Barony of Flamstead – Part III

Following on from the first two parts of this trilogy, Richard Neville was the 16th Baron of Flamstead. He was married to Anne, who was the rightful inheritor of the title, and it’s only through this association that he was able to bear the name. The barony came to the Nevilles through the sad passing of Anne’s niece in 1449; she was only five. However, it was not without challenge.

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Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Edmund Beaufort, the Duke of Somerset, was married to the daughter of Richard Beauchamp – the 13th Baron of Flamstead – from his first marriage. Because of this loose connection, he challenged Anne’s right to the title. His challenge was unsuccessful, but this is not the last time you’ll hear of the Duke of Somerset in this story.

The relationship between the two men was a troublesome one. Barony of Flamstead aside, Richard Neville already had a bountiful holding of his own, for he was also the Earl of Warwick and one of the most powerful men in the country. They were to clash horns again.

The Kingmaker

Richard Neville is a significant name in medieval history. His nickname was ‘the kingmaker’ and he played an influential role in English royal politics for over twenty years.

By 1452, he had got himself well-ensconced with King Henry VI and was supporting him against an unsuccessful uprising driven by the Duke of York. Unfortunately, however, a year later King Henry intimated their connection was not quite as strong as he’d thought, for the king overlooked Richard in favour of the Duke of Somerset for the granting of the Lordship of Glamorgan. This lordship had been one that Richard had previously been in control of, and this decision wasn’t well received. An untimely illness then struck King Henry and the Duke of Somerset suddenly had almost complete control of government. Things went downhill from there.

His nose clearly out of joint, Richard decided to switch sides. He cosied up with the Duke of York, who within another year had been appointed Protector of the Realm by a group of royal councillors. Unsurprisingly, this then gave Richard a bit of a boost.

Not to be outdone, as soon as King Henry’s health had returned, he put Somerset back in charge and prompted a rebellious response from Richard. Now, both he and York raised an army and marched towards London. They met the king at St Albans; the red rose of York set to battle the white rose of Lancaster.

Neville and York were victorious, and King Henry suffered the ignominy of being captured whilst his loyal partner Somerset was killed.

The French attack

But in 1457, the situation grew more complicated. Though Richard was in France, the French decided to attack Sandwich. King Henry’s wife, Queen Margaret of Anjou, had previously cut off Richard’s supplies to Calais, however she now found herself having to work with him in order to defend England’s south coast. Quite how supportive Richard was of this quest is debatable. For in 1458, he ignored another royal command and attacked the Castilian and Hanseatic fleets as a pirate! Then, adding salt to the wound, he established a relationship with King Charles VII of France and Philip the Good of Burgundy.

The following year, Richard then brought part of his garrison to England with the intention of meeting up with his father – the Earl of Salisbury – and the Duke of York. This plan didn’t come to fruition, however, and King Henry’s forces managed to disperse Richards garrison, many of whom then defected.

He decided to return to Calais with his tail between his legs. An interesting choice, perhaps, for King Henry had appointed the Duke of Somerset as Captain of Calais. However, the Yorkists still maintained control, so Richard clearly felt safe.

The next stage of the Wars of the Roses

The year after, the Yorkists tried again and met King Henry’s forces at the Battle of Northampton. This time, the king was captured, and a tenuous peace pact was agreed. It was short-lived, however, and within a few months the Duke of York was killed at the Battle of Wakefield, and the Earl of Salisbury was executed.

Fuelled by renewed vigour, Richard marched his army to meet King Henry’s forces for the second Battle of St Albans in 1461. This was a step too far, for he lost. However, this loss gave him the opportunity to join up with Prince Edward of York – who was still celebrating success at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross.

At this point, Edward York decided to take the initiative to claim the throne from Henry to become King Edward VI. And alongside the new king, Richard launched himself into the Battle of Ferrybridge. Unfortunately, he was injured and unable to continue to the next battle at Towton, which was a decisive one. The Yorkists won, and Henry, Margaret of Anjou, and Prince Edward – Henry’s son – all then scurried off to Scotland. This left King Edward VI to return to London for his coronation.

Richard’s power ebbs and flows

By 1462, Richard Neville was stronger than ever. He’d inherited both his father’s and his mother’s lands, and he’d been confirmed as Captain of Calais, High Admiral of England, and Steward of the Duchy of Lancaster.

As a result of all this success, it’s probable that Richard believed himself to have significant influence over the king. However, in 1464 King Edward VI secretly married Elizabeth Woodville without telling him. This will have frustrated Richard considerably. He had been planning a union between the king and the sister-in-law of Louis XI of France. Thus, the sway of power had once again shifted away from Richard, this time in favour of the Woodville family.

A year later, the former King Henry was captured and Richard was tasked with escorting him to the Tower of London. Much to his aggravation, he was then sent to negotiate with the French and the Burgundians. However, King Edward VI then went and signed a treaty with Burgundy without informing Richard. Power was further slipping from his grasp!

A switch of focus to the younger brother

Clearly frustrated with how things were panning out, in 1469, Richard switched his focus to King Edward’s younger brother, George. In a bid to win the younger Plantagenet over, he orchestrated a rebellion in Yorkshire. The plan was a success and the two men gelled. Striking whilst the iron was hot, Richard took George to Calais and introduced him to his daughter, Lady Isobel.

Much to Richard’s delight, the union was soon confirmed through marriage, and the two men once again returned to England, this time to raise an army in Kent. Richard’s goal was to join the northern rebellion. They met King Edward VI at the Battle of Edgecote Moor, won, and promptly imprisoned the hapless king in Warwick Castle.

England’s need for a king grew too strong

Within just a few months, however, England was wracked with disorder. Despite the tense relationship between the Earl of Warwick and the king, Richard had no choice but to release him. Notwithstanding, his angst and ire were not subdued. Over the next few months he attempted to trap the king with little success and was forced to flee to France. However, the tide then turned again the following year, when Richard managed to plan another northern uprising. He landed his army on the south coast, and trapped King Edward VI between two armies.

Richard’s aspirations start to slip out of his grasp

King Edward was forced to flee to Flanders and Richard saw King Henry once again installed on the English throne. Edward was not prepared to be beaten yet, however. Their armies met at Barnet, only to be blighted by the weather. In the murk of the fog, Richard’s misguided army began to attack itself. Richard clearly realised what was going on and attempted to escape, but he was struck off his horse and killed.

Finally rid of the man who had plagued him for so many years, Edward had Richard’s body displayed at St Paul’s Cathedral… just to prove that he was dead. Unsurprisingly, his lands and titles were escheated to the crown and the Barony of Flamstead was never granted again.

Are you perhaps ready to bear the mantle of a title that had once been relinquished by the most powerful man in England? Could you become the next reformed character to don the Barony of Flamstead? It’s a title that’s seen more action than many… Do you have the right glint in your eye to take it on?


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