Biographies & Memoirs

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On Tuesday 6 March 1470 George met his brother the king at their mother’s house, Baynard’s Castle in London. Superficially, the meeting was friendly and it ended with them going to St Paul’s Cathedral together to make an offering.1 Beneath the outward harmony, however, there was much plotting. Both sides had been attempting to gain support. One of the targets of the Earl of Warwick and the Duke of Clarence had been Richard, Lord Welles. They thought they had succeeded in winning his backing. What they did not know was that Edward had captured his son, Sir Robert Welles, who had broken down and confessed everything. As a result, on Sunday 18 March Warwick and Clarence received a summons from the king to appear before him and answer certain charges. Their request to Edward for safe conduct was probably naïve, and it received short shrift in response. As a result, Clarence and Warwick chose not to obey the summons.

In a letter written on Tuesday 27 March, an unknown cousin of the Paston family informed them that on Monday 19 March the king had reached Doncaster, where Sir Robert Welles and another unnamed captain were beheaded. While he was at Doncaster, the king heard that Clarence and Warwick were at Austerfield, just 6 miles (10km) to the south-east. Expecting a battle, the following morning at 9 a.m. Edward IV mustered his army. However, no battle was fought because Clarence and Warwick departed hastily, riding westwards to Manchester. They were hoping desperately to cash in the support they had been promised by Lord Stanley, but when they arrived, no such support materialised. On Thursday 22 March Edward IV rode north to York, where he was joined by ‘all þe gentilmen of the shire’,2 and there, in York, on Sunday 25 March Edward IV restored to the Percy family the earldom of Northumberland, which had previously been bestowed upon Warwick’s brother, John.3 Although John had been loyal to Edward (up to this point), the king needed to conciliate the Percys.

By April 1470, Warwick and Clarence, now in a very weak position, had made their way to the West Country together. As Philippe de Commynes reports, Warwick:

told his intimate friends what to do and put out to sea in his own time with the duke of Clarence, who had married his daughter and was supporting his cause, despite the fact that he was King Edward’s brother. They took their wives, children and a large number of people and appeared before Calais [on 16 April 1470].4

It was a very difficult situation. The Duchess of Clarence was heavily pregnant and close to her term. This was a bad time for her to be travelling, but she could hardly be left behind. Embarking from Exeter on Tuesday 10 April, the entire family set sail for the Continent. Since he was the Captain of Calais, and since the garrison was commanded by his lieutenant, Lord Wenlock, Warwick expected to be well received there. But, once again, Edward IV was one step ahead of him. Only hours before Warwick and Clarence arrived off the coast at Calais a messenger from the king had instructed the Calais garrison in the strongest possible terms not to admit them. Lord Wenlock, hedging his bets, decided to obey the royal command:

In the town was Warwick’s lieutenant, Lord Wenlock,5 and several of his domestic servants. Instead of welcoming him they fired several cannon shots at him. Whilst they lay at anchor before the town the duchess of Clarence, the earl of Warwick’s daughter, gave birth to a son [sic daughter]. It was only with a great deal of difficulty that Lord Wenlock and the others could be persuaded to allow two flagons of wine to be brought to her. This was great harshness for a servant to use towards his master for it must be presumed that the earl was expecting to be equipped from this place, which was England’s greatest treasure store and the world’s, or at least, Christendom’s, finest captaincy, in my opinion. I went there several times during these quarrels …

The king of England was very pleased with Lord Wenlock’s refusal to his captain and sent him letters appointing him personally to hold the office because he was a very experienced and mature knight and was already a member of the Order of the Garter. The duke of Burgundy, who was then at Saint-Omer, was also very pleased with him and sent me to Lord Wenlock and gave him a pension of a thousand crowns, requesting him to remain steadfast in the love which he had shown to the king of England. I found that he was very determined to do this and he swore an oath at the Staple house in Calais, placing his hands in mine, to be true to the king of England against all others; so did all those of the garrison and the town. For two months I was employed going backwards and forwards keeping him to this agreement and for most of the time I stayed with him, whilst the duke of Burgundy was at Boulogne.6

The child did not survive. Actually a daughter, Anne of Clarence, she was born on Friday 16 April and died more or less immediately – a terrible blow in already difficult circumstances.7 Isabel, dragged away from her home and travelling aboard ship, can hardly have observed all the standard ritual normally required of an expectant mother, and her labour may have been difficult. Her little girl must have been born alive, for the baby survived long enough to be baptised. Significantly, the name she was given – Anne – was the first name of Isabel’s mother, the Countess of Warwick. It was the first name also of Isabel’s younger sister. It seems likely that one or other of these close relatives – and perhaps both – stood as godmother to the baby. When the infant died there was nowhere to inter the little body. The only solution available was to bury the baby at sea.

