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An Analysis of the causes of the Wars and the course which they took.

Michael D. Miller

Chapter 62: The Neville's pre-eminence reduced: 1465 and 1466


Parliament - January 1465

King Edward IV was uncomfortably aware that Parliament, first summoned in 1463, had been prorogued so often that people might have begun to wonder if he intended to rule without it. Even though the reasons for the repeated prorogation's were good ones, this was a sentiment that he could not afford to ignore. Instead of issuing writs for new elections and thus summoning a new Parliament, he considered the better course was to allow the existing Parliament to reassemble on the due date, 21st January 1465.

Edward found that Parliament saw no reason to make a new grant of taxation, but was perfectly prepared to grant him the Customs duties for his own life. In the hurried circumstances of the 1461 Parliament, it had been generally accepted that the duties, granted to King Henry VI in 1453 for his life, would continue to go to the Crown although Henry no longer sat on the Throne. The time had now come to put this arrangement onto a more contemporary basis, particularly as Henry's whereabouts or even his continued existence were presently unknown. [Henry was not found and brought to London as a prisoner until July 1465] It was therefore most gratifying that a new grant should now be made to the incumbent King, as the previous grant had proved to be most satisfactory to the Crown.

There were a number of attainders to deal with, and whilst Parliament made no difficulty with any of them, it gleefully seized the opportunity to show the King that Resumption was not a dead letter. [Chapter ] After 50 years of struggle, the 1451 Act had been most successful, but Parliament was anxious to make the point that there must be no relaxation into the bad old ways. The King answered blandly that the attainders of those Lancastrians who had taken part in the battles of the previous year would do all, or nearly all, that Parliament was now seeking, and he reserved his right to add provisos to any Statute that may be passed. So he did, to the number of 288, thus making the Statute a virtual nullity. Having made its point, Parliament was satisfied, and did not protest to the King about his provisos. Among those who benefited was John de Vere, the Earl of Oxford since the executions of his father and elder brother in 1462. [page ] There had been some doubt about his title and this was now removed. Another was the youthful Henry Stafford, the grandson of the Humphrey Stafford who had fallen fighting for Lancaster at the battle of Northampton 1460. Young Henry was confirmed as the rightful Duke of Buckingham. [This was the Buckingham who rebelled against King Richard III in 1483 and was executed for doing so]

The Council gave the coinage the first attention it had received since 1411, and there were two reasons for reducing the value of English coins. Seemingly the lengthy depression of trade during the troubles of the last fifteen years made some devaluation necessary. Another reason appears to have arisen from the current shortage of bullion. The gold and silver content of English coins made them more valuable than their tender value, and it had become common on the Continent to melt them down and to sell the raw gold and silver at a profit. This led to a severe shortage of coins in England. The pound Tower of silver had previously produced 360 silver (sterling) pennies. Now the same amount of silver was to produce 450 silver pennies. Likewise the pound Tower of gold had produced 50 nobles, each worth 80 pence. Now it was required to produce 67.5 nobles, each of which was again equal to 80 of the new silver pennies. These new nobles became known as 'angels' from the angel's heads they bore. To compensate for these lower valuations of commonly used and long accepted coins, a new noble was introduced of much finer gold content. Known as a royal or rose noble, the pound Tower of gold was to produce 45, and each was to be worth 120 silver pennies.

All in all, Edward could be well pleased with this Parliament, whose life had extended over the unusually long time of two years. It had proved friendly towards him, and had accepted the constant prorogation's without too much complaint. Now, contentedly, he could dissolve it with the feeling that his subjects concerns had been dealt with.

The next matters to attend to were the Coronation of his Queen, and then the diminution of the Nevilles power.

