Anthony Woodville, Baron Scales and 2nd Earl Rivers

WOODVILLE or WYDVILLE, ANTHONY, Baron Scales and second Earl Rivers (1442?–1483), eldest son of Richard Woodville, first earl Rivers [q. v.], and his wife Jacquetta, duchess of Bedford, was born in or about 1442 (Baker, ii. 162). Lionel Woodville [q. v.] was a younger brother. In January 1460 his father took him to Sandwich, where both were surprised and captured by a band of Yorkists and carried off to Calais to be severely ‘rated’ by the Yorkist leaders for upstart insolence in taking part in their recent attainder at Coventry (Will. Worc. p. 771; Paston Letters, i. 506). He married, between 25 July 1460 (when her father was slain by the Yorkists) and 29 March 1461, Elizabeth, baroness Scales and Neucelles (Newcells) in her own right, the childless widow of Sir Henry Bourchier, second son of Henry Bourchier, earl of Essex [q. v.] At Towton Woodville fought on the Lancastrian side, and was at first reported to have fallen (ib. ii. 5, 8; Cal. State Papers, Venetian, i. 103, 105–6). Regarding the cause of Henry VI as now ‘irremediably lost,’ he and his father transferred their allegiance to Edward IV (ib. i. 111). His recognition as Lord Scales in right of his wife followed in 1462, and under this title he was summoned to parliament from 22 Dec. in that year (Dugdale, ii. 231; Complete Peerage, vi. 371). At this moment he was helping to direct the siege of Alnwick Castle, which fell on 6 Jan. following (Paston Letters, ii. 121). After his sister Elizabeth’s marriage to the king in 1464 his advancement became rapid. Two years later he succeeded the Duke of Milan as a knight of the Garter, and received a grant of the lordship of the Isle of Wight, of which he seems to have been the last holder. He was pushing a claim to the disputed estates of Sir John Fastolf [q. v.] (ib. ii. 214).

Scales, like his father before him, was an accomplished knight, and his tournament with the Bastard of Burgundy in June 1467 aroused more than national interest. Two years before, at the instigation of the queen’s ladies and with the permission of the king, who was probably already meditating a Burgundian alliance, he despatched a challenge to Anthony, count of La Roche, in the Ardennes, natural son of Philip, duke of Burgundy, and brother of Charles the Bold, a knight of great renown (Excerpta Historica, pp. 178–84). The Bastard promptly accepted the challenge, but the wars in which Burgundy was soon engaged delayed his coming over until May 1467 (ib. p. 173; Fœdera, xi. 573; Will. Worc. p. 786). Great preparations were made for the combat, which took place in Smithfield on 11 and 12 June before a splendid audience, the king himself presiding over the lists. In the first course on horseback the Bastard’s horse struck its head against the iron of Scales’s saddle and fell upon its rider, who waived the offer of a second horse, remarking to the chronicler, Olivier de la Marche (p. 524), that Scales had fought a beast that day, but should fight a man on the morrow. On the 12th they met on foot with axes, and fought so fiercely that the king, seeing that Scales was getting the better of his antagonist cried ‘Whoo!’ and threw down his warder. The battle was declared drawn (Excerpta Historica, pp. 211–12; Fabyan, p. 656; Will. Worc. p. 787; cf. Stow, Annals). A history of this famous tournament has been preserved in a manuscript belonging to Scales’s friend, Sir John Paston (who was engaged to his cousin, Anne Haute), now in the British Museum (Lansdowne MS. 285). It is printed with some original documents relating to the affair in Bentley’s ‘Excerpta Historica.’ The death of Duke Philip, which recalled the Bastard to Brussels, hastened the conclusion of the negotiations for a marriage between his brother, the new duke, and Edward IV’s sister Margaret. Scales was a member of the embassy which went over in September and definitely arranged the match (Fœdera, xi. 590). He accompanied the bride to Bruges as her presenter in June 1468, and broke eleven lances with Adolf of Cleves in the jousts with which the marriage was celebrated (Olivier de la Marche, p. 560; Paston Letters, ii. 318). The Burgundian alliance threatening trouble with France, Edward got together four thousand men to assist the Duke of Brittany against his suzerain, and entrusted (7 Oct.) the command of the fleet which was to convey it across to Scales, now governor of Portsmouth (Fœdera, xi. 630; Will. Worc. p. 792). Louis XI at once came to terms with Duke Francis, but the fleet put to sea about 25 Oct., on a rumour that Queen Margaret had come down to Harfleur. After aimlessly cruising about for a month, it returned to the Isle of Wight (ib.)

