Archive for November, 2011

The Feast’s first ever guest post! I’m feeling almost like a real blogger.

Will Glover has contributed many interesting comments to my initial post on Margaret Nevill, Warwick’s illegitimate daughter, and has very kindly agreed to be my first guest blogger. Thanks, Will!

Margaret Nevill (c. 1440 – 1499)

What can be written about Margaret Nevill?  Was she not merely an obscure footnote in the grand volume of Warwick’s life; little more and perhaps much less than a cardboard cutout?

I first learned of Margaret from one of the Pedigrees Recorded at The Heralds’ Visitations of the Counties of Cumberland and Westmoreland made by Richard St. George, Norroy, King of Arms in 1615, and by William Dugdale, Norroy, King of Arms in 1666.  The 1615 visitation of ‘Hudleston of Millom’, found at page 44, mentioned ‘Margaret, base daughter of … Nevill, Earl of Warwick, died 14 H. VII’, who married Richard Hudleston (died in the lifetime of his father). Margaret and Richard were the parents of Richard (the indication that he also died in the lifetime of his father would not have been accurate), Margaret (who married Lancelot Salkeld of Gawbarrow) and Joane (who married Hugh Fleming).  Young Margaret and Joane (or Joan) are described as the sisters and heirs of young Richard.

Clearly, Margaret Nevill had an impressive pedigree.  Through Warwick she was descended from the ancient Kings of Ireland, the Conqueror, Henry I, II, and III, John Lackland, Edward I, II and III, John of Gaunt, and so on.  She was the half-sister of Isabel and Anne Nevill.  If only she had shared their mother then she would be almost guaranteed a representation in a Shakespearian play.

But Margaret’s mother was not Anne Beauchamp, Warwick’s only wife to whom he was contracted in marriage at the age of 6 years.  As a result of Margaret’s slight genetic and social disadvantage she might have missed her opportunity for fame, wealth and historical immortality.  Perhaps she was scorned by society as well.

But I don’t think so.

Warwick’s affair with Margaret’s mother probably occurred while he was a teen and before he settled down with Anne.  If so, Margaret was born in the 1440s.  Warwick and Anne’s first child Isabel was not born until 1451.

Warwick acknowledged Margaret as his own.  From Warwick she received her surname of Nevill and various lands in Cumberland including the manors of Blennerhasset and Upmanby. Cal. Inq. p.m. HVII, vol. 2, 762, vol. 3, 66, 213.  It is said that Warwick paid for her wedding to Sir Richard, which hints at some power-broking in the northern counties of England.  Surely Warwick’s acknowledgment would overcome any social disadvantage.

Sir Richard and his family were certainly not put off by his wife’s status of illegitimacy.  They married about in 1464/5 and at least by 1470.  Sir Richard had his own impressive pedigree and prospects.  The Huddleston family could be traced to five generations before the conquest, he was descended from Sir Nele Loring one of the first Knights of the Garter, and he was heir to the Lordship of Millom.  His younger brother William married Warwick’s niece Isabel, daughter of Montague.

Margaret’s half-sister Anne Nevill also accepted her as family.  In 1483, over a decade after Warwick’s death, Anne became Queen consort to Richard III.  Margaret and Richard attended the Coronation at which Margaret is named as ‘Dame Margarete Hudleston’, ranking in precedence above most of the Queen’s honoured Ladies-in-Waiting.  She received a special gift from the King.  (Sutton and Hammond, The Coronation of Richard III the Extant Documents, pp 167-8 and 360, (my copy of which was a gift from dear cousin Judy).)

It appears that Margaret’s and Sir Richard’s stars were rising:  sister to the Queen;  aunt to Prince Edward, heir to the throne; honoured and trusted by the King.

Sir Richard was ambitious.  During the years of his marriage to Margaret he favoured Warwick.  Following Warwick’s death in battle in 1470 and Anne’s marriage to Richard while he was Duke of Gloucester, Sir Richard transferred to Gloucester’s affinity.  He became a Knight Banneret, a Knight of the King’s Body, Sheriff of Anglesey Island in Wales, Constable of Beaumaris Castle, and Captain of the Towns of Beaumaris and Anglesey.  (The Coronation of Richard III and Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1476-1485 at p. 369).

Margaret and Richard postponed having children till the late 1470s.  Young Richard was born in 1481 (Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaelogical Society, p. 309).  Young Margaret is said by some to have been born in 1479 and Joan in 1485.

