White Hart Crest of the Royal County of Berkshire David Nash Ford's Royal Berkshire History

Nash Ford Publishing

 Click here for all things RBH designed especially for Kids

Search RBH using Google

Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury -  Nash Ford PublishingRichard Neville, Earl of Salisbury

Born: 1400
Baron Monthermer
Earl of Salisbury
Died: 30th December 1460 at Pontefract Castle, Pontefract, West Yorkshire

Richard was the eldest son of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, by his second wife Joan Beaufort, the daughter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Richard, Duke of York, was his brother-in-law, having married his sister, Cecily. In 1420, or earlier, he succeeded his eldest half-brother, John Neville, as Warden of the West March of Scotland, an office which frequently devolved upon the Nevilles, they being, with the exception of the Percys who had a sort of claim upon the Wardenship of the East March, the greatest magnates of the North country. Richard Neville figured at the coronation feast of Henry V's queen, Catherine of France, in February 1421, in the capacity of a carver. He was still Warden of the West March in 1424 when he assisted in the final arrangements for the liberation of King James I of Scots, who had been so long a captive in England. In January 1425, he was made Constable of the Royal castle of Pontefract and, in the following October, lost his father.

The Earl of Westmorland left Richard no land, since he was already well provided for by his marriage which had taken place earlier in that year, to Alice, the only child of Thomas Montacute, the 4th Earl of Salisbury, who was then eighteen years of age. Salisbury died before the walls of Orleans on 3rd November 1428 and his daughter, at once, entered into possession of his lands, which lay chiefly around Christchurch Castle on the western skirts of the New Forest in Hampshire and Wiltshire, although their main residence was Bisham Manor in Berkshire. Six months after his father-in-law's death, on 3rd May 1429, Neville's claim to the title of Earl of Salisbury, in right of his wife, was approved by the judges and provisionally confirmed by the peers in great council until the King came of age. On 4th May 1442, Henry VI confirmed his tenure of the dignity for his life.

At the coronation of the young King, on 6th November 1429, the new Earl acted as Constable for the absent Duke of Bedford. He did not, however, accompany Henry to France in the next year, his services being still required on the Scottish border. He was a member of an embassy to Scotland in May 1429 and of a second in the following January in which they were instructed to offer King James, Henry VI's hand for his daughter, whom he was about to marry to the dauphin (afterwards Louis XI). But a truce for five years was the only result of the mission. This enabled Salisbury, however, to spend part of 1431 in France, for which he departed with a "full fair many" on 2nd June, and he entered Paris, with the King, in the December. Returning, probably with Henry, in February 1432, the Earl seems not to have approved of the change of ministry effected by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the King's uncle; for, on 7th May, he was warned, with other nobles, not to bring more than his usual retinue to the Parliament which was to meet on the 12th. In November, he took the oath against maintenance and, in December, arbitrated in a quarrel between the abbot and convent of St. Mary in York and the commons of the adjoining Forest of Galtres. Either in this year, or more probably in the next, he was once more constituted Warden of the West March towards Scotland; on 18th February 1433 he was made Master-Forester of Blackburnshire and already held the position of Warden of the Forests North of Trent. In the Parliament which met in July of this year, he acted as a trier of petitions. In the Summer of 1434, King James of Scots having strongly remonstrated touching the misgovernment on the east marches, of which the Earl of Northumberland was warden, it was decided, probably on the advice of Bedford, to place the government of both marches in Salisbury's hands. He only undertook the post on the council, promising to send more money and ammunition to the borders. But, for one reason or another, the new arrangement did not work and, in February 1435, Salisbury resigned the Wardenship of the East March and the Captaincy of Berwick, "great and notable causes in divers behalfs moving him". They were restored to the Earl of Northumberland on the old conditions and the attempt to put the administration of the borders on a better footing was abandoned. The failure must, doubtless, be ascribed to the removal of the Duke of Bedford's influence. When Bedford died and the Duke of York - who had married Salisbury's sister, Cecily Neville - went out to France as his successor in May 1436, he took his brother-in-law with him.

