Archive for May, 2011

“how does he start to be a kingmaker (warwick the kingmaker)”

Well, I think it all started when someone gave him the wool, but he claims to have answered an ad on Craigslist.

“anne neville – did she die unexpected”

Yep, they had to scrabble around real fast to get her room ready.

“in 1452 what angered edward duke of york to march on london”

In this reality, nothing – he was still earl of march.

“did tony robinson claim to be anne robinson’s brother”

I have no idea. I’m still stuck on his unsupportable claim that Edward IV’s father really was an archer named Blaybourne.

“does it matter if history is fiction”

Well, occasional flashes of history can be found. If not: IT’S FICTION FOLKS. GET OVER IT!

“he pushed my wife’s skirts up to her waist”

Must be talking about Edward IV.

“countess anne lashes”

Well, someone had to keep the Kingmaker in check.

“margaret hits duchess henry vi”

Making sense of this one was more than my brain could manage.

“sandra worth nevill feast”

These two things just don’t go together at all!

“what does inaccuracies”

See above.

“english king married young bride mother next king”

As cause and effect go, this seems unremarkable.


It’s an actual word, actually found in The Arivall! Who’d have thought?

“margaret of anjou and henry holland”

Just another notch on her bedpost.

“battle of wakefield robert holland bastard”

This explains a good deal, depending on where you put the punctuation: Battle of Wakefield – Robert Holland. Bastard! – Works for me.

“duke of york’s secret lover”


“did the nevilles of raby family take on raby as a surname after their fall from grace”

a) No. b) They didn’t fall, they were pushed.

“elizabeth woodville sexy”

She had to be. Otherwise none of it would have happened.

“earl of warwick’s montague shoes”

Can I get them in the same shop as Jimmy Nail’s crocodile shoes?

“tenagers having sex naced”

If you can’t spell it, you’re probably too young to be looking for it. And you won’t find it anyway, most tenagers are only harf naced when they have sex.

“FATHER: Nevills, Thomas”

Not my Thomas, sadly.

“her knee up hard”

WARNING: soft squishy bits ahead.

“eleanor butler precontract”

I don’t have it! Honest.

I like John Nevill. He was a complex and interesting man, but a man of his times. The 15th century was a very different place to the 21st. A man could love his wife and children, be well read and cultured on the one hand and utterly ruthless when it came to matters of war and politics on the other. John Nevill was no different. We’re very fond these days of categorising people and putting them in boxes. Radio stations play one kind of music; demographics tell advertisers what gender and age group to pitch ads to on tv; books are written in an attempt to entrench a view of biologically based gender differences. Teenagers are goths or emos or straight edge or tagged with any one of a dozen other labels. We do the same with historical ‘characters’ as well. And that’s how we treat them – as characters. We use them to prove a point, and fiction about the Wars of the Roses abounds with them.

Here’s a little exercise. See how many people you can identify according to their archetype.

the Romantic Hero

the Greedy Queen

the Innocent

the Pawn

the Alcoholic Wifebeater

the Wicked Uncle

the Doomed Princess

the One With Torn Loyalties

the Good Who Die Young

the Foul Traitor

the Tragic Jolly Uncle

the Misunderstood Saint

the Overreacher Who Gets His Comeuppance

See how easy it is?

John Nevill is portrayed almost universally as the Tragic Hero whose Loyalties Are Torn and who dies by his brother’s side when he should – as everyone knows – have been fighting alongside his king. This is, I think, based on one line from Warkworth’s Chronicle, which I’ve discussed previously. Everything about his life, from childhood to his death at the age of 39, is explained and justified through this single line. I’m not going to revisit it except to say that John Nevill wasn’t secretly wearing the livery of Edward IV at the battle of Barnet. These chronicles, and other primary sources, are hugely important, but (as today) not everything that was written at the time can or should be taken as gospel. But what to me is worse than relying on a single sentence in a single source is that the view of John that emanates from it is contradicted by other sources, and even within Warkworth itself. This (mythical) moment in John’s life pushes back in time and gives him a saintly glow. It also serves to differentiate him from his older and, in the popular mind, much less noble brother, Warwick.

There’s a number of myths about John that seem directly connected to the Warkworth myth. I’d like to try and make sense of some of them.

1. John had no intention of suriving the battle of Barnet.

In his Warwick the Kingmaker, Kendall says this: “… his brother John, obeying the call of kinship, would fight at his side, but John’s heart was in the other camp and he had the look of a man who has lost the will to live.”

This is a twist on the torn loyalties paradigm. If it brought about his brother’s defeat and Edward’s triumph, John would give his life. Rather than see his king defeated and his brother’s Lancastrian allies triumphant, John would give his life. As romantic hero gestures go, you can’t get much more romantic – or heroic – than this.

