DEATH: slain on Easter Sunday
Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, "the King-maker," was born about 1428. He was the eldest son of Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury, and having by his marriage with Anne; daughter of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, become possessor of the immense estates of the Warwick family, was created Earl of Warwick when about the age of twenty-one. His personal character and great abilities, his enormous wealth and lavish expenditure, and his extended and important family connections, made him at once the mightiest English noble of his time, and the favourite of the people. The story of his life would be also that of the Wars of the Roses, in which he is the most prominent figure.
A family alliance with Richard, Duke of York, father of Edward IV., led him to take the side of the house of York, and his dashing courage at the battle of St. Alban's in 1455, when he led the van, chiefly decided the victory of the Duke of York. He was then appointed to the important post of governor or captain of Calais, which, with a short interval, he held till his death. In May, 1458, he attacked a fleet of Lübeck vessels, and after a sharp combat, captured several of them. A few months later an attempt was made in London to assassinate him, and the war soon after was renewed. But after some trifling successes the Yorkist army was dispersed, and Warwick with his father retired to Calais.
After carrying on a piratical warfare for a short time, he landed in Kent with an army in 1460; was joined by large numbers, marched on London, and on July 10th defeated the Lancastrians at Northampton, and took Henry VI. prisoner. Queen Margaret escaped and raised an army, with which she defeated the Duke of York at Wakefield in December; and the Earl of Warwick at St. Alban's in February, 1461. But these victories were fruitless, for Warwick, joined by Edward, now Duke of York, compelled the royal army to retire to the north, and occupied London, where Edward was at once proclaimed king.
Warwick defeated the Lancastrians at Towton, and was rewarded for that and other important services by various appointments and large grants of forfeited estates. He was made captain of Dover, warden of the West Marches, and lord chamberlain, his two brothers being similarly honoured with high appointments. But Warwick and his family did not long retain the favour of the king. Edward married in 1464 Elizabeth Woodville, and jealousies naturally grew up between the Nevilles and her relations. Other causes probably contributed to the alienation, which was shown in 1467 by the king's depriving George Neville, archbishop of York, of the Great Seal; afterwards by insurrections in the north; and in 1470 by the alliance of Warwick with Queen Margaret, and the marriage of her son, Prince Edward, to Anne Neville, younger daughter of the great Earl. Warwick then invaded England with a fresh force, proclaimed and restored Henry VI., and with the Duke of Clarence, Edward's brother, entered London in triumph.
The Nevilles were reinstated in their dignities and offices, and Warwick was appointed in addition Lord High Admiral. But once more the tide turned; Edward, landing in Yorkshire in March 1471, was joined by Clarence and the archbishop of York, and won the decisive victory of Barnet, April 14, at which the kingmaker and his brother, Lord Montague, were killed. Their bodies were exposed to public view in London, and afterwards buried in Bisham Abbey, in Berkshire. The widow of Warwick long survived him, taking refuge for a time at Beaulieu; was reduced to penury, and was still living in 1490.
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