I realise that I’ve been burbling on about these people for weeks now, as if I was assuming that everyone knows exactly who I’m talking about. (One clue was my sister saying to me “I read your blog, but I have no idea who the hell you’re talking about!’) So maybe it’s time to introduce them. I’ll try to make these potted biographies as brief and informative as possible.
As I’m dividing the book into three, so I shall divide the family (roughly by generation, except I need to include the York children, so this three part look at the Nevills will be in four parts).
The Elder Nevills
Ralph Nevill and his second wife Joan Beaufort had 10 children. Not all of them are listed here.
Richard Nevill, the oldest of Joan’s sons, married Alice Montacute in 1420 and became earl of Saslibury in her right three years later. They also had 10 children. Salisbury served for many years as warden of the West March towards Scotland and was Chancellor of England during the duke of York’s first protectorate (1454). He fought alongside York and his son, Richard earl of Warwick, at the first battle of St Albans in May 1455, where they defeated the king’s forces. In 1459, as part of a mass attainder that included his wife and three of his sons, he was forced to flee England. He went to Calais with his son, Richard, and nephew, Edward earl of March. His wife went to Ireland with York and his younger son, Edmund duke of Rutland. In 1460, the Calais earls launched a successful invasion of England. While Salisbury held London, Warwick and March went north, where they met and engaged the king’s forces at the battle of Northampton, where Henry VI was defeated and captured. The victory saw the Nevills in control of the government. Salisbury’s youngest son, George bishop of Exeter, was named Chancellor. Captured in December of that year after the battle of Wakefield, Salisbury was taken to Pontefract Castle and beheaded, probably by Robert Holland, the Bastard of Exeter.
William Nevill was born c1410. Some time before 1422, he married Joan, baroness Fauconberg, and became lord Fauconberg in her right. She has been described in the literature as an idiot from birth, but no-one seems to have a clear idea as to what this actually means. If she was incapable of functioning to a high level, marriage and subsequent childbirth seem callous to modern sensibilities, but it is difficult to judge from this distance of time. They had three daughters. Alice (who will be mentioned in more detail later) married sir John Conyers, a steadfast Nevill supporter. William also had at least one illegitimate son by an unknown mother, Thomas Bastard of Fauconberg. William was Lieutenant of Calais during his nephew Warwick’s captaincy. He was heavily involved, as was his son Thomas, with Warwick’s piracy in the channel. He was by all accounts a man of short stature, but universally recognised as fine soldier. He fought with the king’s army at the first battle of St Albans but shortly afterwards changed sides. Fauconberg fought at the battles of Northampton and Towton. In 1462 he was appointed Admiral of England. He died the following year.
Cecily Nevill Born in 1415, Cecily married Richard duke of York in 1429. They had 12 children, 7 surviving to adulthood. Cecily accompanied her husband to France when he was appointed governor of Normandy and later to Ireland where, in a thinly disguised exile, he also served as governor. Three of their surviving children were born in Rouen, one in Ireland and the others in England, probably at Fotheringhay castle. In 1459/60, during her husband’s time in Ireland, she was sent into the custody of her older sister Anne, duchess of Buckingham. Later she went to stay at John Paston’s house before leaving London to meet her husband on his return to England. She accompanied him into the city when he made his illfated bid for the crown. In 1461, shortly after her husband’s death and with her oldest son’s life at risk in Wales, she sent her two youngest sons to Burgundy for safety. In 1461, after Edward became king, she revised her coat of arms to include the arms of England. During the rebellion of Warwick and her third son, George duke of Clarence, Cecily attempted to reconcile the two parties, with limited success. After the death of her youngest son, Richard, at the battle of Bosworth, Cecily retired from public life, though for some years she continued to involve herself in various attempts to overthrow Henry Tudor (Henry VII). She died in 1495 and was buried with her husband and son, Edmund.
Anne Nevill married Humphrey Stafford, duke of Buckingham. Her sister Cecily, whose politics she disapproved of, was in her custody for some time after York’s attainder and flight to Ireland in 1459.
Eleanor Nevill was the mother of the Percy half of the Nevill-Percy feud. She married, as her second husband, Henry Percy earl of Northumberland. Their younger sons, Thomas lord Egremont and Richard, were involved in a series of skirmishes with their cousins, Thomas and John Nevill. Her husband was killed at the first battle of St Albans; Egremont at the battle of Northampton and Richard at the battle of Towton. Her son Ralph was killed at the battle of Hedgeley Moor.
Next: the Middle Nevills