In many respects, Kendall reads like fiction. I’ve found nothing in any of the primary sources that claims to describe the look on John’s face or what was in his heart before the battle. Kendall can’t possibly know. This is pure unfounded speculation based on the author’s personal view of John Nevill. While this might be acceptable in fiction, in non-fiction it isn’t, at least not without the author intervening and stating openly that they are speculating, and giving reasons for that.

John was not yet 40 (I haven’t found a birthdate for him, but he was probably born in 1432). He had a wife who he seems to have been at least fond of and seven living children. Had he and Warwick prevailed at Barnet, he may have had hopes of once again holding the Percy Northumberland title and lands. His capture, along with his brother Thomas, after the battle of Blore Heath, and his capture after the loss at second St Albans were the closest things to defeat John had ever faced. The major factor in the outcome of Barnet (or at least a major factor) was the confused and confusing return to the field of the earl of Oxford’s men. It was this that directly led to the breaking of John’s line and his death. For him to have anticipated, or engineered this, is a preposterous notion. John probably went into this battle as he had every battle of his life – knowing that there were no guarantees that he’d survive. Had he survived, given the description of his actions in the parliamentary roll of 1472 as “grete and horible treasons”, Edward IV wouldn’t have spared him. John had a lot to fight for and a lot to live for.

2. Edward IV shortchanged John in the earl-for-marquess deal.

This is predicated largely on the passage quoted below in myth #3. John’s earldom was taken from him and he was given a ‘pie’s nest’ to maintain his new title of marquis. John, in fact, got a reasonable deal: a new and higher title; the proceeds of two royal mines; various Courtenay estates in the west of England; a dukedom for his son, George and, also for George, a connection to the royal family by way of betrothal to Edward’s oldest daughter (and heir presumptive) Elizabeth. John was hardly reduced to poverty.

3. His decision to join his brothers, Warwick and the Archbishop of York, in rebellion was spur of the moment and resulted from the loss of his earldom.

Here’s the relevant part from Warkworth:

The Lorde Markes Montagu hade gaderyd vi M{1} men, by Kynge Edwardes commysyone and commaundment, to the entente to have recistede the seid Duke of Clarence and the Erle of Warwyke. Never the latter, the seide Markes Montagu hatyd the Kynge, and purposede to have taken hym; and whenne he was withein a myle of Kynge Edwarde, he declarede to the peple that was there gaderede with hym, how Kyng Edwarde hade fyrst yevyne to hym the erledome of Northumberlonde, and how he toke it from hym and gaff it to Herry Percy, whos fadere was slayne at Yorke felde [first battle of St Albans]; and how of late tyme hade made hym Markes of Montagu, and yaff hym a pyes neste to mayntene his astate withe; where for he yaff knoleage to his peple that he wulde holde withe the Erle of Warwyke, his brothere, and take Kynge Edwarde if he myght, and alle tho that would holde with hym.

I think the loss of the earldom hurt him a great deal. It was absolute proof of his triumph over those who had been his enemies since young adulthood, his Percy cousins. He had their title and their lands. Losing it must have been a bitter blow, but it was something that, for some months, he seemed to accept. Warwick was no doubt working on him from the moment John dispersed the rebels led by ‘Robin of Redesdale’ (possibly William Conyers). This reported speech smells of pretext, and it’s timing is perfect. Apart from ‘one of the oste’ (see myth #4), John’s men made the switch with him en masse, and Edward was forced to flee.

John had probably made the decision well before this time and, when summoned by his king to join him, he took his chance and made the switch.

What I find interesting here is that people who accept the later statement in Warkworth, that John was wearing the livery of Edward IV under his own at Barnet, don’t seem to stop and question the contradiction. Here, it is stated that John hated the king. That’s quite a strong word to use. Unless we want to accept the idea that John was wishy-washy – one day hating the king and swearing himself and his men to his brother, the next secretly pledging himself to the king and possibly planning to betray Warwick – we have to choose one of these statements over the other. As I suggested in an earlier post, not only do other primary sources not support the latter, the mention of John in the 1472 parliamentary rolls decidedly contradicts it.

4. John secretly sent word to Edward telling him of his defection and giving him time to escape.

Immediately following the passage above:

But anone one of the oste went oute from the fellawschippe and tolde Kynge Edwarde alle manere of thyng, and bade hym avoyde, for he was nogt stronge enoghe to gyffe batayle to Markes Montagu…

Someone slipped away and warned the king. There’s no suggestion that this was done with John’s knowledge or connivance. If John was playing a deep double game, he kept his face very straight indeed and was given poor reward in death. The propaganda value to Edward of John’s potential defection, at Barnet or elsewhere, would have made it too valuable to ignore. The Arrival would have made much of it, and the king himself would have surely exonerated and praised such a loyal supporter in parliament. John gave men of Warwick’s affinity no such warning before he made his switch and it seems out of character that he would have done so after. Edward’s flight is strong evidence that he had no inkling that John might still be on his side. “My lord Montagu wants you to know that he’s not joining you, and wants to give you time to escape” might have led Edward to seek safe haven within England. There’s no doubt in my mind that, had the two sides met in battle, John would have given no quarter, and Edward was aware of that. With two Nevill armies after him, he had no option but to get as far away as he could. If John had warned Edward, the king might have taken the chance that John would find some way of not engaging or, at the very least, holding his men back. The idea that the warning came from John makes no sense.

