John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford

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John de Vere
Earl of Oxford
Tower Hill scaffold location - Sign 2.jpg
Site of scaffold on Tower Hill where John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford, was executed
Born (1408-04-23)23 April 1408
Castle Hedingham, Essex
Died 26 February 1462(1462-02-26) (aged 53)
Tower Hill, London
Noble family De Vere
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Howard
Sir Aubrey Vere
John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford
Sir George Vere
Sir Richard Vere
Thomas Vere
Isabel Vere
Joan Vere
Mary Vere
Father Richard de Vere, 11th Earl of Oxford
Mother Alice Sergeaux

John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford (23 April 1408 – 26 February 1462), was the son of Richard de Vere, 11th Earl of Oxford (1385?–15 February 1417), and his second wife, Alice Sergeaux (1386–1452).[1] A Lancastrian loyalist during the latter part of his life, he was convicted of high treason and beheaded on Tower Hill on 26 February 1462.


John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford, born 23 April 1408[2] at Hedingham Castle, was the elder son of Richard de Vere, 11th Earl of Oxford, and his second wife, Alice, the widow of Guy de St Aubyn, and daughter of Sir Richard Sergeaux of Colquite, Cornwall by his second wife, Philippe (d. 18 May 1452), the daughter and co-heiress of Sir Edmund de Arundel. Through their second son, Sir Robert Vere, the 11th Earl and his wife, Philippe, were the great-grandparents of John de Vere, 15th Earl of Oxford.[3]

The 12th Earl inherited his title as a minor at his father's death on 15 February 1417. Custody of his person and lands was granted firstly to the Duke of Exeter until his death in 1426, and later to the Duke of Bedford. In 1425, while still underage, Oxford married the heiress Elizabeth Howard (c.1410–1473/4), the daughter of Sir John Howard, 7th Lord Plaiz (c.1385/6–1409), a brother of Sir Robert Howard, father of John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk. After the death of her grandfather, Sir John Howard of Wiggenhall (c. 1366 – 17 November 1436), Elizabeth inherited lands in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire.[4] Although Oxford claimed the marriage had been contracted on Exeter's advice, it had not been authorized by licence from the King, and Oxford was fined £2000. According to Castor, Oxford had difficulty making payment of this large fine since 'the earldom of Oxford was among the poorest of the comital titles', with Oxford stating in 1437 that his lands were worth only £500 per year.[5]

Oxford was knighted at Leicester on 26 May 1426, together with 34 others including his brother, Robert, and the four-year-old King Henry VI. On 4 July 1429 he was granted livery of his lands. In 1431 he was appointed to the Privy Council. During the 1430s and 1440s Oxford was involved in local politics in East Anglia, being appointed to various commissions in Essex and serving as a Justice of the Peace in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. In February 1435 he was licensed to travel to the Holy Land, although there is no evidence that he actually did so.[6]

In July 1436 Oxford mustered his retainers at Sandwich, Kent for an expedition to relieve the Siege of Calais by the Duke of Burgundy. On 23 July 1437 he was summoned to attend the funeral of Queen Joan at Canterbury. In June 1439, with Cardinal Henry Beaufort and other envoys, he was appointed a commissioner to treat of peace with France. On 16 May 1441 he sailed from Portsmouth to France with Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, who had been appointed Lieutenant-General and Governor of France and Normandy. In June 1450 Oxford was among the noblemen appointed to act against Jack Cade's Kentish rebels.[7]

In the late 1440s Oxford extended his political influence in East Anglia to Norfolk. He was regularly appointed a Justice of the Peace there, and in 1450, after the fall from power of William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, Oxford, together with John Mowbray, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, and Sir John Fastolf, challenged the influence of Suffolk's supporters in that county. By the spring of 1451, however, Suffolk's associates had regrouped under the leadership of Thomas, Lord Scales and the widowed Duchess of Suffolk, and by 1452 leading members of Suffolk's affinity such as Sir Thomas Tuddenham and John Heydon were again being appointed to office.[8]

