Joan Beaufort’s descendants – Katherine Strangeways

Joan BeaufortJoan’s daughter Katherine married John Mowbray, 2nd Duke of Norfolk when she was about twelve.  He died in 1432.  Katherine then remarried to Thomas Strangeways of Castle in Yorkshire.  It can be supposed that Katherine’s second marriage which seems a bit of an odd one for a duchess to make says more about the Nevilles’ political aspirations in the north than anything else.  The Strangeways family was an important one within the Yorkshire and Durham gentry.  The name features as justice of the peace during the period- clearly the Neville family sought to create a powerful political affinity through a series of marital alliances.

Katherine (the dowager duchess of Norfolk) and Thomas had two daughters: Joan and Katherine.  I am pleased to report that there is not a great deal I wish to write about Joan. She married Sir William Willoughby of Lincolnshire – which if nothing else identifies the way in which the network of gentry and aristocratic families spread beyond county boundaries forming affiliations.

Katherine, Joan Beaufort’s grand-daughter, on the other hand was married off to Henry Grey, Baron Grey of Codnor in 1454 just before the Wars of the Roses escalated from a political feud into an actual war.  His location in Codnor,  a powerful member of Derbyshire’s gentry, reflects links between the Neville family and the wider Lancaster affinity first created by John of Gaunt – though it must have been complicated even then by the fact that Grey’s mother was a member of the Percy family- the Nevilles’ and the Percies’ feud with one another had led to the so-called Battle of Heworth Moor on 24 August 1453 when the Percy family headed by Lord Egremont attacked a Neville wedding party to celebrate the marriage of Sir Thomas Neville to Maud Stanhope. Thomas Neville, the groom, was  our Katherine Strangeways’ cousin.

Henry Grey, conflict between his own extended family and his family through marriage aside, tends to turn up in most popular accounts about the Wars of the Roses as an example of local feuding impacting on national politics.  I know that I’ve posted about him before but in all honesty I’ve never given much thought to his wife or the fact that she was the great grand-daughter of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford. Essentially Grey started off as a Lancastrian – hence the marriage.  He was on the Lancastrian side at the Second Battle of St. Albans in 1461.  However, after the Battle of Towton in 1461 he swiftly made his peace with Yorkist Edward IV and thereafter entered the lists as a loyal Yorkist.

Henry Grey  was less interested in the national picture than in what was happening in his own backyard. He had his own local feud with the Vernons of Haddon Hall to keep him out of mischief and in 1467 a member of the Vernon family, Roger (he was Henry Vernon’s uncle for those of you who know these things), managed to get himself killed after a series of unfortunate events in Belper where he was a squire.  Locally it is said that there was a battle fought at Codnor between the Greys and the Vernons as a result of Roger’s death.

George, Duke of Clarence who had acquired large portions of the land in the area as part of his inheritance (remember he is descended from John of Gaunt- the Cousins War is well named) favoured the Vernon family despite the fact that they had fought against the Yorkists.  Edward IV was said to have favoured the Grey family.  In any event the Earl of Shrewsbury  eventually fined both parties and told them to stop killing one another but this was only after the Duke of Clarence had failed to get them to keep the peace and both sides had attempted to nobble the jury.

In 1471, partly as a result of the rumbling aftereffects of the death of Roger Vernon, Grey managed to get himself in even more hot water by inciting a riot in Nottingham.  Grey was summoned to London where Edward IV asked some very difficult questions.  By this stage an act had been passed trying to prevent local magnates from keeping their own bands of armed retainers – not that it seemed to have much effect.

By then it would have to be said that Henry Grey had got the hang of killing people as he turned up  for the concluding battles of the Wars of the Roses – at Barnet, Tewkesbury, Bosworth and Stoke. It was only at Stoke in 1487 that he fought for the Lancastrian cause. Edward IV had even appointed him to office in Ireland (not that it went particularly well) so it is interesting that Henry VII not only granted him land but gave him a licence to work with metals.

After Katherine died Henry Grey remarried twice more. His third wife, also and rather inconveniently named Katherine married Edward IV’s nephew William de la Pole -meaning that she was married to a man marked as a potential Yorkist contender to the throne,  taking us in one of those ever decreasing historical circles that I like so much. Though the good news for readers of this post is that Katherine Strangeways and Henry Grey didn’t have any children.

Katherine Strangeways’ mother the dowager duchess of Norfolk from her first marriage to John Mowbray would marry twice more. Both her third and fourth husbands have their part to play in the Wars of the Roses – her last marriage being described as “diabolical” by her contemporaries – guess what I’m posting about tomorrow? There are no rewards for anyone who has worked out who Katherine Neville ended up marrying or what the scandal was – but I can guarantee that some of you will exhale and think – ‘well, why didn’t she say at the start of this whole unravelling of Katherine Neville’s family?’

Weir, Alison. (2008) Britain’s Royal Families. London: Vintage Books

A tale of several heads…

sandal1-300x199I watched England’s Bloody Crown tonight.  The series is about the Wars of the Roses and based on The Hollow Crown.  I’m a fan of Dan Jones, his clear writing style and the depth of information he provides- I’m not so much a fan of the tv series though because of the amount of simplification required to tell a story that every viewer can follow.  By the time the Battle of Wakefield had finished I was goggling at the box: for a few moments I wondered if I’d made up the deaths of the Earl of Salisbury, his son Sir Thomas Neville and the Duke of York’s son Edmund.  Certainly the docu-drama element of the programme gave the impression that it was just the Duke of York who found his severed head atop the Micklegate Bar in York.

So, for my own peace of mind…its 30th December 1460. Though in the words of Channel Five I should warn you that this post contains images of medieval violence… (just imagine me spluttering crossly into my cup of peppermint tea)…’medieval’ violence indeed.

The Duke of York has had a mildly unpleasant Christmas holed up in Sandal Castle with between six  and nine thousand men and is running short of food (presumably the important folk got to stay inside the castle and the ordinary man at arms had the joy of camping in Yorkshire in December with the bonus of a hostile force nearby.) For reasons best known to himself York decided to venture out and away from the high ground upon which Sandal Castle stands – possibly to forage, possibly he thought his forces were superior, possibly he’d fallen victim to a Lancastrian trick, possibly he was just a little bit too rash.

Inevitably the Lancastrians and the Yorkists came to blows. During the fighting the Duke of York lost his horse and was killed – there’s a memorial to the event on the housing estate which stands on part of the battle field today. Richard of York’s seventeen-year-old son Edmund, Earl of Rutland attempted to escape over Wakefield Bridge, but was cornered and killed despite pleading for mercy- possibly by Clifford who was known ever afterwards as “Black-faced Clifford” in revenge for his father’s death at St Albans.

The Earl of Salisbury who’d gone north with York managed to escape the battlefield but his son Sir Thomas Neville died during the battle. Salisbury’s getaway was neither an effective nor clean break for freedom.  He was captured during the night and taken to Pontefract Castle – where the local populace did for him (hacked off his head) on account of the fact he was not a terribly generous overlord.

Richard of York’s paper-crowned head was not lonely on the Micklegate Bar.  It was accompanied by the gory remains of his son and the Earl of Salisbury.

Unfortunately Clifford’s brutality and the failure of the staff at Pontefract to keep their ‘guest’ safe meant that the Wars of the Roses became increasingly brutal as well as swiftly reducing the ranks of the warring Plantagenets to the extent that by the time the Lancastrians wanted to field a new contender for the crown after the death of Edward IV  (Richard of York’s son) the only available male heir was Henry Tudor – whose pedigree was decidedly dodgy.

 

Double click on the image to open a new window containing a history of Sandal Castle.