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Notes for Ralph Neville Earl of Westmorland
Constable or Lt of The Tower.
Armorial Blazon notes for Ralph Neville Earl of Westmorland
Gules a saltire Argent.
Blazon source notes for Ralph Neville Earl of Westmorland
The Dictionary of British Arms, Medieval Ordinary, Volume Four, pp. 359-360.
DNB Main notes for Ralph Neville Earl of Westmorland
Neville, Ralph, sixth Baron Neville of Raby and first Earl of Westmorland 1364-1425

Name: Neville, Ralph
Title: sixth Baron Neville of Raby and first Earl of Westmorland
Dates: 1364-1425
Active Date: 1404
Gender: Male

Place of
Church of Staindrop, at the gates of Raby
: Margaret, daughter of Hugh, second earl of Stafford,
               Joan Beaufort, daughter of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster...
Likenesses: 1...
Sources: Rotuli Parliamentorum; Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy...
Contributor: J. T-t. [James Tait]

Co-subject: Neville, Ralph, second Earl of Westmorland
Dates: d. 1484
Active Date: 1464
Gender: Male

Neville, Ralph, sixth Baron Neville of Raby and first Earl of Westmorland 1364-1425, was the eldest son of John de Neville, fifth baron Neville of Raby [q.v.], by his first wife, Maud, daughter of Henry, lord Percy (d. 1352) [q.v.], and aunt of the first earl of Northumberland (Swallow, De Nova Villa, p. 34; Dugdale, Baronage, i. 297). He first saw service in the French expedition of July 1380 under the king's uncle Thomas of Woodstock, earl of Buckingham, afterwards duke of Gloucester, who knighted him (Froissart, vii. 321, ed. Lettenhove). Doubtless spending the winter with the earl in Brittany, and returning with him in the spring of 1381, Ralph Neville, towards the close of the year, presided with his cousin Henry Percy, the famous Hotspur (whose mother was a Neville), over a duel between a Scot and an Englishman (Federa, xi. 334-5). In 1383 or 1384 he was associated with his father in receiving payment of the final instalments of David Bruce's ransom (Dugdale, i. 297). In the autumn of 1385 (26 Oct.), after the king's invasion of Scotland, he was appointed joint governor of Carlisle with the eldest son of his relative, Lord Clifford of Skipton in Craven, and on 27 March 1386 warden of the west march with the same colleague (Doyle, Official Baronage; Federa, vii. 538). On the death of his father (who made him one of his executors) at Newcastle, on 17 Oct. 1388, Ralph Neville at the age of twenty-four became Baron Neville of Raby, and was summoned to parliament under that title from 6 Dec. 1389 (Wills and Inventories, Surtees Soc. i. 42; Nicolas, Historic Peerage).
A few days afterwards the new baron was appointed, with others, to survey the border fortifications, and in the spring of the next year his command in the west march was renewed for a further term (Doyle). He was made warden for life of the royal forests north of Trent (24 May 1389), and got leave to empark his woods at Raskelf, close to York and his castle of Sheriff-Hutton. The king also gave him a charter for a weekly market at Middleham, and a yearly fair on the day of St. Alkelda, the patron saint of the church (Dugdale). In July 1389, and again in June 1390, he was employed in negotiations with Scotland (Doyle; Federa, vii. 672). In June 1391 he obtained a license, along with Sir Thomas Colville of the Dale and other northern gentlemen, to perform feats of arms with certain Scots (Federa, vii. 703). The Duke of Gloucester taking the cross in this year, commissioners, headed by Lord Neville, were appointed (4 Dec.) to perform the duties of constable of England (Doyle). In the summers of 1393 and 1394 he was once more engaged in negotiations for peace with Scotland, and rather later (20 Richard II, 1396-1397) he got possession of the strong castle of Wark on Tweed by exchange with Sir John de Montacute [q.v.], afterwards third earl of Salisbury.
