Warwick: The Man Behind the Wars of the Roses

Guest article written by: Tony Riches

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick; John Rous, Rous Roll, 15th century. British Library Add. MS 48976

Sir Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick was also known as ‘the king-maker’ or just ‘Warwick’ and lived through one of the most turbulent times in British history. Born on the 22nd of November 1428, he inherited his title through his wife Anne, daughter of the heroic knight and champion jouster Sir Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and became the premier earl in England, and both in power and position.

Although there are at least four major biographies of Warwick, they all skip over his early life. They also fail to explain why one of the richest men in England became such a key figure in what have become known as ‘the Wars of the Roses.’ In the first real battle he led the surprisingly modern ‘guerrilla attack’ through the back gardens of St Albans, while the townspeople were busy barricading the main gate. One of the few men who might have united Lancaster and York, instead he became famous for fighting in major battles on both sides!

As Captain of Calais, he turned privateer, a legitimised ‘pirate’, outrageously overstepping his authority by terrorising merchant shipping in the English Channel with his own private fleet of warships. He sparked an international incident by daring to take on the might of the Spanish fleet – and was rewarded by being made Admiral of England.

The close friend of the kings of England and France, he was the sworn enemy of Queen Margaret of Anjou. Then, in an amazing change of heart, he risked everything to fight for her cause. He lived for his two daughters, yet married Isobel to the king’s hapless and disloyal brother George, and Anne to Margaret of Anjou’s only son. Prince Edward of Lancaster (the only heir apparent to the English throne to die in battle.)

Writers from William Shakespeare to best-selling modern authors – and even a ‘Ladybird’ book (Warwick the Kingmaker: An adventure from history) have tried to show what sort of man Richard Neville must have been, with quite different results.   The only images we have of him are a stylised line-drawing in the medieval ‘Rous Roll’ and a rather stern woodcarving in the Collegiate Church of St Mary’s. Warwick. We also have several examples of his signature, which suggest a striking confidence – and he underline’s his name with a great flourish!

Church of St Mary's Warwick
Church of St Mary’s Warwick
Ladybird Book
Richard Neville’s Signature

I enjoyed immersing myself in the culture of the time, researching what it would have been like to be married at the age of six and knighted by the king as a teenager. He could have had an easy life but instead became a warrior knight, protecting the north against invasion by the Scots. Although we have many references to him in records of the time, embellished stories found their way into popular ballads and poetry, so it is hard to sort out the ‘truth’ from the many myths and legends which developed about him.

Warwick has been called ‘The Last of the Barons,’ a feudal lord, a brave warrior yet a poor leader, although he managed to win the popular support of the people. There is no question that he became a skilled diplomat and successful politician, equally at home in the parliament of Westminster and at the court of King Louis of France.

What is clear is that Richard Neville was one of the most important men in fifteenth century England. He owned extensive lands in Wales and was responsible for many years for controlling the border with Scotland. His story is one of adventure, power and influence at the heart of one of the most dangerous times in the history of England.

WARWICK: The Man Behind The Wars of the Roses

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About the Author:

tony richesTony Riches is a full-time author living in rural Pembrokeshire, West Wales, UK. To find out more about his books, visit http://tonyrichesauthor.wordpress.com/  and his writing blog at www.tonyriches.co.uk.  You can also find Tony on Goodreads, Facebook and on Twitter @tonyriches




Katherine of Aragon: Princess of Wales

Infanta Katherine of Aragon
Birth: 15/16 December 1485, Palace of Bishop of Toledo
Parents: Ferdinand II of Aragon & Isabella l of Castile

Katherine of Aragon was named after her great-grandmother, Katherine of Lancaster – daughter of John of Gaunt and his second wife, Infanta Constance of Castile.

Henry VII also descended from John of Gaunt and his third wife.

John of Gaunt was son of Edward III. Technically speaking, Katherine of Aragon had a stronger claim to the throne of England than her future father in law, Henry VII.

