de Salinas. The couple had only one child, Katherine, who was a sole heiress to the Willoughby title and estates. She was supposed to have married the Duke of Suffolk’s son but instead found herself married to the duke, Charles Brandon, who was significantly older than she was. In 1546, after she was widowed there were rumours that King Henry VIII wanted to make her wife number seven, even though wife number six was alive and well at the time.

Anne Neville, Queen of England

Anne Neville

Anne, the younger daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, also known as the ‘kingmaker’ was married to both Margaret of Anjou’s son, the Lancastrian heir to the throne and after this death at the Battle of Tewkesbury to Richard of Gloucester, the last Yorkist king.

Anne and her older sister Isabel grew up at Middleham where they met George of Clarence and Richard. Unfortunately their father’s relationship with George and Richard’s brother, King Edward IV soured after Edward married Elizabeth Woodville. In 1470, Warwick switched sides resulting in Anne’s marriage to Edward of Lancaster.

Following Warwick’s death at the Battle of Barnet on 14 April 1471, Isabel and Anne became co-heiresses but their mother Anne Beauchamp, who was descended from the Despensers, had first to be declared legally dead before George could access his wife’s inheritance as Richard Neville was earl in jure uxoris. Anne remained countess of Warwick until her death in 1492 but her estates were nobbled by her sons-in-law, although in order to marry Anne, Richard effectively forewent much of his share. Anne had effectively become the ward of George and had no intention of sharing the kingmaker’s estates with anyone. Anne was probably destined for a nunnery but in the meantime the story went that she was hidden in the kitchens.

Richard, not known for his lack of perseverance, arranged for Anne to go into sanctuary and for a dispensation from the pope permitting their marriage. The wedding took place in 1472 and the couple returned to Middleham. Eventually Anne Beauchamp was permitted to join them. Isabel died in 1476 as a result of complications from childbirth or from TB. Anne Neville acquired some of her sisters estates as well as all but adopting her young son Edward.

Edward IV died in April 1483 and Richard was crowned in July having revealed to the world that Edward had married Elizabeth Woodville bigamously, rendering Edward V and his siblings illegitimate. Anne was crowned with him. Their only child, another Edward, became Prince of Wales. He died in Middleham in 1484 whilst his parents were journeying north to visit him. Anne, grieving for her only child, became unwell, probably from TB, and died in March 1485. She was buried in Westminster Abbey – Richard was said to have wept at her funeral although rumour already painted him as a wife killer plotting to marry his own niece. On the day Anne died there was a solar eclipse – it was said afterwards that Richard lost his favour with Heaven on the day his wife died.

Watch the lady!

Yanwath Hall

It never does to forget that genealogical tables by their very nature are composed of women as well as men! Take Maud Clifford who was born sometime around 1442. Her parents were Thomas, 8th Baron Clifford and Elizabeth Percy , the daughter of Hotspur and Elizabeth Mortimer. It’s this Clifford who was killed at the First Battle of St Albans in 1455 – and as a consequence of his son’s desire for vengeance the new earl became one of Margaret of Anjou’s foremost supporters, the young Earl of Rutland was killed at the Battle of Wakefield and John Clifford gained the by-name “Black Face Clifford.” You can also see why the Cliffords would have joined in a feud against the Neville family thanks to their Percy mother.

Maud who was one of a large brood was married in the first instance to Sir John Harrington of Hornby – which was mildly unfortunate because the Harringtons supported the House of York. Sir Thomas, John’s father being a retainer of the Earl of Salisbury. Thomas and John were both at Wakefield and slain on the 30th December 1460. Maud’s daughters were just four and five but as co-heiresses they became wards of the Crown. In November 1461 Edward IV gave wardship to Thomas Lord Stanley but their uncle James refused to hand them or Hornby Castle over resulting in yet another regional fifteenth century feud.

Meanwhile Maud married Edmund Sutton in about 1465. He was the eldest son of John Sutton, Baron Dudley who changed sides after the Battle of Northampton from being a loyal supporter of Henry VI to being a loyal supporter of Edward IV. Edmund was at St Albans as a Lancastrian but at Towton as a Yorkist. The could had several children including Thomas, who did not become Baron Sutton of Dudley because Maud was a second wife and Edmund already had an heir. A suitable match was found with Grace Thelkeld who was one of three co-heiresses of Yanwath – and with that Thomas, effectively a younger son and confusing matters by taking the surname Dudley rather than Sutton as many of his kin chose to do, disappeared into the northern gentry when Yanwath Hall became his through right of his wife.

