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.