The English nobleman Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and of Salisbury (1428-1471), known as the Kingmaker, was the most powerful noble of his time in England and the principal baronial figure in the Wars of the Roses.
The eldest son of the Earl of Salisbury and nephew to Richard, Duke of York, Richard Neville was born on Nov. 22, 1428. He married Anne Beauchamp, through whom he inherited in 1449 the Warwick estate of a hundred manors. This wealth supplied troops for the 1455 street fight at St. Albans in which York, Salisbury, and Warwick captured the pliable Henry VI.
Warwick's reward was the captaincy of Calais, a position he filled with vigor and independence. Surviving a premature Yorkist demonstration in 1459 but forced to flee the country, in June 1460 Warwick and York's son Edward invaded England with 2, 000 troops from the Calais garrison and captured Henry VI at Northampton on July 10. Parliament resisted York's claim to the throne on the argument of real-property inheritance laws. Warwick promoted the political compromise of having York named Henry's heir.
Henry VI's spirited queen, Margaret of Anjou, took up the cause of their son, Prince Edward of Lancaster. Her "northern army" defeated and killed Richard of York and the Earl of Salisbury at Wakefield on Dec. 30, 1460, out maneuvered Warwick at St. Albans on Feb. 17, 1461, and then liberated Henry VI. But her army failed to assault London. Warwick then stage-managed the "popular election" of York's eldest son as King Edward IV, the first monarch of the Yorkist line. With the help of Warwick, the 18-year-old king crushed the Lancastrians in a 10-hour slaughter at Towton on March 29, 1461. Margaret and Prince Edward fled to France, and Henry VI was later captured.
With his brother George installed as chancellor and with a trusted lawyer, Sir James Strangways, elected Speaker, Warwick was given the assignment of "pacifying the north, " and from 1461 to 1464 he governed this region during unrest, Scottish invasions, and forays by Margaret of Anjou. His superintendence of diplomacy centered on possible marriage alliances for the King in the tangled rivalry of Burgundy, France, Brittany, Aragon, and Castile. By 1464 Warwick had decided on a policy of alliance with Louis XI of France and pressed Edward to marry Bona of Savoy, Louis's sister-in-law. Warwick's clamor on this subject eventually forced Edward to announce that he had already secretly married Elizabeth Woodville in 1464. The Queen's many relatives hencefourth received rapid advancement. Warwick gained a retaliatory advantage by the success with which he brought his daughters Isabel and Anne to the attention of King Edward's brothers, George of Clarence and Richard of Gloucester. Each of these romances, however, was delayed by royal policy. Edward sent Warwick to France for negotiations in 1467. During this absence Edward concluded an alliance by marrying Margaret, his sister, to Charles the Bold of Burgundy. At the same time, George Neville was dismissed as chancellor, and on the instance of Edward IV, Warwick's 79-year-old wealthy aunt was married to a 19-year-old nephew of the King.
In 1469, however, Warwick turned the usual unrest in northern England to his own purposes. The July 11 marriage at Calais of his daughter Isabel to George of Clarence was followed by another expedition to England. Edward's inadequate forces deserted him, and he became Warwick's captive. Warwick, however, found himself unable to raise sufficient troops to deal with the increasing disorders. With both Henry VI and Edward IV as his prisoners, and with George of Clarence at hand as a willing aspirant, the Kingmaker found himself overstocked with royal candidates and under equipped in soldiery. Edward resumed the government, and in 1470 he was "reconciled" to his brother and to Warwick as a curious prelude to a belated public discovery that both were rebels and must be driven from the land.
Warwick, with Clarence, fled to the court of Louis XI, embraced the Lancastrian cause, and betrothed his daughter Anne to Prince Edward, the son of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou. Warwick's 1470 invasion of an unarmed England forced Edward IV to take refuge with Charles the Bold of Burgundy. Warwick recrowned an apathetic Henry VI and committed England to war against Burgundy as Louis's price for the escort of Margaret and Prince Edward to England.
The projected invasion of Burgundy did not materialize. When Edward IV returned in 1471 "to claim the duchy of York, " Clarence made peace with his brother, Louis made peace with Burgundy, and Warwick could not muster an army significantly larger than Edward's. Against Edward that was not enough. Warwick was beaten at Barnet on April 14, 1471, and killed in flight. His Lancastrian candidate was slain at Tewkesbury on May 4, 1471, and the Neville estates were divided between Clarence and Gloucester (later Richard III), following the latter's marriage to the widowed Anne Neville.
Warwick's 1460 rebellion showed how armed wealth and public dissatisfaction could be combined to seize the seat of government in a nation without a standing army and, thus, to establish a legally accepted new regime. This action marked a change from the baronial factionalism of the past, and it looked toward the "popular politics" of the future.
Further Reading on Earl of Warwick and of Salisbury
Sir C. W. Oman, Warwick the Kingmaker (1893), and Paul Murray Kendall, Warwick the Kingmaker (1957), are sympathetic and readable biographies. J. R. Landers, The Wars of the Roses (1966), presents extensive quotations of primary sources translated into modern English. More general surveys of the period are Sir James H. Ramsay, Lancaster and York (2 vols., 1892), and S. B. Chrimes, Lancastrians, Yorkists, and Henry VII (1964).
Additional Biography Sources
Young, Charles R. (Charles Robert), The making of the Neville family in England, 1166-1400, Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 1996.