Neville's power was great in the North country, where he, as lord of Raby and Brancepeth in the bishopric of Durham, and Middleham and Sheriff-Hutton in Yorkshire, was fully the equal, simple baron though he was, of his cousin the head of the Percies. His support was therefore worth securing by King Richard when, in 1397, he took his revenge upon the Duke of Gloucester and other lords appellant of nine years before. The lord of Raby was already closely connected with the crown and the court party by marriage alliances. He had secured for his eldest son, John, the hand of Elizabeth, daughter of the king's stepbrother, Thomas Holland, earl of Kent, who was deep in Richard's counsels, and he himself had taken for his second wife Joan Beaufort, daughter of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, the king's uncle (Dugdale, i. 297; Doyle). When the Earl of Arundel, one of the leading lords appellant, was put on his trial before parliament on Friday, 21 Sept. 1397, Neville, at the command of his father-in-law Lancaster, who presided as seneschal of England, removed the accused's belt and scarlet hood (Adam of Usk, p. 13; Ann. Ricardi II, p. 214). He was no doubt acting as constable, an office of Gloucester's. The Earl of Warwick was also in his custody (Ann. Hen. IV, p. 307). In the distribution of rewards among the king's supporters on 29 Sept., Neville was made Earl of Westmorland (Rot. Parl. iii. 355). He held no land in that county, but it was the nearest county to his estates not yet titularly appropriated, and the grant of the royal honour of Penrith gave him a footing on its borders (Dugdale). He took an oath before the shrine of Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey on Sunday, 30 Sept., to maintain what had been done in this `parliamentum ferale' (Rot. Parl. iii. 355).
But when Richard drove his brother-in-law Henry, earl of Derby, out of the realm, and refused him possession of the Lancaster estates on John of Gaunt's death, Westmorland took sides against the king, and was one of the first to join Henry when he landed in Yorkshire in July 1399 (Adam of Usk, p. 24). He and his relative Northumberland, who had joined Henry at the same time, represented the superior lords temporal in the parliamentary deputation which on 29 Sept. received in the Tower the unfortunate Richard's renunciation of the crown, and next day he was granted for life the office of marshal of England, which had been held by the banished Duke of Norfolk (Rot. Parl. iii. 416; Federa, viii. 89, 115). With Northumberland he conveyed Richard's message to convocation on 7 Oct. (Ann. Hen. IV, p. 289). At Henry IV's coronation (13 Oct.) Westmorland bore the small sceptre called the virge, or rod with the dove, his younger half-brother, John Neville, lord Latimer, who was still a minor, carrying the great sceptre royal (Adam of Usk, p. 33; Taylor, Glory of Regality, p. 66) [see under Neville, John, fifth Baron of Raby]. The grant a week later (20 Oct.) of the great honour and lordship of Richmond, forfeited in the late reign by John, duke of Brittany, united his Teesdale and his Wensleydale lands into a solid block of territory, and gave him besides a vast number of manors and fees scattered over great part of England (Doyle; Rot. Parl. iii. 427). The grant, however, was only made for his life, and clearly did not carry with it the title of Earl of Richmond, which was never borne by him, and was granted during his lifetime (1414) to John, duke of Bedford, with the reversion of the castle and lands on Westmorland's death (Third Report of the Lords on the Dignity of a Peer, pp. 96 et seq.). When the earl was in London he sat in the privy council, but as a great northern magnate he was chiefly employed upon the Scottish border (Ord. Privy Council, i. 100 et seq.; Federa, viii. 133). In March 1401, however, he was one of the royal commissioners who concluded with the ambassadors of Rupert, king of the Romans, a marriage between Henry's eldest daughter and Rupert's son Louis (ib. pp. 176, 178), and spent the summer in London (Ord. Privy Council, i. 144, 157). But in September he was employed on another Scottish mission, and in the March following was appointed captain of Roxburgh Castle (ib. p. 168; Federa, viii. 251; Doyle).