As for John, Lord Wenlock, he has been called ‘the prince of turncoats’. He is an interesting figure. Members of a family called Wenlock were faithful and longstanding servants of the Talbots of Shrewsbury. A John Wenlock had been steward and receiver to the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, and had subsequently served his widow, Margaret Beauchamp, the elder half-sister of the Countess of Warwick. His son, John Wenlock the younger, also served the dowager Lady Shrewsbury, and when she died he transferred to the service of her surviving son, Sir Humphrey Talbot.8 These Wenlocks had undoubtedly known Eleanor Talbot very well indeed.

The John, Lord Wenlock who first served Henry VI’s bride, Margaret of Anjou, who later served the Earl of Warwick, and who in April 1470 kept Warwick out of Calais may have been a relative of the Talbot Wenlocks. Was it not John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, who delivered Margaret of Anjou to Henry VI as his bride? And the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury had been the brother-in-law of Richard Neville Earl of Warwick. Lord Wenlock’s behaviour in April 1470, when the ships containing Warwick, Clarence, and their family arrived off the coast at Calais, was an example of fence-sitting par excellence. He openly obeyed the instructions he had received from Edward IV, while at the same time giving helpful advice to Warwick and Clarence. A confused Philippe de Commynes recorded contradictory impressions of Wenlock’s attitude.

Whatever Wenlock’s underlying motivation, it was obvious to all concerned that Warwick and Clarence had failed to establish themselves in Calais. As a result, they considered the possibility of returning home to England. Indeed, Sir John Paston II wrote to his brother, John Paston III, on Sunday 5 August 1470:

Item, that þe Lordes Clarance and Warwyk wooll assaye to londe in Ingelonde evyrye daye, as folks feere.9

But, despite his cannon shots at their ships, and his reluctance to provide the Duchess of Clarence with wine, Lord Wenlock had different advice to offer:

When the earl of Warwick stood off Calais, hoping to enter the town as his principal place of refuge, Lord Wenlock, who was very clever, sent him word that if he entered he would be lost … The best thing he could do was to withdraw to France. He told him he should not worry about Calais because he would give him satisfaction at the right time.10

Commynes called this ‘a ruse’ on the part of Wenlock. But he also said that in doing this Wenlock was serving Warwick very well – but his king very badly. Following Wenlock’s advice, the Earl of Warwick sailed to Normandy, where he landed with all his family (including his son-in-law, the Duke of Clarence) in the territory of his friend King Louis XI of France.

The French king, who genuinely had a high personal regard for Warwick, had been feeling rather at sea with the complex political situation in England. At one point he had been hopeful that his friend Warwick was in power. However, he had then seen Edward IV reassert his authority. Now Warwick, Clarence and their families had arrived at Honfleur. Moreover, astonishingly, the earl was now proposing to restore King Henry VI to the throne! Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, a cousin, and theoretically a subject, of the French king, agitatedly demanded Warwick’s extradition. But Louis XI thought the earl’s plans were worth exploring. He therefore sent messengers to the exiled Margaret of Anjou and her son, suggesting that they might like to come and see him at Amboise, to discuss Warwick’s ideas. Margaret, who hated Warwick, was initially unenthusiastic, but Louis XI persevered with her. It began to look at though Warwick’s latest initiative might succeed.

How did the Duke of Clarence fit into the new plans? Hitherto, Warwick had sought to ensure that his cousin, Edward IV, would conduct the affairs of England in a proper manner. He wanted the king to pay due attention to the wishes of the traditional aristocracy – himself in particular – and to remove from positions of power and authority the parvenu family of Elizabeth Woodville. There is no real evidence that Warwick had previously planned to dethrone Edward. Of course, in the longer term, the setting aside of the Woodvilles might well have also removed Edward IV’s Woodville offspring from the line of succession, thereby restoring the Duke of Clarence to the role of heir to the throne. The happy corollary would then have been that George, followed in due course by Warwick’s own descendants, would wear the crown.

