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!
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.
When it comes to the Wars of the Roses I am most attracted to it because it’s cousins fighting over the throne of England. Richard, 3rd Duke of York attempted to take the throne from his cousin Henry VI but failed. Eventually his son, Edward, Earl of March would succeed as Edward IV, but not without many battles of his own. These wars are what eventually led to the Tudor Dynasty – the one my site is primarily based on.
The beginning: Edward III’s descendants are behind the Wars of the Roses. Edward III had seven sons – five of which survived to adulthood: Edward The Black Prince (Duke of Cornwall/Prince of Wales), Lionel of Antwerp (Duke of Clarence), John of Gaunt (Duke of Lancaster), Edmund of Langley (Duke of York) and Thomas of Woodstock (Duke of Gloucester).
As the eldest son, Edward the Black Prince would have succeeded his father had he outlived him – he died in 1376. So when Edward III died in 1377 his grandson, Richard of Bordeaux (Plantagenet) succeeded his grandfather as King of England at only ten years old. He became Richard II of England.
By February 1400 Richard II was dead. Henry IV (House of Lancaster) was the new King of England. He was the son of Edward III’s third surviving son, John of Gaunt. This is where you can say the problems started. Henry IV’s claim to the throne, some would say, was not as strong as his cousin Edmund, Earl of March who was a descendant of Edward III’s second surviving son, Lionel of Antwerp. Subsequently, the Earl of March was arrested and thrown into prison. Henry IV also seized his estates. All of this to remove any question of who was the rightful king of England.
In 1413 Henry IV had died and passed the throne to his son named, Henry V. Henry V died in 1422 at age 35. When he died he had one son, Henry VI to take the throne, however Henry VI was not yet one year old. He was the youngest ever, at nine months old, to inherit the throne of England. At this time England would be ruled by a council of men.
When Henry VI grew into adulthood and could run his own kingdom (1437) he did not seem to be able to run it as successfully as the council had done.
In 1450, Richard, 3rd Duke of York (who also had a strong claim to the throne through Edmund of Langley – Duke of York), was persuaded to return to England from Ireland and claim his rightful place on the council and put an end to bad government.
In 1453 Henry VI’s queen, Margaret of Anjou became pregnant. This was the time that King Henry had his first bout with mental illness. His illness lasted for the best part of a year. Margaret gave birth to a son and heir – Edward, Prince of Wales on 13 October 1453 while Henry VI was still in the midst of his illness.
After the birth of the young prince there were questions on who was in charge of the kingdom – and so begins my favorite part of the Wars of the Roses.
Before we get into some of the battles, let’s learn about the people who were involved to better understand the situation.
Henry VI: (The basis of the beginning of the wars)
Henry was the only child and heir of King Henry V. He was born on 6 December 1421 at Windsor Castle. He succeeded to the throne as King of England upon his father’s death on 31 August 1422 at the age of nine months: he was the youngest person ever to succeed to the English throne. A few weeks later, on 21 October 1422, he became titular King of France upon his grandfatherCharles VI‘s death in accordance with the Treaty of Troyes of 1420. His mother, Catherine of Valois, was then 20 years old. As Charles VI’s daughter, she was viewed with considerable suspicion by English nobles and prevented from playing a full role in her son’s upbringing.
On 28 September 1423, the nobles swore loyalty to Henry VI. They summoned Parliament in the King’s name and established a regency council to govern until the King should come of age. One of Henry V’s surviving brothers, John, Duke of Bedford, was appointed senior regent of the realm and was in charge of the ongoing war in France. During Bedford’s absence, the government of England was headed by Henry V’s other surviving brother,Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who was appointed Protector and Defender of the Realm. His duties were limited to keeping the peace and summoning Parliament. Henry V’s half-uncle Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester (after 1426 also Cardinal), had an important place on the Council. After the Duke of Bedford died in 1435, the Duke of Gloucester claimed the Regency himself, but was contested in this by the other members of the Council.
Henry’s half-brothers, Edmund and Jasper, the sons of his widowed mother and Owen Tudor, were later given earldoms. Edmund Tudor was the father of Henry Tudor, who later became Henry VII. 
Edward would marry Anne Neville, daughter of Richard, 16th Earl of Warwick when he father became a supporter of Henry VI because he was upset with Edward VI marrying Elizabeth Woodville and his loss of personal power.
Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick:
Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, known as Warwick the Kingmaker, was an English nobleman, administrator, and military commander. The son of Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, Warwick was the wealthiest and most powerful English peer of his age, with political connections that went beyond the country’s borders. One of the Yorkist leaders in the Wars of the Roses, he was instrumental in the deposition of two kings, a fact which later earned him his epithet of “Kingmaker” to later generations.
