Tag Archives: Baron Mountjoy

Joan Beaufort’s family – Anne Neville, Countess of Stafford

Joan Beaufort neville family tree

 

Joan BeaufortAn earlier post looked at Katherine Neville’s four marriages.  Today I am looking at Anne Neville’s marriages.  Anne was born in about 1410 (depending on the source you read). By the time she was fourteen she was married to Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Stafford who would go on to become the First Duke of Buckingham.  The family was hugely wealthy.  Anne like many of the other women in her family became noted for her interest in books and spent money on lavishly illustrated prayer books and psalters. The Wingfield Book of Hours was hers for example.  In addition, as with others of her family History also has her book of accounts detailing her expenditure. She died in 1480 at the age of seventy (ish) after two marriages and many children – again figures vary depending upon the source but there were at least ten of them.  Sadly of their sons, only three survived to adulthood.

Anne’s eldest son with Humphrey Stafford – unsurprisingly another Humphrey died in 1458 of plague – a reminder of the fact that disease stalked the land culling various Beaufort descendants just as much as war. Anne’s son had been married to his cousin Margaret Beaufort – not to be confused with the Margaret Beaufort. This one was the daughter of  Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset (the one who had a thing with Katherine of Valois and managed to get himself killed at the first Battle of St Albans in May 1455) rather than her more famous cousin who was first married to Edmund Tudor.

The next son was Henry Stafford who married the widowed Margaret Tudor – nee Beaufort.  It must have been a bit confusing to have two Margaret Beauforts in the family.  This Margaret, other than being Henry VII’s mother, was the daughter of John Beaufort the older brother of Edmund who died in 1444 under suspicious circumstances having lost vast chunks of France due to ineptitude.  Henry seems to have had a skin condition called St Anthony’s Fire – the condition involving inflation of the skin as well as headaches and sickness which cannot have been ideal when you had to get togged up in armour and go and fight battles.  There were no grandchildren from this union but the pair seem to have genuinely loved one another celebrating their wedding anniversary each year and Margaret Beaufort celebrated St Anthony’s day throughout her life. Sir Henry also fell victim to the Wars of the Roses dying from injuries sustained at the Battle of Barnet in October 1470.  Although the family had started off loyal to Henry VI, Henry had made his peace with Edward IV and when he was injured was fighting on the side of the White Rose.

The third and final son to survive to adulthood was called John and he would become the Earl of Wilshire.  Like his brothers he fought in the Wars of the Roses.  History knows that he was at Hexham in 1464 fighting on the side of Edward IV.  He went on to become Chief Butler for England.  Like his brothers he married an heiress.   He and his wife, Constance, had one son, also called John, who inherited John’s title and estates when he was a child.  As his cousin Buckingham would do, John found himself under the care of his paternal grandmother – Anne Neville.

Several daughters from Anne’s marriage to Humphrey survived to marriageable age and this proved to be a bit of a headache for the Buckinghams despite the wealth I mentioned earlier.  Part of the problem was the Humphrey’s mother held extensive dower estates having not only been married to Humphrey’s father but to his older brother before that.  There was also the fact that Buckingham wished to make extremely good marriages for his daughters and that cost money.

The couple’s oldest daughter, another Anne, married the heir to the Earl of Oxford. Aubrey de Vere is best known to history for being executed for treason in 1462 along with his father the twelfth Earl of Oxford.  Edward IV had Aubrey and his father arrested for writing to Margaret of Anjou and planning to have a Lancastrian force land in England. This was rather unfortunate as up until that time the de Vere’s had done rather well at keeping themselves out of the fifteenth century fracas. It would also have to be said that the exact nature of the plot is rather blurred round the edges.  Anne de Vere nee Stafford went on to marry Thomas, Lord Cobham. Thomas died in 1471 without legitimate male issue so his title passed to Anne’s daughter also called Anne who was married to Edward Burgh of Gainsborough who was unfortunately declared insane.

