Tiptoft, John, Earl of Worcester

(c. 1427–1470)
   John Tiptoft, earl of Worcester,was noted both for his humanist scholarship and for the cruelty with which he exercised the office of constable of England.
   Created earl of Worcester in 1449, he was appointed treasurer in 1452, royal councilor in 1453, and lord deputy of IRELAND in 1456. Sent on embassy to Italy about 1458, he studied Latin at Padua, explored the antiquities of Venice and Florence, and even visited Palestine. While staying at the papal court in Rome, he supposedly impressed Pius II with his Latin, and he is said to have depleted the libraries of Italy with the quantity of his book purchases.
   Having missed the political upheavals of 1459–1460,Worcester returned to England in 1461 and was received with immediate favor by the new Yorkist regime. EDWARD IV appointed the earl chief justice of North WALES, constable of the TOWER OF LONDON, and constable of England. In February 1462, he tried and condemned various accused traitors in his constable’s court; among those suffering were John de Vere, twelfth earl of Oxford; his son Aubrey; and Sir Thomas Tuddenham (see Oxford Conspiracy). In 1464, he condemned Sir Ralph Grey and numerous other recently captured Lancastrian rebels. In 1467, he was again appointed lord deputy of Ireland, where he added to his growing reputation for cruelty by executing his predecessor in office, Thomas FITZGERALD, earl of Desmond.
   Worcester rode with the king in the spring of 1470 in the campaign against the Lincolnshire rebellion instigated by Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, and by Edward’s brother, George PLANTAGENET, duke of Clarence. Reappointed constable, Worcester condemned numerous rebels to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. He won for himself the sobriquet “butcher of England” by impaling, apparently without the king’s consent, the heads and bodies of the condemned traitors, an innovation in the traditional mode of execution that many English people found particularly distasteful. When Warwick forced Edward IV to flee the country in October 1470, Worcester went into hiding but was quickly captured (see Edward IV, Overthrow of). Accused of indulging his Italian tastes by introducing the tyrannical “law of Padua” into England,Worcester was tried and condemned in a constable’s court presided over by John de VERE, thirteenth earl of Oxford, whose father and brother Worcester had condemned in 1462. At his execution on 18 October 1470, Worcester supposedly asked the headsman to strike three blows in honor of the trinity. In 1481, William CAXTON printed several of Worcester’s English translations of Latin works.
   Further Reading: “John Tiptoft,” in Michael Hicks, Who’s Who in Late Medieval England (London: Shepheard-Walwyn, 1991), pp. 320–321; Mitchell, R. J., John Tiptoft (London: Longmans, Green, 1938);Weiss, Roberto, Humanism in England during the Fifteenth Century (Oxford: Blackwell, 1967).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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