These children were children of privilege.  They were first cousins to the Platagenets through their Aunts Isabel and Anne.  Young Richard was heir to the Lordship of Millom (held at his birth by his grandfather Sir John Huddleston).

But England was still engulfed in the Wars of the Roses.  Sir Richard supported his King in war.  He was involved in Scotland.  In 1483 Richard III ordered the execution of the Duke of Buckingham for treason.  The King probably assigned Sir Richard to detain Buckingham’s wife and family.  (See this post from Susan Higganbotham.)

No-one was safe.  Not even Sir Richard.  He was dead by 1484/5 in unknown circumstances.  Perhaps he died in the service of his King but he was not named as one of the fallen at Bosworth Field in 1485.

Richard III fell at Bosworth.  His wife Anne and his son Edward were already dead.  The reign of the Yorks was ended.

Margaret was widowed and probably pregnant with Joan. Young Richard Huddleston was the fatherless heir to valuable estates and was first cousin to the Plantagenets.  Tudor King Henry VII made him a royal ward (unless he was made a royal ward by Richard III before Bosworth Field).

As a royal ward young Richard needed a male guardian.  Between 1485 and 1492 his mother Margaret remarried Sir Lancelot Threlkeld (see Transactions …).  It was an interesting marriage for a Yorkist since Threlkeld’s stepfather Sir John Clifford had killed the Duke of York, and Threlkeld’s half-brother Sir Henry Clifford, the Shepherd Lord, had been in hiding with the help of the Threlkelds from the vengeance of the Yorks since his childhood.  However Threlkeld became young Richard’s trusted guardian.

Young Richard’s grandfather Sir John Huddleston, Sheriff of Cumberland, died in 1494.  Richard became the living heir to the Lordship of Millom.  However he was only 14 years of age.

Margaret passed away in 1499.  The circumstances of her death are unknown.  Richard was just 18 years.  Threlkeld continued as guardian.

In 1502 Richard reached adulthood at the age of 21 years.  He received title to both the Nevill and Huddleston estates.  The royal wardship was at an end.  Neither the Huddlestons nor the Crown took issue with Threlkeld’s performance as guardian.  (See the Special Pardon and Release in The Transactions …)

Richard must have been seen as a prize bachelor with wealth and pedigree.  He was promptly kidnapped by Dame Mabel Dacre, wife of Humphrey 1st Baron Dacre of the North.  He was compelled to marry Mabel’s daughter Elizabeth who may have been 17 years his senior.  (See Mabel Parr here.)

Richard was dead within the year.  The cause of his death is also unknown.

Neither Mabel nor Elizabeth profited from the marriage.  Mabel served 9 months imprisonment at Lancaster Castle for her crime of ravishing a royal ward and died within a year of her release.  Elizabeth died while tending to her imprisoned mother.  Mabel’s son Thomas 2nd Baron Dacre and her son-in-law George Lord Fitzhugh paid part of her recognizance but objected to paying the balance.  (See Henry VIII: July 1509  Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 1,:1509 – 1514.)

The Lordship of Millom followed the male Huddleston line and was transferred to Richard’s uncle John Huddleston.  The Nevill estates were divided between Richard’s sisters Margaret and Joan.  Margaret received Blennerhasset.

In death, Lady Margaret returned to be buried with her first husband Sir Richard Huddleston in Millom, Cumberland.  Sir Lancelot Threlkeld was buried alone.

Margaret Nevill is neither a footnote nor a cardboard cutout.  She was the respected daughter of Warwick, whose personal family lineage survived in part through Margaret’s daughters.

Lady Margaret’s effigy can be seen in photographs of the Huddleston Chapel of Holy Trinity Church, Millom.  While the church guidebook names the image as Elizabeth Dacre, for a number of reasons I disagree with the guidebook.  I believe that history has recorded the images of Lady Margaret Nevill and her Knight.

This post was written as a way of thanking Karen for her time, effort and expense in keeping the general public regularly and thoroughly informed about the Nevills.

Will Glover
Ontario Canada


During the illness of Henry V!, and after a stirring speech by John Mowbray duke of Norfolk, Edmund Beaufort duke of Somerset was arrested on charges of treason and imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was released a little more than a year later after the recovery of Henry VI.


Perkin Warbeck is hanged. Warbeck had claimed to be the younger son of Edward IV and drew many supporters. He made two attempts to unseat Henry VII and was eventually captured in October 1497. He was hanged after allegedly making an escape attempt from the Tower of London in company with Edward earl of Warwick.


Death of Margaret duchess of Burgundy, youngest sister of Edward IV of England.

