Sunday, 21 November 2010

Birthday Greetings for The Kingmaker!

Richard Neville, the future Earl of Warwick was born on 22nd November 1428 and was knighted by Henry VI slightly before his 18th birthday, possibly at the Coronation of Queen Marguerite. To paraphrase Pollard, his contemporaries saw him as a great European prince, and during his meteoric career he dazzled the courts of northern Europe with his power and flamboyance. Commynes called him a 'prince' and saw him on the same level as other rulers he knew including kings Louis XI of France and Edward IV of England. And to other contemporaries he was known as the Third King. There was simply nothing he could not achieve and once established in Calais a comparison with the Valois dukes is not out of place; his household was almost a separate court at which he gave feasts which outstripped those of his monarch, the most sumptuous feast recorded being that of his brother Archbishop Neville's inauguration in 1456 as Archbishop of York at Cawood Castle. And Warwick acted as though he was a head of state within a state certainly he never saw himself as merely a subject of Edward IV; he was not dependent on the dynasty; he rather believed the opposite was true and for a long time he was right. He even imagined life without Edward and when Edward begged to differ, the Lancastrian option was the logical next step. Thus he became a hero for those who stood against the further extension of the centralized state in the centuries that were to follow. As Pollard says; "He had the temerity to put himself on a par with kings and to outshine them". With his exploits in battle on land and sea (whoever dared to sail The Narrow Sea against him were given short shrift) he struck fear into the hearts of his, and England's, enemies - and for the most part he stood for both when no one else could. And for this Shakespeare gives him the hero's part in Henry VI parts 2 and 3 in which the earl stands for true nobility; he had been ill-used by Edward and it was honourable to make amends! That sentiment would not be out of place in his contemporary Mallory's Arthurian legends. ...the most courageous and manliest knight living.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Friends and Enemies

As Jack is still involved in the border wars I've been looking at the Scottish aspect of the WoTR. The Scots seemed to have chosen either York or Lancaster too - the disaffected Earl of Douglas working for York via the Earl of Warwick and the Earl of Angus choosing the House of Lancaster because of his Royal allegiance (James II had favoured Lancaster - though his Queen, Mary of Guelders favoured York!). In 1462 Angus received all the goods chattles and rents of the adherents of the forfeited Douglasses in Roxburghshire apart from those already owned by his brother William Douglas of Cluny. What might also have aided his allegience to Lancaster (apart from opposing the Douglasses in everything!) was that in the same year he entered into negotiations with Lancaster by whom he was promised 'to make the saide erle sufficiently and suerly after the lawes of England a duke withynne the saide reaume of England, with stile, astate honure and name of a duke'. The dukedom was to come with a castle and land to the value of 2000 marks. Angus fought with de Breze's French force to relieve Warwick's seige of Alnwick on 5th January 1463 but he died later that year without his English dukedom!

Friday, 23 April 2010

God for Harry, England and Saint George!

Saint George's Chapel, Windsor.
In 1348 Edward III adopted Saint George as the Patron of his new order of chivalry - the Knights of the Garter. It is believed that the name of this order came from the garter shown in traditional depictions of Saint George and the insignia of the order is known as the George. The badge is of gold and shows a richly enamelled depiction of Saint George slaying the dragon on horseback. A second medal worn on the sash also shows Saint George. Although the early records of the Order were destroyed by fire, Edward also proclaimed Saint George as Patron Saint of England around this time, replacing Saint Edmund (Eadmund) King of East Anglia who had been England's patron saint since the 9th century and who was martyred by the Vikings.
Edward founded the religious college of Saint George's at Windsor and this became the home of the order.
In the fifteenth century Edward IV began to redevelop the chapel and this was continued by Henry VII and Henry VIII. It still remained the home for the order, as it is today, and saw much pomp and circumstance at the celebration of its patron saint's day.

William Hastings's chantry.

Edward and his long-time friend William Lord Hastings are buried here; Edward in a chantry with Elizabeth Wydeville and William in a chantry built by his wife Kathryn Neville with the permission of Richard III who had executed him!

Edward IV's chantry.

Warwick and his brother John as well as their father before them (and numerous Nevilles before that) had been made Knights of the Garter, though Warwick's garter stall plate was removed following his escape to France in 1470 after the debacle of Loose Coat Field. It is listed as having been in Stall S5 next to, of all people, that of Charles the Bold (whose plate is still there)! John and Salisbury's stall plates are still visible in Stall S11. William Hastings's is opposite them in Stall N9.
Saint George's Day stirred feelings of patriotism in the fifteenth century just as it does today and always reminds me of the WoTR and those who took part in it.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Requiescant in pace

Today is the 539th anniversary of the Battle of Barnet and hence the deaths, among thousands of others, of the Neville brothers - John Neville, Marquis Montagu and Richard Neville,Earl of Warwick and Salisbury.

The manner of their deaths vary with the author and the audience they were writing for and becomes more bizarre the further from the events one gets.

