Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers

WOODVILLE or WYDVILLE, RICHARD, first Earl Rivers (d. 1469), was son of Richard Woodville of the Mote, near Maidstone in Kent, and (after the death of his elder brother Thomas) of Grafton, Northamptonshire. The Woodvilles had been settled at Grafton as early as the reign of Henry II, but the manorial rights were first acquired by Woodville’s uncle Thomas. His mother was Joan Beauchamp, heiress of a Somersetshire family (Baker, ii. 166; Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. p. 113; but cf. Genealogist, vi. 199). Richard Woodville the elder, whom Dugdale failed to distinguish from his son, was a trusted servant of Henry V and the regent Bedford in the French wars. He held a command in the expeditions of 1415 and 1417, and in 1420 became esquire of the body to Henry V and seneschal of Normandy (Gesta Henrici V, pp. 9, 277; Dugdale, ii. 230). The king bestowed upon him in 1418 the Norman seigniories of Préaux and Dangu (Longnon, p. 106). Bedford, on becoming regent for Henry VI in France, made Woodville his chamberlain, and rewarded his ‘grans notables et aggreables services’ with further grants of confiscated estates (ib. pp. 105–6; Monstrelet, iv. 138). His connection with Bedford induced Beaufort and the council to entrust the Tower to his keeping when Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, attempted a coup d’état with the help of the Londoners in 1425 (Ord. Privy Council, iii. 167; Ramsay, i. 361). He returned with the regent to France in the spring of 1427 to take up in July 1429 the post of lieutenant of Calais, where the marriage arranged between his daughter Joan and William Haute, an esquire of Kent, was apparently solemnised (Dugdale, ii. 230; Ord. Privy Council, iii. 245, 329; Excerpta Historica, p. 249). He still held this position in 1435, though in 1431 he seems to have been detached for a time to serve on the council of Henry VI while in France (Fœdera, x. 605; Doyle; Ord. Privy Council, iv. 82). There is some difficulty, however, during these years in distinguishing him from his son. He probably settled down at Grafton after the death of his elder brother (who made his will on 12 Oct. 1434), was sheriff of Northamptonshire in 1438, and died between 1440 and 1442 (Baker, ii. 166).

Richard Woodville the younger was knighted by Henry VI at Leicester on 19 May 1426 (Leland, ii. 491). It was probably he who commanded a troop in France in 1429 and conveyed the wages of the Duke of Burgundy’s forces to Lille in the following year (Doyle; Fœdera, x. 454). He is said to have been taken prisoner in the attack upon Gerberoi in May 1435, but must have soon obtained his release, as he served under Suffolk in 1435–6 (Wavrin, p. 64; Dugdale, ii. 230). The foundation of his fortunes was his surreptitious marriage, apparently in 1436, with Jacquetta of Luxemburg, the young widowed Duchess of Bedford. She had to pay (23 March 1437) a fine of 1,000l. for marrying without the royal license (Rot. Parl. iv. 498; Devon, p. 436). Woodville received a pardon on 24 Oct. following (Fœdera, x. 677). The mésalliance gave great offence to Jacquetta’s relatives (Wavrin, p. 207). The statement afterwards made (ib. p. 455) that Woodville and Jacquetta had two children before marriage is doubtless a mere calumny.

Woodville served under Somerset and Talbot in the attempt to relieve Meaux in 1439 (ib. p. 257; Doyle). His reputation as an accomplished knight caused him to be selected to ‘deliver’ the redoubtable Pedro Vasque de Saavedra, chamberlain of the Duke of Burgundy, who came to London in 1440 to ‘run a course with a sharp spear for his sovereign lady’s sake’ (Fœdera, x. 828; Paston Letters, i. 41; Chastellain, iii. 455). They met in lists at Westminster on 26 Nov., but the king stopped the combat after the third stroke (Stow). In June 1441 Woodville once more went to France, in the train of the Duke of York, and helped to relieve Pontoise (Ramsay, ii. 37). He became a knight banneret and captain of Alençon (25 Sept. 1442). On 9 May (Dugdale gives 29th) 1448 he was raised to the peerage by letters patent as Baron Rivers. His choice of title is puzzling. Dugdale thought he took the name of the old family of Redvers or De Ripariis, earls of Devon; and his addition to his arms of an inescutcheon bearing a griffin segreant, which was part at least of their device, has been held to confirm this hypothesis (Complete Peerage, vi. 371). But the inclusion among the seigniories granted him in support of his new dignity of a barony of Rivers and a casual reference (in a letter of 1475) to his son under the name of Lord Anthony Angre suggest a connection with the barony of Rivers or De Ripariis of Aungre (Ongar) in Essex, which had been for some time in abeyance (ib. v. 398; Dugdale, ii. 230; Cal. State Papers, Ven. i. 136). No connection with either family seems to have been discovered by genealogists.

