House of Neville
|House of Neville|
Armorial of Neville: Gules, a saltire argent
|Country||Kingdom of England, United Kingdom|
|Current head||Christopher Nevill, 6th Marquess of Abergavenny|
The House of Neville (also the House of Nevill) is a noble house of early medieval origin, which was a leading force in English politics in the later Middle Ages. The family became one of the two major powers in northern England along with the House of Percy and played a central role in the Wars of the Roses.
The Neville family's first established male forebear dates to after the Norman conquest of England and Domesday Book (which did not cover County Durham), of twenty years later, during which period most of the existing aristocracy of England were dispossessed and replaced by a new Norman ruling elite. Their Norman surname was only assumed four generations after the holder of 1129 — before which the male line was of native origin and had most probably been part of the pre-conquest aristocracy of Northumbria. The continuation of landowning among such native families was considerably more common in the more northerly parts of England than further south.
The family can be traced back to one Uhtred, whose son Dolfin is first attested in 1129, holding the manor of Staindrop (formerly Stainthorp) in County Durham, which shared with a vast church estate and some limited common in 14,000 acres (5,700 ha). This locality remained the principal seat of the family until 1569, their chief residence being at Raby in the north of the parish of Staindrop, where in the 14th century they built the present Raby Castle. Dolfin was succeeded by his son Meldred and he in turn by his son Robert fitz Meldred, who married the Norman heiress Isabel de Néville. Their son Geoffrey inherited the estates of his mother's family as well as his father's, and adopted their surname, which was borne by his descendants thereafter. In Norman-ruled England a Norman surname was more prestigious and socially advantageous than an English one.
Already before the Néville marriage the family was a major power in the area: "In the extent of their landed possessions this family, holding on obdurately to native names for a full hundred years after 1066, was pre-eminent among the lay proprietors within the bishopric of Durham during the twelfth century". In the 16th century the Nevilles claimed that their ancestor Uhtred was descended from Crinan of Dunkeld, ancestor of the Scottish royal House of Dunkeld. As well as prestigious ancient connections with the royal families of both England and Scotland, this claim entailed a line of descent from the Bamburgh dynasty of Earls of Northumbria, attaching the Nevilles' later power in the north to a pedigree of pre-eminence in the region stretching back at least as far as the early 10th century. Modern genealogists have put forward a variety of different speculative theories to connect Uhtred with his purported forebears, but none of these is supported by any direct evidence.
Rise to power
The family's wealth and power grew steadily over the following centuries. Their regional power benefited greatly from frequent appointment to royal offices such as sheriff, castellan, justice of the forest and justice of the peace in various parts of northern England. This prominent office-holding began with Geoffrey de Neville's son Robert, in the reign of Henry III, whom Robert supported against the barons under Simon de Montfort. The Nevilles also held administrative office under the prince-bishops of Durham. Robert's grandson Ralph Neville was one of the founding members of the Peerage of England, being summoned to sit in the House of Lords at its establishment in 1295 and thus initiating the line of Barons Neville de Raby.
Service in the wars of the late 13th and 14th centuries against Scotland and later in the Hundred Years War in France was of key importance in further magnifying the family's standing. In 1334 Ralph Neville, Lord of Raby was appointed one of the wardens of the marches, the chief officers for frontier defence, and the Nevilles habitually occupied these posts thereafter. Ralph commanded the force that crushed an invading Scottish army at the Battle of Neville's Cross outside Durham and captured King David II in 1346. In the mid-14th century the Nevilles became involved in naval defence as well, holding the post of Admiral of the North. This period also saw them begin to hold high office at court and in the Church: the victor of Neville's Cross served as Steward of the Royal Household and on his death was succeeded in the office by his eldest son John, while John's brother Alexander became Archbishop of York and a close advisor of Richard II. As such, he was prosecuted along with Richard's other leading adherents when the disgruntled Lords Appellant seized power in 1386-9, and suffered the confiscation of his property, although as a clergyman he escaped the death sentences imposed on his colleagues.
