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 [accessed 31 March 2022].

Getting to grips with the Nevilles – the Earls of Westmorland.

Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland

Ralph Neville 1st Earl of Westmorland married Margaret Stafford by papal dispensation. Like so many other marriages of the period there was a degree of consanguinity to be taken into consideration.

The couple’s eldest son John made a glittering marriage to Elizabeth Holland the daughter of Thomas Holland 2nd Earl of Kent in 1394.  Her mother was Alice FitzAlan the daughter of the Earl of Arundel and his wife Eleanor who was the Great Granddaughter of King Henry III. It was an indicator of the earl’s growing power and prestige. John held the office of Warden of the West Marches from 15 May 1414 to 1420. He succeeded his father who was also the Warden for the West Marches. It would be something of a Neville family responsibility through much of the fifteenth century. He also played his part in the Hundred Years War.

Meanwhile Margaret Stafford died and the earl made a second marriage in November 1396 to Joan Beaufort the legitimised daughter of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford. The couple went on to have fourteen children who the earl showed increasing favour towards as he enfeoffed lands which should have been destined for his eldest son and heir to his second family. John did not seem to object to his father’s favour towards his half-siblings. According to Charles Ross he was a witness to at least one of his father’s land transfers. It is possible that neither Ralph nor John realised the extent to which Ralph’s second family would take advantage of the enfeoffments they received.   John died before his father.  He had been an active participant in the Hundred Years War and it is likely that his death occurred in France in 1420.

Part of the family tree of Ralph Neville 1st Earl of Westmorland showing the descent of the earl’s eldest son John and his children.

John’s eldest son Ralph succeeded his grandfather as the second Earl of Westmorland after the first earl’s death in 1425. The following year he married into the Percy family and received licence to enter his lands- but they were sadly depleted resulting in an increasingly bitter legal dispute with his step-grandmother and the junior Neville line headed by Richard Neville Earl of Salisbury. Joan Beaufort and her brother, Cardinal Henry Beaufort had no intention of allowing the earl’s first family – the senior line- to benefit at the expense of Joan’s family.  Inevitably matters moved beyond the courts to threats, intimidation and violence.

 In 1438 the two halves of the family were summoned to appear before King Henry VI to resolve the ongoing conflict. By 1443 a settlement had been achieved which saw Joan’s son Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury in possession of his father’s properties in the North-West, Yorkshire, Essex, York and London whilst the second earl received properties within the Bishopric of Durham including Raby Castle and Staindrop. After Joan’s death at the end of 1440 her dower lands in County Durham were also returned to the 2nd earl.

At about the same time the accord was reached between the two halves of the Neville family, the 2nd earl who had been widowed married for a second time to Margaret Cobham. The 2nd earl and his family did not have the powerful family connections of their half-siblings, the earl’s second wife was Margaret whose sister Eleanor was married to Humphrey Duke of Gloucester who was Henry VI’s regent in England during his minority was perhaps a strategy to garner some influence.

As well as losing his first wife the earl’s daughter by Margaret, named after her mother, died young and in 1450 his remaining child and heir, John, by his first wife also died. He left a wife – Lady Anne Holland, daughter of the Duke of Exeter but the marriage was thought to be unconsummated.

It appears that Ralph suffered some sort of mental illness at around the same time. The 2nd earl’s brother Thomas who died in 1458 seems to have acted as the earl’s guardian at times. After Thomas’s death it does not appear that anyone took over the responsibility. Either the earl was fully recovered or the conflict that would become known as the Wars of the Roses impacted on the Ralph’s care plan. It might also account for why he did not become involved in the build up to the conflict between York and Lancaster. Although the 2nd earl spent many years litigating against his grandfather’s second family he did not put an army in the field against his uncle Richard Neville Earl of Salisbury or cousin the Earl of Warwick.

The 2nd earl’s remaining brother, John, styled Baron Neville did become embroiled in the intermittent conflict between Lancastrians and Yorkists.  According to the English Chronicle Baron Neville met with Richard Duke of York at Sandal in December 1460 before raising an army of 8,000 men.  York believed that the baron and his army were on his side in the coming battle so emerged from behind the safety of his castle walls on 30 December. But before the fighting was underway the baron and his men, along with Andrew Trollope the Captain of Calais, turned on the Yorkists. The duke was, after all, allied with his brother-in-law Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury the eldest son of the 1st Earl of Westmorland’s second marriage and the beneficiary of the estates which the earl’s family from his first marriage believed to rightfully belong to them.  Evidently John decided that the enemy of his enemy was his friend – so opted to join the Lancastrians.