Rivers took part in the suppression of Cade’s rising in June 1450, and, though the rumour that he was to succeed the murdered Suffolk as constable of England had proved baseless, he was admitted to the order of the Garter (4 Aug.) and the privy council (Doyle; Paston Letters, i. 128; Ord. Privy Council, vi. 101). The French having now begun the conquest of Aquitaine, Rivers received a commission as seneschal of the province on 18 Oct. 1450, and was to take out a strong force; but the transports remained idle at Plymouth for nine months, and the expedition was abandoned on the news of the fall of Bordeaux (ib. vi. 105, 115; Ramsay, ii. 146). He seems to have spent the following years at Calais as one of the lieutenants of the Duke of Somerset, who had been appointed its captain in September 1451, and was thus unable to support the duke and the king at the battle of St. Albans (Ord. Privy Council, vi. 276; Doyle; Beaumont, vi. 46). He was summoned to the great council in January 1458 which arranged a temporary reconciliation between the two parties, the unreality of which was illustrated in the following July by his appointment to inquire into the Earl of Warwick’s piratical attack upon the Lübeck salt fleet (Ord. Privy Council, vi. 292; Fœdera, xi. 415). When hostilities were resumed in 1459 and Warwick and the Earl of March were driven out of the country and took refuge at Calais, Rivers was stationed at Sandwich to guard against a landing. He was surprised in his bed, however, one morning shortly after the New Year 1460 by Sir John Dynham with a small party from Calais, and carried across the Channel with his son Anthony (Will. Worc. , p. 771). On their arrival at Calais the captives were bitterly ‘rated’ by the Yorkist leaders for having joined in stigmatising them as traitors. Warwick reminded him that his father was but a squire brought up with Henry V, and that he himself had been ‘made by marriage and also made lord,’ and ‘that it was not his part to have such language of lords, being of the King’s blood’ (Paston Letters, i. 506).

When and how they escaped from their captors does not appear, but they fought at Towton on the side of King Henry, whom Rivers accompanied in his flight to Newcastle (Cal. State Papers, Ven. i. 105–6). On 30 Aug. 1461, however, Count Ludovico Dallugo reported to the Duke of Milan that the earl had quitted Henry and tendered his allegiance to Edward IV. ‘I held several conversations,’ he wrote, ‘with this lord de Rivers about King Henry’s cause, and he assured me that it was lost irremediably’ (ib. i. 111). Edward’s secret marriage with Rivers’s daughter Elizabeth on 1 May 1464 more than re-established his fortunes, and gave him a sweet revenge upon Warwick for the treatment he had received four years before. The Woodville influence soon became paramount at court, ‘to the exaltation of the queen and displeasure of the whole realm’ (Will. Worc. p. 785). Rivers was appointed treasurer on 4 March 1466, and on 25 May at Windsor he was made Earl Rivers. His numerous sons and daughters were married into the richest and noblest baronial families. John Tiptoft, earl of Worcester [q. v.], had to resign the position of high constable of England in favour of the king’s father-in-law, who took up the staff on 24 Aug. 1467 (Fœdera, xi. 581). Warwick and the Neville clan, who found themselves ousted from the predominance at court they had enjoyed in the first years of the reign, became more and more estranged from the king and hostile to the Woodvilles. Overt hostilities began with the pillage of Rivers’s Kentish estate by a mob of Warwick’s partisans on New Year’s day 1468 (Wavrin, ed. Dupont, iii. 192). But Warwick thought the movement here and the similar one in Yorkshire under Robin of Redesdale [q. v.] premature, and an interview between Rivers and Archbishop Neville at Nottingham ended in Warwick’s visiting the king at Coventry towards the end of January (Will. Worc. p. 789). But the reconciliation was merely temporary, and the marriage of Clarence and Isabel Neville in July 1469 was followed by an open outbreak. The proclamation issued by Warwick and his friends laid most stress upon the king’s estrangement of the ‘great lords of his blood’ for the Woodvilles and other ‘seducious persones’ (Warkworth, pp. 46–51). Rivers and others of the family were at that moment with the king, who was making a progress through the eastern counties; but when the news came in that the country was rising in the Neville interest they left him, or he thought it prudent to dismiss them (Wavrin, v. 580). After Edward’s defeat at Edgecot (26 July), Rivers and his son Sir John Woodville were taken at Chepstow, conveyed to Kenilworth, and executed on 12 Aug. (Warkworth, pp. 7, 46; Three Fifteenth-Century Chronicles, p. 183; Wavrin, ed. Dupont, ii. 406; Report on the Dignity of a Peer, v. 398).