Death of Bona of Savoy, who was to have married Edward IV of England, had his secret marriage to Elizabeth Wydeville not pre-empted the negotiations. She married Galeazzo Sforza duke of Milan in 1468. They had three children. When her husband was assassinated in 1476, Bona acted as regent for their 7 year old son Gian. In 1480, Gian’s uncle Ludovico seized control of the duchy, and deposed his nephew. Bona left Milan.


Birth of Richard, oldest son of Richard Nevill & Alice Montacute, earl and countess of Salisbury.

As this date is St Cecelia’s day, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Richard’s sister Cecily (who shared a wedding date with him) could have been his twin.


Death of Alice Fitzhugh, widow of lord Henry Fitzhugh. Alice was the third daughter and fifth child of the earl and countess of Salisbury.

Alice’s sister, Katheryn Nevill, widow of William Bonville lord Harrington and William lord Hastings also died in this year, some time before this date.

All it takes, sometimes, is one well written and well referenced article and you find yourself staring at a pile of paper, realising that it’s a mountain of nonsense, or at least, not-quite-rightness. I did the best I could with the tiny snatches of information that I’d managed to glean, but then I came across an article that made a rethink, and no doubt to some extent a refashioning, necessary.

I’m not one to cling, white knuckled, onto a preconceived notion. In Nevill (and in anything that may follow), I’m striving to let the facts lead the story. I don’t have a thesis that I want to prove, thus hammering the facts into peculiar shapes so that they fit the story I want to tell. And now I know one or two things about Maud Stanhope that I didn’t an hour ago. That changes things. If I want to claim that my work is anything close to well researched and accurate, then it has to be well researched and accurate. If my readers are being asked to believe something is true when not only is it not true, but I know it’s not… That’s not the kind of writer I want to be, and it’s not the kind of book I want to write.

I’ve been googling “Maud Stanhope” for years now. I’ve learned some stuff, but not a great deal. Much of it is genealogies of doubtful soundness. Hicks calls her a ‘youthful widow’, but apart from that, she’s essentially invisible in most secondary sources. I knew of one article that features her, and I knew what journal it was in, but try as I might I couldn’t find a way to access it.

Then, preparing to write a short scene with Maud and a couple of her attending women, I thought “I wonder if anyone’s written down the names of any members of her household?” So I googled “Maud Stanhope household” and found this:

The Remarriage of Elite Widows in the Later Middle Ages by Rhoda Friedrichs. The same woman who’d written the “Rich Ladies Made Poor” article that I can’t find! (I’ve sent her an email asking if she can point me to where I can purchase it. I have my fingers crossed that she has the time to respond.)

I’m actually annoyed that something as useful as this is buried so deep under the mountains of genealogies that it took an accident to find it. On the other hand, I am very happy that I found it! The last three pages consist of a case study of an Elite Widow who Remarried in the Later Middle Ages: Maud Stanhope, Lady Willoughby.

Some of the things I learned that prompt me to rethink and refashion:

• December 1454, inquisition post mortem of Maud’s mother, the sister of Ralph lord Cromwell. Maud’s age is given as 30.

(C/139/157/26 I tried to access this record. I can buy it for something like $15.00 or I can to go the National Archives and see it for free. But that will cost me a couple of thousand in airfares and accommodation…)

Two things come from this, one I’m not sure about and will need to dig deeper (if possible) to find: Was Maud in Notts attending this inquisition? If so, then she wasn’t getting ready to celebrate, celebrating or recovering from the celebration of Alianor Nevill’s marriage to Thomas Stanley.

The other thing is Maud’s age. I’d done at bit of extrapolating, working from the premise that Maud was in her mid to late teens when she first married, placed that alongside Hicks’s ‘youthful widow’ and drawn the conclusion that Maud and her second husband, Thomas Nevill, were around the same age – 23 or 24. If Maud was 30 in 1454, she was 28 or 29 when she married Thomas and some five or so years older than him. Friedrich states that Maud was in her early 20s when she married Robert lord Willougby in 1448/9 – a little older than one might expect for a woman of her class and time.

• Maud was in dire financial straits when she married Thomas.

This is something the secondary sources I’ve read don’t think to mention. She’d been turned out of her home on the death of her husband by her stepdaughter, who took possession of everything, even Maud’s dower lands. Maud sent a desperate sos to her uncle, Cromwell, and took shelter with him at Tattershall. Cromwell brought the Nevill marriage about for his own sake – he needed their support against the duke of Exeter – and hers – she needed the financial security a marriage would bring. Any hopes the Nevills had of benefiting financially from this must be postponed until Cromwell’s death. Maud might have lost what she was entitled to of Willoughby wealth, but she would surely secure her share of the Cromwell estate.

