Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick (22 November 1428 – 14 April 1471), was an English nobleman, and one of the premier Yorkist leaders in the Wars of the Roses. The son of Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, Warwick was the wealthiest and most powerful English peer of his age, and he was instrumental in the deposition of two kings, a fact which later earned him his epithet of “Kingmaker” to later generations.
After the deposition of Henry VI, Warwick was the senior magnate under the new king Edward IV. He acted as the major political advisor and director of actions in the new royal government. In this role he opened negotiations with the French, intimating that King Edward was interested in a marriage arrangement with the French crown. This marriage was not to be, however, because in September 1464, Edward revealed that he was already married, to Elizabeth Woodville. The marriage caused great offence to Warwick: his plans had been sabotaged, and the deeds’ secrecy could only weaken his position at court. Warwick had been unknowingly deceiving the French into believing the king was serious about the marriage proposal. For Edward the marriage may have been a love match, but it gave him the opportunity to build the Woodville family into a power in the kingdom independent of Warwick’s influence.
This was not enough to cause a complete fallout between the two men. The promotion of Warwick’s brother George to Archbishop of York shows that the earl was still in favour with the king. In July 1465, when Henry VI was once more captured, it was Warwick who escorted the fallen king to his captivity in the Tower. In the spring of 1466, he was sent to the continent to carry out negotiations with the French and Burgundians around a marriage proposal involving Edward’s sister Margaret. While Warwick increasingly favoured French diplomatic connections, Edward’s father-in-law, Richard Woodville, Earl Rivers, favoured a Burgundian alliance.
This set up internal conflict within the English court. Warwick was again duped when it was revealed that Edward had signed a secret treaty in October with Burgundy, while he was forced to carry on sham negotiations with the French. Later, his brother was dismissed as chancellor, and Edward refused to contemplate a marriage between Warwick’s oldest daughter Isabel, and Edward’s brother George, Duke of Clarence. It became increasingly clear that Warwick’s dominance at court was over and the Rivers family were a power on the rise.
In the autumn of 1467, there were rumours that Warwick was now sympathetic to the Lancastrian cause, the king however accepted his denial in writing. In July the same year, it was revealed that Warwick’s deputy in Calais, John, Lord Wenlock, was involved in a Lancastrian conspiracy, and early in 1469 another plot was uncovered, involving John de Vere, Earl of Oxford. It was becoming clear that the discontent with Edward’s reign was widespread, a fact that Warwick decided to exploit.
Warwick now orchestrated a rebellion in Yorkshire while he was away, led by a “Robin of Redesdale”. Warwick’s plan involved winning over Edward’s brother George, possibly with the prospect of installing him on the throne. The nineteen-year-old had shown himself to share many of the abilities of his older brother, but was also jealous and overambitious. In July the two sailed over to Calais where George was married to Isabel. From there they returned to England, where they gathered the men of Kent to join the rebellion in the north. Meanwhile, the king’s forces were defeated at Edgecote, William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, was killed in the fighting and Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Devon, was caught in flight and lynched by a mob. Later, Earl Rivers and his son John were also apprehended and murdered. With his army defeated, the king was arrested and imprisoned. In the long run, however, it proved impossible to rule without the king, and continuing disorder forced Warwick to release Edward in September 1469.
A reconciliation was achieved between Warwick and the king for some months, but the restoration of Henry Percy to the earldom of Northumberland prevented any chance this would continue (there was a long standing feud between the Percy’s and Neville’s). A trap was set for the king when disturbances in Lincolnshire led him north. Edward discovered the plot when Lord Welles, was routed at Losecote Field, and gave away the plan. Warwick soon gave up, and fled the country with Clarence. Denied access to Calais, they sought refuge with King Louis XI of France. Louis arranged a reconciliation between Warwick and Margaret of Anjou (Henry VI’s wife), and as part of the agreement, Margaret and Henry’s son, Edward, Prince of Wales, would marry Warwick’s daughter Anne. The objective of the alliance was to restore Henry VI to the throne.
Again Warwick staged an uprising in the north, and with the king away, he and Clarence landed at Dartmouth and Plymouth on 13 September 1470. Among the many who flocked to Warwick’s side was his brother Montagu, who had not taken part in the last rebellion, but was disappointed when his loyalty to the king had not been rewarded with the restoration of his earldom. This time the trap set up for the king worked; as Edward hurried south, Montagu’s forces approached from the north, and the king found himself surrounded. On 2 October he fled to the Netherlands. King Henry was now restored, with Warwick acting as the true ruler in his capacity as lieutenant. At a parliament in November, Edward was attainted of his lands and titles, and Clarence was awarded the Duchy of York.