Scales and his father were with the king in Norfolk in June 1469 when the Nevilles sprang their mine against the Woodville ascendency. According to a statement not improbable in itself, Edward sent them away in the hope of allaying the discontent (Wavrin, v. 580). Scales somehow contrived to escape the tragic fate which befell his father and brother after the skirmish at Edgecot (26 July 1469). It made him Earl Rivers and constable of England, but he afterwards resigned this latter dignity to the Duke of Gloucester (Excerpta Historica, p. 241). He was at Southampton in the spring of 1470 when Warwick on his flight to Calais tried to cut out his great ship the Trinity from that harbour, and succeeded in repulsing the attempt (Warkworth, p. 9). Edward made him lieutenant of Calais and entrusted him with the operations in the Channel against the rebels and their protector Louis XI (Olivier de la Marche, p. 529; Dugdale, ii. 231; but cf. Doyle). He is credited by Wavrin (v. 604) with a victory over Warwick’s fleet in the Seine. He shared Edward’s subsequent exile in the Low Countries, and, returning with him in 1471, rescued him from an awkward situation at York and helped to secure him victory at Barnet (ib. pp. 611, 640, 647, 652). While the king was crushing the Lancastrians at Tewkesbury, Rivers beat off the Bastard of Fauconberg’s attack upon London, and was made councillor (8 July) to the young Prince of Wales (Warkworth, p. 19; Doyle).

Rivers’s recent vicissitudes of fortune had, however, made a great impression on his mind; having been relieved, as he afterwards explained in the preface to the ‘Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers,’ by the goodness of God he was exhorted to dedicate his recovered life to his service. In October 1471 he obtained a royal request for safe-conduct for a voyage to Portugal ‘to be at a day upon the Saracens’ (Fœdera, xi. 727; Paston Letters, iii. 14, 32). The king was reported to have been not best pleased with his leaving him (ib. iii. 11). There was a rumour that he had sailed on Christmas-eve (ib. iii. 33). He returned in any case before 23 July following, when he was empowered to arrange an alliance with the Duke of Brittany (Fœdera, xi. 760). Soon after he took over a thousand men-at-arms and archers to Brittany, but in November was said to be coming hastily home, disease having made great ravages among his men (Paston Letters, iii. 59). In February 1473 he became one of the Prince of Wales’s guardians and chief butler of England. But his present prosperity did not cause him to forget the ‘tyme of grete tribulacion and adversite’ by which it had been reached, and in the summer of this year he went by sea to the jubilee and pardon at Santiago de Compostella. He returned, perhaps through Italy, to be appointed (10 Nov.) governor to the young prince, a dignified post which, as he tells us, gave him greater leisure for his literary occupations. But it was not uninterrupted. In the first year of his office he was twice sent to try and induce Charles the Bold to abandon the siege of Neuss for a campaign against Louis XI, and in 1475 he took part in the military parade which ended at Picquigny (Commines, i. 321; Doyle). But his badge was now the scallop-shells, and in the autumn he went on a pilgrimage to Rome, whence he visited the shrine of St. Nicholas at Bari and other holy places of southern Italy (Paston Letters, iii. 162; Excerpta Historica, p. 245; Cal. State Papers, Venetian, i. 133). Returning from Rome early in 1476, he was robbed of all his jewels and plate, estimated as worth a thousand marks or more, at Torre di Baccano, a few miles north of the city. Some of the stolen property was sold at Venice, and Rivers having applied for restitution, the signoria decided that this should be done gratuitously, out of deference for the king of England and his lordship (ib. i. 136). Sixtus IV invested him with the title of defender and director of papal causes in England (Caxton at the end of ‘The Cordyale,’ 1478). On his way north he visited (7–8 June) the camp at Morat of the luckless Duke Charles (cf. Kirk’s Charles the Bold, iii. 370–1). A greater honour than any that had yet befallen Rivers was presently in contemplation. His first wife had died during his visit to Compostella. In 1478 a marriage was arranged for him with Margaret, sister of James III of Scotland (Fœdera, xii. 171; Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, ii. 117). Edward bestowed upon him Thorney and three other honours, the Scots parliament voted twenty thousand marks for the marriage, and a safe-conduct was sent to the bride on 22 Aug. 1479 (ib. ii. 120; Fœdera, xii. 97, 162; Ramsay, ii. 437). But the match was suddenly broken off owing, it is surmised, to the discovery of Edward’s intrigues with her brother’s subjects.

When the king died (9 April 1483), Rivers was at Ludlow with the young prince; most of his relatives were in London. Edward’s nomination of Gloucester as protector meant the end of the Woodville predominance. But if Edward IV supposed that the Woodvilles would quietly accept a subordinate position, he miscalculated. Rivers started from Ludlow with the young king, his own half-brother Richard Grey, and a retinue limited by orders to two thousand, on 24 April, and was at Stony Stratford on the 29th. Learning that Gloucester on his way south from Yorkshire had just reached Northampton, ten miles in his rear, Rivers and Grey rode back to meet him. Gloucester and Buckingham entertained them at supper in apparent cordiality, but next morning took steps to prevent them reaching the king before themselves. Rivers protested, but was charged with attempting ‘to set distance between the king and them,’ put under arrest with Grey, and sent off in safe keeping to Sheriff-Hutton Castle, near York, which had come to Gloucester through his wife (Rous, p. 212; More; Stow). More, though friendly to them, admits that the discovery of large quantities of arms and armour in their baggage created a general impression that their designs were treasonable.

