Bourchier, Henry, Earl of Essex

(d. 1483)
   Although a political moderate who followed a general policy of reconciliation in the 1450s, Henry Bourchier was, after 1460, a loyal supporter of the house of YORK.
   A maternal half brother of Humphrey STAFFORD, duke of Buckingham, Bourchier was also married to the sister of Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York. Bourchier traveled to CALAIS with HENRY VI in 1430, and served in FRANCE under York in the 1440s, winning appointment as captain of Crotoy in 1443. On 29 May 1455, only a week after York won custody of the king and control of the government at the Battle of ST. ALBANS, Henry VI appointed Bourchier lord treasurer, a post he continued to hold even after the dismissal of York’s SECOND PROTECTORATE in February 1456. Despite their association with York, Bourchier and his brother Thomas BOURCHIER, archbishop of Canterbury, were still identified with Buckingham, their half sibling, as moderates not clearly attached to either the Yorkist or Lancastrian factions. Dismissed from office in October 1456, probably on the initiative of Queen MARGARET OF ANJOU, Bourchier and his brother, who was removed as chancellor, gradually drifted toward York.
   By July 1460, when he fought with Richard NEVILLE, earl of Warwick, at the Battle of NORTHAMPTON, Bourchier was a declared partisan of York. In June 1461, three months after winning the throne at the Battle of TOWTON, EDWARD IV, York’s son, created Bourchier earl of Essex, appointed him lord treasurer, and granted him numerous estates. Quietly acquiescing in the READEPTION of Henry VI in October 1470, Essex was among the first noblemen to raise troops for Edward IV upon the Yorkist king’s return in the following spring (see Edward IV, Restoration of). Essex also helped mediate the reconciliation of Edward with his brother, George PLANTAGENET, duke of Clarence. Reappointed lord treasurer after Edward’s resumption of the throne in April 1471, Essex helped defeat the invasion of Cornwall launched by John de VERE, the Lancastrian earl of Oxford, in May 1473. Thereafter, Essex served loyally as lord treasurer until his death on 4 April 1483, only days before Edward IV’s own death.
   Further Reading: Griffiths, Ralph A., The Reign of King Henry VI (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Ross, Charles, Edward IV (New Haven, CT:Yale University Press, 1998); Wolffe, Bertram, Henry VI (London: Eyre Methuen, 1981).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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