Silenced at Sea; The Lancastrian Duke and his Yorkist King

By Nathen Amin

The Wars of the Roses were a notoriously violent feud in which faction warred with faction and family destroyed family, all against the backdrop of a tussle over the most significant prize in the kingdom – the throne of England.

Whether aligned with Lancaster or York, both sides inflicted atrocities on the other across three decades as a myriad of strong personalities sought to advance the cause of themselves, and the faction to which they had pledged their loyalty. Very few were faultless, as men such as Richard of York, Warwick the Kingmaker, Edward IV, the dukes of Somerset, Clarence and Buckingham, and the earls of Northumberland, Pembroke, Oxford, Salisbury and Devon, each engaged in internecine conflict.

In recent years, however, a narrative has developed which portrays the House of Tudor, who acceded to the throne in 1485 after Henry VII usurped the crown from Richard III (who depending on your viewpoint may or may not have himself usurped the throne), as unusually bloodthirsty in their supposedly relentless yearning to wipe out all Yorkist rivals. Henry VII, it is claimed, would stop at nothing to eliminate his competition, contrary to the fact that the first Tudor was, in fact, merely responsible for just the one, dubious, execution of potential White Rose adversary in a 24-year reign.

The various misdeeds of Edward IV, meanwhile, seem oddly disregarded, which is astounding when one considers that he too was not averse to wiping out those he perceived to be a threat, including Henry VI and his own brother George, Duke of Clarence, both bumped off in the Tower of London during the 1470s, and a fate that would conceivably have been shared by young Henry Tudor had he fallen into Yorkist possession. Rarely mentioned, or at least skimmed over, is the fate that befell the man who was arguably the most senior Lancastrian heir after the deaths of Henry VI, Prince Edward of Westminster and the two Beaufort siblings in 1471; Henry Holland, 2nd Duke of Exeter.

Henry was born on 27 June 1430 as the only son John Holland, then Earl of Huntingdon, and his first wife Anne Stafford. His father was the eldest surviving son of another John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter, who was prominent towards the end of the fourteenth century as the elder half-brother of King Richard II. The 1st Duke rose high in favour of his sibling, but after Henry IV usurped the throne in 1399, his status was diminished, his title demoted, and after he led a rebellion known as the Epiphany Rising in which it was alleged he planned to wipe out the fledgling Lancastrian royal family, he was executed. Despite his anti-Lancastrianism, the 1st Duke had actually married into the family as husband of Elizabeth of Lancaster, a daughter of John of Gaunt, making his namesake son a great-grandson of Edward III. The younger John proved faithful to his Lancastrian relations, serving notably at Agincourt in 1415. He was captured by the French in 1421 and spent four years in captivity, but after his release continued his service until he was eventually restored to his father’s dukedom of Exeter in 1443, enjoying precedence below only Richard, Duke of York.

Henry Holland, therefore, from the age of 13 was suddenly raised to heir of a mighty dukedom, in title if not income, and also could boast of royal descent on his maternal side as a great-grandson of Thomas of Woodstock, 1st Duke of Gloucester and youngest son of Edward III. When he acceded to his father’s title and estates in 1447 at just 17, he was recognised as one of the foremost nobles in the land, royally descended and high in the line of succession to the as yet childless king, his cousin Henry VI.

Frustration over the poor financial state of his inheritance, and a haughty disposition that spilled over into questionable behaviour, Holland quickly attracted trouble during the 1450s. He fraudulently seized the lands belonging to a fellow lord, meddled needlessly in the escalating Neville-Percy rivalry in the north, lay claim to the Duchy of Lancaster during Henry VI’s first mental breakdown, and even courted the Scots to cause issues in England to his own benefit.

