3 Neville, Richard, Earl of Salisbury

Neville, Richard, Earl of Salisbury

(c. 1400–1460)
   In the mid-fifteenth century, Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury, was one of the wealthiest and most politically influential nobles in England. By bringing the extensive Neville interest into alliance with Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, Salisbury and his eldest son Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, turned York’s heretofore ineffective opposition to HENRY VI into a serious threat to the Lancastrian COURT and made possible the eventual seizure of the throne by York’s son, EDWARD IV. The eldest son of Ralph Neville (1354– 1425), earl of Westmorland, and the earl’s second wife, Joan Beaufort, Neville acquired his father-in-law’s wealthy earldom of Salisbury in 1428. After his mother’s death in 1440, Salisbury also inherited many of his late father’s estates, making him one of the greatest magnates of the north and one of the wealthiest earls in England. During Henry VI’s mental illness in the 1450s, the political rivalry between York and Edmund BEAUFORT, duke of Somerset, put Salisbury in a difficult position (see Henry VI, Illness of). Related through his Beaufort blood to Somerset, Salisbury was also connected by marriage to York, whose wife was Salisbury’s sister Cecily NEVILLE (see Beaufort Family). When York, demanding the arrest of Somerset, took up arms against the king in 1452, Salisbury and Warwick worked to reconcile the parties (see Dartford Uprising). Unwilling to see York too severely punished, the Nevilles were also unwilling to forfeit their court connections.
   In 1453, several events caused Salisbury and his son to abandon their moderate position and ally with York. In WALES, Somerset and Warwick disputed possession of various estates, while in the north, a variety of disputes with the sons and RETAINERS of Henry PERCY, second earl of Northumberland, led to several violent encounters between the two families and ignited a bitter NEVILLE-PERCY FEUD (see Heworth, Battle of; Stamford Bridge, Battle of). Because these quarrels coincided with the onset of the king’s mental illness, the Nevilles expected little help from a court dominated by Somerset and friendly to Northumberland. Because York, himself a substantial northern landowner, was a natural Neville ally against the Percies, Salisbury and his son supported York’s appointment as lord protector in March 1454. The duke rewarded Salisbury by naming him lord chancellor.
   Henry VI’s recovery in January 1455 ended York’s protectorship and led to Salisbury’s dismissal from office and Northumberland’s appointment to the COUNCIL. When the king restored Somerset to favor,York took up arms with the support of Salisbury and Warwick. In May 1455, York and the Nevilles defeated a royal army at the Battle of ST.ALBANS, where they won custody of the king and achieved the deaths of Somerset and Northumberland. In February 1456, when Henry dismissed York again, Salisbury retired to the north. When open warfare erupted between York and the court in 1459, Salisbury led a force of 5,000 to join York at Ludlow in the marches of WALES. On the way, he successfully fought off a Lancastrian force at the Battle of BLORE HEATH on 23 September; however, the arrival of a large royal army at the Battle of LUDFORD BRIDGE forced York to flee to IRELAND and Salisbury,Warwick, and York’s son Edward, earl of March, to sail to CALAIS. Salisbury,Warwick, and March returned to England in June 1460, entering LONDON unopposed. In July, Warwick’s victory at NORTHAMPTON—while Salisbury laid siege to the TOWER OF LONDON—put king and government in Warwick’s hands; Salisbury was made great chamberlain, but otherwise left the direction of affairs to his son. In October 1460, Salisbury was reluctant to endorse York’s claim to the Crown and supported the Act of ACCORD, which kept Henry VI on the throne but made York his heir in place of EDWARD OF LANCASTER, Prince of Wales. On 9 December,when York led a force northward against the growing Lancastrian resistance to the settlement, Salisbury accompanied him. York fell at the Battle of WAKEFIELD in Yorkshire on 30 December 1460; Salisbury escaped the battle, but he was captured and executed next day. His head was placed beside the duke’s on the Micklegate at York.
   Further Reading: Griffiths, Ralph A, The Reign of King Henry VI (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Johnson, P. A., Duke Richard of York (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988); “Richard Neville,” in Michael Hicks, Who’s Who in Late Medieval England (London: ShepheardWalwyn, 1991), pp. 289–290.

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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