Katherine of Lancaster
Katherine of Lancaster
constance of castile
Constance of Castile
John of Gaunt - son of Richard lll
John of Gaunt







During her upbringing Katherine was well educated. She was an avid reader and was trained in needlework, dancing, lacemaking and embroidery in the black-work style. This style of embroidery was made popular by Katherine in England.

example of blackword embroidery
Black-work style embroidery

Katherine loved and respected her mother Isabella. She grew up to be much like her – in looks and character. Isabella was able to turn a blind-eye to Ferdinand’s many infidelities, as did her daughter years later with her second husband, Henry VIII. Like her mother, Katherine also had a great sense for fashion.

Isabella l of Castile - attributed to Gerard David
Isabella l of Castile – attributed to Gerard David
Katherine - By Miguel Sittow - around age 15
Katherine – By Miguel Sittow – around age 15









Henry VII, to stabilize his reign and cement himself as king of England, needed an alliance with a powerhouse…Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. Henry VII had issue with France as did the Spanish monarchs. An alliance would benefit both.

The wedding portrait of Ferdinand and Isabella, c. 1469
The wedding portrait of Ferdinand and Isabella, c. 1469

The instability of the recent kings of England’s reigns (Henry VII, Edward IV, Edward V & Richard III) made Ferdinand and Isabella reluctant to align themselves with Henry VII. With that being said, assistance against France (from England) was more important to Ferdinand than his own daughter’s future security.

Henry Vl
Henry VI
Edward IV






Edward V
Edward V
Richard III






In December 1487 Queen Elizabeth of York wrote to Isabella I of Castile asking her to be kept informed of the health and safety of Katherine – ‘whom we think of and esteem as our own daughter.’

On 27 March 1489 the Treaty of Medina del Campos was signed by the Spanish sovereigns. This treaty included a marriage contract between the Infanta Katherine of Aragon, and Arthur, Prince of Wales, with a dowry of  200,000 crowns. Today that would convert to £5M or $7.7M. Henry’s ratification to the treaty came in September 1490 by the Treaty of Woking when then the agreement was finally signed by the king.

The english subjects were very excited to see the girl who would one day be Arthur’s queen, however, her father was in no rush to move forward. The newest pretender, Perkin Warbeck, had emerged and threatened the throne along with the continuing existence of Edward, Earl of Warwick – who had a stronger claim to the throne than Henry VII. The Earl of Warwick’s uncle was Edward IV.

Perkin Warbeck – The Pretender
Edward, Earl of Warwick
Edward, Earl of Warwick









By 1499 the threat of Perkin Warbeck had subdued and a by proxy marriage for Arthur and Katherine had taken place of 19 May 1499 at Arthur’s manor house in Bewdley. At this point the only thing that was stopping the Spanish sovereigns from sending their daughter to England was the threat of the Earl of Warwick – last heir of York. Ferdinand insisted he would not send his daughter unless Edward, Earl of Warwick was eliminated.  What a predicament, Edward was first cousin to the Queen, and she adored him – felt responsible for his well-being. Imagine having to tell her that the future of the Tudor dynasty was with the death of her beloved cousin.

Edward, Earl of Warwick was arraigned for conspiring with Perkin Warbeck. The simple-minded youth, whom had spent most of his life in the Tower of London alone, became confused and pleaded guilty to the charges against him.  He was sentenced to death and beheaded in November 1499 on Tower Hill. His only guilt was being the son of George, Duke of Clarence (brother to Edward IV) and Isabel Neville.

Katherine of Aragon always felt responsible for the death of the young Earl of Warwick. I often wonder if Elizabeth of York held it against her daughter in law, or if she understood what had to be done for her son and the Tudor line.

Now that the Earl of Warwick was dead there was nothing stopping Katherine of Aragon’s wedding to Arthur, Prince of Wales. In 1500, with all threats to the English throne eliminated, Ferdinand and Isabella began preparations to send their daughter to England for her wedding – Katherine was now 15 years old. (see portrait above)

In April 1501 Isabella announced that she was ready to send her daughter to England. On 21 May Katherine left the Alhambra in Granada for the port of Corunna. From there she would sail to England. She arrived in Corunna 20 July 1501 but could not embark due to winds until 17 August. The weather was so unfavorable that they were forced to return to Spain and dock in Laredo. On 27 September the weather calmed and Katherine was again on her way to England to meet her groom. In five days she arrived at Devon in Plymouth.

Katherine of Aragon
Katherine of Aragon

Reference: The Six Wives of Henry Vlll by Alison Weir