Most notably, despite his marriage to the duke’s young daughter, Exeter opened a feud with Richard of York after the latter was named protector in 1453, perhaps slighted that despite his tender age, he was overlooked for the post by virtue of his lineage. He was tersely warned to desist from his troublesome behaviour in the north by York, and when he refused to heed the message, was imprisoned in Pontefract Castle. Though released when Henry VI resumed control of his faculties, when the Wars of the Roses erupted in 1455, the headstrong duke of Exeter rallied to the Lancastrian cause, directly opposing his estranged father-in-law, York, and thereafter the latter’s son, Edward.

Exeter fought against York at the Battle of St Albans, for which he was briefly imprisoned in Wallingford Castle during York’s second ascendancy, and later commanded men in the Lancastrian victories at Wakefield in 1460, during which died York, and the Second St Albans in 1461. He was also present for the traumatic defeat at Towton a month later, which placed the Yorkist Edward IV upon the throne, and sensing the winds of change, fled into Scotland and thence France, his title subject to attainder and his lands seized.

A decade later, during the brief Lancastrian readeption which existed for several months in 1470 and 1471, Exeter returned to England, and commanded part of the royal army which faced off with his Yorkist brother-in-law at the battle of Barnet. The chronicler Warkworth noted that Exeter ‘faught manly ther that day’ but was ‘gretely despolede and woundede’ in the loss, ‘and lefte nakede for dede in the felde’. He was eventually rescued from the field, having lain there injured until 4pm, and fled into sanctuary at Westminster to recover from his wounds.

At the battle of Tewkesbury a few weeks later, at least three people in the Lancastrian line of succession were killed, namely Prince Edward, and the Beaufort siblings Edmund and John, and shortly thereafter occurred the suspicious killing of Henry VI in the Tower of London. With the senior male-line of Lancaster wiped out, the astute Milanese ambassador observed that Edward IV had coldly ‘chosen to crush the seed’ of his rivals.

Yet, Henry Holland remained, much to the Yorkist king’s chagrin, one imagines. Henry Tudor, another Lancastrian claimant, had succeeded in fleeing into exile, but Holland remained within Edward’s reach. The duke was therefore forcibly removed from Westminster Abbey, and kept thereafter under close supervision in the Tower, ominously where Henry VI met his end. His loveless marriage to the king’s sister Anne of York was dissolved in 1472, with much of his estates passing into her control, and his situation appeared bleak until 1475 when the duke was suddenly invited to accompany Edward IV on his upcoming military expedition to France. Perhaps the king did not want to leave a potential claimant to his throne behind in the kingdom, preferring to keep a close eye on his rival, or he felt the duke deserved an opportunity at reconciliation. Either way, Henry Holland would never return alive.

During the Channel crossing between Dover and Calais, in uncertain circumstances that have never been ascertained, this formidable duke with the most preeminent Lancastrian claim to the throne, fell overboard and drowned. Chronicles written within England are vague in their recollections of his mysterious demise. Polydore Vergil noted that Exeter had, ‘contrary to promyse’, been ‘taken sooddenly owt of the way’, whilst Robert Fabyan recounted how the duke had been ‘founden deed in the see atwene Dover and Calays’ before adding ‘but how he was drowned the certaynte is nat knowne’. The entry in the Chronicles of London, meanwhile, simply reported how the duke was ‘found deed, as it was said, bitwene Dovyr and Caleys’. The Croyland Chronicle, on the other hand, perhaps the most informed of the period’s sources and written by someone close to Edward’s regime, is unusually silent on the matter.

It was left to a source outside the influence of Edward IV, or his son-in-law Henry VII, who had no capital to gain from disparaging his wife’s father, to lay blame at the feet of the Yorkist king for the death of a Lancastrian rival. The Milanese ambassador to Burgundy, Giovanni Pietro Panicharolla, wrote to the Duke of Milan on 4th December 1475 from Nancy, describing how Edward IV ‘had the Duke of Xestre thrown into the sea, whom he had previously kept a prisoner’. The ambassador added that the duke had resented his captivity, and its possibly he had been making this known, further incurring the wrath of his king.