As national politics became increasingly divided during the 1450s, Oxford did not immediately take sides, although he was a member of the Council while the Duke of York was Lord Protector in 1453–54 during Henry VI's period of mental breakdown,[9] and on 28 May 1454, together with 6 other peers and his brother, Sir Robert Vere, undertook to keep the seas for three years.[10] In May 1455 he and the Duke of Norfolk both arrived a day too late to take part in the Battle of St Albans. It was not until 1459 that Oxford committed himself to Margaret of Anjou against the Duke of York. In December of that year and in April 1460 he was appointed to lead anti-Yorkist commissions of array in Essex, and by May 1460 his eldest son, Sir Aubrey Vere, who had recently married Anne, the daughter of Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham, was reported to be ‘great with the Queen’.[11]

Site of the scaffold on Tower Hill

After the Yorkist victory at the Battle of Northampton in July 1460, Oxford appears to have suffered from ill health. In November of that year he was exempted, ‘in consideration of his infirmities’, from appearing in person before the King or in Council or Parliament.[12] If he was feigning illness in order to maintain a low profile in the face of the new Yorkist regime under King Edward IV, the ploy was unsuccessful. In February 1462 Oxford was arrested, together with his son Aubrey and Sir Thomas Tuddenham, his former opponent in Norfolk and now a fellow Lancastrian loyalist, and convicted of high treason before the Constable of England, John Tiptoft, 1st Earl of Worcester. On 26 February 1462 Oxford at on Tower Hill he was reputedly tightly bound, had his stomach cut open and his entrails cast into a fire. He was then castrated and thrown, still living into the fire. Then he was buried in the church of the Austin Friars, London. His eldest son, Aubrey, had been executed six days earlier, and Oxford was therefore succeeded by his second son, John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford.

Marriage and issue[edit]

Oxford married, between 22 May and 31 August 1425, Elizabeth Howard (c.1410–1475), the only child and heiress of Sir John Howard, 7th Lord Plaiz (c.1385/6 – c.1409), and his wife Joan Walton, the daughter of John Walton of Wivenhoe, Essex and Margery Sutton,[13] by whom he had five sons and three daughters:[14][15]


  1. ^ Ross 2011, p. 18
  2. ^ Ross 2011, p. 22
  3. ^ Richardson 2004, pp. 370, 738; Cokayne 1945, p. 238; Castor 2004.
  4. ^ Richardson 2004, pp. 234, 738; Cokayne 1945, pp. 236, 238; Castor 2004.
  5. ^ Richardson 2004, pp. 234, 738; Cokayne 1945, pp. 236, 238; Castor 2004.
  6. ^ Cokayne 1945, p. 237; Castor 2004.
  7. ^ Cokayne 1945, p. 237; Castor 2004.
  8. ^ Castor 2004.
  9. ^ Castor 2004.
  10. ^ Cokayne 1945, p. 237; Castor 2004.
  11. ^ Castor 2004; Richardson 2004, p. 674.
  12. ^ Cokayne 1945, p. 237; Castor 2004.
  13. ^ The History and Antiquities of the County of Norfolk, Volume 6 By Mostyn John Armstrong p.159
  14. ^ Cokayne 1945, p. 238.
  15. ^ a b Ross 2011, p. 23.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g Richardson IV 2011, p. 273.
  17. ^ Richardson IV 2011, p. 273, 276.
  18. ^ Ross 2011, pp. 23, 45, 80.
  19. ^ Ross 2011, pp. 23, 80.


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain
 James, Tait (1899). "Vere, John de (1443–1513)". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 58. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 240–242. 
 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain
 James, Tait (1899). "Vere, Aubrey de (1340?–1400)". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 58. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 221. 
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Richard de Vere, 11th Earl of Oxford
Earl of Oxford
Succeeded by
John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford