Richard, Duke of Gloucester, at Middleham Castle Ref: MC-28
Following the death of the Earl of Warwick at the battle of Barnet in 1471, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was granted the Lordship of Middleham in Yorkshire. He had spent many formative years there as a boy, in the care of Warwick, and it is generally accepted that he preferred Middleham to his other castles. In 1472 he married Warwick’s youngest daughter, Anne Neville, and their only son, Edward, was born in the castle in c.1473.Graham Turner‘s painting is set around 1480 and shows Richard being greeted by his retainers as he enters the great hall at Middleham, accompanied by Anne and Edward.
Little mercy was shown to the men who had joined Thomas Neville when Edward followed Richard into Kent. Canterbury and the Cinque Ports were deprived of their civic rights and heavily fined. Mayor Faunt and one or two others were hanged, drawn and quartered, and many more were hanged, dispossessed or fined. ‘Such as were rich were hanged by the purse, and the others that were needy were hanged by the necks’, observed The Great Chronicle, ‘by means whereof the country was greatly impoverished and the King’s coffers some deal increased.’
The Earl of Essex was as harsh to the men of his namesake county. Men were hanged along the road from London to Stratford, and swingeing fines levelled on those rebels whom the Bourchiers chose to spare. Warkworth disapprovingly commented: ‘Some men paid 200 marks, some 100 pounds, and some more and some less, so that it cost the poorest man 7 shillings which was not worth so much, but [forced them] to sell such clothing as they had, and borrowed the remnant, and laboured for it afterward.’
Added to which there was a virulent outbreak of the Black Death in August–October 1471, believed to have killed 10–15 per cent of the population, with East Anglia particularly hard hit. We cannot know whether this was seen as God’s punishment for rebellion or for the murder of Henry VI; but a natural catastrophe of this magnitude must have had a chilling effect on political ardour.
The Calais garrison once more exploited its unique situation to obtain a pardon, and in July Hastings arrived with 1,500 men to reinforce its garrison and those of the outlying forts, dismissing the 500 men Warwick had sent in late 1470. Howard, Hastings’s deputy, took over what had been Warwick’s private navy. Geoffrey Gates and others who had played leading roles in the rebellions were, remarkably, left in place. Some months later Calais was attacked by Oxford and others who had escaped from Barnet, and the old garrison fought them off.
Jasper Tudor was still active in Wales and Edward commissioned Roger Vaughan of Tretower to deal with him. Instead, Jasper captured Roger and beheaded him at Chepstow in revenge for the execution of his father Owen after Mortimer’s Cross in 1461. He then retreated with his nephew Henry to Pembroke Castle, where he was allegedly besieged by Morgan ap Thomas, who was in turn allegedly driven off by his brother David. The story was concocted by Morgan to discredit David, who was disputing his leadership of their locally powerful clan, and to conceal his own complicity in the unimpeded escape of the Tudors to Brittany.*
The most pressing political problem Edward had to resolve was not the South-East, Calais or Wales, but the perennial dilemma of what to do about the North. His solution brings 18-year-old Gloucester into the mainstream of our story, as he was entrusted with the delicate task of winning over the now leaderless Neville affinity. The purpose was to prevent both the resurgent Percy affinity and the untrustworthy Lord Stanley from filling the void of authority.
On 29 June Gloucester was given stewardship of Middleham, Sheriff Hutton and Penrith, and two weeks later Edward turned this into a grant of all the ex-Salisbury lands in Yorkshire and Cumberland entailed to male heirs. These should have passed to Montagu’s 11-year-old son George, Duke of Bedford, but the king and his brothers were to behave with total indifference to the property rights of the heirs, wives and mothers of the men they had lately defeated.
On 4 July Edward awarded Gloucester all the offices held by Warwick in the region. He became Warden of the West March, thus Constable of Carlisle Castle, Chief Steward of the duchy of Lancaster in the North – except for Knaresborough Castle, awarded to Henry Percy as complementary to his neighbouring lordship of Spofforth – and High Sheriff of Westmorland. The king also made him the Chief Steward of the duchy of York in the North and Constable of the family castles of Sandal and Conisbrough.
Warwick’s retainers welcomed Gloucester. They had seen him grow up under Warwick’s tutelage at Middleham from the age of 12 to 16, and appear to have liked him. It was their chance for redemption after many years of treasonous activity and they took it, serving him as faithfully as they had served Salisbury and Warwick. It was a warrior society, and his path was smoothed by his creditable performance at Barnet and Tewkesbury. To telescope the events of the following years, even as Gloucester was consolidating his new domain he set about extending it. The low-hanging fruit was picked first. The lands of Joan Fauconberg, widow of Warwick’s uncle William Neville, Earl of Kent, were taken in exchange for an annuity. The Durham castles and manors of Raby and Brancepeth, held by the senior branch of the Neville family, were also ripe for plucking because Ralph Neville, 2nd Earl of Westmorland, had been incapacitated by dementia since the late 1450s.
