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Edward’s parents Isobel Neville and George Plantagenet, Duke and Duchess of Clarence. From the Latin Version of the Rous Roll. With thanks to the Heraldry Society.
Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Warwick was born at Warwick Castle on the 25 February 1475. Among his godparents were Edward IV, who created him Earl of Warwick, and John Strensham, Abbot of Tewkesbury (1). His father was George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, his mother Isobel Neville, daughter of Richard Neville, the great Earl of Warwick who would become known as the Kingmaker. Kings he had for uncles – Edward IV, Richard III and his aunt was Queen Anne Neville. This noble lineage would not prevent him from being among those numbered as the saddest victims of the Wars of the Roses and was indeed the catalyst for it.
Edward Earl of Warwick. His feet rest on the bear of Warwick unmuzzled and the Clarence black bull (described elsewhere in Glover’s transcript as the Dun Cow of Warwick). From the Rous Roll. No contemporary portrait exists of Edward and this drawing is from Rous’ imagination as he would not have seen him as the older boy depicted here.
Edward’s tragic destiny was to be beheaded in 1499 aged just 24 after many years of imprisonment. Alas his sister Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury was to also to share the same fate in 1541 another victim of the Plantagenet blood that coursed through her veins. Margaret’s life is told elsewhere and whereas she did live long enough to marry and raise children, Edward was to have no semblance of a normal life once he reached the age of 10 years old. This was when, now an orphan and his uncle, Richard III, having fallen at Bosworth in August 1485 he was brought down to London with his cousin Elizabeth of York from what appears to have been a royal nursery at Sheriff Hutton Castle, Yorkshire. To begin with he stayed with Elizabeth at Margaret Beaufort’s London home, Coldharbour, where she had recently had renovation work carried out, including new wardrobes, in readiness for her son’s future bride’s stay there (2). However in 1486 on the order of Henry VII, Edward now aged 11, was sent to the Tower of London where he would live out the remainder of his life although not held in an actual cell, one would hope, certainly in even stricter confinement, a prisoner with no freedom of movement. Perhaps once there his education was so poor, even non existant or just merely a lack of companions and stimulation that it was said “out of all company of men, and sight of beasts, in so much that he could not discern a goose from a capon’. Thus wrote Tudor Chronicler Edward Hall although we do not know whether this meant that Edward was mentally deficient in some way or just merely naive and childlike.
But I have galloped too far ahead here and to return to Edward’s younger years when his life would have been one of luxury and indulgence. There are reasons to believe that his parents marriage was a happy one based upon, as far as we know , George did not have any illegitimate children, something rare for a 15th century nobleman and his distress and agitation on Isobel’s death. A further indication of George’s enduring love ‘and sense of loss’ for Isobel may be that when he and his surviving children were admitted to the guild of the Holy Cross at Stratford upon Avon six months after her death, Isobel was enrolled posthumously (3). Thus his very early years would probably have been cheerful as he grew up in the bosom of a loving family although of necessity one or both of his parents may have not always been around. Tragedy was to strike on the 22nd December 1476 when his mother was to die at Warwick Castle, aged 25 a few weeks after giving birth in the new infirmary at Tewkesbury Abbey. The baby, a boy who had been named Richard, was to follow his mother to her grave soon after on the Ist January 1477. Here the plot thickens. George believed that Isobel and baby Richard had been poisoned. He accused one of her servants, Ankarette Twynho of the murder of Isobel by giving her poisoned ale on the 10 October 1476. This a story that still remains shrouded in mystery and is deserving of fuller investigation. Ankarette, who was not arrested until four months after the death of Isobel, which is puzzling in itself, was hanged for Isobel’s murder on the 15 April 1477. But prior to Ankarette’s arrest and execution and in the immediate aftermath of his wife’s death, George had attempted to get his small son out of the country. Indeed it is suggested by the late historian John Ashdown-Hill that George spent some time in Ireland. He had requested help from amongst others, John Strensham, the Abbot of Tewkesbury, to get Edward abroad to perhaps Flanders or Ireland. The intention was, it is said, to replace the not yet two year old Edward with a changeling child (which would not have been too difficult with such a young child and one that would not have been recognisable by many other than those who lived and worked in Warwick Castle).
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