Upon his return to England, in November 1437, Salisbury entered the Privy Council; and, when in London, in attendance there, he lived at 'The Harbour,' a Neville residence in Dowgate. He resided otherwise at his country estate, Bisham Manor, within a day's ride of the capital. However, he must have often been drawn into the North by the duties of his Wardenship, which was periodically renewed to him, and by his inheritance of his father's Yorkshire estates around the castles of Middleham and Sheriff Hutton. These, he took possession of after the death of his mother, on 13th November 1440, who had held them in jointure since the Earl of Westmorland's death fifteen years earlier. Middleham Castle, in Wensleydale, became his chief residence in the North. Westmorland's grandson by his first wife, Margaret, the daughter of Hugh, Earl of Stafford, and successor in the Earldom, had, for some years, been vainly endeavouring to prevent the diversion of these lands to the younger branch of the Nevilles. The two families had made open war upon each other in the north, the new Earl of Westmorland being supported by his brothers, Sir John, afterwards Lord Neville, and Sir Thomas Neville; and the Dowager Countess, by Salisbury and his younger brother, George Neville, Lord Latimer of Danby, in North Yorkshire. Bloodshed had ensued and the Government had had to interfere.

Salisbury had the advantage of being connected both with the opposition, through York, and with the court party, through the Beauforts. This double connection is reflected in the somewhat undecided position that, for a time, he took up between the court and the opposition parties. He helped to arrest Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, at Bury St. Edmunds in 1447, and, though the Duke of Suffolk's peace policy endangered his interests in France, held aloof from the Duke of York when he resorted to an armed demonstration in February 1452. Along with his eldest son, now Earl of Warwick and his colleague as Warden of the Western Marches of Scotland, Salisbury helped to persuade York, at Dartford, to lay down his arms. But the continuance of Somerset in power, in defiance of the arrangement Salisbury had helped to mediate, must have irritated him and he seems to have ignored the orders of the Government in regard to the war which now broke out between the Neville and Percy clans in Yorkshire.

William Worcester dates the beginning of all the subsequent troubles from an incident that was a sequel to the marriage of Salisbury's second son, Sir Thomas Neville, to Maud Stanhope, niece of Ralph, Lord Cromwell, and widow of Lord Willoughby de Eresby, at Tattershall, Cromwell's Lincolnshire seat. As Salisbury was returning to Middleham, his followers came into collision with those of Thomas Percy, Lord Egremont, third son of the Earl of Northumberland, and his brother, Richard, and a pitched battle ensued. If, as seems most probable, this took place in August 1453, it only brought to a head a quarrel that had already broken out between the two families. For, as early as 7th June, the Privy Council had ordered Egremont and Salisbury's second son, Sir John Neville, afterwards Marquis of Montagu, to keep the peace and come at once to Court. Parliament, less than a month later, passed a statute enacting that any lord persisting in refusing to appear at the Royal summons should lose estate, name and place in Parliament. Nevertheless the offending parties ignored repeated summonses and Salisbury, who had been called upon to keep his sons in order, was strongly reproached, in October, with conniving at these "great assemblies" and "riotous gatherings".

King Henry VI's seizure with madness, in August, supplied York with an opportunity of getting control of the government without the use of force against the King. Salisbury and Warwick definitely gave him their support, while Egremont and the Percies were adherents of Queen Margaret. When the lords came up to London, early in 1454, with great retinues, Salisbury brought "seven score knights and squires besides other many". An indenture has been preserved by which Salisbury, in September 1449, had retained the services of Sir Walter Strickland and two hundred and ninety men for the term of his life against all folk, saving his allegiance to the King.

As soon as he became Protector of the Realm, the Duke of York, on 1st April, gave the great seal vacated by the death of Archbishop Kemp, to his brother-in-law, the Earl of Salisbury. Salisbury appears to have asked for the vacant Bishopric of Ely for his son, George, and the Council promised to recommend him for the next available see. Salisbury's eldest son, 'the Kingmaker' and his brothers, William, Lord Fauconberg, and Edward, Lord Bergavenny, were also regular members of the Governing Council. The available proceeds of tonnage and poundage were assigned to Salisbury and others for three years for the keeping of the Sea.