Through fortunes of marriage and inheritance, Warwick emerged in the 1450s at the centre of English politics. Originally a supporter of King Henry VI, a territorial dispute with the Duke of Somerset led him to collaborate with Richard, Duke of York, in opposing the king. From this conflict he gained the strategically valuable post of Captain of Calais, a position that benefited him greatly in the years to come. The political conflict later turned into full-scale rebellion, where in battle York was slain, as was Warwick’s father Salisbury. York’s son, however, later triumphed with Warwick’s assistance, and was crowned King Edward IV. Edward initially ruled with Warwick’s support, but the two later fell out over foreign policy and the king’s choice of Elizabeth Woodville as his wife. After a failed plot to crown Edward’s brother, George, Duke of Clarence, Warwick instead restored Henry VI to the throne. The triumph was short-lived however: on 14 April 1471 Warwick was defeated by Edward at the Battle of Barnet, and killed.
Warwick had no sons. The elder of his two daughters, Isabel, married George, Duke of Clarence. His younger daughter Anne had a short-lived marriage to King Henry’s son Edward of Westminster, who died in battle at the age of 17. She then married King Edward’s younger brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who later became King Richard III. 
Richard, Duke of York’s assertion of his claim to the crown in 1460 was the key escalation of the Wars of the Roses. When he was killed during the Battle of Wakefield on 30 December 1460, his claim to the throne of England did not die with him. Instead it passed to his son, Edward. [7-1][7-2][7-3][7-4][7-5]
This hostility turned into open discord between King Edward and Warwick, leading to a battle of wills that finally resulted in Warwick switching allegiance to the Lancastrian cause. Elizabeth remained politically influential even after her son, briefly proclaimed KingEdward V of England, was deposed by her brother-in-law, Richard III, and she would play an important role in securing the accession of Henry VII to the throne in 1485, which ended the Wars of the Roses. After 1485, however, she was forced to yield pre-eminence to Henry’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, and her influence on events in these years, and her eventual departure from court into retirement, remains obscure. [8-1][8-2]
Though a member of the House of York, he switched sides to support the Lancastrians, before reverting to the Yorkists. He was later convicted of treason against his brother, Edward IV, and was executed (allegedly by being drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine). He appears as a character in William Shakespeare‘s plays Henry VI, part 3 and Richard III, in which his death is attributed to the machinations of Richard. 
When his brother King Edward IV died in April 1483, Richard was named Lord Protector of the realm for Edward’s son and successor, the 12-year-old Edward V. As the young king travelled to London from Ludlow, Richard met and escorted him to lodgings in the Tower of London, where Edward V’s own brother Richard of Shrewsbury joined him shortly afterwards. Arrangements were made for Edward’s coronation on 22 June 1483; but, before the young king could be crowned, his father’s marriage to his motherElizabeth Woodville was declared invalid, making their children illegitimate and ineligible for the throne. On 25 June, an assembly of Lords and commoners endorsed the claims. The following day, Richard III began his reign, and he was crowned on 6 July 1483. The young princes were not seen in public after August, and accusations circulated that the boys had been murdered on Richard’s orders, giving rise to the legend of the Princes in the Tower. 
She was the daughter of Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe and John Beaufort, 1st Duke of Somerset. Margaret’s father was a great-grandson of King Edward III through his third surviving son, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. At the moment of her birth, Margaret’s father was preparing to go to France and lead an important military expedition for KingHenry VI. Somerset negotiated with the king to ensure that, in case of his death, the rights to Margaret’s wardship and marriage would belong only to his wife.
Somerset fell out with the king after coming back from France, however, and he was banished from the court and about to be charged with treason. He died shortly afterwards. According to Thomas Basin, Somerset died of illness, but the Crowland Chronicle reported that his death was suicide. Margaret, as his only child, was the heiress to his fortunes.
In 1452 Lady Margaret Beaufort, the nine-year-old daughter of the Duke of Somerset was summoned to the court of her second cousin, King Henry VI and the following year Edmund was granted wardship. On 1 November 1455 at Bletsoe Castle, she was married to Edmund. By the end of the following November, he was dead, leaving his 12-year-old widow pregnant with the future King Henry VII.
Henry won the throne when his forces defeated the forces of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field, the culmination of the Wars of the Roses. Henry was the last king of England to win his throne on the field of battle. He cemented his claim by marrying Elizabeth of York, daughter of Edward IV and niece of Richard III. Henry was successful in restoring the power and stability of the English monarchy after the political upheavals of the civil wars known as the Wars of the Roses. He founded the Tudor dynasty and, after a reign of nearly 24 years, was peacefully succeeded by his son, Henry VIII.
