“When Edward moved the remains of his father and brother from Pontefract and reburied them in a splendid ceremony at Fotheringhay Castle in 1463, Warwick bore his father and brother to Bisham Abbey two weeks later in an even more splendid ceremony.” (It gets worse.)

I’ve developed a strong feeling that this particular blogger and writer really really doesn’t like Warwick, but she’s not alone in her view that a driving philosophy in his life was to outdo his king and cousin, Edward IV. Affection for his father, mother and brother – all buried at Bisham that day – isn’t even considered to be a possible motive.

This is the same person who had Warwick ‘bristle’ to his brother John (while ‘squaring his shoulders’): “Who are you to question my judgment, I, the hero of England?”, bellowing “I am the kingmaker!” before destroying his London home, and, incidentally, has him fleeing to Calais after the defeat at St Albans. A few pages earlier, in reference to these letters: “I heard him [Warwick] refer to the deaths of his father and brother as “the murder of my kin.” Shocked I halted in my steps. The earl and Thomas – how could they be mere ‘kin’? They were his father, his brother! But this I knew I would never forget.”

In a few scant paragraphs immediately following: “But then he’d [Edward IV] turn his gaze thoughtfully on Warwick, who was richer than any king, and I felt that cold shiver run down my spine again,” this author deals with the funeral at Bisham of the countess and earl of Salisbury and their son, Thomas. Salisbury had stated a desire to be buried here with previous earls of Salisbury (not, incidentally with his “Neville ancestors”). The king’s absence is noted (“Again I felt that cold shiver of warning that told me something was amiss”), and his brother George’s presence. The Suffolks were there, as were lord and lady Hastings, both with close ties to the king through either blood or deep friendship – William Hastings may well have wished to attend his father-in-law’s funeral, at the very least for his wife’s sake, but would hardly have defied the king to do so. Edward’s absence might have been deliberate, but he was well represented (as he was at another Nevill celebration, the enthronement of the archbishop of York.) Reading backwards from Barnet (all those ‘cold shivers’) skews the story and misrepresents the characters and their motivations.

It may have been a funeral designed to advertise Warwick’s wealth, but hardly at the expense of his parents’ and brother’s honour and memory. The earl and countess of Salisbury were centre stage that day. The countess of Warwick wasn’t in attendance and neither was Thomas’s widow, the newly remarried Maud Stanhope. Also missing were the earl of Arundel, lord Stanley and Salisbury’s surviving sisters. Perhaps there wasn’t sufficient notice for them to attend, which suggests that the funeral was fairly hastily organised. If a conspicuous show of wealth, power and influence was the primary aim, more time and attention would have surely been spent on it (such as making sure as many dukes, duchesses, earls and countesses as possible were in attendance).

Like the archbishop’s feast, the funeral was undoubtedly first and foremost an occasion to honour family members who had achieved much in their lives; Warwick had wealth to lavish on both and he certainly did that. To do otherwise would have, no doubt, prompted charges of meanness and miserliness from the same writers who now charge him with doing all he could to outshine his cousin and king.

Just in case I’m accused of picking on people, here’s another random sampling from the blogsphere:

“In 1463 Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (a.k.a. Warwick the Kingmaker) staged a showpiece service here for the reburial of his father and his brother, killed at Pontefract. It was designed, perhaps, as a challenge to Edward IV, who had recently held a memorial service for his father and brother, killed at Rutland.”

It’s going to take a lot of work to change the perception that <Warwick + money + funeral != love for family> is a false equation. (I’m putting aside the inaccuracies because I have a big heart.)

The second funeral at Bisham was Warwick’s own. He was buried, along with his brother John, after Barnet. The bodies of the brothers were first put on display outside St Paul’s in London so that there would be no doubt that both were dead. It is sometimes stated that they were stripped naked, or dressed only in loincloths but a more sensible interpretation is that their armour was removed and they were displayed fully clothed. After this, both were removed to Bisham for burial.

Warwick had stated a preference to be buried at the Beauchamp chapel at Warwick Castle. Considering the circumstances of his death, and the lack of a voice to speak on his behalf (his wife was in sanctuary and neither of his daughters were in a position to speak up for him), such a request was unlikely to even be considered. Burial at a family mausoleum was more than most people could have hoped for in similar circumstances.

The funeral, though far less lavish than that of their parents and brother, Thomas, was neither hurried nor improperly carried out. Some shred of affection, and perhaps a strong sense of what he had once owed the Nevills, seems to have prompted Edward IV to ensure his cousins had a burial that was far removed from what might be expected either for fallen foes or traitors.  I’ve been hunting for more detail on this funeral, including who may have attended, though I can say that neither of the widows was there.

Not the funeral usually expected for 'traitors'

There is no trace now of any Nevills at Bisham. The priory was sacked during the dissolution of the monasteries and the effigies and bones either removed or destroyed. Salisbury’s effigy can be found at Burghfield church.

  1. Great post! And that poor heroine needs a Snuggie with all of those cold shivers . . .

  2. anevillfeast says:

    Thanks Susan. Oh, she gets Snuggles all right! Oodles and oodles of Snuggles!

  3. Brian says:

    Advice to heroines who get too many shivers – put on another layer, girl.

  4. anevillfeast says:

    Excellent advice, Brian!

  5. anevillfeast says:

    Thanks Sass! I do think it was done fairly quickly but that, as you say, had more to do with the time available to them than trying to outdo the king! There were some rather prominent people missing (prominent in terms of family, not politics) which does suggest that they were on a schedule, but that had far more to do with what was going on in the rest of the country. This author has consistently backdated the enmity between Warwick and the king, to the point that – while their fathers were still alive – he’s bitching to his brother about just how dissolute the young earl of March is! Considering how closely they worked together between Ludlow and Towton (and beyond), that’s just another piece of nonsense I can do without.


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