Richard Neville (1428-1471) - Earl of Warwick 1449-1471

Drawing of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, after an Elizabethan Portrait - © Nash Ford Publishing Sculpture of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, in Mourning - © Nash Ford Publishing Contemporary Illustration of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick - © Nash Ford Publishing Coloured engraving of the Death of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick - © Nash Ford Publishing

Commonly known as the 'Kingmaker,' Richard Neville was the eldest son of his namesake, Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, by Alice daughter and heiress of Thomas Montacute, 4th Earl of Salisbury. He is said to have been born at the family manor of Bisham in Berkshire on 22nd November 1428. Richardís Earldom of Warwick came from his marriage, at the age of six, to the sister of the last of the Beauchamp family who held that title and was, at that time, the richest and most powerful Earldom in England. His greatest castles were Warwick (Warks), Cardiff (Glams), Abergavenny (Monmouths) and Barnard (Durham), but he also favoured Caversham (Oxon) and others.

The Earl of Salisburyís sister was married to the Royal claimant, the Duke of York. Her brother and nephew therefore became the greatest supporters of the Yorkist cause against Margaret of Anjou and the Beauforts, who swayed the mind of the unworldly Henry VI. In this capacity, the Earl of Warwick won for the Yorkists the first battle of the civil wars, at St. Albans, in 1455. After this victory, poor Henry was obliged to make his enemy 'Captain of Calais', a position which gave Richard command of the only real standing force in the English dominions. It also gave him command of a considerable fleet with which, in 1458-9, he did good service against Spanish fleets in the Channel. In the same year, Warwick joined his uncle, the Duke of York, in the West of England, was defeated with him by the Lancastrians at Ludford and fled back to Calais by way of Guernsey. Thence in 1460 to Ireland and then again to Calais. In the summer of that year, he was back in Eng≠land and helped to win, for the Yorkists, the Battle of Northampton. While York and Warwick's father, Salisbury, went northwards to meet the forces which Queen Margaret had raised in Scotland and Yorkshire, Warwick remained in London in charge of Henry, whom he still professed to regard as King. His father's death at the Battle of Wakefield left Warwick head of the Neville family and added to his castles the great Yorkshire strongholds of Middleham and Sheriff Hutton. While York's death - though it left the nominal headship of the party to his son, the young Earl of March - gave Warwick undisputed command of the policy of that party.

In February 1461, the Earl marched out, with poor Henry in his train, to meet the great Lancastrian army at St. Albans. He was beaten by it and fled to join March, who in the West had won the Battle of Mortimer's Cross. Edward IV, as March now claimed to be, entered London as a victor, with Warwick as his 'Kingmaker' by his side. It was not, however, Warwick but Edward himself whose generalship was responsible for the final Yorkist victory at Towton on Palm Sunday 1461. Edward rewarded his great subject with the wardenships of the Cinque Ports and of the Scottish Marches and the office of Chamberlain; and Warwick's riches must have been enormous.

Warwick seems to have had some skill in diplomacy and, for the first few years of the reign, Edward left most things in his hands. But he was anxious that the King should marry either one of his own daughters or a French princess chosen by himself. Wherefore Edward's marriage with Elizabeth Woodville and, still more, the favours which he showered on her relations, soon roused the jealousy of the Earl. By the year 1468, he seems to have determined to upset Edward's throne by some means or another. However, as too deep a stream of blood which he himself had spilt seemed to run between him and the Lancastrians, he turned to Edward's second brother, the Duke of Clarence. He married the young duke to his eldest daughter and raised an insurrection which he allowed Clarence to think would ultimately put him upon the throne. Edward, a lazy man, was caught napping and allowed Warwick to take him prisoner; but then Warwick altogether belied his reputation for craft and reconciled himself to Edward, who, as soon as he was free, drove him from the Kingdom.

There was now but one thing for the Earl to do. He must throw himself at the feet of the haughty Queen Margaret, whom he had slandered and vilified in every possible way, and by her agency raise the flag of King Henry. Louis XI of France, Warwick's steady friend, was able to mediate this astonishing alliance. The Nevilles rose for Warwick and the Western Lancastrians for Henry. Edward was driven from his Kingdom to the Burgundian Court, where his sister was queen, and the Kingmaker landed in England in October 1470. He thus 'remade,' as he had previously unmade, Henry VI as King of England; but Queen Margaret delayed her return. The restored government was profoundly unpopular in London and Clarence, nominally Warwick's ally, became discontented when Warwick married his other daughter to Prince Edward of Lancaster. This situation enabled King Edward to return in March 1471. He caught Warwick in a trap at Barnet, slew him and then advanced to meet and destroy the true Lancastrian army at Tewkesbury. He was laid to rest in his motherís family mausoleum of Bisham Priory (Berks).

Warwick, in spite of his great reputation, was merely a selfish baron of the worst type of the bastard-feudal age of the fifteenth century. His enormous riches bought him a following, which he was able to reward from the goods and lands of his enemies.

Edited from CRL Fletcher's 'Historical Portraits' (1909)

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