The Neville faction personified by Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick a.k.a. The Kingmaker dominated the borders during the first reign of Edward IV from 1461. He was appointed warden of both the east and west marches. Two years later Warwick’s brother John, Lord Montagu was made warden of the east march swiftly followed by the acquisition of the earldom of Northumberland.
It fell to Warwick to quell Lancastrian unrest in the north and it also fell to him to negotiate with the Scots. In 1464 the two nations arrived at a truce which upheld march law. Scotland under James III had encouraged Lancastrian unrest and supported Margaret of Anjou in her bid to retake the kingdom from the North but as it became apparent that the French weren’t breaking into a sweat to promote Henry VI’s cause James’ enthusiasm for antagonising his new neighbour dwindled.
Inevitably perhaps, Warwick’s relationship with Edward IV soured. In Europe at the start of the reign there had been a joke that there were two kings in England of whom one was Richard Neville but no one could remember the name of the other. As Edward found his feet and his own trusted circle Warwick found himself being pushed out into the cold. The pinch point came in 1464 whilst Warwick was in France negotiating for the hand of Bona of Savoy. It must have been a tad embarrassing when it came out that Edward was already married to a beautiful if impecunious English widow with two sons.
In the North the growing tensions were reflected by a Lancastrian insurrection led by “Robin of Redesdale,” – a ember of the Conyers family and one of Warwick’s tenants.
To make matters worse in 1470, Edward who ruled the country through a means of grants and men e.g. the Herbert family were his means of ruling Wales, now decided that the Percy family should be returned to their earldom. The people of Northumbria had never taken kindly to a Neville overlord. Unfortunately John Neville did not take kindly to having the earldom of Northumberland removed fem his clutches even if he was compensated with lands and the title Marquis of Montagu. It was almost inevitable that he would change sides.
In the west march Richard, Duke of Gloucester was assigned the title of warden just as his brother fled the country.
There followed a brief interlude between 1470 and 1471 when Henry VI was nominally in charge. Fortunately for the English the Scots were busy with their own problems so didn’t take advantage of the game of musical thrones in which their English neighbours were indulging.
To cut the long story of 1471 short, the Earl of Warwick had a nasty accident at the Battle of Barnet, Lancastrian Prince Edward had an even nastier accident at the Battle of Tewkesbury, Margaret of Anjou was rounded up and eventually deported, Henry VI had a nasty accident in the Tower. Richard of Gloucester, not yet twenty, having proved his martial capabilities at both the above battles resumed his role as warden of the west march. He arrived in Penrith that same year. Tradition has it that he lived in The Gloucester Arms which still sports two boar above the doorway.
By 1474 the English and the Scots had reached a state of mutual appreciation that would have seen Prince James of Scotland being married off to Edward’s daughter Cecilia. Unfortunately cross border theft appears to have continued as usual. In 1475 according to Neville, James was complaining about the capture and plunder of two Scottish vessels, one of them his own personal property (Neville, 159). In 1480 usual service resumed and the English and the Scots made war upon one another, not least because although Cecilia’s dowry had been paid there was no sign of any nuptials. There was also the small matter of the Scots being ensconced in Berwick – a consequence of the Lancaster V York conflict.
In 1482 an army was gathered. Richard of Gloucester was appointed Lieutenant General and off they all went on a sight seeing trip through the Lowlands. Berwick became English once again and just to add a little confusion to the scene James III’s brother the Duke of Albany declared himself to be King of Scotland and swore loyalty to Edward IV. The English army was now committed to putting Albany on the throne meanwhile James III was troubled by bolshie nobles (nothing new there then) who rebelled against his lead and returned him to Edinburgh where he was kept a prisoner.
Richard and his party of touring soldiers joined the Edinburgh party in August. The good burghers of Edinburgh swiftly searched their pockets and down the back of their sofas in order to repay Cecilia’s dowry and make the English go away – which they duly did leaving James in Edinburgh Castle with the lords who’d rebelled against him and Albany in charge of the town. At the risk of confusing affairs still further Albany then besieged his own brother. Leaving the Scots to their own devices Richard returned to England for the time being but Edward IV’s death in April 1483 brought the war to an end as Richard had other things on his mind after that.
Richard now needed someone else to fulfil the role of steward of Penrith Castle and warden of the west march. He chose a man named John Huddleston. Huddleston looked to the Harrington family for patronage. The Harringtons were one of two families who dominated Lancashire and Cheshire. Their main contenders for this role were the Stanley family who took advantage of the death of Thomas Harrington’s death at the Battle of Wakefield fighting for Richard of York, and also that of his son leaving only two girls to inherit. There was a messy court case, some fisticuffs and rather a lot of fudging by Edward IV and Richard of Gloucester who both recognised the loyalty of the Harrington family and the, er, how can I put this – oh yes- shiftiness of the Stanleys. However, Edward IV rather astutely recognised that he couldn’t do without the Stanleys. Richard by selecting John Huddleston for the important role of warden signposted a downturn in Stanley fortunes and power – the rest as they say is history – as at Bosworth the Stanley family backed Henry Tudor. To read more about the Harringtons and Stanleys try this blog – Plantagenet Dynasty- here.
The images come from St Andrew’s Church Penrith. They show close ups of the Neville Window which can be found in the south wall of the nave. The current window is a nineteenth century creation using fragments from an older window. It shows Richard of York, Cecily Neville and the Earl of Warwick’s insignia of the bear and ragged staff.
Neville, Cynthia J (1998) Violence, Custom and Law. The Anglo-Scottish Border Lands in the Later Middle Ages. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press