So was Henry Holland thrown into the sea, deliberately murdered by, or on the orders of, Edward IV. In light of more concrete evidence, it is difficult to confirm categorically, thought one can’t deny the death of the duke was convenient for the House of York. If 1471 was the year Edward had chosen to crush the seed, then four years later it is likely he continued crushing. As demonstrated three years later with the execution of his own brother, Edward was not a man unwilling to rid himself of a threat, real or perceived. It made perfect sense to Edward’s security for Exeter to meet an unfortunate end.

Ultimately, of course, the removal of Henry Holland only served to bolster the tenuous Lancastrian claim of Henry Tudor, who remained in exile from 1471 through to 1485, when he eventually returned to England to make real that claim. It was exactly a decade after the untimely, and suspicious, demise, of the doomed Duke of Exeter, the forgotten Lancastrian pretender silenced by the sea.

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Nathen Amin grew up in the heart of Carmarthenshire, West Wales, and has long had an interest in Welsh history, the Wars of the Roses and the early Tudor period. His first book Tudor Wales was released in 2014 and was well-received, followed by a second book called York Pubs in 2016. His third book, the first, full-length biography of the Beaufort family, the House of Beaufort,  was released in the summer of 2017 and quickly became a #1 Amazon Bestseller for Wars of the Roses.

Book Review – Edward IV: Glorious Son of York by Jeffrey James

By Nathen Amin

Edward IV, much like his son-in-law, and political heir in many ways, Henry VII, has often found his position in history obscured somewhat by the mystery over the fate of his two sons, the Princes in the Tower, as well as the towering spectres of his younger brother Richard III and grandson Henry VIII. Whilst there have been several academic publications produced on the life and times of the mighty Yorkist king who reigned in two separate spells between 1461 and 1483, a readable narrative history on Edward is always welcomed. After all, as the author notes in his prologue, ‘few English monarchs fought harder for kingship than King Edward IV’. It’s probably the least he deserves.

Edward IV, Glorious Son of York by Jeffrey James is essentially the story of how one man emerged from the fractious feuding between various noble families to become the most prodigious warrior of his age, winning a crown on the battlefield and ostensibly ending the wars before lapses in political judgement briefly cost him his throne, forcing a return to battle. It’s a captivating, even timeless, tale of a dramatic rise followed by a tough fall, a story of resilient redemption before success itself eventually destroyed Edward’s figure, and in time, his dynasty. A well-worn story it may be, but told so vividly by James it might well sound like the first time you’ve heard it.

The book is written clearly and concisely, covering all main events in Edward’s life, helpfully illustrated with several maps, battlefield diagrams, family trees and a few dozen photographs of the people and places mentioned in the text. James has an extensive knowledge of battles in particular, which naturally receive considerable coverage throughout the text, and I was intrigued by his use of war gaming photographs to illustrate the various battles in Edward’s life, something I have not seen elsewhere.

Written chronologically from Edward’s birth in Rouen, through his rise to the throne, his contentious marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, and on to his final days of excess shortly after his fortieth birthday, James’ book serves an ideal introduction into the life of the first Yorkist king of England. As is always the case with books of this period, and for good reason, the book also covers the wider Wars of the Roses conflict and features considerable supporting roles from figures such as Henry VI, Richard III and the Woodvilles, yet crucially never fails to lose sight of its titular subject. This is Edward’s story, unashamedly told from Edward’s position.

The result is an engaging read that serves as a gateway into further study of Edward IV and the period. His analysis of the complex events is balanced, with little room for wild speculations based on assumptions and presumptions. James systematically deconstructs Edward from the stereotypes he has become reduced to, be it warrior king or promiscuous lover, and reveals Edward the man, who committed both just and questionable acts during his time. There are no outlandish claims or unfathomable theories presented based on flimsy evidence, and therefore Edward IV, Glorious Son of York, crafted upon the known facts and most likely scenarios, is a solid, and enduring, addition to the libraries of any self-respecting aficionado of the Wars of the Roses.