The garter vacated by the death of Edmund, duke of York, in August 1402 was bestowed upon him. In July 1403 his relatives, the Percies, revolted, and Westmorland found an opportunity of weakening the great rival house in the north. One of Hotspur's grievances was the transference of his captaincy of Roxburgh Castle to Westmorland in the previous March (Rot. Scot. ii. 161). The day after the battle of Shrewsbury, in which Hotspur was slain, Henry wrote to Westmorland and other Yorkshire magnates charging them to levy troops and intercept the Earl of Northumberland, who was marching southward (Federa, viii. 319). Westmorland drove the old earl back to Warkworth, and sent an urgent message to Henry, advising him to come into the north, where reports of his death were being circulated by the Percies (Ann. Hen. IV, p. 371). The king arrived at Pontefract on 3 Aug., and three days later transferred the wardenship of the west marches, which Northumberland had held since 1399, to Westmorland (Doyle). Hotspur was replaced as warden of the east march by the king's second son, John, a lad of fourteen, who must necessarily have been much under the influence of the experienced earl. On his return south, Henry directed Westmorland and his brother Lord Furnival to secure the surrender of the Percy castles (Ord. Privy Council, i. 213). But the order was more easily given than executed, and in the parliament of the following February Northumberland was pardoned by the king and publicly reconciled to Westmorland (Rot. Parl. iii. 525). Westmorland and Somerset were the only earls in the council of twenty-two whom the king was induced by the urgency of the commons to designate in parliament (1 March 1404) as his regular advisers (ib. p. 530).
Northumberland's reconciliation was a hollow one, and in the spring of 1405 he was again in revolt. Remembering how his plans had been foiled by Westmorland two years before, he began with an attempt to get his redoubtable cousin into his power by surprise. In April or May Westmorland happened to be staying in a castle which Mr. Wylie identifies with that of Witton-le-Wear, belonging to Sir Ralph Eure. It was suddenly beset one night by Northumberland at the head of four hundred men. But Westmorland had received timely warning, and was already flown (Ann. Hen. IV p. 400). Towards the close of May the flame of rebellion had broken out at three distinct points. Northumberland was moving southwards to effect a junction with Sir John Fauconberg, Sir John Colville of the Dale, and other Cleveland connections of the Percies and Mowbrays who were in arms near Thirsk, and with the youthful Thomas Mowbray, earl marshal [q.v.], and Archbishop Scrope, who raised a large force in York and advanced northwards. One of Mowbray's grievances was that the office of marshal of England had been given to Westmorland, leaving him only the barren title. Westmorland therefore had an additional spur to prompt action against this threatening combination. Taking with him the young prince John and the forces of the marches, he threw himself by a rapid march between the two main bodies of rebels, routed the Cleveland force at Topcliffe by Thirsk, capturing their leaders, and intercepted the archbishop and Mowbray at Shipton Moor, little more than five miles north of York (Rot. Parl. iii. 604; Eulogium, iii. 405; Ann. Hen. IV, p. 405). Westmorland, finding himself the weaker in numbers, had recourse to guile. Explanations were exchanged between the two camps, and Westmorland, professing approval of the articles of grievance submitted to him by Scrope, invited the archbishop and the earl marshal to a personal conference (ib. p. 406). They met, with equal retinues, between the two camps. Westmorland again declared their demands most reasonable, and promised to use his influence with the king. They then joyfully shook hands over the understanding, and, at Westmorland's suggestion, ratified it with a friendly cup of wine. The unsuspecting archbishop was now easily induced to send and dismiss his followers with the cheerful news. As soon as they had dispersed Westmorland laid hands upon Scrope and Mowbray, and carried them off to Pontefract Castle, where he handed them over to the king a few days later. Unless the consensus of contemporary writers does injustice to Westmorland, he was guilty of a very ugly piece of treachery (ib. p. 407; Chron. ed. Giles, p. 45; Eulogium, iii. 406). Their account is not indeed free from improbabilities, and Otterbourne (i. 256) maintained that Scrope and Mowbray voluntarily surrendered. Their forces were perhaps not wholly trustworthy, and they might have been discouraged by the fate of the Cleveland knights; but the authority of Otterbourne, who wrote under Henry V, can hardly be allowed to outweigh the agreement of more strictly contemporary writers. Westmorland, at all events, had no hand in the hasty and irregular execution of the two unhappy men, for he was despatched northwards from Pontefract on 4 June to seize Northumberland's castles and lands, and his brother-in-law, Thomas Beaufort, was appointed his deputy as marshal for the trial (Federa, viii. 399).