The Coronation of Elizabeth Wydeville

King Edward IV knew that his nobles deplored his marriage, even if they did not publicly say so. William, Lord Hastings, his Chamberlain and closest friend, would have been asked what they were saying in private and what their feelings seemed to be. He must have found it difficult to reply without upsetting his old friend and Master. Edward knew that the common people were for the most part indifferent if not altogether welcoming, but Englishmen being what they were, there was always the chance that Elizabeth's lowly origins could cause them to take offence. There was a general expectation that those who would be Royal should be of Royal stock, and her only claim to eminence was that, through her mother, she was descended from one of the foremost families in Burgundy. Still Edward reflected, the people did love a spectacle, and Coronations were splendid affairs. No pains must be spared to make Elizabeth's as glittering as possible. The showman in Edward was challenged, and he knew he could rise to the task.

On Friday 24th May 1465, the Lord Mayor and a host of the foremost citizens of London met Elizabeth at Shooters Hill to escort her to the Tower for the customary vigil. On Saturday 25th May, she rode in a horse litter to Westminster for her Coronation on the Sunday. Indeed no pains, and no expense, had been grudged to make these processions as splendid as it was possible to make them. Like the arrival of Margaret d'Anjou in London for her own Coronation, 20 years ago almost to the day, the people of London threw whatever reservations they had to the winds, and thought their King was a lucky fellow to have such a beautiful wife. Bawdy by nature in both mind and speech, they told each other with relish what fabulous nights their King must enjoy in bed with such a Queen. If the Lords did not like the match, then more fool they. The new Knights of the Bath, 38 in all (by some accounts as many as 48), newly dubbed as had now become customary before a Coronation, rode proudly in the procession. There was young Henry Stafford, no more than 10 years old, the new Duke of Buckingham. Young Thomas Talbot, Viscount d'Isle, whose father had fallen at the battle of Castillon 1453 with the famous old warrior John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, rode proudly beside him. John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and Chamberlain of the whole ceremony, was to be seen with them. Also in the procession was Thomas, Lord Maltravers, the eldest son of William, Earl of Arundel; his mother, the Countess Joan was Warwick's sister. So was the son of Lord Grey of Ruthyn, the new Earl of Kent after the death in January 1463 of that formidable old soldier William, Lord Fauconberge. So many Lords and families of each faction riding together, and in apparent amity! The dreadful wars must really be over at last.

Especially welcome to Edward was the strong Burgundian contingent, led by Jean de Luxembourg, Jacquette's brother and Elizabeth's uncle. The Burgundians came in all the power and splendour of the Burgundian Court, famous for its glittering display. Jean was a reminder to all that Elizabeth had a strong connection with one of the most famous and glittering Courts of Europe. If her English origins were lowly, those in Burgundy were elevated.

Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, raised the heavy Crown and held it in the air for a moment before gently lowering it onto Elizabeth's head. The priests sang triumphantly and the people cheered.

There was one notable absentee; Richard, Earl of Warwick stayed away, obviously by design. 

A new Praguerie in France - Summer 1465

Warwick had, rather pointedly, gone to Boulogne to confer with the agents of Charles, Compte de Charolais, the son and heir of the now aged Philip-the-Good, Duke of Burgundy. Philip's long and eventful life was now drawing to a close, and he was to die in 1467. There was no real need for Warwick to have crossed the Channel at this particular moment, and in the event he was not to meet Charles, who even now was preparing to take part in yet another Praguerie in France. [For the meaning of this expression see page ] Some of the French nobles were getting very restless with the policies of their King, and Charles saw an opportunity to recover the towns along the Somme which in his eyes were properly part of Burgundy. To him it was an outrage that they had ever been ceded to France in the first place, even though at the time it had been unavoidable.

