Eleanor Neville, Lady Stanley

This week’s episode of The White Queen placed the scheming Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, centre stage with his daughters at his mercy, waiting to hear their fate.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick

Viewers were introduced to Queen Margaret of Anjou and her dull looking son Edward, Prince of Wales who had barely a word of dialogue in this episode.

As the two Queens jostled for the throne, Margaret wields all the power while pregnant Elizabeth Woodville seeks refuge in Westminster Abbey. Jacquette reminds her daughter that women have other weapons at their disposal, by which she means witchcraft, a hobby that would see her end up arrested and quizzed by the loathsome Warwick. In a strange twist of fate it is only Jacquette’s previous friendship with Queen Margaret that saves her.

Queen Margaret of Anjou and son Edward, Prince of Wales

Queen Margaret of Anjou and son Edward, Prince of Wales

Family and friends were crucial during these turbulent times and no one understood this better than Eleanor Neville, Lady Stanley. Eleanor was named after her father’s sister Eleanor, Countess of Northumberland and was one of six siblings born during the 1430s; brothers Thomas, John and George were all born by 1432 followed by Eleanor, Alice, and Katherine.

By 1457 Eleanor was married to Thomas, Lord Stanley who has gone down in history as being a professional fence sitter, adroitly skipping between opposing sides during the War of the Roses. Eleanor was known to be a feisty, forceful personality, a fitting helpmate for her duplicitous husband.

His career began in 1454 when he was Esquire of the Body to the Lancastrian King Henry VI. By 1471 he was Steward of the Household of Yorkist Edward IV. In 1483 he was made Constable of England under Richard III by which time he was married to his second wife Margaret Beaufort and therefore stepfather to Henry Tudor.

Margaret Beaufort embraces her son Henry Tudor and her brother in law Jasper

Margaret Beaufort embraces her son Henry Tudor and her brother in law Jasper

Third sister Eleanor was certainly astute enough herself to keep ahead of the game. During a time when little domestic written material remains, two of Eleanor’s letters have survived. In one case Eleanor has been asked to intercede in a dispute over land and in the other non payment of an annuity, suggesting that not only could she be trusted with delicate negotiations, but that she had influence as well.

The couple produced at least thirteen children, several of whom were pretty colourful characters themselves. James, Bishop of Ely, could be said to be unsuited to a priestly lifestyle, and appears to have never actually lived at the Cathedral. Meanwhile brother Edward, 1st Lord Monteagle was described as ‘a devil raiser and alchemist’ in WE Hampton’s 1979 book Memorial of the Wars of the Roses.

Pregnant Queen Elizabeth in hiding

Pregnant Queen Elizabeth in hiding

In his will Thomas Stanley ordered seven effigies to be made of various family members, including Eleanor, and placed in Burscough Priory and that he should be buried there with his first wife. However Eleanor had died at the family’s Derby House in St Paul’s Wharf, London in around 1472 and was buried in St James’s Church, Garlickhithe. There is no evidence to suggest that her body was re-interred at Burscough. The effigies were damaged during the Dissolution of the Monastries and today the remaining figures can no longer be accurately identified.

 

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