We tend to remember the Nevilles because of Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, known to history as Warwick the kingmaker (that’s his immediate family tree above). If we go back to the origins of the family we can trace the rise of the Nevilles to the top of English society in 10 easy steps, and their downfall in 11.
ONE… BE IN THE RIGHT PLACE, RIGHT TIME: IN THIS CASE BE IN THE NORTH AT THE TIME OF THE CONQUEST
- The Nevilles are not recorded in the Domesday Book which covered all but the northern areas.
- It is likely that they were part of the English aristocracy in Northumberland at the time of the conquest.
- This meant that they could avoid battle with the Normans and being dispossessed. William was more concerned with securing the southern centres of power.
- Uhtred is claimed as the first in line, an Anglo-Saxon thegn.
- His son was called Dolfin and is recorded as holding the manor of Staindrop, from the prior of Durham.
TWO… MARRY WELL AND ‘BECOME’ NORMAN
- DolfIn was succeeded by his son, Meldred.
- He in turn was succeeded by his son Robert FitzMeldred: married Isabel de Neville, daughter of a Norman noble Geoffrey de Neville
THREE… GET IN WITH THE ROYALS AND GET A JOB FROM THE KING
- The Nevilles took royal offices: Sheriff, castellan, justice of the forest, and justice of the peace
- They also held offices from the prince-bishop of Durham
FOUR… CHOOSE THE RIGHT SIDE, GET A TITLE
- Robert Neville supported Henry III against Simon de Montfort
- So when Edward I called the first full parliament, in 1295, Robert’s grandson, was in the House of Lords as Ralph, Baron Neville de Raby
FIVE… BUILD A CASTLE!
- Raby Castle was built by the Nevilles in the 14th century
- This is a real statement of power and importance.
SIX… SHOW PROWESS IN BATTLE
- The 13th and 14th centuries were all about the wars with Scotland
- Ralph Neville 2nd Baron, Lord of Raby:
- Warden of the marches
- Won the Battle of Neville’s Cross outside Durham
- Captured the Scottish king, David III, in 1346
- Ralph’s eldest son John Neville became 3rd baron and, in 1370 became Admiral of the North
- He was active in the Hundred Years’ War against the French as well as defending the north against the Scots.
- In 1378 he was given licence to fortify Raby Castle.
SEVEN… CHOOSE THE RIGHT SIDE, AGAIN… NOTHNG PERSONAL, IT’S JUST POLITICS.
- In 1397, Ralph Neville, 3rd Baron, Lord of Raby (1364-1425), received the tile of Earl of Westmoreland because of his loyalty to Richard II…
- However, Ralph’s marriage to Joan Beaufort made him son in law to the king’s uncle, John of Gaunt, and related by marriage to John’s son, Henry Bolingbroke.
- When Bolingbroke was exiled by Richard II, Ralph was forced to choose, and chose Henry, and was rewarded when Richard was overthrown and Bolingbroke became King in 13 October 1399.
- Ralph was rewarded yet again, with a lifetime appointment as Earl Marshal and a lifetime grant of the honour of Richmond.
- He became Knight of the Garter in 1403.
EIGHT… ACQUIRE LOTS OF LAND, LOVELY LAND
- By the late 14th century, the wider family had acquired an extensive array of estates across northern England: their main bases were County Durham and Middleham, in Yorkshire, became a second base of the family.
NINE … BE ON THE WINNING SIDE IN THE FAMILY FEUD
- Ralph 1st Earl of Westmoreland, married Margaret Stafford, and their offspring inherited the Westmoreland title – the Westmoreland Nevilles.
- However, it was his second marriage, to Jean Beaufort, a royal lineage, that inherited his richest lands – the Middleham Nevilles.
TEN… KEEP MAKING GOOD MARRIAGE CHOICES
- Ralph’s eldest son by Joan (the Middleham Nevilles), Richard Neville, got himself made earl of Salisbury by marrying the heiress
- Salisbury’s own eldest son, Richard Neville (again) became earl of Warwick by marrying the Warwick heiress
- Salisbury’s daughter, Cecily Neville, married Richard, duke of York
ELEVEN… MAKE SURE YOU DON’T GET KILLED OR BECOME TOO BIG FOR YOUR BOOTS!
- 1450s: Wars of the Roses. and Richard of York claimed the throne. Salisbury and Warwick sided with Richard of York
- The Salisbury Neville was killed in 1460, in the battle of Wakefield. So was Richard of York.
- Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, helped Richard of York’s son Edward win in 1461. With the Yorkist victory at Towton, and Edward IV king, Warwick was the greatest noble in the land. He was Warwick, the kingmaker…
- When Edward IV decided to marry Elizabeth Woodville for love, rather than form the strategic alliance with a French princess as he’d been recommended, Warwick swapped sides an was instrumental in the restoration of Henry VI.
- However, Edward IV recovered, defeated Henry VI at the battle of Barnet in 1471, where Warwick was killed.