The Nobility in late 15th Century England
England in the 15th century was very hierarchical: an individual’s social standing was largely dependent on the social class and the family they were born into which, in turn, was closely related to their wealth.
The pecking order of significance of nobles in 15th century England:
King; Prince of Wales; Princes (sons of King); Royal Dukes (brothers of the King); Dukes; Marquesses; Earls; Viscounts; Lords Bastard (illegitimate sons of King – could be placed anywhere in the nobility); Barons; Knights.
Women had titles complementary to their husband’s titles. A very few women had titles in their own right.
Queen consort (wife of King); Dowager Queen (widow of a King); Princesses (daughters of King & Queen; Duchess; Dowager Duchess (widow of a Duke); Marchioness; Countess; Viscountess; Baroness; Lady (wife of a Knight); Dame (untitled but from a titled family).
Two difficulties arise when referring to the nobility.
Titles were usually different from family names e.g. Richard Neville was 16th Earl of Warwick and his brother John Neville was Lord Montague and, for a while, Earl of Northumberland.
Relatively few first names were in use in noble families so that different generations of a noble family sometimes had the same name and title an example is that ‘Richard, Duke of York’ could apply to two individuals: grandfather and grandson. The names Edward, Henry, Richard, William and John are most frequent. For women the names Elizabeth, Margaret, Anne and Mary are frequent. There were two ‘Elizabeths of York’ who were related as aunt and niece. Adding a date of accession, or of birth or a number (1st, 2nd etc) will help to identify the individual. See Who’s Who on this website for detailed biographies of key players in the Wars of the Roses.
Nobility and power in the 15th century were closely related to the extent of land ownership, which provided the means both to raise troops and money from the economic surplus produced by serfs and peasants
Refer to this map of England & Wales showing family lands: Yorkist family names in blue, Lancastrians in red.
Because of their extensive land holdings the wealthiest nobles automatically formed the Council which advised the king on policy. Since the thirteenth century the governance of England had been managed by a collective of a king in Parliament. The king was not a dictator, Parliament held the purse strings of taxation, which largely prevented a king from going to war even if he wanted to. War was at times the greatest expenditure on the country’s resources and periods of peace were often negotiated at times when the money had run out.
A medieval king’s success depended on keeping the peace between powerful nobles who could rely on him to settle disputes dispassionately and fairly, with the threat of bringing overwhelming force to bear upon any who did not fall in with his wishes. Feuds over land ownership sometimes lasted generations and in the 15th century there were several of these involving e.g. the earls of Northumberland, Norfolk, Warwick.
If a noble lost lands and money he could be demoted in rank or removed all together from the nobility. If someone found favour with the King he could be promoted and given enough land to sustain his title. Dukedoms and other noble titles disappeared and reappeared at the whim of the King or when a noble died without leaving any sons. Consequently the aristocracy was more fluid in the 15th century than today when inheritance of land and property has been recognised by law for centuries.
Bear in mind that, despite the general title of ‘noble’ and what we like to think of as the medieval codes of chivalry, most of these magnates were extremely violent and ruthless in their determination to keep what they had and to take land from others when an opportunity arose. They had private armies and bodyguards: think Mexican or Columbian drug barons for a modern comparison. They needed someone even more violent and ruthless than themselves to rule over them which is why Henry VI failed and Henry V and Edward IV succeeded. But Edward was noted for exercising magnanimity towards his nobles (see John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford), allowing rebels to live and retain their lands instead of executing them: a policy which came back to haunt his younger brother Richard but who followed this example with respect to Margaret Beaufort.
