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.