Cecily Neville, Duchess of York

Joan BeaufortCecily, the youngest child of Joan Beaufort and Ralph Neville, was born on 3 May 1415 at Raby Castle.  Like the rest of her siblings an advantageous marriage was arranged for her by her parents.  She was possibly married by 1427 to Richard of York when she reached the age of twelve certainly she had become betrothed to her father’s ward when she was nine and Richard was thirteen.

Once she became a duchess Cecily was required to leave her childhood behind her  in Raby and fulfil court duties wherever Henry VI resided or else to run their main residence of Fotheringhay Castle.  With the patronage of the king’s aunt Richard whose father had been executed for his part in the Southampton Plot was able to regain lands which had been forfeit.  Cecily’s accounts and correspondence reveal that she was busy in helping her husband run his estates and also in the running up of bills – Cecily appears to be rather a heavy shopper who did not stint on expensive fabrics and jewels.  In 1443-44 she spent £608 on clothes – Richard kept a close eye on her spending and probably had a long discussion about the need to buy matched pearls when he saw the bill.

The couple’s first child, a daughter called Anne was born in 1439.  Two years later Richard became governor general of France and the couple moved to Rouen.  It was in Rouen where Cecily’s son Edward was born.  A later smear campaign would suggest that an archer called Blaybourne was Edward’s father rather than the duke – evidence for this particular conspiracy theory comes from the fact that Edward’s baptism was a low key affair unlike that of his younger brother Edmund and that Richard was elsewhere waging war on the key dates.     Amy Licence observes that if Edward was premature this would not apply and would explain why he was baptised quickly and without fuss.  She also notes that the concept of full term is a moveable feast and that equally Cecily could have been pregnant when she arrived in France making the evidence of Richard’s location an irrelevance.  The fact that Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and even George, Duke of Clarence made the accusation is really neither here nor there given the circumstances in which they decided to have doubts about Edward’s right to be king…that would be just before they staged their rebellion in 1469.  It was reported at the time by the Milanese ambassador.  Michael Hicks speculates as to whether Cecily may have assisted in the campaign to remove Edward from the throne. It would have to be said, does it really matter very much in any event as Richard of York acknowledged Edward as his son?

Whilst in Rouen Cecily would have two more children and become the hostess of Margaret of Anjou in 1445 after Henry VI had married her by proxy.  Shortly after that Cecily returned to England and her family continued to expand.  In 1447 Richard was appointed Lieutenant of Ireland, Cecily went with him to Dublin, but his relationship with Henry VI was becoming increasingly difficult.  Richard began to liken himself to Henry VI’s uncle Good Duke Humphrey as he was excluded from what he saw as his rightful share of power.

Cecily inevitably became embroiled in the Wars of the Roses being present in Ludlow after the Battle of Ludford Bridge in 1559.  Richard’s flight with Cecily’s brother and nephew resulted in him being attainted for treason.  Cecily lost everything and was sent off to stay with her sister Anne, Duchess of Buckingham.  Cecily was permitted to attend the Coventry parliament where her husband was attainted in order to plead his cause to the king.  Whilst Richard was attainted his men were only fined and Henry VI issued 1000 marks a year for her upkeep and that of her children.

The following year the wheel of Fortune turned once again. Richard of York, the earls of Salisbury and Warwick returned to England. Briefly Cecily was a finger’s tip away from the crown.  John Harding’s chronicle compares Margaret of Anjou with Proud Cis and concludes Cecily was a more appropriate sort of queen not least because she was under her husband’s control (clearly the chronicler hadn’t received word of Cecily’s shopping trips).  Of course, it all went hideously wrong and Richard ended up with his head on York’s city wall wearing a paper crown in the aftermath of the Battle of Wakefield (30 December 1460).

 

Once her son Edward became king after the Battle of Towton (29 March 1461) she was effectively the first lady of the court until such time as he married.   Her relationship with sister Anne can perhaps be seen in the fact that one of the first things that was done was to confirm Anne’s dower rights as Duchess of Buckingham.  Edward also ensured that he wouldn’t have to worry about his mother’s desire for rich clothing and jewellery.  He gave her lands valued at 5,000 marks a year.   She was one of the wealthiest women in England. She had additional income from customs revenue on wool.

Cecily even styled herself “queen by right,” after Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville became public knowledge – much to her irritation; like the Earl of Warwick she had been working towards an alliance with a European princess.

