Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick has been labelled by historic tradition, with some justification, as the ‘kingmaker’. It is with his support that Edward IV was able claim the throne from Henry VI, Warwick’s support during the Wars of the Roses, and especially at the Battle of Towton was vital in putting the first Yorkist king on the throne. It is clear that he was instrumental in Edwards rise to the throne, however his contribution has sometimes been overemphasised. Pickering suggests that their alliance in taking the throne was equal, the victories Edwards own and even that Edward seemed more adept in battle than his ally. He says “Edward was neither ‘made’ by Warwick, nor controlled by him.” Nevertheless, his relationship with Richard, both as an ally and a friend, must have been very good. What lead him then, less than a decade later, to revolt against Richard in support of the exiled Henry VI?
The first thing to understand about Warwick was his character and to see that it was pure ambition that drove him. With the romanticism that the epithet “Kingmaker” implies, one could picture him as the noble-knight. However he seems to have far from the vignette that is perceived from the word “Kingmaker”. Keen says of him “Warwick was not a wholly attractive character. His temper was short, and when thwarted he was sullenly unforgiving.” The Old English Chronicle (edited by T.Hearne) describes the unquenched ambition that drove him “his insatiable mind could not be content…there was none in England who was before him or who owned half the possessions that he did…yet he desired more”.
It is with the possessions and the patronage that Richard Neville’s grievances with the king started to appear. Edward IV, as previously explained, came to the throne very much as Warwick’s protï¿½gï¿½. He must have thought that with Edward on the throne he would have a controlling influence over the king, and with this influence the obvious power he so desired.
Warwick was rewarded handsomely for his continued support, given titles and territories such as Captain of Calais, admiral of England and constable of Dover Castle, all of which were very important (and powerful) posts. He was by far the mightiest of Richards subjects, however he lacked the monopoly of Royal power that he yearned for, as royal patronage was (rightfully) extended to other leading Yorkists. Most prominently was Warwick’s stewardship of the duchy of Lancaster, given to Lord Hastings, and the lieutenancy of Southern Wales which was given to the recently knighted, Sir William Herbert.
Despite this set back for Warwick, he still was in full support of Edward, and to some extent had control of Edwards thinking. Edward was still a relatively young king, and Warwick was there for advice, and with help in making decisions. Warwick’s support was also necessary for Edward, as his kingship was still under-threat in the north and west by Margaret of Anjou’s continued attempts to re-instate her husband to the throne. This drove Edward and Warwick together further more during the early years of Edwards reign, and indeed in 1462 Warwick seemed to have won a decisive battle for Edward. He forced the lords in Bramburgh (including Somerset and Sir Ralph Percy) to surrender to Edwards allegiance, on the condition that their lands were re-instated. Although this was not the final problems Edward faced from the Lancastrian supporters during his reign, it showed that in 1462, Warwick was firmly behind Edward as King of Britain.
A factor which historians have usually put forward as a major cause of Warwick’s treachery is Edwards’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville. In 1464, Warwick was, to further the kings alliance to France, arranging a marriage between the King and a French Princess. In the final stages of these arrangements, on 14th September 1464, Edward revealed to Warwick and the rest of his assembled nobles at the council in Reading, that he was already married to Elizabeth.
The assembled magnets were stunned and horrified at the news, and it especially hurtful to Warwick who’s embarrassment over the whole French alliance marriage affair must have been huge. The chronicle of the time (Edited by J.Warkworth), says that after the announcement “(The Earl of Warwick was) greatly displeased with the king…And yet they were reconciled several times; but they never loved each other afterwards”
One must however beware of putting, as traditionally been done, too much emphasise on this marriage as a turning point in the relationships between Edward IV and Richard Neville. It is certainly a major factor in the breakdown of their relationship, however one must take into account that it occurred five years before Warwick’s revolt, and Warwick, at least publicly, still supported the king during these years.