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Jeffrey James has published numerous articles on military history and is the author of An Onslaught of Spears, a history of Viking attacks on England leading to Cnut’s conquest in 1016, and Swordsmen of the King, covering the exploits of Charles I’s German nephews during the English Civil War. He lives in Southsea, England.

Sir William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke: Edward IV’s ‘Master Lock’

By David Santiuste

Sir William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, was a prominent Yorkist during the Wars of the Roses. His service to King Edward IV of England brought him power, status and wealth. Herbert came from a family of Welsh gentry – not a great noble house – yet by the end of his life he was one of the foremost men in Edward’s realm. Nevertheless, as was the case for so many of his peers, his time in the sun was short; he was ultimately executed as a ‘traitor’, following his defeat in battle. This article provides a brief insight into his tumultuous career.

Early Years

Herbert was born in 1423 at Raglan in the Welsh Marches. He was a son of Sir William ap Thomas and his second wife, Gwladys, meaning that he was of Welsh descent on both sides. Herbert and his siblings were the first members of his family to adopt an English-style surname – we cannot be certain about the reasons for this choice – although his kinsmen had already established a proud record of service to the English kings. His father was a veteran of the Hundred Years War. His maternal grandfather, Dafydd Gam (‘the lame’) was also a celebrated warrior. Dafydd died fighting for Henry V at Agincourt, and he is traditionally regarded as the model for Shakespeare’s Fluellen.

With this background in mind, one might have predicted that Herbert would also seek fame and fortune in the French wars. By the late 1440s he had risen to become captain of Carentan, where he shared command with the formidable Matthew Gough (another Welsh veteran). His time in France must have provided valuable military experience, although by this point there were fewer opportunities to gain advancement or renown; the tide had long since turned in the favour of the French. In any case, Herbert’s service in France came to an abrupt end in 1450, when he was captured at the Battle of Formigny. He was ransomed, however, and swiftly returned home.

In the years that followed Herbert devoted himself to local affairs. He had inherited his father’s influence as well as his lands (the elder Sir William died in 1445), and he now began to assert himself more strongly in the south-east of Wales. Fifteenth-century Wales was a turbulent place, not least due to simmering Welsh resentment in the wake of Owain Glyndŵr’s revolt. In much of Wales, responsibility for maintaining law and order lay with the powerful marcher lords, but they often resided elsewhere. This meant the Marchers needed to find local men to whom they could delegate authority. Herbert earned the trust of several lords. By 1453 he was the Earl of Warwick’s sheriff of Glamorgan. He also developed strong ties with Richard, Duke of York, who held extensive estates in the Marches.

A fifteenth-century gentleman could achieve a great deal via service to magnates or the crown, but he also needed to maintain effective relations with his peers. It is probably within this context that we should seek to explain his marriage to Anne Devereux, a member of another local gentry family. Their wedding took place in 1449, shortly before Herbert’s last campaign in France. Their union cemented an alliance that would become increasingly important to both of the families involved.

Anne was reputedly a beautiful woman, but aristocratic marriages were only rarely driven by romantic passion. Nevertheless, Herbert does appear to have respected his wife – he appointed her, for instance, as an executor of his will – and there is some tantalising evidence which suggests he might have felt more. A fifteenth-century signet ring has been found near Raglan which bears the initials W and A, as well as the inscription ‘to yow feythfoull’. While the couple inevitably spent long periods apart, in time they would become parents to nine children (of whom several survived to be adults). It must be said that Herbert also fathered at least five illegitimate children, although his relationships with their mothers are thought to have been youthful affairs that predated his marriage to Anne.

York or Lancaster?

