The sons in law of the countess and earl of Salisbury are an interesting bunch of guys. In some small way, they represent a cross-section of the nobility of the time – of loyalties and partisanship. My interest in the Wars of the Roses, and the Nevills in particular, has been pretty much lifelong and there’s no sign that that’s going to change. Until I started my current project, my focus had always been on the major players. Now that I’m starting to take a good hard look at some of the other people involved, I’m finding it even more fascinating. One of the things that’s surprised me is that, given the available evidence, the Nevills seem to have had pretty successful marriages, though with some the information is very scant.
Alice was one of the middle children. Her position in the family isn’t all that clear – some sources suggest she was born in the 1440s, others that she born in 1429 or 30. As she had her first child in 1448, I’ve slotted her into the family between Thomas and John*. Lord Henry Fitzhugh was about the same age.
He lived just up the road from Middleham at Ravensworth Castle – about 27 km (16 miles). There were close connections between the two families – Henry was one of Salisbury’s retainers (later Warwick’s) and it’s more than probable that Alice and Henry knew each other all their lives.
After Joan Nevll’s marriage to William Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, the supply of titled spouses seems to have dried up and the Salisburys had to set their sights lower for their younger children. Margaret, the youngest child, did end up with an earl, but neither Thomas nor John had the good fortune of their father and brother, Katheryn’s first husband was a lord and Alianor** married a mere knight.
Between 1448 and 1465, Alice and Henry had ten children – five boys and five girls. Anne married her father’s ward, Francis Lovell, and Richard fought at Bosworth but soon made his peace with the new regime and became Henry Tudor’s lieutenant in the north. Henry Fitzhugh died in 1472. Alice never remarried. It’s not known for certain where he was buried or whether Alice was buried with him when she died in 1503. She probably was, and they possibly lay together at Jervaulx Abbey, the burial choice for those Fitzhughs who didn’t manage to get their bodies transported to the Holy Land!
Henry had a tough time of it during the Wars. He wasn’t with the Yorkist lords at first St Albans. Though there’s no clear cut evidence he took the field, he was with Henry VI’s army at Wakefield. Whatever his political views, it can’t have been easy for him witnessing the deaths of his father in law and two brothers in law (Thomas Nevill and Katheryn’s young husband, William lord Harrington). While again at second St Albans and Towton there’s no record of him taking the field, he was still in Henry VI’s army. He may have kept himself out of things or been kept out to prevent him changing sides. After the Yorkist victory at Towton, he made his way to Edward IV and pledged his loyalty. I suspect he stopped by his brother in law first and made a more personal, binding pledge to him – when Warwick rebelled, Fitzhugh was with him almost all the way.
During these difficult times, Henry managed to spend some time at home with his wife, as there was a son born in both 1459 and 1461. It’s quite possible that Henry was the one who broke the news to her of the disaster at Wakefield.
Henry fought at Empingham on his brother in law’s side, fled to Scotland after the defeat, was pardoned (along with Alice, their children and their wards, the Lovells) and came home. He seems to have fled to Burgundy at some point, but I need to find out a bit more about that. Anyway, there was a second pardon and Henry came home again.
In 1471, he fought at neither Barnet nor Tewkesbury. As he died the following year, he may have already been too sick to travel.
Alice and Henry were married for twenty seven years. Alice was a widow for thirty. As there’s no record of his will, we don’t know whether it was simply her choice not to remarry or if Henry left conditions that made the prospect difficult. All of her children were born at Ravensworth and she lived there throughout her marriage, though in widowhood she lived, probably with her daughter Anne, at West Tanfield. I like to think of Alice and Henry building a strong marriage on the basis of a shared childhood, a deep love of Ravensworth, Wensleydale and Yorkshire; weathering the storms that buffeted them and destroyed a good many of their family; taking comfort in each other in the bad times and joy in the good.
* Since writing this blog, I’ve had a rethink about ages. If Alice was around 18 when her first chid was born in 1443, she’d have had to be a twin of either John or Thomas. Otherwise, she was probably born between George and Alianor, which would make her 14 when her daughter was born. This would make Henry some four years older than her. This doesn’t conform to what would seem to have been Nevill family policy (not exposing their daughters to pregnancy and childbirth until their late teens), for which I have no explanation but an ocean of speculation!
**Spelling choice based on signatures.