Edward IVs First Reign
After Edward’s victory at Towton (1461) following decades of weak or non-existent kingship from Henry VI and Edward’s recognition as heir presumptive (Act of Accord, 1460), one would expect that he was generally welcomed by the nobility. He had what it took to be a strong medieval King: the ability to win battles, youth, energy and a pedigree via two sons of Edward III. But he was only nineteen, an apparent usurper, and the medieval concept of loyalty to the anointed King kept most noble families from accepting his rule. The City of London, by far the most important mercantile city in England welcomed him with open arms: they saw a strong and stable monarch as good for business. One powerful family that did support him were the Nevilles, headed by Edward’s cousin Richard, 16th Earl of Warwick. Perhaps unwisely Edward squandered this support by his actions, and which led to him losing the throne temporarily nine years later. The family that brought about most of the rift between Edward and Warwick were…..
Recently ennobled individuals were regarded with disdain and suspicion by more established families: the most glaring example during the late 15th century were the Woodvilles who had greatness thrust upon them by the clandestine marriage (May 1464) of Elizabeth Woodville to Edward IV. Warwick had been negotiating for Edward to marry a French Princess, which would have been the kind of dynastic marriage for a king of England that had been the norm for over three centuries. Foreign kings and dukes took a pretty dim view of Edward’s break from tradition by marrying one of his own subjects, forgoing a potentially helpful political and military alliance.
Perhaps Edward was wary of marrying a French noblewoman after the track record of Henry VI’s Queen, Margaret of Anjou, who had led her armies against Edward and his father. Or of Princess Katherine of Valois, the widow of Henry V, who had children with Owen Tudor and thereby created a new Lancastrian threat to the Yorkists. Or perhaps he found Elizabeth Woodville irresistibly attractive and his passion overruled any sense of diplomatic disadvantage in forfeiting a foreign match. Or he just wanted to show Warwick that he had a mind of his own. Whatever the reason, it is possible to argue that this marriage, and its consequences, was a major factor in the eventual downfall of the Yorkist dynasty.
If the marriage was not enough, Elizabeth had a very extensive and covetous family. Some powerful nobles deeply resented the favouritism shown by Edward IV to his wife’s siblings. One particularly annoyed noble was Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, who was Edward’s cousin (their mothers were sisters). He had two daughters, Isabel and Anne, for whom he had planned advantageous marriages but the Woodvilles spoiled his plans.
The Queen’s father Sir Richard Woodville, was regarded by Warwick and others as a social upstart, married to the very wealthy Jacquetta, Dowager Duchess of Bedford. Woodville had given distinguished military service to King Henry VI in France and was further advanced by Edward IV to an Earldom (Rivers), Lord Treasurer and Constable of England (1467).
The Queen’s brother, John Woodville, at age 19 had a very advantageous marriage (1465) to the 65-year-old and very wealthy dowager duchess of Norfolk, Warwick’s aunt. This was generally regarded by other nobles as ‘diabolical’ and weakened respect for Edward’s judgement in his management of powerful families.
A sister of the Queen married (1465) the powerful Henry Stafford, 2nd duke of Buckingham, a direct descendent of Edward III with a possible claim to the throne. So, another very attractive match for Warwick’s daughters was blocked.
This incensed Warwick such that he eventually persuaded Edward’s brother, George, duke of Clarence to marry his daughter Isabel (11 July 1469), against Edward’s wishes, and attempted to overthrow Edward and thereby make Clarence king and Isabel queen.
After a Yorkist defeat at Edgecote Moor (26 July 1469) Warwick expressed his disdain for the Woodvilles by executing the queen’s father and her brother John, possibly in the expectation that the Woodville influence would soon be ended by the deposition of Edward. (The queen had her revenge when Warwick was killed during the battle of Barnet two years later.)
Also, after Edgecote Moor, Warwick executed the Earl of Pembroke (William Herbert), partly because he resented that one of the queen’s sisters, Mary, had married the earl’s son and heir (another possible thwarted Neville marriage?). The result of course was to make Mary countess of Pembroke, which was perhaps an own goal by Warwick.