This crisis over, Westmorland returned to his usual employments as warden of the march (in which his eldest son, John, was presently associated with him), and during the rest of the reign was pretty constantly occupied in negotiations with Scotland, whose sympathy with France and reception of Northumberland were counterbalanced by the capture of the heir to the throne (Federa, viii. 418, 514, 520, 678, 686, 737). He had made himself one of the great props of his brother-in-law's throne. Two of his brothersóLord Furnival, who for a time was war treasurer, and Lord Latimerówere peers, and towards the close of the reign he began to make those fortunate marriages for his numerous family by his second wife which enabled the younger branch of Neville to play so decisive a part in after years. One of the earliest of these marriages was that of his daughter Catherine in 1412 to the young John Mowbray, brother and heir of the unfortunate earl marshal who had been entrusted to his guardianship by the king (Testamenta Eboracensia, iii. 321). Shortly after Henry V's accession Westmorland must have resigned the office of marshal of England into the hands of his son-in-law, in whose family it was hereditary (Federa, ix. 300).
Thanks to Shakespeare, Westmorland is best known as the cautious old statesman who is alleged to have resisted the interested incitements of Archbishop Chichele and the clergy to war with France in the parliament at Leicester in April 1414, and was chidden by Henry for expressing a despondent wish the night before Agincourt that they had there
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day.
But neither episode has any good historical warrant. They are first met with in Hall (d. 1547), from whom Shakespeare got them through Holinshed (Hall, Chronicle, p. 50). Chichele was not yet archbishop at the time of the Leicester parliament; the question of war was certainly not discussed there, and the speeches ascribed to Chichele and Westmorland are obviously of later composition. Westmorland, in urging the superior advantages of war upon Scotland, if war there must be, is made to quote from the Scottish historian John Major [q.v.], who was not born until 1469. The famous ejaculation before Agincourt was not made by Westmorland, for he did not go to France with the king. He was left behind to guard the Scottish marches and assist the regent Bedford as a member of his council (Ord. Privy Council, ii. 157). Henry had also appointed him one of the executors of the will which he made (24 July) before leaving England (Federa, ix. 289). The author of the `Gesta Henrici' (p. 47), who was with the army in France, tells us that it was Sir Walter Hungerford [q.v.] who was moved by the smallness of their numbers to long openly for ten thousand English archers. The attitude imputed to Westmorland in these anecdotes is, however, sufficiently in keeping with his advancing age and absorption in the relations of England to Scotland, and may just possibly preserve a genuine tradition of opposition on his part to the French war. In any case, he never went to France, devoting himself to his duties on the borders, and leaving the hardships and the glory of foreign service to his sons. He was one of the executors of Henry's last will, and a member of the council of regency appointed to rule in the name of his infant son (Rot. Parl. iv. 175, 399). As late as February 1424 he was engaged in his unending task of negotiating with Scotland (Ord. Privy Council, iii. 139). On 21 Oct. in the following year he died, at what, in those days, was the advanced age of sixty-two, and was buried in the choir of the Church of Staindrop, at the gates of Raby, in which he had founded three chantries in 1343 (Swallow, p. 314). His stately and finely sculptured tomb of alabaster, in spite of the injuries it has received since its removal to the west end to make way for the tombs of the Vanes, remains the finest sepulchral monument in the north of England. It has been figured by Gough in his `Sepulchral Monuments' (1786), by Stothard in his `Monumental Effigies' (1817), and by Surtees in his `History of Durham.' It bears recumbent effigies of Westmorland and his two wives. His features, so far as they are revealed by the full armour in which he is represented, are too youthful and too regular to allow us to regard it as a portrait (Swallow, De Nova Villa, p. 311; Oman, Warwick the Kingmaker, p. 17). The skeleton of the earl, which was discovered during some excavations in the chancel, is said to have been that of a very tall man with a diseased leg (Swallow, p. 315).
