Ralph Neville, 2nd Earl of Westmorland

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Ralph Neville, 2nd Earl of Westmorland
St Brandon's Church, Brancepeth.jpg
St. Brandon's Church, Brancepeth
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Percy
Margaret Cobham
Sir John Neville
Margaret Neville
Noble family House of Neville
Father Sir John Neville
Mother Elizabeth Holland
Born 4 April 1406
Cockermouth, Cumberland
Died 3 November 1484
Buried St. Brandon's Church, Brancepeth, Durham

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


Ralph Neville, 2nd Earl of Westmorland, was born 4 April 1406[1] in Cockermouth, Cumberland, the eldest son of Sir John Neville (d.1420), and Elizabeth Holland (c. 1388 – 3 or 4 January 1423), the daughter of Thomas Holland, 2nd Earl of Kent, and Alice FitzAlan (d.17 March 1416).[2]

He had two brothers, John Neville, Baron Neville (c.1410 –1461), who was killed at the Battle of Towton on 29 March 1461, and Sir Thomas Neville (died c. 1461) of Brancepeth, Durham, and one sister, Margaret, who married Sir William Lucy of Woodcroft, Bedfordshire.[3]


When his father died shortly before 20 May 1420 while campaigning in France,[4] 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,[5] giving rise to the Neville–Neville feud.

In 1426, Westmorland had licence to enter his lands, and on 14 May[6] of that year was knighted by King Henry VI.[7] In the same year he married Elizabeth Percy, the daughter of Henry 'Hotspur' Percy, 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.[8]

Westmorland married secondly, before February 1442, Margaret Cobham, 4th Baroness Cobham (d.1466x71), daughter and heiress of Reginald Cobham, 3rd Baron Sterborough,[9] 3rd Lord Cobham, and sister-in-law of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. By her he had one daughter, Margaret, who died young.[10]

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 great-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.[11]

Westmorland was appointed a Commissioner of Array in 1459 and 1461,[12] 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 c. 1461).[13] 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.[14] Sir Humphrey Neville (c.1439–1469), son and heir of Westmorland's brother, Sir Thomas (died c. 1461),[15] 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.[16]

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.[17]


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.[18]

Shakespeare and the 2nd Earl of Westmorland[edit]

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


  1. ^ Cokayne states he was born 17 September 1406 or 22 September 1407.
  2. ^ Stansfield 2004; Richardson II 2011, pp. 496-7.
  3. ^ Cokayne 1936, p. 504; Richardson III 2011, pp. 246-51; Pollard 2004.
  4. ^ Richardson III 2011, p. 249; Pollard 2004.
  5. ^ Cokayne 1959, p. 550; Pollard 2004.
  6. ^ Cokayne states that he was knighted in the Parliament at Leicester on 19 May 1426.
  7. ^ Doyle 1936, pp. 631.
  8. ^ Cokayne 1959, p. 550; Richardson III 2011, p. 249; Pollard 2004.
  9. ^ Both The Complete Peerage and Harris in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography state Sterborough was then in Surrey (Harris 2008)
  10. ^ Cokayne 1959, p. 550; Richardson III 2011, p. 250;Pollard 2004.
  11. ^ Pollard 2004.
  12. ^ Richardson III 2011, p. 250; Pollard 2004.
  13. ^ Pollard 2004.
  14. ^ Pollard 2004.
  15. ^ Richardson III 2011, p. 251
  16. ^ Pollard 2004.
  17. ^ Pollard 2004.
  18. ^ Cokayne 1959, p. 550; Richardson III 2011, p. 252


Peerage of England
Preceded by
Ralph Neville
Earl of Westmorland
Succeeded by
Ralph Neville