As the 1450s progressed, local and national politics became increasingly fraught, as civil war loomed. It might be assumed that Herbert would have been an instinctive Yorkist, given his closeness to the Duke of York, but he also established connections with the Lancastrian court; he was knighted in 1452 by Henry VI, alongside the king’s half-brothers Edmund and Jasper Tudor. Even so, by 1454 Herbert had already aligned himself explicitly with York, stating that he was ‘no man’s man’ but the duke’s. It is possible that Herbert fought for York at the first Battle of St Albans, in 1455. In the following year he joined a group of Welsh gentlemen who resorted to further violent action on the duke’s behalf, seizing control of two important Welsh castles. Edmund Tudor was captured, contracted an illness (probably plague) and shortly afterwards died.

Herbert was outlawed by the royal authorities and briefly imprisoned, but he somehow obtained a pardon. For the rest of the 1450s he maintained a distance from York, as well as his allegiance to Henry VI. Herbert was conspicuous by his absence at the ‘Rout of Ludford’, in October 1459, when the Duke of York and his closest followers were driven into exile. It was also around this time that Herbert commissioned a splendid book, including Lydgate’s epic poem about the Trojan War, which was probably intended as a gift for Henry. (The beautiful illuminations include a depiction of Herbert and his wife kneeling before the king.) Nevertheless, when the Yorkist lords returned to England, and defeated the royal forces at Northampton (10 July 1460), he threw himself irrevocably behind the Yorkist cause.

The Duke of York was killed at the Battle of Wakefield (30 December 1460), but this, of course, was not the end of the matter. Leadership of the Yorkist faction now passed to his eldest son, Edward, Earl of March. At the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross, on 3 February 1461, Edward defeated Jasper Tudor and announced himself as a great military commander. Herbert was at Edward’s side.

On 3 March the Yorkists were admitted to London, where Edward was acclaimed as England’s new ruler. On 29 March Herbert fought at the Battle of Towton, where the main Lancastrian army was destroyed. Now that his title was secure, the young king rewarded his supporters. Although we can only speculate about the strength of their personal relationship, it is clear that Edward already valued Herbert’s service. When Edward chose to confer important offices in South Wales upon Herbert, in preference to his chief ally the Earl of Warwick, this confirmed the Welshman’s status as a prominent member of the new regime. Herbert was ennobled after Edward’s coronation, which took place in late June, and in the following year he became a knight of the Garter.

Detail of a miniature of a king enthroned surrounded by courtiers with Sir William Herbert and his wife, Anne Devereux kneeling before him, wearing clothes decorated with their coats of arms. (British Library)
Detail of a miniature of a king enthroned surrounded by courtiers with Sir William Herbert and his wife, Anne Devereux kneeling before him, wearing clothes decorated with their coats of arms. (British Library)

The ‘Master Lock’

The Battle of Towton was a great victory for the Yorkists, but their opponents did not give up the struggle. The Lancastrian resistance was strongest in Northumberland, where King Henry’s supporters continued to hold important castles, but there was also resistance in Wales; this owed much to the efforts of Jasper Tudor, whose major role in the Wars of the Roses has only recently begun to be fully recognised. Edward IV completely delegated the direction of military affairs in Wales to Herbert, a charge he exercised with vigour.

Ably assisted by his younger brother Richard, Herbert gained a series of victories. Pembroke Castle quickly fell to the Yorkists, and Jasper’s nephew Henry, the future king, was captured. (Henry Tudor would go on to spend his formative years in Herbert’s household, and there were later plans for him to marry one of Herbert’s daughters.) In October 1461 Herbert defeated the elder Tudor at the Battle of Tŵt Hill, near Caernarfon, compelling him to seek refuge overseas.

By May 1462 only Harlech Castle remained in Lancastrian hands. Incredibly, Harlech’s garrison continued to defy the Yorkists for several more years, but when Jasper Tudor returned to Wales in 1468, with French support, Herbert responded with a determined and brutal campaign. Tudor was once again forced into exile, and Harlech finally surrendered on 14 August.