Rivers married Jacquetta, daughter of Peter de Luxemburg, count of St. Pol, by Marguerite, daughter of Francois de Baux, duke of Andria in the kingdom of Naples. She was the widow of John of Lancaster, duke of Bedford [q. v.], brother of Henry V, and she survived her second husband, dying on 30 May 1472. She bore Rivers fourteen or fifteen children, seven sons and seven or eight daughters. Five sons survived infancy: 1. Anthony, second Earl Rivers [q. v.] 2. John, who at twenty was married in January 1465 to a ‘juvencula’ of nearly eighty, Catherine Neville, dowager duchess of Norfolk, aunt of Warwick ‘the kingmaker.’ ‘Maritagium diabolicum’ comments William of Worcester (p. 783), and adds obscurely, ‘Vindicta Bernardi inter eosdem postea patuit’ (cf. Rot. Parl. v. 607). He was knighted at his sister’s coronation two months later, and shared his father’s fate in 1469. 3. Lionel, bishop of Salisbury [q. v.] 4. Sir Edward, erroneously called Lord Woodville in ‘Paston Letters’ (iii. 344). He commanded the Woodville fleet in 1483, and shared Henry of Richmond’s exile in Brittany. In 1486–7 he joined in Spain the armies of Ferdinand and Isabella and fought in Granada against the Moors. In 1488 he greatly embarrassed Henry by taking over a small force to help the Bretons against the French, and fell in the battle of St. Aubin du Cormier on 28 July (ib.; Busch, i. 43; R. B. Merriman’s Edward Woodville, Knight-Errant in Proc. Amer. Antiq. Soc. 1904). 5. Richard, attainted in 1483, restored in 1485; he succeeded his brother Anthony as third and last Earl Rivers, and died without issue in 1491. Rivers’s daughters were: 1. Elizabeth, who is separately noticed as Queen Elizabeth (1437?–1492). 2. Margaret (d. before 1491), who married (Oct. 1464) Thomas Fitzalan, earl of Arundel (d. 1524). 3. Anne (d. before 1491), who married, first (in 1466), William, viscount Bourchier, and, secondly (before 1481), George Grey, second earl of Kent (d. 1503). 4. Jacquetta, who married John, lord Strange of Knockin (d. 1477), and died before 1481. 5. Mary (d. in or before 1481), who married (1466) William Herbert, earl of Huntingdon [see under Herbert, Sir William, Earl of Pembroke, d. 1469]. 6. Catherine (b. about 1457), who married, first (1466), Henry Stafford, second duke of Buckingham [q. v.]; secondly, Jasper Tudor, duke of Bedford [q. v.], and, thirdly, Sir Richard Wingfield [q. v.] 7. A daughter who is said to have married Sir John Bromley (Dugdale, ii. 231). 8. William of Worcester (p. 785) mentions still another daughter, who was married (February 1466) to (Anthony) Lord Grey de Ruthin, son and heir of the Earl of Kent, but he does not give her name. She does not appear in the pedigrees, but the chronicler can hardly be guilty of a confusion caused by the second marriage of Anne Woodville to Anthony Grey’s younger brother George, who succeeded him in the style of Lord Grey de Ruthin.

[Rotuli Parliamentorum; Rymer’s Fœdera, orig. edit.; Issues of the Exchequer, ed. Devon; Ordinances of the Privy Council, ed. Nicolas; Cal. State Papers, Venetian, ed. Rawdon Brown; Wavrin’s Chronicle, ed. by Hardy in the Rolls Series and by Dupont for the Société de l’Histoire de France; William of Worcester, ed. by Stevenson in the second volume of the Wars of the English in France (Rolls Ser.); Warkworth’s Chronicle, ed. Camden Soc.; Gesta Henrici V, ed. English Historical Society; Monstrelet’s Chronicle, ed. Douët d’Arcq for Société de l’Histoire de France; Longnon’s Paris pendant la Domination Anglaise (Soc. de l’Histoire de Paris); Chastellain, ed. Kervyn de Lettenhove; Leland’s Collectanea, ed. Hearne; Excerpta Historica, 1831; Paston Letters, ed. Gairdner; Doyle’s Official Baronage; Dugdale’s Baronage; G. E. C[okayne]’s Complete Peerage; Beaucourt’s Histoire de Charles VII; Ramsay’s Lancaster and York; Busch’s England under the Tudors, vol. i. (Engl. transl.); Baker’s History of Northamptonshire.]

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

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