Plantagenet, George, Duke of Clarence

(1449–1478)
   By his alliance with Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, George Plantagenet, duke of Clarence, younger brother of EDWARD IV, divided the house of YORK and helped revive the WARS OF THE ROSES in 1469. Born in IRELAND during the governorship of his father, Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, George and his younger brother Richard were taken for safety to BURGUNDY after their father’s death at the Battle of WAKEFIELD in December 1460. After the accession of their elder brother as Edward IV in March 1461, the boys returned to England, 204 PLANTAGENET, EDWARD, EARL OF WARWICK where George was created duke of Clarence. As heir to the throne, Clarence was given numerous lands and offices, including the lord lieutenancy of Ireland in 1462. Edward IV’s secret marriage to Elizabeth WOODVILLE in 1464 introduced the queen’s large and ambitious family to COURT and threatened the political positions and economic prospects of both Warwick and Clarence (see Woodville Family). In July 1469, Clarence defied his brother and married Warwick’s daughter, Isabel NEVILLE, at CALAIS. After the ceremony, Clarence and Warwick issued a manifesto calling upon true Englishmen to take arms with them against the king’s corrupt administration. Although Edward briefly became their prisoner after the Battle of EDGECOTE (see Robin of Redesdale Rebellion), Clarence and Warwick, while strong enough to force the king to pardon them,were unable to generate the political support necessary to rule the kingdom in his name.
   In the spring of 1470, while Clarence sought to assure Edward of their loyalty,Warwick instigated a second series of rebellions in northern England (see Welles Uprising). Only when he heard the rebels at LOSECOTE FIELD advance into battle with cries of “a Clarence” did Edward know that his brother had again betrayed him. Compelled to flee to FRANCE with Warwick, Clarence returned in September when Warwick overthrew Edward IV and restored HENRY VI to the throne (see Edward IV, Overthrow of). The Lancastrian restoration left Clarence in an uncomfortable position, with little role in the READEPTION government and less chance of the Crown. Although Warwick tried to buy Clarence’s support by giving him his father’s entire estate, the duke heeded the urgings of his mother, Cecily NEVILLE, and his sisters and reconciled with Edward IV when his brother returned to England in the spring of 1471. After fighting with Edward at the Battles of BARNET and TEWKESBURY, Clarence was restored to most of his lands and offices (see Edward IV, Restoration of). In the early 1470s, Clarence became involved in the bitter NEVILLE INHERITANCE DISPUTE with his younger brother, Richard, duke of Gloucester (see Richard III, King of England). To avoid sharing his wife’s vast inheritance, Clarence sought first to thwart Gloucester’s marriage to his sister-in-law, Anne NEVILLE, and then, after the marriage occurred in about 1472, to prevent Gloucester from enforcing his new wife’s right to a portion of the Neville properties. The king finally intervened and, through PARLIAMENT, imposed a settlement that met many of Clarence’s demands but gave the bulk of Warwick’s northern estates to Gloucester. Although Clarence accompanied his brothers on the French expedition of 1475, the death of Duchess Isabel in December 1476 again strained relations with the king, who refused to countenance several proposed marriages for Clarence, including a match with Mary, only child of CHARLES, duke of Burgundy. Two trials in 1477 further estranged Clarence from his brother. In the trial of Thomas Burdett, a gentleman with close ties to Clarence was convicted and condemned, with his associates, for plotting the death of the king and his sons through sorcery, a scheme that, if successful,would have brought Clarence to the throne. In the trial of Ankarette Twynho, Clarence had a former household servant, whom he accused of poisoning his wife, seized, tried, and executed in a single day. The first trial may have aroused Edward’s suspicion of his brother’s intentions. The second, because it involved several former servants, may have been Clarence’s way of taking revenge on people whom he suspected were supplying the queen’s family with information they used to undermine his relationship with the king. Because of Clarence’s past record and the evidence of the Burdett trial, the queen likely considered him a threat to her son’s accession. Edward IV arrested his brother in June 1477 and in the following January personally charged Clarence in Parliament with actions tending to treason. The duke was condemned by act of ATTAINDER and executed privately in the TOWER OF LONDON in February 1478. Although later rumor claimed the duke was drowned in a butt of malmsey wine, the exact method of his execution is uncertain. In 1483, Clarence’s execution, which his brother Gloucester was said to have opposed, eased Gloucester’s usurpation of EDWARD V’s throne, for it both removed the duke from the succession and provided an excuse to also bar his son, Edward PLANTAGENET, earl of Warwick (see Usurpation of 1483).
   See also other entries under Plantagenet
   Further Reading: “George, Duke of Clarence,” in Michael Hicks, Who’s Who in Late Medieval England (London: Shepheard-Walwyn, 1991), pp. 331–333; Hicks, Michael, False, Fleeting, Perjur’d Clarence: George, Duke of Clarence, 1449-78 (Bangor, UK: Headstart History, 1992). Plantagenet, George, Duke of Clarence, Execution of

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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