5. John deliberately made no move to intercept Edward IV when he landed at Ravenspur in 1471.

Edward IV has been described at times as having fortune on his side. His return to England was certainly one of these times. His restoration of Henry Percy to his earldom paid off. While Northumberland was in no position to rally his men to Edward’s side – they weren’t about to fight for the man at whose hands they and their families had suffered great loss – his very presence made it impossible for John to move against Edward. Here John was reaping the results of the feud he’d so enthusiastically fuelled for years. While Northumberland’s men weren’t going to fight for the king, neither were they going to aid a Nevill in opposing him. As Pollard says: “It is hardly surprising that the leaders of local society bore [John Nevill] no love. They had not done so since 1453.” (North Eastern England during the Wars of the Roses, p313) Edward was free to move about the north of England at will.

6. John married Isobel Ingoldisthorpe for love.

This is pure romantic nonsense, already dealt with in some depth here.

6. The conflict between John and Henry duke of Somerset was love rivalry.

Someone in John’s family, or at the very least on the side of John’s family, killed this duke of Somerset’s father at the first battle of St Albans. Attempts were made to bring peace between the two sides at the Love Day of 1458. Clearly, at least with the junior members of various families, this failed. John has already been shown to be capable of bearing a grudge. Or maybe he just liked the excitement of feuding. The young Somerset had every right to be angry at his father’s death, and John does seem to have been the most hotheaded member of his family. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that this conflict manifested itself in occasional violence.

As I said at the very start of this post, I like John Nevill. But I like this John Nevill, not the unrealistic, un-fifteenth century quasi-saint that (sadly) inhabits a lot of historical fiction. There are too many contradictions in that one; too many sleight of hand tricks are needed to keep the fantasy alive. For a while after his brother Warwick began to rebel in company with the Duke of Clarence, John stayed loyal to his king. Once he made the switch, however, he stuck with it. Instead of agonising over his torn loyalties leading up to and during the battle of Barnet, I think it’s more likely that the pain was felt (and resolved) earlier than this – during the time he was standing against his brothers. I sometimes feel there’s a bit more to it than this, though. It’s all tied up with Warwick and people’s perceptions of him and what he deserved. Warwick, they seem to be saying, deserved to die. Alone. Deserted even by his brother. John’s incipient sainthood is championed in order to throw Warwick further into the shadow as the major villain of the piece and the Overreacher Who Gets His Comeuppance.

This one was so hard to cut! I worked extremely hard on it. It’s based on two documents: Norfolk’s speech condemning Somerset and minutes of a council meeting in (iirc) April or May 1454. If I do find a way to use it, I’ll be very pleased, but I just can’t see one in the new structure!


No-one cheered as the Nevills rode into London.  The citizens were getting used to it, the long trains of liveried men ahorse and afoot, the lords on their mounts, their power and strength trailing behind them in visible display.  The city bristled with soldiers, people tripped over them in taverns and in the streets, holding their breath and hoping that tempers would be kept.  The merchants might grumble, but they didn’t begrudge the coin that poured into their hands.

At the Erber, Lord Fauconberg was waiting.  More than most, he had reason to despise Somerset and distrust the king.  Another victim, his brother Salisbury said, of military incompetence.

“I can attest to his failings,” Fauconberg said.  “I’ve not been two years in France for the good of my health.  How far is the Duke of York prepared to go?”

Warwick listened to the conversation between his elders, his father and uncle and Lord Grey of Ruthyn, who was the one who could tell them what might be on the Duke of York’s mind.  Fitzhugh sat on Warwick’s right hand, and Scrope on Fitzhugh’s.  Half the strength of the north country, gathered into one room.

“He makes no move to claim the throne,” Grey said.  “He’s learned his lesson, I believe, and shoots for smaller game.”

“As regent?” Salisbury said.

“That they will not give him.  Nor will they give it to the queen.  Protector and defender are the only words they use.”

“I can’t give you my support unless I am assured he has no greater ambitions,” Fauconberg said.

“Despite your own complaints?” Salisbury said.  “You’re owed a great deal, William.  What promises have been made that you can believe?”

“Henry is my king.  Appointed by God, and who am I to question the Almighty?”

“There was no talk of crowns and thrones,” Grey said, shaking his head.  “And that makes my Lord Cromwell breathe a little easier.  You can count on his support so long as nothing changes.”