Anne Cobham married Edward Burgh when he was thirteen.  Katherine Parr’s first spouse was a member of the Burgh family.  Anne Neville and Humphrey Stafford’s 2x-great grandson Thomas Burgh fought at Flodden in 1513 and sat on Anne Boleyn’s trial having been very forceful in her favour at the time of Henry VIII’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon – he is on record as ripping the royal coat of arms from her barge. His residence in Gainsborough was Gainsborough Old Hall which I have posted about before. Sir Thomas does not seem to have been a terribly pleasant man given his towering rages and having his own grandchildren declared illegitimate.

But back to the daughters of Anne Neville and Humphrey Stafford. Joan Stafford, was married aged ten to William, Viscount Beaumont who started out as a Lancastrian, became temporarily Yorkist after Towton when he was captured but wasn’t given back his lands- Edward chose to give them to his friend Lord Hastings- so remained Lancastrian at heart which meant that the next two decades were eventful for him until he returned with Henry Tudor and took part in the Battle of Bosworth. William was unusual in that his loyalty to the Lancastrians was pretty much unwavering. Unfortunately for Joan the marriage was set aside in 1477.  She went on to marry Sir William Knyvett of Buckenham in Norfolk.  The family was an important part of the Norfolk gentry and feature in the Paston Letters.  Like her mother, Joan commissioned many books which survive today.

A third daughter called Catherine married into the Talbot family.  John Talbot became the third Earl of Shrewsbury after his father’s death in 1460.The couple had two sons and a daughter.  It feels as though Neville strands of DNA link most of the important fifteenth century families and reflects the way in which a power base and affinity could be built.  Another daughter, Margaret married Robert Dunham of Devon.

Humphrey Stafford overstretched himself as he was still paying his daughters’ dowries when he died and accommodation had to be made for that in his will.  The Buckinghams were good Lancastrians.  Humphrey was killed in 1460 at the Battle of Northampton whilst guarding Henry VI’s tent.  If you recall this was the battle that Edmund Grey rather ruined for the Lancastrians by changing sides mid battle and allowing the Earl of Warwick through his lines. This event rather changed things within the wider Neville family dynamic.  In 1459 after the Battle of Ludford Bridge (which really wasn’t a battle – more of a stand-off followed by a tactical scarpering by Richard of York) Anne and Humphrey had accommodated Anne’s sister Cecily who was Richard of York’s wife along with her younger children.  Thanks to popular fiction if we think of Anne at all it is usually in her rather frosty welcome of disgraced Cecily. The wheel of Fortune turned in 1460 at the Battle of Northampton and by Easter 1461 the Lancastrians had been labelled traitors and the house of York was in the ascendant with Cecily lording it over widowed Anne.

 

The Second duke of Buckingham was Anne’s grandson.  He wasn’t even five years old when he acquired the title.  Wardship of the new duke passed into the hands of Anne but Edward IV – who was Anne’s nephew (Cecily Neville was his mother)- purchased the wardship from her and with it the right to organise the young duke’s marriage.  He’s the one who ended up married to Katherine Woodville, feeling resentful of his Yorkist cousin who didn’t allow him the freedoms and rights that he felt were his due. Ultimately he undertook a spot of light revolting against Richard III in October 1483 which ended in his execution at the beginning of November the same year in Salisbury.

 

Six years after the death of Humphrey Stafford, Anne married  again to Walter Blount who was the first Baron Mountjoy.  They had no children (and trust me when I say that since beginning to track the descendants of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford that I am grateful whenever I come across that fact.) Mountjoy died in 1474 mentioning his beloved wife in his will.

Anne died in 1480 and is buried in Pleshy, Essex next to Humphrey Stafford as her will requested. Only her daughter Joan Stafford survived her. Most famously she left books to her one time daughter-in-law Margaret Beaufort who was now married to Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby.