Just because Maud had no practical choice in the matter, doesn’t mean she was unhappy with the idea of marrying Thomas. She’d contracted her first marriage because it benefitted her uncle – Willoughby owed Cromwell money and agreed to forego all or part of a dowry in exchange for the forgiving of this debt. For Maud, at this stage, love and personal preference had nothing to do with marriage. How fond or not Maud and Thomas were of each other is now impossible to glean. Back when I didn’t know all this, there was a decided chance that Maud, being a widow and therefore free to make her own decisions when it came to husbands, had chosen to marry Thomas because she at least liked him.

At the moment, my Thomas and my Maud are happy with each other. They like one another, enjoy a healthy sex life and are all excited about their new home. (I wrote down all the properties that Maud and her sister, Joan, eventually inherited from Cromwell and chose one – at Bleasby, Notts – close by Nottingham and Maud’s mother’s house, Tuxford. This is just an educated guess and I’m quite happy to change it if I find out where they actually lived.) I’ve always been planning for this marriage to go through a rocky patch, based on their childlessness, which can put strains on any marriage, and what I perceive to be their political differences. From about 1457 on, Maud and Thomas may not have seen much of each other and, of course, after December 30 1460, they saw nothing of each other at all. Given the new information, the marriage may not ever have been happy. This is something I shall have to consider.

And that’s partly because:

• Maud married Gervase Clifton ‘within months of Thomas Neville’s death’.

It is suggested that this was a love match and ‘flew in the face of all prudence and common sense’. This Gervase was the illegitimate one from Kent, after all, not the heir of Clifton Hall. I don’t mind that, either. Maud’s third marriage hardly features, except in the prologue, and I can fix that without any problems. In fact, I now have a little more to work with. But it leads me to one question: When did they meet? (Friedrichs suggests they may have known each other when Maud was a young girl, but doesn’t give any idea about how they ‘re-met’, both recently widowed.) If they married so quickly after Wakefield (and ‘within months’ doesn’t tell me how many months, sadly), is there a chance that they were already close? Closer than they should have been? Were Maud and Thomas estranged in the last few years of their marriage? And is this why she didn’t attend his funeral? Had she disgraced herself and the Nevills by her relationship with and marriage to Clifton? (Update: I’ve answered some of those questions here.)

So much to think about and so much to rewrite! I am delighted that I found Friedrich’s article. I wish I’d done so earlier. She also has an article on Cromwell, which I’m planning to have in my collection very soon… I just wish journal articles (and me no longer with academic privileges) weren’t the same price as books!


Death of Anne Beauchamp, countess of Warwick, widow of Richard Nevill earl of Warwick and mother of queen Anne Nevill, wife of Richard III.

From Joannis Lelandi Antiquarii de rebus britannicis collectanea, vol 6, John Leland (nd). Available at Google Books. (You’ll want to type a ‘2’ into the little box to get to the bit I’m going to talk about.)

This is the document that all of those eye-widening, artery-clogging, heart-stopping lists of food consumed at Archbishop Nevill’s enthronement feast come from. And it certainly was a lot of food! I’ve blogged about this before, but there are one or two more things I’d like to say.

Firstly, on the second day of the feast, part of the second course was a Dragon! Slain, single handedly, by the earl of Warwick, one presumes… (A suttletie, apparently, though I’ve never thought ‘subtle’ and ‘dragon’ much belong in the same sentence).

There’s a number of ‘suttleties’ on the menu. There’s a Great custard; Chestons ryall; Chambiet viander; A Dolphin in foyle; a Tart; Leche Damask; Sampion and ‘a suttletie of Saint William, with his coate armour betwixt his hands’.

I found this at enotes: “But a major source of entertainment at a medieval banquet was apt to be culinary in nature, at least in part. This was what was known in England as a subtlety, usually a creation of sugar, marzipan, or pastry depicting one or more birds, beasts, or people, brought out at the end of every course.”

I can’t find reference to a ‘cheston’, at least not culinary. ‘chambiet viander’ is a beautiful, though obscure, googlewhack. A ‘leche’ would appear to be a food that can be sliced, not quite a cake as we know such a thing now, but something heavier and denser, like gingerbread. Not sure what the ‘damask’ here refers to, but it may be a rose flavour. Sampion is a Slovenian soccer club, or the name of a juggling stripper (or a stripping juggler?), but when it comes to food, I am as clueless now as I was before I got sidetracked.

