Ralph Neville, 2nd Earl of Westmorland

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Ralph Neville

Drawing of his effigy, after Charles Stothard[1]
Baptised4 April 1406
Died3 November 1484 (aged 78)
Resting placeSt. Brandon's Church, Brancepeth
Net worthapprox. £600 p.a. at death[2]
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Percy
Margaret Cobham
Children2 (both died young)

Ralph Neville, 2nd Earl of Westmorland (4 April 1406 – 3 November 1484) was an English nobleman.


Ralph Neville was born at Cockermouth Castle (which was temporarily in Neville hands following a rebellion of the rival Percy family),[3] Cumberland in northern England, and was baptized there on 4 April 1406.[4] He was the eldest son of Sir John Neville (d.1420), and Elizabeth Holland (c. 1388–1423), daughter of Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent.[2]

He had two brothers, John Neville, Baron Neville (c.1410–1461), who was killed at the Battle of Towton on 29 March 1461,[2] and Sir Thomas Neville (died 22 February 1458)[5] of Brancepeth, and one sister, Margaret, who married Sir William Lucy of Woodcroft, Bedfordshire.[6]


When his father died shortly before 20 May 1420 while campaigning in France,[7] Ralph Neville became heir apparent to his grandfather, Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland. He succeeded to the earldom in 1425, but spent much of the rest of his life attempting to recover his inheritance, which his grandfather, the 1st Earl, had settled on his second wife, Lady Joan Beaufort (d.13 November 1440), the legitimated daughter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and the children he had had by her,[8] giving rise to the Neville–Neville feud.

In 1426, Westmorland had licence to enter his lands, and on 14 May[9] of that year was knighted by King Henry VI.[10] In the same year he married Elizabeth Percy, the daughter of Sir Henry Percy (1364-1403), KG, (Hotspur) and widow of John Clifford, 7th Baron de Clifford. They had one son, Sir John Neville, who married his cousin Lady Anne Holland, the daughter of John Holland, 2nd Duke of Exeter, and died without issue shortly before 16 March 1450.[11]

Westmorland married secondly, before February 1442, Margaret Cobham, 4th Baroness Cobham (d.1466x71), daughter and heiress of Reginald Cobham, 3rd Baron Sterborough,[12] 3rd Lord Cobham, and sister-in-law of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. By her he had one daughter, Margaret, who died young.[13]

As noted, Westmorland was involved in an ongoing struggle (the Neville–Neville feud), sometimes violent, to regain his inheritance from his grandfather's second wife, Lady Joan Beaufort, and his half-uncle Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, Cardinal Henry Beaufort, and Thomas Langley, Bishop of Durham. Lady Joan Beaufort died in 1440, and eventually a settlement was reached in 1443 which, according to Pollard, represented a 'crushing defeat' for Neville, who regained the barony of Raby but was forced to concede the rest of the disputed lands to Salisbury.[14]

Westmorland was appointed a Commissioner of Array in 1459 and 1461,[15] and in said to have led troops raised in his name on the Lancastrian side in Durham in November 1460, but otherwise took little part in the military campaigns or political affairs of the day, and according to Pollard had by this time 'succumbed to a mental disorder', and been placed under the guardianship of his brother, Sir Thomas Neville (died 1458).[16] Westmorland's two brothers gained some influence in the late 1450s, but the death of his brother John (c.1410-1461) at the Battle of Towton and his subsequent attainder on 4 November 1461 put an end to any renewed hope of the recovery of Westmorland's inheritance.[17] Sir Humphrey Neville (c.1439–1469), son and heir of Westmorland's brother, Sir Thomas,[18] took up the cause for a time against his cousin Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, the 'Kingmaker', who championed the position taken earlier by the Beauforts, but Humphrey was beheaded on 29 September 1469.[19]

St. Brandon's Church, Brancepeth

According to Pollard, it is unclear who, if anyone, became Westmorland's guardian after the death of his brother, Sir Thomas Neville; however surviving documents indicate that Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the future Richard III, acquired an interest in Westmorland's estates, and occasionally used Raby Castle as his own residence.[20]


Westmorland died 3 November 1484, and was buried at St. Brandon's church, Brancepeth, Durham. He was predeceased by his second wife, Margaret, who died between 20 November 1466 and 26 April 1471, and was buried in the church of the Greyfriars, Doncaster. Westmorland was succeeded in the earldom by his nephew, Ralph Neville, 3rd Earl of Westmorland.[21]


Westmorland is among the historical figures who appear in the opening scene of Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 3.


  1. ^ Doyle 1886, p. 631.
  2. ^ a b c Pollard 2004.
  3. ^ Allen 2004, p. 197 n. 64.
  4. ^ Noble 2004, p. 166.
  5. ^ Petre 1981, p. 427.
  6. ^ Richardson III 2011, pp. 246–51; Pollard 2004.
  7. ^ Richardson III 2011, p. 249; Pollard 2004.
  8. ^ Cokayne 1959, p. 550; Pollard 2004.
  9. ^ Cokayne states that he was knighted in the Parliament at Leicester on 19 May 1426.
  10. ^ Doyle 1936, pp. 631.
  11. ^ Cokayne 1959, p. 550; Richardson III 2011, p. 249; Pollard 2004.
  12. ^ Both The Complete Peerage and Harris in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography state Sterborough was then in Surrey (Harris 2008)
  13. ^ Cokayne 1959, p. 550; Richardson III 2011, p. 250;Pollard 2004.
  14. ^ Pollard 2004.
  15. ^ Richardson III 2011, p. 250; Pollard 2004.
  16. ^ Pollard 2004.
  17. ^ Pollard 2004.
  18. ^ Richardson III 2011, p. 251
  19. ^ Pollard 2004.
  20. ^ Pollard 2004.
  21. ^ Cokayne 1959, p. 550; Richardson III 2011, p. 252


  • Allen, Rosamund (2004). "Place-Names in The Awntyrs Off Arthure: Corruption, Conjecture, Coincidence". In Bonnie Wheeler (ed.). Arthurian Studies in Honour of P.J.C. Field. Woodbridge: D.S.Brewer. pp. 181–198. ISBN 978-1-84384-013-8.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Cokayne, George Edward (1959). The Complete Peerage, edited by Geoffrey H. White. XII, Part II. London: St. Catherine Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Doyle, James William Edmund (1886). The Official Baronage of England. III. London: St. Catherine Press. Longmans Green. pp. 631–2.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Noble, Claire, ed. (2004). Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem, 6–10 Henry VI, 1427–1432. Woodbridge: Boydell Press. ISBN 978-0-85115-892-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Petre, James (1981). "The Nevilles of Brancepeth and Raby 1425–1499, part 1" (PDF). The Ricardian. 5 (75): 418–435. ISSN 0048-8267.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Pollard, A.J. (2004). "Neville, Ralph, second earl of Westmorland". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online). doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/19952.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, ed. Kimball G. Everingham. II (2nd ed.). Salt Lake City. ISBN 1449966381
  • Richardson, Douglas (2011). Magna Carta Ancestry: A Study in Colonial and Medieval Families, ed. Kimball G. Everingham. III (2nd ed.). Salt Lake City. ISBN 144996639X
  • Summerson, Henry (2004). Clifford, Thomas, eighth Baron Clifford (1414-1455). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 30 September 2012.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Walker, Simon (2004). Percy, Sir Henry (1364–1403). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 29 September 2012.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
Peerage of England
Preceded by
Ralph Neville
Earl of Westmorland
Succeeded by
Ralph Neville