The earldom of Northumberland and the Percy family part 2 of 4

Harry Hotspur AlnwickI had thought three parts to this little series but having written today’s post which is largely about the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries I shall be extending it to four parts.

Generation 10 of Topcliffe/2 of Alnwick:

Henry Percy Junior was only sixteen when his father died in 1314.  Initially John de Felton held his lands in ward but by the time he was twenty Edward II had granted Henry more lands in Northumbria than his father held.  These had been part of Patrick Earl of March’s territory.  Patrick was Scottish and the land offer reflects the way in which northern territories fluctuated between Scotland and England during troubled times.  Henry was no more impressed with Edward II’s choice of male favourite than his father had been nor with the foreign policy and military prowess that saw the Scots raiding deep into Yorkshire.

In no particular order, Percy  conspired against the Despensers and was made governor of both Pickering and Scarborough Castle.  The northern Percy powerhouse was further built upon when he married into the Clifford family and Edward III granted him Warkwarth Castle.  In 1346 he was one of the English commanders at the Battle of Neville’s Cross near Durham against the Scots which must have been a bit irritating given that he had gone to Scotland in 1327 to help negotiate a peace treaty with them.

Generation 3 of Alnwick:

The next generation Henry Percy was at the Battle of Crecy – so should probably be regarded as the Hundred Years War Percy.  His correct title was the 3rdBaron Percy of Alnwick.  His first wife was Mary of Lancaster – the best way of thinking of her is as Blanche of Lancaster’s aunt.  Blanche was the first wife of John of Gaunt who is commemorated in the Book of the Duchess by Chaucer and whose land ensured that Gaunt was the wealthiest man in the country.  Mary was a daughter of Henry III.  With each marriage the Percy family made the wealth and the prestige of the family rose, as did the amount of land that they held and their proximity to the throne.

Generation 4 of Alnwick – 1st Earl of Northumberland:

The Percy family now found itself elevated to the earldom of Northumberland – after all Mary of Lancaster was a Plantagenet princess so it is only reasonable to suppose that her first born son should have a sufficiently impressive title.  The first earl, yet another Henry Percy, was born in 1341. He supported Edward III and then he supported Richard II in his various official capacities on the borders.  It was Richard who created him an earl at his coronation in 1377.  Unfortunately despite being having been married to Margaret Neville, Percy was distinctly un-amused when his power base was eroded by Richard II who created his rival (and nephew-in-law) Ralph Neville the earl of Westmorland.  The First Earl of Northumberland now had a hissy fit because of the creation of the First Earl of Westmorland. He swapped sides. Instead of backing Richard II against his enemies he supported Henry of Bolingbroke, John of Gaunt’s son, against Richard II. Bolingbroke duly became Henry IV and Percy found himself swaggering around with the title Constable of England.

Unfortunately in 1403 the earl swapped sides once more.  He was slightly irritated by the outcome of the Battle of Homildon Hill in 1402.  It was an English-Scots match that the English won.  Percy stood to make rather a lot of cash from ransoming his Scottish prisoners.   Unfortunately Henry IV was feeling the financial pinch and besides which felt that the Percys had too much power in the north.  So he demanded all the hostages and gave Percy a fraction of their value.  The earl was underwhelmed but didn’t immediately voice his irritation.

Having been given the task of subduing the Welsh in 1403, Percy and his son Harry Hotspur now joined with Owain Glyndwr.  Hotspur died at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 but Henry IV couldn’t pin anything on the earl who hadn’t taken part in the battle.  The most that Henry IV could do was remove the office of constable from Percy who didn’t learn the lesson and continued to conspire against Henry IV. In 1405 Percy decided to take a long holiday in Scotland for the sake of his health. He took Hotspur’s son with him. The earl returned to England in 1408 where he managed to get himself killed at the Battle of Bramham Moor near Tadcaster.  This was the final battle in the Percy family rebellion against cousin Henry IV.

 

2nd Earl of Northumberland:

Joan BeaufortHotspur’s son another Henry had spent most of his childhood in Scotland because both his father and grandfather were at loggerheads with the monarch.  Very sensibly after his grandfather was killed the second earl remained safely in Scotland.  It was only when Henry IV died that Henry Percy took the opportunity to be reconciled with the Crown.  He was officially recognised as the 2ndearl in 1413.

He arrived back in England and settled down to a spot of feuding with his Neville relations. The Nevilles, particularly Richard Neville (aka the Kingmaker) and his father the Earl of Salisbury were associated with Richard of York so naturally the Percy family supported Henry VI and the Duke of Somerset.  Ironically the 2ndearl’s mother was Elizabeth Mortimer, the grand-daughter of Lionel of Antwerp, so you would have thought that he would have been more sympathetic to Richard of York who based his claims on his descent from Lionel.  Not only that but his return to the earldom had been smoothed by Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland. She also arranged his marriage to Eleanor Neville – her second daughter with the Earl of Westmorland – making the Earl of Salisbury Percy’s brother-in-law and the Kingmaker his nephew.  Talk about a tangled family web.

 

I’ve blogged about Eleanor Neville and the Battle of Heworth Moor before so there is no need to write about it again. Enough to say that it demonstrates the depths to which the feud had sunk.  And things were about to get worse.  The earl was born in 1393 and died on 22 May 1455 at the First Battle of St Albans.  It was a comprehensive victory for the Yorkists and according to the chronicles of the time an opportunity for Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, to settle some personal scores – the death of the Earl of Northumberland being on his “to do” list.  Obviously it didn’t help the relations between the Percy and Neville families as the Wars of the Roses spiralled towards the bloodiest battle in English history.

 

3rd  Earl of Northumberland:

Another Henry Percy, swearing vengeance for his father’s death was one of the commanders of the army that surrounded Richard of York and the Earl of Salisbury at Wakefield. The deaths of Richard, his son Edmund and the Earl of Salisbury on the 30 December 1460 were part of the  continuing vendetta.

The victors of Wakefield were now joined by Margaret of Anjou’s army.  They marched south and won the Second Battle of St Albans but stopped short of taking London.  Various armies marched back and forth but for the purposes of this post the next time we need to focus is at the Battle of Ferrybridge – 27 March 1461. Northumberland was supposed to stop the Yorkists from crossing the River Aire at Castleford whilst Lord Clifford held Ferrybridge for the Lancastrians. Lets just say that Northumberland arrived at Castleford late allowing Lord Fauconberg and his men to cross the river and come around behind the Lancastrians who retreated to Dintingdale (28th March) where Lord Clifford was killed by an arrow.

On the 29thMarch 1461, blinded by a snowstorm the 3rdEarl commanded the van of the Lancastrian army.  Closing with the enemy he was killed.

Edward IV was now the only king in England and issued an act of attainder against all the Lancastrian nobility who had fought at Towton.  Edward now rewarded the Nevilles who supported the House of York and punished the Percys who supported the house of Lancaster.

 

John Neville, Earl of Northumberland.

John was the Kingmaker’s younger brother. He was created Earl of Northumberland in 1464 after he had spent three years finishing off the Lancastrian threat in the north. Unfortunately for John, the Kingmaker became increasingly dissatisfied with Edward IV who, in return, became increasingly suspicious of his cousin.  In 1470 Edward removed John from post and gave him the tile the Marquis of Montagu and assorted lands to compensate for the loss of the earldom of Northumberland. It did not go down well with the Neville family who did not see any need for the balance of power  in the North to be restored by the return of the Percy family.

 

Edward was forced to flee his realm in October 1470 but returned in 1471.  John had not regained his title to Northumberland despite his brother effectively ruling England with a puppet king in the form of Henry VI on the throne.  Rather than attack Edward when he landed at Ravenspur, Neville simply shadowed the returned Yorkist king.  Ulitmately Neville would died at the Battle of Barnet along with his brother.

4th Earl of Northumberland:

Henry Percy (what a surprise) was imprisoned in the Fleet Prison in the aftermath of Towton (he was about 12 at the time) and from there he was sent to the Tower in 1464. In 1469 after swearing fealty to Edward IV he was released.  He then set about trying to get his estates returned. He petitioned for the reversal of his father’s attainder though this was not granted by Parliament until 1473.

Interestingly his wife was Maud Herbert, the  girl who Henry Tudor should have married had events not unfolded as they did in 1470.  They had eleven children.

Henry Percy went back to doing what the Earls of Northumberland had been doing for a very long time – i.e. ruling vast tracts of land and skirmishing with the Scots. He held many of the important government posts in the north of England which were traditional in his family including from 10 May 1483, as protector, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, confirmed the fourth earl of Northumberland’s appointment as warden-general of the east and middle marches ‘during the space and time of a whole year’, after which it was renewed for five months but perhaps it would appear not as much power from Richard III as he had hoped. Naturally enough he fought at Bosworth where he commanded the right wing of Richard III’s army.  The Percys were naturally Lancastrian by inclination. Percy’s father and grandfather had died for Henry VI. Some historians says that Percy betrayed Richard III by holding his forces back from action.  Percy’s northern levies weren’t committed to the battle.

If Northumberland had been a metaphorical spoke in Richard’s wheel he wasn’t very well rewarded by Henry Tudor who now became Henry VII. Northumberland, along with the earls of Westmoreland and Surrey was taken into custody and kept in prison for several months, being released only under strict conditions of good behaviour.  He was restored to his position as warden but with curtailed powers.  Henry may not have trusted him but Percy knew how to protect England’s northern border. He was also at hand to help defeat the Yorkist forces that gathered during the Lambert Simnel rebellion in 1487.

In 1489 Northumberland was part of the king’s administration gathering £100,000 of tax. This led to the Yorkshire Rebellion.  Northumberland had to deal with the resistance of Yorkshiremen to the tenth of incomes demanded for Henry’s Breton war and for the raising of a force against the Scots.  Things can’t have gone well for the Earl as his own tenants were up in arms.  He was so alarmed that on Saturday, 24 April, he wrote to Sir Robert Plumpton from Seamer, close to Scarborough, ordering him to secretly bring as many armed men as he could to Thirsk by the following Monday. It didn’t do him much good.

On  Wednesday, 28 April, having gathered a force estimated at eight hundred men, he came into conflict with the commons, whose ringleader was one John a Chamber, near Thirsk, at a place variously called Cockledge or Blackmoor Edge, and was killed.  Popular history claims it wasn’t so much the tax collection that irritated the locals as the fact that as good Yorkshire men their loyalty lay with Richard III.

 

The Northern Rebellion

200px-Thomas_Percy_Earl_of_Northumberland_15661558.   Queen Mary I lost Calais as a result of becoming involved in Philip II’s policy against the French. She  died on the 17 November the same year. Her half-sister, Elizabeth, sitting beneath an oak tree at Hatfield became queen.  On the borders between England and Scotland, life continued as usual – that is to say raiding and cross-border forays.  I might dress it up as Scottish loyalty to their French allies and English obedience to Phillip II’s foreign policy but in reality it had nothing to do with continental Europe.

In 1558 on the East March the 7th Earl of Northumberland set out on a cattle raid with the Berwick garrison and was heading for home when the Scots turned up in what can only be described as high dudgeon. There was an English victory of sorts at Swinton.  John Knox having done a stint on the French galleys (which perhaps accounts for his hostility to the nation) had sought refuge in Edward VI’s protestant realm before fleeing to Geneva.  During the summer of 1558he published The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.  He did not mean that they were deeply unpleasant merely that a reigning queen was an unnatural phenomenon.  He was referencing Mary Tudor in England and the regent of Scotland Mary of Guise who ruled on behalf of her daughter Mary Queen of Scots.  It was perhaps unfortunate for him that in November the monstrous regiment of Catholic queens was joined by Protestant Elizabeth.

I am not going to recount the next decade’s history.  Suffice it to say there was the novel sight in 1560 of an English fleet joining with the Protestant Scots against the Catholics and the French besieged in Leith.  The following year the recently widowed dowager queen of France, Mary Queen of Scots, arrived back in her homeland at the very same location.  Initially guided by her half-brother, James Stewart (Earl of Moray), all went smoothly but then in 1567 having made an ill advised marriage to Lord Darnley swiftly followed by murder at Kirk O Field she lost her throne and on 16 May 1568 found herself seeking sanctuary in Workington.  She was to remain in England for the next nineteen years before being executed.

mary queen of scots aged 18Mary’s arrival was not good news so far as her cousin Elizabeth was concerned.  Mary spelled trouble.  For a start she was Catholic and Mary’s father-in-law, Henri II, had quartered the French arms with those of England on hearing the news that Mary Tudor had died.  His logic was very simple. Elizabeth was illegitimate and therefore the next claimant to the English throne was the grand daughter of Margaret Tudor, the eldest daughter of Henry VII of England.  Mary did not help matters by refusing to recognise the Treaty of Edinburgh which identified Elizabeth as the rightful queen of England.  The treaty, negotiated by Cecil, should have been ratified in July 1560 and it accounted for Mary’s long sea voyage  to Scotland rather than a land journey through England. The arrival of Mary in England undoubtedly signposted rebellion and plotting to come – not to mention some light cousinly jealousy.

Elizabeth did not know what to do with her cousin and although she moved her south into the custody of the Earl of Shrewsbury it swiftly became clear that she was not as keen to meet Mary as Mary was to meet her. Mary’s trial at York was a device to ensure that Elizabeth should never meet her cousin and that Moray could produce the so-called “Casket Letters” that would keep his half-sister in England. Meanwhile various Catholic nobles (and non-Catholic nobles for that matter) bent their minds to the problem of what to do with Mary.  The Percy family were Papists and it is perhaps not surprising that Thomas Percy the 7th Earl of Northumberland was sympathetic to the young Scottish queen’s cause.  He even tried to have her turned over into his custody.  Unsurprisingly “Simple Tom”  pictured at the start of this post was not given her guardianship.  He was, however, encouraged in his increasingly illegal actions by his wife Ann.  His conspiracy was joined by Charles Neville the Earl of Westmorland.  The two earls shared their plans with their wider families and the northern affinity of gentry including Leonard Dacre.  The plotters met at Topcliffe and agreed that they wanted Catholicism restored and Elizabeth’s bad advisors to be disposed of – so the usual rubric.  They did intend to free Mary Queen of Scots from Tutbury but they claimed that they wished to return her to Scotland rather than unseat Elizabeth.

Meanwhile Robert Dudley supported the idea of Mary being returned to Scotland with a new and reliable husband to keep an eye on her.  William Maitland of Lethington,  Mary’s ambassador had suggested that the Duke of Norfolk was just the chap in 1560 despite the fact that the first Duchess of Norfolk was very much alive at the time.  Thomas Howard had been appointed Lieutenant General of the North in 1569 by Elizabeth.  She was, if you like, extending the hand of friendship to her Howard cousins who had connived at the downfall of her mother Anne Boleyn and ultimately been associated with Catholicism rather than reform. She was also getting him as far away from court as possible not least because his grandmother was Anne of York one of Edward IV’s daughters making him Plantagenet and a possible claimant to the throne.  By now Howard had been widowed twice over and as such was a suitable spouse for the captive queen.  He was rather taken with the idea but quite horrified to find himself carted off to the Tower when Dudley confessed to the queen what was planned in terms of an English-Scottish marriage.

 

Inevitably things are not so straight forward and ultimately Norfolk and the Northern Lords would be betrayed by Leonard Dacre who was narked by the fact that Howard who had been married to Elizabeth Leyburne (the widow of the 4th Lord Dacre) had become guardian to the 5th lord and the 5th lord’s three sisters.  In 1569 little George Dacre had an accident on a vaulting horse and died.  Howard now took the opportunity to marry the Dacre girls off to sons from his previous two marriages and  claim that his three daughters-in-law were co-heiresses and that the whole estate was now Howard property.

Leonard Dacre was not a happy man.  A judgement of Edward IV had entailed the title and estates to male heirs so by rights he should have had the title and the loot.  Even worse the case was heard by the Earl Marshal’s court – and yes, the Dukes of Norfolk are hereditary earl marshals of England.  Let’s just say Leonard was a man with a grudge and the borderers were rather good at holding grudges for a very long time. He betrayed the northern earls and of course the Duke of Norfolk in the hope that he would see the estates that were rightfully his returned.

Dacre would encourage the northern lords in their plan to free Mary and overturn Protestant England but at the same time, when he judged the time was ripe, spill the beans to Elizabeth.  Elizabeth would later describe him as a “cankred suttl traitor.” However, I am jumping the gun.  Elizabeth ordered Northumberland and Westmorland to London to explain themselves.  The two hapless peers panicked and rebelled. On the 10th November 1569 the Earl of Sussex wrote to say that Northumberland had fled from Topcliffe. Three thousand or so men gathered in Durham on the 14th November where a Mass was heard and Protestant texts destroyed.  Men set off for Hartlepool where the Duke of Alva was supposed to land troops and to Barnard Castle to besiege troops loyal to Elizabeth.  The castle held out for a week before it surrendered. The Earl of Sussex would come under suspicion for not gaining the upper hand quickly enough. From Barnard Castle the plan was to march on York.  The earls were declared traitors on the 26th of November and the hunt began.

Steven_van_Herwijck_Henry_Carey_1st_Baron_HunsdonOn the West March a plan was now unfurling which would have seen the Bishop of Carlisle murdered and the castle in rebel hands.  Lord Scrope, Warden of the West March, who had set out from Carlisle to confront the rebels heard news of the plot and scurried back to the castle correctly judging that Elizabeth’s famous temper would not have been placated by excuses regarding the loss of a key border fortress. Meanwhile the queen’s cousin, some would say brother, Henry Carey Lord Hunsdon, was sent north to deal with the crisis. He had been made the Captain of Berwick the previous year.

The Warden of the Middle March Sir John Forster, a notable rogue in his own right, now rode agains the rebels accompanied by the Earl of Northumberland’s younger brother Henry. Together they occupied Newcastle and Alnwick and began to move south.  The earls fled in the direction of Hexham together with Lady Anne Percy and about forty or fifty retainers when it became clear that they were out manoeuvred by Forster from the North and Carey from the South. For reasons best known to themselves, despite the fact that Leonard Dacre had not joined the rebellion the fleeing party made for North Castle.  Leonard was not pleased to see them as he as no doubt thinking of the Dacre estates and Elizabeth’s goodwill. His brother Edward on the other hand provided assistance to the stricken earls. The party had to escape into Scotland or face Elizabeth’s wrath. With that in mind the Armstrongs of Liddesdale seemed like a good idea at the time.  The Debateable Lands of Liddesdale belonged neither to Scotland or England and whilst the Armstrongs were notionally Scottish they were Armstrong more than anything else. The hapless earls fell in to the hands of Black Ormiston and Jock of the Side.  Jock was a notorious reiver.

At this point the Earl of Moray entered the equation and politely suggested that the Armstrongs hand over their “guests.”  He sent a party of Elliots, another family of border hard-men to have a little chat.  Elliot explained that he was under pledge to Moray and that he would be sorry to enter a state of feud with Ormiston if the two English earls weren’t booted out of Scotland and back into England within the next twenty-four hours.  Somehow the earls’ horses had gone “missing” – which is what you get for stabling them with notorious horse thieves- and Lady Anne, heavily pregnant, was exhausted beyond the point where she could travel with her husband. She was robbed and perhaps worse by Ormiston before she was rescued by a party of Ferniehurst Kerrs (the ancestor of Robert Carr, King James I’s favourite).  It says something that Kerr was at feud with the Percys but felt that it was beneath his honour to see Lady Anne suffer at the hands of Ormiston – though having said that he was also a loyal subject of Mary Queen of Scots demonstrating that border history is nothing if not complex in its workings.

On Christmas Eve 1569 the Armstrongs managed to separate the two earls and Northumberland found himself in the clutches of Moray’s men.  The Earl of Westmorland did attempt a rescue with the few men he had but it was unsuccessful. Percy would be returned to England  for a cash payment in  June 1572 and executed for treason in York that August.  Sussex, having got his act together, along with Sir John Forster and Henry Hunsden set the border alight in the greatest raid that Liddesdale had ever seen.  MacDonald Fraser states that Forster took £4000 in loot.  Let’s just say that rather a lot of homes were burned and livestock pilfered.

Ultimately Dacre who thought he had played a clever game found himself at the end of one of Hunsdon’s cavalry lances but only after the border which had only just settled down after the Earls’ rising was set loose again by the assassination of James Stewart Earl of Moray on January 23 1570.   A mighty raid gathered pace as Scots began to cross the border in the name of their queen. Dacre who had not benefitted from tattle taling on the earls now came out in supports of the Scots. He  managed to put together a band of 3000 men.  Henry Carey was not so foolish as to take this band on without support, especially as Naworth was defended by artillery and there was a large party of Scots en route to Naworth.  And had Dacre stayed put then my story might have had another chapter but he was spoiling for a fight and he took on Hunsdon at Gelt Wood.  If Dacre had won the skirmish then Carlisle might have been in difficulties but as it was Hunsdon who was a tough man led a cavalry charge against the revolting baron and  Dacre fled into Scotland with approximately 2000 more rebels according to Lord Scrope.  The majority of them remained in the borders joining with the Scottish Marian party against the lords who held the infant James VI. Dacre left the British Isles and travelled to Flanders where he exhorted anyone who would listen to invade England.

The rebellion was over.  It just left the  mopping up operation.  Norfolk was released from the Tower but became involved in the Ridolfi Plot so was executed in 1572. The Earl of Westmorland escaped to Flanders dying in 1601 having eked out his existence living on a pension from Philip II. Dacre died in 1573.  For Elizabeth it was the start of a series of plots and rebellions revolving around Mary Queen of Scots.

MacDonald Fraser  The Steel Bonnets

Joan Beaufort’s descendants – Eleanor Neville Countess of Northumberland

Joan BeaufortEleanor was born in about 1397 to Joan Beaufort and Ralph Neville, 1st earl of Westmorland. Eleanor, like the rest of her sisters,  was married off to another cousin – Richard le Despenser- who if you want to be exact was her second cousin.  His mother was Constance of York who was the daughter of John of Gaunt’s younger brother Edmund of  Langley, Duke of York.

The pair were married some time after 1412 but he died in 1414 aged only seventeen.  He’s buried in Tewkesbury Abbey along with his other more notorious Despenser ancestors – his two times great grandfather was Hugh Despenser who was Edward II’s favourite.  Once again though the Nevilles’ had made a wealthy match for their child.  The Despensers were amongst the wealthiest families in the country and were also Plantagenet in ancestry thanks to Constance.

Richard’s early death meant that the title of Baron Burghersh, which he had inherited from Constance, passed to Richard’s sister Isabella.  Just from point of interest it is worth noting that she would marry the Earl of Warwick  and in turn her daughter, Anne Beauchamp, would marry a certain Richard Neville – better known to history as the Kingmaker – demonstrating once again that very few families held the reins of power during the medieval period and that they were all interconnected.

Eleanor  meanwhile  married into one of the great northern families – the Percy family – which must have caused her heartbreak in later years given that the Percy-Neville feud would be one of the triggers for the Wars of the Roses.  Henry Percy, the 2nd Earl of Northumberland was the son of “Hostpur.”  In a strange twist his family hadn’t done terribly well under the Lancastrian kings despite supporting Henry Bolingbroke against his cousin Richard II.  The Percys had been rewarded in the first instance but had become disillusioned by Henry IV.  Both Henry Percy’s father and grandfather had been killed as a result of rebelling against Henry IV.  It was only when Henry V ascended the throne that our particular Henry Percy was able to return from exile in Scotland in 1413.  It was at the same time that Eleanor’s parents arranged the marriage between Henry and Eleanor.  It says something that Joan Beaufort who was the king’s aunt when all was said and done was able to work at a reconciliation between the king and the house of Percy whilst at the same time strengthening the Neville affinity in the north.

Percy, having returned to the fold, did what fifteenth century nobility did – he fought the Scots and the French.  He was also a member of the privy council during Henry VI’s minority.  But by the 1440s Percy was in dispute with various northerners over land.  He had a disagreement of the violent kind with the Archbishop of York and then fell out with the Nevilles which was unfortunate because not only was he married to Eleanor but he’d married his sister to  the 2nd earl of Westmorland (let’s just set aside the Neville-Neville feud for the moment).  The problem between the Percys and the Nevilles arose from a disagreement over land. Eleanor’s brother, the Earl of Salisbury married his son Thomas to Maud Stanhope who was the niece of Lord Cromwell.  Wressle Castle passed into the hands of the Nevilles as a result of the marriage. The Percy family was not pleased as the castle was traditionally one of their properties.  Eleanor’s husband did not become involved in a physical fight with his in-laws but his younger son Thomas, Lord Egremont did.  He attacked Thomas Neville and Maud Stanhope’s wedding party at Heworth Moor in August 1453.  The two families were forced to make the peace with one another but the hostility continued to mount.  The Nevilles were associated with Richard of York so naturally the Percy faction adhered to York’s opponents who happened to be best represented by Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset of represented Henry VI. The feuding which was really about dominance in the north was a bit like a set of dominoes knocking against one another until the whole affair moved from local to national significance. Each side became more and more determined to support their “national” representative in the hope that either York or Somerset would gain the upper hand and the patronage system would see rewards in the form of confirmation of landownership.

Henry Percy was with the king on 22 May 1455 at St Albans and was killed.  At the time it was regarded as the Earl of Salisbury’s way of dealing with the problem- meaning that he targeted and killed his own brother-in-law.  This in its turn escalated the hostility between the two factions. The death of Eleanor’s husband made the Percy family Lancastrians to the back-bone and would ensure that the feud continued across the battle fields of the Wars of the Roses.

Eleanor and Henry had ten children.  Their eldest son called John died young.  The next boy – inevitably called Henry- became the 3rd Earl of Northumberland upon his father’s death in 1455 and he in his turn was killed in 1461 at the Battle of Towton along with his brother Richard.  Eleanor’s son Henry had his own feud with the Nevilles on account of his marriage into the Poynings family.  This Henry was present at the council meeting in 1458 that demanded recompense for the events of St Albans in 1455.  He took part in the so-called Love-day orchestrated by Henry VI to demonstrate an end of the feuding but in reality Henry worked politically to have his Neville relations attainted of treason by the Coventry Parliament and he was on hand to take his revenge at Wakefield in 1460 when Richard of York and the Earl of Salisbury were killed.

Thomas Percy, Baron Egremont, the Percy responsible for the attack at Heworth Moor, was killed in 1460 at the Battle of Northampton. Ralph Percy was killed in 1464 at the Battle of Hedgeley Moor near Hexham leaving George who died in 1474 and William Percy who was the Bishop of Carlisle ( he died in 1462).  Rather unfortunately for the troubled family, Eleanor’s daughter Katherine was married to Edmund Grey, 1st Earl of Kent – the name may be familiar.  He was the man who laid down his weapons in the middle of the Battle of Northampton costing Henry VI the battle.  Another daughter Anne, lost her first husband in 1469 after he joined with the Earl of Warwick in conspiring to put Henry VI back on the throne and finally as you might expect there was a daughter called Joan who married into the northern gentry.

Eleanor’s son Henry was posthumously attainted of treason after Towton by Edward IV.  Her grandson, another Henry, was packed off to prison and would only be released when Edward IV shook off the influence of the Kingmaker in 1470.  The Percy family lost the earldom of Northumberland in the short term to the Neville family as a result of their loyalty to Henry VI in 1464 when Edward IV handed it over to the Nevilles in the form of John Neville Lord Montagu but unfortunately for Montagu  Northumberland’s tenantry did not take kindly to the change in landlord and Edward IV found himself reappointing the Percys to the earldom – which contributed massively to the Kingmaker throwing his toys from his pram and turning coat.

The new Earl of Northumberland – the fourth Henry Percy to hold the title had learned a lot from his father and grandfather.  Instead of rushing out wielding weapons Eleanor’s grandson was much more considered in his approach.  He did not oppose Edward IV and he did not support Richard III despite the fact that Richard returned lands which Edward IV had confiscated. This particular Earl of Northumberland was on the battlefield at Bosworth but took no part in the conflict.  Once again the locals had the final word though – the fourth earl was killed in 1489 in Yorkshire by rioters complaining about the taxes…and possibly the earl’s failure to support the last white rose king.

Eleanor died in 1472 having outlived her husband and most of her children.

Michael Hicks makes the point that securing an inheritance and a title was extremely important to the medieval mindset.  Once these had been gained the aim was to hold onto them.  The Neville clan headed by Joan Beaufort appear to have been increasingly single-minded about the retention of title and property and this was the key deciding factor in the variety of feuds they became involved with. (Hicks:325).

Just Cecily to go…

Hicks, Michael, (1991)Richard III and His Rivals: Magnates and Their Motives in the Wars of the Roses.  London: Bloomsbury

Wagner, John A. (2001). The Encyclopaedia of the Wars of the Roses. Oxford: ABC

 

 

Naworth Castle and the Dacres

IMG_7662.JPGDespite the name Naworth, which does look rather castle-like, is actually a pele tower meaning that it started out rather smaller than a castle and was intended as a place of retreat during times of Scottish raiding.   It received its planning permission in 1335 from King Edward III.  Essentially by planning permission I mean that Ranulph de Dacre received a licence to crenellate – this means there was a definite permission to build battlements.  We tend to think that it is just the monarch who could give permission for fortifications but England being what it was there are some notable exceptions.  If you wanted to build a castle in the county of the Prince Bishops i.e. Durham you had to apply to them.  The same was true for the powerful earls of Chester and also within the Duchy of Lancaster whose landholdings seem to have had a tentacle like grip from the north down across the Midlands.

So why would you want a licence to crenellate?  Well, if you lived on the borders between England and Scotland as at Naworth you probably wanted a jolly high wall to keep marauding Scots out. The downside of this so far as the monarchy was concerned was that some nobles, once they’d got their fancy walls with battlements, might sit behind them and revolt against the king.  The other reason for possibly wanting a licence to crenellate was more a matter of keeping up appearances.  Castle building was an expensive pastime – thus not only were you wealthy enough to afford all the masonry and labour but you were probably also posh enough to receive permission in the first place.

Anyway, Ranulph de Dacre  gained his licence and promptly built a stone tower and it grew from there.  Once the bother with the Scots was over and done with in the seventeenth century the Dacres found themselves short of a male heir so married into the Howard family and the border tower turned into a mansion.  In between times they managed to get themselves a fiercesome reputation as the “Devil’s Dozen,” one of them even managing to kill his brother.  The battle cry of the Dacres is “A red bull! A red bull!” Apparently the cry filled the Scots at the Battle of Flodden in 1513 with dread. Thomas, Lord Dacre was in command of the reserves.

The Dacres are one of those families who turn up throughout the history books either as loyal servants of the crown or out and out rebels – though sometimes its hard to tell which is which.  One of the family, as might be expected, managed to get himself killed at the Battle of Towton in Easter 1461.

To tell the full story, Thomas Dacre the sixth baron married into the Earl of Westmorland’s family when he got hitched to  Philippa  Neville.  Philippa was the daughter of the earl of Westmorland’s first wife.  This particular branch of the family wasn’t terribly keen on the Nevilles who were descended from the Earl of Westmorland’s family by his second wife who was Joan Beaufort, the daughter of the John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford. This can sometimes be a bit confusing but basically the children of the first wife (Philippa) got the title and what was entailed to the estate whilst the children of the second wife (Joan) got all the money and everything that wasn’t entailed -i.e. the lion share.  Inevitably this caused resentment and by the time the Wars of the Roses came around the Nevilles from the two extended families were at each others throats.  Dacre having married into the first brood of Nevilles fought on the Lancastrian side whilst the Nevilles from the second family are synonymous with the white rose of York (until the earl of Warwick threw his toys out of the pram and changed sides).

The sixth baron died in 1458.  His eldest son was also dead by the time of Towton leaving daughters. This had resulted in the splitting of the barony into two parts – the north and south.  Ranulph or Ralph the second son of the sixth baron became Lord Dacre of the North or just to be even more difficult Lord Dacre of Gilsland. He fought on the Lancastrian side at Towton (remember his mother was a Neville descended from the earl of Westmorland’s first wife and therefore hostile to Nevilles descended from the second wife.)  He was to the left of the duke of Somerset’s men along with the earl of Devon.  Dacre was, according to legend, shot by a boy in a tree on the part of the battlefield known as North Acres. He is buried at the Church of All Saints, Saxton.  Even though he fought for the Lancastrian side someone managed to find time to bury him sitting on his horse – and yes, the Victorians checked.

His brother Sir Humphrey Dacre also took part in the battle.  He was attainted for treason but was pardoned in 1468 and more formally in 1471. In a twist of fate he turns out to be the marital great uncle of Henry VIII’s last wife Katherine Parr having married Mabel Parr.

Sadler, John. (2006) Border Fury. London: Longman

 

 

The Battle of Wakefield – perfidy, trickery and spin.

sandal1-300x199Yes, I know I’ve covered this before but it is the 30th December which is, of course, the anniversary of the battle which took place in 1460. Today’s post is as good a time as any to deal with some of the confusions of the battle resulting from lack of clear primary sources and underhanded trickery which, in all probability, the parties involved didn’t want widely advertised, not to mention confusion and misplaced optimism  on the part of Richard of York.

Richard of York arrived in Sandal with 5,000 to 6,000 men just before Christmas.  The castle wasn’t big enough for that number so a large number would have had to camped outside the castle walls (sounds like an invitation to pneumonia to me). Some historians point to this as evidence of a festive truce between York and the Lancastrian Duke of Somerset. If there was a Christmas Truce it would have lasted until the 6th January.

The Lancastrians kept Christmas at Pontefract Castle whilst the Yorkists ate through Sandal’s meagre supplies.  It is reasonable to assume that both sides sent out for their tenants and supporters in addition to scouring the land for additional supplies (bet that went down well with the locals).  Richard also sent out a commission of array.  This demonstrates that he saw himself as the king’s representative because this was what monarchs did when they wanted to raise an army. After all the Act of Accord had identified him as the heir to the throne.  Somewhat bizarrely  Lord  John Neville, brother of the Earl of Westmorland presented himself at Sandal in answer to the commission of array that had been served on him saying that he wanted  rebels against the king’s will to be suitably punished (according to a Yorkist chronicle). He is also said to have arrived with a substantial army at his back.