As a reward for his capture of Harlech, the last Lancastrian stronghold in the British Isles, Edward created Herbert Earl of Pembroke (a title previously held by Jasper Tudor). This was the pinnacle of Herbert’s career, although it must be seen as the culmination of a series of rewards. Assisted by a network of people who were tightly bound to him by ties of kinship and service, Herbert effectively ruled Wales on Edward’s behalf.

With greater responsibilities came greater wealth, and Herbert diverted vast sums into a spectacular building programme at Raglan. The castle’s best known feature remains its imposing great tower, which was constructed for Herbert’s father, but over the course of the 1460s there was a massive expansion of the site. There was an emphasis on comfort and luxury, as the workmen created well-appointed apartments that were flooded with light. The castle was set within an extensive managed landscape, including gardens, orchards, and a park well stocked with game. During Herbert’s lengthy absences it fell upon his wife to supervise the day-to-day running of the project; records suggest she played a vital role. By the end of the 1460s the Herberts had transformed Raglan into a palatial home.

The architects at Raglan incorporated the latest fashions from England and the Continent, but Herbert did keep sight of his roots. He offered hospitality to Welsh bards, following the ancient traditions of native lordship, and in return they celebrated his achievements. Recounting stories of Herbert’s martial exploits, Lewys Glyn Cothi described his ‘frame ablaze on prancing steed, and his eyes glistening like glowing embers’. It was the same man who gave Herbert his famous soubriquet: Edward IV’s ‘master lock’. But the bards’ support was not unconditional. Now that Herbert was undisputed master of Wales, Guto’r Glyn urged him to use his power for the benefit of the Welsh people; ‘and should England resent it, Wales will rally to your side!’

Herbert and ‘the Kingmaker’

Herbert’s activities were by no means restricted to Wales, however. He sometimes attended the English court, as a trusted member of Edward IV’s council. Yet as Herbert’s power continued to grow, he also made powerful enemies. The most significant of these was the Earl of Warwick, whose own relationship with the king was steadily deteriorating. Warwick’s ire was principally directed at the Woodvilles, the family of Edward’s queen, but there can be no doubt that he also resented the influence of Herbert – his former servant – whom he regarded as an upstart.

There was mutual hostility. In October 1467 Herbert captured a Lancastrian messenger. When the messenger implicated Warwick in Lancastrian plots Herbert sensed a chance to destroy his great rival. He sent the prisoner to the king, along with a full account of the messenger’s allegations. On this occasion Edward chose to accept Warwick’s denials – which were probably sincere – and this led to a thaw in their relationship. Warwick returned to court, following a self-imposed exile in the north, and Herbert himself was publicly reconciled with Warwick. But tensions remained. Warwick continued to oppose Edward’s pro-Burgundian foreign policy (the former favoured an alliance with the French). We must assume that more personal issues were also unresolved.

In the summer of 1469 disturbances throughout the country convinced Warwick that the time was ripe for rebellion: he was now determined to put forward his own policies by force of arms. Warwick devised a two-pronged strategy. In the north, a prominent member of the earl’s affinity raised rebellion under the guise of ‘Robin of Redesdale’, an obscure figure associated with an earlier revolt.  But when Edward was lured northwards, calling for Herbert and the Earl of Devon to join him en route, Warwick was quietly preparing a rebellion in the south. The rebels included Edward’s own brother, George Duke of Clarence, who had grown dissatisfied with his position within the Yorkist regime. Herbert cannot have been aware of the full scale of the threat, but he quickly assembled his men and hurried to Edward’s aid.

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Raglan Castle

The Battle of Edgecote

On 9 July Edward reached Newark. Thinking he was to deal only with local disturbances, his progress northwards had been leisurely. By the following day, however, he became aware that the rebel army was no common rabble, and that ‘Robin’ had raised a vast host. Edward retreated southwards to Nottingham in the face of the rebels’ advance, where he presumably hoped to combine his forces with those of Herbert and Devon. But Robin outflanked the king, speeding south towards a rendezvous with Warwick and Clarence (who were now openly in arms to the south). This led to an encounter with Herbert’s own forces at Edgecote near Banbury.