The Lancastrians saw victory at Wakefield whilst the Yorkists experienced defeat and the deaths of Richard Neville Earl of Salisbury and his son Thomas as well as Richard Duke of York and his second son Edmund Earl of Rutland who was allegedly killed by Lord Clifford as he sought mercy as he fled the battlefield. The tables were soon turned.  At the Battle of Towton which was fought during Easter 1461 the Yorkists defeated the Lancastrians and claimed the throne.  Baron Neville was killed during the battle and attainted of treason leaving his widow without means.

Which brings me back to Anne Holland – who we last saw as a grieving widow in 1450 when the 2nd earl’s son John died. The marriage was said to be unconsummated which perhaps removed the impediment to her second wedding (the wording for the papal dispensation must have been interesting both in terms of consanguinity and affinity.) In 1452 Anne married John’s uncle,  Baron Neville (the one killed at Towton.) She had only one child, a son named Ralph by Baron Neville. He would become the 3rd Earl of Westmorland. Anne’s own mother Anne Stafford, was not only the daughter of the Earl of Stafford but also the widow of Edmund Mortimer 5th Earl of March before she married the Duke of Exeter (still with me?) which means -for those of you keeping track of who was related to whom -that Anne was distantly related by the ties of kinship created by marriage to King Edward IV who was descended from Mortimer’s sister Anne (Edward’s granny) – demonstrating once again that during the fifteenth century everyone who mattered was related to some degree or other!

Right – I’m off to lay down in a darkened room…

Cokayne, George Edward (1936). The Complete Peerage, edited by H.A. Doubleday and Lord Howard de WaldenIX. London: St. Catherine Press

 Ross, Charles (1950). The Yorkshire Baronage, 1399–1435 (PhD). University of Oxford.

Sir Robert Ogle

Ogle Family Coat of Arms

On 26 July 1461 Sir Robert Ogle of Ogle Castle became Baron Ogle. His recognition by King Edward IV was because of his support for the Yorkist cause in Northumberland which would essentially remain Lancastrian for the next three years and four months. Inevitably he was part of the Neville affinity – as attested to by the fact that he was regularly appointed as a JP by either Salisbury or Warwick.

Robert was married to Maud Grey in 1399 – It’s not totally clear who Maud’s parents might have been exactly but on her maternal side she was descended from the Mowbray family and possible was related to the Neville family – demonstrating the extended kinship network that stretched through the north across generations.

The Kingmaker’s other daughter

Bear and ragged staff

Richard Neville Earl of Warwick had two daughters – Isabel and Anne who he sought to marry to best advantage so that one day a Neville grandchild would rule England and Wales. He was thwarted by politics and the death of Anne’s son Edward of Middleham. Isabel’s son spent most of his short life as a captive before being executed by King Henry VII.

When he was about twenty-two the Kingmaker who had been married to his countess since they were both children became father for the first time to another daughter called Margaret who was born before the Countess gave birth to her eldest daughter Isabel. If Margaret was born in 1450 she would have been fourteen when married Sir Richard Huddleston of Millom. He was twenty-four. As well as land in Coverdale worth £6 pa Warwick dowered his daughter with the manors of Blennerhasset and Upmanby in Cumberland.

The Kingmaker had three grandchildren from the strategic northern match he made for his illegitimate daughter. Richard, Margaret and Joan. Circumstantial evidence suggests that Richard’s northern family were on good terms with their legitimate half siblings as Margaret can be found as one of Queen Anne Neville’s ladies, indeed at the coronation she preceded many more gently born ladies and received a gift from the king. This familial closeness raises the possibility that Margaret was raised at least in part with her half-sisters at Middleham.

More detailed information about Margaret’s family can be found here:

The Arrival of King Edward IV

King Edward IV

The Historie of the Arrivall of King Edward IV was widely circulated in Europe in 1471 in the form of a newsletter written in French. It was then amended and extended in English later but probably by the original author. A copy of this was version was kept by the Elizabethan antiquary John Stow. It tells the story of Edward’s return to England rolling his flight to the Low Countries and the court of his brother-in-law the Duke of Burgundy the previous year. Margaret of York was married to Charles the Bold. The couple provided Edward with ships and money allowing him to return to England in March 1471. He arrived off Norfolk on the 12 March but the Earl of Oxford’s hold on the region was too tight for the Yorkists to make a safe landing. Instead, he made landfall at Ravespur on Holderness where Henry of Bolingbroke had landed in 1399. Like his predecessor Edward initially claimed that he was only returning to claim his dukedom. It was only at Nottingham that his numbers began to swell with men loyal to the House of York.

Nicholas Harpisfeld who was one of four clerks of the king’s signet had been with Edward throughout his exile and was with him when he returned. Nicholas may have gone with the king out of loyalty or because he grew up speaking French. Later his good service to Edward and his brother Richard of Gloucester during their time of exile would be remembered. It was Nicholas’ job to travel with the king preparing warrants and letters patent and proofreading completed documents to check that their original copy was the same as the official transcript prepared by other clerks. The Harpisfelds were in Richard of York’s service in 1445 – accounts reveal that he was in Rouen. There was also a Harpsifeld serving Richard in Ireland in 1460 demonstrating the trust that had built up between Edward and Nicholas through the family affinity to the House of York.