The reason this is bizarre is that Lord Neville was the brother of the Earl of Westmorland. Ideally this should be nice and straight forward. Unfortunately he came from a branch of the family at loggerheads with the side of the family represented by the Earl of Salisbury  and the Earl of Warwick who were also Nevilles – or more correctly, the Nevilles of Middleham and key Yorkists.  There was a rift between the Nevilles dating back to the reign of Richard II.  The problem had arisen when Ralph Neville (the first Earl of Westmorland) married Joan Beaufort the daughter of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford.  It was a second marriage and a love match. The eldest son of Ralph’s first wife Margaret Stafford inherited the earldom of Westmorland but the vast majority of the money and estates were bequeathed to Joan Beaufort’s children leaving Ralph’s first family feeling somewhat aggrieved – just to add to the general confusion of the Wars of the Roses.  The Earl of Salisbury, the Earl of Warwick and, of course, Cecily Neville – Richard of York’s wife were all descended from Ralph’s second family (the ones what got the money) so there was no love lost between Lord John Neville  who now came knocking on Sandal’s doors (metaphorically speaking) and Richard of York’s extended family even though technically John Neville was the nephew of the Earl of Salisbury.  Inevitably a track back up various northern family trees reveals that the enmity between the two branches of the Neville family had its part to play in the sides that many of the aforementioned northern families chose to take in the conflict.

So – to get back to the matter in hand – keep Lord John Neville and his army in mind. They’re going to be important.

On the 28th December 1460 the Lancastrians- Somerset, Lord Clifford, the Earl of Wiltshire, the Earl of Devon, Lord Roos, Lord Dacre (who was related to the Earl of Westmorland Nevilles) and the Earl of Northumberland- left Pontefract and arrived on the outskirts of Wakefield the same day. Amongst their number was Sir Henry Holland the Duke of Exeter (York’s own son-in-law) .They didn’t have siege weapons which meant that had the Duke of York stayed inside Sandal then there would not have been a Lancastrian victory and it would have given York’s eldest son – Edward, the Earl of March time to journey from Wales to Yorkshire to provide reinforcements for his father.

It has often been suggested that Richard was rash in leaving the castle. Historians speculate that he supposed that his numbers were far superior to the Lancastrians or that he was taken by surprise when foraging for food believing that he was safe during a period of truce.  If there was a truce,  Richard of York should have been suspicious on account of the fact that that Act of Accord which identified him as the heir to the throne also stipulated an end to the warfare and that had been undermined on the road north when Somerset had accosted some of Richard’s men at Worksop.  Also why would you go foraging with every able bodied man?  In truth, Richard may have believed that he was about to inflict a crushing defeat upon the Lancastrians and simply couldn’t resist the opportunity.

Enter the skulduggery element of our tale.  Sir Andrew Trollope, a professional soldier who’d gained a reputation during the Hundred Years War agains the French,  is said to have arrived with more soldiers during the Christmas period  and it was given that this was the reason Richard may have thought that his force was superior. If this was the case Richard should have remembered that the previous year at Ludford Bridge after the Battle of Blore Heath Trollope had switched from his side to that of the Lancastrians.

The Yorkist commanders were Richard of York, the Earl of Salisbury and his son Sir Thomas Neville.  Sir David Hall, a long time servant of York’s was also there.  Hall’s Chronicle, a sixteenth century account, records that Davy counselled discretion but that York regarded this as a dishonour. It has also been suggested that the Lancastrians taunted Richard into leaving the safety of his castle.

In any event off he went to meet his foes on Wakefield Green – Lancastrians emerged from the woods on both sides of York’s men and Sir Andrew Trollope promptly changed sides as he had planned all along. A chronicle by Jean de Waurin gives a detailed account of Trollope’s perfidy. However, it’s not a straight forward case of dastardly behaviour – it could be a question of Yorkist spin. Haigh observes that de Waurin’s is the only chronicle with this account of events and that the man was a friend of the Earl of Warwick.  In short his evidence is unsubstantiated and not overly reliable. Another account suggests that Trollope’s men arrived wearing the Earl of Warwick’s colours to avoid raising York’s suspicions which again has issues of credibility and this part of his plan succeeding he then played an instrumental part in luring York out of the castle into the open.  Haigh hypothesises that what actually might have happened is that Trollope’s forces approached and York simply got the wrong end of the stick about whose men they were.

It is also plausible that Lord Neville wasn’t quite as underhand as I have just suggested.  It is possible that he arrived at Sandal  just when York considered taking on the Lancastrians. York seeing a Neville banner behind the Lancastrians simply thought he’d got them surrounded in his desire to do battle.  He didn’t stop to consider that some of the Nevilles didn’t feel very warmly to their Salisbury relations.

For an early History Jar account of the Battle of Wakefield, click here.

We’ll never know what prompted York to exit from the safety of Sandal castle or the real roles played by Sir Andrew Trollope and Lord John Neville (who incidentally, made no murmur about the execution of his uncle the Earl of Salisbury.)

Haigh, Philip, A. The Battle of Wakefield 1460. Sutton Publishing

 

Sir Edward Neville

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01I should really be exploring England’s only Pope.  Nicholas Breakspear was made pontiff on the 4th December 1154 becoming Pope Adrian IV.  However, I’ve got myself well and truly sidetracked flicking through Henry VIII’s letters and papers.

 

A quick perusal of Henry’s letters and papers yielded up today’s advent personality Sir Edward Neville who was tried and executed for treason along with Sir Geoffrey Pole in 1538. In this instance there isn’t a letter to read but there is an index of documents relating to the trial of the two gentlemen dating from the 4th of December – an insight into the process of bringing someone to trial and the administrative flair of Thomas Cromwell. The file, just an an aside, contains the signed copy of the reply sent by Sir William Kingston the Constable of the Tower confirming that he would have the parties in question in the dock on time.