When Henry's recovery drove York from power, the great seal was taken from Salisbury, on Friday 7th March 1455 between eleven and twelve of the clock, in a certain small chapel over the gate at Greenwich, and given to Archbishop Bourchier. He apparently retired to Middleham, whence he joined York, when he took up arms, in May, in self-defence, as he alleged, against the summons of a great council to meet at Leicester to provide for the King's 'surety.' Both Salisbury and Warwick, and their retainers, accompanied York on his march on London. They alone signed his letters of protestation addressed to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the King, which they afterwards charged Somerset with keeping from the King's eye. The honours of the battle that followed, on 22nd May, at St. Albans, and placed King Henry in their power, rested, not with Salisbury, but with Warwick, and from that day he was far less prominent in the Yorkist councils than his more energetic and popular son. The renunciation of all resort to force was exacted from York and Warwick only, when Queen Margaret recovered control of the King in October 1456, though Salisbury is said to have been present and to have retired to Middleham when York betook himself to Wigmore. The armed conflicts between his younger sons and the Percies, in Yorkshire, were renewed in 1457 and Egremont was carried as a prisoner to Middleham; but, in March 1458, a general reconciliation was effected and Salisbury agreed to forego the fines which ho had got indicted on the Percies and to contribute to the cost of a chantry at St. Albans for the souls of those who had fallen in the battle. In the procession of the 'dissimuled loveday,' on 25th March, Salisbury was paired off with Somerset.

When this deceitful lull came to an end, and both parties finally sprang to arms in the Summer of 1459, Salisbury left Middleham Castle, early in August, with an armed force, whose numbers are variously reckoned from five hundred to seven thousand, and marched southwards to effect a junction with York, who was in the Welsh Marches, and Warwick, who had been summoned from Calais. If the original intention of the confederates had been to surprise the King in the Midlands, it was foiled by Henry's advance to Nottingham; and, as Queen Margaret had massed a considerable force, raised chiefly in Cheshire, on the borders of Shropshire and Staffordshire, around Market Drayton, Salisbury seemed entirely cut off from York, who was now at Ludlow. The Royal forces at Market Drayton, under two Staffordshire peers - James Touchet, Lord Audley, and John Sutton, Lord Dudley - were estimated, by a contemporary, to have reached ten thousand men and, at any rate, outnumbered the Earl's 'fellowship'. The Queen was only a few miles eastwards, at Eccleshall. Fortunately for Salisbury, his son-in-law, Lord Stanley, remained inactive at Newcastle-under-Lyme with the Lancashire levies he had brought at the Queen's command; and his brother, William Stanley, with other local magnates, joined the Earl. On Saturday 22nd September he occupied a strong position on Blore Heath, three miles east of Market Drayton, on the Newcastle road, with his front completely protected by a small tributary of the Tern. Here, he was attacked, next morning, by Lord Audley, whom Salisbury, according to Hall, tempted across the brook by a feigned retreat and then drove him in confusion, down the slope, before the rest of his troops had crossed the stream. The slaughter, at all events, was great. Of sixty-six men brought by Sir Richard Fitton of Gawsworth to the Royal side, thirty-one perished. Audley himself was slain. Salisbury's two sons, Sir John Neville and Sir Thomas Neville, either pursuing the fugitives or, returning home wounded, were captured near Tarporley and imprisoned in Chester Castle. Salisbury got away before the Royal forces could be brought up from the east and effected his junction with York at Ludlow.

Salisbury and his associates at Blore Heath were excluded from the offer of pardon which Henry sent to the Yorkist leaders at Ludlow. He, nevertheless, joined the others in protesting "their true intent" to the prosperity and augmentation of the King's estate and to the common weal of the Realm. In the flight of the Yorkist chiefs from Ludford, on the night of 12th October, Salisbury made his way, with Warwick and the Earl of March, into Devon and thence, by sea, to Guernsey and Calais, where they arrived on 2nd November. In the Parliament which met at Coventry on 20th November, Salisbury, his three sons and his wife, who was accused of compassing the King's death at Middleham on 1st August and urging her husband to "rearing of war" against him, were all attainted, along with York and the other Yorkist leaders at Blore Heath and Ludford.