The estates were managed by Westmorland’s grandson and heir Ralph, Baron Neville, who was vulnerable for other reasons. His father had played a leading role in the ambush of Richard of York at Wakefield before being killed in turn, along with his cousin Thomas, Lord Clifford, at Dintingdale in 1461. Two more cousins, Humphrey and Charles Neville, had been executed for treason in 1469. All had been attainted.
Lord Ralph made a virtue of necessity and became not so much a retainer as a loyal and valued subject, and Gloucester was to use Raby Castle as though it were his own. No doubt this was deeply gratifying to Duchess Cecily, known as the ‘Rose of Raby’ in her youth, before the castle passed into the hands of the senior branch of the family. Gloucester also forced Edmund, heir to the attainted barony of Roos, to sell him the family seat of Helmsley Castle.
Edward had awarded the large lordship of Barnard Castle, long held by the Earls of Warwick but hotly disputed by the bishop’s palatine of Durham, to Bishop Laurence Booth in 1470. Gloucester shared Warwick’s view that possession was nine-tenths of the law and would not relinquish the lordship, and ignored subsequent injunctions to do so. After Booth was made Archbishop of York in 1476, his successor at Durham – the meteorically promoted William Sutton – all but handed over the governance of the palatinate to Gloucester.
Gloucester also calculated that Henry Percy would be inhibited by the same political fragility that emasculated Lord Neville. The first three earls of Northumberland had been killed backing the wrong side in civil wars, and the title twice attainted. With the erasure of the Nevilles, the main reason for Percy’s restoration to the earldom in 1470 was gone. Percy had, however, delivered the crucial neutrality of his family’s affinity in the struggle between Warwick and Edward, which won him considerable credit at court.
So, when Gloucester tried to undermine Percy’s authority by challenging his stewardship of the castle and manor of Knaresborough, Edward summoned the two peers to appear before him at Nottingham in May 1473 and came down firmly on Percy’s side. The king required his brother not to challenge or claim any office granted to Percy, and not to retain or accept into service any man previously retained by the earl. With their areas of authority now defined, Percy formally became Gloucester’s retainer and accepted his overlordship in July 1474.
Gloucester’s bullying tactics were not limited to the North. He had been awarded the Earl of Oxford’s forfeited patrimony in 1471, but trustees for the dowager duchess held much of it. In response to her son’s attacks on Calais, Edward put the lands in Gloucester’s custody to prevent her sending any money to her son. In January 1473 Gloucester compelled the elderly lady to surrender her lands in exchange for an annuity. Six of her trustees, including the Bishop of Ely, refused to sign off on the agreement until compelled to do so by the king.
Gloucester also clashed with Thomas, Lord Stanley, in Lancashire. Gloucester was the dominant lord of Lonsdale and Furness in the north of the county, in the centre lord of Clitheroe and Halton, and of the vast royal hunting grounds known as the ‘forests’ of Bowland, Amounderness and Blackburn. The feud he inherited between one of his new retainers and Lord Stanley over Hornby Castle and adjacent Farleton in Lonsdale, and of Brierley in the West Riding, was therefore a test of his local authority and good lordship.
The dispute began after Thomas Harrington and his eldest son John were killed fighting for the Yorkists at Wakefield. John left two daughters and after Edward assigned their wardship to others, their uncles James and Robert Harrington seized the girls and their lands, which they claimed were entailed in the male line. In 1468 Edward IV gave wardship of the girls to Lord Stanley, who married them to his sons, claimed the lands by right of primogeniture, and obtained a legal judgement against the Harringtons. Armed clashes, in which Richard may have been involved, followed in 1470.
The feud revived after Edward recovered the throne, with both parties believing they had earned royal favour. James Harrington had been among the first to join the king with a substantial following, but so had William, Lord Stanley’s brother. Late in 1471 Edward made Lord Stanley steward of his household, and early in 1472 gave him permission to marry Margaret Beaufort, widowed for the second time when Henry Stafford was killed at Barnet. The balance of favours owed tipped towards the Harringtons.
In 1473 Edward paid it by appointing Gloucester to head a commission empowered to take possession of the castle and hand it over to the Stanleys. As he did in Durham, Gloucester simply ignored his brother’s instructions and it was not until 1475 that the Privy Council agreed a compromise by which the Harringtons were granted Farleton and Brierley, and Hornby Castle was at last surrendered to the Stanleys.
The ex-Neville affinity would have been reassured to see their lord follow the principle of ‘my retainer, right or wrong’ in apparent defiance of his brother, but it was a charade. When Edward gave his brother an unequivocal order, he was obeyed – therefore he gave no such order. He probably felt he had done enough for Stanley, and the dubious value of his good will was not worth the certain cost of undermining Gloucester’s good lordship.
Edward was inhibited from showing similar partiality when called upon to mediate between his brothers in their acrimonious dispute over the Warwick inheritance. In exchange for her loan he had promised Margaret that Clarence would be permitted to inherit Warwick’s estate through his wife Isabel Neville. He had already reneged as much as he dared by awarding Gloucester lands in the North and in Wales dishonestly obtained by Warwick.