 

Baldwin, David. (2009).  The Kingmaker’s Sisters. Stroud: The History Press

The Encyclopaedia of the Wars of the Roses

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Edward Courtney, Earl of Devon

edward courtney.jpgEdward Courtney was the only surviving son of the Marquess of Exeter born in 1526.
More significant  was the fact that he was the great-grandson of Edward IV.   Katherine, the sixth of Edward and Elizabeth Woodville’s children to survive babyhood, was married off to Sir William Courtney a loyal Lancastrian in the aftermath of Bosworth which must have been a bit of a comedown from an earlier proposal for her to marry either a Scottish or a Spanish prince but better by far than scuttling around in the sanctuary of Westminster Abbey.  Unfortunately for poor old William he somehow became inveigled into a conspiracy to put Edmund de La Pole on the throne in 1502 and spent the rest of Henry VII’s reign in custody – it’s fairly safe to say that the Courtneys were framed.
Katherine Courtney of York.jpgWhen Henry VIII came to the throne he had his uncle by marriage released from prison but persuaded his Aunt Katherine to renounce her claim to the earldom of March- and the Mortimer inheritance which caused so much mayhem during the Wars of the Roses- and following the death of William in 1511, Katherine took a vow of chastity.  This seemed to go down well with Bluff King Hal who gave her the rights to the income from the Courtney lands during her life time, drew her son Henry into the inner court circle and made her godmother to the Princess Mary in 1516. The problem so far as her grandson Edward would be concerned would be that little drop of Plantagenet blood.  It had been alright for Katherine to sign herself ‘the excellent Princess Katherine, Countess of Devon, daughter, sister and aunt of kings’ (Westcott) but royalty wasn’t such a good thing to have in one’s bloodstream during the mid-Tudor crisis and especially not if one fancied wearing a crown rather than a coronet.
Edward Courtney looked all set for a charmed life – he was a cousin of the Tudors and his grandmother had been a respected member of the inner family circle.  He’d spent time in the household of Mary Tudor, Duchess of Suffolk – presumably to learn the art of being a gentleman.
Unfortunately for Edward his father Henry Courtney  came up with the wonderful wheeze of marrying young Edward off to the Princess Mary – you’d have thought he’d have learned from his own father’s experiences.   In addition, Henry’s second wife (and mother of Edward) Gertrude Blount was a daughter of Baron Mountjoy who had served Katherine of Aragon since her arrival in England – Blount, a Derbyshire man  and Katherine’s chamberlain- had a bit of a torrid time of it during the 1530s but Gertrude remained unswervingly loyal to Katherine – and yes, Gertrude was related to Bessie Blount (Henry VIII’s mistress and mother of Henry Fitzroy) but this isn’t the post for that particular amble around Tudor family trees. The Mountjoy clan and the Courtneys were identified as members of the Aragonese faction as supporters of Katherine were called. Henry  Courtney was not only related to the Poles and the Nevilles but on good terms with them – they, being Catholic, were decidedly grumpy about the break with Rome. Put in a nutshell Courtney managed to get himself caught up in one of Thomas Cromwell’s snares in 1538 to keep anyone with a claim to the throne under lock and key- the planned match between Edward and Mary being the icing on the cake so far as Cromwell’s evidence was concerned, so as to speak.
In November 1538 Gertrude, Henry and twelve-year-old Edward found themselves in the Tower.  Henry was executed at the beginning of December and Edward remained a prisoner for the next fifteen years. Henry paid for his distant cousin’s food and education. Upon Henry VIII’s death the regency council and the duke of Somerset decided that an adult male with Plantagenet blood was better in the Tower than out of it – so there he remained, although he now had the company of Bishop Gardiner.  The pair took something of a shine to one another.  Edward referred to the bishop as “father” and Edward became Gardiner’s protégée.
In August 1553 Princess Mary fresh from Framlingham arrived in London to claim her throne from Lady Jane Grey.  A month later Edward was created earl of Devon and Reginald Pole described him as the “Flower of English Nobility” on account of his learning –  let’s face it there wasn’t much else for him to do in the Tower to while away the hours other than read, translate various ancient works and play the lute.
On 1 October 1553 Courtney took his place in Mary’s court by bearing the sword of state at her coronation.
