What did the Kingmaker look like….?

History’s Heroes: The Maker of Kings. At the court of the French king, the Earl of Warwick met the woman who had long been his bitterest enemy, Margaret, the wife of Henry the Sixth. The original artwork is from Look and Learn no. 572 (30 December 1972). Drawing by Ken Petts.

Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, known to posterity as the Kingmaker, was a very prominent figure in the 15th century and featured in one of my very early books. He was born today, 22 November, in 1428.

I’ve seen numerous depictions of him, but have just happened upon a drawing (see above) that I think is probably very accurate of Warwick in his later years, when he was bitter and vengeful. Not a man to mess with lightly. And to think that Margaret of Anjou made him kneel before her for fifteen minutes!

We all have different ideas of what famous people from the past actually looked liked. Medieval illustrations are usually generic and give no idea at all, and portraits cannot be relied on, except perhaps in the case of Richard III, who has been proven to actually look like his (untampered-with) portraits. We’ve even been able to learn about his body and recreate his face from his actual skull measurements.

Richard III as we now know he appeared….although I imagine he had more orderly eyebrows!

When it comes to other medieval monarchs I think the Westminster Abbey likeness of Richard II is probably spot-on. As are the exceedingly unflattering likenesses of Henry VII.

Richard II, Westminster Abbey

We’re told Edward IV was knock-’em-dead handsome, but his portrait doesn’t speak of this. Not to me, anyway. He looks bland and pudgy….but I suppose that at six feet four inches and being the man with all the power, he probably did stop people in their tracks. Especially the fair sex!

Edward IV, National Portrait Gallery

Well, does the top illustration fit with your idea of the great Richard Neville? Or do you see him in a vastly different way?


  1. I doubt he would have had a beard (as in the illustration) because facial hair for men was totally out of fashion in most of the 15th century (For the same reason the woman in the illustration is showing too much hair under her headdress)


  2. OK, it’s time for a confession. I’m honoured enough to have a hotline to the Kingmaker and he tells me that at the time depicted above he definitely sported a beard – no time to sit there being shaved. And Louis wanted to be depicted the way he is in the drawing. As for Margaret of Anjou, well, she was very proud of her hair. There you have it, straight from the Kingmaker’s mouth. 😄


  3. He looks bland and pudgy….but I suppose that at six feet four inches and being the man with all the power, he probably did stop people in their tracks.
    I imagine Edward IV as Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin (russian president). No handsome, but charming in his youth, 1,87m ( six feet two inches?), insipid and plump due to alcoholism in adulthood 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  4. i wonder how accurate the depictions from the neville book of hours are- if they portray a ‘general family likeness’. the men seem to have had hair colour ranging from light brown to dark brown – i’m not sure which chap is warwicks father tho – as a younger son he should probably be in the middle somewhere – but the way ralph gave him precedence he might be on the front row behind ralph? but it doesnt mean warwick looked like him (and presumably the pudding basin haircut was out of fashion by the time warwick was in his prime!)j

    Liked by 1 person

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