 

Sir Edward Neville was a younger son of baron Bergevenny and it proprably won’t come as a great surprise to discover he was vaguely related to Henry VIII whom he resembled so greatly that there was a rumour that Edward was actually Henry’s son (this was an impossibility). In addition to having a drop of Plantagenet blood he was also related through the Beaufort line. His great grandfather was Ralph Neville, earl of Westmorland and his great grandmother was Joan Beaufort the daughter of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt. As well as the name Neville which certainly conjures up the old aristocracy, Edward could also, if he chose, boast names such as Despenser, Fitz-Alan and Beauchamp in his family tree (I told you they were all related one way or the other!)

 

Pedigree aside Edward did all the usual Tudor gentlemanly things (there should be a check list). He was a soldier as well as a courtier and he played the game of courtly love with aplomb. He went to France in 1514 with Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk and Arthur Plantagenet Lord Lisle to see Princess Mary married – they did this in disguise (ahh, I hear you cry how romantic.)

 

Cross-Channel lads’ weekends aside Edward rose in importance during the early period  of Henry’s reign when he was married to Katherine of Aragon and all, though not  always rosy, was relatively pleasant in the royal garden. He’d also been part of the 1512-1513 military expedition and he was at the Field of Cloth of Gold.  He even seems to have kept that favour as late as 1537 having sensibly played a role in 1533 for Anne Boleyn’s coronation. He was made Constable of Leeds Castle in Kent in 1535 and carried the canopy at Prince Edward’s christening in 1537.

 

The problem for Sir Edward was that in 1538 he fell foul of Thomas Cromwell over the small matter of Moatenden Priory. Edward wanted the lands but, unfortunately, so did Thomas.

 

From there it was a simple matter  for Cromwell to implicate Edward in the Pilgrimage of Grace along with the Pole family irrelevant if where his sympathies might have lain. His niece’s husband was Henry Pole, Lord Montagu. The Pole family found itself guilty of treachery largely because Reginald refused to agree with Henry’s divorce and had written a book on the subject which displeased his kingly cousin enormously and because Margaret Pole, countess of Salisbury was the daughter of the duke of Clarence (brother of Edward IV). The Poles were the personification of the Plantagenet white rose branch of the family tree. Put plainly, Edward Neville was related to the wrong people at the wrong time.

sir-georgeIt probably didn’t help that his brother, George Neville (pictured right in a sketch by Hans Holbein), had been married to Mary Stafford, the daughter of the duke of Buckingham and been arrested in 1521 along with his father-in-law. Edward’s brother was released without charge at that time but it may well have lingered in Henry’s mind and made it easier for Cromwell to present Sir Edward Neville as a traitor. And if Henry did count George as a traitor, he wasn’t alone. Eustace Chapuys the Imperial Ambassador identified George Neville as pro-Pole as a result of his arrest and the tarnishing of his reputation which never fully recovered.

 

As for Edward, he was arrested on the 3rd of December, notices for the trial were published on the 4th and from there it was a short step until his execution on the 8th December 1538.

 

‘Henry VIII: December 1538 1-5’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 13 Part 2, August-December 1538, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1893), pp. 409-426. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol13/no2/pp409-426 [accessed 17 November 2016].

Sir John Neville

ralphneville2earlSir John Neville, 1st Lord Neville was born in the first decade of the fifteenth century. His father, conveniently for memory, was John Neville and his grandfather was the first Earl of Westmorland.   John Neville senior had been the keeper of Roxburghe Castle and had been a warden of the West March – based in Carlisle. Lord Neville’s mother was Elizabeth Holland the daughter of the Earl of Kent – so ultimately descended from King Edward I. The reason for the Neville’s links with the royal family came from the fact that Ralph Neville, First Earl of Westmorland had been married twice. His second wife was Joan Beaufort – the only daughter of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt.

 

Aside from an introduction to the royal household for the relatively new member of the aristocracy the marriage to Joan Beaufort sewed discord in the Neville family. Ralph favoured his second crop of children rather than those by his first wife (Lady Margaret Stafford). John Neville and his son were descended from Margaret Stafford. John’s older brother Ralph became the Second Earl of Westmorland – but a rather impoverished one. It was Joan Beaufort’s family who got their hands on the money – which did not make for a very happy family at all -a fact that the Duke of York should have remembered as should his half uncle, the Earl of Salisbury (a son of Joan Beaufort, otherwise known as the side of the family that got the cash.)

Just as an aside, brother Ralph pictured at the start of this post, didn’t become actively involved in the Cousins war although his only son died at the First Battle of St Albans in 1455 which meant that it was John’s son Ralph (not the most imaginative family when it came to naming their off-spring) who eventually became the third Earl of Westmorland.

 

Anyway, back to the story – Richard, Duke of York and the Earl of Salisbury spent Christmas 1460 in Sandal Castle near Wakefield. It was slightly foolish as the castle was surrounded by Lancastrian loyalists but had Richard sat tight he might have been safe enough. In one version of events he and his men were running low on their supplies, in another version he accepted the terms offered by the Duke of Somerset, which offered peace throughout the festive season but Somerset reneged on his word. For whatever reason York found himself engaged in battle thinking that Sir John Neville would arrive to reinforce him.

 

Instead of coming to his half uncle and the duke’s aid Neville promptly changed sides and became a Lancastrian. His reward was to become Constable of Middleham Castle and Sheriff Hutton. Unfortunately Neville didn’t have long to enjoy his newfound favour. He was one of the Lancastrian commanders at the Battle of Ferrybridge but was killed the following day at Towton. King Edward IV had Sir John declared a traitor and his estate confiscated by act of attainder…another happy fifteenth century family story.