The only certain thing that can be said of the marriage of George, Duke of Clarence, and Isabel Neville, daughter of the Earl of Warwick, is that it took place in Calais. Oh, and that Isabel’s uncle, the Archbishop of York, performed the ceremony. After that, the picture is a little blurred. Which day? Which church? Who was there? How long did the celebrations last? Was it public…or kept under wraps. Search for definitive information, and you will find differing answers to all these questions.
Those who read this blog will know the circumstances that led to the marriage. Briefly, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick fell out with Edward IV, whom he had helped to the throne, thus earning the nickname of Kingmaker. George, Duke of Clarence, Edward’s brother, also fell out with Edward and deserted him to side with Warwick in Calais. This alliance was cemented by George’s marriage to Warwick’s elder daughter, Isabel. (The younger daughter, Anne, was to eventually marry the youngest of the three royal brothers, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who would, of course, become Richard III.) The object was to invade England, get rid of Edward, and replace him with George, who believed his own claim was better because of a story that Edward was illegitimate.
An account of the wedding by George Amelius Crawshay Sandeman appears in his Calais Under English Rule:-
“In 1469 another magnificent marriage thrilled Calais society, when George, Duke of Clarence, wedded Isabella, the King-maker’s daughter, thus sealing the revolt against Edward IV. This marriage was celebrated by the Archbishop of York in Notre Dame.” (I do not know how much faith to place in this author, because he also states that “…in 1487 Richard III made a grant, dated from Kenilworth, July I, ‘in the way of charity’…” 1487? Neat trick, Richard!)
So, now we have the bare bones of the situation in July 1469, when George and Isabel took their vows in the parish church of Calais, Notre Dame/Our Lady (above). Or was it St Nicholas church? St Mary’s? St Peter’s? All four were in Calais, but there generally seems to be a tussle between Notre Dame and St Mary’s when it comes to this wedding. Some even say it wasn’t celebrated in a church at all, but at the castle. There is also disagreement about whether it all took place on 11th or 12th July, but all agree that 1469 was the year.
The Archbishop of York was, of course, Warwick’s brother. But who else was present? Warwick himself? His other daughter, Anne? His countess? Certainly the groom’s family would not have been represented. Edward IV strongly opposed the union, which was most certainly proceeding without his consent. But Edward knew about it. So how could it be secret? Maybe the secrecy only involved the time and place, not the fact of the marriage? After all, according to Susan Higginbotham “A papal dispensation was obtained in March 1469, despite Edward IV’s objection to the match”. So I guess everyone knew well beforehand that the marriage was on.
In The World of Richard III by Kristie Dean, she writes “…the ceremony was a well-attended affair with five Knights of the Garter and other lords and ladies present…” Who were these KGs, lord and ladies? She also writes that it was “most likely in St Mary’s Church, because the men [George and Warwick?] wanted it to be as public as possible.” It can’t be secret and public at the same time.
http://www.richardiii-nsw.org.au/tag/nevilles/ places the wedding day on 12th July, but the majority go for the 11th. For instance, the chronicler Wavrin says it all took place on Tuesday, 11th July, but he had left Calais almost a week earlier. Nevertheless he says ‘there were not many people, so the festivities only lasted two days’. Hindsight? Or did he know this beforehand? Oh, and George Amelius Crawshay Sandeman describes the wedding as “magnificent”! He and Wavrin can’t both be right.
So, the puzzle remains, as does the statement that all we can really be sure of is that the wedding took place.