By the late 14th century the family had acquired an extensive array of estates across northern England. Besides their original powerbase in County Durham, they possessed a large block of lands in northern and central Yorkshire and significant holdings in Cumberland and Northumberland. They also held scattered estates in Lancashire and further south in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Essex. In addition to Raby, they acquired or built important castles at Brancepeth near Durham and at Middleham, Sheriff Hutton and Snape in Yorkshire. Although geographically concentrated, their main estates were organised into three administrative units (receiverships), based at Raby, Middleham and Sheriff Hutton, and responsible for the holdings in County Durham, in north-western Yorkshire and in central Yorkshire respectively. Towards the end of the 14th century Middleham became a second habitual residence of the head of the family.
Earls of Westmorland
The Nevilles' emergence into the highest echelon of the aristocracy received formal recognition in 1397 when the then Lord of Raby Ralph Neville was created Earl of Westmorland by Richard II. By this time the Nevilles' power in the north was matched only by the Percy Earls of Northumberland, with whom they developed an acrimonious rivalry. These competing northern magnates enjoyed an exceptional degree of autonomy from royal authority, owing to the remoteness and insecurity of the region where they were established. The king, whose court was based in the south, had to rely on powerful lords from both houses to protect the border from Scottish invasion, counterbalance each other's influence, and help with general governance.
Although the family had previously been close to Richard II, Earl Ralph was quick to join Henry Bolingbroke when he landed in England to overthrow Richard in 1399. Shortly after Bolingbroke's successful seizure of power and accession to the throne as Henry IV, Westmorland was rewarded with a royal bride, the new king's half-sister Joan Beaufort. Henry extended Richard II's policy of bolstering the strength of the Nevilles as a check to the troublesome Percys, and the family gained from the weakening of Percy power after the failure of the revolt of Henry "Hotspur" Percy in 1403.
While increasing the political standing of the Nevilles, the royal marriage also led to a serious split in the family. Earl Ralph had previously been married to Margaret de Stafford, and the earldom of Westmorland descended through his son by this marriage. However, he favoured his sons by his second marriage, who received the bulk of the family lands on his death, leading to bitter disputes over the inheritance and lasting estrangement between the Nevilles of Raby, descended from Margaret Stafford, and the Nevilles of Middleham, descended from Joan Beaufort. In addition to his patrimonial inheritance, Ralph's eldest son by Joan, Richard Neville, acquired the earldom of Salisbury by marriage to its heiress, while Salisbury's own eldest son Richard became Earl of Warwick by the same means. These marriages brought the family huge new estates. Those of the earldom of Warwick, inherited from the Beauchamp family, were concentrated chiefly in Warwickshire and Worcestershire, but with lesser holdings in County Durham, Devon, Cornwall and the Welsh Marches, while the main Salisbury lands, formerly held by the Montagus, were widely distributed across the south-west, with clusters in Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire. The family also acquired the barony of Latimer through the marriage of the first Earl of Westmorland's father, later passed on to one of the first earl's younger sons, and the baronies of Fauconberg and Bergavenny through the marriages of two more of those sons.
The Wars of the Roses
Salisbury and Warwick became the most important supporters of the Yorkist claimant to the throne Richard, Duke of York during the early stages of the Wars of the Roses. They probably hoped thereby to secure a favourable resolution of major inheritance disputes involving Warwick, and of a sporadically violent struggle for preeminence in the north between Salisbury and the Percies. They were also connected to York by marriage, as he had married Salisbury's sister Cecily; their children included the future kings Edward IV and Richard III. In addition to their own wealth and armed following, the Nevilles' heft in this and subsequent conflicts was enhanced by Warwick's position as Constable of Calais and commissioner for the keeping of the seas. These offices which gave him command of England's only significant standing armed force and control of a war-fleet. Through holding these positions, he had also been able to develop close ties with the rich London corporation of the Merchants of the Staple, and to gain popularity with the discontented populace of London and the south-east, especially Kent, whom he and his allies repeatedly stirred into revolt. York and Salisbury were both killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460, but Warwick helped York's son Edward, Earl of March, to depose Henry VI and gain the throne as Edward IV a few months later.