Another of Queen Elizabeth’s brothers, Anthony, became the 2nd Earl Rivers after his father’s death and in due course was placed by Edward IV in charge of the education and training of the Princes of Wales, the future Edward V, aged seven. This decision carried the risk of turning the Prince of Wales into more of a Woodville than a Yorkist and the process reached its fruition by the time that Edward died. Richard, duke of Gloucester, inherited this situation and his response was to have Anthony firstly arrested (May 1483) and then executed the following month, as part of his attempt to wean the new King away from his maternal relations.
Sir Richard Grey, younger son of Elizabeth Woodville by her first husband, was arrested along with earl Rivers and suffered the same fate.
As a consequence, another of the queen’s brothers, Richard, became the 3rd earl Rivers and fairly soon afterwards Richard III confiscated his lands but spared his life.
Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset, elder son of Elizabeth Woodville by her first husband, joined the Buckingham rebellion of October 1483, managed to escape Richard’s embrace and went into exile to join Henry Tudor in Brittany along with several other disaffected nobles.
Elizabeth Woodville/ Dame Grey/ sometime Queen of England
Clearly Richard did not trust most of the Woodville clan and least of all Queen Elizabeth who went into sanctuary at the thought of Richard arriving in London with her elder son by Edward IV. After many months a negotiated settlement brought her out of sanctuary, her daughters were admitted at Court and promised suitable marriages. But the fate of her sons was unknown. By supporting (in secret) the cause of Henry Tudor and agreeing to a marriage between him and her elder daughter Elizabeth of York, she clearly did not support Richard.
Aside from Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, Clarence’s marriage to Isabel Neville and Gloucester’s marriage to Anne Neville, none of the next generation of Yorkist Princes and Princesses married before the fall of the House of York, mostly because they were too young. However, this did not prevent some advantageous dynastic unions from being planned.
Richard, Duke of York, Edward’s younger son was ‘married ‘at the age of about four to five-year-old Anne Mowbray, the extremely wealthy countess of Norfolk. When she died a few years later her lands were given to young Richard rather than reverting to the Mowbray family. This looked like the continuation of business as usual for the York-Woodville wealth grabbing duo.
The most serious marriage plan for Edward, Prince of Wales was with Anne of Brittany. The intention was to bring Brittany back under the influence of the English crown and out of reach of France. With Edward IV’s death, negotiations ceased and Anne married the king of France instead.
A dynastic marriage which did happen was between Margaret, elder sister to Edward IV, and the Duke of Burgundy, an important player in European politics. After the death of Richard III she continued to be involved in plots against Henry VII.
Lurking in the background like a time bomb was an alleged previous marriage (called a pre-contract) between Edward IV and Lady Eleanor Talbot, daughter of John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, which was said to have taken place some years before the marriage with Elizabeth Woodville. This allegation became public knowledge after the death of Edward and before the Coronation of his son and became the reason that Richard III ascended to the throne.
It is possible to argue that the crisis of 1483 was caused by the concupiscence of Edward IV, his deceitful behaviour with women and an irresponsible attitude towards marriage as a Monarch.
These were a powerful family with lands in the North. They were a rival family to the Percys, the traditional Earls of Northumberland. Whilst the 16th Earl of Warwick may have had great hopes for the marriages of his two daughters, his aunt Cecily, Dowager Duchess of York was the Grand Dame of the family. Two of her sons, Edward and Richard, became the Yorkist kings and a granddaughter, Elizabeth (of York) became the first Tudor Queen Consort (of Henry VII). Cecily’s siblings included two other duchesses (Norfolk and Buckingham), two earls (Salisbury & Kent) a countess (Northumberland) and a Bishop (Salisbury). She was deeply unimpressed with the Woodvilles but she remained loyal to Edward and, in due course, to Richard.
Her other son George, duke of Clarence, who married Isabel Neville, did not become king, despite much plotting and eventually was executed for treason (1478) against his elder brother. Anne Neville married (Dec 1470) firstly Edward of Westminster, the son of Henry VI and then Richard, Duke of Gloucester, (1472) becoming Queen in June 1483, so one ambition of the Nevilles was achieved but this was not to last for long.