By this time Herbert had already joined the Earl of Devon, but all of the sources agree that the Yorkist forces became separated, which meant that Herbert and his Welshmen were left to face the northern rebels alone. Why this division occurred is unclear. According to Warkworth’s Chronicle and Hearne’s Fragment, the Yorkist lords ‘fell to variance over lodgings’; the Tudor chronicler Edward Hall, perhaps attempting to enliven his sources, tells us that Herbert and Devon quarrelled over a woman at an inn. The work of Jean de Wavrin, a Burgundian chronicler, offers a more prosaic explanation; he believed that poor reconnaissance was to blame. Whatever the cause, the separation was crucial because Devon’s contingent is said to have included most of the Yorkist archers.

On the evening of 25 July the opposing armies – Herbert’s Welsh forces and the northern rebels – camped on either side of the River Cherwell. Next morning there was a struggle to secure the river crossing, in which the northerners were worsted. The bards may have coloured the Welsh exploits, but it seems clear there was fierce fighting. The northerners experienced heavy casualties. Of the nobility and gentry, Sir Henry Neville and Sir John Conyers’ son, also called John, were killed; Robert, Lord Ogle died later of his wounds.

The rebels’ morale was shaken, but late in the day the northerners were reinforced by an advance party from the Earl of Warwick’s army. Sir Geoffrey Gate and Sir William Parr persuaded the rebels to attack again. Now Herbert was outnumbered and his forces overwhelmed.

Herbert and his brother were both taken prisoner. On the following day they were taken to Northampton, where Warwick presided over their summary execution. The Welsh bards lamented Herbert’s death, which they saw as a national catastrophe. As Guto’r Glyn put it, ‘my nation is destroyed, now that the earl is slain’.

Bereft of Herbert’s support, Edward IV was taken by surprise and captured. Warwick’s triumph was short-lived, however, and Edward quickly regained power. Warwick later joined with the Lancastrians, but he was defeated and killed at the Battle of Barnet. A further Yorkist victory at Tewkesbury ensured that Edward’s title was never seriously challenged again. Herbert’s son, also called William, was therefore able to inherit his father’s title – at least for a time – although he never achieved his father’s influence. But through his granddaughter, Elizabeth, Herbert became the ancestor of the dukes of Beaufort: a noble dynasty that survives to this day.

Further Reading

Ian Dawson, ‘Anne Herbert: A Life in the Wars of the Roses’, The Historian (Spring 2014).

H.T. Evans, Wales and the Wars of the Roses (Stroud: Alan Sutton, 1998, c. 1915).

R.A. Griffiths, ‘Wales and the Marches’, in The Fifteenth Century, ed. S.B. Chrimes et al (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1972).

D.H. Thomas, The Herberts of Raglan and the Battle of Edgecote 1469 (Enfield: Freezywater Publications, 1994).

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David Santiuste teaches history at the Centre for Open Learning, University of Edinburgh. He is the author of two books: Edward IV and the Wars of the Roses and The Hammer of the Scots. He is also the creator, with Rae Tan, of the website Reflections of the Yorkist Realm (yorkistrealm.com). You can follow him on Twitter @dbsantiuste.

You can view David’s Amazon Page here

NB: An earlier version of this article appeared in Hobilar, which is published by the Lance and Longbow Society.

Book Review – Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville; A True Romance by Amy Licence

Author Amy Licence notes in her introduction that Edward IV has been somewhat overlooked in the annals of British history, noting that he was ‘a king who has been damned with faint praise’. This may at first seem surprising to those that study the fifteenth century over which his sizable figure looms large. Edward was tall and handsome, a courageous soldier on the battlefield who had been blessed an irresistible charm around his subjects. Yet when one takes a step back and looks at medieval England objectively, the author has a point; Edward IV has been overshadowed, if not by his brother Richard III or grandson Henry VIII then certainly by other monarchs like Henry V and Edward III.