As the end of the 1460’s approached festering family resentments erupted into rebellion. Cecily’s relationship with Edward became increasingly difficult and in 1478 when Edward had George drowned in a vat of Malmsey Cecily left court and stayed away until Edward died. The Yorkist matriarch then supported her son Richard in bypassing the claims of her grandsons who were declared illegitimate.  With the death of Richard at the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485 Cecily retired from public life and took holy vows.

 

Cecily died on 31 May 1495 having outlived all her sons and all but two of her daughters. She had lived the last years of her life along religious lines – giving rise to a reputation for piety. She had been the mother of two kings and was the grandmother of Henry VII’s queen.  She was buried in Fotheringhay next to her husband.  Their tomb was broken down during the Reformation but re-established by her two times great grand-daughter Elizabeth I.

Laynesmith, J.L. Cecily Duchess of York

Amy License. (2015) Cecily Neville: Mother of Kings. Stroud: Amberley Publishing

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

George Neville, Archbishop of York

georgenevillearms2George Neville was the younger brother of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (a.k.a the Kingmaker) and also John Neville who was briefly the Earl of Northumberland.

 

He was only fourteen years old when the Pope made him a canon not only of York Minster but also of Salisbury. It can be no surprise that his meteoric rise in the church was followed by the Bishopric of Exeter – though he wasn’t legally old enough to run things (he received a dispensation to take the profits though) and in 1465 he was translated to the Archbishopric of York. This later move was by way of a reward given by King Edward IV to the Neville family.

George did study at Balliol College, Oxford in the 1440s so although his role within the spiritual estate reflects the politics of the time he did at least take the job seriously. Prior to become one of the ‘great men’ of the country he had time for a youthful fling with Elizabeth de Beauchamp and had a daughter called Alice.  He was chancellor of the college for a period and also fulfilled the role of chancellor in Edward IV’s government.  He went on diplomatic missions to Scotland. He even  found time to open two of Edward IV’s parliaments.

 

However, things were not going smoothly between the Nevilles and their royal cousin in the 1460s. All Europe – well the Scots and the French- agreed that Edward would not have become king without the support of his cousin the Earl of Warwick. But by 1465 Edward was expressing his own opinions. He wanted a treaty with Philip of Burgundy rather than with Louis XI of France. Warwick favoured France. There was also the unfortunate issue of Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville to take into account. Warwick had been negotiating for the hand of a French princess at the time. It made him look a tad foolish and contributed to the cousins’ relationship deteriorating into open rebellion.

 

George appeared to broker a peace between Edward and Warwick but in reality he was providing his brother with a smokescreen while he planned the marriage of his eldest daughter, Isobel, to George, Duke of Clarence and then when he felt that his power had been eroded too far into rebellion. It should be added that George played a key role in the marriage; not only did he perform the nuptial service for the happy couple in Calais, he was also instrumental in applying for the papal dispensation that permitted George to marry Isobel – they were both descended from John of Gaunt after all. George’s mother (Cecily Neville) was the Earl of Warwick and the archbishop’s aunt.

 

Edward appeared tolerant of his archbishop though – he had a reputation for letting bygones be bygones. After the Battles of Tewkesbury George found himself in prison for a few months and then returned to his offices – business as usual so as to speak.

Then things went badly wrong for the archbishop.  Edward  said he would visit George at his palace in Hertfordshire to go hunting but the day before his intended arrival the king had the bishop arrested and his property confiscated.

Why?  Perhaps Edward remembered that it was the bishop who captured him at Olney near Coventry when the Earl of Warwick made his bid for power in 1469.  Perhaps he remembered all those occasions when George’s words were cast like oil upon troubled waters to disguise Warwick’s machinations.  Perhaps it was because the king remembered that it was also the archbishop who’d been responsible for defending London against Edward when Edward returned to claim his crown in 1471. The bishop summoned Lancastrian sympathisers to St. Pauls -600-700 armed men turned up. In fact when George paraded Lancastrian King Henry VI through the streets of London in a bid to raise support he’d had to hold Henry’s hand. It could have reasonably been either of those reasons that led to the archbishop’s re arrest –  Except of course, George Neville Archbishop of York wasn’t an innocent victim of a king’s mental accounting for past events. The last remaining son of the Earl of Salisbury should have learned not to rebel against Edward. It hadn’t got Warwick very far in the end but for all his learning George got himself entangled in a new plot against the king. Once again Northerners were involved just as they had been in 1469- then Edward had dawdled, had trusted his Neville cousins…now, he was older and wiser and George found himself languishing in a prison in Calais.

George Neville, last of the four Neville boys born to the Earl of Salisbury and his duchess died soon after his release from Calais four long years later – presumably chastened by the whole sorry experience.  He was on his way back to York but died in Staffordshire.