I believe John was caught up in the confusion surrounding Oxford's return to the battle after chasing Gloucester's men from the field (see earlier post); Warwick was holding together a disparate force and it isn't difficult to believe that thoughts of betrayal were not far from some minds. Though John had made an impassioned speech to the readeption parliament giving his explanation for remaining with Edward's camp, for some he had possibly remained a Yorkist too long and some may have found his hounding and execution of the Lancastrians after the Battle of Hedgely Moor in April 1464 difficult to forgive. But wearing Edward's livery under his own? Nope. John was Warwick's brother and in the end the Neville blood was thickest and when they rode out that morning they were true brothers-in-arms.
And Warwick. Scrambling for safety and a horse? We are talking here about the man who fought at Towton with an arrow wound in his leg; the man who fought at sea, where there is no escaping from an enemy once engaged! I prefer to have him make a noble last stand, circled by his enemies like the bear of his badge circled by dogs in the pit. Realistically he had nowhere to run to, having been let down by King Louis of France, and telling him in a terse letter exactly what he thought of him! And the thought of Warwick kneeling to Marguerite with a leering Somerset at her side after losing a battle doesn't bear contemplation! I prefer to think that Warwick knew that either he or Edward would die that day; when he lost the Battle of Barnet, Warwick knew he had lost everything. In July 1470 he had sworn on the True Cross in Angers Cathedral to fight for Lancaster and I believe that's exactly what he did to his last breath.

'Requiescat in pace'

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Battle of Towton 1461

I have talked about the Battle of Towton previously - mainly because it features at the start of my latest WIP, in fact it is Jack's first ever battle!
Sunday was the 549th Anniversary of the Battle of Towton. The Frei Compagnie, Towton Battlefield Society (TBS) and invited re-enactors provided an insight into both civilian and military life during The Cousins' War - The Wars of the Roses - and honoured the memory of the c28,000 who lost their lives that day in the bloodiest battle ever fought on English soil. In the last year TBS has had to defend the battlefield from the threat of inappropriate development and has championed the battlefield in the National media culminating in a documentary for the BBC which will be screened later this year.
On Sunday there was a brisk and bitter wind sweeping along the dale but not the blizzards endured by the combatants on the day. Even though we had sunshine rather than snow the conditions made me reflect on the ordeal of the mediaeval soldier who not only had to endure the remorseless elements, but the horror of hand to hand combat on a large scale with his fellow Englishmen. Artefacts and human remains from the archaeological investigations were on display and told the moving story of what they believe are the deaths in the battle of three brothers and their father - Shakespeare wasn't so far out when he talked of the tragedy of fathers killing sons.
In the words of George Neville, then Bishop of Exeter and brother to the Earl of Warwick: 'there was a great conflict, which began with the rising of the sun, and lasted until the tenth hour of the night, so great was the boldness of the men, who never heeded the possibility of a miserable death.'
I'm not certain about the last phrase, but the men, including Warwick who was wounded by an arrow in the leg but continued fighting, were certainly bold.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Prof to the rescue!

I'm back at Carlisle - well not literally, but back at the siege of 1461! Whilst looking for some info on another part of the battle for the North I came across this :

'The attackers were a force of Lancastrians and Scots, said to have been led by Queen Margaret, who had promised to surrender the city to the Scots if they would help her to capture it, and by northern Lancastrians such as Humphrey Dacre, Richard Tunstall and Henry Bellingham. Subsequent payments for repairs to the walls, damaged during 'le Sege', suggest that they had siege-engines, perhaps even some light guns. They ravaged the suburbs and exerted a pressure so tight that some of the citizens deserted to them - three years later it was decided that burgesses who had gone over to the enemy during 'le Segetyme' should be put out of the franchise. The siege probably began in May, and certainly continued into June, and it would appear that in the end the invaders broke into the city - in December 1461 Carlisle Priory was licensed to acquire lands worth £20 'on account of the devastation of their possessions in Carlisle by the rebels'. The situation was saved first by Sir Richard Salkeld,a Neville retainer, who was later said to have performed 'eminent services' which included 'rescuing the city and castle of Carlisle from the rebels', and then by Lord Montague (Sir John Neville - Warwick's brother), who brought up a relieving army large enough to challenge the queen's forces. The number of reported casualties may be doubted (the 6,000 reported in John Paston's letter), but there appears to have been a battle outside Carlisle.'

So I have my answer - there WAS a battle at Carlisle, and not an inconsiderable one - especially if we consider that according to the battlefields trust, at the Battle of Mortimer's Cross each side numbered around 3,000 men.

One problem solved and a battle to write!


Summerson H (1996) Carlisle and the English West March in The North of England in the Age of Richard III pp 89-90. Ed by Prof A J Pollard. St Martin's Press New York.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Wise words

Whilst wrestling with my uncooperative historical timeline I came across these wise words on being an historical novelist from Bernard Cornwell!

Your job is not to educate readers on the finer points of Elizabethan diplomacy or Napoleonic warfare or villainous terrorist plots, your job is to divert and amuse people who have had a hard day at work. What will get you published? Not style, not research but story...your job is not to be an historian but to be a storyteller!