Charles, who had a strong contrary streak in his nature, did not see eye to eye with his father on a number of issues and, not always rationally, was inclined to take the opposite view to that favoured by his father. Charles was known as Charles-the-Bold, the Burgundians having a predilection for adding some complimentary adjective to their Duke's name; often it was quite inappropriate. They had another one for Charles, Charles the Rash, and time was to show how appropriate this nickname was. Philip's sympathies lay with the House of York, which many believed led Charles to side with Lancaster. This may have been due in part to his friendship with Henry Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, formed when Somerset had been shut up by Fauconberge in Guines in 1460. [page ] Then the two men had become firm friends. He deplored what had happened to Somerset, and he had great sympathy for Queen Margaret, doggedly maintaining her Court in exile at Kouer-La-Petite, without necessarily feeling that he should do anything to alleviate the poverty in which she was living. In fairness it must be said that he gave small pensions to some of her following, notably Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter and Doctor John Morton. Furthermore, he had neither forgotten nor forgiven Warwick for his attempt to bring a French Princess to sit on the English Throne and to make an alliance with France which would be threatening to Burgundy. In short, he could not bear the sight of Warwick and wished to have as little to do with him as possible.

It is indeed ironic that the Praguerie should have arisen from the same causes as those which had inspired King Louis XI, when he was still the Dauphin, to take sides against his own father in 1440. [page ] The French nobles were independently minded, and wanted semi autonomy which allowed them to rule their Duchies and Counties very much as they pleased. They did not take kindly to the ever growing power of the Crown which Louis father King Charles VII had first imposed in the name of unity to drive the English out of France, and when that was achieved, had sought to perpetuate and extend. Louis, much as he had loathed and despised his father, was seeking to follow his father's policies, and his high handed methods had caused great offence. It was probably surprising only to Louis that it led to trouble.

The Praguerie of 1465 was named 'The League of Common Good' (La Ligue du Bien Publique),  and, to begin with, was more of a protest than an armed rebellion, although the spectre of armed force lay behind it. It included some very illustrious names; the King's younger brother, Charles, Duc de Berri, his brother-in-law Jean, Duc de Bourbon, Queen Margaret's own brother Jean, Duc de Calabria, the Duc de Nemours, the Compte de Nevers, Jean, Compte d'Armagnac, a family always willing to engage in dissent, and the veteran Jean, Compte de Dunois, the erstwhile friend of Joanne d'Arc, who had himself for so long and so valiantly fought against the English in France. Even another famous name, Charles, Sier d'Albret, threw his hat into the ring.

Louis had many faults, but lack of courage was not one of them. He immediately marched into the Bourbonais and Auverge, where the first signs of trouble had manifested themselves, and made the dissidents, who were surprised at the speed at which he had moved, sign a settlement at Rion on 4th July 1465. He then found that Charles-the-Bold had marched with a strong Burgundian force to St Denis and was threatening Paris. Turning about, Louis marched to engage him. A confused battle was fought at Montheri where the Burgundians had the best of it, forcing Louis' army to retire from the field. Louis lost one of his ablest Captains, Pierre de Breze, who fell in the fighting, thus bringing to an end a lifetime devoted to soldiering, and depriving Queen Margaret of one of her most loyal, devoted and selfless adherents.

Encouraged by the Burgundian success, the dissidents took heart once again. Francis, Duc de Brittany, joined in the fray, marching across France to occupy Pontoise on 21st September and thus threaten Paris from the North. He had already dispatched emissaries to the dissident French Lords in August 1464, with a message which expressed his fears of the line of policy which Louis was pursuing, and especially his attempt to engage English troops to conquer French territory for him. [A précis of the instructions given to Francis' emissaries is set out on page] Now Louis was beset on all sides. England declared her neutrality, and Warwick, to his chagrin, was given the task of informing Louis that no help could be expected from her. Normandy was showing signs of disaffection, and on 27th September, Pierre de Breze's widow admitted Jean, Duc de Bourbon into Rouen. Rather than see Paris attacked and France slide into civil war, Louis decided to treat with his enemies.