Much has been made of the supposed meat heavy mediaeval diet, but even the Supersizers allowed at least a glimpse of a vegetable or two! There’s fruit in various forms on the menus of the archbishop’s feast. Quinces are mentioned explicitly in the list of courses, but not in the list of food. A shopping list and menus would have been required for the meat &c, but when it came to fruit and vegetables, they would have been procured as and how they could. It’s been a long time since I lived in Scotland with my father’s massive vegetable garden, so I’ve forgotten what’s available for harvest in September – lots I should imagine. Whatever was would have been found and used.

Just before I move on from the food to the real reasons I’m blogging this, I’d like to say a couple of things about the document itself. It’s undated. The original (and from what I can gather, only copy) is in the Bodleian. Clearly printed and I’d say significantly postdating the feast itself, it was probably a copy of an older handwritten record. There’s no reason to doubt the authenticity of the information it contains.

A lot of writers of HF seem to want to backdate two crucial turning points in the Wars of the Roses and the years immediately preceding. They want to push the York, Salisbury, Warwick alliance back in time, having a character express surprise or disapproval that Salisbury and his son stood with the king at Dartford, not with the duke of York. There was no alliance then. I’m not even sure if there was one during York’s first protectorate, not a permanent, all-or-nothing alliance, anyway. I don’t think it was cemented until after the three left London late 1454, early 1455, almost on the road to the first battle of St Albans.

The second thing that’s often pushed back in time is the falling out between Warwick and Edward IV. Warwick wasn’t pleased with Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Wydeville, certainly, but in 1465 any cracks that might be starting to appear were tiny. Add this erroneous perception to the perception that Warwick used his wealth in a game of one-upmanship with Edward and you end up with an enthronement feast that was deliberately extravagant and deliberately provocative. As to the first, take a quick look at this: The Inthronization of William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury. (You’ll need to skip to page 21.) Being enthroned as an archbishop was a big thing. There were only two of them, after all! If there’s a comparison to be made with Edward’s coronation, then it’s a natural comparison. This was the biggest deal the church in England provided. Only two things were bigger and you had to go to Rome for those – poor George fell (was pushed over?) at the first hurdle! Had he been given a cardinal’s hat, I think he’d probably have taken a tilt at the papacy, just for the hell of it. This feast is extravagant if it’s placed in the category ‘feasts’. It’s not when placed in the subcategory ‘feasts celebrating really really big things’.

Edward didn’t attend the feast. I don’t think this was because he was snubbing the Nevills. I think it was more to do with him not wanting to get in the way, so to speak. With a king in attendance, there’d be someone with precedence over George. And George was the most important person there.

The document (called simply Out of an Old Roll) includes lists of who sat where. At the high table sat the archbishop, several bishops, the duke of Suffolk and the earls of Oxford and Worcester. Suffolk was the king’s brother-in-law. Oxford was the husband of George’s sister, Margaret, and Worcester had once been married to another sister, Cecily.

The Duchess of Suffolk (Edward IV’s sister) is at table with the Countess of Northumberland (Isobel Ingoldisthorpe), the duke of Gloucester (Edward IV’s brother) and Isobel and Anne Nevill. Clarence isn’t mentioned in this document, but I haven’t come across a secondary source that omits him. They usually put him at this table with his brother and sister.

Also missing from this list, and not mentioned in any of the sources I’ve read, is Anne, duchess of Exeter. I doubt she’d have been omitted on purpose. Perhaps she was indisposed. I don’t know when Anne and Thomas St Leger became lovers, but there are hints that it was some considerable time before her divorce and their marriage. If they were together in 1465, maybe Anne felt she couldn’t attend the feast if her Thomas couldn’t. I have no idea! Just letting my thoughts carry me down a probably erroneous path…

Margaret of York isn’t on the list either. Quite possibly, the king thought his brothers, sister Elizabeth, duchess of Suffolk, and brother-in-law were sufficient representatives of the royal family.

Three of George’s sisters were in attendance, with their husbands – Alice (lady Fitzhugh), Katheryn (lady Hastings) and Margaret (the countess of Oxford). Alianor wasn’t there, though her husband, Thomas lord Stanley was. I don’t have birthdates for her children, but imminent childbirth may have kept her at home. Alice would seem to have had her last child in 1465 and it’s doubtful that she’d travel if heavily pregnant, so at a guess, I’d say her daughter Elizabeth was safe at home in the Ravensworth nursery. The Hastingses had their first child in 1464/5, and again I’d hazard a guess that that child (a son, Richard) was already born before September. Maud Stanhope, Lady Willoughby, Thomas Nevill’s widow and already three or so years into her third marriage, didn’t attend, though her stepdaughter’s husband did.