Having said this, Richards marriage, though romantic and loving, was a serious, irresponsible mistake for a king to make. Elizabeth was, by Richards’s standards, a commoner. Edward was the first king since the Norman Conquest to marry a commoner; however this was not really the problem it was that he missed out on strengthening his position as king by arranging a more political marriage. Furthermore by marrying a Woodville, he alienated his other major noble families, especially the Neville’s. The Woodvilles, much to Warwick’s and others annoyance, managed with this marriage to promote their family to the upper echelons of the English aristocracy. It also enabled them to marry off some of their ‘lesser relations’ to be married to either nobility or families of a very high standing which further enhanced their political position.
The marriage did have significant repercussions for the relationship of Edward and Richard, however Keen points out, that rather than the damage the marriage itself caused, it was the undermining of Warwick’s plans that led to their relationship,
“If the marriage of the king put a period to his friendly association with Warwick-and it did-this was not, it would seem, because of its domestic repercussions, but because it was a direct challenge to Warwick’s continual diplomacy.”
It was not, as the quotation states, because of the repercussions of the marriage domestically that Warwick felt aggrieved, rather it was because it aired publicly and formally for the first time Edwards’s difference in opinion with Warwick about the foreign policy that they should employ. It was clear from Warwick’s failed attempt to marry Richard off to a French Princess that Warwick was in favour of Edward forming an alliance with England’s traditional enemies, the French. Indeed, he had been in regular contact with Louis XI of France, in an attempt to broker an alliance between France and England. Richard, conversely, wanted put his support in his present enemy, the Burgundians.
This was a contentious issue for the King to deal with, his leading advisor, whose protï¿½gï¿½, he was, had completely antithetical views upon the very important issue of foreign relations, and it was hear that Edward proved that he was no longer dependent, or felt indebt of Warwick. He favoured the Burgundian option, and ignoring Richards’s pressure, he applied for and was granted a double subsidiary from the parliament to help support the Burgundians and ‘revive English continental ambitions’. Edward was maturing into his own king and he began to take more and more control over the running of the kingdom. Conversely of course, Richard Nevilles influence over the king was rapidly diminishing, and with this influence the power he so lusted after.
It was this Maturity, and the lack of power that Warwick was afforded that ultimately, I believe led to Warwicks treachery. He had, when Edward was young, influenced and controlled the King. He had had his power that his personality demanded, however as Edward matured he started to take things into his own hands, which Richard, having tasted power, could not take. To make matters worse for Richard, power was being taken away from him and given to other nobility. His siblings were being passed over for marriage that was being afforded to others, and although his brother, George Neville, was enthroned as archbishop of York in September 1465, he felt his and his families power-base was faltering. It was here that Warwick decided to act, for the first time, against the king, in an attempt to enhance his standing.
Firstly Warwick continued to negotiate with Louis XI. Keen describes Warwick’s actions,
“For four years he instead continued to pursue with Louis’s encouragement what was in effect a private diplomacy of his own, independent and opposed to that of the king”
He was effectively siding against his own king, believing the French to be more powerful than the Burgundians and also enhancing his own power-base if he ever wanted to challenge the king (which he goes onto do).
At much the same time, however, Warwick was engineering the marriage, against the Kings wishes, of his daughter, Isabel, to the king’s younger brother and presumptive heir, George, Duke of Clarence. He would, if this marriage went ahead, become immediately more powerful, and a pose a threat to the Woodville’s dominance. Clarence, like Warwick, was extremely ambitious and would do almost anything to further his own cause. By the spring of 1469 Warwick and Clarence were in league with one another and also with Louis XI to undermine the Woodville’s, and possibly to over throw the king. Pickering says “Clarence encouraged Warwick to turn against the King and helped spread the rumour that his brother was not Duke Richard’s son but the bastard of an archer called Blaybourne”
This rumour was almost certainly unfounded, yet both risked turning against their own king They did this for their own gain, one with the view of taking his brothers place as king, the other with the view to once again controlling the king himself. Thus in July 1469, Clarence defied his brother’s wishes and married Isabel and on the 12th July, Warwick, with the support of his brother Archbishop Neville and George, Duke of Clarence, published the ‘Calais Manifesto’.