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