Louis was a skilful diplomat who treated with his enemies' aims and ambitions separately and in isolation one from another without allowing them to combine against him around the conference table. He thus escaped from his predicament surprisingly lightly. The Somme towns were ceded back to Burgundy, and Charles withdrew the Burgundian army. Louis pacified his brother Charles, Duc de Berri, with the Dukedom of Normandy. Brittany was released from a number of duties which she owed to the French Crown, and the delighted Francis led his troops home; Berri went with him, obviously feeling safer beyond Louis' reach. Others were bought off with titles, lands, honours and offices. King Louis may have emerged weakened from the whole affair, but the Royal Power of France was still intact. Louis contented himself with the thought of reaping eventual revenge for which he was quite prepared to wait.

Marriages and Promotions in England 1464 - 1466

King Edward IV took great delight in the difficulties which beset Louis in France, and even greater relish in the proof, plain for all to see, that Warwick had been proved wrong in his advocacy for a close relationship with France, whereas his own desire for closer ties with Burgundy had been shown to be sound. He now embarked on a course of action which was to lead to a Praguerie in England, which in turn was to lead to the temporary unseating of the House of York in 1470, and very nearly to its complete downfall.

It has already been stated that, in Edward's view, it was necessary to reduce the power of the Nevilles, and in particular that of the Earl of Warwick, and to create a new nobility which would have no choice but to be loyal to him.

This he hoped would provide some sort of counter poise to the Nevilles influence. [page ] This had to be done carefully and over a period of time; it would be most unwise to drive Warwick so fast and so far that he rebelled. Warwick was a violent, passionate and headstrong man, given to violent hatreds, and pushing him too far could lead to an explosion of wrath with unfortunate, perhaps even diabolical, consequences. Edward was aware that Warwick was not interested in promotion - he never became a Duke, a status for which his past services may have raised some claim. What Warwick was interested in was wealth, power and influence. Wealth he already had in abundance, perhaps more than was good for him. Power and influence he could continue to have by employment in the King's service, although he could be required to share this with the new nobility. Now that Lancaster was defeated, it should be possible to keep a closer eye on how he discharged the offices entrusted to him, and to reprimand him more sternly than had been possible in the past if he over stepped the mark. This was not going to be easy. Warwick was accustomed to thinking that it was he who wielded the true power in England, and that nothing could be done except by him or with his prior approval. He was now 37 years of age, while Edward was only 23, and Warwick had already shown resentment at the younger man's authority. He had never forgotten how mortified he had been by his defeat at the 2nd battle of St Albans, and by Edward's successes at the battles of Mortimers Cross and Towton, all in 1461. Still,  a start had to be made.

Edward's task was made easier by Queen Elizabeth's numerous friends and relations. The Queen, a beggar on horseback if ever there was one, was as greedy and unscrupulous as her pushy and ambitious mother Jacquette, and her equally grasping father, Richard Wydeville, Lord Rivers. This suited Edward's purposes precisely, particularly as Warwick detested the whole Wydeville family.

The marriages and promotions had been going on for some time. Queen Elizabeth's eldest brother, Anthony Wydeville, was already a Baron, his wife being the heiress of Thomas, Lord Scales, the old soldier of the War in France who had fought Jack Cade's rabble on London Bridge in 1450,  [page ] and had been murdered whilst leaving the Tower in 1460. [page ]

Immediately after the announcement of Edward's and Elizabeth's marriage, Thomas, Lord Maltravers, the eldest son of William, Earl of Arundel was betrothed to Margaret Wydeville, although the marriage was not celebrated for nearly two years. In January 1465 Catherine Neville, the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk, a lady well into her 60s, was obliged to accept John Wydeville, a boy barely 20 years old, as her fourth husband. This match between November and May was preposterous, but the old lady was rich, and John was well provided for. Catherine was the aunt of the King himself and also of Warwick himself, which prevented Warwick from making too voluble a protest at the insult done to him. Catherine's sister, the King's own mother, was furious, and 'Proud Cis' lost no time in pointing out the insult done to the memory of Catherine's husband, John Mowbray, who had fought so valiantly in the armies of King Henry V, and to that of his son, also John, who had given the House of York such sterling service, particularly on the battlefield of Towton 1461. Edward merely laughed at her strictures, and the wind was taken out of 'Proud Cis' sails by the equanimity with which the present John Mowbray accepted the situation; after his grandfather's death Catherine had been married twice, firstly to Sir Thomas Strangeways and then to the Lancastrian John, Viscount Beaumont. She was becoming rather remote to the Mowbray name, and being a widow, could do as she pleased so far as he was concerned.