On 20th June 1400, Salisbury recrossed the Channel with Warwick and March, landed at Sandwich and, on 2nd July, entered London with them. Warwick and March leaving London a few days after to meet the King, who had advanced from Coventry to Northampton, Salisbury was left in charge of the city, with Edward Brook, Lord Cobham, and laid siege to the Royal garrison in the Tower. When the victors of the Battle of Northampton brought the captive King into London on 10th July, Salisbury rode to meet him "withe myche rialte'. Salisbury does not appear prominently in the proceedings of the next four months. His attainder was removed and he was made Great Chamberlain of England.

When the Lancastrians concentrated in Yorkshire and ravaged the lands of York and Salisbury, the Protector, taking with him his brother-in-law, left London on 9th December, reached Sandal Castle, on the 21st, and spent Christmas there. The night after the fatal battle fought at nearby Wakefield on 30th December, in which his second son, Thomas, was one of the slain, Salisbury was captured by a servant of Sir Andrew Trollope and conveyed to Pontefract Castle. According to one account, he was murdered in cold blood, the next day, by the bastard of Exeter, his head being cut off and set up, with others, on one of the gates of York. But, in another version, "for a great sum of money that he should have payed, he had grant of his life. But the common people of the country, which loved him not, took him out of the castle by violence and smote of his head".

The Earl of Salisbury had made a will on 10th May 1459, ordering, among other legacies, the distribution of forty marks among poor maids at their marriages. He left Sheriff Hutton and three neighbouring manors to his wife for life. But his half-nephew John, Lord Neville, brother of the 2nd Earl of Westmorland, who had fought against him at Wakefield, was rewarded for his loyalty with the office of Constable of Sheriff Hutton and Middleham Castles, along with other revenues from the Wensleydale estates of Salisbury. In his will, Salisbury also gave instructions that he should be buried in the priory of Bisham, adjoining his East Berkshire manor and amongst the ancestors of his wife, the Montacute Earls of Salisbury. Warwick conveyed the bodies of his father and brother to Bisham, early in 1403, and buried them, with stately ceremony, in the presence of the Duke of Clarence and other great peers. After the Dissolution, his alabaster effigy somehow made its way to the church of Burghfield in Mid-Berkshire.

Salisbury's abilities were not of a high order, but he possessed great territorial and family influence as the head of the younger branch of the Neville house. He never became popular, like his son. A Yorkist ballad-maker, in 1400, referred to him coldly as "Richard, Earl of Salisbury, called Prudence". Wavrin calls him rather conventionally "sage et imaginatif".

By his wife Alice, the daughter of Thomas Moutacute, 4th Earl of Salisbury, Richard Neville had ten children, four sons and six daughters: (1) Richard, Earl of Warwick and Salisbury, 'the Kingmaker'; (2) Thomas, married in August 1453 to Maud, widow of Robert, 6th Lord Willoughby de Eresby (d. 1452), a niece of Lord Cromwell; Thomas was killed in the Battle of Wakefield in 1400 and left no children; (3) John, created Baron Montagu (1461), Marquis of Montagu (1470) and Earl of Northumberland (1404-70); killed at the Battle of Barnet in 1471; (4) George, Bishop of Exeter, Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor (d. 1470); (5) Joan, married William FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel (1417-1487); (6) Cicely, married, first, in 1434, Henry Beauchamp, Duke of Warwick; secondly, John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, whom she predeceased, dying on 28th July 1450; (7) Alice, married Henry, Lord FitzHugh of Ravensworth Castle, near Richmond (1429-72), head of a powerful local family between Tees and Swale; (8) Eleanor, married Thomas Stanley, 1st Lord Stanley, and afterwards (1485) 1st Earl of Derby; (9) Catherine, betrothed before 10th May 1459 to the son and heir of William Bonvile, Lord Harington, who, if he had outlived his father, would have been Lord Bonvile as well; Lord Harington was killed at the Battle of Wakefield and his son either predeceased him or, at all events, died before 17th February 1461. Catherine Neville was subsequently married to William, Lord Hastings (executed 1483); (10) Margaret, married, after 1459, John de Vere III (1443-1513), 13th Earl of Oxford, who predeceased her.

Edited from Sidney Lee's 'Dictionary of National Biography' (1894)

    Nash Ford Publishing 2001. All Rights Reserved.