Licence endeavours to bring this first king of the House of York out of the shadows of his illustrious relations, a task in which she succeeds with this book, the first non-fiction work about their relationship. The story of Edward is principally the story of his scandalous, kingdom-dividing marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, a topic Licence examines in detail in an attempt to uncover the significance of their controversial nuptials in 1464. It is a subject the she feels continues to fascinate ‘as an enduring love story set against the most turbulent of times’. She’s right.

Edward could have chosen any woman in Europe to have been his wife; after valiantly winning his crown on a battlefield at the age of only nineteen, he was every inch a stereotypical fairy tale prince. Tall, handsome, athletic, rich and young, he possessed ‘princely and knightly courage’. Edward IV was the most eligible bachelor in the western world. It was therefore inconceivable that he took for his wife the widow Elizabeth Woodville, five years his elder and allied to the Lancastrian affinity. It was unpopular with his nobles, his subjects and his family. Perhaps the fact she was considered ‘the most beautiful woman in the island of Britain’ had a bearing, but as the author points out, there was much more to Elizabeth than her looks. That Edward persevered with Elizabeth is an indication of his genuine love and attraction for his wife.

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The first part book provides ample background information on both Edward and Elizabeth, focusing on their childhood and early adulthood, culminating in their fortuitous meeting, some say, under an oak tree. Particularly welcomed is the detail Licence provides about the early years of Elizabeth, not a topic often covered in most works which tend to concentrate on those of royal birth. Personally I was intrigued to discover that, prior to her first marriage, Elizabeth was courted by Sir Hugh Joneys of Swansea. I was aware that Joneys would later be entrusted with tutoring the young Henry Tudor in martial arts during the 1460s and was pleased to discover this other, lesser-known, event in his life. Such small detail is a credit to the research Licence has undertaken.

No book about Edward IV and Elizabeth is complete without covering the latter part of their relationship, the demise of the king due to his excessive lifestyle and the subsequent tragedy of the Princes in the Tower. Unlike many writers who may feel the temptation to do so, Licence doesn’t dwell on history’s most famous ‘whodunit’ other than to discuss the events from the viewpoint of her subject, the desperate Elizabeth, again an often underdeveloped perspective of the period.

It is difficult to cover such a broad topic as the Wars of the Roses and the multitude of characters without confusing a reader new to the subject, but Licence succeeds in simplifying the era and in particular the complex genealogical aspect of the conflict. To do this without omitting any vital detail is applauded. Another welcome aspect of the book is Licence’s regular usage of extended sourced material as part of the main text rather than footnoted, for example the letter of Edward as a child to his father in 1455. Whilst on some occasions this may interrupt the narrative, it is utilised to such effect by the author that in this instance that it helps the reader’s understanding of the period as well as perhaps formulating their own interpretation of the source along with Licence’s.

Overall the book is well researched and engaging piece that offers a fresh view of a well-told subject, a talent which Licence has shown numerous times in her previous work. At one point Licence poses the question – ‘What was it about this woman that so captivated Edward that he was prepared to take such a risk?’. Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville, a True Romance goes some way to helping answer that question.

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Amy Licence is the author of several books on the Tudor dynasty and the Wars of the Roses, including In Bed With the Tudors (‘A fascinating book examining the sex lives of the Tudors in unprecedented detail’ Daily Express), Anne Neville, Elizabeth of York and The Six Wives & Many Mistresses of Henry VIII, all published by Amberley. Amy has written for the Guardian, The Times Literary Supplement and BBC History Magazine and has appeared on BBC radio and television. She lives in Canterbury with her husband and two children.