Now things had changed. Warwick was planning to dethrone Edward IV and restore Henry VI. The earl still hoped that eventually his own descendants would wear the English crown, but his new scheme to ensure that outcome was reached via Margaret of Anjou’s son, Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales. Accordingly, ‘a marriage contract was made between the prince and Lady Anne, the Earl of Warwick’s younger daughter’.11 Certainly, Warwick’s discussions with the Lancastrians included provision for the Duke of Clarence to be recognised as Duke of York, and as next-in-line for the crown should Edward of Westminster die childless. Nevertheless, in George’s eyes this new plan must have seemed like yet another demotion. In the reality of the re-established Lancastrian order, he would be further from the throne than he had been in the previous plans. Although the personal relationship between George and his father-in-law had not broken down, George must have felt that there was a growing gulf between them in terms of their political goals. When Warwick actually met Margaret of Anjou face-to-face at Angers, on Sunday 22 July, George, ‘now an embarrassing encumbrance’,12 did not accompany him.

As Philippe de Commynes, servant of the Duke of Burgundy, reports the situation, it was Louis XI who had carried out the preliminary negotiations for:

a marriage between the prince of Wales and the earl of Warwick’s second daughter. The prince was the only son of King Henry of England, who was still alive and imprisoned in the Tower of London. This was a strange marriage! Warwick had defeated and ruined the prince’s father and then made him marry his daughter.13

This ‘strange marriage’ was agreed in June 1470, and once the necessary dispensation had been obtained, it was celebrated at Bayeux, on or about Thursday 13 December – by which time both the Earl of Warwick and the Duke of Clarence had already long since departed for England. On the insistence of Margaret of Anjou, even after the church ceremony, her son’s wedding with the younger daughter of her ancient enemy was not to be consummated, until the Earl of Warwick had succeeded in re-establishing the Lancastrian regime in England. If Warwick should fail, Margaret did not want her son irrevocably tied to Anne Neville when he might, at some future stage of his career, find an opportunity to make a better marriage. Although Edward of Westminster was already 17 years of age, Anne Neville was only fourteen and a half years old at the time of the church wedding. Since this may have been regarded as too young for consummation,14 it is possible that custom supported Margaret’s reluctance in this matter. In point of fact, the marriage of Edward and Anne never was consummated. Commynes goes on to reveal an intriguing secret:

Now I was at Calais negotiating with Lord Wenlock … He told me moreover that it would be easy to reach a settlement because that day a lady had passed through Calais, on her way to my lady of Clarence in France. She was bearing an offer from King Edward to open peace talks. He spoke the truth, but as he deceived others he himself was deceived by this lady, for she was going to carry out a series of negotiations which in the end were prejudicial to the earl of Warwick and all his supporters.

Assuredly you will never learn more from anyone than from me about all the secret schemes or ruses which have been carried out in our countries on this side of the channel since then, or at least about those which have happened in the last twenty years. This woman’s secret business was to persuade my lord of Clarence not to be the agent of the ruin of his family by helping to restore the Lancastrians to authority, and to remind him of their ancient hatreds and quarrels. He should consider very carefully whether Warwick would make him king of England when the earl had married his daughter to the Prince of Wales and had already done homage to him. This woman exploited the situation so well that she won over the duke of Clarence who promised to join his brother, the king, as soon as he came back to England.

This woman was not a fool and she did not speak lightly. She had the opportunity to visit her mistress and for this reason she was able to go sooner than a man. And however cunning Lord Wenlock was this woman deceived him and carried out this secret assignment which led to the defeat and death of the earl of Warwick and all his followers.15

The identity of the woman sent by Edward IV to persuade George to desert his father-in-law remains a mystery. Could she perhaps have been Lady St Amand, sister-in-law of the Bishop of Salisbury, cousin by marriage of Lord Powick and of the Duchess of Clarence, and the wife of Sir Roger Tocotes?16 Sadly, given the complete lack of evidence, any attempt to identify her can be nothing more than speculation. But, whoever she was, she clearly carried out her role very effectively, as subsequent events were to show.

Towards the end of August preparations were under way for Warwick’s return to England in the Lancastrian cause. However, his troops were unhappy about the earl’s new plans and he had some problems controlling them. On Sunday 9 September Warwick, accompanied by the Admiral of France, by the ‘Earl of Pembroke’ (Jasper Tudor) and by the Earl of Oxford, embarked for his homeland. Naturally, George, Duke of Clarence also sailed with them, and it would be particularly interesting to know how he got on with Jasper, the uncle, and future supporter and guide, of Henry VII. Jasper was about eighteen years older than Clarence, but had been living in exile (in Scotland and then in France) for most of the reign of Edward IV. As a youth, at the court of Henry VI, he may have met Richard, Duke of York, but he had probably never previously encountered any of York’s sons. Certainly neither he nor his nephew, the future Henry VII, ever had any opportunity to get to know personally Richard Duke of Gloucester (the future Richard III).