In his will, made at Raby, 18 Oct. 1424, besides bequests to his children and the friars, nuns, and anchorites of the dioceses of York and Durham, he left three hundred marks to complete the college of Staindrop, and a smaller sum towards the erection of bridges over the Ure, near Middleham, and the Tees at Winston, near Raby (Wills and Inventories, Surtees Soc., i. 68-74). Westmorland was, in fact, no inconsiderable builder. He rebuilt the castle of Sheriff-Hutton, twelve miles north-east of York, on the ridge between Ouse and Derwent, on a scale so magnificent that Leland saw `no house in the north so like a princely lodging,' and the Neville saltire impaling the arms of England and France for his second wife may still be seen on its crumbling and neglected ruins. The church of Sheriff-Hutton has had inserted some of those curious flat-headed windows which are peculiar to the churches on the Neville manors, and they may very well be Westmorland's additions (Murray, Yorkshire, under Staindrop, Well, and Sheriff-Hutton). At Staindrop he added the chamber for the members of his new college on the north side of the choir, and the last bay of the nave in which his tomb now lies. The license to establish a college for a master or warden, six clerks, six decayed gentlemen, six poor officers, and other poor men, for whose support the advowson of the church was set aside with two messuages and twelve acres of land for their residence, was granted on 1 Nov. 1410 (Monasticon Anglicanum, vi. 1401; cf. Swallow, p. 314). Westmorland doubled the entrance gateway of Raby Castle, and threw forward the south-western tower, now called Joan's tower, to correspond (see Pritchett in the Reports and Journal of the British Arch‘ological Association, 1886, 1887, 1889). He is also said to have been the builder of the tall and striking tower of Richmond parish church.
Westmorland was twice married: first (before 1370) to Margaret, daughter of Hugh, second earl of Stafford (d. 1386); and, secondly (before 20 Feb. 1397), to Joan Beaufort, daughter of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, by Catherine Swynford, and widow of Sir Robert Ferrers. She survived him, dying on 13 Nov. 1440 and being buried in Lincoln Cathedral, though her effigy is also on her husband's tomb at Staindrop. The inscription on her monument is quoted by Swallow (p. 137). Joan had some taste for literature. Thomas Hoccleve [q.v.] dedicated a volume of his works to her, and we hear of her lending the `Chronicles of Jerusalem' and the `Voyage of Godfrey Bouillon' to her nephew, Henry V (Federa, x. 317).
The Nevilles were a prolific race, but Westmorland surpassed them all. He had no less than twenty-three children by his two wives - nine by the first, and fourteen by the second. The children of the first marriage, seven of whom were females, were thrown into the shade by the offspring of his more splendid second alliance which brought royal blood into the family. Westmorland devoted himself indefatigably to found the fortunes of his second family by a series of great matches, and a good half of the old Neville patrimony, the Yorkshire estates, was ultimately diverted to the younger branch. Thus the later earls of Westmorland had a landed position inferior to that of their ancestors, who were simple barons, and the real headship of the Neville house passed to the eldest son of the second family. Westmorland's children by his first wife were: (1) John, who fought in France and on the Scottish borders, and died before his father (1423); he married Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Holland, earl of Kent, and their son Ralph succeeded his grandfather as second Earl of Westmorland in 1425 (see below). (2) Ralph of Oversley, near Alcester, in Warwickshire, in right of his wife Mary (b. 1393), daughter and coheiress of Robert, baron Ferrers of Wem in Shropshire. (3) Mathilda married Peter, lord Mauley (d. 1414). (4) Philippa married Thomas, lord Dacre of Gillsland (d. 1457). (5) Alice married, first, Sir Thomas Grey of Heton; and, secondly, Sir Gilbert Lancaster. (6) Elizabeth, who became a nun in the Minories. (7) Anne, who married Sir Gilbert Umfreville of Kyme. (8) Margaret, who married, first, Richard, lord le Scrope of Bolton in Wensleydale (d. 1420), and, secondly, William Cressener, dying in 1463; and (9) Anastasia.