So the answer to my problem is? Concentrate on the story and the rest will fall into place! No excuses then!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

When is a battle not a battle? – The Siege of Carlisle 1461

So - I haven't blogged in a while - due to lots of things; illness, accidents and just the sort of things life throws at you!

I do however have a new WIP. This features one of my fave characters from the BIG book (which is currently 'resting'). His name is Jack de Laverton and this WIP sees him ten years before his adventures with Elizabeth. I decided to try and discipline myself to write from one POV - Jack's - but already I've failed in that - it's just TOO restrictive for me and I couldn't resist getting back into Warwick's head ;-).

Anyway, Jack has landed himself at the Battle of Towton which from a research POV wasn't a problem; there are many books and as I am a member of the Towton Battlefield Society there were plenty of people to ask, and as we re-enact the battle every Palm Sunday (Sunday 28th March 2010 if you want to come along) I could see how things were, including the lie of the land etc. But not so with Jack's next skirmish: The Siege of Carlisle.

After Towton the Lancastrians fled to Scotland to regroup their forces and to try and obtain help (men and money) from the Scots. As a bargaining tool Marguerite d'Anjou, King Henry VI's French wife, offered Berwick upon Tweed and Carlisle up to the Scots. Now Berwick might not have minded becoming Scottish and indeed changed hands several times until being finally liberated by Richard Duke of Gloucester in 1482, but Carlisle was not so keen. This left Marguerite no choice but to send in a force to leagure the city.

John Sadler writes: 'the resourceful Montagu (Sir John Neville, brother of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick) mustering local forces, soon dispersed the besiegers'. And Charles Ross agrees: 'Early in June a combined force of Scots and Lancastrian exiles raided Carlisle: this caused great alarm in the south (no comment!) but John Nevill, Lord Montagu had no difficulty in raising the siege.'

So - not much of a fight then for Jack to get stuck into?

John Gillingham gives it even less of a mention: ' reached London - Carlisle had been relieved by Lord Montagu.'

As does Prof. Pollard: 'On the other side of the Pennines it was left to Lord Montagu to beat off an attempt on Carlisle.'

Maybe there's not much for Jack to do here then?

Philip Haigh makes it a little more interesting by having Marguerite herself leading the Scots and Lancastrian army (good conflict for the novel!): 'The citizens of Carlisle, however, were not as enthusiastic as Margaret to hand over the town, and she was obliged to lead a joint Scottish-Lancastrian army over the border in order to take it by force. Once Warwick learned of Margaret's advance he ordered Lord Montagu to march north and raise the siege on the town. Upon the arrival of Montagu's force the Scots withdrew across the border.'

But NO fight at all ?

So what is Jack going to do?

He'll have a lot more fighting if I listen to Cora L Scofield: 'But in a few days came the good news that Lord Montagu had raised the siege of Carlisle and killed six thousand Scots.'

What? He KILLED six thousand Scots? Well how many were there to start with? And how many men did John Neville have? - bearing in mind that he easily raised the siege! Or perhaps Sir John Neville was like Shakespeare's Hotspur and killed him some dozen Scots before a breakfast!

Prof. Hicks takes things even further: 'On 12th June an army of Lancastrians and Scots invaded the West March, burnt the suburbs of Carlisle, invested and took the city...Montagu allegedly killing 6,000 Scots.'

Hmmm - key word that - allegedly - but alleged by whom? Not one of these authors cites a reference for their 'facts' about the Siege of Carlisle - apart form Pollard who cites BOTH Ross and Scofield!

Just to put the killing of six thousand Scots into context. Estimates of the casualties at the Battle of Barnet - where Warwick was to die in 1471 - vary between one and half thousand and four thousand (Jones 2004) - and no one is denying Barnet was a battle! But Carlisle is just a siege isn't it? A siege that now has six thousand dead Scots plus no doubt some casualties amongst John Neville's men - no matter how easy it was - and Scots and Lancastrians burning and taking control of the city!

Maybe we should have a vote to decide?


1. Siege only.

2. Siege only but with Marguerite leading the Lancastrian army.

3. Siege and death of six thousand Scots.

4. Siege and death of six thousand Scots plus the taking and burning of the city.


Gillingham J (1981) 'The Wars of the Roses. Peace and Conflict in 15th Century England.' p138. Phoenix Press, London.

Haigh PA (1995) 'The Military Campaigns of the Wars of the Roses.' p70. Alan Sutton Publishing, Frome.

Hicks M A (1998) 'Warwick the Kingmaker.' p238. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford.

Jones F (2004) 'The Battle of Barnet.' p9. Barnet and District Local Historical Society, London.

Pollard A J (1990) 'North-Eastern England during the Wars of the Roses. Lay Society, War and Politics 1450-1500.' p225. Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Ross C (1984) 'Edward IV.' p46 Book Club Associates, London.

Sadler D J (2000) 'War in the North. The Wars of the Roses in the North-East of England 1461-1464.' p20. Stuart Press, London.

Scofield C L (1967) 'The Life and Reign of Edward the Fourth.' Vol 1. p180. Cass and co Ltd, London.
The Neville Family at Prayer from the Neville Book of Hours - maybe they want to know the answer too?