Salisbury's brother, the veteran soldier William Neville, Lord Fauconberg, was elevated as Earl of Kent, and he, Warwick, and Salisbury's younger son John Neville, now ennobled as Baron Montagu, directed the suppression of lingering Lancastrian resistance in the north, where the ousted dynasty clung on for three years after their decisive defeat at the Battle of Towton in 1461. The Percies were among the principal supporters of the Lancastrian cause, and following the death at Towton of Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and the final elimination of resistance in the north in 1464, the Nevilles secured their greatest triumph over their rivals, acquiring the earldom of Northumberland for John Neville in 1465.
Warwick, now by far the richest man in England after the king, was the power behind the throne in Edward's regime during its early years, but the two men later fell out. Their estrangement was due in large part to the king's secret marriage in 1464 to Elizabeth Woodville. This humiliated Warwick, who had negotiated an agreement with Louis XI of France for Edward to marry the French king's sister-in-law, and relations were further aggravated by the subsequent influence of the Woodvilles, who successfully opposed Warwick over foreign policy.
In 1469 Warwick seized control of government, in conjunction with his brother George Neville, Archbishop of York and Edward's own brother George, Duke of Clarence. They imprisoned the king and sought to rule in his name, but the new regime was unable to impose its authority and Edward was released. The king refrained from punishing the rebels, but sought to reestablish a northern counterweight to the Nevilles by restoring the earldom of Northumberland to the dispossessed heir, Henry Percy. This meant depriving John Neville, who had remained loyal to the king when his brothers rebelled, of his title, lands and offices. Edward sought to retain John's allegiance by compensating him with estates in the south-west, the new title of Marquess of Montagu, and the betrothal of his young son George Neville to the king's eldest daughter and current heir, Elizabeth of York George was made Duke of Bedford in recognition of his future prospects. All this, however, evidently failed to mollify Montagu.
Warwick and Clarence again rebelled in 1470, apparently aiming to put Clarence on the throne. Defeated, they were forced to flee abroad, where they made common cause with the exiled Lancastrians, marrying Warwick's daughter Anne to Henry VI's only son Edward. When Warwick and other leaders of this alliance landed in England to raise revolt once more, they were backed by leading nobles still in England, including Montagu, who turned the troops he had nominally raised for Edward IV against the king. Edward fled the country and Henry VI was briefly restored to the throne, but Edward soon counter-attacked successfully and Warwick and Montagu were killed at the Battle of Barnet in 1471.
After the death of the leading Middleham Nevilles, their estates became the object of dispute between King Edward's brothers Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and Clarence, who had returned to the family fold during the fighting in 1471. While Clarence gained the earldoms of Warwick and Salisbury, Gloucester acquired the old Neville estates in the north, securing his position through marriage to Anne Neville, widowed by Prince Edward's death in the final Lancastrian defeat at Tewkesbury. These lands became his main powerbase, and he adopted Middleham Castle as his principal residence until his usurpation of the throne as Richard III in 1483.
Reflecting the estrangement between the two branches of the family, the Nevilles of Raby, headed by Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland had sided with the Lancastrians from the outset; Westmorland's brother John Neville, Lord of Raby was killed in the defeat at Towton. The line of the Earls of Westmorland survived the wars, but the loss of most of the ancestral estates through their inheritance by the Nevilles of Middleham and their subsequent downfall left the family a much diminished force.
Junior lines of the Middleham Nevilles also survived, including the holders of the Latimer and Bergavenny baronies, based respectively at Snape and at Abergavenny Castle. George Neville, Lord Bergavenny had been forcibly deprived of his inheritance by his nephew the Earl of Warwick, and during the wars each of these lines of the family had fought sometimes alongside and sometimes against the core group of Middleham Nevilles led by Salisbury and Warwick.