Another member of this family treated badly was Anne Beauchamp, dowager countess of Warwick, widow of the 16th Earl. After her husband’s death her right to inherit land and property were ignored by Edward IV and her property was divided up between the other Yorkist brothers who claimed right of ownership through their wives, Isabel and Anne Neville. Edward even arranged for Parliament to declare the countess legally dead so that the land grab was ‘legal’. This was another nail in the coffin of the Yorkist policy towards the nobility.
After Clarence’s execution, his only surviving son, Edward Plantagenet, gained the title 17th Earl of Warwick but his father’s treason meant that he could not inherit property and was barred from the royal line of succession. This Edward was apparently well looked after by both of his Yorkist uncles but after Richard III’s death at Bosworth he was imprisoned by Henry VII and eventually executed at the age of 24, having spent all of his adult life in confinement.
John Neville 1st Marquess Montague
John was the younger brother of Warwick. His loyalty changed from Yorkist to Lancastrian during the reign of Edward IV. He fought on the side of the Yorkists at 1st St Albans (1455) but after later battles he was captured and imprisoned but survived. Meanwhile he became Baron Montague after the death of his father and acquired more lands. Once Edward IV was on the throne John played an important part in mopping up Lancastrian resistance in the North and for this he was awarded the earldom of Northumberland, in preference to the natural, Lancastrian heir, Henry Percy. John fell foul of Edward in the late 1460’s following the loss of confidence by Warwick and Edward demoted him to a marquess, handing the earldom of Northumberland back to the Percys.
When Edward, after his brief exile in 1470-71 returned to reclaim his crown, John did not at first oppose him but later fought with his brother at Barnet and was killed.
His son, George Neville, was an example of someone who rose and fell dramatically at the wish of the King and Parliament. He was the expected heir to vast lands from various members of his extended family, was created duke of Bedford by Edward IV who planned a marriage with Elizabeth of York. When the Warwicks fell from grace and their property was confiscated and given to Richard, duke of Gloucester, George no longer had the wealth thought essential for a dukedom, so Parliament stripped him of the honour.
Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland,
Henry, like John Neville, changed his loyalty. His family were an important force to protect the North of England against Scottish invasions of which there were many over the centuries.
Henry’s father, the 3rd Earl was killed at Towton (1461) on the Lancastrian side, his lands were forfeit to Edward IV; his heir, Henry, was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Henry chose to swear allegiance to Edward but not before both his title and lands had been given to a Yorkist supporter, John Neville. Many years later Henry’s title and lands were restored, and he performed his family’s traditional role of protecting the northern borders of England. He commanded the reserve Yorkist forces at Bosworth, but never engaged them. Perhaps he, like Thomas Stanley, was hedging his bets and waiting to see which side won. He was captured and imprisoned but after a change of heart he swore allegiance to the new King Henry VII and was sent back up North to carry on the family’s tradition of border patrol and security.
John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford.
John’s father, a Lancastrian, had been executed for treason against Edward IV, but John was allowed to inherit the title and lands. He held a high office in Edward IV’s first reign and was given a prominent role at Elizabeth Woodville’s coronation in 1465, but later was found to have plotted against Edward, put in the Tower but pardoned after a few years. He was a brother-in-law to Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and joined him to oppose Edward at Barnet.
He was a gifted military commander on the Lancastrian side at Barnet, Bosworth and Stoke.
The loss at Barnet may be because his wing of the Lancastrian army fought so well, they pushed back Hastings on the Yorkist side and thought they had won. The heavy mist on that day prevented them from seeing or hearing how the rest of the battle was going. His men went off to Barnet to celebrate. By the time John regrouped them and brought them back the battle had moved, and they were mistaken for Yorkists. Chaos followed with Lancastrians fighting Lancastrians and, during the ensuing rout, Warwick was killed.
So, we could say that Edward IV regained the throne partly because the fog of war.
John escaped to Scotland and then to France, but he was later captured, imprisoned and his family property given to Richard. John’s response was to escape and join Henry Tudor in Brittany. From there he joined Henry’s invasion and was put in charge of the archers at Bosworth.
His later career under Henry VII was glittering and he saw off the Lambert Simnel revolt at Stoke which effectively brought the Wars of the Roses to an end. He outlived Henry by several years into the reign of his son Henry VIII and died an honoured veteran of the Wars of the Roses.
Henry Holland, 3rd Duke of Exeter.
Henry had a possible claim to the throne via his mother from Edward III’s fifth son Thomas, 1st Duke of Gloucester: this was weak, but stronger than that of Henry Tudor.
He was married to the eldest daughter of Richard, duke of York and Cecily Neville and so was another brother-in-law of Edward and Richard. Despite this he was loyal to Henry VI and fought on the Lancastrian side in several battles. After Towton he escaped to Scotland and then joined Queen Margaret in France. He was a leading player at Barnet (1471) on the Lancastrian side and almost died from his wounds.
William, Lord Hastings
His role was Lord Chamberlain to Edward IV, and they were such close associates that they even shared their bed from time to time with various ladies of the court. He had fought with Edward at several key battles: Mortimer’s Cross, Towton, Barnet and Tewkesbury. His loyalty to the House of York was beyond question until Edward died.
He seems to have been prepared to be more loyal to Edward V than to Richard and so came under suspicion in June 1483 when he appeared to be part of a Woodville plan to crown Edward V sooner rather than have Richard’s role as Protector last more than a few weeks. In a shocking action at an apparently routine meeting, Richard ordered his arrest and summary execution. So that was another powerful family with a grudge against Richard III.
Not a big landowner but a very successful prelate and lawyer. Orignally loyal to Henry VI and after Towton (1461) joined Queen Margaret in France. But once the Yorkists took the throne for the second time he became apparently reconciled with Edward IV and was given one of the highest legal offices in England as Master of the Rolls. His career in the Church also flourished and he became Bishop of Ely before the death of Edward.
Arrested along with Hastings but instead of being executed he was placed under house arrest with the Duke of Buckingham and he remained imprisoned during all of Richard’s reign.
Under Henry VII his career became stratospheric with appointments as Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Chancellor and then a Cardinal.
No fan of Richard, Morton may have been the source for much of Sir Thomas More’s Life of Richard III which in turn was used by Shakespeare to create an impression of Richard as a physical and psychological monster.
Richard, Duke of Gloucester
During his brother’s second reign, Richard was one of the chief nobles in England, and as Lord of the North he had largely been isolated from power brokering in the Midlands, the South and East where most of the powerful nobles held their lands.
Richard inherited a kingdom in which his brother Edward had acted as an effective arbiter in disputes, or at least kept the lid on them. Richard therefore had less experience at managing the most powerful nobles and he appears to have panicked when faced with potential opposition.
In June 1483 Richard had been invited to accept the Crown by all three estates (Lords Spiritual, Lords Temporal and Commons) which implies he had support from the majority of the establishment, despite crossing the Nevilles, the Woodvilles the Hastings and de Vere families.
Ultimately Richard lost the crown because, despite a larger army, he was not able to overcome the challenge from Henry Tudor and his army composed of mercenaries funded by the king of France as well as English nobles, some of whom stood on the sidelines and watched Richard fall. But he had succeeded against other rebellions, notably the Buckingham rebellion and the risings in Kent in the months after his Coronation. In order to do this he had to have the support of a significant majority of nobles.
Richard by 1483 was the only son of York and most of his political capital lay in the North around York and beyond to the Scottish border. Until today he is still the only King from the North of England and was therefore an unknown quantity, viewed with suspicion and a possible threat. His summary executions just before and after the start of his reign did not send a message of confidence in his trust of southerners.
Henry Tudor, formerly Earl of Richmond after his father, was a distant Lancastrian claimant to the throne and as such during the Yorkist dynasty represented a threat. His mother, Margaret Beaufort, arranged and paid for him to live outside the jurisdiction of England in Brittany. Edward IV had tried to entice him back to England, where he might have been captured and imprisoned indefinitely and almost succeeded in doing so. Henry’s continued presence in exile attracted increasing numbers of nobility during Richard’s reign and he formed a kind of Court in exile.
Who was on Richard’s side?
The Dukes of Norfolk
This title was passed on several times during the second half of the 15th century and more than one family was involved.
At 1450 the Dukedom belonged to John Mowbray, who was a supporter of Henry VI against Richard Duke of York. However, he became exasperated with Henry’s inability to exert any effective management of the kingdom and gradually moved to support the Yorkist cause. He fought on the side of the victorious Edward IV at Towton but died later that year.
His son, also John Mowbray, became the 4th duke of Norfolk and remained a supporter of Edward IV but does not appear to have fought at either Barnet or Tewkesbury instead sorting out his own disputes in East Anglia. He married Elizabeth Talbot, sister of Eleanor Talbot. They had one daughter, Anne Mowbray who as a child was ‘married’ to Richard of Shrewsbury, duke of York but first John and then Anne died few years later. As there was no male heir, this title died with them in 1486.
John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk (new creation)
John Howard was a cousin of the Mowbray Duke of Norfolk and was a loyal supporter of both Edward IV and Richard III. He fought alongside them in several key battles and acquired honours and much money. At Richard’s Coronation he was given a leading role and awarded the dukedom of Norfolk. He remained loyal to the end, taking on the roles of Earl Marshal and Lord High Admiral and was killed at Bosworth just before Richard.
Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham
Buckingham was at the start of 1483 apparently one of Richard’s closest friends and advisers but turned against him and was executed for this.
He was not happy to have been forced into marrying the Queen’s sister Catherine, even though they did have four children, and was glad to seize an opportunity for revenge on the Woodvilles.
He seems to have had a persuasive role on the night of 29th April 1483 when Richard decided to arrest Earl Rivers and take charge of Edward V on the road to London. Buckingham also seems to have been behind the exposure of the alleged Woodville plot on 13th June causing the execution of Hastings and the arrest of Bishop Morton and of Lord Stanley.
Buckingham was also one of the chief supporters of Richard for the throne, speaking in public at St Paul’s on the illegitimacy of Edward V and encouraging parliament to offer the crown to Richard.
However, Buckingham asked too much of Richard in return and felt somewhat side-lined by the time of the Coronation. Richard appointed him Constable of England during the Royal Progress but Buckingham did not remain long with Richard and headed to his own castle of Brecon where Morton was confined. Ironically it was Morton who stoked up Buckingham’s resentment of Richard and to join forces with Margaret Beaufort and Henry Tudor in overthrowing the usurper.
The Buckingham rebellion failed in part due to bad weather which prevented his army from crossing the River Severn. Henry Tudor chose not to land his forces, suspecting a trap. Buckingham was captured and executed in Salisbury. Richard refused to see him and called him ‘the most untrue creature living’.
Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, of royal descent, and her husband Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby
A tricky couple. Margaret was one of the richest women in England, perhaps the richest after the Queen, and was of royal descent from Edward III via John of Gaunt’s third wife Katherine Swynford. Technically barred from the throne by act of Parliament, this did not prevent her from supporting her only son Henry Tudor, in his bid for the throne.
Her fourth husband, Thomas Stanley, was a clever political operator and always managed to end up on the winning side during the wars of the Roses. He could raise a large army of his own and with his brother William they were a formidable force.
Richard did not trust them, but he needed to keep them on his side because of their land, money and power.
