- (1450s)The feud between Thomas COURTENAY, fifth earl of Devon, and William BONVILLE, Lord Bonville, spread violence and disorder across the West Country in the 1450s and helped create the political alignments that made civil war possible.Although the quarrel may have originated in a land dispute arising out of the marriage of Bonville to Devon’s aunt, Elizabeth Courtenay, its underlying cause was the growth of Bonville’s influence at COURT, which enhanced his political position in the West Country and made him a threat to the traditional Courtenay dominance in the region. The two sides had already clashed by 1441, when HENRY VI aggravated the dispute by granting Devon the stewardship of the Duchy of Cornwall, a lucrative office that the king had already given to Bonville in 1437. To end the resulting tumults, the COUNCIL deprived both men of the appointment and placed both under large bonds to prevent further disorder. Because Bonville was in FRANCE between 1443 and 1447, and Devon reacquired the Cornwall stewardship in 1444, the West Country remained quiet until 1450, when Devon, seeking to nullify his rival’s influence at court, allied himself with Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, a powerful opponent of the court party. Devon’s actions caused Bonville to associate himself with another court favorite with ambitions in the West Country, James BUTLER, earl of Wiltshire. In August 1451, Devon, provoked by Wiltshire’s involvement in the quarrel, raised a sizable force and besieged Bonville in Taunton Castle. To save his ally from imprisonment, York intervened to end the siege. Devon then supported York at his armed confrontation with the king at DARTFORD in 1452. The failure of this effort led to Devon’s confinement and Bonville’s unchallenged dominance in the West Country. However, the king’s illness restored York’s political position, and the duke arranged Devon’s release in November 1453 (see Henry VI, Illness of). Devon immediately began harassing Bonville’s followers and attacking his property, although a further intervention by the council restored order for a time.By 1455,York’s alliance with the NEVILLE FAMILY again isolated Devon, and he accompanied the king’s army in May, when Henry VI was defeated and taken into custody by York at the Battle of ST.ALBANS. Encouraged to take direct action by the example of York’s success at St. Albans, Devon and his sons launched a series of assaults on Bonville’s West Country servants and property in October 1455. The most notorious episode in this campaign of violence was the murder on 23 October of Nicholas RADFORD, a former Courtenay associate who had earned Devon’s hatred with his recent support of Bonville.On 1 November, Devon seized Exeter and held it for six weeks, his men garrisoning the walls and questioning the allegiance of anyone who sought to leave or enter the town. After a victorious confrontation with Bonville’s forces at Clyst on 15 December,Devon withdrew from Exeter and soon after surrendered himself to York, who committed him to the TOWER OF LONDON.Indicted for the murder of Radford and the occupation of Exeter, Devon and his sons were saved from trial by the end of York’s SECOND PROTECTORATE in February 1456. Queen MARGARET OF ANJOU, who now dominated the royal government, saw Devon as a valuable ally against York, and arranged the earl’s release and pardon. The Courtenay-Bonville feud now merged fully into the national political struggle. In the civil war that began in 1459, Devon’s sons—the earl having died in 1458—became firm supporters of the house of LANCASTER, while Bonville fought and eventually died for the house of YORK.See also all entries under CourtenayFurther Reading: Cherry, Martin,“The Struggle for Power in Mid-Fifteenth-Century Devonshire,” in Ralph A. Griffiths, ed., Patronage, the Crown and the Provinces in Later Medieval England (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1981), pp. 123–144; Griffiths, Ralph A., The Reign of King Henry VI (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); Storey,R. L., The End of the House of Lancaster, 2d ed. (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1999).
Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. John A.Wagner. 2001.
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Courtenay, Thomas, Earl of Devon — 1) (1414–1458) Through his long and violent feud with William BONVILLE, Lord Bonville, Thomas Courtenay, fifth earl of Devon, contributed significantly to the rising disorder in the shires that helped initiate civil war in the 1450s.… … Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses
Bonville, William, Lord Bonville — (1393–1461) Through his long and violent feud with Thomas COURTENAY, fifth earl of Devon, William Bonville, Lord Bonville, helped form the factions of rival nobles that ignited the WARS OF THE ROSES. Born into a Devonshire gentry family,… … Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses
Bonville-Courtenay Feud — see Courtenay Bonville Feud … Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses
Radford, Nicholas — (d. 1455) The murder of Nicholas Radford, a respected Devonshire attorney, was the most notorious episode in the violent COURTENAY BONVILLE FEUD, which convulsed the West Country in the 1450s and helped create the political alliances that… … Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses
Butler, James, Earl of Wiltshire and Ormond — (1420–1461) James Butler, the Irish earl of Ormond, was one of the most ambitious and politically disruptive favorites of HENRY VI, and a committed adherent of the House of LANCASTER. Although several times lord lieutenant of IRELAND,… … Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses
First Protectorate — (1454–1455) Lasting from March 1454 until February 1455, the first protectorate was an attempt to solve the constitutional crisis created by the mental illness of HENRY VI (see Henry VI, Illness of). Realizing that the king was unable to… … Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses
Second Protectorate — (1455–1456) Although officially in existence only from November 1455 to February 1456, the second protectorate of Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, actually began in May 1455, when York captured HENRY VI at the Battle of ST. ALBANS. Unlike… … Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses
Prerogative — The royal prerogative comprised all the powers and privileges that English law reserved for the Crown to enable it to effectively govern the realm. Although its full extent was vaguely defined and depended in part on the personality of the… … Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses
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