Neville Inheritance Dispute

(1471–1475)
   The Neville inheritance dispute, a quarrel between EDWARD IV’s brothers over possession of the vast landholdings and regional influence of the late Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, weakened the house of YORK and contributed to the eventual downfall of George PLANTAGENET, duke of Clarence. After Edward IV regained the throne in 1471, he rewarded his loyal younger brother, Richard, duke of Gloucester (see Richard III, King of England), with numerous lands and offices, including many that had belonged to Warwick and the NEVILLE FAMILY. The royal generosity to Gloucester enraged Clarence, the king’s other brother, who had supported Warwick and the READEPTION of HENRY VI and was only recently reconciled with Edward IV. As the husband of Isabel NEVILLE, Warwick’s eldest daughter, Clarence was further angered by Gloucester’s determination to marry Clarence’s seventeen-year-old sister-in-law, Anne NEVILLE, a match that would allow Gloucester to claim a portion of the Neville estates. Although some later writers have romanticized the relationship between Gloucester and Anne Neville, the couple probably had more practical reasons for wanting the union. The duke was undoubtedly attracted by the political and economic advantages of marrying a Neville heiress, and Anne, the widow of EDWARD OF LANCASTER, the late Lancastrian Prince of Wales, likely saw Gloucester as the only husband who could enforce her rights against Clarence.
   Over the winter of 1471–1472, the two dukes quarreled openly and bitterly, with Clarence even attempting to prevent the marriage by disguising Anne as a kitchen maid and hiding her in LONDON. Gloucester discovered the girl and rushed to marry her. The ceremony, which probably occurred some time in 1472, did not even wait for the necessary papal dispensation allowing a marriage between cousins (besides the relationship created by their siblings’ marriage, Gloucester’s mother, Cecily NEVILLE, was Anne’s greataunt). After pleading unsuccessfully with Clarence on Gloucester’s behalf, Edward IV intervened and imposed a settlement. In return for surrendering a share of the Warwick estates to Gloucester, Clarence was given the Neville earldoms of Warwick and Salisbury and promised recompense from the king should PARLIAMENT take from him or another heir recover from him any of the Neville or other estates granted to him. In addition, Gloucester, who had shown the greater willingness to compromise, resigned to Clarence the office of Great Chamberlain of England. To implement this family compact, the king and his brothers circumvented the English inheritance laws. Some of Warwick’s lands had come to him from his wife; by law, these estates should have passed to the still-living Countess of Warwick. Others of Warwick’s estates, having come to him from his father, should by law have passed to his nearest living male relative, George Neville, duke of Bedford, son of his late brother John NEVILLE, Marquis of Montagu. A statute of May 1474 formally vested the Neville lands in Clarence and Gloucester and extinguished the claims of the Countess of Warwick by regarding her as legally dead; an 176 NEVILLE INHERITANCE DISPUTE act of February 1475 likewise suppressed Bedford’s rights. Ironically, the king had refrained from attainting Warwick in 1471 so that his brothers could acquire the Neville lands by right of inheritance through their wives, thus obtaining for them the protection of the inheritance laws these statutes overruled (see Attainder, Act of).
   Rather than display the gratitude and cooperation that might be expected of a man recently pardoned for treason, Clarence proved particularly stubborn during the dispute and thus further aroused the king’s mistrust. When Clarence continued to involve himself in questionable undertakings, Edward’s patience finally ran out, and Clarence was attainted and executed in February 1478, an act by which Edward unwittingly eased Gloucester’s path to the throne in 1483 (see Clarence, Execution of).
   See also Edward IV, Restoration of; all entries under Neville
   Further Reading: Hicks, Michael, False, Fleeting, Perjur’d Clarence: George, Duke of Clarence, 1449-78 (Bangor, UK: Headstart History, 1992); Ross, Charles, Edward IV (New Haven, CT:Yale University Press, 1998); Ross, Charles, Richard III (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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