Thomas was arrested as part of the Woodville plot in June 1483 but was released and played a leading role in Richard’s Coronation, as did his wife, and was rewarded with the position of Steward of the Royal Household. He supported Richard again in the Buckingham rebellion, in which his wife had a hand.
Buckingham was her nephew by marriage, and she sent money to her son to join in the rebellion with a fleet ships from Brittany. She was found guilty of treason by Parliament but her only punishment was to be placed under the house arrest of her husband and her lands and money placed under his control. This was a fatal mistake by Richard and shows how dependent he was on the support of major nobles even when they were so close to those who rebelled against him.
Two years later, at Bosworth, Thomas was ambivalent. He could hardly support Richard against his stepson but could not openly rebel against his king, so although he turned up with his army, he did nothing (possibly by prior arrangement with Henry) and so was able to smoothly take his place in the new Tudor court and once again be on the winning side.
Francis, 1st Viscount Lovell
Francis and Richard spent part of their boyhood together as wards of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick in Middleham Castle. As was often the case with wardships, he married into the Neville family. Through this and other family connections he became a wealthy landowner by the mid-1470’s.
Richard and Francis became close friends. Francis fought with Richard on the Scottish campaign on 1481 and was awarded the title of Viscount as a result. In 1483 he succeeded Hastings as Lord Chamberlain to Richard.
Francis supported Richard during the Buckingham rebellion of 1483 and later fought at Bosworth and escaped.
He was involved in several attempts to capture or assassinate Henry VII and fought at the battle of Stoke in support of the pretender Lambert Simnel.
We do not know how, when or where he lived and died after Stoke.
Sir William Catesby
His early career was as a lawyer working for Hastings. He made an advantageous marriage and inherited a lot of land in the Midlands.
During the short reign of Edward V he was a member of the Council.
Under Richard he was both Chancellor of the Exchequer and Speaker of the House of Commons – unimaginable today.
He fought on Richard’s side at Bosworth, survived but was captured and executed a few days later and his lands reverted to Henry VII.
John de la Pole, 2nd Duke of Suffolk
John was descended from the poet Geoffrey Chaucer through his mother Alice.
His father had been 1st Duke of Suffolk, a trusted military commander and adviser to Henry VI, but he was blamed for the loss of English possessions in France, lost his position in court and was assassinated on his way into exile.
Luckily for John, he was allowed to inherit his father’s lands, but these were insufficient to maintain the style of a duke and he played little role in politics in the 1460s until his marriage to Margaret, daughter of Richard duke of York.
[As a child he had been ‘married’ to Margaret Beaufort who was a ward of his father, but this arrangement was conveniently annulled a few years later by Henry VI so that she could be married to Henry’s uterine half brother Edmund Tudor. [The mother of both Henry and Edmund was Catherine de Valois, widow of Henry V.]
As a brother-in-law to Edward and Richard, this brought him into the Yorkist camp. He fought with them at Barnet and Tewkesbury but did not play a prominent role in Edward’s second administration. He seems to have been ambivalent about Richard III, did not take part at Bosworth, although his son, also John de la Pole, did.
Henry VII trusted him sufficiently to include him in Parliament, but he took no major role and on his death his lands were forfeit to the Crown.
John de la Pole, 1st Earl of Lincoln
This John was the eldest son and heir of John, 2nd Duke of Suffolk and at time of birth was therefore in a Yorkist family His maternal uncle, Edward IV raised him to the peerage as Earl of Lincoln.
He supported Richard III and was appointed President of the Council of the North during Richard’ reign with the job of maintaining the peace between families such as the Nevilles and the Percys.
When Richard’s son died, he appears to have favoured John as his heir to the throne, but this was never formalised.
He was spared execution by Henry VII, but he was not a strong supporter of the new king and he joined with Francis Lovell in supporting the claimant Lambert Simnel, fighting against Henry VII at Stoke (1487) and was killed.