In February 1466, Queen Elizabeth bore her first child to Edward, a daughter whom they named Elizabeth, who was to be the future Queen of King Henry VII, and the Queen Mother of the Tudor dynasty. Warwick was somewhat mollified by being asked to be the little girl's godfather, only to see a spate of further marriages which he could only regard as being threatening to his position. Catherine Wydeville was married to the youthful Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, Anne Wydeville to William, Viscount Bourchier, son of Henry,   Earl of Essex, and Eleanor Wydeville to Anthony, the son of the former Lord Grey of Ruthyn, now the Earl of Kent.

On and on went the never ending marriages of the Queen's kith and kin to the noblest Houses in the Land. In September 1466, Mary Wydeville was married to William, the eldest son of William.Lord Herbert, one of the King's closest friends after Hastings. In October, the young Anne Holland, the King's own niece and the daughter of the Lancastrian Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter, was betrothed to Thomas Wydeville. [In all probability, this marriage was never celebrated. Anne died whilst still a child]

Warwick could clearly see the writing on the wall, and he would have been blind not to do so. This last betrothal was especially galling, since he had previously sought Anne's betrothal to his nephew, the son of John Neville, currently the Earl of Northumberland. Even worse than this was the appointment in March 1466 of his old bete noir, Richard Wydeville, Lord Rivers as Treasurer. Sir Walter Blount, Lord Mountjoy had been displaced to make room for Rivers, who in May was further promoted as Earl Rivers. Perhaps Rivers did prove more assiduous and painstaking in his office than any of his recent predecessors, but this did nothing to recommend him in Warwick's eyes. Rivers was clearly destined for further favour, and this came about in August 1467 when he was appointed Constable of England, one of the most prestigious of all the offices which lay in the King's gift.

Warwick had conceived one of his violent hatreds for the Herberts, and the dislike was cordially returned. The Herberts were very strong in Wales, and the elder William Herbert was in dispute with Warwick over some land in Glamorgan which had once belonged to Henry Beaufort, the now disgraced, attainted and recently executed Duke of Somerset.

With the Wydeville influence of Queen Elizabeth, the Herberts were the more likely winners of the argument. The elder William Herbert also had two wards; young Henry Percy, the heir of the disgraced Earls of Northumberland, and young Henry Tudor, the future King Henry VII. Henry Tudor was of little political account at this time, being described as the last Lancastrian "Imp", but it would be all too easy for Herbert to affiance Henry Percy to one of his daughters, and then lay claim to the return of the Earldom of Northumberland. Again with the Queen's influence, this was likely to be successful, and John Neville, the current Earl, would be displaced. Warwick could not persuade his brother John to see the danger. John, who was on excellent terms with the King, only lived for fighting, and he was presently very happy with the campaigns the Scots border raiders readily provided him. He could not believe the King would deprive him of his Earldom. The young William Herbert had been created Lord Dunster on his marriage, thus bringing him into conflict with Warwick who had a claim upon the Dunster lands as his father's heir. To cap it all, yet another Herbert son-in-law, Lord Shrewsbury, had a claim to the Earldom of Warwick itself.

Warwick did not underrate the elder William Herbert.

He had been always a staunch supporter of the House of York and had frequently fought bravely in its cause. He was a formidable soldier besides being a hard, brutal and acquisitive man, totally uninhibited by any sense of scruple.

The Herberts and the Wydevilles, however much they may have disliked one another, could be relied upon to ally against him. Separately, they would be dangerous enough, but in an alliance they might well prove too hard a nut to crack.

Warwick began to feel himself beset on all sides. What should he do?

Copyright © Michael D. Miller 2003