Throughout the period there were disputes with St Albans Abbey about the ownership of lands which belonged to the Harpisfeld family. Nicholas was accepted as the rightful owner in 1463 but even in 1484 there was an enquiry about the ownership of the estates which the abbot of St Albans still protested as belonging to the abbey. By that time the family had benefited from their association with the House of York and were the owners or leaseholders of several lands.

Harpisfeld’s eyewitness account of 1471 included the king’s march from Yorkshire to London, the defeat of the Lancastrians led by the Earl of Warwick at Barnet after he failed to gather sufficient troops in the Midlands, as well as the earl’s death and the death of his brother Lord Montagu. It went on to provide details of Margaret of Anjou’s very badly timed arrival off the south coast at Weymouth, the Lancastrian decision to recruit an army led by the Duke of Somerset and to join up with Jasper Tudor in Wales where he was recruiting his own army. It provides information regarding the forced march that saw the Lancastrians pursued from Bristol via Gloucester and Berkeley to Tewkesbury and the battle of the 4 May 1471 that saw Margaret’s son killed and Somerset executed.

The Arrival is an eye-witness account told from a Yorkist perspective and as a consequence we do not know Margaret of Anjou’s exact location during the Battle of Tewkesbury or in which monastic foundation she was eventually captured along with her daughter-in-law, fourteen year old Anne Neville.

The Camden Society reprinted The Arrival in 1838 and can be read via Google books (in English) :

Getting rid of the Arch Bishop of York – the demise of George Neville

Arms of George Neville, Archbishop of York (British Library, MS Harl.3346 ff.4v-5), c.1475)

George was the Earl of Warwick’s youngest brother being born in about 1432. He was always destined for the church and educated in Oxford in preparation. In 1458, in the aftermath of the Yorkist victory at the first Battle of St Albans (I know it was 1455) he became the Bishop of Exeter. From that time onwards he was an essential part of the Neville affinity. After the battle of Northampton in July 1460 his brother gave him the Great Seal of England and once the Yorkists were victorious at Towton on 29 March 1461 he became King Edward IV’s lord chancellor. The records reveal him being sent on diplomatic missions, becoming the chancellor of Oxford university and in 1465 being consecrated as Archbishop of York.

Unfortunately the king and his cousin, the Earl of Warwick, found themselves increasingly at odds with one another. In 1467 George’s role as Lord Chancellor was replaced by the Bishop of Bath – Robert Stillington- who would later be accused of officiating at a secret marriage ceremony between Edward and Eleanor Talbot invalidating the king’s union with Elizabeth Woodville (I’m not going into that in this post!) Nor were matters helped when George popped across to Calais to officiate at the wedding of his niece Isabel Neville to George Duke of Clarence having facilitated the necessary papal dispensation beforehand.

George would become Henry VI’s chancellor during the brief readeption of 1470-1471. George was still with the Lancastrian king when Edward IV arrived back in London at the beginning of May 1471. For a short while he share the deposed king’s captivity in the Tower. He was pardoned and released for a short while. He spent that Christmas at his newly built home at Moor Park or The Moor as it was known. He entertained John Paston. The Warkworth Chronicle takes up the tale stating that the king invited the erstwhile bishop to Windsor to hunt (remember that they were cousins as well.). The king suggested that George should return the favour by inviting him to stay at The Moor. George believed that all had been forgiven.

The day before the king was due to arrive the archbishop was arrested on charges of treason. According to Warkworth the charge was that he had provided assistance to the Earl of Oxford. Edward claimed Moor Park and its contents. George found himself being quietly shipped off to Hampnes Castle in the Pale of Calais ‘and there he was kept prisoner for many a day ‘ (Warkworth Chronicle, p.25). The removal was done in such secrecy that it was believed the archbishop was dead – it’s commented upon in the Paston Letters. The chronicle added that the bishop’s mitre found its way into the king’s hands. He had the jewels removed from it and turned into a crown for himself. All of George’s plate and valuables were given to Prince Edward. The chronicle moralised about George’s covetousness but did not add that the Bishop was kept imprisoned until the end of 1475 before being permitted to return to England. It was thought that Richard of Gloucester was amongst the men who argued on the behalf of the bishop. On the 6 November he was made an abbot at Westminster. He was at Blyth Priory in Northumberland when he died on 8 June 1476.