However, Jasper was the mentor of Henry VII both before and after his usurpation of the throne. It is intriguing, therefore, to note that the ‘Tudor’ propaganda image of Richard III appears to contain certain features which more accurately reflect the character and attributes of the Duke of Clarence than those of the real Richard III. For example, George appears to have been sometimes quick-tempered and manipulative. Unlike Richard, he clearly felt no sense of loyalty to Edward IV, and he may well have felt a personal resentment towards Edward’s Woodville offspring. George also seems to have been ambitious, arrogant and given to plotting in the interests of his own advancement. He may also have felt a sense of inadequacy and resentment over his physique (in respect of his height). None of these characteristics is recorded as associated with the real Richard III, yet all of them became part of Richard’s ‘Tudor’ propaganda image. Could Jasper, Earl of Pembroke – who never met Richard, but who for nearly a year (from the summer of 1470 until the spring of 1471) knew and worked with the Duke of Clarence – have been the source for such characteristics of George, which were later imported by ‘Tudor’ writers into descriptions of his brother, Richard III?

On the night of Thursday 13 September the invaders landed unopposed in the West Country. A joint proclamation was issued in the name of the four English lords, naming Henry VI as king. As they marched northwards and eastwards Lord Stanley and the Earl of Shrewsbury came to join them.

Edward IV was in the north. Marching south from York, he summoned John Neville, Marquess of Montague, the Earl of Warwick’s brother. The marquess dutifully set out, but then halted his men and declared to them that Edward IV had treated him badly by taking from him the earldom of Northumberland. He proclaimed his allegiance to his brother, Warwick, and most of his soldiers followed him. Panic-stricken, Edward IV fled to safety with his brother Gloucester, his brother-in-law, Earl Rivers, Lord Hastings and a small band of loyal supporters. He made for the north coast of East Anglia, and sailed from Bishop’s [King’s] Lynn to the Low Countries. In London, Elizabeth Woodville, who was eight months pregnant, took sanctuary with her mother and children at Westminster Abbey. It seems to have been Archbishop George Neville who freed a rather grubby Henry VI from the Tower of London and led him to the royal apartments, but Philippe de Commynes gave the credit to Warwick, who reached the capital on Saturday 6 October:

When the earl [of Warwick] arrived in London he went to the Tower and released King Henry from where he had imprisoned him on another occasion a long time before, proclaiming before him that he was a traitor and guilty of treason. Yet at this moment he called him king and led him to his palace at Westminster where he restored all his royal prerogatives in the presence of the duke of Clarence, who was not at all pleased by this.17

George, Duke of Clarence was given the Erber, a former home of the Earl of Warwick’s father, as his London residence.18 However, in reality, he had no role to play in the Readeption. Fortunately, Margaret of Anjou was still in France, as was her son, Edward of Westminster (now George’s brother-in-law). Nevertheless, his relationship with the Lancastrian royal family and with its supporters was far from easy.

It was the women of the House of York – George’s sisters and his mother – who reportedly finally won him back to the side of Edward IV when the latter returned to recapture his crown:

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George’s sister, Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy, receiving a book from William Caxton (redrawn by the author from an engraving of 1475).

In the meantime the Duke of Clarence, King Edward’s brother, was quietly reconciled with the king through the mediation of his sisters, the duchesses of Burgundy and Exeter. The former, from without the kingdom, had been encouraging the king, and the latter, from within the kingdom, the duke to make peace. The duke then came to the king’s assistance with a large army from the western parts of the realm; the number of the royal forces increased daily so that the earls in Coventry did not dare either to challenge the king to fight or to take up his challenge to them on the field of battle.19

The expedition led by Edward IV and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who had been in exile in the Low Countries since October 1470,20 set sail back to England on 10 March 1470/71, landing first at Cromer in Norfolk. By 18 March, Edward was in the city of York, and on 25 March he was approaching Coventry, into which Warwick withdrew, fortifying himself. Unable to bring the earl to battle, Edward IV established himself at the town of Warwick, and on about 28 March a meeting was arranged between the king and the Duke of Clarence just outside the town: ‘His brother the duke of Clarence … came with a fair company of men to surrender himself according to previous arrangements between them, and they made their peace there in the field with their banners displayed.’21 Early in April 1471, James Gresham, writing to Sir John Paston, informed him:

As for tydyngges here in þis cuntre be many tales and non accorth with other. It is tolde me by the undirshireve that my lord of Clarence is goon to his brother, late Kyng; in so meche that his men have the gorget on their breestes and þe rose over it. And it is seid that þe Lord Howard hath proclaimed Kyng E. Kyng of Inglond in Suffolk, &c.22