Henry’s paternal grandfather, Owen Tudor, originally from the Tudors of Penmynydd, Isle ofAnglesey in Wales, had been a page in the court of Henry V. He rose to become one of the “Squires to the Body to the King” after military service at Agincourt. Owen is said to have secretly married the widow of Henry V, Catherine of Valois. One of their sons was Edmund Tudor, father of Henry VII. Edmund was created Earl of Richmond in 1452, and “formally declared legitimate by Parliament”.
The Battle of Wakefield would be the last fight for Richard, 3rd Duke of York and his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland. Richard was killed in the fight and the Earl of Rutland was murdered when he tried to escape. The Earl of Rutland was the only son of the Duke of York fighting with him in the battle since Edward, Earl of March was fighting for the same cause in the west. The Earl of Rutland (Edmund) was captured – he attempted to beg for his life by offering a ransom, but was killed anyway.
By the account given by Roderick O’Flanagan in his 1870 biography of Edmund:
Urged by his tutor, a priest named Robert Aspell, he was no sooner aware that the field was lost than he sought safety by flight. Their movements were intercepted by the Lancastrians, and Lord Clifford made him prisoner, but did not then know his rank. Struck with the richness of his armour and equipment, Lord Clifford demanded his name. “Save him”, implored the Chaplain; “for he is the Prince’s son, and peradventure may do you good hereafter.”
This was an impolitic appeal, for it denoted hopes of the House of York being again in the ascendant, which the Lancastrians, flushed with recent victory, regarded as impossible. The ruthless noble swore a solemn oath: “Thy father”, said he, “slew mine; and so will I do thee and all thy kin;” and with these words he rushed on the hapless youth, and drove his dagger to the hilt in his heart. Thus fell, at the early age of seventeen, Edmund Plantagenet, Earl of Rutland, Lord Chancellor of Ireland.
Edmund, Earl of Rutland was then executed by order of the Lancastrian Lord Clifford, or by the man himself. So has been depicted in this portrait – the young Edmund begging for his life.
The death of Richard, Duke of York and Edmund, Earl of Rutland were revenge killings (as were many) by the Lancastrians, for their many losses. Richard’s eldest son Edward was now Duke of York.
The Battle of Mortimor’s Cross - 2 February 1461
When Edward, now Duke of York, advanced towards Mortimor’s Cross, to stop two Lancastrian armies from joining, his army witnessed what was presented to them as a good omen – a meteorological phenomenon known as a sun dog. A sun dog in the sky makes the sun appear as there are three suns in the sky at once. Edward took this to represent his father’s three remaining sons, himself, George and Richard.
At this battle, Sir Owen Tudor was was captured and put to death – he was the grandfather of Henry VII. This battle was a win for the York faction and Edward, Duke of York.
The Second Battle of St. Albans - 17 February 1461
Here, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick waited to join forces with the army of the Edward, Duke of York, near London. While waiting the Lancastrian army surprised them and attacked – Warwick fled. As the Yorkists retreated, they left behind the bemused King Henry, who is supposed to have spent the battle sitting under a tree, singing.
The Battle of Towton - 29 March 1461
This battle has been described as the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil. More than 50,000 soldiers from both sides fought for hours amidst a snowstorm. The battle took place on Palm Sunday. It was reported that 28,000 men died on the battlefield.
Hand-to-hand combat lasted hours which exhausted the armies. “The arrival of Norfolk’s men reinvigorated the Yorkists and, encouraged by Edward, they routed their foes. Many Lancastrians were killed while fleeing; some trampled each other and others drowned in the rivers, which are said to have made them run red with blood for several days. Several who were taken as prisoners were executed.” 
The power of the House of Lancaster was critically reduced after the battle. King Henry VI fled the country, and many of his most powerful followers were dead, including Henry Percy, 3rd earl of Northumberland, or in exile after the encounter which allowed Edward rule England uninterrupted for nine years until a brief restoration of Henry VI to the throne in 1470.
[7-5] York was a direct descendant of Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, the fourth surviving son of Edward III. The House of Lancaster was descended from John of Gaunt, the third surviving son of Edward III, and as such had a superior claim over the House of York. However, Richard Plantagenet’s mother was Anne de Mortimer, the most senior descendant of Edward III’s second surviving son, Lionel of Antwerp. Lionel had been the eldest son of Edward III to leave a surviving line of descent; as such, by modern standards, his line had an indisputably superior claim over that of his younger brother, John of Gaunt. By contemporary standards, this was by no means so certain; nonetheless, it allowed Richard and then Edward a good title to the throne.
The White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster had been in battle for the throne of England for quite some time. At the time of the Battle of Tewkesbury the Yorkists were being led by Edward of York, or Edward IV and the Lancastrians were being led by Margaret of Anjou, in name of her husband Henry VI and her son, Edward of Westminster. The conflict began when Henry Bolingbroke (Henry V) deposed his cousin Richard II. Though he held the throne…