THE SIX SISTERS OF WARWICK THE KINGMAKER

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Joan Neville and her husband William Fitzalan Earl of Arundel lie together to this day in their beautiful tomb in the chapel at Arundel Castle.

Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury (d. 1460) and his wife Alice Montacute had 10 children, including two sons, Richard Earl of Warwick and John Marquis of Montague whose stories have become very familiar to us through the roles they played in the madness that was to become known as the Wars of the Roses.  These brothers had six sisters who are slightly less well known but in some cases who went on to marry men that played significant parts in the wars and thus created a complicated tangle of allegiances.  Whether the sisters  would have had any input in matters can only be speculated upon.  The sisters lives spanned a period of an amazing 80 years – and was an extraordinary mix of splendour, wealth, indulgence, ceremony, hopefully some love, extreme anxiety and tragedy.  

They were

JOAN c.1424-1462

Joan married William Fitzalan d.1487 Earl of Arundel about 1438 when she would have been about 14.  Marriages would not have been consummated until the bride reached maturity and thus their first child was not born until 1450.   The marriage produced five children one of whom, Thomas married Margaret sister to Queen Elizabeth Wydeville/Woodville.  Fitzalan fought  for Warwick his brother in law at the 2nd Battle of St Albans in 1461.      Joan predeceased him dying about 9 September 1462 after a marriage that had endured for 24 years.   We have no way of knowing whether it was happy or otherwise but it is a fact that William never married again and seems thereafter  to have steered well clear of politics.  This ensured he attained the age of  70 years, a good age for the times.

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Joan Neville Duchess of Norfolk’s effigy,  Arundel Castle chapel.

CICELY died 28 July 1450.  Born sometime between the births of Joan and Richard and without a doubt named after her aunt,  Cicely Neville Duchess of York,  mother to Edward IV and Richard III.   Married 1436, when they were both children, Henry Beauchamp, duke of Warwick  who died in 1446 aged 21 years old.  A daughter from this marriage  predeceased Cicely.      Second marriage  April 1449 to John Tiptoft,  Earl of Worcester (1427–1470), a marriage which lasted only 15 months.   Tiptoft was  known as the Butcher of England.    This charmer  was known for his brutality  including in 1470 the impaling of 20 of Warwick’s men,  an execution mode unknown in England.  This created an enraged outcry even in those brutal times (1).  However he has been described as a ‘humanist’ and a great reader of books so thats alright then.

There is also good reason to believe that Tiptoft was among those responsible for the judicial murder of the Earl of Desmond and his two small sons.   Of course it does not follow that Tiptoft was cruel or harsh to his wives.   In fact he very much loved his second wife, a widow Elizabeth Baynham who he married soon after Cicely’s death and  who herself died before 4 April 1452    We know this because in a letter following Elizabeth’s death written to Henry Cranebroke, monk of Christ Church,  Canterbury, Tiptoft asked for prayers,with special remembraunce of her soule whom I loved best‘ (2). However this  seems quite callous and  disrespectful to the memory of Cicely    Whether Tiptoft had behaved coldly towards Cicely or not, he fell into her  brother’s, the Kingmaker’s,  hands who without further ado  executed his former brother in law on 18 October 1470.   Cicely seems to me the saddest of the sisters, a young widow, who lost a child, married to a man known for his harsh nature and dying sometime in her 20s.    Cicely was laid to rest near to where her first husband was buried in the  choir  of  Tewkesbury Abbey, the Despenser family’s mausoleum ( 3 )

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The beautiful floor of the Choir, Tewkesbury Abbey.  Somewhere in this area Cicely and her Ist husband, Henry Beauchamp lie buried.  

ELEANOR/ALIANOR d.c1472.  Married Thomas Stanley c.17th December 1454, who soon after her death married Margaret Beaufort,  despite the fact she looked as if she had been weaned on a lemon, after all she was stinking rich,  mother to Henry Tudor.  Her marriage to Stanley proved fruitful producing a large brood of children.     Because of the survival of two letters written by Eleanor we can glean a little of her nature in that she was caring and resourceful, intervening to resolve disputes and in the case of a Geoffrey Harper, when an annuity he was entitled to was being kept from him,   writing a polite but stern letter to a Piers Werberton,  to get the matter  and …. grete hurte of the seid Geffrey  resolved (4).  Ending her letter that his assistance in the matter ‘ …. shall cause me to be your gode lady’ which was medieval speak for ‘Get It Sorted Now !’ and no doubt Werberton did just that, fast. Bravo Eleanor.  