However, it always helps to maintain kinship ties and as it happens Thomas’s sons John and Thomas were able to find themselves a very powerful Tudor patron in the shape of their cousin Robert Dudley, Earl Leicester – which is of course why I have been reading about them. It’s also given me another challenge – to see if I can find my own photo of Yanwath Hall in the many out of sync files that I managed to retrieve.

The Berkeley feud and the last private battle in England

Berkeley Castle (https://www.berkeley-castle.com/visit)

On the 20th March 1470 the Battle of Nibley Green brought the so-called Berkeley Feud to a head. It was to become the last private battle on English soil.

Edward IV was in the north of England at the time tying up the loose ends of unrest there. The Earl of Warwick, increasingly unhappy with his cousin, had rebelled in 1469 and imprisoned Edward in Warwick Castle. In September Edward was released and in 1470 following the Battle of Losecoat which had been fought on the 12th March the Earl of Warwick had fled England for France along with Edward’s brother, George Duke of Clarence.

Meanwhile Thomas Talbot, Viscount Lisle and William, Lord Berkeley took the opportunity to get on with a spot of feuding. Both men believed that they were entitled to the Berkeley estate as well as title and castle. Margaret, Countess of Shrewsbury born Beauchamp was the granddaughter of Thomas, Lord Berkeley who died in 1417 (this is a long story). She and her sister were his co-heiresses via their mother Elizabeth. However, Berkeley’s estates and title passed to his brother’s son James, though it should be added that this wasn’t without dispute. In fact Thomas had enfeoffed Berkeley Castle and his lands to several trustees prior to his death because the line of inheritance was uncertain.

James died in 1463 and his son William inherited the title and the estates.

It wasn’t a straight forward sort of transfer across the family branches because Margaret was married to the Earl of Warwick – so one of the most powerful families in the land. Margaret had imprisoned James’ wife, Isabel, in 1452 when she attempted to appeal James’ claim to a council of Henry VI. Isabel died whilst still in captivity. Its probably didn’t help matters much.

In 1468 Margaret died and her claim was taken up by her eighteen year old grandson Thomas Talbot.

In 1470 William Berkeley attempted to conclude matters by issuing a personal challenge to Thomas. The pair’s heralds agreed a time and a place. The result was the Battle of Nibley Green. William had a substantial force of men which outnumbered Thomas’s. Thomas Talbot and some one hundred and fifty other men died. it probably didn’t help that Thomas forgot to lower his visor in the heat of the moment.

Thomas’s manor at Wotton was then sacked.

Margaret had occupied Wotton which was part of the Berkeley estate so William Wotton regarded it as his anyway. Lord Berkeley in one of his legal petitions accuses the Countess of unjustly keeping possession of his manors of Wotton, Symondshall, Cowley, and some others; of plotting and corrupting his servants to get possession of Berkeley Castle, and finally of compassing his death by means of a hired assassin.

Margaret denied the charge of intended murder but held fast to her claim to the Castle and manors of Berkeley. She believed that as Thomas Berkeley’s granddaughter by a direct line of inheritance that her various attempts to gain possession were justified and she petitioned to have her rights restored to her. The first petition and reply were referred by the king, (Edward IV) to the Lord Chancellor, to whom the subsequent pleas and counter-pleas were addressed, and in these proceedings, varied by predatory incursions upon each others’ manors and frequent fights between their servants and tenants, five years had passed without any decision being pronounced when Thomas Talbot inherited the feud.

William Berkeley was a Yorkist and Edward IV needed his support so he suffered little punishment being made a viscount in 1481. In 1483 he became the Earl of Nottingham. Berkeley didn’t have any legitimate children so his brother Maurice inherited the estate by which time William had done a Lord Stanley at Bosworth i.e. sat and waited to see what the outcome was going to be before joining the battle. Even worse he’d sent men to Richard III and money to Henry Tudor.

“A Sketch of the History of Berkeley Its Castle, Church, and the
Berkeley Family” by James Herbert Cooke,
Land Steward to the Right Hon. Lord Fitzhardinge.

Wagner, John A. The Encyclopaedia of the Wars of the Roses