The regional power of the northern magnates, already severely weakened by the losses suffered in the Wars of the Roses, was further diminished by the growing power of central government in the 16th century. In 1569 the Nevilles and Percies buried their traditional rivalry to undertake the Revolt of the Northern Earls, an attempt to overthrow Elizabeth I and replace her with the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots. The rebellion was a fiasco, and the Earl of Westmorland, Charles Neville, fled into exile abroad. He was attainted in his absence, losing his title and lands, and died in 1601 leaving no male heir, thus extinguishing the senior Neville line.
The Latimer branch of the family had also died out in 1577, but the Bergavenny line endured. Mary Nevill(e), the daughter of Henry Nevill, 6th Baron Bergavenny fought a long legal battle to be recognised as heiress to all the remaining Neville inheritance and in the end these lands were split between herself and her cousin Edward Nevill, 7th Baron Bergavenny. Her son Francis Fane inherited through her the very old title of Baron le Despencer; to him, the Neville family's senior title of Earl of Westmorland was recreated, and remains with his male line descendants.
Edward Nevill's descendants went on to be raised to the status of Earls and then Marquesses of Abergavenny. This line continues; the present head of the family, is Christopher Nevill, the 6th Marquess. His family lands have been eroded through the passage of time (whether by subdivision or inheritance tax) but the main home, at Eridge Park in Sussex, has been in the family since 1448.
|Title||Held||Designation and details|
|Baron Neville de Raby||1295–1571||Created by writ in the Peerage of England in 1295 when Ralph Neville was summoned to Parliament. Attainted in 1571.|
|Earl of Westmorland||1397–1571||Created in the Peerage of England in 1397 for Ralph Neville, 4th Baron Neville de Raby. Attainted in 1571.|
|Earl of Salisbury||1428–1471||Richard Neville the son of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, married Alice Montacute the heiress of Thomas Montacute, 4th Earl of Salisbury and inherited the title. Attainted in 1471|
|Baron Fauconberg||1429–1463||William Neville, the son of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, married Joan Fauconberg, daughter of Thomas de Fauconberg, 5th Baron Fauconberg, and became Baron Fauconberg jure uxoris. Abeyant on his death in 1463.|
|Baron Latymer||1432–1577||Created in the Peerage of England by writ in 1432 when George Nevill, the son of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland was summoned to Parliament. Abeyant in 1577.|
|Baron Bergavenny||1447–1938||Created in the Peerage of England by writ in 1447 when Edward Nevill, the 7th son of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, and husband of Elizabeth de Beauchamp, suo jure 3rd Baroness Bergavenny, was summoned to Parliament. Abeyant in 1938.|
|Earl of Warwick||1449–1471||Richard Neville, the son of Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, married Anne Beauchamp, the heiress of Richard de Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick and became Earl of Warwick jure uxoris. Attainted in 1471.|
|Baron Montagu||1461–1471||Created in the Peerage of England by writ in 1461 when John Neville, the son of Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury was summoned to Parliament. Attainted in 1471.|
|Earl of Kent||1461–1463||William Neville, 6th Baron Fauconberg created Earl of Kent in the Peerage of England in 1461. Extinct on his death in 1463.|
|Earl of Northumberland||1465–1470||John Neville, 1st Baron Montagu created Earl of Northumberland in the Peerage of England in 1465, following the death and attainder of Henry Percy, 3rd Earl of Northumberland. Deprived in 1470, for the title to be restored to Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland.|
|Marquess of Montagu||1470–1471||Created in the Peerage of England in 1470 for John Neville, 1st Earl of Northumberland. Attainted in 1471.|
|Duke of Bedford||1470–1478||George Neville, son of John Neville, 1st Marquess of Montagu created Duke of Bedford in the Peerage of England in 1470. Deprived by Act of Parliament in 1478.|
|Earl of Abergavenny||1784–||Created in the Peerage of Great Britain in 1784 for George Neville, 17th Baron Bergavenny. Extant.|
|Marquess of Abergavenny||1876–||Created in the Peerage of Great Britain in 1876 for William Neville, 5th Earl of Abergavenny. Extant.|
|Earl of Lewes||1876–||Created in the Peerage of Great Britain in 1876 for William Neville, 5th Earl of Abergavenny. Extant.|
Members in the male line
- 1. Ralph de Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, 1364 - 1425
- A. John Neville, Lord Neville (d. 1420)
- B. Sir Ralph Neville (d. 1458)
- C. Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, 1400 - 1460
- D. Robert Neville, d. 1457, Bishop of Durham
- E. William Neville, 1st Earl of Kent, 1410 - 1463
- I. Anthony Neville, Lord Grey
- F. George Neville, 1st Baron Latimer
- G. Edward Nevill, 3rd Baron Bergavenny, 1414 - 1476
- I. Richard Nevill, 1439 - 1476
- II. George Nevill, 4th Baron Bergavenny, 1440 - 1492
- a. George Nevill, 5th Baron Bergavenny, 1469 - 1535
- i. Henry Nevill, 6th Baron Bergavenny, 1527 - 1587
- b. Edward Neville, 1471 - 1538
- i. Edward Nevill, 7th Baron Bergavenny, 1526 - 1588
- a. George Nevill, 5th Baron Bergavenny, 1469 - 1535
- Collins, Arthur (1982). Peerage of England, Volume 5. F. C. and J. Rivington.
