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

Available in paperback and ebook from Amazon















WARWICK Video Trailer on YouTube

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




The Legacy of the House of York

200px-White_Rose_Badge_of_York.svgRichard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York was the great-grandson of Edward III. He was next in line to the throne of Henry VI and often stepped in and ruled when Henry VI was incapacitated.

Things would not turn out well for Richard, Duke of York and his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland – they were killed in the Battle of Wakefield in 1460.

With the welfare of Henry VI still an issue, Richard’s eldest son Edward, Earl of March, who had inherited the title Duke of York after his father’s death, continued the fight to take the throne from Henry VI. With the help of his cousin Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (also known as The Kingmaker) they were able to defeat the Lancastrians, and in March 1461 Edward was declared King.

In May 1464 Edward secretly married the beautiful Elizabeth Woodville who was the widow of a Lancastrian soldier. This greatly upset his cousin The Kingmaker because he was working on a marriage alliance with France and his marriage to Elizabeth added nothing to the security of England. His choice of wife would cause more fighting and battles during his reign, but he would not back down for he truly loved Elizabeth.

From History Today – read full article here.

The story of Edward IV’s marriage is that in 1464 the twenty-four-year-old king stopped at Stony Stratford on a march north to counter Lancastrian threats. Very early on May Day he slipped away to the manor of Grafton, five miles away and there in secrecy married Elizabeth Grey, née Woodville, the beautiful but impoverished widow of a knight killed fighting against the Yorkists three years earlier. Edward consummated the marriage immediately and then returned to his entourage. Then, before continuing northwards, he took up residence at Grafton for three days during which time Elizabeth was brought to him secretly each night. Edward kept his horrendous mésalliance secret for five months, allowing the Earl of Warwick to continue discussions about a possible royal bride from France. – See more at: http://www.historytoday.com/eric-ives/marrying-love-experience-edward-iv-and-henry-viii#sthash.ciQFIbGI.dpuf

Edward and Elizabeth would have many children. When he died in 1483, his eldest son would become Edward V of England. His Uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester would become Lord Protector over young Edward until he became of age to reign on his own. Edward was brought to the Tower of London to prepare for his coronation.  Instead, Richard held him in the Tower of London along with his brother, Richard, Duke of York and took the throne for himself after claiming Edward and Elizabeth’s marriage null since Edward was already betrothed to another before marrying Elizabeth.

On 22 August 1485 Richard lll died in the Battle of Bosworth. Henry Tudor claimed the throne of England as Henry VII and eventually married Elizabeth of York – daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. The legacy of Richard Plantagenet, and the House of York were carried on through her children with the Lancastrian, Henry VII.

Patriarch - Richard, 3rd Duke of York
Patriarch – Richard, 3rd Duke of York
Matriarch - Cecily Neville, Duchess of York
Matriarch – Cecily Neville, Duchess of York










Anne of York, Duchess of Exeter
Anne, Duchess of Exeter
Edward IV










Edmund, Earl of Rutland
Edmund, Earl of Rutland
Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk
Elizabeth, Duchess of Suffolk










Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy
Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy
George, Duke of Clarence
George, Duke of Clarence










Richard III

Edward lV – via Royal Family History

Edward lV signature
Edward lV signature

Name: King Edward IV
Born: April 28, 1442 at Rouen, France
Parents: Richard, Duke of York, and Cecily Neville
Relation to Elizabeth II: 14th great-grandfather
House of: York
Ascended to the throne: March 4, 1461 aged 18 years
Crowned: June 28, 1461 at Westminster Abbey
Married: Elizabeth, Daughter of Richard Woodville
Children: Three sons including Edward V and Richard Duke of York (the Princes in the Tower), Seven daughters and four illegitimate children
Died: April 9, 1483 at Westminster Abbey, aged 40 years, 11 months, and 11 days
Buried at: Windsor
Reigned for: 21 years, 5 months, and 18 days, Deposed October 3, 1470, Restored May 21, 1471
Succeeded by: his son Edward V

Timeline for King Edward IV
 1461  Edward, son of Richard of York, is declared king by the Earl of Warwick following the Yorkist victory at the Battle of Towton.
 1464  Warwick defeats Lancastrians at Battle of Hexham; Henry VI is captured and brought to the Tower of London.
 1464  Edward marries Elizabeth Woodville, the widow of a commoner, offending Warwick.
 1469  Warwick falls out with Edward IV, and defeats him at Edgecote. They are later reconciled but Warwick is banished. He makes peace with Margaret, returns to England with an army, and Edward flees to Flanders. Henry VI is restored to the throne.
 1471  Edward returns to England from Flanders and defeats and kills Warwick at the Battle of Barnet.
 1471  Margaret is defeated at the Battle of Tewkesbury and the Lancastrian heir, Prince Edward, is killed. Soon after, Henry VI is murdered in the Tower of London.
 1474  Edward grants privileges to the Hanseatic League of North German trading cities to conduct trade in England.
 1476  William Caxton sets up a printing press in Westminster, London
 1478  Edward falls out with his brother George, Duke of Clarence, who is then murdered in the Tower, supposedly in a butt of malmsey wine.
 1483  Death of Edward.
Edward V
Edward V
Richard, Duke of York
Richard, Duke of York
Elizabeth Woodville
Elizabeth Woodville
Elizabeth of York
Elizabeth of York