Blithely overlooking that Warwick would not have rebelled in 1469 without him, Clarence felt that Margaret’s loan and his opportune coat-turning entitled him to as great or greater consideration than his younger brother. He was determined to take possession of the whole of the legitimate Warwick inheritance, to which end he claimed custody of Isabelle’s 15-year-old sister Anne Neville, the other co-heiress and widow of the late Edward of Westminster.
Gloucester had grown up with Anne during his time at Middleham and liked her, but sentiment played no part in the tug-of-war that ensued when, not long after Tewkesbury, he obtained Edward’s permission to marry her. In a repeat performance of the sordid squabble ninety years earlier between the sons of Edward III over the co-heiresses of the Bohun earldom of Hereford, Clarence planned to force Anne to become a nun and to renounce her inheritance, and in the meantime refused Gloucester access to her.
Gloucester returned from the North in the autumn of 1471 and allegedly spirited Anne away from the household where Clarence had tried to conceal her, and took her to sanctuary at St Martin’s Le Grand. It is more likely that Anne escaped to sanctuary, perhaps in disguise, and then sought Gloucester’s protection. The scandal became so notorious that Edward ordered his brothers to argue their case at a Council meeting. This they did, and impressed the councillors with their eloquence and legal sophistry.
All the eloquence in the world could not finesse the fact that Isabel and Anne were co-heiresses not so much of their Neville father as of their mother, Anne née Beauchamp, who was Countess of Warwick in her own right. She remained most inconveniently alive in sanctuary at Beaulieu Abbey, which she dared not leave because Edward refused to grant her safe conduct.
Gloucester went ahead and married Anne sometime in the spring of 1472, without waiting for the necessary papal dispensation to marry his cousin. Both brothers wanted to put their possession of ex-Warwick lands on a firmer legal footing than royal favour. Edward had made the original distribution in anticipation of an Act of Attainder, which would have put the whole Warwick inheritance in his hands, but his brothers were determined to pre-empt the issue.
With Burgundy such an uncertain ally Edward could not risk offending Margaret, who was Clarence’s principal advocate – although we may depend on it that Duchess Cecily was also active in the background. At the same time Clarence could not be seen to have profited from his treachery, or permitted to achieve the regional dominance in the Midlands that adding the Warwick inheritance to his existing holdings would give him.
Edward’s solution was to resume forty duchy of Lancaster and eight crown manors in the Midlands previously held by Clarence, including Tutbury Castle, the seat of what he had once imagined was his appanage. Although Clarence gained forty-four ex-Warwick estates in the Midlands and became the dominant lord in Warwickshire and Worcestershire, his lordship was eliminated from Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire
In the final distribution Clarence got 105 ex-Warwick properties with revenues of about £3,450 [nearly £22 million], which was more than he had lost to resumption. The political price he paid was high, however, as the king could not have indicated his distrust more clearly. Adding to Clarence’s uneasiness, when Edward had made him Earl of Warwick and of Salisbury in 1472 it had been as new creations and not by right of inheritance.
Gloucester made Edward’s job easier in the matter of the Warwick inheritance by backing down from his original demand for parity, and was rewarded by being exempted from resumption. In addition to Barnard Castle, Glamorgan and Abergavenny, already in his possession, he settled for thirty-five properties scattered across sixteen counties. Not long afterwards he exchanged three of them for the castle and manor of Scarborough in Yorkshire, in a process of regional consolidation that also saw him exchange Chirk Castle (ex-Beaufort) in Denbigh for William Stanley’s Skipton Castle (ex-Clifford) in the West Riding.
The final settlement, confirmed by Acts of Parliament in 1474–5, was shockingly cynical. Countess Anne was declared legally dead and her daughters’ inheritances assigned to their husbands – whether or not they were or remained legally married to them. The legally dead countess was permitted to leave Beaulieu Abbey and was assigned to Gloucester’s custody, which Clarence rightly saw as a threat: the settlement was a farce that could be unmade as easily as it was made. Should the countess’s property rights be restored, Gloucester would be in a position to dictate the terms of their disposal.
To draw a line at 1475, Gloucester’s achievements in the preceding four years paint a picture of a ruthless but sensible and charismatic young man. He had more than fulfilled Edward’s hope that he would become the regime lock on the North, taming a region that had been a thorn in the side of every monarch since 1399. Although he was the beneficiary of a sea change among the northern lords and greater gentry, tired of being sacrificed to the national ambitions of the Nevilles, this alone does not explain how, in a relatively short period, he won the respect of a cohort of men as proud and hard-headed as any in England.
The discovery of Gloucester’s bones has at least resolved one of the controversies that have swirled around him for so long. He did indeed carry one shoulder higher than the other as the result of a severe curvature of the spine (scoliosis), which may explain why contemporaries remarked on his habitual lip-chewing: he was probably in constant pain. The intense willpower required to overcome the handicap became his dominant character trait. As a result he was not greatly inhibited physically, proof of which was his performance as a commander and in battle during the Barnet and Tewkesbury campaigns.
Any king in history would have prayed to have such a sibling, and he was Constable of England and Lord Admiral for the duration of Edward’s reign. As long as his elder brother drew breath Gloucester gave him no reason to doubt the sincerity of ‘Loyaulte me lie’ (Loyalty binds me), the motto with which he signed every document.