Early in April Edward made his way south-east to London, where he took possession both of the Tower, and of the person of King Henry VI. However:

Edward only spent two days in the city because on Easter Saturday [13 April 1471] he left with the troops he had been able to gather and marched out to meet the earl of Warwick, whom he encountered next morning, that is on Easter day [at Barnet]. When they found themselves face to face, the duke of Clarence, King Edward’s brother, deserted to him with more than twelve thousand troops, which greatly distressed the earl of Warwick and greatly reinforced the king who had few men.23

At the Battle of Barnet (14 April 1471) George was injured, fighting on the side of his brother, Edward IV.24 Precise details of the injury are not recorded, but Gerhard von Wesel noted that, of those who took part in the battle, many ‘were wounded, mostly in the face or the lower half of the body’.25 It is intriguing, therefore, to note that the male skull now preserved in the Clarence vault at Tewkesbury belongs to a man who had suffered a cut towards the front of the left side of his head several years before his death. This sword(?) cut had penetrated the surface of the cranium, but the bone structure had subsequently healed successfully (see plate 28). More will be said on this point later. Von Wesel also records that George’s brother, the Duke of Gloucester, was slightly injured in the fighting.26 As for George’s father-in-law, the Earl of Warwick was killed in the battle, together with ‘the marquis his brother and many knights, squires and other people who strongly fought against the king for the space of three hours’.27


1. P. M. Kendall, Warwick the Kingmaker (London, 1957, 1973), p.256.

2. Davis 2, p.432.

3. ‘The King camme to Grantham and þere tarried Thoresday all day … and upon þe Monday next after þat att Dancastre … þe King hadde warde þat þe Duk of Clarence and þe Erle of Warwik was ate Esterfeld xx mile from Dancastre; and upon þe Tewesday att ix of þe bell þe King toke þe feld and mustered his people … And þan þe Duk of Clarence and þe Erle of Warwik harde þat þe King was commyng to þem warde, incontinent þey departed and wente to Manchestre in Lancasshire hopyng to have hadde helpe and socoure of þe Lord Stanley; but in conclucion þer þey hadde litill favour’ (Davis 2, p.432).

4. Commynes, pp.181–2.

5. John, Lord Wenlock (c. 1390–1471).

6. Commynes, p.182.

7. Kendall assumes that the child was stillborn, but since it was evidently baptised this must be an error (Warwick the Kingmaker, p.260).

8. Eleanor, p.46.

9. Davis 1, p.431.

10. Commynes, pp.183.

11. Crowland, p.121. They were married at Anger Cathedral on (?)13 December 1470. Anne Neville may have already been betrothed previously to Richard, Duke of Gloucester (see – consulted November 2012).

12. Kendall, Warwick the Kingmaker, p.269.

13. Commynes, p.184.

14. See above, Chapter 1.

15. Commynes, pp. 184–5.

16. Elizabeth de Braybrook (1401–91), in her own right Baroness de St Amand, whose first husband was William Beauchamp, first cousin of the 1st Lord Beauchamp of Powick, and whose second husband was Sir Roger Tocotes – names that are significant later in George’s story.

17. Commynes, p.190.

18. Today the site of Cannon Street Station.

19. Crowland, p.125.

20. They arrived at Lynn in Norfolk on Sunday 30 September ‘tarried there until Tuesday [2 October] and then took ship overseas’. See L. Visser-Fuchs ‘Richard in Holland, 1470–1’, Ric. 6 (September 1983), p.221, citing W. I. Haward, ‘Economic Aspects of the Wars of the Roses in East Anglia’, English Historical Review 41 (1926), p.179.

21. L. Visser-Fuchs, Edward IV’s Memoir on Paper to Charles, Duke of Burgundy: The So-Called ‘Short Version of the Arrivall’ (Nottingham: Nottingham Medieval Studies, 1992), reprinted from Nottingham Medieval Studies 36 (1992), p.221.

22. Davis 2, pp.405–6.

23. Commynes, pp.194–5.

24. ODNB, Clarence; Scofield vol. 2, p.8, citing a contemporary letter to the Duke of Milan, CSPM, 1, pp.153–4 [AC].

25. J. Adair, ‘The Newsletter of Gerhard von Wesel, 17 April 1471’, Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research (1968), p.68.

26. Ibid.

27. Visser-Fuchs, Edward IV’s Memoir on Paper, p.222.

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