At Sheriff-Hutton on 23 June Rivers made his will, in which he gave instructions that if he died south of the Trent he should be buried in the chapel of ‘our Lady of Pewe’ beside St. Stephen’s College at Westminster, which owed to him various papal privileges (Excerpta Historica, pp. 245–6). But being removed to Pontefract and ordered for execution, he directed that he should be buried there ‘before an Image of our blissid Lady with my Lord Richard’ (ib. p. 248), appealed to Gloucester to see his will executed, and wrote the pathetic ‘balet’ on the unsteadfastness of fortune beginning

Sumwhat musying,
And more mornyng

(Rous, p. 214; Ritson, Ancient Songs, ii. 3). It is uncertain whether he was given the form of trial before his execution, which was carried out on 25 June by Sir Richard Radcliffe [q. v.] (Excerpta Historica, i. 244). Rous (p. 213) says that the Earl of Northumberland was his chief judge; but in any case he was deprived of his legal right to trial by his peers. A hair shirt he was found to be wearing next his skin was hung up before the image of the Virgin in the church of the Carmelites at Doncaster (Rous, pp. 213–14).

Rivers has been deservedly characterised as the noblest and most accomplished of all Richard III’s victims (Gairdner, p. 73). ‘Vir, haud facile discernas, manuve aut consilio promptior’ was the verdict of Sir Thomas More; ‘un tres gentil chevalier’ that of Commines (i. 321). But the warmest testimony to his virtues comes from Caxton, with whose name that of his friend and patron will always be associated. In the printer’s epilogue to the ‘Cordyale,’ after recording the earl’s devotion to works of piety, he concludes: ‘It seemeth that he conceiveth wel the mutabilite and the unstableness of this present lyf, and that he desireth with a greet zele and spirituell love our goostlye help and perpetual salvacion, and that we shal abhorre and utterly forsake thabominable and dampnable synnes which communely be now a dayes.’ This zeal for morality dictated the choice of the French works which he translated and had printed by Caxton. The ‘Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers,’ the first book printed in England (1477), was translated by Rivers (from Jean de Teonville’s French version of the Latin original, lent him by a friend to beguile his voyage to Compostella in 1473) because he found it ‘a glorious fair myrrour to all good Christen peple to behold and understonde.’ A few months later (February 1478) his translation of the ‘wise and holsom’ ‘Proverbs of Christine de Pisan’ ‘set in metre’ issued from Caxton’s press, followed in March 1479 by his version of the ‘Cordyale,’ ‘multiplied to goo abrood among the peple, that thereby more surely myght be remembred The Four Last Thingis undoubtably comyng.’ Caxton alludes to others that had passed through his hands, but whether this means that he printed them is not clear. Besides these translations, Rivers wrote ‘diverse Balades agenst the seven dedely synnes,’ but the only specimen of his muse that has been preserved is the gentle lament on the fickleness of fortune which Rous ascribes to the last days of his life (see above).

The only known portrait of Rivers is contained in an illumination in a Lambeth manuscript representing the earl presenting one of his books and its printer to Edward IV. Horace Walpole had it reproduced as a frontispiece to his ‘Royal and Noble Authors,’ and an engraving of Rivers’s head is in Doyle’s ‘Official Baronage.’ It shows a clean-shaven intellectual face.

Rivers was twice married, but left no legitimate issue. Lady Scales, his first wife, died on 1 Sept. 1473, and, after the failure of the negotiations for his marriage to the Scottish princess, he took for his second wife Mary, daughter and coheir of Sir Henry Fitz-Lewis of Horndon, Essex, by Elizabeth, daughter of Edmund Beaufort, second duke of Somerset. She survived him, and married secondly Sir John Neville, illegitimate son of the second Earl of Westmorland. Rivers had a natural daughter, Margaret, who became the wife of Sir Robert Poyntz of Iron Acton, Gloucestershire [see under Poyntz, Sir Francis]. His brother Richard succeeded him as third (and last) Earl Rivers.

[Rotuli Parliamentorum; Rymer’s Fœdera, original edition; State Papers, Venetian, ed. Rawdon Brown; William of Worcester (with Stevenson’s Wars of the English in France) and Wavrin’s Chronicle in the Rolls Ser.; Warkworth’s Chronicle, ed. Camden Soc.; Rous’s Chronicle, ed. Hearne; Fabyan, ed. Ellis; Commines’s Mémoires, ed. Dupont; Olivier de la Marche’s Mémoires, ed. Buchon; Paston Letters, ed. Gairdner; More’s Vita Ricardi III, ed. 1689; Stow’s Annals, ed. 1631; Bentley’s Excerpta Historica, 1831; Dugdale’s Baronage; G. E. C[okayne]’s Complete Peerage; Ramsay’s Lancaster and York; Gairdner’s Richard III, ed. 1898; other authorities in the text.]

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 62
Woodville, Anthony by James Tait

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