Holy Trinity Church, Goodram Gate, York.,1885-1900/Neville,_George(1433%3F-1476)

The ever expanding Neville family

Ralph Neville and his two wives

Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland was married twice. He was married first to Margaret Stafford and had eight children. After Margaret’s death he married for a second time to Joan Beaufort and produced a further fourteen children of whom nine were sons (three of them didn’t live for long.) So far so many. The first family weren’t keen on the second family because whilst they got the title and eventually Raby Castle which was part of Joan Beaufort’s dower (so it was hers for her life) they didn’t get the loot which went to the second family – which doesn’t help much if you’re trying to keep track of who was fighting whom during the Wars of the roses.

The eldest son from the second marriage was Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury by right of his wife Alice Montagu or Montacute depending on how you feel like spelling it. The Salisburys had ten children, the eldest of whom was also called Richard and became the so-called Kingmaker. Three of the children died in infancy – but that’s still seven more Nevilles to extend the family influence.

Thomas Neville became his uncle Robert’s steward (Uncle Robert was the Bishop of Durham.) His marriage to Maud Stanhope triggered a violent upsurge in the Neville-Percy feud on Thomas and Maud’s wedding day. He also turns up as a deputy warden for his father and as a guarantor for his uncle, William Neville Lord Fauconberg. He was killed at the Battle of Wakefield along with his father and uncle-by-marriage Richard of York.

John Neville, 1st Marquess Montagu is usually associated with the Percy feud mainly because he became the Earl of Northumberland for a short time in 1464. It did not go down well with the locals and besides which Warwick’s relationship with the king began to deteriorate. Long story, short – he was booted out of the earldom, rebelled and was finally killed at the Battle of Barnet.

George Neville – youngest surviving son – always destined for the church became Bishop of Exeter in 1458 and Archbishop of York in 1465. He was also Lord Chancellor and when he was sacked from the post Warwick took it rather personally, blaming the Woodville faction for his loss of influence – as personified by the demotion of George – who then made matters even worse by marrying Edward IV’s brother the Duke of Clarence to Warwick’s daughter Isabel despite express instructions from the king that there should be no marriage.

Joan Neville became the Countess of Arundel.

Cecily (not the Rose of Raby – she was this Cecily’s aunt) married Henry Beauchamp, Duke of Warwick who died inconveniently young. She married for a second time to John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester.

Alice Neville was Katherine Parr’s great granny.

Eleanor Neville married Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby – three of their children survived into adulthood but after Eleanor died, Stanley remarried…to Lady Margaret Beaufort, becoming the step-father of Henry Tudor and the bloke who didn’t commit at Bosworth until he saw which way the wind was blowing.

Katherine Neville married in to another family feud when she married William Bonville. The Bonvilles and the Courtneys were fighting for pre-eminence in Devon. Her second husband was the Lord Hastings who got his head chopped off by Richard III without trial. Richard placed Katherine under his protection immediately after doing away with her philandering spouse (who had a bit of a thing going with Edward IV’s mistress Jane Shore.) Katherine’s buried in the parish church at Ashby de la Zouche.

Margaret Neville found herself married to John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford. John became the earl somewhat unexpectedly. Cecily’s husband executed his father and elder brother for treason…they were Lancastrians. John was also a Lancastrian which came in handy when Warwick turned his coat.

And my point? It’s not what you know, it’s who you know – or rather more importantly who you’re related to when it comes to the Neville Affinity.

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.

Jean de Wavrin, Lord of Forestel

De Wavrin’s Chronicle – The British Library Board: Royal 15 E iv vol 1, f. 14

De Wavrin was born at the turn of the fifteenth century. Jean’s father was killed at Agincourt as was his brother. Jean having lost his family, and being an illegitimate descendent of the house of Artois, continued to fight alongside the French army until 1435 when he entered into the employment of the Duke of Burgundy who was an ally of the English. Eventually de Wavrin retired from a career as a professional soldier, married and settled down with a wife in Lille. It helped that she was a rich widow.

He was an avid book collector and amateur chronicler. In effect history was one of his hobbies. From 1445 onwards he began to write a chronicle of English history in four volumes which he finished in 1455 with the death of King Henry IV. Before long he commenced a fifth volume and continued writing about the history of England until 1471 by which time he was on his sixth volume.

Wavrin’s work was not undertaken for patronage and as such the work is not only extensive it is also uncritical. The period covering the Wars of the Roses is not so disinterested. It should be remembered that de Wavrin favoured the House of York because of his association with Burgundy and its alliance with the Yorkist kings. He even presented a copy of his history to Edward IV which can, today, be found in The British Library.

What makes the chronicle unique is that he knew the people that he was writing about and presents the Wars of the Roses from a European perspective. What’s not helpful is that he is not always accurate- perhaps in part because he was not a fan of the Lancastrians. My current interest comes from his description of the relationship between Edward IV, his brother George and the Earl of Warwick and the role played by the Woodville family in the breakdown of the family relationship.