“What are the chances that this is a trap?” Warwick said.  “That they offer him authority with one hand while the other holds an axe?”

“They’re desperate,” Grey said.  “Even those close to the queen see the need to call on York.”

“I’ve seen no sign of Northumberland.  Does he ignore this summons too?”

“That’s not a quarrel that should be brought to the streets of London.”

“Nor will it be, if he stays away.”

Warwick was beginning to see real possibilities, for himself and for his father, the positions and authority their eminence deserved.  Salisbury would look north towards the Marches as he always did.  If the Percies kept themselves aloof from York’s government, there might be yet more to plunder.  Warwick allowed himself to imagine the north of England under the control of his father and brothers, both Marches secure in Nevill hands.  That left the south, London, Westminster, for Warwick.  The pickings, he knew, would be ripe and plentiful.

When York came, Viscount Bourchier not far behind him, the set was near complete.  They were crowded round the table; the small beginnings of the faction that would one day help rend England in two.  All that was missing was the Duke of Norfolk.

“Damned man’s always running late,” York said.

He’d come with little ceremony, preferring not to draw too much attention to himself or to where he went.  Salisbury clapped him on the back and, for all his youthful hubris, Warwick felt himself a little tongue tied to be in the presence of such greatness.

The house, which to him had always seemed grand enough, now felt small and shabby, the furnishings poor and unfit to be seen.  York seemed neither to notice nor to care, but took his place at the table and accepted the cup of wine Salisbury offered.

“I intend to summon all who now serve the king,” he said.  “I will not be seen to play favourites, nor to exclude any who might disagree with me.”

“They exclude themselves,” Salisbury said.

“Then that is their decision and I shall have to do my best to work with what I have.”

He looked at Warwick, as if he couldn’t quite place him, then at Fitzhugh and Scrope.  Are these your men? he seemed to be asking.  How have they been proven?

Warwick swallowed, but didn’t look away.  His confidence, so loudly proclaimed to his brothers, seemed of a sudden misplaced.  He wondered if he’d still be here, in such exalted company, if he was just plain Sir Richard whose hope of advancement would only come with the death of his father.  York turned away and Warwick felt dismissed.

Norfolk came in, wrapped in furs, stamping life back into frozen feet.  “It’s like an armed camp out there!”

“They managing to stay out of each other’s way?” York said.

“For the most part, but tempers are bound to flare sooner or later.”  Norfolk sat down heavily in a chair, puffing hard.  “My wife is afraid to venture out.”

“That ought to cut your deficit for the month,” Bourchier said, with that mixture of contempt and affection that only a brother could manage.

There was some laughter but Norfolk, it seemed, wasn’t in the mood.

Warwick went to the door and shouted for someone to bring something hot to help thaw out the frozen Duke.  Here at least I have some authority, he thought grimly.

“We can’t come in demanding a return to law and order if it’s the only thing we can’t ourselves provide,” Norfolk said.  “Unless this is at its heart a personal vendetta.”

“Is it for you, John?” York said.

“You know what this is about for me.  I’d like to think I’m not the only one who cares.”

“I spent a lot of years defending our territories in France,” York said.  “Four children were born at Rouen, and one lies there still.  I wasn’t given the chance to finish the job.  Exiled to Ireland so that he could succeed me.  It hurts me, John, to see them lost – Normandy, Guyenne, Gascony.  And the man who caused it is curled up at the feet of the queen.  Do we let him destroy England as well?  All of us are far from home, most away from wives and children.  Unless you want to live in a country where Eleanor may never be free to venture out again…”

These words, and more, he’d been repeating since his precipitate return from Ireland.  His calls for the king to rid himself of bad counsel had gone unheeded time and again.  When he took his stand at Dartford, Warwick and his father had stood by the king and many it was who said that York would have lost his life, or at least his title and estates, had any but the Earl of Salisbury arbitrated between them.

“They’ll listen to you, John,” York went on.  “Give them a bill, give them a speech to stir their hearts and make them turn their accusing eyes towards Windsor.  Let us all have Christmas with those we love while Somerset spends his alone in the Tower.”

“I have spoken to them before on this matter,” Norfolk said.  “With no satisfaction.”

“That was when he stood as Henry’s chief councillor.  He no longer does.”

“I do this because I believe it to be just,” Norfolk said, reaching for pen and parchment.  “Not for you, Richard, but for England.  And the precedents are clear.  If we can prove our case, his freedom is gone if not his head.”


The Star Chamber was overflowing with lords, both spiritual and temporal.  Warwick supposed he ought to be overawed by the wealth, power and weight of ancestry that surrounded him, and if he was honest with himself he’d have to admit he was, at least a little.  He looked at his father and the Duke of York, their heads together, talking quietly.  Counting up their support, perhaps.  Or at least speculating on the potentialities.

Few were firm adherents of the Duke, the Bourchiers (both spiritual and temporal) and Norfolk, should his interest survive the condemnation of the Duke of Somerset, if he made a decision and committed himself.  Others were tied to the Nevill affinity, Greystoke, Scrope, Stanley, Fauconberg and Fitzhugh among them.

The small group loyal to the queen huddled together, like hunted animals, Warwick thought.  And today there was but one item on the agenda, the fall of the Duke of Somerset.

Norfolk cleared his throat and got to his feet.  They’d heard all of this before, but that was in a council that had Somerset at its head.  His absence today might prove costly.  They could see which way the wind blew and none of them were complete fools.  This ought to be interesting, Warwick thought.  The stability of his uncle’s position – and by extrapolation, theirs – depended on whether the men in this room could listen to this speech with fresh ears.  He wished he could tell more from their faces.

“My lords,” Norfolk said.  “You know well the great pains, labour and diligence that before this time I have done, to the intent that the over great dishonours and losses that have come to this noble realm of England, by false means by some persons that have taken on themselves over great authority, should be known.”

Warwick settled back in his seat.  It was going to be a long speech and he might as well get comfortable.

“And that the persons living that have done them should be corrected over the merits of their deserts.”  The Duke was getting into the swing, his voice rising and falling, his gaze fixed on one councillor, then the next.  “And to that intent I have denounced and delivered to you in writing certain articles against the Duke of Somerset, who is one of them that is guilty.”

Viscount Beaumont, the queen’s chamberlain, met Norfolk’s stare and didn’t look away until the Duke moved on.

“Whereto the Duke of Somerset has answered; and to that he has answered I have replied in such wise that I believe to be true enough that there was nothing that could be said to the contrary.  And all that he says is but falseness and lies, and by the proofs that shall be made thereupon it shall appear.”

York whispered something to Salisbury, who nodded.  The speech was going well, apart from the shuffling feet of those few who’d oppose any move against the accused.

“Howbeit that to all people of good intention, knowing how justice ought to be ministered, it is full apparent that the denunciations made against him be sufficiently proved by deeds that have followed.  Whereupon I have required to have overture of justice by you, which you have not yet granted me.  I am so heavy that I may no longer bear it, specially since the matter I pursue is so worshipful for all the realm and for you, and so agreeable to God, and to all the subjects of this realm.”

He’d certainly been busy, the Duke of Norfolk, consulting lawyers, drawing up indictments, reading responses and drafting further documents of accusation and charge.  If Somerset survives this, Warwick thought grimly, he has a more powerful ally than the queen on his side.  Though he didn’t doubt that God and all his angels would throw the weight of their mercy and justice fully behind the Duke of York.  He had the Nevills now, and God was yet to forsake them.

“And it is such that for my favour of lineage, nor for any other cause there should be no dissimulation, lest others in time coming take example from it, and lest that the full noble virtue of justice be extinct or quenched by the false opinions of some, that for the great bribes that the said Duke of Somerset has promised and given them, have turned their hearts from the way of truth and justice.”

The Beauforts had been in York’s sights since his days as governor of Normandy.  Somerset’s father had competed with York for men, materiel and money.  To York’s lasting bitterness, these struggles had been won by the elder Somerset, who returned to England after the fall of Castillon, a beaten man, and died shortly thereafter.  His son was high in the king’s esteem and higher now in the queen’s, and it was his fall, York was convinced – Norfolk was convinced – that would bring England back to good governance.

“Some say that the cases by him committed be but cases of trespass, and others are persuaded to make a universal peace.  But every man that is true to the said crown had greatly to marvel that any man would say that the loss of two so noble duchies as Normandy and Guyenne, that be well worth a great realm, coming by succession of fathers and mothers to the said crown, is but trespass.”

And that set the Duke of York’s mouth into a tight line.  With the fall of France came great personal loss to him and his second son.  With no French lands to inherit, the young Earl of Rutland faced an uncertain future.  He was by no means the only younger son in England so affected.

“Whereas it has been seen in many realms and lordships that, for the loss of towns and castles without siege, the captains that have lost them have been dead and beheaded, and their goods lost, as in France one that lost Cherbourg.”

The Duke of Gloucester had died, the Duke of Suffolk had died, Somerset’s father had died, though of the three only one had lost his head, and that through the actions of men with no nobility and no honour.  The king had been satisfied with Suffolk’s exile, though those who blamed him for England’s ill had not.  Someone had to pay the price for the losses in France, and who better than the man that caused it?  Somerset walked out of Cherbourg, walked away from Rouen.  Handed both over to the French, his own neck safe and a hey nonny no!

“And also a knight that fled for dread of battle should be beheaded.  All these things may be found in the laws written.  Wherefore, to abridge my language, I require you that because the more part of the deeds of the Duke of Somerset were committed in the realm of France, that, by the laws of France, process be made.  And that all things that I have delivered and shall deliver be seen and understood by people learned in the laws of this land.”