Edward now spent considerable amounts of time running around London with the wrong kind of women – but I don’t suppose he’d had much opportunity for drunkenness and debauchery whilst in custody. Queen Mary was not impressed.
Meanwhile Mary was determined to marry into the family of Charles V.  It had been her mother’s wish and she refused to consider any other options – no matter what anyone else might say on the matter. The thought of Philip II of Spain made quite a lot of English gentlemen feel a little nauseous. Gardiner did try and suggest Courtney as a match but it was no go.  Instead, Sir Thomas Wyatt and Sir Peter Carew came up with the idea of Courtney marrying the Princess Elizabeth – voila Protestant, English – Tudor/Plantagenet- what more could one wish for? Sir William Paget the Tudor administrator was keen on the match as well.  Obviously Gardiner wasn’t so keen on the idea – him being very catholic and everything but Courtney whose freedom seems to have done strange things to his personality and common sense thought it was a terrific plan, as did the recently freed duke of Suffolk Henry Grey, father of Lady Jane Grey.
The plan for the regions to rise up did not go well.  The council found out that there was rebellion in the air and various parties ran around in ever decreasing circles until they were rounded up and placed under arrest – the only exception was in Kent where Wyatt’s rebels advanced upon London and caused quite a lot of panic. Henry Grey scarpered to the Midlands where he met with indifference or hostility whilst Gardiner slapped Courtney metaphorically around in order to find out exactly what he knew.  Gardiner had no intention of languishing in the Tower or loosing his head although it looks as though Gardiner did try and keep Courtney out of trouble no matter what the rest of the Privy Council and the now very influential Spanish Ambassador had to say on the subject.
Ultimately Wyatt’s Rebellion foundered and Edward Courtney found himself back in the Tower once more scratching his head and looking vaguely bewildered. Unfortunately for Courtney, Wyatt had been tortured and had incriminated the earl in the hope, it is believed,  of securing a pardon.  The two men would meet on the 11 April 1554 when Wyatt went to the block and is said to have begged Courtney’s pardon. Wyatt made it quite clear before his execution that neither Courtney nor Elizabeth had been involved in his rebellion. Henry Grey went to the block and so too did Lady Jane Grey and her husband Guildford Dudley who had no part in the plot and were not intended to benefit from the plot – it was an opportunity to tidy up loose ends. But not as it turned out to get rid of Courtney and Elizabeth.
At the end of May 1554 Courtney was sent to Fotheringhay where he stayed for a year. Then he took a journey, presumably for the benefit of his health to Brussels and from there to Venice.  Unfortunately the Spanish took a dim view of the earl and were planning to have him assassinated – the assassin changed sides in Venice thus saving Courtney from an untimely end.
It does appear that Courtney couldn’t help but dabble in treason as the moment he arrived in Italy he hooked up with Sir Henry Dudley, one of Northumberland’s sons, and between them they came up with a harebrained plan to murder Mary  and replace her with Elizabeth – with Courtney as royal spouse. There was even talk of a possible match to Mary Queen of Scots  thanks to Henri II of France.
On the 18 September 1556 Edward Courtney died in Padua where he had enrolled as a student. There were rumours of poison but in reality he’d caught a chill whilst out hawking. A letter sent to Queen Mary by Peter Vannes provides an account of events, “for his Honest recreation… to see his hawks fly upon a wasted ground, without any houses” was caught “in a great tempest of wind and rain” Rather than leave his sport he’d refused to get changed out of his wet clothes and by the end of the week “entered into a continue hot ague, sometimes more vehement than at another… so that his tongue had so stopped his mouth, and his teeth so clove together” that he couldn’t take the Sacrament at the end.
Inevitably with an unexpected death in a time of intrigue and treason there are always conspiracy theories. Poisoning is a favourite so far as Courtney is concerned but I have also read that he may have died of syphilis – that other perennial Tudor exit strategy. The earldom of Devon was extinct  as there were no more male sprigs. Four girls inherited his estates but not the title. There was also one less contender for the throne.
Ian W. Archer, ‘Courtenay, Edward, first earl of Devon (1526–1556)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/6449, accessed 17 March 2017]
Margaret R. Westcott, ‘Katherine, countess of Devon (1479–1527)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/70277, accessed 17 March 2017]

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