Warwick the Kingmaker

In this week’s episode of the White Queen (BBC1 9pm Sunday) St John sister Margaret Beaufort joins Warwick’s rebellion against Edward IV.

Lady Margaret Beaufort

Lady Margaret Beaufort

However, this celebration ¬†of medieval matriarchs doesn’t tell the complete story of the myriad of mothers moving behind the scenes.The scheming Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, may have been the Kingmaker, but he couldn’t have done it without his army of female relatives.

Warwick1

Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick

Richard Neville was the son of Richard, Earl of Salisbury and Alice Montacute. Born in 1428 Richard was the first of the couple’s five sons – Ralph and Robert who both died young; Thomas who was killed in the Battle of Wakefield in 1460 (their father, Salisbury, was captured and lynched at Pontefract the following day); George, Bishop of Exeter and later Archbishop of York and John, Marquess of Montague who was to die with his illustrious brother at the Battle of Barnet in 1471.

But in the background was a bevy of female relatives who were betrothed, gave birth and managed extensive estates. It could be said their lives were not their own – although this might be a naive opinion, considering the influence both Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville managed to wield.

Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV's Queen.

Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV’s Queen.

During the coming week I will be posting articles about Warwick’s six sisters, Joan, Cecily, Eleanor, Alice, Katherine and Margaret, whose lifetimes spanned the turbulent period of the War of the Roses – the Cousins’ War.

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The White Queen

Are you captivated by the new BBC1 historical drama The White Queen – or are you busy looking for zips, down-pipes and Georgian windows?

Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen, played by Rebecca Ferguson

Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen, played by Rebecca Ferguson

Some reviewers have unkindly pointed out such irregularities while another, wrongly, drew attention to an age discrepancy between the royal lovers, stating that he was just 13 while she was ‘matronly.’ In fact Edward IV was 22 when he married the 27 year old widow Elizabeth.

This lavish 10 part series is based on three novels by Philippa Gregory – The White Queen, The Red Queen and The Kingmaker’s Daughter. Starring Rebecca Ferguson as the ethereal but deceptively shrewd Elizabeth Woodville, Amanda Hale, the future Henry VII’s absent mother and slightly deranged Lady Margaret Beaufort and Faye Marsay as Anne Neville, wife of Richard III.

Edward IV played by Max Irons

Edward IV played by Max Irons

The male characters are easy on the eye, especially Edward IV (Max Irons.) Even the villainous ‘Kingmaker’ Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (James Fran) is none too shabby.

'Kingmaker' Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, played by James Fran

‘Kingmaker’ Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, played by James Fran

But this is a story about women, or so the beeb would have us believe. Amanda Hale (Lady Margaret Beaufort) has something to say about that.

Lady Margaret Beaufort, played by Amanda Hale

Lady Margaret Beaufort, played by Amanda Hale

“You go into something that purports to be a women’s drama, with women in the leads, and then you find every script has got these really gratuitous nude scenes. Isn’t it enough that it’s about women? Do we also have to be naked?” she asked Gerard Gilbert of The Independent.

So will viewers persevere with the medieval mayhem? If you’re a stickler for historical fact and costume accuracy, maybe not, but don’t give up on all the gorgeousness that is on offer. This is a rattling good tale about, what is after all, an incredibly complicated period of British history.

So, good gentlewomen, where is the St John family connection?

Lady Margaret Beaufort

Lady Margaret Beaufort

New readers might care to visit my blog posts on Lady Margaret Beaufort and her mother Lady Margaret Beauchamp to save me repeating myself – but there is an additional link in this War of the Roses saga.

Kingmaker Richard Neville acquired the title Earl of Warwick through his wife Anne, the daughter of Richard Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick and his wife Isabel le Despenser. The title passed to their son Henry de Beauchamp, 1st Duke of Beauchamp, but when he died without a male heir the title went to their daughter Anne Beauchamp.

Anne traces her paternal line back six generations to Walter de Beauchamp and Isabel Mauduit, the 5x great grandparents of Margaret Beauchamp who married Oliver St John in about 1425.

Anne Neville, Countess of Warwick, played by Juliet Aubrey

Anne Neville, Countess of Warwick, played by Juliet Aubrey

This makes scheming Anne, wife of the Earl of Warwick, played by actress Juliet Aubrey 5th cousin once removed to Frances Tomelty’s nasty Margaret Beauchamp.

Lady Margaret Beauchamp played by Frances Tomelty

Lady Margaret Beauchamp played by Frances Tomelty

The White Queen continues on BBC1 Sunday 9pm.