Eleanor must have died in London as she was laid to rest in the Church of St James Garlickhythe, the parish church of the Stanleys.  Stowe noted her burial there in his Survey of London 1598.  Tudor herald Thomas Benolt on his visit there while recording funerary monuments in London in 1500-05,  noted that Eleanor  Lady Stanley, was ‘wtout a stone ..really Thomas! shame on you. Also buried there were two of her sons, John, who had died young and George , Lord Strange – it is said that George died of being poisoned at a banquet – but I digress – as well as her sister in law ,  William Stanley’s widow, Elizabeth Tiptoft Countess of Worcester d.1498, yes the widow of the very Tiptoft, widower of Cicely Neville…. please keep up at the back dear reader!  Sadly all these tombs were lost when the church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London 1666.  

ALICE/ALESIA died c.1503.  A lady who endured truely worrying times.  Married Henry Lord Fitzhugh of Ravensworth d. 8 June 1472, ‘a long standing ally of the Neville Family’ (5).  A  daughter, Anne, married Francis Lord Lovell, Richard III’s loyal friend.  After Henry’s involvement with the Warwick rebellion, he, Alice, their five surviving sons and their daughters were pardoned by Edward IV.  Fitzhugh seems to have stayed out of trouble after that, not taking part in the battle of Barnet 14 April 1471, where his two brother in laws were to fall.  Perhaps he was already ill at that time?  Alice was later to attend, with her daughter in law, Anne Lovell, Richard III’s Coronation wearing ‘long gownes made of vij yerdes of blue velvet and purfiled with v yerdes and a quarter of crymsyn satyn and vij yerdes of crymysy velvet and purfiled with v yerdes and a quarter of white damask’  which were gifts from the new king and queen, her niece Anne Neville, daugher of the Kingmaker (6).  Had a long widowhood of over 30 years dying at nearly 70 years old.   Lived at Tanfield Castle.

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Gatehouse of Tanfield Castle.  Home to Alice Fitzhugh nee Neville.  Photo English Heritage.

KATHERINE  d.1504  Married first William Bonville Lord Harrington d.1460, secondly William Lord Hastings executed 1483. Harrington died at Wakefield, leaving a daughter, Cicely only a babe, perhaps even born posthumously, a very rich heiress.  In 1474 Cicely was to marry Elizabeth Wydeville’s son, Thomas Grey Marquis of Dorset.  To return to Katherine much has been written elsewhere of her second husband’s life, and death and I won’t go into it here.  Mention though should be made of Katherine’s epic but ultimately unsuccessful struggle to finish the building of Kirby Muxloe Castle, begun by Hastings prior to his death.    In her will Katherine asked to be buried in the church of St Helen’s at Ashby de la Zouch close to the castle of that name also built by her husband.    Lord Hastings himself, was buried where he had requested in St George’s Chapel, Windsor,  close to the tomb of his bosom friend  Edward IV by a forgiving Richard III.  

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 St Helens Church Ashby de la Zouch.  Enlargened by William Hastings and where Eleanor Hastings nee Neville requested to be buried. Photo Kim@Flikr

Margaret d.1506.  Buried at Colne Priory, Essex.  Married John de Vere Earl of Oxford in 1465.  Oxford led a full and varied career which is well documented and I will not go into here but needless to say his adventures caused many trials and tribulations to Margaret.  He died at Castle Hedingham on 10 March 1513 and was buried on 24 April with his ancestors at Colne Priory, alongside Margaret Neville his first wife as requested in his will ‘my body to be buried before the high altar of Our Lady chapel in the priory of Colne in the county of Essex in a tomb which I have made and ordained for me and Margaret, my late wife, where she now lieth buried’.…the last surviving sister of The Kingmaker.  

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The Great Hall at Hedingham Castle, Essex.   Belonging to the de Vere family, Hedingham Castle was home to Margaret and her husband, John de Vere, the 13th Earl.  

For those interested in finding out more about the sisters I can recommend The Kingmaker’s Sisters by David Baldwin.  

  1. Oxford DNB Tiptoft [Tibetot], John, first earl of Worcester Benjamin G Kohl.
  2. Canterbury College, Oxford. Two letters by Tiptoft to Henry Cranbrook (9th January 1452, 4 April 145
  3. The Abbey Church of Tewkesbury  1901 H J L J Massé. M.A 4
  4. The Kingmaker’s Sisters p153.  David Baldwin.  Letter dated 27 August 146? to Piers Werburton. 5
  5. Ibid.p.77 
  6. The Coronation of Richard III, the Extant Documents pp.169.170.  Edited by Anne F Sutton and P W Hammond.

If you have enjoyed this you might be interested in

William Stanley, Turncoat or Loyalist

William Lord Hastings

Joan Neville Countess of Arundel

Elizabeth Wydeville, John Tiptoft and the Earl of Desmond

 

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