A Wall of Woodvilles

‘A Wall of Woodvilles’
We saw in the last ‘Back to Basics’ that many of the relatives of Queen Elizabeth Woodville did indeed marry into some of the noble families of the realm thus finding their way into positions of influence. Another accusation that is often made against them is that they formed a ‘veritable wall’ of kindred around the young Edward Prince of Wales, in Thomas More’s words, ‘every one as he was nearest kin unto the Queen, so was planted next unto the prince’. In this issue we will see whether or not this was true.

Soon after his eldest son was born Edward IV appointed a Council for the Prince, to administer the Principality of Wales, the Duchy of Cornwall and the County of Chester. Early in 1473 he expanded this Council and more fully specified its powers, sending it and the Prince to the Marches to help control them and the Principality. The enlarged Council consisted of some 26 members, all of those from the 1471 plus many more. Some of the names, the Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester and the Archbishop of Canterbury for example were there because of their positions rather than because they were expected to attend, and others such as Hastings and William Allington, the Speaker of the House of Commons, simply as powerful and possibly useful men. One, Sir Richard Croft had been tutor to Edward IV when Edward was at Ludlow in the 1450s, and became a powerful man in the region of the Marches. Others were appointed to the Council for the particular expertise. These were such men as Sir John Nedeham, and Sir Richard Chokke, Justices of the Common Pleas and Sir John Sulyard, Serjeant at Law and later Justice of the King’s Bench, who would be part of the Prince’s ‘Council learned’, usually sitting at Westminster. These heard appeals and other judicial matters arising from the Prince’s jurisdiction in Wales.

Other members of the Council, and more importantly, of the Household of the Prince, organised in late 1472, are of more interest to us in the present context though. From the first Council until 1483 we see Anthony Earl Rivers, Sir John Fogg and Sir John Scott and joining them in 1473 is Richard Haute. Fogge and Scott had held posts in the household of Edward IV, but perhaps more important they, with Haute were all related to Elizabeth Woodville or were married to cousins; Fogg to Alice Haute, daughter of Elizabeth’s aunt Joan Woodville; Scott to a grand-daughter of Elizabeth’s other aunt, another Elizabeth Woodville. Richard Haute was Controller of the Prince’s Household and son of Joan Woodville. Haute, Scott and Fogg rose in the Buckingham revolt of 1483.

The Household was much more closely controlled by Woodvilles than this though. Rivers, who had been a member of the Council from the beginning was also officially the Governor of the Prince, with John Alcock Bishop of Worcester as President of the Council and teacher of the Prince. These two, together with Sir Richard Grey, were all powerful. Grey, second son of the Queen, was officially only a Councillor but with Alcock and Rivers he was authorised to jointly sign warrants to release payments and to hold one of the three keys to the money chest. He was rather more important than he is often given credit for being in the later reign of Edward IV. By new regulations issued in 1483 nothing was to be done by the Prince without the advice of Grey, Alcock or Rivers and these three were the only ones authorised to warn the Prince personally if he did something ‘unprincely’ or break his household regulations. If the Prince refused to amend they were authorised to tell the King personally.

It is obvious from this that the Prince of Wales was indeed being brought up in a manner which identified him closely with one group and which encouraged him to identify himself with the group. Not quite a wall of Woodvilles, but very near to it.

One of the most useful sources for reading about the education and upbringing of Edward Prince of Wales is ‘The Education of Edward V’, Nicholas Orme, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, vol. 57, (1984), pp.119-130. The work of the Council is discussed in ‘The Council of the Prince of Wales and the Decline of the Herbert Family during the Second Reign of Edward IV (1471-1483)’, D.E. Lowe, Bulletin, Board of Celtic Studies, vol. 27, 1976-78, pp.278-297. The Council itself is listed in Calendar of Patent Rolls, 1467-77, 1900, p. 283 (for 1471, p. 366 (for 1473). — PWH