By his second wife Neville had nine sons and five daughters: (1) Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury [q.v.]. (2) William, baron Fauconberg [q.v.]. (3) George, summoned to parliament as Baron Latimer, 1432-69, his father having transferred to him that barony which he had bought from his childless half-brother John, who inherited it from his mother [see under Neville, John, d. 1388]. George Neville's male descendants held the barony of Latimer till 1577, when it fell into abeyance [see Neville, John, third Baron Latimer]. (5) Robert [q.v.], bishop successively of Salisbury and Durham. (6) Edward, baron of Bergavenny [q.v.] (7-9) Three sons who died young. (10) Joan, a nun. (11) Catherine, married, first, John Mowbray, second duke of Norfolk [q.v.]; secondly, Thomas Strangways; thirdly, Viscount Beaumont (d. 1460); and, fourthly, John Wydeville, brother-in-law of Edward IV. (12) Anne, married, first, Humphrey, first duke of Buckingham (d. 1460) [q.v.]; and, secondly, Walter Blount, first baron Mountjoy (d. 1474). (13) Eleanor, married, first, Richard, lord le Despenser (d. 1414); and, secondly, Henry Percy, second earl of Northumberland (d. 1455). (14) Cicely, who married Richard Plantagenet, duke of York, and was mother of Edward IV.

Ralph Neville, second Earl of Westmorland d. 1484, son of John, the eldest son of the first earl by his first wife, married a daughter of Hotspur, and left active Lancastrian partisanship to his younger brothers. He died in 1484. His only son having perished at the battle of St. Albans in 1455, he was succeeded as third Earl of Westmorland by his nephew, Ralph (1456-1523), son of his brother John. This John Neville was a zealous Lancastrian. He took a prominent part in the struggle with the younger branch of the Nevilles for the Yorkshire lands of the first Earl of Westmorland, was summoned to parliament as Lord Neville after the Yorkist collapse in 1459, and was rewarded for his services at Wakefield in December 1460 with the custody of the Yorkshire castles of his uncle and enemy, Salisbury, who was slain there (see under Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury; Nicolas, Historic Peerage, p. 345; Chron. ed. Davies, p. 106). A Yorkist chronicler accuses him of treacherously getting York's permission to raise troops, which he then used against him (ib.). A few months later he was slain at Towton (30 March 1461). When his son Ralph became third Earl of Westmorland, the barony of Neville merged in the earldom of Westmorland, which came to an end with the attainder of Charles Neville, sixth earl [q.v.], in 1571.

Rotuli Parliamentorum; Proceedings and Ordinances of the Privy Council, ed. Nicolas; Rymer's Federa, original edition; Lords' Report on the Dignity of a Peer; Adam of Usk. ed. Maunde Thompson; Annales Ricardi II et Henrici IV with Trokelowe in Rolls Ser.; Gesta Henrici V, ed. Williams for English Historical Society; Otterbourne's Chronicle, ed. Hearne; Testamenta Eboracensia and Wills and Inventories, published by the Surtees Soc.; Hall's Chronicle, ed. Ellis; Dugdale's Baronage and Monasticon Anglicanum, ed. Caley, Ellis, and Bandinel; Rowland's Account of the Noble Family of Nevill, 1830; Swallow, De Nova Villa, 1885; Nicolas's Historic Peerage, ed. Courthope; Wylie's Hist. of Henry IV; Ramsay's Lancaster and York; other authorities in the text.

Contributor: J. T-t.

Last Modified 25 Aug 2016Created 14 May 2022 by Tim Powys-Lybbe
Re-created by Tim Powys-Lybbe on 14 May 20220