Also in attendance were “Threscore and nyne worshipfull Esquires, wearyng the kynges lyvery”.

Two of the officers of the feast were closely connected with the King – Hastings and the sergeant of the king’s ewery (not named). A one-in-the-eye feast thrown by a man in the throes of falling out with his king, doesn’t get the king’s brothers, sister, brother-in-law, best friend, high ranking servant and 69 livery men as guests and/or officers. None of these would have been in attendance had Edward even hinted that he wasn’t happy about it all.

The other thing I found interesting and wanted to share was the very real role played at the feast by the officers listed, with one exception.

  • Warwick was steward
  • John Nevill was treasurer
  • William Hastings was comptroller (George, Warwick and John’s brother-in-law)
  • Lord Willoughby (Maud Stanhope’s stepson-in-law) was carver
  • Lord John of Buckingham was cupbearer
  • Richard Strangeways was sewer
  • Walter Worley was marshall
  • John Malybery (who I can’t identify) was panter
  • the sergeant of the king’s ewery was ewerer
  • Greystoke and Nevill (not sure which one) were keepers of the cupboard
  • John Brechnock (sp?) was surveyor in the hall

Apert from John, who got to sit down – presumably his job of doling out the dosh well over – none of these men are listed at any of the tables in the hall or any of the chambers. They were working, doing the real jobs of real stewards, carvers, cupbearers &c. They weren’t play acting, this was no Misrule feast. Warwick didn’t just bankroll his brother’s enthronement celebrations, he ran them. As steward, he oversaw the work of the other officers who, in their turn, oversaw the work of the ushers, grooms, cupbearers and waiters.

The more I delve into the lives of the Nevills, and Warwick’s in particular, the more sure I am that I was right to start this blog. He had plenty of faults and failings – they all did – but he is by no means the one dimensional, arrogant, extravagant, foul tempered villain as portrayed in a lot of historical fiction – and, indeed, in many works of scholarly non-fiction. There was a lot more to his brother’s enthronement feast, for instance, than outdoing the king with heedless wasteful extravagance. It was a demonstration of his pride in George’s elevation. A feast such as this was expected, and Warwick was the one who could afford to pay for it. One day, I’d like to read “How generous and kind of Warwick to do that for his brother!” in some book or other. It would make a refreshing change.


Richard duke of York is appointed Protector and Defender of England for the second time.  He relinquishes the protectorship in February the following year.


Death of the last surviving child of Richard Nevill & Alice Montacute, earl and countess of Salisbury.

Margaret Nevill was survived by her husband John de Vere, earl of Oxford. As far as I can ascertain, the couple had no children.

Twelve marriages, and not one of them a dud, from what I can see. Either the Nevills were extremely fortunate in their (or their parents’) choices, or they were just darn lovable!

Happy, loving marriages aren’t easy to spot. It’s the bad ones that stand out. Of the partnerships listed below, there are no contemporary accounts of misery and no evidence of separate lives or long voluntary partings. On the other hand, there are, in wills and letters, expressions of affection, evidence that wives shared in the shifting fortunes of their husbands’ lives and, in some cases, faced personal hardship and danger either with their husbands or on their own.

Six couples were buried together. (I can’t track down a reference to Margaret Nevill’s burial place – possibly Colne Priory – so it could well be seven.)

1. Alice Montacute and Richard Nevill, Countess & Earl of Salisbury (a fuller account can be found here.)

Alice and Richard were married for forty years (c1420-1460). They had ten children and were buried together at Bisham Priory.

Alice was attainted in 1459, along with her husband and three oldest sons, for her involvement in the Battle of Blore Heath. She fled to Ireland with the Duke of York, then to Calais to join her husband.

In 1461, Alice pursued a suit of wrongful death against the man she held responsible for her husband’s murder.

“[Sir William Plumpton] was held responsible with others, mainly retainers and tenants of the earl of Northumberland, for the murder of Salisbury at Pontefract. The widowed countess, seeking redress, entered a formal appeal in May 1461. For this he was bound in another £1,000 to await the award of her and her three surviving sons.” (Pollard, Warwick the Kingmaker, p 117)

Alice died before December 1462.

2. Cecily Nevill and Henry Beauchamp, Duke of Warwick (the title reverted to an earldom on Henry’s death and the (brief) succession of their daughter, Anne)

Cecily and Henry were married in 1434 in a double ceremony with her brother, Richard, and his sister, Anne. Cecily would have been around 8 years old. Henry was 9. Their only child, Anne, was born in 1444. Henry died in 1446.

Henry’s parents both died in 1439. I haven’t been able to establish whose care young Henry was taken into, but he may well have lived with his wife’s parents. If that was the case, there was time and opportunity for the young couple to get to know one another before the marriage was consummated and before they established their own household.

The Nevills seem to have had a policy of not allowing their daughters to be exposed to sex and childbirth before they were 17 or 18 – with one possible exception discussed below. Cecily was 18 or 19 when her only child was born. By that time, the couple were living at Warwick Castle and other Beauchamp/Despenser properties.

Henry died in 1446.

3. Cecily Neville and John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester

Cecily married John Tiptoft in 1449. As she was a widow, she was entitled to make her own choice of husband, though she may have been guided by her father. This brief marriage – Cecily died in 1450 – is one I know little about. Tiptoft, after his execution by his one time brother-in-law, the earl of Warwick, was buried between two of his three wives, Cecily being one of them.

4. Joan Nevill and William Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel

I don’t have a date for Joan and William’s marriage. Their first child was born in 1450. Joan died in 1462. Her husband commissioned a stunning effigy of her, withdrew for a time from public life and never remarried.

5. Richard Nevill and Anne Beauchamp, Earl & Countess of Warwick (a fuller account can be found here)

Like her brother, Henry, it is likely that, after the death of her parents in 1439, Anne was taken into the care of her young husband’s parents. She was just 9 when, in 1434, she married the 6 year old Richard Nevill.

The couple had two children, Isobel (born 1451) and Anne (born 1456).

Three things lead me to the belief that their marriage was rather happier than not. Waurin says that Anne didn’t much like living in Calais, keeping very much to the castle. However, she was there pretty much whenever her husband was and, again according to Waurin, greeted his return to Calais with ‘joy’ on at least two occasions. She shared his flight to and exile in France in 1470. The couple seem rarely to have been apart for any length of time.

Secondly, after Warwick’s death at Barnet, Anne didn’t remarry. While there may have been other reasons for this than devotion to her late husband, I’ve found nothing so far that suggests she ever wanted to remarry or was prevented from doing so.

Thirdly, after her daughter, Anne, became Queen of England, and with her grandson, Edward, heir apparent, Anne commissioned the Beauchamp Pageant, ensuring her husband’s place in the lineage of the heir to the throne would not be forgotten.

6. Thomas Nevill and Maud Stanhope, Lady Willoughby (a fuller account can be found here)

Thomas and Maud were married at Tattershall Castle in August 1453. As there were no children born of this union, Maud’s movements are difficult to track. (The birth places of children are very useful for this!) Maud was a young widow and entitled to make her own choice of husband. However, as her uncle, Ralph Lord Cromwell, was in need of Nevill support in his ongoing dispute with the Duke of Exeter, he may have had some influence over this choice.

This marriage is potentially the most troubled of all. They had no children, which could have put strains on the marriage. Maud’s mother, Lady Stanhope, seems to have been in support of young Exeter and his alliance with Thomas’s cousins, and bitter enemies, the younger Percy brothers. This, too, could have caused some difficulties, though there is nothing to say Maud was behind either her mother or her husband. Her third marriage, to Gervaise Clifton, a staunch Lancastrian, might be a clue to her political leanings, but her reasons for marrying him haven’t been recorded. My speculations about this can be found here.

7. John Nevill and Isobel Ingoldisthorpe (a fuller account can be found here)

Like his brother, Richard, John would seem to have married a woman who preferred to be where he was than not.

They were married in 1457, when Isobel was 15. Her uncle, John Tiptoft, earl of Worcester, is said to have ‘brought about’ the marriage. John was 27 and his father was probably despairing of finding him a suitable bride. Isobel was a ward of the queen, who is said to have delighted in arranging marriages. There was some uncertainty about whether a bride price was required, Isobel being of age at the time. A down payment was made by John and/or his father, though how the matter was resolved, and whether the balance was ever paid, I don’t know.

John and Isobel had seven children. She died in 1476, after a brief second marriage to William Norreys, and was buried with her first husband at Bisham Priory.

8. Alice Nevill and Henry Lord Fitzhugh (a fuller account can be found here)

This marriage has caused me some puzzlement.

Henry Fitzhugh would have spent a good deal of his youth at Middleham Castle, as the two families had strong ties. Henry, like his father before him, was a retainer of the earl of Salisbury, and later the earl of Warwick. Whatever the truth of the matter (and I’m not sure I’ll ever find that!), Henry and Alice would have known each other from childhood.

I don’t have a marriage date for them, but it was before 1448 when their first child was born. Five years later, they had their second, then eight more at dizzying speed, their last child being born either in 1464 or 1465.

Until the battle of Towton in 1461, Henry didn’t support his wife’s family, staying with the army of Henry VI. After that, he remained a staunch supporter of his brother-in-law, Warwick, joining him in his various rebellions from 1469-1470. Alice shared twice in charges of treason against him and twice in pardons. After the battle of Empingham, Henry fled to Scotland, returning home (with a pardon) in 1471. Though he may well have been called up by both sides, he didn’t take part in the battle of Barnet. He died in June 1472 (though some sources have 1474) and was buried at Jervaulx Abbey.

Alice remained a widow for the rest of her long life and was buried with her husband.

9. Alianor Nevill and Sir Thomas Stanley

I’m only just looking at this marriage, so my thoughts are going to be rather sketchy.

Alianor and Thomas married in December 1454, probably at the church of St Mary and St Alkelda in Middleham. She would have been around 16, Thomas was 18.

Young Stanley and his father (an associate of the Duke of York’s) worked alongside York and Salisbury (and his sons) in putting down the Exeter rebellion in 1454. I don’t have a betrothal date, so I don’t know if Stanley’s support was given because he was about to marry Alianor, or if the marriage came about as a result of his support.

The couple had either 9 or 13 children, depending which source you read, but only three sons survived to adulthood.

Alianor died in 1482. Despite a second marriage to Margaret Beaufort, when Stanley died in 1504, he chose to be buried with his first wife.

10. Katheryn Nevill and William Bonville, Lord Harrington (a fuller account can be found here)

This marriage lasted only two years before William’s death at Wakefield on 30 December 1460. The couple had one child.

It’s impossible to glean much about the state of this marriage, as it was so short and we have no records, letters and the like.

Katheryn and William had one child, a daughter, who was six months old when her father was killed.

11. Katheryn Nevill and William Lord Hastings

Katheryn’s brother, Warwick, brought about this marriage. Hastings was a close friend of Edward IV (probably his closest) and it was a sound match, at least politically. In his will (a discussion of which can be found here), Hastings makes mention of “Kateryn my enterly belovid wiff”. In her will, she makes provision that “a priest be found to sing in the said chappell for my fadyr and my lady my modar, my lord my husbands soules”. As there would have been no genitive apostrophe in the original (though there is in the reproduction I found in Baldwin’s The Kingmaker’s Sisters), it is possible that she was referring to both her husbands, though also possible that she was thinking only of Hastings. She describes herself in this document as “Katheryn lady Hastings, widow, late wife of William late lord Hastings”.

Though the couple spent much of their time apart, Hastings at court and Katheryn at home in Kirby Muxloe, they did manage to produce five sons and a daughter during their 21 year marriage. After his death, Katheryn didn’t remarry.

12. Margaret Nevill and John de Vere, Earl of Oxford (a fuller account can be found here)

Margaret’s brother, Warwick, brought about this marriage in 1465. Margaret was around 21 and John was a year or so older. As John’s father and older brother had recently been executed by Edward IV for treason, this marriage would have been seen as a way to keep the young earl of Oxford close and loyal to the new king. It didn’t work.

John remained a staunch Lancastrian and Margaret suffered financially as a result of his long exile and imprisonment. Though there is a sketchy reference to one child, a son, I can’t find anything solid to say they had any children.

During the readeption of Henry VI, John and Margaret were reunited. This proved to be all too brief.

Despite the difficulties, John seems to have kept his confidence in his wife’s loyalty and support. After the Battle of Barnet, with John in danger of his life and needing to get out of England fast, he wrote his wife a letter requesting various things of her. He addresses her as “right reverend and worshipful lady”. While we have a copy of the letter, we have no idea whether she managed to comply with any of his requests. His willingness to write her such a letter suggests that the two had kept up some sort of, probably highly secret, correspondence during their years apart.

Margaret was reported as living in straitened circumstances, making a living from sewing. She secured at least one pardon for herself and, eventually, a small pension.

However, after Bosworth, when he was able to return full time to England, he and Margaret were able to live together (finally!) as man and wife until her death in 1506. John briefly remarried.

So, twelve Nevill marriages in a (slightly larger than usual) nutshell.