- Given-Wilson, Chris, The English Nobility in the Late Middle Ages: The Fourteenth-Century Political Community (London and New York 1987)
- Hicks, Michael, The Wars of the Roses (New Haven and London 2010)
- Offler, Hilary S., Durham Episcopal Charters 1071-1152 (Gateshead 1968)
- Offler, Hilary S., 'FitzMeldred, Neville and Hansard', North of the Tees - studies in medieval British history (Aldershot 1996), XIII
- Round, John H., Feudal England - historical studies on the eleventh and twelfth centuries (London 1895, 3rd ed. London 1964)
- Wagner, Anthony (1961). English Ancestry. Oxford University Press.
- Wagner, Anthony, Pedigree and Progress - essays in the genealogical interpretation of history (London and Chichester 1975)
- Wagner, Anthony (2001). Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. ABC CLIO. ISBN 1-85109-358-3.
- Young, Charles R., The Making of the Neville Family in England 1166-1400 (Woodbridge 1996)
- It has been noted however that "this Dolfin, when doing homage to the Prior of Durham for Staindrop, reserved his homage to the kings of England and of Scotland, as well as the Bishop of Durham" implying that he was "no doubt, a man of consequence" and "probably of high Northumbrian birth". Round, Feudal England, 370-2; Offler, 'FitzMeldred, Neville and Hansard', 2-3; Wagner, English Ancestry, 16-17; Wagner, Pedigree and Progress, 51, 210
- Offler, Charters, 122 (no. 29)
- Samuel Lewis (publisher) (1848). "Stain - Stainton, Market". A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
- Round, Feudal England, 370-2
- Offler, 'FitzMeldred, Neville and Hansard', 3
- Wagner, English Ancestry, 16-17
- Young, Making of the Neville Family, 82-6
- Young, Making of the Neville Family, 100
- Young, Making of the Neville Family, 100-2, 112-24
- Young, Making of the Neville Family, 114
- Young, Making of the Neville Family, 119-24
- Young, Making of the Neville Family, 125-35
- Young, Making of the Neville Family, 130, 137. Middleham Castle was acquired in 1270, while those at Brancepeth and Sheriff Hutton were built by the Nevilles in the late 14th century and Snape around 1430.
- Given-Wilson, English Nobility, pp. xii-xiii, 105-106
- Young, Making of the Neville Family, 137-9
- Young, Making of the Neville Family, 143, 145-7
- Given-Wilson, English Nobility, pp. xiv-xvii, 107
- Hicks, Wars of the Roses, pp. 105-12, 137-63
- Hicks, Wars of the Roses, pp. 178-9
- Hicks, Wars of the Roses, pp. 186-90
- Hicks, Wars of the Roses, pp. 190-205
- Young, Making of the Neville Family, 145-7
- Hicks, Wars of the Roses, pp. 37, 99-100
- Eridge Park — a short history.