Getting rid of the Arch Bishop of York – the demise of George Neville

Arms of George Neville, Archbishop of York (British Library, MS Harl.3346 ff.4v-5), c.1475)

George was the Earl of Warwick’s youngest brother being born in about 1432. He was always destined for the church and educated in Oxford in preparation. In 1458, in the aftermath of the Yorkist victory at the first Battle of St Albans (I know it was 1455) he became the Bishop of Exeter. From that time onwards he was an essential part of the Neville affinity. After the battle of Northampton in July 1460 his brother gave him the Great Seal of England and once the Yorkists were victorious at Towton on 29 March 1461 he became King Edward IV’s lord chancellor. The records reveal him being sent on diplomatic missions, becoming the chancellor of Oxford university and in 1465 being consecrated as Archbishop of York.

Unfortunately the king and his cousin, the Earl of Warwick, found themselves increasingly at odds with one another. In 1467 George’s role as Lord Chancellor was replaced by the Bishop of Bath – Robert Stillington- who would later be accused of officiating at a secret marriage ceremony between Edward and Eleanor Talbot invalidating the king’s union with Elizabeth Woodville (I’m not going into that in this post!) Nor were matters helped when George popped across to Calais to officiate at the wedding of his niece Isabel Neville to George Duke of Clarence having facilitated the necessary papal dispensation beforehand.

George would become Henry VI’s chancellor during the brief readeption of 1470-1471. George was still with the Lancastrian king when Edward IV arrived back in London at the beginning of May 1471. For a short while he share the deposed king’s captivity in the Tower. He was pardoned and released for a short while. He spent that Christmas at his newly built home at Moor Park or The Moor as it was known. He entertained John Paston. The Warkworth Chronicle takes up the tale stating that the king invited the erstwhile bishop to Windsor to hunt (remember that they were cousins as well.). The king suggested that George should return the favour by inviting him to stay at The Moor. George believed that all had been forgiven.

The day before the king was due to arrive the archbishop was arrested on charges of treason. According to Warkworth the charge was that he had provided assistance to the Earl of Oxford. Edward claimed Moor Park and its contents. George found himself being quietly shipped off to Hampnes Castle in the Pale of Calais ‘and there he was kept prisoner for many a day ‘ (Warkworth Chronicle, p.25). The removal was done in such secrecy that it was believed the archbishop was dead – it’s commented upon in the Paston Letters. The chronicle added that the bishop’s mitre found its way into the king’s hands. He had the jewels removed from it and turned into a crown for himself. All of George’s plate and valuables were given to Prince Edward. The chronicle moralised about George’s covetousness but did not add that the Bishop was kept imprisoned until the end of 1475 before being permitted to return to England. It was thought that Richard of Gloucester was amongst the men who argued on the behalf of the bishop. On the 6 November he was made an abbot at Westminster. He was at Blyth Priory in Northumberland when he died on 8 June 1476.

Holy Trinity Church, Goodram Gate, York.,1885-1900/Neville,_George(1433%3F-1476)

Robin of Redesdale or Robin Mend-all

In April 1469 parts of the north rose in rebellion against Edward IV. John Neville, the Earl of Northumberland – the Percy family having been displaced for a time – put down the rebellion killing Robin, if Polydore Vergil is to be believed. A second leader took on Robin’s authority and name and the rebellion continued. it’s worth pointing out that John was the Kingmaker’s brother and that the Kingmaker, a.k.a the Earl of Warwick, orchestrated the uprising. Amongst the rebels demands was the removal of the Woodville family from power.

The real identity of Robin is unknown. He may have been Sir John Conyers or his brother William. Sir John was Middelham’s steward, related by marriage to the Nevilles and would fight alongside the kingmaker at the Battle of Edgecote in July 1469. Conyers was one of the casualties of the battle. Equally, it seems unlikely that Warwick’s brother would put down a rebellion fermented by the Kingmaker. An alternative source for the uprising might be the Percy family who had suffered a serious setback at Towton when their rivals the Nevilles emerged victorious and the Lancastrian king was toppled from power. The north became a Neville stronghold and in 1464 Neville became the Earl of Northumberland – which did not go down well with the locals. It should also be added that the rebels weren’t keen on the tax situation. None-the-Less the Warkwarth Chronicle places the blame for the rebellion squarely on the shoulders of Warwick.

Part of the problem in terms of understanding the rebellion, or even rebellions, and its participants is that the chronicles are often written at a later date and/or by writers living in the south. The Croyland Chronicler was not a fan of anyone who lived north of the River Trent – which isn’t even the north in He-who-is-occasionally-obeyed’s opinion but then he comes from Cumbria and most of the country is the south so far as he’s concerned. The other problem is that there’s no record of trials – there is a set of records sent to Calais (remember Warwick was the Captain of Calais)