There was a rustle of expensive fabric as the audience shifted in their seats.  Norfolk had left no road open to them but to approve the arrest of Somerset.  Warwick began to understand why York set so much store by him.

“And for proof of this commissions of enquiry should be granted.  This is by reason and of customs what ought to be done.  I call on God and you all, my lords, to witness the work done by me in this said matter.  And this bill I will have exemplified under the king’s great seal, so that the truth of my words can be known.  By this my pains and my efforts and the lack of justice shall be known through this realm.”

Norfolk sat down to silence.  Viscount Beaumont, stone faced, glared at him and at the Duke of York in turn.  He alone might try and speak on Somerset’s behalf, though Warwick doubted he was quite fool enough for that.  The mood in England was sour, the loss of France a bitter pill to swallow.  Norfolk’s words would hit a popular nerve and his cry would be taken up far beyond the walls of the city.

The Duke of York crossed his arms and leaned back.  He knew he would win the day.

When Somerset was taken to the Tower, all London turned out to watch him pass.  He was not well loved.  Any thought that he would spend his Christmas in solitude was dashed when he crammed every available room in the Tower with his supporters.  If the mob would drag him into the street for summary execution, there’d be a tide of resistance to wade through.


There was a decided reluctance amongst the assembled lords to make a commitment, any kind of commitment, to the new regime.  They were backing off so fast Salisbury was surprised they didn’t crack their heads on the wall.  Muttering to each other, shifting in their seats, eyes looking anywhere but at York, they rehearsed their excuses.

“My lords,” he said, raising his hands to silence them.  “You have been asked by the Duke of York, Lord Protector and Defender of England, to serve the king.  There has not, in the months since Christmas, been great attendance and the Lord Protector would have that remedied and your presence on this council confirmed.  You will remember his words to you, that he cannot govern alone, nor without a strong committed council behind him.  You will each be asked but one question.  What in this regard, my lords, is your intent?  My lord of Norfolk?”

The Duke got slowly to his feet.  “Lord Chancellor, I will of course do what I can to serve the king, the will of this council, the common wealth and the people of England.”  He stopped and took a deep breath, stilling a suddenly trembling hand.  “But I fear that I cannot do all that I, or you, might wish.  I am often vexed by illness and this prevents me from committing myself as wholly as I would hope.”

There was a ripple of laughter.  Viscount Beaumont in particular found Norfolk’s words amusing.  Salisbury frowned and looked at the Duke of York, whose face was grim.  How was the scourge of Somerset to plead illness and hope to get away with it?  If Norfolk felt that he could walk away from responsibility, there was little hope that the others would do any different.

“But as your constitution allows, you will serve?” York said.

“As you say, as my constitution allows.”  With a great show of effort, one hand on his chest, the other mopping at his brow, Norfolk sat down.

Buckingham was next on his feet.  “I, of course, am more than willing to serve the Duke of York, the council and my king, but I cannot promise daily attendance.  There are times when I am beset by such a sickness that it hardly allows me to ride.  If this means that I am discharged…”

“I’d rather you with us than not, Humphrey,” York said sharply.  “I’m sure we can work around your bouts of indisposition.”

“In the past,” Buckingham said, switching to plan B with a smoothness that was admirable, “members of this council haven’t always received the remuneration they are entitled to.  My poor health works against my attendance and unrelieved poverty would make it impossible.”

“So long as I know my wages will be paid,” the Archbishop of York said, “I will serve as far as I am able.”

“I cannot, in all conscience, give continual attendance,” the Bishop of Winchester said, “but shall be here when it doesn’t conflict with other work and duties I may have.  This is true of my brother bishops also, some who will attend at one time and some another.  Perhaps we could formalise this notion.”

There was a general murmur of agreement from the other lords spiritual and Salisbury wondered what the penalty might be for striking a bishop.

“I shall be ruled as the lords would have me,” the Bishop of Worcester said.

“I might,” the Bishop of Norwich said, “beg leave to visit my diocese.  There are many pressing matters that I must be given leave to attend to.”

“There are many times when I cannot attend,” said the Bishop of Lincoln.  “Lent, Advent…”

“I will do what I can,” the Bishop of Chester said.  “But my brother bishops have it right.  There are many calls on our time.”

York glared at the whole bench and none of them seemed capable of meeting his eye.  With a great exertion of patience, Salisbury turned his attention to the lay lords.

Warwick stood up and his father felt a flush of relief.  Here was someone at last prepared, no eager, to take up the challenge in front of him.  Though a council member of some years standing, he had attended few sessions, a busy life and more personal concerns leaning heavily on his time.  There’d been some hesitation, some reluctance, but they’d talked it over at length – father and son, uncle and nephew.

“You’re not just here to provide the muscle,” Salisbury had said.  “We need your voice.”

Salisbury was proud of all his children, none more than Warwick.  He had the boundless energy and drive of his mother, obstacles for both of them nothing more than things to be knocked down.  Trampled.

“I am young in years, my lords,” Warwick said, “and younger in discretion and wisdom.  I am both unworthy and unable to counsel my king or England’s Protector.”

Salisbury stared at him.  From the edge of his eye he noticed that York was doing the same.  Warwick stayed on his feet, the ghost of a smile on his lips.

“Having said that, I will, of course, do all that is in my power to do,” he said.  “Though it be little, I will do it with right good will.”

They’d been confirmed, father and son, in their position as joint wardens of the West March.  Warwick was going to have to learn that with positions of authority and potential profit came responsibility.  If York didn’t have the Nevills solidly behind him, he might as well pack up and head back to Fotheringhay.  Words were going to pass between them before the day was out.

“Illness may curtail my attendance more than I would like, my lords,” the Earl of Oxford said and Salisbury wondered what epidemic it was that struck down only those called upon to serve the king.

“I will be ready,” said the Earl of Shrewsbury, “to do my part as other men do.”

And if other men do nothing, Salisbury thought, you will be in good company.

John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, Treasurer of England, stood up and all others fell silent.  An intelligent and cultured man, his opinions were respected and his words here today could well sway others.  York had had his assurances of support, but as others had already shown, that might not mean a great deal in the end.

“It is necessary and expedient,” he said, “that any lords who take upon them this charge should have knowledge of the execution and limits of their power.”  There were nods of agreement.  “An understanding of this should also be had by the commons.  The government’s current finances and expected expenditures need to be made known to them.  Means must be found by which the charges that rest upon the king should now be borne.  With that in mind, I am ready to do such service to the king as I can.”

He sat down and Salisbury nodded his thanks.  Maybe this would lull the remaining lords into compliance.

“I must ask to be excused,” Bourchier said, and on his bench York passed a weary hand across his eyes.

“I too must be excused,” said the Prior of St John’s.  “Concerns of my order take up much of my time.”

“I am an old man,” Cromwell said.  “Feeble and infirm.  This prevents me from serving as I might like.”

“I have the opposite problem,” Lord Scales said, “being young and having neither experience nor wisdom.”

Salisbury closed his eyes and prayed for strength.  Lord Scales, fifty if he was a day, had just scraped the bottom of the barrel of poor excuses.  The Duke of York stood up.  His face was dangerously calm and he looked each man in the eye for a second before moving on to the next.

“My lords,” he said.  “I understand your concerns.  We all have many and great pressures on our time and attention.  Some of you plead illness, some youth, some age, but none of you was named to this council by mistake.  My lord Bourchier, you’ve been a loyal friend and councillor to the king before this.  If I must ask in the name of friendship and brotherhood that you remain, I will.”

Bourchier hesitated for a moment then gave in, nodding his curt acquiescence.

“My lord of Warwick, the only cure for youth is life and the only cure for inexperience is experience, which we offer you.  Lord Cromwell, your age, experience and wisdom would be a great loss to us here and to the realm should you withdraw.  None of you is expendable.”

“And none of us is here for our benefit,” Salisbury said, riding the Duke’s momentum, “but to serve the king.  If my lord of York is left to take up the whole of the government without your support and advice, it will be a burden he cannot carry and England will be left without king and Protector.  I urge you, reconsider.”

From the back of the chamber, Sir Thomas Stanley spoke.  “I well know the only reason I am here is to do the bidding of the lords, which I will do as far as I can with right good will.”

“Sir Thomas has it right and speaks also for me,” John Say said.

Salisbury would have expected nothing less than this of Say.  A member of York’s household of some years standing, personally trusted and amply rewarded, he was one the Duke had counted on.

“I cannot see,” said the Dean of St Severin’s, “what benefit I would bring.  There are those here far wiser than me, yet I shall do such service as I can.”

“We need to know what we’re doing, what powers we have,” Tiptoft said.

“The establishment of this council was urged upon us all by the commons,” said the Prior of St John’s.  “I am in support of the words of my lord of Worcester.  Before we begin, we must establish what the situation is.  And there is also the question of payment.  There have been times when wages went unpaid for some considerable time.”

They’re coming around, Salisbury thought.  Soon they will be clamouring to serve.  Even my son.

“I agree,” Cromwell said.  “Furthermore, our safety must be warranted whilst travelling to and from Westminster and while we’re here.  I shall not come at all if there is any risk that I be attacked again.”

Even Viscount Beaumont was weakening.  “I serve the queen,” he said, “as I need not remind you, and shall not have my loyalty tested or compromised while serving the Lord Protector.  The articles of this council state that every man shall have full freedom to state what he thinks without any displeasure, indignation or wrath.  This I urge you all to remember and uphold.”

They veered into a discussion of practicalities and petty detail, each man striving to find yet another obstacle that must be overcome.  Salisbury turned to his brother-in-law and gave him a reassuring smile.

“I hardly know who is with us and who is not,” York said.

“They all are, I think,” Salisbury said.  “Or soon will be.  Their show of reluctance is masterfully done.  The memory of Duke Humphrey is still fresh in their minds.”

“You think the title protector is a dangerous one?”

“You know my thoughts on that.  The greatest threat to you in all this is the queen.”  He looked over at Beaumont, deep in private conversation with Lord Scales.  “And that is the one who will carry tales if we do anything that can be brought into question.”

“Peace is what we want.  Peace and order.  It’s too late to save our holdings in France, but I would keep England together.  If Henry recovers…”

“When,” Salisbury said softly.

“I would give him back a kingdom that is in better shape than it was left.”

The Nevills in May

Posted: May 1, 2011 in Nevents


May The Duke of York heads north to Yorkshire to deal with the rebellion of the duke of Exeter.

Exeter is at Spofforth with the Percies, plotting to take over the government.

9 May York and lord Cromwell reach York.


May York, Salisbury and Warwick meet together in Ware on their way to intercept Henry VI.

20 May The king’s party leaves London for council meeting at Leicester, where (it is rumoured) York, Salisbury and Warwick are to be named traitors.

21 May The king’s party overnights at Watford.

22 May First battle of St Albans

York takes control of the government and is named Constable of England; Archbishop Bourchier is appointed chancellor; Viscount Bourchier is treasurer; Warwick becomes Captain of Calais.


28 May Warwick’s ships spot 28 Spanish ships, including 16 great ships of focsle – coming from the southwest. Warwick issues battle orders and leaves port.

29 May Spanish ships are sighted. Warwick attacks.


late May Warwick leaves Ireland for Calais, after conferring with the duke of York. He brings his (attainted) mother, the countess of Salisbury, from Ireland to Calais.


May Warwick is warden general of the east and west marches towards Scotland, in command of all military resources in the north.

end May Margaret of Anjou and the Lancastrian lords lead a party of Scots south to besiege Calais. John Nevill, lord Montagu, routs them and drives them back across the border. Warwick does the same with an enemy party threatening Durham.


1 May Edward IV marries Elizabeth Wydeville in a secret ceremony at Grafton Regis.

mid May Battle of Hexham. Montagu takes the duke of Somerset prisoner; Henry VI leaves Bamburgh castle; Somerset, lord Hungerford, lord Roos and fourteen others, tried by the earl of Worcester, are executed at York.

late May Warwick is negotiating a marriage treaty between Edward IV and Bona of Savoy.


26 May Queen Elizabeth is crowned at Westminster.


6 May Warwick is given a broad commission to treat with Charles count Charolais (son of the duke of Burgundy) over marriages and alliance against France.

25 May Edward IV extends the truce with Brittany.

27 May Warwick leaves for France with 200 attendants.

28 May The Bastard of Burgundy arrives in England. Negotiations begin for marriage between Charolais and Edward IV’s sister, Margaret.


early May Warwick is in Kent where his flagship, Trinity, is being refitted; George Nevill, archbishop of York, has secured a dispensation for the marriage of Isobel Nevill and George, duke of Clarence.

13 May Edward IV plans to visit Calais, but news comes of a rising in the north under ‘Robin of Redesdale’; he changes his plans and goes north.

mid May Robin of Redesdale issues a manifesto stating, among other things, that members of the royal family have been excluded from the king’s council and that the king is listening to unworthy favourites, including the Herberts and the Wydevilles.

end May Warwick is in Sandwich; most of his fleet is in the channel; Trinity is nearly ready to sail; men and weapons are pouring in.


early May Warwick lands at Harfleur.

12 May Louis XI promises Warwick his support, but not while he still has in his possession Burgundian ships. (Warwick had been pirating in the channel again.) He offers to take care of the countess of Warwick, Anne Nevill and Isobel, duchess of Clarence. He sends a gift of silk for the duke of Clarence.

Warwick says that he can’t move his ships or do anything else until he’s spoken to Louis. He sends the Bastard of Fauconberg out to get more ships, borrowing the Admiral of France’s fast, heavily gunned caravel for coastal raids.

The Duke of Burgundy informs Louis that he intends to attack Warwick and Clarence. He begins to assemble troops and a fleet.


4 May Battle of Tewkesbury; Edward Prince of Wales is killed.

6 May Gervase Clifton, along with others, is executed.

7 May Margaret of Anjou and Anne Nevill are found at Little Malvern Priory.

early May Edward IV mops up Lancastrian resistance.

21 May Edward IV enters London, leading Margaret of Anjou in a victory procession; Margaret of Anjou is imprisoned in the Tower of London

23 May Henry VI dies in the Tower of London.